Pixel Scroll 7/28/22 I Love Pixels. I Like The Whooshing Sound They Make As They Scroll By

(1) GRRM HAS COVID. Yahoo! reports “George R.R. Martin Caught COVID at Comic-Con, Is Quarantined With Sniffles ‘In a Four-Star Hotel’”. Martin speaks about it in a nine-minute video below. The precautions he was taking, discussed before SDCC at Not a Blog, such as sharply limiting his in-person appearances there, were not enough, it seems.

George R.R. Martin caught COVID during his trip last week to Comic-Con, the “Game of Thrones” author said Wednesday night in a YouTube video, and is quarantining in a Los Angeles hotel with mild sniffles.

“I’ve had worse colds, so I hope it will stay that way,” Martin said, with a barely detectable rasp in his voice. “After this quarantine period I will be able to get on with various things.”

Martin noted that he’d be missing a “House of Dragons” premiere event that night in North Hollywood, where HBO content chief Casey Bloys later told the crowd that Martin was absent because of a positive COVID test that morning.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about me, I seem to be fine,” said Martin, who seemed genuinely disappointed to be missing the various Los Angeles events he was in town for. “I will say, if you’re going to have to go and quarantine, a four-star hotel is a pretty good place to do it.”

(2) DREAMHAVEN. Artist Mark Bode posted a photo of the finished DreamHaven Bookstore wall mural on Facebook.

David Dyer-Bennet also has a gallery of photos he took of the wall on his Facebook page.

(3) RPG’S RACIST DESCRIPTIONS EXPOSED.  [Item by Cora Buhlert.] TheGamer reports the upcoming tabletop RPG Star Frontiers: New Genesis by TSR Hobbies (which is not the real TSR) contains some grossly – and I do mean grossly – racist content: “TSR’s Leaked Star Frontiers: New Genesis Playtest Contains Racist Descriptions”.

…The Star Frontiers: New Genesis playtest has been leaked by NoHateInGaming. They shared pictures from the game’s rules that detail a “Negro sub-race”, describing them as a “Tall thick bodied dark skinned brown-eyed race with large strength average intelligence ALL Attributes are in the 10+ range except intelligence which is maximum a +9”. That poor writing is all Star Frontiers: New Genesis, by the way.

This is a deeply racist characterisation of Black people, rooted in colonial eugenics. There are further causes for concern in the leaked images. The Nordic race – not marked as a “sub-race” – has “exceptional attributes and powers ALL attributes are in the 13+ range.”…

(4) SPSFC 2022 CALL FOR ENTRIES. The second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition is canvassing the world for entries. The posted deadline to submit books is July 31. Here are some of the requirements.

i) No book that was entered in a previous SPSFC can be reentered .
ii) The book must be #1 in a series or a stand-alone.
iii) The book must actually be self-published(*) by the start date, not something you’re considering self-publishing in future.
iv) It must be a sci-fi book. Underscored must. No pretending.

(5) THE NEW KRAZY KAT BOOK. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From Taschen, the publisher doing the Complete Little Nemo that I recently wrote about (“Finding A More Complete (Little) Nemo — Upcoming Bargain Book Alert, Plus A Few Snakes-Hands And Rabbit-Holes”), comes George Herriman: The Complete Krazy Kat in Color 1935-1944 (listing seen in the latest email from Bud’s Art Books, where it’s available for $185.)

A 632-page hardcover, “just a little smaller than the original published Sunday page size.” (11.8 x 17.3 in., 14.20 lb.) Includes “a 100-page illustrated introduction by Alexander Braun in a special carrying-case/box.” (See a 16-page slideshow of the art at the Taschen Books site.)

At this price — reasonable enough given the book size and contents — I’m going to pass at least for now (and I’m prepared to have missed my chance) (I’ve got enough Krazy Kat on hand, albeit in the less-than-humongous size), but other Filers may feel differently. (Is your credit card twitching at you, Chris B?)

Related trivia: Herriman is also known for — that’s how I learned about him, in fact — his illustrations for Don Marquis’ “archie and mehitabel” books (which in turn I learned about by listening to the late, great Jean Shepherd read from them in his 45-minute late-night shows, along with listening to his readings of Robert Service, and, of course, Shep’s own inimitable stories and meanderings.

(6) ARE THEY WATCHING THEIR SCALES? Tor / Forge Blog took their question straight to the internet authority: “What Burrito Would You Feed a Dragon? John Scalzi Answers!”

As an internationally renowned expert on burritos, I have been asked by the folks at Tor to essay perhaps the most important question of this or any other time in our shared cultural history:

What Burrito Would You Feed a Dragon?

And the answer is: Well, obviously, it would depend. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes and personal proclivities. It’s time to acknowledge that, just like people, they will have their own idiosyncratic tastes and preferences. Let me take five examples of dragons from history and literature and song, and suggest some possible burrito pairings….

(7) MASTERS IN BUSINESS ANNIHLATION. Cora Buhlert posted another “Non-Fiction Spotlight” today for Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros by Fiona Moore.

I’m continuing my Non-Fiction Spotlight project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that come out in 2022 and are eligible for the 2023 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.

Tell us about your book.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones takes a look at management theory through a Westerosi lens. I use characters, organisations, and events from the television series (primarily, though there’s some references to A Song of Ice and Fire in there as well) to explain the background and concepts of organisation theory, human resource management, strategy, and mergers and acquisitions (or, in the Westerosi context, weddings and warfare). I also look at how and why Game of Thrones is such a useful tool for management education, and suggest ways in which the reader can develop their own understanding of organisations through the use of SFF stories.

(8) BERNARD CRIBBINS (1928-2022). Bernard Cribbins, known best to fans for his work in Doctor Who playing Wilf, grandfather to Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, died July 27. He was 93. That was just one of many iconic roles across a career that spanned seven decades. He appeared in The Railway Children, three films in the Carry On series, and the James Bond spoof Casino Royale. He performed a hit ’60s song “Right Said Fred”, and narrated The Wombles. His first brush with Doctor Who was in 1964, playing police constable Tom Campbell in the film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD. He was appointed an Office in the Order of the British Empire for his services to drama in 2011. He wrote an autobiography, Bernard Who? 75 Years Of Doing Just About Anything, which was published in 2018.

