Pixel Scroll 11/25/22 As Ghu Is My Witness, I Though 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 11/21/22 Please State The Nature Of Your Pixel Emergency

(1) TWITTER CONTINUES TO HEMORRHAGE. John Scalzi reports that he has been losing Twitter followers since people began shutting down their accounts after Musk took over — and that the number immediately dropped by several hundred when Musk announced Trump could have his account back. Scalzi now has tweeted this summary for the last month.

(2) MAJOR PUBLISHER MERGER NOW IMPROBABLE. Publishers Weekly anticipates that “PRH, S&S Deal Likely Dead”.

With the deadline to appeal Judge Florence Pan’s October 31 decision closing in, reports from multiple media sources say that Simon & Schuster parent company Paramount Global has decided not to extend its purchase agreement, putting the sale to Penguin Random House close to collapse. Without an extension of the purchase agreement, which is reportedly set to expire on Tuesday, an appeal would be virtually impossible, and S&S would likely go back on the market.

Paramount’s decision to forego an appeal doesn’t come as a surprise. Immediately after Pan’s decision came down in late October, sources were pointing out that an appeal could only be made if Paramount agreed, and while PRH CEO Markus Dohle wanted to move ahead, he acknowledged that PRH and parent company Bertelsmann were talking to Paramount executives about “next steps.”

Representatives at PRH and S&S had no comment on the reports this morning.

If the deal is indeed dead, Paramount is entitled to a roughly $200 million breakup fee, something that makes ending the legal fight much more attractive to Paramount than PRH. Even the expedited appeal that PRH is seeking could take as long as nine months to be heard and would further prolong the process of finding a new home for S&S, especially if the appeal was denied and Paramount would need to revive the acquisition process….

(3) SEASON’S READINGS. “Bill Gates’ 2022 holiday book list: From ‘Team of Rivals’ to Bono” at CNBC.

This holiday season, billionaire Bill Gates is gifting you a list of five books to read while you’re hopefully enjoying some much-deserved downtime.

Gates, a voracious reader who reads at least 50 books each year, regularly releases lists of the best books he’s read each year — alongside seasonal recommendations for holiday books and summer beach reads….

There’s a reason this Heinlein novel is one of them.

‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ by Robert Heinlein

This 1961 sci-fi classic holds a special place in Gates’ memory.

“I met Paul [Allen] around [that] time, and we got to know each other by talking about sci-fi,” Gates wrote of his late friend and Microsoft co-founder. “I thought I had read a lot of it, but Paul way outdid me.”

“Stranger in a Strange Land” — Gates’ favorite sci-fi book from his youth, he noted — is the story of a human who was raised on Mars, by Martians. The young man travels to a futuristic Earth, where he struggles to understand human concepts of religion and war.

“I love sci-fi that pushes your thinking about what’s possible in the future,” Gates wrote, noting that Heinlein’s book correctly predicted some aspects of the future at the time, including “hippie culture” and waterbeds.

“He also does the classic sci-fi thing of using an obviously fictional setting to ask profound questions about human nature,” Gates added.

(4) HOMES WORTHY OF A SAGA. Architectural Digest invites you to admire “15 Whimsical Fairytale Houses Around the World”.

From a Beverly Hills home to a 500-year-old thatched roof cottage, don’t be surprised if you find Snow White answering the door at one of these properties…

Wow, this may be in my general area but it is news to me!

Culver City, California

If the lopsided roof, stone façade, and odd-shaped window alone didn’t make this home look like it came straight out of children’s book, then the small pond surely seals the deal. Designed by Lawrence Joseph, an ex-Disney studio artist, the home is actually located in a development in Culver City known as The Hobbit Houses of Los Angeles. Built over some 20 years, the community holds a collection of whimsical storybook homes.

(5) WORLD ENDS, FILM AT ELEVEN. CBR.com admires these “10 Best Movies About The End Of The World”.

…Frequent topics covered in apocalyptic films include zombie attacks, virus outbreaks, natural disasters, alien invasions, and nuclear holocausts. Some apocalyptic films are produced solely for their entertainment value, while others encapsulate the chaotic nature of their respective eras. Many of the greatest films of all time revolve around the destruction of human existence….

The list begins with a film with a growing reputation:

10/10 Train To Busan Is One Of The All-Time Great Zombie Movies

Train to Busan is a South Korean action horror film that predominantly takes place on a high-speed train as a group of passengers attempts to survive a zombie apocalypse. Historically, zombies have been portrayed as lumbering creatures; however, in Train to Busan, the zombies are highly aggressive and move with lightning quickness.

Train to Busan was a massive box-office success, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year in South Korea and the all-time highest-grossing Korean film in several Asian countries. The film has been praised for its thrilling entertainment value as well as its social commentary on class warfare.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2012 [By Cat Eldridge.] Rise of the Guardians

On this day a decade ago, The Rise Of The Guardians enjoyed its premiere.  It is quite possibly my favorite holiday film, though Scrooged and The Polar Express are also on the list as well.

It was directed by Peter Ramsey and produced by Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein from a screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire. It was based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood series, 

OK, IT IS TIME FOR A CUP OF HOT CHOCOLATE PREPARED BY THE STEWARDS OFVTHE POLAR EXPRESS. COME BACK AFTER WE HAVE TOLD THE STORY OF THIS FILM.

The Guardians of Childhood series was a mystical epic of mythological characters fighting darkness to protect childhood dreams. It made very good source material for that aforementioned screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire in which Jack Frost awakens from a very long nap under the ice with his memory gone to discover everyone has forgotten him.

Meanwhile at the North Pole (splendidly realized here), the Man in the Moon warns Nicholas St. North that Pitch Black (who look a lot Mr. Dark in Bill Willingham’s Fables series) is threatening the children of the world with his nightmares. 

He calls E. Aster Bunnymund, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy to arms. Each of these is a wonderfully realized character as the Man in the Moon and Nicholas St. North.

A series of truly epic battles to defeat Pitch Black follows lest all the children of the world are permanently beset with nightmares. He is defeated when his own Nightmares sensing he has grown weak drag him down into the Underworld.

DID YOU ENJOY THAT HOT CHOCOLATE? GOOD, COME ON BACK. 

The feature starred the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Isla Fisher among others. I think it was a stellar voice cast and the animation was splendid. I’ve rewatched it several times, and the Suck Fairy retreats whimpering that it’s too sweet for her to mess with. 

It did exceedingly well at the box office taking in over three hundred million on a budget of one hundred and thirty million, and most critics at least grudgingly admit to liking it. (Children’s films are hard on critics.) The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is very healthy eighty percent.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR. His father invited him  to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 21, 1941 Ellen Asher, 81. Editor who introduced many fans to their favorites, as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award and an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. In 2009, she was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Renovation.
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 77. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1946 Tom Veal, 76. He’s a con-running fan who chaired Chicon 2000. He was a member of the Seattle in 1981 Worldcon bid committee. He chaired Windycon X.  In 2016 he married fellow fan Becky Thomson. And he wrote the “1995 Moskva 1995: Igor’s Campaign“ which was published in  Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons as edited by Mike Resnick.
  • Born November 21, 1950 Evelyn C. Leeper, 72. Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon. (JJ)
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 69. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog. (JJ)
  • Born November 21, 1965 Björk, 57. Who bears the lovely full name of Björk Guðmundsdóttir. I like Icelandic. And I’ve got boots of her band somewhere here I think. She’s here for The Juniper Tree which is a 1990 Icelandic film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene which is based on “The Juniper Tree” tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm. She’s one of five performers in it. Oh, and because her last album Utopia explored that concept even using cryptocurrency as part of the purchase process.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo has an idea about how to train your dragon that I never saw in a movie.

(9) JUST BEFORE THE HEAT DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE? “When Will the MCU End? Marvel Studios Exec Gives Honest Answer” at The Direct.

…During an interview on The Town with Matthew Belloni, Marvel Studios VP of Production & Development Nate Moore addressed how long the Marvel Cinematic Universe could potentially run.

When asked if there’s an end in sight, Moore admitted that the team “can’t sit back on (their) laurels,” noting a need to keep pushing the limits of what the genre and the franchise can do. But, in the end, he does feel like the MCU could continue for “a long time:”…

(10) FIREPOWER. Marvel didn’t get there first. CBR.com explains: “A Forgotten Will Eisner Creation was the First Fire-Themed Superhero”.

…Before Eisner achieved immense success with his groundbreaking character, the Spirit, the now legendary comic book writer was hired by Fox Feature Comics to help capitalize on the recent popularity of the superhero genre spearheaded by the arrival of Superman in 1938. After a failed attempt to replicate the Superman style with his character Wonder Man in the May of 1939, Eisner created one of the first superheroes to have a fire-based gimmick in the form of ‘The Flame’ in July that same year, actually predating the first appearance of Human Torch in Marvel Mystery Comics #1 (by Carl Burgos, Paul Gustavson, and Bill Everett)….

(11) TAKING THE BARK OFF OF THEM. Did you wonder what happened to the Puppies? Well, pretend you did, because Steve J. Wright has answered the question by setting clever new lyrics to a Noel Coward tune, which he titles “I Don’t Care what Happens to Him”. Here’s the opening verse.

The Puppies that one’s read about
That Fandom lost its head about
Have fallen from the spotlight to the darkness whence they came.
Though individual Puppies moan and whine
A lot,
Their prose is not
As hot as they might claim.
They never, ever managed yet,
Their plan to cause a big upset,
And now they must content themselves to play the hand they’re dealt….

(12) IANNUCCI Q&A. Armando Iannucci on ADHD, Avenue 5 and how human poop would make a good shield against radiation in space: “Armando Iannucci: ‘I have ADHD, which explains why I can only work to deadlines’” in the Guardian.

It’s become a cliche that “politics is beyond satire”. Do you believe that?
No, it’s how you approach it. If you try to dramatise current events, it will quickly date. Nowadays, the news moves faster than the last season of Game of Thrones. So either you get fast turnaround satire on social media – Cassetteboy, Led By Donkeys, Rosie Holt’s spoof Tory MP or Michael Spicer’s The Room Next Door, which are all great – or the more considered, analytical style of John Oliver. Not so much looking at what happened today but where it fits in. Framing the joke and giving it context. That influenced my thought process on Avenue 5 – it’s about going forward in time and away from the planet, then looking at it again from a wider perspective.

(13) ZOMBIE PITCHMAN. John King Tarpinian says, “The Walking Dead series finale was just so-so. But the commercials were hilarious.” The Drum has two of them. “Gareth’s Back! 5 Ads Resurrect Infamous Undead Characters During The Walking Dead Finale”.

After 11 seasons, 177 episodes and 12 years, AMC’s The Walking Dead came to an end last night.

To commemorate the momentous occasion, Ryan Reynolds’ creative agency Maximum Effort, AMC Network’s Content Room and Kimmelot’s Dan Sanborn devised a five-spot campaign that aired during the finale. The series of spots for Autodesk, Deloitte, DoorDash, MNTN and Ring bring back four characters who died throughout the series’ 12-year run….

Here’s one example. Another is at the link.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/7/22 Make Me A Poster From An Old Pixel Scroll

(1) SFPA ELECTS NEW PRESIDENT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association has voted Colleen Anderson to be their next SFPA President. Anderson previously served SFPA as Vice-President.

The vote breakdown by percentages was:

Colleen Anderson – 38%
Christina Sng – 31%
Brian U. Garrison – 31%

Outgoing SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra, who held the office for six years, said:

I thank all of our members who took the time to vote this year, and I thank all of the candidates who ran for President. I welcome Colleen with joy and the confidence of having worked closely with her as the Vice-President of SFPA that she is at once familiar with our traditions and key elements of our organization, its bylaws, and our opportunities and challenges. I have no doubt that she will bring her talent and vision to making this an effective and dynamic organization that is inclusive and empowering, expanding the passion for speculative verse around the globe in all of its many forms. To all of the members of SFPA, past and present, please accept my gratitude for all that you have done in service to speculative poetry and the association. The last 6 years have been some of the most important and inspiring years of my life, and I enjoyed seeing how vibrant science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry has continued to grow. I hope you all will continue to reach out to one another and the very best within us as writers and kindred spirits.

(2) DIAGRAM PRIZE SHORTLIST. “Oddest Book Title of the Year shortlist announced for The Diagram Prize 2022” reports The Bookseller.

A six-book shortlist has been released for the Bookseller Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. The winning title will be chosen by members of the public via an online vote, and a winner announced December 2.

The shortlisted titles are:

  • Frankenstein Was a Vegetarian: Essays on Food Choice, Identity and Symbolismby Michael Owen Jones
  • The Many Lives of Scary Clowns: Essays on Pennywise, Twisty, the Joker, Krusty and More by Ron Riekki
  • Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment by Kathryn Duncan
  • RuPedagogies of Realness: Essays on Teaching and Learning With RuPaul’s Drag Race by Lindsay Bryde & Tommy Mayberry
  • Smuggling Jesus Back into the Church by Andrew Fellows
  • What Nudism Exposes: An Unconventional History of Postwar Canada by Mary-Ann Shantz

The award was conceived in 1978 by Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson, co-founders of publishing solutions firm the Diagram Group, as a way to avoid boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair. There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a “passable bottle of claret” is given to the nominator of the winning entry. 

(3) TWITTER DEFECTIONS. How many are leaving? In an unpdate, John Scalzi says his Twitter following now has dropped by 3,000 since Musk took over.

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Eileen Gunn and Stephanie Feldman at the KBG Bar on Wednesday, November9, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

EILEEN GUNN

Eileen Gunn writes short stories. Her fiction has received the Nebula Award in the US and the Sense of Gender Award in Japan, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, World Fantasy and James Tiptree, Jr. awards. She will be reading from new work.

STEPHANIE FELDMAN

Stephanie Feldman is the author of the novels Saturnalia and the award-winning debut The Angel of Losses. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Catapult Magazine, Electric Literature, Flash Fiction OnlineThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and The Rumpus.