His resume also includes this episode of Fawlty Towers with John Cleese.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m very selective about what I think is great fiction by Niven and the Gil ”The Arm” Hamilton stories are I think among his best work. Mind you I was surprised how few actual stories there were in this series there was when I started writing up this essay!

As you most likely know, and I’m not doing a spoiler warning this time as I’m assuming most

 of you have read these, Gil ”The Arm” Hamilton developed telekinesis after losing his arm in an outer space accident after asteroid takes his arm off. While waiting for a transplant, he is in bar:

“Like an idiot I’d tried to catch it with my right hand.

And I’d caught it.

I’d never suspected myself of having psychic powers. You have to be in the right frame of mind to use a psi power. But who had ever had a better opportunity than I did that night, with a whole section of brain tuned to the nerves and muscles of my right arm, and no right arm?”

Gil is a Gold Skin, a UN cop. He gets the weird cases. The really weird ones. In the six stories here, we get locked room mysteries where a man dies by wired ecstasy, why the frozen almost dead are being killed off and turned into organs for the living, why organleggers are killing off their product, the mystery of who tried to kill the patchwork girl and in the longest story, we deal with the mystery of yet another locked room murder that takes place outside on a lunar crater. 

Gil is an interesting character who makes perfect sense as the police officer. I so wish that Niven had written a novel with him as the central character. That would also expand the universe that Niven created here which feels just a bit sketchy. 

The first story, “Death by Ecstasy” was published in 1969 in Galaxy with the last, “The Woman in Del Rey Crater” in Flatlander in 1995. Five of the stories can be found in Flatlander. The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton in 1991 included only “Arm”, “Death by Ecstasy,” and ”The Defenfeless Dead”.  

In order, the stories are “Death by Ecstasy”, “The Defenseless Dead”, “ARM,” “The Patchwork Girl”, “Flatlander” and “The Woman in Del Rey Crater”. 

The “ARM” story was nominated for the Best Novella Hugo at MidAmeriCon (1976). 

It’s available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices, and in trad paper edition in English and German editions. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here. (Died 2022.)
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says. I will note that Klein was a published author having just three stories, “Century of Progress”, “ Mass Communication “ and “On Conquered Earth”, the first two in Analog, the latter in If. I don’t think any have been republished. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: “The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard”, “The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul” and “The Case of the Vanished Vampire”. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 67. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 56. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as  SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 54. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe has a plan for surviving the zombie apocalypse.

(12) AND THE LAW WON. AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mike” features “Author Jim Butcher on narrating The Law, the new Harry Dresden book.

Author Jim Butcher made the right choice in performing his latest work himself. It’s a masterpiece. He said that his usual narrator, James Marsters, has nothing to fear, but Butcher’s first attempt at narration is an unqualified success. He has a great speaking voice and truly relates to his characters. The emotion he puts into the work comes across in the wide variety of characters, who include an elderly magician/lawyer, a stupidly stubborn antagonist, and various creatures that inhabit the world of wizard/private investigator Harry Dresden. The brief work is a delight from start to finish, and Butcher’s youthful satisfaction comes across on every page. This may be Butcher’s first attempt at performing his own work, but let’s hope it won’t be his last.

(13) LEAVE THE WALLET, TAKE THE CANNOLI. “William Shatner leaves wallet at Fruit Barn in Gilroy” and thereby makes the news in SFGate.

Last Wednesday, in Gilroy, 91-year-old legendary “Star Trek” actor William Shatner lost his wallet while shopping at the Fruit Barn, a decades-old side-of-the-road market located at 2918 Pacheco Pass Highway, according to ABC7

Shatner reportedly bought four baskets of cherries and $2 of corn.

“I thought about putting a sign up, ‘William Shatner was here,'” Gary Tognetti, owner of B&T Farms, told ABC7 in jest.

Tognetti then enlisted the help of his friend Officer Mark Tarasco, of the Gilroy Police Department, to contact Shatner to return his wallet…. 

There’s a shot of the wallet in this ABC7 Los Angeles news video. John King Tarpinian says the leather looks like ostrich to him.

(14) LOVECRAFT’S LEGACY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The latest episode of the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast focuses on H.P. Lovecraft and his legacy and features an interview with Lovecraft specialist Scott Dorward: “Beyond Lovecraft”.

(15) FRESH EYES, OLD FICTION. At the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast, Oliver Brackenbury runs a variation on James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF project and hands several sword and sorcery stories ranging from classic to modern to a youngish (i.e. under 30) fantasy reader. One of the stories happens to be one of Cora Buhlert’s: “Fresh Blood and New Thunder! Bringing New Readers to Sword & Sorcery, with Sof Magliano”.

Among other things, we discuss the work of Robin Hobb, the dilution of the term “sword & sorcery” and other branding issues, living in a character’s head, struggling to connect with Tower of the Elephant, reading trope-setting classics as a contemporary reader, connecting more with emotion-driven sword & sorcery, backfiring magic, quick-moving plots and pacing, how Sof felt S&S has a unified feel and how it differs from the broad trends of contemporary fantasy…

(16) MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOON. Space Perspective is offering balloon flights to “the edge of space”.

Spaceship Neptune is the first carbon-neutral way to space. Lifted by our SpaceBalloon™—a technology used for decades by the likes of NASA—we take Explorers on a leisurely flight, spending hours at the edge of space.

The balloon flight is to an altitude of 100,000 ft., or 30 kilometres. The accepted international definition of the edge of space is the von Kármán line at 100 kilometres. But not to quibble; 30 km is way up, and the relaxed 6 hour flight will give plenty of time to enjoy the view.

(17) IT’S AN HONOR JUST TO BE FOSSILIZED. “Ukrainian leader’s name is bestowed on a newfound ancient marine invertebrate”Nature has the details.  

Scientists who discovered an ancient ocean-dwelling invertebrate with ten arms have named it in tribute to a man with only two: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Distant cousins of starfish, marine animals called feather stars have a central disc with featherlike arms that can regrow when they get torn off by predators. Mariusz Salamon at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, and his colleagues discovered an exquisitely preserved fossilized feather star in what is now Ethiopia.

Near the base of its central disc, which measures about 8 millimetres in diameter, it has a series of claw-like appendages for attaching itself to surfaces. Some of its arms show evidence of regeneration — probably a response to damage by predators, the researchers say.

The newfound species, Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi, lived roughly 150 million years ago and is named after two people: palaeontologist William Ausich, for his work on fossil feather stars and related animals, and Zelenskyy for “his courage and bravery in defending free Ukraine”, the authors write.

(18) CALL TO ACTION. SYFY Wire introduces “Samaritan trailer: Sylvester Stallone is a washed-up hero”.

…Now believed dead by most of the general public, this hollow shell of a man gets a chance to relive the glory days when his young neighbor, Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton), works out his true identity and attempts to coax the bitter man out of retirement. The hero once known as Samaritan doesn’t have much a choice in the matter when unsavory parties (like Pilou Asbæk’s central villain) start to wreak havoc throughout the city he once swore to protect….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Tom Becker, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Christian Brunschen.]

Pixel Scroll 6/19/22 She Filed Me Into A Scroll! (I Got Better!)

(1) HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN. [Item by Meredith.] Someone(s) used the names and email addresses of several members of sf/f fandom including Paul Weimer, Patrick S Tomlinson, John Scalzi, and Adam Rakunas to send racist abuse to a black author (@fairyfemmes) through the contact form on their websites (where the email address can be entered manually). The author originally believed it was real, but is now wanting to know who is behind it. They’ve taken their account private.

John Scalzi tweeted:

Paul Weimer posted on Patreon about “The Trolls Harassing others in my name”.

The Trolls that have harassed me for years in my name have come up with a new and horrible trick–they are harassing others, in this case, a POC, and using my name to do it.  

So it’s a double whammy–to hurt someone else, and to blacken my name at the same time.

Patrick S. Tomlinson addressed a message sent under his name, and another from the person posing as Adam Rakunas.

(2) TONOPAH PROGRAM UPDATED. The most recent (June 19) Westercon 74 Program Schedule  version has downloadable PDFs of the Program Grid, which shows items by date/time/location. Click on the link.

(3) WISCON’S COVID OUTCOME. The “WisCon 2022 Post-Con COVID-19 Report” begins with a fully detailed account of the extensive COVID-19 safety measures instituted by the committee, then assesses the results. 

…Two weeks out from the end of the convention, we are stopping our case tracking efforts. While it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether some members arrived sick, contracted COVID-19 during travel to/from, or contracted COVID-19 at the con, we can, with much gratitude, report that we had a total reported count of 13 cases including one possible false positive, or 3% of our estimated 407 in-person attendance. That’s just about miraculous.

We want to especially extend our thanks to those who tested positive very soon after arriving and took the necessary measures to take care of themselves and keep those around them safe, up to and including leaving the convention entirely. We know it must have been so gut-wrenching and disappointing. Thank you….

(4) STOP DISCOUNTING CRAFTSMANSHIP. Mark Lawrence reacts to a viral tweet by someone who rates books highly for other things than good writing in “I don’t care how good a writer you are…”

…It’s as if people are celebrating the idea that writing doesn’t matter and that “good writing” is some form of intellectual elitism that doesn’t have anything to do with them. They’re death metal fans and they don’t care about opera.

But that is, of course, nonsense. It’s akin to saying “I don’t care how good a brain surgeon you are, as long as you get this tumour out.” “I don’t care how good a mechanic you are, as long as you fix my car.” Sure, the end is the thing that’s important to you … but the end is generally strongly correlated with the means….

(5) SCARE PALS. Adrienne Celt advises New York Times Magazine readers that “You Need a Horror Movie Friend for a More Frightening, Less Lonely Life”.

… A lot of people hate horror movies, but I don’t. In fact, I frequently find myself strong-arming my friends and loved ones into watching something scarier than they would prefer, just for the company. It’s a difference of philosophy as much as a difference in taste. Horror deniers often claim there’s nothing emotionally valuable in the experience of being frightened. I disagree. When I first watched “The Last Unicorn” (a horror movie masquerading as a children’s cartoon) at age 8, the image of a naked harpy devouring a witch was burned into my brain, but so was the realization that the conditions that created the harpy also allowed for the unicorn. The existence of horror is inevitably proximate to the existence of wondrous possibility.

Meeting another person who loves horror as much as I do, then, is like meeting a fellow traveler from my home country while stuck somewhere distant and strange….

(6) A LOT TO LIKE. Rich Horton continues his project of filling in the historic blank spaces with “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1954” at Strange at Ecbatan.

… This was a remarkable year for SF novels, and the five that I list as nominees — the same list the Retro Hugo nominators picked — are all certified classics in the field. There some impressive alternate choices too — among those I list, Leiber’s The Sinful Ones (an expansion and in my opinion an improvement on his 1950 short novel “You’re All Alone”) is a personal favorite. In my Locus article I picked The Caves of Steel as the winner, but I’m really torn. Nowadays I might lean to either More Than Human, or to the Retro Hugo winner, Fahrenheit 451….

(7) REREADING PRATCHETT. Nicholas Whyte discusses “Mort, by Terry Pratchett” at From the Heart of Europe.

…You’ve read it too, so I won’t go on at length. It is as funny as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised on re-reading by the breadth and depth of references to classic (and Classical) literature. The main driver of the Sto Lat subplot, the rewriting of history and destiny, is actually more of a science fiction trope, rarely found in fantasy (and the description of it is fairly sfnal). And Death’s slogan resonates still for me, 35 years on.

THERE’S NO JUSTICE. THERE’S JUST ME.