Location: The KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(5) AMAZING KICKSTARTER. New Amazing Stories, LLC publisher Kermit Woodall announced the “Amazing Stories Annual Special: SOL SYSTEM by Steve Davidson — Kickstarter” today.

The Amazing Stories Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign begins.  And once again, Amazing Stories hopes to harness the energy of the science fiction community to raise the funds to release a special issue featuring some of the biggest names in SF today speculating about the future of mankind in our solar system!

Stretch goals will be used to increase author and artist pay and to fund Amazing’s second ONLINE science fiction convention — AmazingCon II. There are also numerous contributor rewards, including copies of the special issue, some of our books and anthologies, AmazingCon convention tickets, and other exciting bonuses!

(6) BEEN THERE! Artist Kieran Wright tells Print Magazine how he fabricates small models of iconic LA buildings as a hobby. “Kieran Wright’s Miniature Models of LA Buildings Reflect His Big Love for the City”. I live only a couple of miles from one of his subjects, the Aztec Hotel. My barber shop is in the building. John and Bjo Trimble were volunteers involved in its restoration a couple of decades ago.

(7) SFF BIBLIOGRAPHY. Kenneth R. Johnson has produced another SF bibliography, “Futuristic Romances”. It’s been posted by Phil Stephenson-Payne on the Homeville website.  It documents a little-known series of Science Fiction paperbacks. 

(8) JOANNA RUSS FICTION. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week” is Joanna Russ’s “When It Changed” (1972), originally published in Again, Dangerous Visions.

…“There are plenty of images of women in science fiction. There are hardly any women.”

So concludes Joanna Russ’s often-reprinted essay, “The Image of Women in Science Fiction,” which first appeared in 1970 in the seventh and last issue of Red Clay Reader, a relatively obscure literary annual. Three years earlier, Russ had published her debut book, the sword-and-sorcery space adventure Picnic on Paradise, which was a finalist for the Nebula Award and a notable break from the conventions and stereotypes common in science fiction and fantasy during the previous decades. “Long before I became a feminist in any explicit way,” Russ told an interviewer in 1975, “I had turned from writing love stories about women in which women were the losers, and adventure stories about men in which men were winners, to writing adventure stories about a woman in which the woman won.”…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] Next Generation’s “A Fistful of Datas” 

Spot meows and jumps onto Data’s console.
“Spot, you are disrupting my ability to work.”
After Data moves her to the floor, Spot meows and jumps back up.
“Vamoose, you little varmint!” in a Texan accent. 
— Next Generation’s “A Fistful of Datas” 

Oh let’s get silly. I mean really, really silly. Now understand before writing this essay on the Next Generation’s “A Fistful of Datas”  which aired thirty years ago on this date according to MemoryAlpha, that I rewatched it on Paramount + earlier today. 

MASSIVE HOLODECK SIZED SPOILERS FOLLOW. REALLY I MEAN IT. 

Patrick Stewart directed this silly affair.  The story by Robert Hewitt Wolfe with the actual  script by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Brannon Braga. Now that we’ve got those details out of the way, let’s get to the story.  

We get such deliciously comical things as Data in drag, really we do. How we came to this is Worf reluctantly joins his son Alexander in a holodeck story in Deadwood along with Deanna Troi. 

Now that wouldn’t be a problem but Data proposes that they use his psitronic brain as a backup to the ship’s computer in case something goes. ( Huh? WTF?) While interfacing the two, an energy surge happens. (Love those surges — haven’t they ever heard of buffers?) 

Now it gets weird. Data suddenly, and really for no reason, is a pastiche of the Old West. A bit of this, a bit of that, a dollop of something else. 

Both the hologram town of Deadwood and all of the performers here in their Western garb are oh so perfect. 

Unfortunately for the Enterprise crew, the interactive characters physically resemble and have the same enhanced abilities as Data. Really Bad Idea.

WE ARE OFF THE HOLODECK NOW.

“A Fistful of Datas” is taken from Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, the Clint Eastwood film, the very first Spaghetti Western. The first title pitched was “The Good, the Bad and the Klingon”. Really it was. 

Brent Spiner in Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages said that “I had the chance to play five or six characters in a show and Patrick directed, which made it additionally fun. It’s certainly the most fun episode I’ve had to do and I would have liked to have done a show called ‘For a Few Datas More.’”

It has been rated one of the best Next Generation episodes with some comparing it to “Shore Leave”. It won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Drama Series.

It of course is available for viewing on Paramount +.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. At age thirty-six, she died of a sudden massive cerebral hemorrhage while visiting her husband in New York. (Died 1947.)
  • Born November 7, 1914 R. A. Lafferty. Writer known for somewhat eccentric usage of language.  His first novel Past Master would set a lifelong pattern of seeing his works nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards as novels but generally not winning either though he won a Best Short Story Hugo for “Eurema’s Dam” at Torcon II. He received a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been honored with the Cordwainer Smith Foundation’s Rediscovery award. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 72. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role Lady Smallwood  on Sherlock in “His Last Vow”, “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers. Oh and she voiced the android TC-14 in The Phantom Menace.
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 68. So the story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was then a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? Kay’s own Finovar trilogy is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise somewhat resembles Renaissance Italy . My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called an urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 62. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here.
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. Let’s just say his life didn’t end well and leave it at that. (Died 2011.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Dinosaur Comics has all kinds of writerly advice about worldbuilding.

(12) TRANSPARENT LAYERS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which begins streaming on December 23.

(13) A DIFFERENT HUGO. [Item by Olav Rokne.] I’ve not been able to track down a copy, but I figure that any adaptation of a Heinlein story is of interest. “Life –Line”.

Based on the 1939 short story by Robert Heinlein, Life-Line tells the story of an eccentric professor named Dr. Hugo Pinero, who sets in motion a future history with his invention that can accurately predict how long a person has to live.

(14) FORTIFIED FOOD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Scientists at Kellogg’s determined that massive amounts of orangium and electricity have turned beloved characters Snap, Crackle, and Pop into one-eyed mutants!  Fortunately this shocking experiment proved abortive and the cereal was banished to the half-price aisle. “Kellogg’s Launches New Rice Krispies Shocking Orange Colored Cereal For The 2022 Halloween Season” at Chew Boom.

(15) WATCHING: THE TOP 10. JustWatch Top 10’s for October just became available after some glitches. These are the viewing rankings for the U.S.

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceThe Peripheral
2The ThingDoctor Who
3Halloween III: Season of the WitchQuantum Leap
4Jurassic World DominionAvenue 5
5VesperThe Handmaid’s Tale
6Crimes of the FutureLa Brea
7Significant OtherThe X-Files
8AlienSeverance
9InterstellarOrphan Black
10Event HorizonResident Alien

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(16) ZOOTOPIA GETS SERIES. Disney Plus dropped this trailer for the sequel to Zootopia today: Zootopia+

“Zootopia+” heads back to the fast-paced mammal metropolis of Zootopia in a short-form series that dives deeper into the lives of some of the Oscar®-winning feature film’s most intriguing residents, including Fru Fru, the fashion-forward arctic shrew; ZPD dispatcher Clawhauser, the sweet-toothed cheetah; and Flash, the smiling sloth who’s full of surprises.

(17) ACROSS TIME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Media Death Cult cracks the covers of these “MUST READ Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Books”.

…My personal recommendations for time travel time, Loop, Multiverse, hop in inter-dimensional pop-in stories. I’ve tried to keep the focus of the video on books where the wobbly elements are the essence of the story rather than something like Revelation Space or the later Ender’s Game books where obviously time dilation plays a big part of those stories but I don’t consider them first and foremost time travel books.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on Jurassic World Dominion. 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Lise Andreasen, Jeffrey Smith, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Randall M.]

How Many People Are Leaving Twitter?

File 770 usually has a tiny uptick of Twitter followers every month, and I happened to notice that what was tracking +19 a few days ago is now +6. Since I don’t think I did anything new to make people irate during the week I am going to guess it’s not about me and instead reflects the followers who have terminated their Twitter accounts because Elon Musk took over the service.

I’ve seen many Twitter users in the sff community discuss what course they should take once Musk assumed control because at times he has signaled there will be a radical change (for the worse) in content moderation and a weakening of rules enforcement. Some wrote they were thinking about leaving. I read a few announcements by others just before they did terminate their accounts. Their decisions are to some degree a protest, and an obviously more quantifiable one than the subtle changes that will be registered in other users who, although unhappy with developments, keep their accounts but filter more severely what they post, or simply post less.

I wondered if there was data that could be used to infer how many people have taken the step of actually quitting the service.

I laid the subject before John Scalzi and asked if he’d experienced a fluctuation in his large Twitter following this week. He had:

I was at 204.2K this time last week; I’m down to 202k today, so I’ve seen a drop of about 1%. When I noted that, other people also anecdotally noted similar percentage drops. My expectation is that the drops may be skewed by general political affiliation and/or antipathy to Musk, either as a person or with regard to his stated aims for the service. 1% is not a large number overall — I’ve had larger drops before when Twitter cleared out some bot accounts — but the question is whether these drops will stabilize, as they’ve done in the past, or continue as Musk continues to bumble along. If I drop below 200k, and especially if that happens by the end of this month, I will consider that not great news for Twitter’s general direction.

(Thanks to John for permission to quote his reply.)

That people are actually terminating their accounts speaks to their determination to separate themselves from the future of Twitter. Because there are easier alternatives, like just abandoning the account. Think how common that phenomenon is anywhere in social media where accounts are free. Therefore, the wave of departures from Twitter this week indicates an intentional message, and we will watch to see whether it is the start of a trend.

Pixel Scroll 10/15/22 Scrolls Are The Lycantropic Form Of Pixels

(1) AND YOU ARE THERE. Eleven years ago today at Capclave this happened – “Terry Pratchett Capclave Interview”.

(2) GET OUT OF YOUR OWN HEAD. Lincoln Michel advises writers how to balance “Understanding the Reader Without Pandering to the Reader” at Counter Craft. A brief excerpt:

…Here are some specific areas that often stand out to me along these lines:

Repetition:

Unless your book becomes part of some rabid geek fanbase or a English lit staple, few if any readers are going to read your stories with the Talmudic scrutiny you write and revise them. Readers are distracted. We read a story on a loud, crowded subway. We put a novel down midchapter and don’t get back to it for weeks. We read a chapter sleepily late at night. We miss things. What writers fear is beating their reader over the head is often doing the bare minimum to tap them on the shoulder.

This is a lesson even famous and award-winning authors can forget. I remember hearing a favorite writer give a craft talk and mention how in their first draft of a novel they had a line from chapter 1 repeated near the end of the book. “Aha, everyone will snap their fingers at the connection and realize the true identify of this character!” they thought. But then their editor, they said, quite rightly pointing out no one was going to remember that line 250 pages later. The novel needed to repeat that line four, five, or more times spaced out across the text for the reader to notice.

(3) THE HEAT DEATH OF THE INTERNET. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. But is the culture changing? “Has the Internet Reached Peak Clickability?” asks Ted Gioia.

… But it’s quite plausible that the Internet is losing its coolness and its clickbait appeal. It definitely feels stale and formulaic, more so with each passing month, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. If you dig into the numbers, you find that engagement on the largest platforms is falling—and not in a small way (as Sinatra might say).

The numbers don’t lie, and Kriss serves them up here—summarizing the bad news for clicks and swipes…

… But the metrics now tell a different story.

I shouldn’t be surprised by all this. My own experience at Substack has made me acutely aware of the longform renaissance. When I launched on this platform, I definitely planned to write those long articles that newspaper editors hate—Substack would be my moment of luxurious freedom! Even so, I assumed that my shorter articles would be more popular. I guess I’d drunk the Kool-Aid too, accepting the prevailing narrative that readers want it short and sweet, so they can read it complete in the time it takes the Piano Man to play a request.

Yet my Substack internal metrics reveal the exact opposite of what I expected. The readers here prefer in-depth articles. Who would’ve guessed? For someone like me, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s like some positive karma in the universe is reinforcing my own better instincts.

But the real reason is that the market for clickbait is saturated, and longform feels fresher, more vital, more rewarding….

(4) LOWREY COMMENCES TAFF REPORT. “Orange Mike” Lowrey reports the 2020 TAFF race status is now “Trip report in progress”. 

The first installment of A Visible Fan Abroad: A TAFF Journal of the Plague Years, “Chapter the First: The Trip That Never Was” appears on pages 22-23 of Nic Farey and Ulrika O’Brien’s Beam 17.

When they make it available online, readers will find it at eFanzines.com.

(5) SFF IN NYT. Amal El-Mohtar reviews Babel, The Anchored World, and Self-Portrait with Nothing in “The Magic of Translation” at the New York Times.

The word “translation” connotes movement: carrying meaning from one language to another, or shifting bodies from one place — or one context — to another, all while recognizing that moving entails loss and change. These books dwell in that potent space between setting out and arriving….

(6) MUSK TO THE FUTURE. NPR’s “It’s Been A Minute” contends “Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter and defend free speech is part of his mythmaking”.

The saga around Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter has been just that: a months-long soap opera involving lawsuits and subpoenas, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, even a town hall. But why does Musk — one of the world’s richest and arguably most influential men — want a social media platform?

It’s Been a Minute host Brittany Luse puts the question to Jill Lepore, political historian and host of The Evening Rocket, a podcast about Musk. Lepore says that the idea of being a savior of free speech would appeal to Musk, who has built around himself a mythology inspired by what she sees as a misinterpretation of mid-twentieth century science fiction.

Lepore discusses how Musk crafted a powerful narrative that millions around the world have bought into; how he draws from science fiction and film; and why we need to be more critical of billionaire visionaries….

(7) ONLINE CLUB MEETING. The Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club will take up “Lock In by John Scalzi” on November 29, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the next gathering of our Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club, we have selected Lock In by John Scalzi.