(8) A VISION FOR SF. Pop quiz: What editor’s name immediately comes to your mind when you read the statement that Astounding shaped modern science fiction? My guess is it won’t be the name that came to Colin Marshall’s mind when he wrote this post for Open Culture: “Revisit Vintage Issues of Astounding Stories, the 1930s Magazine that Gave Rise to Science Fiction as We Know It”.

Having been putting out issues for 92 years now, Analog Science Fiction and Fact stands as the longest continuously published magazine of its genre. It also lays claim to having developed or at least popularized that genre in the form we know it today. When it originally launched in December of 1929, it did so under the much more whiz-bang title of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. But only three years later, after a change of ownership and the installation as editor of F. Orlin Tremaine, did the magazine begin publishing work by writers remembered today as the defining minds of science fiction….

(9) HAPPY 90TH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur celebrates John Williams’s 90th birthday with recommendations about his orchestral music to try (ever heard his flute concerto or his violin concerti?) “Composer John Williams being feted with performances at Kennedy Center”.

… For “John Williams: A 90th Birthday Gala,” conductor Stéphane Denève will lead the NSO in a sprawling celebration of Willams’s famed film music. Special guests cellist Yo-Yo Ma, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will cue up selections from some of Williams’s most beloved scores, including “Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Harry Potter,” “Indiana Jones” and “Schindler’s List.” The program will also highlight Williams’s most recently lauded work, the score to Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane’s Oscar-winning 2017 short film “Dear Basketball.

A pair of companion concerts flanking the gala celebration will focus on two of Williams’s best-known scores — representing a fraction of his 29 collaborations with Spielberg. (Their latest project, “The Fabelmans,” is due out in November). Steven Reineke will conduct the composer’s scores for “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” on June 22 and 24, respectively. (The NSO will also perform Williams’s score for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” with a screening of the film at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on July 29.)

Taken together, the birthday party is three days of music that will hit all the subconscious buttons that Williams has wired into our collective memories over the past five decades — a rich catalogue of instantly identifiable melodies, moods and motifs that can conjure entire worlds with the stroke of a bow.

The party, however, conspicuously forgot to invite Williams’s concert music — the province of his output that truly opened my ears to his compositional mastery. (It also leaves out selections from “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a deep cut that represents some of his best work with Spielberg, but that’s another story.)

I get it. We have come to equate Williams with Hollywood so closely that it can be hard to fathom him freed of cinema’s frame.

But in Williams’s many concertos, chamber works and solo pieces, his familiar compositional voice is fully present, albeit put to completely different use. His connections to multiple classical traditions register more clearly: his Berg-ian penchant for darkness and dissonance, his Copland-esque ease with evoking natural grandeur, his inheritance of gestures from Debussy, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Korngold.

Here are some of my favorite Williams works that have nothing to do with the movies — and have a lot more depth than you might expect from a composer we associate with the silver screen….

One of the pieces Michael Andor Brodeur recommended of John Williams was his “Fanfare For Fenway” so here it is as Williams and the Boston Pops perform the world premiere at Fenway Park in 2012.

(10) THINK FAST. Deadline calls it “Zaslav’s First Movie Crisis: What To Do With Ezra Miller, The Erratic Star Of Warner Bros’ $200M ‘Flash’ Franchise Launch”

Even though it isn’t on the Warner Bros release calendar until June 23, 2023, The Flash is becoming Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s first movie crisis, because of the escalating coverage of incidents of volatile and odd behavior involving the film’s star, Ezra Miller.

Zaslav has made clear his desire to grow the DC Universe to MCU scale and has all the ingredients of a first foot forward in The Flash, including the return of Michael Keaton as Batman along with a reprise by Ben Affleck, a $200 million budget and a hot director in Andy Muschietti, who delivered the blockbuster It for the studio. The Warner Bros Discovery CEO exercised his well known penchant for micro-management by declining to greenlight Wonder Twins for being too niche. Zaslav will have to soon make a decision of what to do with the completed picture that is The Flash, and what to do with a young actor who appears to have serious off-set issues….

(11) VERTLIEB MEDICAL NEWS. Steve Vertlieb is home after his fifth hospital stay of the year. He brings everyone up-to-date in “Back To The Suture 3” on Facebook.

… Days upon days of antibiotic treatment were required before they dared to open the wound and clean out the bacteria. This additional procedure was accomplished on Monday, June 13th.

Consequently, I was admitted yet again to the cardiac unit where I remained for nine days more until my delayed and eventual release this afternoon. I’ve a “Wound V.A.C.” attached to my groin where it hangs rather uncomfortably, and shall continue to do so for, perhaps, the next week or two. I’m home once more, and praying that this is where I shall be permitted at long last to remain….

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forbidden Planet debuted sixty years ago on this date in the United Kingdom. I had the extremely good fortune of seeing Forbidden Planet at one of those boutique cinema houses some four decades back. Great sound and print, and a respectful audience who were there to see the film so everyone paid attention to it. 

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack who had no genre background and who would die of a heart attack, age forty-nine just two years later. It was directed by Fred Wilcox, best known for Lassie, Come Home. The script was written by Cyril Hume who had prior to this written scripts for two Tarzan films. It is said that is based off “The Tempest” as conceived in a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. Huh. 

I’ll skip the cast other than Robbie the Robot. He cost at least one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to produce, and was based off the design originating with ideas and sketches by production designer Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie, art director Arthur Lonergan, and writer Irving Block. Robbie was operated (uncredited at the time) by stuntmen Frankie Darro and Frankie Carpenter, both rather short actors. And his voice in the film was done in post-production by actor Marvin Miller. 

The budget was about two million of which it was later estimated that Robbie was actually well over ten percent of that because of the cost of Miller’s time which added considerably to his cost. It made two point eight million, so yes it lost money. 

So what did the critics think? Variety thought it had “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the production a top offering in the space travel category” while the Los Angeles Times thought it was “more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.’” 

It has a most stellar eighty-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 — Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which included some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 — Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two very low budget TV horror films in the late Sixties that don’t show up on Rotten Tomatoes, appear to be his first venture into our realm. And no, I can’t say I’ve seen either one of them. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later which gets a most excellent seventy-eight rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. (No, don’t ask what they got for ratings. Please don’t ask.) Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (It’s Moore, again don’t ask.) (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 — Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman : Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available from the usual suspects though Cora can read him in German. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 — Salman Rushdie, 75. I strongly believe that everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (So let the arguments begin on that statement as they will.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories which I essayed here. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1952 — Virginia Hey, 70. Best remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fantastic Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it, so who has? 
  • Born June 19, 1957 — Jean Rabe, 65. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written at least five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. She has won the Internation Assoication of Media Tie-In Writers’ Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark celebrates Fathers Day.
  • zach can foretell the present!

(15) OVERCOMER. [Item by Steven French.] Interesting interview with Sarah Hall, author of plague novel Burntcoat (not sure writing a book during the pandemic is quite comparable to what Sarah Connor did but ok …) “Sarah Hall: ‘I used to almost fear opening a book’”.

When did you begin writing Burntcoat?
On the first day of the first lockdown in March 2020, with notebooks and a pen, which I’d not done since my first novel, 20 years ago. It felt like a response to what was going on – this odd scribbling in the smallest room in the house, really early in the morning when it was quiet and eerie.

And you kept it up even while home schooling your daughter?
There was some part of me that thought: “This is just one more thing that’s going to make it difficult to work and I’m going to do it anyway.” I was anxious, but I’m a single parent and I go into, as I call it, Sarah Connor mode from The Terminator: it’s out there, here’s my child, what do I need to do? Get buff! I got pains in my hand because I wasn’t used to writing so much.

(16) WACKY WIKI. If for any reason you were wondering whether Vox Day’s Infogalactic is still around, Camestos Felapton permitted his eyeballs to be stabbed with its content in order to research this post: “Incredibly, Voxopedia is still running”.

(17) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, A.A. Dowd celebrates the 40th anniversary of E.T., saying the film “has the simplicity of a fable and the texture of ordinary American life.” “’E.T.,’ 40 years later, is still the most soulful of box-office sensations”.

… Not that the movie subscribes to the idea of adolescence as a carefree, unburdened time. By now, it’s conventional wisdom that “E.T.” grew out of Spielberg’s memories of his emotionally fraught teenage years. The director modeled his title character on a real imaginary friend he came up with to cope with his parents’ divorce. As written by Melissa Mathison, who combined elements from two scrapped Spielberg projects, the film became a melancholy fantasy deeply haunted by parental absence. At heart, it’s about a broken nuclear family trying to piece itself back together….

(18) WHO NEEDS SPECIAL EFFECTS? Gizmodo is delighted that “Doctor Strange 2 Gets a Dance-Heavy Blooper Reel Before Disney+ Drop”.

… Beyond that, it’s funny to watch the cast’s long capes and skirts get stuck in the scenery and have them try to fight off errant leaves as they wave their arms around doing pretend magic.

(19) A COMMERCIAL MESSAGE FROM OUR FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Estonian company Milrem Robotics has joined with a partner company (who supplied the 30 mm autocanon) to demonstrate what their “Type-X“ armored, uncrewed, AI-powered Robotic Combat Vehicle could do if outfitted as a tank. “Robot Tank Firing at Cars and Other Targets Is the Stuff of Nightmares” at Autoevolution.

The disastrous use of tanks by the Russians in Ukraine isn’t stopping defense contractors from researching such platforms, though. Of course, even if they look like traditional tanks, these new machines are as modern as they get.

Take the so-called Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, developed over in Europe by Milrem Robotics and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. That would be an autonomous, AI-governed, tracked vehicle that could become a common presence on the battlefields of tomorrow….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/18/22 It Takes A Scroll To Laugh, It Takes A Pixel To Cry

(1) IT’S STILL HOME. Samit Basu is a best-selling author in India who’s been published in the US/UK since 2013. His book The City Inside is a recent release from Tordotcom. In a guest post at Stone Soup he questions “When Is A Dystopia Just The Real World?”

…I wanted to write a near-future projection of my surroundings that was pragmatic, but optimistic. I’ve lived in Delhi for many years now, and however bad it gets, you can’t really see the place where you live as dystopian – genrewise, it’s also the setting for your romances, your office comedies, your reluctant action-adventures, your gritty urban dramedies, your heartwarming holiday specials. You live in this odd multi-tab chaos that makes you extremely conscious of your own privileges, because you’re in proximity to people whose living conditions are extremely challenging, especially in politically apocalyptic times. And this convinces you – or convinced me, at least – that whatever happens, however bad things get, the people in this city – or any other – will outlast it, because they have no choice. Not because they are passive, but because they are used to all systems failing them, and will always cling on to hope. And if you have hope, if you have purpose, you’re not living in a dystopia, even if it looks like one from outside….

(2) LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION FIGURES! Cora Buhlert has posted another ingenious Masters of the Universe action figure photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Siblings’”.

Now Roboto has a bit of a strange history. He was an action figure in the 1980s, but he only had a handful of appearances in the original Filmation cartoon, where he was an alien explorer from a planet of robots who crashlanded on Eternia, was repaired by Man-at-Arms and wound up staying and fighting alongside He-Man and his friends.

The 2002 cartoon retconned his origin and made him a sentient and intelligent robot built by Man-at-Arms originally as a chess partner for Man-e-Faces. However, Roboto wanted to be a warrior, upgraded himself and heroically sacrificed himself in order to save He-Man and all of Eternia from a plague of multiplying skeletons. Luckily, Man-at-Arms was able to repair him and so Roboto was frequently seen fighting alongside the other heroic warriors.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation tweaked Roboto’s backstory yet again. He’s still a sentient and intelligent robot who was built by Man-at-Arms, but in Revelation Roboto considers Duncan his father and Teela his sister and refers to them as such….

It’s also on Twitter – here is an excerpt.

(3) WRITERS GET PAID. Preferably.

(4) PLEASE KEEP YOUR SEATS ‘TIL THE TRAIN COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP. Deadline has learned “‘Snowpiercer’ To End With Season 4 On TNT”.