The detective novel imagines a world in which a pandemic left 5 million people in the U.S. alone with lock in syndrome: fully conscious but unable to move. Twenty-five years later, enormous scientific and technological investment has created a way for those living with “Haden’s syndrome” to take part in daily life. While they remain in their beds, robotic avatars let them take classes, interact with their families, and work—including as FBI agents. Chris is a rookie FBI agent assigned to work a case that seems to involve the world of Haden’s syndrome, and he and his partner must figure out exactly what’s going on. Lock In is a fascinating tale that raises questions about the “real” world, accessibility and disability, public-health funding, and much more.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm Eastern on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).

(8) FRANK DRAKE (1930-2022). Radio astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake died September 2. He was a pioneer of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, carrying out the first search for signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, Project Ozma, in 1960. He is the inventor of the “Drake equation” used to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy. The Guardian obituary notes:

…As a radio astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, he made the first observations of Jupiter’s radiation belts, analogous to the Van Allen belts around the Earth, and was one of the first astronomers to measure the intense surface temperature on Venus, a consequence of the greenhouse effect of its thick atmosphere. But it is for Project Ozma, named after Princess Ozma in L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books and carried out with Green Bank’s 85ft radio telescope, that he will be remembered.

For three months Drake observed the sun-like stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani for radio signals that might be from planets with extraterrestrial civilisations. None were found, but as Drake recalled in a 2012 interview: “It was a start – and it did stimulate a lot of other people to start searching.”….

(9) MICHAEL CALLAN (1935-2022). Actor Michael Callan died October 10. Best known for his roles in Cat Ballou and West Side Story, his genre resume included the film The Mysterious Island, and television’s The Bionic Woman, Fantasy IslandKnight Rider, and Superboy.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1928 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Passing of Mr. Quin (1928)

We have a special treat for you this Scroll, a silent film first shown in the UK ninety-four years ago. The Passing of Mr. Quin was based off a short story by Agatha Christie. Though it did not feature Hercule Poirot, as that film debut wouldn’t happen for another three years.

It is a rather odd story. To wit, Professor Appleby has abused his wife, Eleanor, for years but when he is brutally murdered and her lover, Derek, goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Eleanor suspects the worst as she indeed should. 

A mysterious stranger, known mostly as “Mr Quin” appears, and begins to seduce her, but his alcoholism causes him to die quite soon. On his death bed, he confesses that he was Derek all along, and offers her to a rival, who promises to make Eleanor a happy wife.

Not cheerful at all and with just more than a soupçon of misogyny there as well but I don’t think it had any of the anti-Jewish tendencies Christie was known for early on. Need I say that the scriptwriters had their way with Christie’s original story? Well they did. 

This silent film was directed by Leslie Alibi. Three years later he directed the first ever depiction of Poirot with Austin Trevor in the lead role. That was not a silent film and Trevor once claimed he was cast as Poirot because he could speak with a French accent. The Poirot film unfortunately is now lost. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, the father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he played Romulan Commander in “Balance of Terror,” in the first season, and a Klingon Captain in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild WestOtherworld, The Secret EmpireThe Incredible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1935 Ray “Duggie” Fisher. Editor, Conrunner and Fan, who chaired the 1969 Worldcon in St. Louis, was on the committee for several other conventions, and was a founding member of the Poplar Bluff Science Fiction Club and the Ozark Science Fiction Association. His fanzine ODD was a finalist for a Best Fanzine Hugo. His contributions to fandom were, sadly, cut short by his death at age 52 due to complications of diabetes. (Died 1988.) [JJ]
  • Born October 15, 1942 Lon Atkins. Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired a DeepSouthCon and was editor of numerous fanzines and apazines, including eight years as co-editor of Rally! He was Fan Guest of Honor at a Westercon, and a recipient of Southern Fandom’s Rebel lifetime achievement award. He was also a ferocious Hearts player. (Died 2016.) [JJ]
  • Born October 15, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 69. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is on my TBR list.  I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  Damn it, where is his Hugo? 
  • Born October 15, 1954 Linnea Sinclair, 68. Merging romance, SF and paranormal into, well, damned if I know. She’s here sole because I’m really tickled by the use of her SJW credentials as told here: Games of Command and the short story “Of Cats, Uh, Furzels and Kings” feature telepathic feline creatures called ‘Furzels’. Sinclair has stated that these are inspired by her two cats. 
  • Born October 15, 1968 Jack du Brul, 54. A writer of somewhat SF novels that EoSF says of “the Philip Mercer sequence featuring a geologist who – not entirely unlike Steven Spielberg’s similarly scholarly Indiana Jones – has physical gifts extending beyond the probable.” He also co-wrote, and continued after Clive Cusler passed on, The Oregon Files.

(12) THE DOUBLE-OH GENERATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says that she is worried that the new James Bond might be a Millennial. “What the millennial James Bond might look like”. “Do you expect me to talk?”  “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to text!” She’s got a million of them.

(13) RAMBLING MAN. John Meaney’s post “What I Did On My Holiday” shows that he kept up his impressive workout regimen even while vacationing in “places like Lindisfarne (think Vikings) and Whitby Abbey (think Dracula) and the Western Highlands of Scotland.” He also snapped a memorable photo.

…The Caledonian Canal features a long series of locks called Neptune’s Staircase, and I did take photos of the canal itself, but was struck by this piece of useful advice, which we should always bear in mind every day….

(14) DUNGEON ACOUSTICS. “’D&D’ Goes ‘DIY’ On Kill Rock Stars’ Latest Compilation” reports Bandcamp Daily.

What does Dungeons & Dragons sound like?

That’s the fundamental question at the heart of SPELLJAMS, a new compilation album curated and produced by Chris Funk. The Decemberists guitarist wasn’t tasked with soundtracking just any old D&D campaign: SPELLJAMS is a companion piece to the newly rebooted Spelljammer setting, an outer-space-set oddity that’s become a cult favorite since its introduction in 1989. Spelljammer is a bit of an outlier within the broader D&D lore, which made it ripe for the kind of freewheeling, adventurous track listing Funk assembled for the album.

(15) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DODGING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lucy, a spacecraft designed to visit Jupiter’s Trojan astroids, will swing past Earth for a gravity assist on Sunday. To get the proper oomph from the assist, it will have to come so close to Earth that it will be inside the orbit of many Low-Earth-Orbit satellites (including the International Space Station).

Cognizant of the possibility of a collision between Lucy and a LEO satellite, NASA has pre-prepared two orbit changes to stagger Lucy’s closest approach just a little bit. Or, if needed, a little bit more than that. They’re waiting as long as they can to calculate orbital positions for everything and make that decision, because the longer they wait the more accurate the predictions will be.

With luck, observers in parts of Australia or the western US may be able to see Lucy glinting like a diamond before it ducks into or after it comes out of Earth’s shadow, respectively. If you miss this chance you’ll get another opportunity two years hence when Lucy swings by for another orbital assist. “NASA on Collision Alert for Close Flyby of Lucy Spacecraft”. Gizmodo says the Space Force has been scrambled!

…The collision assessment team will send Lucy’s position to the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which monitors objects in low Earth orbit. The team is prepared to perform swerving maneuvers if Lucy has more than a 1 in 10,000 chance of colliding with another object. “With such a high value mission, you really need to make sure that you have the capability, in case it’s a bad day, to get out of the way,” Highsmith said….

(16) WAITING IN A BREAD LINE. “Meet Pan Solo, a California bakery’s 6-foot bread sculpture of Han Solo frozen in carbonite”.

…The edible replica, which was painstakingly modeled out of dough to resemble Harrison Ford‘s captured character in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi, has been on display outside the family bakery in Benicia, Calif., since Sunday. He is accompanied by a chalkboard that adorably proclaims, “Our hero Pan Solo has been trapped in Levainite by the evil Java the Hut.”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this 2021 clip, Alasdair Beckett-King explains that even in the olden times, pepole couldn’t remember their passwords!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/22 Scrolling Pixels In The Park

(1) HE KEPT IT UNDER HIS HAT. Rob Wilkins, who assisted Terry Pratchett for many years, writes a long profile about him for the Guardian: “’I think I was good, though I could have been better’: Terry Pratchett and the writing of his life”. “After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the Discworld author began an autobiography. He never finished it, but seven years after his death, his long-time assistant has taken up the task.”

…Terry also had strong and, some might even say, puritanical ideas about how much money he should accept in advance of a book’s publication. If he couldn’t be confident that the advance would earn itself out inside three years and that the book would go into profit and yield royalties, he refused to accept it. At one point, for example, Transworld offered Terry £125,000 for a book. This was in the mid-1990s, when a generous offer for a book of its nature would have been in the region of £25,000, so that six-figure offer was an emphatic demonstration of confidence in Terry’s writing. Colin, naturally, was excited to tell Terry about it. The conversation they had was short and pointed. Colin then found himself ringing Transworld and saying: “I have conveyed your offer to Terry, and I’m afraid he is not at all happy with it … No, he says it’s far too much and he would like me to agree a deal with you for less.”…

(2) THE KICKOFF. Charlie Jane Anders is the new sf/fantasy book reviewer for The Washington Post. Here is her first column: “4 witchy books from the world of science fiction and fantasy”.

When Megan Giddings told her agent she wanted to write a novel about witches, he told her: “If anybody can make them feel new, it’s you.” In the acknowledgments of her new novel, The Women Could Fly” (Amistad),Giddings says she didn’t entirely agree with him that witches feel like a tired subgenre; to her, there’s always room for another take.

Luckily for anyone who feels the same way, a wealth of novels about witches has come out recently — and many of them do feel brand new.

To be sure, many recent witch novels explore timeworn themes: Witches are distrusted and feared and must conceal themselves from the world. But Giddings and other authors also uncover fresh layers to the classic witch tales, exploring the complexity of anti-witch attitudes in an enriching and timely way….

(3) IT’S NOT EVEN THE THING I’M POINTING AT WHEN I SAY ‘FANZINE’.  In “Fan v Pro v Fanzine”, Camestros Felapton ventures into the twisty little maze of passages all alike.

…But seriously, I think the current knot arises out of an unwillingness to redefine what a fanzine is. Functionally, fan artist and fan writer arose out of fanzine culture where fanzine didn’t need a definition. To a lesser degree the mess around semi-prozine arises there as well. There’s an intuitive sense of three grades of platforms were stuff happens: professional, fan and somewhere in between (a labour of love that aspires to be a going concern).

There are many available dimensions but none by themselves capture the essence of the fanzine distinction:

  • profit v non-profit
  • paywall v open access
  • corporate v non-corporate
  • size – number of people involved in the endeavour
  • fiction v non-fiction
  • hobby v “job”
  • weight class – a mix of size, influence and professional demeanour I guess
  • paying writers or not
  • paying staff or not
  • general vibe

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

commercial-corporate v. non-commericial-corporate gets closest to a distinction but not one that I could convert into a sensible set of rules.

Which means that I must circle back to the notion of self-identification as fan or pro. That also has tricky cases (a pro-writer who is a fan artists or vice versa) but if the point is to address the weight-class idea then maybe that is the least problematic pain point to accept. Put another way, if we see the “original sin” of John Scalzi’s* fan writer win not as blogs v print fanzines, not as style of genre question (clearly it was in the genre of fan writing), not as whether he is a real fan (clearly he is), but as a question of whether the voting is distorted because he had a large voting base in the Hugo Awards and major name recognition…then self-identification for the purpose of award eligibility gets at that issue….

(4) AND HE’D DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.  Meanwhile, John Scalzi’s ears are burning.

(5) HWA CELEBRATES LATINX HORROR AUTHORS. The latest entry in the Horror Writers Association blog’s “Latinx Heritage in Horror” series is an “Interview with LP Hernandez”.

What inspired you to start writing?

Reading fueled my love of writing. I was a constant Scholastic Book Fair customer, addicted to the smell of new Goosebumps or Fear Street books. Eventually, I progressed to King, McCammon, and Tolkien. I began writing stories at around nine or ten. I remember corralling my mother in the morning as she attempted to get ready for work, handing her what I knew was going to be a best seller and requesting she read it right there in front of me.

(6) RATED ARRRRH! Do people still do “Talk Like a Pirate Day”? If so, it’s tomorrow, September 19.

(7) UNTRUE GRIT. Brian Murphy shares his appreciation for the Bard books by Keith Taylor: “Under the Spell of Keith Taylor’s Bard Songs” at Goodman Games.

…A characteristic of good sword-and-sorcery is earthiness; even if not set in some ancient age of our own earth, sword-and-sorcery nevertheless is typically gritty, even grimy, in its realism. Joseph McCullough once described sword-and-sorcery with the terse, pithy, “fantasy with dirt.” That works for me.

Over this layer of grit, which serves to ground the reader somewhere recognizable and to spare overly tedious worldbuilding, the skilled sword-and-sorcery writer adds in the fantastic, in small doses. Weird monsters and dark sorcery that feels alien, and dangerous, and when it appears casts its spell upon the reader….

(8) HOUSES DIVIDED. The New York Times explores “How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step”.

…For more than a century, Russia and the Soviet Union sought to weaken their adversaries in the West by inflaming racial and ethnic tensions. In the 1960s, K.G.B. officers based in the United States paid agents to paint swastikas on synagogues and desecrate Jewish cemeteries. They forged racist letters, supposedly from white supremacists, to African diplomats.

They did not invent these social divisions; America already had them. Ladislav Bittman, who worked for the secret police in Czechoslovakia before defecting to the United States, compared Soviet disinformation programs to an evil doctor who expertly diagnoses the patient’s vulnerabilities and exploits them, “prolongs his illness and speeds him to an early grave instead of curing him.”

A decade ago, Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, oversaw a revival of these tactics, seeking to undermine democracies around the world from the shadows.