TNT’s Snowpiercer will be pulling into the station. The post-apocalyptic drama’s upcoming fourth season, which is in production, will be its last. I hear the cast’s options were coming up and were not picked up, releasing the actors to book other jobs….

Snowpiercer, which follows the passengers of a perpetually moving train carrying the remnants of humanity after the world becomes a frozen wasteland, was the last remaining original scripted series on TNT as the other original drama still on the network, Animal Kingdom, is launching its final season on Sunday. The TNets already had been scaling back on original scripted fare; the process was accelerated by the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger….

(5) SOMETHING SHORT OF INFINITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lightyear may be coming up a bit short. The new Disney/Pixar flick was expected to easily lead at the box office this Father’s Day/Juneteenth weekend. Instead, it seems to be coming in below expectations and in a close race with the latest Jurassic World movie. “Box Office: ‘Lightyear’ Could Get Clobbered by ‘Jurassic World 3’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

The animated family film was expected to open to at least $70 million to $85 million in North America, but now it looks like Lightyear may only buzz to $52 million to $55 million for the three-day weekend.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World Dominion could stomp to $57 million in its second outing.

Monday is a federal holiday honoring Juneteenth, so Monday could look more like a Saturday and Sunday in terms of traffic at the box office. Universal insiders believe Jurassic World 3‘s domestic total could climb as high as $66 million for the four days.

(6) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Book Riot’s Arvyn Cerézopoints to “11 Must-Read Filipino Sci-Fi Books”.

Philippine literature is slowly gaining international recognition, especially when it comes to general fiction and fantasy. And there are even more sub-genres waiting to be explored by international readers. For instance, though there’s a dearth of Filipino sci-fi books, they are so rare and precious that it’s only once in a while when they come out. In fact, you can count them on one hand.

… Although there’s an apparent short supply of Filipino science fiction books in circulation, I’ve managed to find 11 of them.

Their recommendations lead off with:

SCIENCE FICTION: FILIPINO FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS BY DEAN FRANCIS ALFAR AND KENNETH YU

Dean Francis Alfar, one of the more widely recognized Filipino speculative fiction writers, has written many books in the genre. Salamanca, his first novel, is considered to be a modern classic.

In this collection, however, he edited science fiction stories for Filipino young readers, which might be the first in the Philippines. The collection features stories from known Filipino spec fic writers such as Victor Fernando Ocampo, Nikki Alfar, Eliza Victoria, and Gabriela Lee. This is really sure to please.

(7) YOU’RE FIRED. “SpaceX employees fired after writing letter criticizing Elon Musk” – the Guardian has the story.

At least five employees were fired by private rocket company SpaceX after drafting and circulating an open letter criticizing founder Elon Musk and calling on executives at the start-up to make the company’s work culture more inclusive, according to two people familiar with the matter.

…SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent an email saying the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter, the New York Times said.

The newspaper said Shotwell’s email said employees involved with circulating the letter had been fired for making other staff feel “uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views”.

Reuters could not independently confirm that report.

The earlier open letter to SpaceX executives seen by Reuters had called Musk a “distraction and embarrassment” to the company he founded.

In a list of three demands, the letter said: “SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”

It added: “Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior”.

(8) SF LISTENING ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Machine Stops is airing on BBC Radio 4.  

This is an audio adaptation of the classic E. M. Forster 1909 short story ‘The Machine Stops‘. This is a new version to the previous BBC Radio 4 one half a decade ago (2016).

A far future sees humanity living underground in a vast, highly automated complex run by a machine…

You can download it from here.

(9) NOTION’S ELEVEN. Gizmodo opines that these are “The 11 Best (and Worst) Sentient Robots From Sci-Fi”. (I’d liked to have seen the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz here, too.)

HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

To kick things off, we have to talk about one of the most terrifying sentient bots of all—the “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic Computer,” or HAL—from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001, A Space Odyssey. And by design, he’s a pretty hard working bot: he’s built into the spacecraft where the film takes place, and is tasked with essentially running the ship. He opens doors, keeps life support systems afloat, and, like LaMDA, he can talk.

Unlike LaMDA though, HAL comes programmed with real, human emotions. And after encountering a minor glitch at the start of the film, those emotions are what cause HAL to go off the rails (to put it mildly).

“Most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it’s inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions—fear, love, hate, envy, etc,” Kubrick said about the bot in an interview. “Such a machine could eventually become as incomprehensible as a human being, and could, of course, have a nervous breakdown—as HAL did in the film.”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2005 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this evening seventeen years ago, we got our first true look at David Tennant in that role. The episode was “The Parting Of The Ways” The episode of course, SPOILER ALERT! (Cue Dalek sound here) It featured Christopher Eccleston making his final appearance as the Ninth Doctor and marks the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor as we got our first regeneration of the modern era. END SPOILER ALERT!

It was written by Russell T. Davies who as we all know was responsible for reviving this series. It was directed by Joe Ahearne whose main credit to was the vampire series Ultraviolet. It was produced by Philip Collinson who is returneing to that role under Davies.

Of the modern Doctors, Tennant is by far my favorite one and I thought the stories were very fitting to him. He seemed both very human and very alien at the same time. From the very beginning in this episode, he seemed to have the role spot on. (Baker is by far my favorite of the older Doctors. BritBox is showing all of the surviving older Who episodes.)

Neither of the two male Doctors that followed was really to my liking, not quite sure why as the stories for the most were fine, though I did like the Thirteenth Doctor a lot. I just never warmed to either of them. I actually like the Tenth Doctor better than either of them.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 18, 1908 — Bud Collyer. He’s best-remembered  for his radio-starring role of Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 18, 1917 — Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles of which one, playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur, I’m willing to bet almost all of you have never seen it. (It gets a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit. Of course his major non-genre role was as Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel which I’ve seen every episode of at least three times. Really I have. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 18, 1931 — Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 18, 1942 — Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as Kipple, Parsection and Psi-Phi. At university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Of course, he grew up to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer. Mike has much more to say about him here. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 18, 1947 — Linda Thorson, 75. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performances was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode, and on the Good Witch as Mrs Hansen in “Graduation” episode.
  • Born June 18, 1949 — Chris Van Allsburg, 73. For some twenty years now until the Pandemic came upon us, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate for the children. It always sold out for the entire month they ran it. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. (I’ve never seen the film and won’t.) He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin and I highly recommended it. 
  • Born June 18, 1958 — Jody Lee, 64. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moon for DAW Books in 1985. Her latest is Passages: All-New Tales of Valdemar, a Mercedes Lackey anthology, that came out last year on DAW Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here. Her cover for Mercedes Lackey’s The Oathbound won her a Chelsey Award.
  • Born June 18, 1960 — Barbara Broccoli, 62. Daughter of the late James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She has producer or director credit on at least fourteen Bond films which are definitely genre. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. She produced the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production staged in NYC at the Hilton Theater sixteen years ago. That must have been really interesting. She was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Queen’s New Year Honours List.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows a variation on a childhood bedtime ritual that makes sense if you think about it.
  • Lio knows why these aren’t on the aliens’ bill of fare.

(13) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books presents stories by Ai Jiang and Ricardo Victoria in episode 52 of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Emotion: XXXX – by Ai Jiang – https://aijiangauthor.wordpress.com/
music by Phog Masheeen – https://phogmasheeen.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier 

Last Witness – by Ricardo Victoria – https://ricardovictoriau.com/
music by Patrick Urn – https://morlox.bandcamp.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(14) MARVEL BRICK UNIVERSE. 9to5Toys has a series of reveals from LEGO CON 2022 including the Sanctum Sanctorum, and a Star Wars item (see it at the link).

Showcasing the latest addition to the Marvel side of the lineup, the new Sanctum Sanctorum has been revealed. In the same style as last year’s Daily Bugle, this one arrives with 2,708 pieces and nine minifigures. There’s tons of references packed into the three different floors, as well. It will sell for $249.99 once it launches on August 1.

Here’s a breakdown of who’s included this time around:

  • Doctor Strange
  • Sinister Strange
  • Dead Strange
  • Wong
  • Iron Man
  • Spider-Man
  • The Scarlet Witch
  • Master Mordo
  • Ebony Maw

(15) SENSITIVE SUBJECT. The Hollywood Reporter tells why: “‘Late Show’ Staffers Arrested for Unlawful Entry at U.S. Capitol After Taping Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Skit”.

A number of people working for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert were arrested Thursday night at a U.S Capitol office building after taping a skit. Among those arrested was Robert Smigel, the former SNL and Conan writer, best known for portraying Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. According to authorities, the group was confronted by police in the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday evening, after it was closed to visitors. They were charged with unlawful entry. 

… “On Wednesday, June 15 and Thursday, June 16, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was on-site at the Capitol with a production team to record interviews for a comedy segment on behalf of The Late Show,” a CBS spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Their interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed. After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police.”

(16) BLOW IT OUT YOUR A&$. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One maker of robot “dogs” has a new water jet accessory available, allowing the bot to propel itself across relatively calm waters. (But don’t call it Spot — this isn’t the Boston Dynamics pooch.) “A new propulsion system allows this robotic dog to ‘swim’”.

… And now the NAUT allows a dog-shaped robot to move with water jet propulsion. The jet takes in water and ejects it at greater speed, allowing the Vision 60 to move with vectored thrust in a body of water.

“The system is capable of propelling the robotic dog and speeds up three knots and can operate at full power using a dedicated power source for approximately 35 minutes,” reports The War Zone. “The ‘tail’ can also continue to function after that by drawing electricity from the robot dog’s own internal power source.”

At 3 knots, or just 3.4 mph, the NAUT-powered Vision 60 won’t be winning any races, but should be perfectly capable of crossing streams and calm waters. The ability to go amphibious makes a robot useful in scouting and patrols in coastal or riverine terrain, and possibly even of use in the tricky terrain of a marsh or bayou….

(17) THEY CALL ME MISTER ROCKET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket likes to go by a different name. They’ve taken to calling it Mega Moon Rocket, even in official press releases. One supposes it has a better ring to it. Imagine, though, what Bezos or Musk might have come up with. “NASA prefers this nickname for Artemis’ new lunar rocket” at Mashable.

If this NASA launch vehicle could talk — say at an international consortium of the world’s most elite, hobnobbing space rockets — this is how it would introduce itself after filling out its “Hello, my name is” sticker.

Space Launch System? Bleh, only my mother and technical manuals call me that.

SLS? Not since grade school.

Please, friends call me Moon Rocket. Mega Moon Rocket.

Technically, this gargantuan is the U.S. space agency’s Space Launch System or SLS for short. But somewhere along the line, the mission crew stopped calling it by its given name and started referring to it by its badder, Transformers-ish nickname. Even the news releases from the agency use it now….

(18) CLOTHES MAKE THE WIZARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Daniel Radclliffe, Emma Watson, directors Mike Newell ad Alfredo Cuaron and several constume designers talk about the clothes in Harry Potter in this video that dropped two weeks ago (and is a 2022 film).

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Chicago Sun-Times is looking forward to “’It Came from Outer Space’ musical, inspired by cult classic film” which was based on Ray Bradbury’s story. The show runs June 22-July 24 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Before there was “Alien,” before there was “Star Trek,” before there was “Star Wars,” there was “It Came from Outer Space.” The 1953 sci-fi film may look cheesy by today’s standards but that, and its Ray Bradbury pedigree, has only added to its status as a cult classic.

Now Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, the musical theater team behind the hit show “Murder for Two,” have met the challenge of transforming the film, which was based on a Bradbury story, into a stage musical….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/22 Scrolls Against Pixelry

(1) HALFWAY THRU THE YEAR. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility tops Amazon.com’s list of the twenty “Best science fiction and fantasy of 2022 so far”.

And joining Sea of Tranquility on Amazon.com’s overall “Best Books of the Year So Far” are Saara El-Arifi’s The Final Strife and John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society.