Social media now provided an easy way to feed ideas into American discourse, something that, for half a century, the K.G.B. had struggled to do. And the Russian government secretly funneled more than $300 million to political parties in more than two dozen countries in an effort to sway their policies in Moscow’s favor since 2014, according to a U.S. intelligence review made public last week.

What effect these intrusions had on American democracy is a question that will be with us for years. It may be unanswerable. Already, social media was amplifying Americans’ political impulses, leaving behind a trail of damaged communities. Already, trust in institutions was declining, and rage was flaring up in public life. These things would have been true without Russian interference.

But to trace the Russian intrusions over the months that followed that first Women’s March is to witness a persistent effort to make all of them worse….

(9) MORE TROLLS WITH OPINIONS. The homegrown trolls are also busy. “The Rings of Power Gets Review Bombed: Amazon Turns Off Ratings”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Where’s a wizard to fight trolls when you need one?

The mega-budget fantasy series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is under fire from some of its viewers. A day after the first two episodes of Amazon’s billion-dollar baby debuted on Prime Video, the show’s average audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is a “rotten” 37 percent, and reviews on Amazon have been outright suspended.

Compare that score to TV critics giving the show a very fresh 83 percent average, and many of the reviews were highly enthusiastic (“It’s great: a gorgeously immersive and grandly ambitious spectacle, packed with stunning imagery and compelling plot threads,” wrote TV Line). The Hollywood Reporter dubbed the first two episodes a rather successful, promising start.

The scores come a couple weeks after Marvel’s She-Hulk was declared review bombed on the site, with 88 percent critics score and an initial 36 percent audience score.

How The Rings of Power is doing on Amazon’s own user review ecosystem is not yet clear because the company has taken the unusual step of suspending user ratings for the show. An Amazon source says reviews are being held 72 hours to help weed out trolls and to ensure each review is legitimate. The source later claimed Prime Video started the policy this summer on all its shows.

“Review bombing” is when a group of online users post numerous negative reviews for a product or service due to its perceived cultural or political issues rather than its actual quality….

(10) HENRY SILVA (1926-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Actor Henry Silva, whose genre rolls include The Manchurian Candidate (well, I think it’s genre), Killer Kane in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the voice of Bane in Batman: The Animated Series, died September 13 at the age of 95.

…“Henry Silva is one of those guys you most likely will recognize even if you don’t know his name,” onetime Crimespree magazine writer Dave Wahlman wrote in 2016. “His face is something straight out of central casting if you were looking for a villain. It alternates between the insipid glee of potential mayhem and looking emotionless and dead as a stone.”

…He went on to make dozens of movies in Europe, the majority of which were in the Italian “poliziotteschi” genre. “Funny thing,” he said in a 1971 interview, “over here they see me as a bad guy; in Europe, they see me as a hero.”… 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] There are series I refuse to rewatch lest the Suck Fairy with her steel toed boots stomps all over it.  The Addams Family series which premiered on this evening fifty-eight years ago on ABC is definitely one of them. I unreservedly loved that series. 

The Los Angeles Times in its obituary of David Levy explained how he came to create the series: “The idea for the series came to Levy when he was strolling with a friend down New York’s 5th Avenue and passed a display of Addams’ books. One, ‘Homebodies,’ showed the entire group of Addams characters in a family portrait on the cover. Levy was stopped in his tracks by the sight and told his friend: ‘There’s a hit series!’”

Now let’s talk about the characters here. Who wasn’t perfect? Be it John Astin as Gomez Addams or Carolyn Jones as his wife Morticia, they played their roles perfectly. And no, I’m certainly not forgetting Wednesday, their child. (Surely the name comes from the English folk poem, Wednesday’s child is full of woe), Uncle Fester or Thing. Not to mention Lurch played oh-so-well by Ted Cassidy. 

It had pets, presaging to a great extent what Lio would have. Aristotle was Pugsley’s pet octopus and Fang was his pet jaguar. Addams Family had a lion called Kitty Kat and they piranhas, Tristan and Isolde. Zelda was their vulture. Morticia had a very large carnivorous plant named Cleopatra and Wednesday has a pet tarantula by the name of Homer.

It didn’t last nearly as long as I thought did — just two seasons totaling sixty-four episodes shot in glorious black and white. 

Halloween with the New Addams Family aired eleven years after the series went off the air with new characters added in. Seven years after the series was cancelled, the animated version of The Addams Family aired for sixteen episodes. It’s notable for a young Jodie Foster voicing Pugsley Addams. Only Jackie Coogan and Ted Cassidy, who played Uncle Fester and Lurch from the series, returned in voice acting roles.

Gold Key Comics produced a comic book series in connection with the show, but it only lasted three issues.

It streams on Amazon and Paramount +. Of course Paramount + owns the Columbia catalog and Columbia produced it.

It has a near perfect ninety-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called by many a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered the first time that an American female writer published an SF story using her real name. (Go ahead, dispute it.) I’m pleased to say that the usual suspects are heavily stocked with her works.  (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1917 June Foray. Voice performer with such roles as Cindy Lou Who, Natasha Fatale and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She also provided the voice of Lucifer the Cat from Disney’s Cinderella. She also did a lot of witches such as Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel which you can hear over here. She was instrumental in the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature twenty years ago. OGH has a most touching remembrance here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 18, 1946 Struan Rodger, 76. He was the Bishop in Stardust, and shows up in the A Discovery of Witches as John Dee. (Loved the novels, skipped the series as I always do.) He voiced the Three-Eyed Raven in The Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and The Rose” and “The Children”.  More interestingly he’s got multiple roles in Doctor Who. First he’s The Voice of The Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories, “New Earth” and “Gridlock”, next he’s Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Women Who Lived” and finally he’s a voice again, that of Kasaavin in “Skyfall, Part One”, a Thirteenth Doctor story. 
  • Born September 18, 1946 Nicholas Clay. Here for playing Lancelot on Excalibur. He did two earlier horror films, The Damned and Terror of Frankenstein, and he was The Prince in Sleeping Beauty. For television work, he’s done The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Hound of the BaskervillesZorroThe New Adventures of Robin HoodVirtual MurderHighlander and Merlin. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 74. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for 13 years) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will have to tell me how it is. Most, if not all, of the Thieves’ World series is available from the usual digital suspects.
  • Born September 18, 1959 Mark Romanek, 63. His first film was Static about a teenager who invents a device he claims can show picture of Heaven. Cult hit in the UK after Robyn Hitchcock prompted it. Never Let Me Go, a film released a decade ago postulated clones whose organs were harvested that made life extension possible in the UK. US reviewers thought it was fact leading it to having a text prologue explaining it was fiction.
  • Born September 18, 1963 Gary Russell, 59. A very prolific director of audio narratives for Big Finish Productions, having done forty-five Doctor Who and related productions, which is to say the Sarah Jane and Bernice Summerfield lines as well. He’s written novels that feature Doctor Who and related characters. He’s written three nonfiction works, two Who related, no surprise there, and one called The Art of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 38. Known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s penned a Witchblade series at Image Comics, and the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) EDGE CASE. “R. Crumb Means Some Offense” is a profile of the iconic comix creator in the New York Times.

…Crumb used to attend comic conventions and book signings, but now he makes very few public appearances. He never really picked up French (he relies on Kominsky-Crumb for that), and his social circle is small. Crumb’s followed in the long line of artists and writers who have exiled themselves from America, but his life abroad feels far more circumscribed than most. He doesn’t even have a cellphone. (At one point, he looks at his wife’s and says earnestly, “It’s listening to us right now.”) He uses email but “I worry about it,” he says. “Any email you write goes into the N.S.A. computer banks.” He’s only voted once in his life, for Barack Obama in 2008. Yet even living thousands of miles from America, disconnected from its culture by so many moats of his own making, he is, like many of his expatriate predecessors, a dedicated and unflinching observer of home. It was his ability to capture the id of America — in all its decadence, hypocrisy and lecherousness — that established him as an artist; that ability is unmatched nearly six decades later. He’s been called an “equal opportunity offender”: For his entire career, he’s angered the left, the right and everyone in between. It’s why his work remains, more than that of perhaps any other artist today, a litmus test for how much we’re willing to put up with for the sake of art….

(15) CONSTANTINE NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] There can be only one. AKA The Law of Conservation of Constantines. “Keanu Reeves’ Constantine Sequel Means JJ Abrams’ Constantine Show is Dead, For Now” reports Gizmodo.

Just before the weekend started, Warner Bros. Discovery up and surprised everyone when they revealed that a sequel to their 2005 Constantine movie was in development. With Keanu Reeves and original director Francis Lawrence both set to return, it seemed like a pleasant shock…until one had to remember that way back in 2021, the corporation announced that JJ Abrams was working on a series for the Hellblazer. And like with much of what’s recently happened with HBO Max, the situation for Abrams’ show is now in a weird bind.

Per Variety, the new Constantine show, along with the Madame Xanadu series being headed up True Blood’s Angela Robinson, are both dead at the moment…. 

(16) SCREEN TIME. Gizmodo is also prepared to fill you in about the coming season of genre TV: “Fall 2022 TV Preview: All the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Shows”.

Your TV brain might be completely hardwired into magical rings and lusty dragons these days, but there are so many more sci-fi, fantasy, and horror shows—both returning and new—coming to screens this season.

Scroll through for our handy calendar of all the geeky series that you need to know about, with the caveat that dates may be subject to change….

(17) LIFE LESSONS. His role in Tron is the ObSF reference, however, there’s so much more! “’Dealing with your mortality, it makes things more precious’: Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges on the gift of life after cancer” in the Guardian.

…So he’s someone who can quickly identify and make the most of a bright side. As I’m not someone like that, I ask him how he does it. How did he stay positive through two vicious illnesses? Bridges starts to tell an apparently unrelated story, the relevance of which only gradually becomes clear. “So I’m remembering the very last gift my father gave me, before he died,” he says. His father, Lloyd, was a successful TV actor who died in 1998. “Sue and I had this new house at the time,” Bridges continues, “huge grounds, and what I really wanted for my birthday was a neat little electric golf cart to get around the property. I know Dad’s bought something cool for me. I open a door. And there… It’s not the golf cart I wanted… It’s like a motorised, gasoline-operated, dump truck kind of a thing. In my mind I’m thinking, ‘Oh, shit. This is not what I want at all.’ But I say thank you to him. Then he dies. Suddenly I’m using this vehicle all the time. I’m constantly saying to myself, ‘This is so much better than a golf cart! It’s so much more powerful! There are so many things I can get done!’”…

(18) HOT STUFF. Get ready to serve breakfast on Halloween: “Dash Mini Waffle Maker — Halloween, Black and Orange”.

SPOOKY WAFFLES: The Dash Halloween Mini Waffle Maker 2-pack is perfect for making spooky waffles for fall and beyond. Plus make your favorite breakfast classics and get creative with waffled hash browns, cookies and more

(19) NASA RELIC. “A Busted Trailer Listed on a Government Auction Website Turned Out to Be a Space Fan’s Dream: a NASA Command Vehicle”. ArtNet News tellxs all about it.

For most people trawling government auctions, the listing would not have stood out: GSA Auctions, a division of the General Services Administration, was offering up a vehicle described simply as a “1989 Airstream Executive Air Coach,” with no minimum bid.

An online sleuth, however, was able to determine that the RV was probably once used in NASA’s Space Shuttle program. Acquired for just $21,000, the historic item was a major steal for any fan of space memorabilia…. 

The upshot? “This van was the official Convoy Command Vehicle for the Space Shuttle at Edwards,” Higgins wrote. “It directed all Shuttle recovery procedures once the spacecraft was on the ground! And it’s for sale currently at $10k.” (He also shared a YouTube video of the vehicle in action.)

Some 19 bidders competed for the former Convoy Command Vehicle, with interest leaping from $10,000 to over $20,000 in the final day….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King parodies “Every ‘Not So Fast… I’ll Be Taking That’ Scene”.

When you’re a rogue archaeologist in search of a surprisingly cheap-looking idol. I’m really pushing the limits of what one man with four hats can do, here.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/25/22 Eats, Scrolls And Athelas

(1) RHYSLING REVAMP SURVEY REPORT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) surveyed members about potential changes to their Rhysling Award. See their feedback here: “Rhysling Revamp” at the SPECPO blog. From the introduction:

The Rhysling Awards are in their 45th year of recognizing excellent speculative poetry, presented by The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Leaders have been monitoring the Rhysling Anthology as it grew along with membership numbers. The anthology has ballooned from 42 poems in 2002 to 180 poems in 2022. Continued growth would result in an anthology that is not feasible to print or read.

Here’s an excerpt from the survey results.

CATEGORIES

A continual discussion point among members is the question of “double dipping” on awards. Most respondents support that Elgin-length poems not be considered for the Rhysling (64%). A slight majority agree at setting a maximum line length for the Rhysling (53%), which would be consistent with considering extra-long poems being only eligible for the Elgins. On the other side of the spectrum, there is generally support (49%) for Dwarf Stars to be the only award that can catch the 1-10 line poems. Only 25% of respondents disagreed about keeping Dwarf-Stars-eligible poems out of the Rhyslings.

There was very little support for adjusting the length definitions, but lots of ambivalence showing in the swell of neutral responses (44%).

(2) CHICON 8 POCKET PROGRAM. In a manner of speaking. The 392-page Pocket Program is now available on the Chicon 8 website. There are two versions, (1) a single page version best viewed on phones and tablets, and (2) a two-page version which is best for printing.

(3) ALERT: FAUX CHICON 8 MERCHANDISE. The Worldcon committee issued a heads up that some t-shirt sites are selling Chicon 8 branded merchandise and saying they are official. They are not.

“Our only official site for Chicon 8 merchandise at this time is Redbubble. If you buy from anywhere else, it does not benefit the convention. Please shop wisely!”

(4) THE OTHER WORLD. This World Fantasy Award winner’s new book isn’t genre, but when speaking about her research she says things like this — “So I went on this fantastic two-week trip into a time and place that doesn’t really exist now.” “Sofia Samatar Brings a Second Coming” at Publishers Weekly.

Sofia Samatar has a way with a sentence. No matter what she’s writing—whether it’s short stories, like her quietly devastating Nebula- and Hugo-nominated “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” or novels, like her World Fantasy Award–winning debut, A Stranger in Olondria—her work has a way of pairing the mundane and sublime with casual aplomb.

Her latest, The White Mosque (Catapult, Oct.), is a mosaic memoir that juxtaposes history, culture, religion and regionalism, tracing the journey of a group of German-speaking Mennonites into the heart of Khiva in Central Asia—now modern-day Uzbekistan—on a quest that promised no less than the second coming of Christ.

Samatar’s own journey to the site where the group’s church once stood started in 2016, when her father-in-law gave her a book titled The Great Trek of the Russian Mennonites, by Frank Belk. “This guy, who’s sort of a cult leader, predicts Christ is returning, and these people just uproot their lives to follow him,” she says, speaking via Zoom from her office at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she’s an associate professor of English. “Of course, nothing happens. But they stayed for 50 years, until they were deported by the Bolsheviks.”

Samatar, the child of a Black Somali Muslim and a white Mennonite, became obsessed with the story…. 

(5) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry, which previously announced that Con or Bust is “folding into our (dragon) wing,” shared the program’s new logo designed by Dream Foundry contest winner Yue Feng.

Applications for grants are open, and they’ve already begun reviewing and issuing grants. If you want to help creatives and fans of color have access to conventions and other opportunities, donate here. To stay in the loop on Con or Bust news, sign up for the program’s quarterly newsletter.     

(6) BACK TO THE MOON. This NASA promo about the Artemis mission dropped yesterday. “Artemis I: We Are Ready”.

The journey of half a million miles – the first flight of the Artemis Generation – is about to begin. The uncrewed Artemis I mission will jump-start humanity’s return to the Moon with the thunderous liftoff of NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This critical flight test will send Orion farther than any human-rated spacecraft has ever flown, putting new systems and processes to the test and lighting the way for the crew missions to come. Artemis I is ready for departure – and, together with our partners around the world, we are ready to return to the Moon, with our sights on Mars and beyond.

(7) WHERE’S THE LOOT? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber looks at the problems game designers have giving users rewards.

Most games interface short, mid- and long-term rewards that trigger at different times.  the short-term rewards often take the form of sensory feedback; the bright ‘ding’ when you get a coin in Super Mario, an enemy’s head exploding in a shower of gore in Grand Theft Auto.  These get boring after a while–behavioural psychologists learned that repeating the same rewards generates diminishing returns.  So developers offer midterm rewards:  new levels, items, skills, characters, locations or narrative beats.  The longterm rewards are often related to social competition and prestige, such as difficult high-level team challenges or rare cosmetic items which players can show off to their friends.

Loot boxes lean into several of these techniques.  They have been employed in all manner of games ranging from FIFA to Star Wars, and they’re very profitable.  Yet they have also faced a backlash:  a recent report from consumer bodies in 18 European countries called them ‘exploitative.’  Although they have been banned in Belgium since 2018, most governments have been wary of legislation–the UK recently decided not to ban loot boxes after a 22-month consultation.  Still, some developers have heard gamers are unhappy–loot boxes were removed from Star Wars Battlefront 2 after an outcry and Blizzard recently announced they won’t feature in upcoming shooter Overwatch  2.”

(8) AGAINST ALL ODDS. The New York Times drills deep into one writer’s experience in “How to Get Published: A Book’s Journey From ‘Very Messy’ Draft to Best Seller”. The author’s novel The School for Good Mothers is set in the near future.

…“I’d like people to know that it’s possible for a debut author in her 40s, a woman of color, a mom, who led a quiet life offline with no brand building whatsoever to have this experience,” said Jessamine Chan.

And yet Chan’s “The School for Good Mothers” was published in January 2022 — and soared to the best-seller list, catapulting her to literary stardom. Last month, former President Barack Obama featured it on his summer reading list.

How does a debut novel go from a “very messy” draft on a writer’s desk to a published book, on display in bookstores around the country?

Here, we take you behind the scenes to see how a book is born — the winding path it takes, the many hands that touch it, the near-misses and the lucky breaks that help determine its fate.

(9) WHEATON SIGNING SCHEDULED. “Wil Wheaton presents and signs Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA on August 31 at 7:00 p.m.

From starring in Stand by Me to playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation to playing himself, in his second (third?) iconic role of Evil Wil Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, to becoming a social media supernova, Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well respected names in science fiction, fantasy and pop culture.

Back in 2001, Wil began blogging on wilwheaton.net. Believing himself to have fallen victim to the curse of the child actor, Wil felt relegated to the convention circuit, and didn’t expect many would want to read about his random experiences and personal philosophies.

Yet, much to his surprise, people were reading. He still blogs, and now has an enormous following on social media with well over 3 million followers.

In Still Just a Geek, Wil revisits his 2004 collection of blog posts, Just a Geek, filled with insightful and often laugh-out-loud annotated comments, additional later writings, and all new material written for this publication. The result is an incredibly raw and honest memoir, in which Wil opens up about his life, about falling in love, about coming to grips with his past work, choices, and family, and finding fulfillment in the new phases of his career. From his times on the Enterprise to his struggles with depression to his starting a family and finding his passion–writing–Wil Wheaton is someone whose life is both a cautionary tale and a story of finding one’s true purpose that should resonate with fans and aspiring artists alike. (William Morrow & Company)

(10) VIKING FUNERAL FOR BATGIRL? The Guardian hears “‘Secret’ screenings of cancelled Batgirl movie being held by studio – reports”.

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed with multiple sources that a select few who worked on the film, including cast, crew and studio executives, would be attending the screenings this week on the Warner Bros lot in California. One source described them as “funeral screenings”, as it is likely the footage will be stored forever and never shown to the public.

…The Hollywood Reporter reported there was a chance Warner Bros would make “the drastic move of actually destroying its Batgirl footage as a way to demonstrate to the IRS that there will never be any revenue from the project, and thus it should be entitled to the full write-down immediately.”

On Tuesday, in an interview with French outlet Skript, Batgirl directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah said they no longer had any copy of the film, recalling the moment they found they could not longer access the servers that held the footage.

…El Arbi said it was unlikely they’d have the studio’s support to release it in the future or that there could be an equivalent of “the Snyder cut” – Zack Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of the DC film Justice League, which added an extra $70m to a $300m budget film.

“It cannot be released in its current state,” said El Arbi. “There’s no VFX … we still had some scenes to shoot. So if one day they want us to release the Batgirl movie, they’d have to give us the means to do it. To finish it properly with our vision.”

(11) TRANSFORMATIVE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Seekingferret posted a “Panel Report” from Fanworks where the topic was “Ethical Norms in Fanworks Fandom”.

… I presented three models for fandom’s approach to copyright- the It’s All Transformative model, the It’s Illegal but I Do It Anyway model, and the It’s Not Illegal Because the Copyright Holders’ Inaction is an Implicit License model, and then the audience argued with me for a while about whether the second two models are essentially the same, which was a good, clarifying argument to have….

Also of interest is the panel’s accompanying slideshow.

(12) WARNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Since, fan-wise, many cons use Discord… “Roblox and Discord Become Virus Vectors for New PyPI Malware” at The New Stack.

If you can communicate on it, you can abuse it. This was proven again recently when a hacker using the name “scarycoder” uploaded a dozen malicious Python packages to PyPI, the popular Python code repository. These bits of code pretended to provide useful functions for Roblox gaming community developers, but all they really did was steal users’ information. So far, so typical. Where it got interesting is it used the Discord messaging app to download malicious executable files.

(13) BOOK PORN. [Item by Bill.] Whenever I see a photograph on the web that has a bookshelf in the background, I spend way too much time trying to figure out what the books are.  For example: 

Blogger Lawrence Person has posted photos of his SF book shelves, and there are a lot of titles I’d love to have in my own collection.  A few years old, but perhaps worth a look ….  “Overview of Lawrence Person’s Library: 2017 Edition”. He provides regular updates to the collection (see the “books” tag).  

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1989 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, the first installment of the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure premiered.

Starring William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, portrayed by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as, and not giving a frell about spoilers here, time travelling slacker high schoolers assembling the ultimate history report. And let’s not forget Rufus as portrayed by George Carlin. I met him some forty years ago — a really neat gentleman. 

Stephen Herek directed here. He had previously written and directed the horror/SF Critters film. Nasty film it was. Chris Matheson who wrote all three of the franchise films co-wrote this with Ed Solomon who co-wrote the third with him and, more importantly, was the Men in Black writer.

By late Eighties standards, it was cheap to produce costing only ten million and making forty in return. Critics for the most part were hostile —- the Washington Post said “if Stephen Herek has any talent for comedy, it’s not visible here.” And the Los Angeles Times added, “it’s unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake.” 

It spawned not one but two television series named – oh, guess what they were named. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, an animated series that started out on CBS and ended on Fox, lasted twenty-one episodes over two seasons, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the live version, lasted but seven episodes on Fox. Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy played Bill and Ted.

DC did the comic for the first film, Marvel for the second. It did well enough that it led to the Marvel series Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book which lasted for just twelve issues. And there was a sort of adaptation of the animated series that lasted for a year by Britain’s now gone Look-In Magazine.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on one of The Lost World films as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1972.)
  • Born August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released the complete Pogo in twelve stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1973. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? Well he did. (Died 1973.)
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sean Connery. Worst film? Zardoz. Best film? From Russia with Love very, very definitely. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want to go for silly. Now remember these are my personal choices. I almost guarantee that you will have different ones. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 82. She was a Boston-area fan who now lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • Born August 25, 1947 Michael Kaluta, 75. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988. If you can find them, the M. W. Kaluta: Sketchbook Series are well worth having.
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 67. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written except that damn Robin Hood novel that made a NYT Best Seller. Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History were my favorite ones until the Ismael Jones series came along and I must say it’s a hell of a lot of fun as well.  Drinking Midnight Wine and Shadows Fall are the novels I’ve re-read the most. 
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 64. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman was, errr, interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was which I think is a far better look at the source material, and Sleepy Hollow is just too damn weird for my pedestrian tastes. (Snarf.)
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 52. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He won two Sidewise Awards, first for his “O One” story and later for The Dragon’s Nine Sons novel. He’s had five Sidewise nominations. 

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) HORROR WRITERS HAVE OPINIONS. Midnight Pals did a sendup of John Scalzi and his purchase of a church building. And his burritos. Can’t overlook those. Thread starts here.

(18) SPACE OPERA. “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky”, a review by Camestros Felapton.

… I found myself in the mood for a big space opera the other day and with the novel also being a Dragon Award finalist, it seemed like a natural choice. I wasn’t wrong in my initial assessment. It is in many ways a more conventional space opera than the books I’d read. Humanity is a spacefaring species with its own factions, in a galactic society with a range of aliens. There’s hyperspace (or rather “unspace”), a cosmic threat, mysteriously vanished advanced civilisations, space spies, space gangsters, badass warriors and epic space battles. This is all good but if you are hoping for the millennia-long deep dive into the evolution of a sapient spider civilisation this book doesn’t have anything like that. Which is fine because that gives Tchaikovsky more space and time to attend to a cast of characters….

(19) A CITY ON A HILL. Paul Weimer reviews Stephen Fry’s Troy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Troy, by Stephen Fry”. There may be surprises in store for some readers – at least there were for Paul.

…In any event, Fry is here to help you. He starts at the beginning, as to how Troy was founded, and why, and brings its history up to date as it were. The delight in the depth of research and scholarship he brings is tha there is a fair chunk here I didn’t know about. Fun fact, the Trojan War is not the first time that Troy gets attacked in its mythological history, and you will never guess who did it before the Greeks got it into their heads to take back Helen, nor why…. 

(20) GOING PUBLIC. “Tom Lehrer: The Public Domain Tango”, a Plagiarism Today post from 2020.

…However, it seems likely that Lehrer may be set for yet another major revival as news spread yesterday that Lehrer, now 92, had released his lyrics and much of his music into the public domain. This has already sparked a great deal of interest in possible covers and recreations of his most famous songs.

Note: It’s worth stating that the declaration deals with his compositions and his lyrics, not the recordings. Those are most likely not owned by Lehrer.

However, the statement isn’t wholly true. Tom Lehrer didn’t actually release his songs into the public domain. While it may be pedantry given that there is no practical difference, the lengths Lehrer had to go to release what he did in the way that he did only further highlights Lehrer’s genius and is well worth exploring.

If this is truly to be Lehrer’s final musical act, it makes sense to see it for both the effort it took and the intellect required to conceive of it….

(21) AI GIVES ASSIST TO MUSIC VIDEO. [Item by Dann.] Someone recently made a video using the lyrics to “Renegade” by Styx.  The lyrics were fed, line by line, into AI art software to create the images used in the video.

While the lyrics aren’t explicitly genre centered, the AI created several images that evoked sci-fi/fantasy themes.  The rhetorical progeny of Edgar Allen Poe shows up a few times as well. “Renegade – Styx – But the lyrics are Ai generated images”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer in the seventh Harry Potter film mourns when several beloved minor characters die.  He is bored by the very long camping scenes (where the characters camp and camp and camp some more” but gets excited when Harry Potter gets to duke it out with Voldemort only to discover that this is the end of Part I and we have to wait for Part II.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/20/22 When I Scroll Alone, I Prefer To Be By Myself

(1) CON CELEBRITY GUEST CHARGED. Yahoo! reports “Gary Busey Charged for Two Counts of Criminal Sexual Contact in New Jersey”. Last weekend the actor was a celebrity guest at the Monster-Mania Convention in Cherry Hill.  

Gary Busey is facing four charges, including two counts of criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree, by the police department of Cherry Hill, N.J. The actor was visiting the town during the weekend of Aug. 12 to Aug. 14 to attend the Monster-Mania Convention at the Doubletree Hotel.

During the time of the convention, Cherry Hill police responded to a report of a sex offense at the Doubletree Hotel. After investigating the incident, detectives charged the 78-year-old actor on four offenses: two counts of criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree, one count of attempting criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree and one disorderly conduct count of harassment. The Cherry Hill Police Department has declined to provide further details regarding the incident at this time.

The Monster Mania committee wrote on Facebook today:

Monster-Mania is assisting authorities in their investigation into an alleged incident involving attendees and a celebrity guest at its convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey last weekend. Immediately upon receiving a complaint from the attendees, the celebrity guest was removed from the convention and instructed not to return. Monster-Mania also encouraged the attendees to contact the police to file a report.

The safety and well-being of all our attendees is of the utmost importance to Monster-Mania, and the company will not tolerate any behavior that could compromise those values. Monster-Mania will continue to assist the authorities in any and every way possible.

(2) MILFORD, CLARION, AND OTHERS. S. L. Huang dives into sff history to find “The Ghost of Workshops Past: How Communism, Conservatism, and the Cold War Still Mold Our Paths Into SFF Writing” at Tor.com. Huang is especially interested in questions such as why “Milford would fail more often for writers of color or other minority students in the workshop.”

…Part 4. From Iowa to Bread Loaf to Milford to Clarion   

I traced this method of workshopping from Iowa to the early years of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and from Bread Loaf to Milford, which was the first writing conference dedicated to SFF. The Milford Writers’ Conference was founded by Damon Knight, Judith Merril, and James Blish in 1956, smack in the middle of Engle’s red-hot zeitgeist. There’s no indication the founders knew any of the politics attached to the expansion of those workshop methods—it’s likely they sourced the format from a colleague and figured this was the way workshopping was done.

Thanks to Engle, it was how workshopping was done. By the 1950s, almost nothing else would have existed to provide another model.

Milford was founded as a conference between peers, not as a program to teach newer writers. A decade later, in 1967, Robin Scott Wilson (who, in what appears to be an unrelated coincidence, used to work for the CIA), came and asked for assistance in starting a more beginner SFF workshop for the college campus on which he taught. He recruited much-needed help from Damon Knight and from Knight’s fellow author and by-then wife Kate Wilhelm.

None of the three had any prior knowledge about how to teach writing, other than by trying to adapt what they had been using at Milford. In Wilhelm’s Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, in which she details the very beginnings of Clarion, she confesses, “Neither Damon nor I had had teaching experience, and we were learning by trial and error what was effective and what was not.” It’s a sentiment echoed by Wilson, the only one of them who was an active professor at the time: “[A] condition of my employment was that I organize a writers’ workshop. I did not know how to do this. I did not know anybody who knew how to do this…”

… Oh, but Clarion’s methods work, an objector might point out, citing the rave reviews or the substantial number of people who credit a workshop on their ramp toward publication.

I don’t think that’s wrong. Clarion’s methods work…for the people they work for. I don’t want us not to have those methods. I want there to be more. More choice, more diversity, to nurture all types of voices and minds and pens.

My intent is not to criticize Wilson and Knight and Wilhelm for experimenting, but to emphasize the opposite—we should experiment more, in our own generation! Fifty years after Clarion’s founders built something new, it’s on us keep moving forward….

(3) WHAT WAS REVEALED DURING THE DOJ / PRH TRIAL. “A Trial Put Publishing’s Inner Workings on Display. What Did We Learn?” in the New York Times.

Lawyers for the Department of Justice and for Penguin Random House delivered their closing argument on Friday in a case that will determine whether the publisher, the country’s largest, can buy one of its rivals, Simon & Schuster.

The case, which will be decided in the fall by Judge Florence Y. Pan, focused on the effects of consolidation on publishing, an industry that has already been dramatically reshaped by mergers in recent years.

The government sued to stop the deal on antitrust grounds, saying it would diminish competition among the biggest houses and push down advances for some authors. Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, argued the deal would bring its supply chain and distribution muscle to a longer list of authors, to their benefit, and that the industry is large and varied, made up of many important players beyond the biggest firms. Judge Pan expressed skepticism over several of Penguin Random House’s main arguments.

Beyond the legal debate, the three-week trial offered an unusual glimpse into the world of publishing, offering observers a parade of high-profile publishing executives, agents and authors speaking frankly and on the record about how books are made.

Here is some of what we learned….

What books drive the industry’s profits?

By most measures, publishing is thriving. In any given year, hundreds of publishers in the United States release around 60,000 books. From 2012 to 2019, print book sales grew by more than 20 percent, from nine billion to 11 billion, Mr. Dohle testified. And book sales were strong during the pandemic, rising by another 20 percent from 2019 to 2021, he said.

But the trial highlighted a surprising fact: A minuscule percentage of books generate the vast majority of profits.

During their testimony, Penguin Random House executives said that just 35 percent of books the company publishes are profitable. Among the titles that make money, a very small sliver — just 4 percent — account for 60 percent of those profits.

“That’s how risky our business is,” Mr. Dohle said. “It’s the books that you don’t pay a lot for and become runaway best sellers.”

The trial offered examples of books that publishers paid a relatively small amount for, and that turned out to be a great hit. Sally Kim, the publisher of the Penguin Random House imprint Putnam, said they acquired “Where the Crawdads Sing” for “mid-six figures.” That book has gone on to sell around 15 million copies worldwide.

The issue is industrywide, and has been exacerbated by the rise of online retail, which tends to reinforce the visibility of best sellers. In 2021, fewer than one percent of the 3.2 million titles that BookScan tracked sold more than 5,000 copies.

(4) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1883 [By Cat Eldridge.] So today is the birthday of Austin Tappan Wright who was born in 1883. He died at the young age of forty-eight as a result of an automobile accident near Santa Fe, New Mexico, on September 18, 1931. During his lifetime, he published just one work of fiction, the “1915?” short story in the Atlantic Monthly for April 1915. In 1981 in the Elsewhere anthology, Mark Arnold and Terri Windling published An Islandian Tale: The Story of Alwina.

Islandian kinds of love are noted by Ursula K. Le Guin in her Always Coming Home novel, though she only mentions three of the four kinds which are ania (desire for marriage and commitment), apia (sexual attraction) and alia (love of place and family land and lineage). The fourth is amia which is love of friends. 

Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his forty years long working obsession, err hobby, project that resulted in her twenty-eight hundred page long, well, what we would know as the Islandia novel if it had been published but it wasn’t, and following her own death in 1937, their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut that text drastically. The resulting draft, only a thousand pages long, shorn of Wright’s extensive appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material

Is there a full, unedited version? Yes, there is. The complete and never-published version of Islandia can be found in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. A scan of the original typed manuscript and a detailed map of Islandia are available on the Harvard Library website.

It details an extensive Utopian fantasy about an imaginary country he called Islandia located near Antarctica (if I remember correctly) with a complex history, culture and geography, said to be in scope to Tolkien’s writings of Middle-earth. I personally do not think that is valid comparison, but it is certainly a most interesting read though nowhere near as interesting as what Tolkien created. 

Now that might have been the end of the fiction based on Wright’s extensive notes and such but along came three authorized sequels by Mark Saxton who most people know for being responsible editing the papers of Austin Wright Tappan into Islandia. With the permission of the daughter, he set his last three novels in that fictional Utopian realm. It is for these that he is now remembered. 

The first, The Islar was published in 1969 as a modern-day sequel to the original novel. The two others, The Two Kingdoms and Havoc in Islandia, one published a decade later and one three years after, both take place much earlier in the kingdom’s history. All three were written off of Wright’s extensive background notes. 

He planned on more, but the daughter died and the Estate revoked him writing more. He’s since died and no one else has showed interest in writing novels based off these writings. 

I also found by Richard N. Farmer, Islandia Revisited: A Sequel By Other Hands which he claims to be a sequel to Islandia. No, it’s not authorized, and I cannot figure why it’s still in existence.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that he enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 79. The Seventh Doctor (my second favorite of the classic Who Doctors after Baker) and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 71. Blood Music which won a Nebula Award, and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II (1984) in its original novelette form is a amazing read. His novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio are also Nebula winners, and he has other short fiction award winners. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 61. Australian writer who does exist though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Aussiecon Three. I assume he wasn’t there given his stance again attending Worldcons? And He’s won a lot of Ditmar Awards.
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 60. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. born 1962, aged sixty years.
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 59. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well-crafted. She shows up in other genre undertakings such as Super ForceConanJourney to The Center of The EarthThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-FilesCarnosaur 3: Primal Species, Conan and Highlander: The Series

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Dinosaur Comics finds the connection between Anne of Green Gables and Back to the Future.

(7) YOU BE THE JUDGE. The Onion’s satirical review of “the seven-volume Chronicles Of Buckeye” says “Underwhelming Fantasy Novel Starts With Map Of Ohio” – a map which includes John Scalzi’s hometown. The review seems to have nothing else to do with him. But do you believe in coincidences?

(8) HOLEY SHEET. CrimeReads’ Keth Roysdon talks about “ghost shows,” a now-forgotten horror-tinged vaudeville entertainment of the 1940s. “The Lost History of America’s Traveling ‘Ghost Shows’”.

…True ghost shows were an evening’s worth of entertainment. Usually starting not long before midnight, these shows were staged in a movie theater and combined a magic act (with an emphasis on horror-tinged magic like swords through comely assistants) and a live-action horror skit (Frankenstein’s monster lurching around the stage) and a blackout period (in which phosphorescent-painted “ghosts” were flown on wires over the heads of the audience) and, usually starting at midnight, a screening of a classic or not-so-classic old black-and-white horror film….

(9) BALLET NEWS. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Laura Chapelle reviews a new production of Léo Delibes’s Coppélia (which, remember, is about a doll that comes to life) by the Scottish Ballet (scottishballet.org.uk) in a version by Morgann Runacre-Temple and Jessica Wright “also known as Jess and Morgs.”

Dr Coppelius, once a lonely doll maker, is recast here as a babyfaced tech guru in a turtleneck, founder and chief executive of a company called NuLife.  He gets a visit from journalist Swanhlda, who questions him about his ethical negligence.  Their conversations happen in voiceover while the dancers attempt, and don’t quite manage, to act them out credibly.  Soon enough, Swanhilda finds herself wandering the halls of NuLife, encountering the company’s many lab creatures and, at one point, turning into one.  (How?  Don’t ask.)…

….It’s lo-fi dramaturgy that trips up this Coppélia.  In the 19th-century libretto, Swannhilda had a fiance, Franz, who became obsessed with a doll.  Jess and Morgs have contrived an improbable storyline to keep him around:  the 21st-century Franz shows up with his journalist girlfriend to her work event, holding her hand throughout.  The two open and close the ballet, but their relationship has no context or substance.

(10) CROWLEY’S ADVICE ABOUT READING THIS BOOK. In the Boston Review, John Crowley reviews an sf novel from Denmark — The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century, by Olga Ravn, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken – “Science Fiction as Poetry”.

…Its premises are familiar Science Fiction ones: it centers a great spaceship, called The Six Thousand Ship, built to reach far planets around other suns, discover new beings, and return to Earth with treasure. The wondrous new planet of this book is called New Discovery. The planet’s Earth-like geography—of forests, warm valleys, regular nights and days—belies the fact that it is home to some very unearthly beings—the so-called “objects” that the crew collect to bring home to Earth. But The Employees contains nothing like a conventional narrative, and the reader must piece together most of this on their own. Instead, the focus of the book—and its unusual form—are made clear by Ravn’s subtitle: “A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century.”…

(11) MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER. “TWO Asteroids May Have Killed Off the Dinosaurs, Scientists Say”. Mike Kennedy notes this story is behind a Popular Mechanics firewall except via the Apple News app.

A newly-discovered crater 250 miles off the coast of West Africa could have been formed by a large asteroid strike. 

The probable timing of this potential asteroid strike could make it a “sibling” of the dinosaur-killing Chicxulub asteroid hit. 

Researchers hope to investigate the crater to gain more precise clues into the timing of the likely impact. 

Scientists have long believed the Chicxulub asteroid smacked Earth near the Gulf of Mexico, causing about a 100-million-megaton blast devastating enough to erase the dinosaurs from Earth. That burst created a short-lived thermal pulse in excess of 10,000 degrees, which is certainly lethal enough to have destroyed nearby life. But the massive asteroid may have had some help from a second “sibling” asteroid, scientists say. 

More than five miles in diameter beneath the North Atlantic Ocean, the newly-discovered Nadir Crater lies about 250 miles off the coast of West Africa—and researchers believe that the asteroid that may have caused it about 66 million years ago could have been that dino-killing helper. There are two prevailing theories about this second asteroid, according to a new study, published August 17 in Science Advances: that the asteroid may have been a broken-off piece of the Chicxulub asteroid, or that it was a wholly separate asteroid from an impact cluster…. 

(12) DATLOW Q&A. Terrifying Tomes of Terror presents “Episode XIIII: Publishing Anthologies with Ellen Datlow (Special Guest Co-Host Laurel Hightower)”.

I am joined by former Guest, Laurel Hightower, as my Guest Co-Host talking to the indomitable Ellen Datlow, Award-Winning Editor of over 100 Anthologies! Ellen takes us through her career in one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/13/22 Never Mind The Shoggoth, Here’s The Pixel Scroll

(1) RUSHDIE MEDICAL UPDATE. “Agent: Rushdie off ventilator and talking, day after attack” reports SFGate.

“The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to talk Saturday, a day after he was stabbed as he prepared to give a lecture in upstate New York.

Rushdie remained hospitalized with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted in the evening that he was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking).” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed that information without offering further details.

Earlier in the day, the man accused of attacking him Friday at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York…. 

(2) THAT TODDLING TOWN. “Neil’s Native Guide, Chicon 8 Edition” is Neil Rest’s updated array of suggestions about how everyone coming to year’s Worldcon can enjoy the city it’s in.

This compendium is for members of Chicon, who are only in town for a few days, with hours or half-days (or empty stomachs!) to fill, so “here” is the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker (city center map  We’re part of Illinois Center on the south side of the mouth of the river.). Except for Hyde Park (Museum of Science and Industry, University of Chicago, site of the first nuclear “pile”, site of 1893 Columbian Exposition), marked with the Ferris Wheel, I’ve tried to restrain myself from things more than a couple of miles from the Loop….

(3) A “PARADE OF HORRIBLES.” At Discourse Magazine, Adam Thierer discusses “How Science Fiction Dystopianism Shapes the Debate over AI & Robotics”.

… AI, machine learning, robotics and the power of computational science hold the potential to drive explosive economic growth and profoundly transform a diverse array of sectors, while providing humanity with countless technological improvements in medicine and healthcarefinancial services, transportation, retail, agriculture, entertainment, energy, aviation, the automotive industry and many others. Indeed, these technologies are already deeply embedded in these and other industries and making a huge difference.

But that progress could be slowed and in many cases even halted if public policy is shaped by a precautionary-principle-based mindset that imposes heavy-handed regulation based on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately, the persistent dystopianism found in science fiction portrayals of AI and robotics conditions the ground for public policy debates, while also directing attention away from some of the more real and immediate issues surrounding these technologies….

(4) ABOUT THE BLURB. At the Guardian, Louise Willder talks about “Killer crabs and bad leprechauns: how the best book blurbs excite our brains”.

…Part compression, part come-on, blurbs can also, as I found when I wrote a book about them, open up a world of literary history and wordy joy. Here are some things I discovered….

5 Old blurbs are unhinged

Most blurbs written more than 30 years ago now sound highly eccentric. Many don’t want to be liked: the anti-blurb on an elderly paperback of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory informs us that: “A baleful vulture of doom hovers over this modern crucifixion story.” Some bear little or no resemblance to the books they describe, such as the gloriously tin-eared 1990s Tor editions of Jane Austen’s novels. “Mom’s fishing for husbands – but the girls are hunting for love” is the sell on Pride and Prejudice.

Horror blurbs, especially those on the night-black Pan paperbacks found in holiday cottages, are their own special brand of nonsense, whether summoning up killer crabs (“A bloody carnage of human flesh on an island beachhead!”) or psychotic leprechauns (“They speak German. They carry whips…”).

(5) SPSFC 2022. Book Invasion has a shiny new video promoting Year Two of the Self Published Science Fiction Competition and introducing their judging team.

(6) INDEX OF LGBT RIGHTS IN COUNTRIES CURRENTLY BIDDING FOR WORLDCON. Equaldex publishes the Equality Index, which measures the current status of LGBT rights, laws, and freedoms as well as public attitudes towards LGBT people. [Tammy Coxen pointed out this site.]

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2031

(7) HOW TECHNOLOGY HELPS HUMANS CONNECT. The National Air and Space Museum’s “One World Connected” exhibition opens October 14.

One World Connected will tell the story of how flight fostered two momentous changes in everyday life: the ease in making connections across vast distances and a new perspective of Earth as humanity’s home. Featuring an array of satellites and other tools that have increased human connection, the exhibition will ask visitors to consider how global interconnection touches their lives and to imagine how advances in technology might impact our near-future.

Here are two examples of what will be included.

Artifact Spotlight: Sirius FM-4 Satellite

Sirius Radio (later Sirius XM Radio) developed the first generation of space-based, commercial radio service, launching in 2001 with three satellites. The stowed solar panels on the first-generation Sirius satellites would span 78 feet once opened in space and provided service to North America with access to more than 150 channels. The Sirius FM-4 Communications Satellite pictured above was built as a flight-ready backup for the system but was never used and will be on display in One World Connected.

Person Spotlight: Vikram Sarabhai

As one of the primary architects of the Indian rocket and space program, Vikram Sarabhai believed that science and technology could transform his country. He felt that an Indian space program promised both self-reliance and economic benefits. Sarabhai’s efforts led to the creation of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). In the 1970s, ISRO collaborated with NASA on the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment, which provided educational programming to 24,000 Indian villages and led to the development of India’s own satellites.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1974 [By Cat Eldridge.] It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining car, a sleeping car and two local coaches. — Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted several times into films and into film versions, all rather successful. 

The first, and I have the film poster (not a reproduction) on the wall behind as I write this up as it is by far my favorite version, was the 1974 version directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Albert Finney as the Belgian detective who no, he didn’t resemble at all. The screenplay was written by Paul Dean which did a marvelous job. The casting of the suspects was amazing: Jacqueline Bisset, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Rachel Roberts, Anthony Perkins, Richard Widmark and Wendy Hiller.

Though the train exteriors were shot throughout Europe, alas interiors were filmed at Elstree Studios. 

Critics loved it, audiences loved it and it made far than it cost retuning thirty-five million against one point four million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-eight rating. 

The next film version of Murder on the Orient Express was almost fifty years later.  It would be 2017 when Kenneth Branagh decided to take a turn portraying Hercule Poirot. And no, like Finney, he’s not even remotely close to Christie’s description of her detective (Short, somewhat vain, with brilliantined hair and a waxed moustache, the aging bachelor) as only the television actor really is him. And we will get to him in a minute.

Liket the first version, it had an all-star cast: Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley. I still prefer the first version as this one seemed to do a lot of stunt casting. 

It did well at the box office making back six times its fifty-five million production cost. But critics noted, and I’ll only quote two of them, that “it never quite builds up to its classic predecessor’s illustrious head of steam” and another echoed what several noted this Poirot was “less distinct and, ultimately, less interesting”. 

It gets a sixty rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m skipping the 2001 Murder on the Orient Express film directed by Carl Schenkel as it is set in the present day, and I refuse to watch it as I’ve absolutely no interest in that premise.  If you’re interested, and I have no idea why you’d be, Alfred Molina plays the Belgian detective. 

And we finally get to the only performer who actually looks and acts like Christie described her fussy little man in the form of David Suchet. It aired on Agatha Christie’s Poirot on the 11th of July 2010 first in the States and it was a ninety-minute film length production in which everything was done just right.  It was directed by Philip Martin with screenplay by Stewart Harcourt.  

It’s a wonderful production but then than the entire run of that series was stellar, wasn’t it?

The interior of the Orient Express was reproduced at Pinewood Studios in London. Other locations include the Freemason Hall, Nene Valley Railway, and a street in Malta which was shot to represent Istanbul as it wasn’t modern like most of present-day Istanbul.

So there are two versions I really like: the 1974 version for the setting more than for the Detective and the latter for the David Suchet performance of Poirot. Branagh’s version just feels like play by the numbers. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr.  Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though in the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part were awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin. He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in, errr, “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 57. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of VengeanceDracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun. Anyone remember the latter?
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 32. She plays the complex role of Baldwin on the Counterpart series which I finally got around to watching and it’s absolutely fascinating. I will also admit it’s nice to see a SF series that’s truly adult in nature. 

(10) WEIRD AND WONDERFUL. Let CBR.com introduce you to “The Most Obscure DC Superheroes With The Weirdest Powers”.

8. Danny The Street Is Only Just Starting To Get Their Due

Danny The Street’s inclusion in the TV series Doom Patrol (2019-) has raised the character’s profile a bit but they’re still wonderfully obscure and notably less recognizable than their allies, Robotman and Elasti-Girl. Since they regularly rearrange their molecules and appearance, they don’t have a single, signature “look,” though they enjoy playing with historically gendered imagery.

Being a teleporting sentient street is as weird as any superpower but Danny knows how to use their abilities to their advantage. Their flexibility actually makes them all the more effective not just at fighting evildoers but at providing a haven for the world’s outcasts and oddities.

(11) FEELING THE FORCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You know how it is. You are with a couple of friends minding your own business when the forces of the dark side collar you…  Actually, this was Northumberland Heath SF Society member Kel Sweeny’s (centre) 50th. Fellow N.Heath SF member, Mark (left) and myself (right). (Yes, those knees are his own and rumoured to be bionic: well, they’ve lasted half a century but mysteriously haven’t aged much! It’s either that or there is a portrait of them in his attic.)

No surprise, Kel is into Star Wars and even has his own, screen-ready storm-trooper kit. He belongs to UK Garrison, a nation-wide group of storm troopers who occasionally hire themselves out, or volunteer if it’s for what they consider is a charity/good cause, to events. This being his birthday, Kel came as himself, but a couple of his local storm-trooper comrades were in the mix to give his 50th added colour.

(12) ROUND FOUR. On the way – more Love, more Death, and more Robots. And will John Scalzi be involved again? He told Whatever readers:

Seriously, the answer to any question you might have at this point for LD+R (including any possible involvement by me) is: I don’t know, and if I did know, I couldn’t tell you. I swear I’m not being obstinate. I just don’t have anything to share at this point. When or if I do have something to share, obviously I will share it at the appropriate time.

(13) DECREASING SNAPPY DUMBACKS. “‘Data void’: Google to stop giving answers to silly questions”  explains the Guardian.

Google will stop giving snappy answers to stupid questions, the company has announced, as it seeks to improve its search engine’s “featured snippets” service.

That means users should see fewer answers to questions such as “When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?”, to which the service would once merrily respond with “1865” – the right date, but very much the wrong assassin.

“This clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result,” said the company’s head of search, Pandu Nayak, in a blogpost announcing the changes. “We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but there are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet. We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40% with this update.”…

More examples of false premise questions at the link.

(14) NOT QUITE THE GRAIL, BUT CLOSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tested’s Adam Savage explains some of his favorite replica props from sf and fantasy movies in this video: “Ask Adam Savage: Props That Have NEVER Been Properly Replicated”.

In this livestream excerpt, Tested Members Thomas Esson and King Sponge & Leech ask Adam about a prop that he feels has eluded accurate replication and if Adam ever considered making Hellboy’s Big Baby.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Vicki Bennett explains how to trap a golem in this 2013 piece for Britain’s Channel 4. “The Golem – An Inanimate Matter.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, P J Evans, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/22 Put Me In A Con, Hurry, Hurry, Hurry Before The Scroll Is Gone; I Can’t Control My Reading, I Can’t Control My Blog

(1) WONDERS NEVER CEASE. The 1982 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate Kevin Smith has finished his trip report: “I finally got a round tuit”. You can read it online here: “TAFF Trip”.

40 years ago, in September 1982, I went to the USA, primarily to attend Chicon IV, the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. The trip was paid for by TAFF, the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, and one of the expectations is that anyone going on a TAFF Trip should write a report about it. That’s what I’ve done, finally. You can find it under ‘TAFF Trip’ in the menu bar above.

From the “Introduction”:

What I said before I left America to come home was: “I’ll write a short trip report, but do it quickly when I get back.”

As I recall, I wrote this in my next fanzine: “It were great!”

Well, it met the ‘short’ and ‘do it quickly’ criteria, but probably failed the ‘trip report’ hurdle.

So here we are. It has taken a mere 40 years, but is quite short. What more could you ask…?

[That’s what we call a rhetorical question, in the trade. You’re not supposed to answer it. Especially not like that, it’s not nice.]

(2) SCARES IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR. Scares That Care announced in a press release they are discontinuing their Charity Weekend event:

Since its founding in 2006, the Scares That Care charity has raised nearly $400,000 for organizations, children, and families impacted by illness, burns, or breast cancer. We’ve achieved that thanks to the generosity of you – our Scares That Care family. Due to rising costs involved in producing a show of this type, the Board of Directors has unanimously decided to discontinue our Charity Weekend event. This will allow us to focus on our other fundraising efforts, so that we can expand our goals. While we understand that many of you will be disappointed by this news, we ask you to remember that we have never been a charity that supports a convention. Rather, the convention has always supported the charity. As such, our overall mission continues, and we invite our Scares That Care family to support our other upcoming fundraisers and events. Details on our annual Christmas Dance, AuthorCon II, and other surprises are forthcoming.

Brian Keene added in his newsletter:

…But I do want to assure people that the convention was profitable. That’s not the issue. the issue is that we are a charity, and as a charity, we need to look at costs versus profit. The economy and rising costs in everything from fuel to food is hitting all of these big multi-media conventions….

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Richard Butner and Veronica Schanoes in-person on Wednesday, August 17 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Masks welcome.

Richard Butner

Richard Butner’s short fiction has appeared in Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, been shortlisted for the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Fountain Award, and nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. His collection The Adventurists was published by Small Beer Press in March. He lives in North Carolina, where he runs the annual Sycamore Hill Writers’ Conference.

Veronica Schanoes

Veronica Schanoes is a writer whose debut short story collection, Burning Girls and Other Stories, appeared in paperback from Tordotcom in June. She is also an associate professor in the English department of Queens College – CUNY. In both guises, she works with fairy tales and fantasy.

Where: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(4) NEWS FROM THE FRONT. In “Covers! What are They Good For?” Sarah A. Hoyt continues her Mad Genius Club series about book covers by telling us —

What covers aren’t for:

1- to be beautiful. I mean, the eye is attracted to beautiful things, so beauty helps, but is not needed.

2- to be an accurate representation of your book. Again, if your character is a slim redhead and the cover model is a zaftig brunette (who is also very pretty) no one cares. Before they read the book, the readers don’t know that. And after they read the book they might leave a review that says “I don’t know where the cover brunette came from” but that won’t stop them promoting you if they loved the book.

3- be exactly what you envisioned in your head while writing the book. Unless of course, you’re an amazing cover artist on the side, and know exactly what sells in your genre or subgenre the month your book comes out.

4- (Contra insty trolls) signaling to the world how smart and sophisticated you are. (Unless you’re selling litewawy and little because the illusion of smart and sophisticated is essential there.)

She follows that beginning with a longer list of what covers are for.

(5) ROUNDUP TIME. G.W. Thomas shares a list of “Science Fiction Writers Who Wrote Westerns” at Dark Worlds Quarterly.

The collection Westerns of the 40s (1977) surprised me when I saw who the editor was, Damon Knight. That pillar of the Science Fiction community published the award-winning anthology series Orbit for decades. But he also did a couple of books about Pulp SF from the 1930s and 1940s. So why not some Cowboy stories from the same time period?

The bigger surprise was who he chose for that book. Not your usual W. C. Tuttle, Luke Short and Walter Tompkins stuff. Nope, Clifford D. Simak, John D. MacDonald and Murray Leinster. Three of the seven were written by Science Fiction authors. Now you can make the case for John D. MacDonald’s true fame is in the detective/suspense field. This is true, but old John D. did write Science Fiction for a spell before he quit it because it was too easy….

(6) TOO MUCH THE SAME THING? At Black Gate, Joe Bonadonna talks about his personal experiences with the sword and sorcery genre and why it withered in the 1980s in “IMHO: A Personal History Of Sword & Sorcery And Heroic Fantasy”.

Conan, King Kull, Cormac, Bran Mak Morn — names that conjure magic, characters often imitated, but never duplicated. These creations of Robert E. Howard (circa 1930) started the Sword and Sorcery boom of the 1960s and early 1970s. Then there are the barbarian warriors inspired by Howard — “Clonans,” as one writer recently referred to these sword-slinging, muscle-bound characters. A fair observation, but in some cases, not so true….

(7) WRITING FOR ANIMATION. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The For Eternia podcast has a lengthy interview with Tim Sheridan, who was one of the writers of Masters of the Universe: Revelation and also worked on a lot of other animated shows. Even if you haven’t watched the show, Sheridan has a lot of things to say about writing and storytelling.

(8) GET HUMBLE. There’s a Humble Bundle for “Image Comics 30th Anniversary: The 2000s” – pay what you want and help charity.

Image Comics turns 30 this year and we’re ready to celebrate! This bundle is all about Image in the 2000s, including the debuts of well-loved series like Invincible Volume 1: Family Matters, The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone By, and Fear Agent: Final Edition Volume 1! On top of the new heroes, villains, and sagas the decade brought, this bundle also includes the continuing adventures of fan-favorite Image characters Spawn,The Darkness, and Savage Dragon. Grab this bundle and help support BINC (Book Industry Charitable Foundation)!

Daniel Dern comments on the deal: “At this price (range), if you have any interest in these Image titles — or even want to see if you’re interested — it’s a hard bargain to resist.

“(Note, I only recently discovered Eric Larsen’s Savage Dragon. They are great! A mix of whacky plots, text/character/art references to Marvel, DC and other bits, and more. (Caution: Lots of violence, sex, gore and bad science. If you want to start ’em from the beginning, Hoopla has them — the Archives editions have more per borrow (~25 issues each), but, IIRC, are in black-and-white, it’s possible (I haven’t checked) that the fewer-paged non-Archives are in color.)”

(9) RAYMOND BRIGGS (1934-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs died August 9 aged 88. He is best known for The Snowman (which is genre, because it features a magical flying snowman), but a lot of his other work such as Fungus the Bogeyman is genre as well. He also wrote and drew the terribly depressing nuclear war graphic novel (also filmed) Where the Wind Blows, where a nice elderly British couple dies slowly of radiation poisoning in spite of attempting to follow the official UK government civil defense guidelines.

Lots of tributes to him from the Guardian:

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

2008 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fourteen years ago on this day, the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered. It is the first fully animated film in the Star Wars franchise and takes place shortly after Episode II – Attack of the Clones, at the start of the Clone Wars.

Ok let me note that I was in the minority of individuals that really liked it. I liked the voice acting and thought the story was quite excellent. Yes, the animation was odd, but Lucas has the right to do what he wants as it’s his damn universe, not ours, something’s fans seem to keep forgetting. 

It received largely hostile, and I mean hostile reviews mainly due to both the story here and the animation style which offended, well, almost everyone.  Now that’s out of the way let’s look at it.

It was written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy. Keep the first writer in mind as he will go to be the writer on oh-so-stellar Star Wars: The Clone Wars which will run for seven series and over one hundred and thirty episodes. 

The voice talent was second to none: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Ian Abercrombie, Catherine Taber, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Daniels. Many of these will carry over into the later series. Tom Kane is the narrator here as he is in later series. 

So why the hostile reaction? The style is an homage to the stylized looks of both Japanese anime and manga, something fans and critics alike weren’t expecting. Roger Ebert in his review said, “the characters have hair that looks molded from Play-Doh, bodies that seem arthritic, and moving lips on half-frozen faces—all signs that shortcuts were taken in the animation work.”  

Curiously the New York Post in its review lauded the original Star Wars film for its depth of character development (huh?) saying of this film, “Director Dave Filoni is so concentrated on the action that we’re never given the chance to care who lives and who is blown into spare parts.” 

Also curious is the claim that Star Wars: The Clone Wars did very poorly at the box office. Yes, compared to the live action films in the franchise it was a disaster, but animated features generally never do as well as live action films. (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the very rare exception.) It cost eight million to make and made sixty-three million in its first run, not bad at all. It obviously put a lot of asses in the seats that autumn. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a middling forty percent. What I must note is Lucas had in mind all along a Star Wars: The Clone Wars series which debuted in October of that year. That series holds a ninety-three percent rating over there.

Oh, and the animation style for that series is the same. Just saying. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1896 John Gloag. His first SF novel, Tomorrow’s Yesterday, depicts a race of cat people from the distant future observing human society. It was one of five SF novels and a double handful of short stories he wrote in the Thirties and Forties. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films such as The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain. The latter was made from his own novel and ISFDB notes it was part of the Dr. Patrick Cory series. He wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes. ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1952 David C. Smith, 70. He is best known for his fantasy novels, particularly those co-authored with Richard L. Tierney, featuring characters created by Robert E. Howard. Most notable are the six novels which involved Red Sonja. Those novels are available on Apple Books but not on Kindle.
  • Born August 10, 1955 Tom Kidd, 67. Genre illustrator, he’s won an impressive seven Chelsey Awards. Though he didn’t win a Hugo for Best Professional Artist, he was nominated  at Aussiecon Two, Nolacon, Conspiracy ‘87 and ConFiction. Since I’m fond of this Poul Anderson series, I’m giving you his cover for Maurai & Kith.
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 67. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore) which is, errr, interesting and won an IHG Award, and Bacchus, a series about the few Greek gods who have made to our time. Though not genre, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 57. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5. She has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can watch on Amazon Prime.

(12) WONG TO PEN DEADPOOL. Alyssa Wong and Martin Coccolo launch Deadpool’s next era in November.

Deadpool’s new ongoing series will be written by Alyssa Wong, known for her acclaimed work on thrilling books like Star Wars: Doctor Aphra and Iron Fist, and drawn by Martin Coccolo, the artist currently wowing readers in the action-packed Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War crossover. The two rising Marvel stars will take out their pent up aggression on everyone’s pizza-faced, jabber-mouthed, misguided, hate-to-love, love-to-hate fave in new Deadpool adventures loaded with riotous violence and relentless body horror. Deadpool’s latest solo exploits will kick off with a bang as a new mercenary group sends Deadpool on one of his most dangerous missions, an intoxicating villain unleashes a twisted plan on Wade’s body with horrifying side effects, and a hot new romance arrives on the scene to drive Wade crazy!

The world knows Wade Wilson is one of the top mercenary/assassins in the Marvel Universe, even if he is simultaneously the most annoying one…but he’s pushing to make that recognition official as he auditions for the elite group known as the Atelier. Now, he has 48 hours to kill one of the world’s most famous supervillains. Only problem? He’s been kidnapped, and something…strange…is GROWING INSIDE HIM.

“I love chaos. And what is Deadpool if not chaos incarnate? I’m honored to take the reins for Wade’s next solo adventure–expect romance, expect body horror, and expect a wild time!” Wong promises….

(13) DROPS OF WISDOM. Neil Gaiman answers tweets from people with questions about Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian mythology for WIRED in “Neil Gaiman Answers Mythology Questions From Twitter”.

(14) ARTIFICIAL BURRITO INTELLIGENCE. Midjourney creates a portrait of John Scalzi. Then Chuck Wendig gets it to answer the question “What if you are what you eat?”

(15) CATCH THE WAVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jason Momoa talks about his roles in fantasy movies, including an explanation about why the 2011 Conan The Barbarian was awful, and reveals that Denis Villeneuve would like to adapt Dune Messiah into a third Dune movie in the British GQ article “Jason Momoa, Aquaman and real life superhero, is on a quest to save the ocean”.

Jason Momoa doesn’t exactly love that he keeps dying, if you really want to get into it. “My kids are always like, ‘Are you gonna die again? You always die,” he says, a little forlornly. “I obviously made a name for myself dying so if you see me it’s like, ‘Momoa’s gonna jump on the bomb, I know it!’”

Thus far he has been shot in the head, blown up, smothered, died by suicide, had his throat slashed, and been stabbed in both the stomach and the chest. It was watching his most recent death, in Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi spectacular Dune with his 12-year-old son, that really got to him. “It was pretty heart wrenching, cause I was like, ‘I’m right here buddy!’ But he was like, ‘Papa nooooooooo,’ he recalls, howling like a dog at the moon. “I said: ‘Listen dude: if you’re gonna go out, go out big.’”

Which might make it sound as though the Aquaman actor is a mere mortal, but if you saw Jason Momoa walking down the street (and not, say, emerging from the ocean with a trident in his hand, and the promise of avenging his sea queen mother glinting in his eye) you might still wonder if this towering man didn’t arrive on dry land using a branch of coral as a surfboard, having caught a wave from a kingdom far more exciting than anywhere on planet earth…. 

(16) PRIME TARGET. Cyber warfare is unleashed in The Enigma Factor, first in the twelve-book Enigma Series by Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey.

A brilliant programmer is targeted by cyber predators! Jacob Michaels, computer network security-tester extraordinaire, tries to settle into a quiet life of work to polish his cyber security skills after the death of his mother. Jacob is unaware that his growing reputation makes him a person of interest. Cyber-criminals are hunting for new recruits. They target this brilliant programmer to seduce him into joining their cause. More people are hunting him than just the Russian cyber kingpin. Jacob sets off to find those who are targeting him. He discovers he’s in the crosshairs of previously unknown global experts. Of course, having his identity erased puts him front and center above anything else.

Buzz, when looking for the easy way, makes a ghastly judgement error and inadvertently crosses the line to the darknet. He pleads to his best friend Jacob for help. Jacob, brilliant as he is, doesn’t have enough experience to help Buzz on his own. Jacob battles against global cyber masterminds using his knowledge of programming, identity theft, and hacking. He is pulled up short when his security knowledge is dwarfed following his introduction to the distractingly beautiful encryptionist Petra. Jacob’s challenge is how to keep ahead of the criminals and learn who to trust. In their debut TechnoThriller, The Enigma Factor, award-winning authors Breakfield and Burkey weave a complex tale of danger, intrigue, and international cyber combat. They use a relevant technology foundation, then layer on travel, romance, humor and mystery. Like rust, the cat and mouse game of the new cyber warfare age never sleeps.

The book is published by ICABOD Press and is available worldwide across all platforms including from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and as an audiobook.

Charles Breakfield is a technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. Rox Burkey is a technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. Together these Texas authors create award-winning stories that resonate with males and females, as well as young and experienced adults.

(17) IN THE BEGINNING. Vice explains how “China Is Planning to Turn the Moon Into a Giant Space ‘Shield’”.

Chinese astronomers aim to peer for the first time into the cosmic “dark ages,” an unexplored era about 200 million years after the Big Bang, by using the Moon as a shield to block out noisy radio signals caused by human activity on Earth, reports the South China Morning Post.

The Discovering the Sky at the Longest Wavelength (DSL) mission envisions sending a fleet of satellites to the Moon that could capture ultralong radio waves made by hydrogen atoms in the darkness before cosmic dawn, when the first stars were born bursting with radiant light…. 

(18) A FULLY OPERATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL STATION. [Item by Chris Barkley.] The NASA article is from April 2020, but it’s a nice counterpoint to the Chinese mission…JUST LIKE For All Mankind!!! “NASA’s Plan to Turn the Moon Into a Telescope Looks Like the Death Star” at Vice.

Called the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), the proposal is the brainchild of Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On Tuesday, LCRT was selected for initial “Phase 1” funding ($125,000) by NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which aims to explore advanced, far-future technologies.

LCRT is still in “very early stages of development,” said Bandyopadhyay in an email, noting that “the objective of Phase 1 is to study the feasibility of the LCRT concept.”

“[W]e will mostly be focusing on the mechanical design of LCRT, searching for suitable craters on the Moon, and comparing the performance of LCRT against other ideas that have been proposed in the literature,” he added.

Bandyopadhyay envisions building the LCRT in a crater that measures about three to five kilometers (two to three miles) in diameter. The telescope’s wire-mesh scaffolding could be delivered and erected by wall-climbing robots, such as NASA’s DuAxel rovers, which would be capable of scaling the vertical slopes of the crater…

…“LCRT could enable tremendous scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology by observing the early universe in the 10–50m wavelength band (i.e., 6–30MHz frequency band), which has not been explored by humans to date.”

In particular, the telescope could shed new light on the mysterious processes that occurred more than 13 billion years ago, as the first stars in the universe were being born, according to a 2018 paper led by Bandyopadhyay. It could also examine fine details about exoplanets that orbit other stars….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Mario Strikers:  Battle League,” the Screen Junkies say that this newest edition of the Mario franchise you can have your favorite Mario characters fight each other in a battle royale that’s vaguely like soccer except people actually score goals and you can drop kick your opponents into a giant banana.  “This is a fun family game to play together,” the narrator says, “which will naturally lead to you cussing out your friends and family while you’re in front of the TV.”

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