(2) BROOKS BY THE BOOK. The New York Times’ interview with Geraldine Brooks gives backhanded praise to a Hugo winner.

Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?

The “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy, by Liu Cixin, is full of insight into everything from China’s Cultural Revolution to why we have yet to experience first contact, and why we maybe shouldn’t want to. But there’s a clunkiness to some of the sentences and I can’t know if it’s the writing or the translation. Alas, it’s too late for me to learn Mandarin in order to get a definitive answer.

(3) HEAVY DUTY. TrekMovie.com reports “Toymaker TOMY To Make 32-Inch Die-Cast ‘Star Trek’ USS Enterprise Weighing 20 Pounds”. Twenty pounds!!! What, have they got Garfield the Cat as the Captain?

… TOMY has announced a new collaboration with Paramount to develop a number of Star Trek products, starting with a limited edition highly-detailed 1/350 scale premium die-cast U.S.S. Enterprise model from The Original Series. Made of 90% die-cast metal, the model includes precision detailing and decorations with over 70 LED lights and a premium stand with collector packaging…. 

Gizmodo has more of the story and – brace yourself – the price tag: “Star Trek USS Enterprise Model Created With Smithsonian’s Help”.

…As you’ve probably guessed, this replica isn’t priced for casual Trekkies. Tomy is taking a crowd-funded approach and will only put the limited run replica into production if it receives 5,000 pre-orders for the ship, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. That’s a lofty goal, especially with a price tag of $600, and with pre-orders being limited to just Star Trek fans in the United States. If Tomy finds enough backers, its Prestige Select U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 replica will ship out to fans next Summer in 2023.

This video shows off the prototype with the lights in action.

(4) INTO THE WEST. HBO’s Westworld Season 4 Official Trailer says, “Maybe it’s time you questioned the nature of your own reality.” Sounds right.

(5) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDALS. The Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. Neither winner is a genre work.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal 

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 

  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)

(6) YOUNG XENA AND OTHER ROLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rose McIver. “Maltin on Movies: Rose McIver”.  Nearly all of her work is genre-related, including her current role in CBS’s Ghosts and her best-known role in IZombie.  Of course, being a Disney fan, Leonard Maltin made sure to ask about her work as Tinker Bell (spelled that way) in Once Upon a Time.

McIver has a good story about Lucy Lawless.  When she was nine she played young Xena while Lawless stepped away from her role during her pregnancy.  Lawless sent McIver several cassette tapes where she explained Xena’s story and gave her a chance to listen to the cadences of Lawless’s voice so she could do a better job of being a young Lucy Lawless.  McIver fondly remembered Lawless’s kindnesses over two decades later.

I thought this was a good interview.

(7) A VISIT TO THE INSTRUMENTALITY. Rich Horton tours the worldbuilding of Cordwainer Smith in “The Timeless Strangeness of ‘Scanners Live in Vain’” at Black Gate.

I recently had occasion to reread Cordwainer Smith’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame story “Scanners Live in Vain.” This was probably my fifth rereading over the years (soon followed by a sixth!) — it’s a story I’ve always loved, but for some reason this time through it struck me even more strongly. It is a truly great SF story; and I want to take a close look at what makes it work….

(8) PORT YOUR HELM. If you can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, you can certainly make an anime feature from Tolkien’s appendix. “’Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim’: Brian Cox, Miranda Otto Cast”Deadline has the story.

…The movie centers around the fate of the House of Helm Hammerhand, the mighty King of Rohan, a character from the J.R.R. Tolkien book’s appendix. Succession actor Cox will provide the voice of that protagonist.

The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original trilogy of films. A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg – a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.

Wise (A Walk in the Woods) will play Hammerhand’s daughter Hera; and Luke Pasqualino (Snowpiercer) will portray Wulf…

(9) DOCTOR DOOGIE HOWSER WHO? “Neil Patrick Harris Joins Doctor Who’ for 60th Anniversary Special” reports Yahoo! But what’s he doing on the show?

…“It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the mighty Neil Patrick Harris…but who, why, what is he playing? You’ll just have to wait,” [Russell T] Davies said in a statement. “But I promise you, the stuff we’re shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”

Harris is currently filming his scenes for the special, though details about his role are being guarded safely behind the closed doors of the TARDIS…

Harris released a photo of him in character on Instagram.

(10) THREE MORE MONGOLIAN TRANSLATIONS. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] I stopped in at the really snazzy bookstore at the State Department Store today and found three more recent translations: Second Foundation (the Mongolian is literally more like “Second Storehouse/Coffers/Holdings”), Fahrenheit 451, and Zamyatin’s We (between Ahmet Ümit’s Istanbul Souvenir and Moby Dick).

(11) ESSAY: GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER’S WHEN GRAVITY FAILS

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] No, When Gravity Fails wasn’t published this month. It was published in January of 1986 by Arbor House. It’s just one of my favorite novels. And it’s one of the few truly great genre fictions set in the Middle East or whatever you want to call that region. (Jon Courtney Grimwood’s Arabesk trilogy and G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen are two other great ones set there. Do suggest others ones to me please.) That When Gravity Fails is the first in the Marîd Audran series makes it even better.

SPOILER ALERT Effinger’s novel, set near the end of the 22nd Century in an Islamic world in the rise while the West is fast descending or so we are told, describes an ascendant Arabic/Muslim is Center around Marîd Audran, a young man whose has a deep phobia about getting his brain wired. Hence he’s always on the outside of society. He and his trans girlfriend sometimes get along, sometimes want to kill each other. END SPOILER

I re-read about a half a decade ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the Suck Fairy hadn’t trod her steel studded combat boots upon this work. It feels remarkably fresh and Effinger’s society still rings true. Like the settings in Grimwood’s Arabesk or Wilson’s Alif, it feels real. That a neat trick that not many genre writers accomplish when trying to create a different culture. 

I understand that Effinger said in interviews that a lot of his society there was based on his living in the New Orleans French Quarter. If that’s true, the sex, violence, and moral ambiguity shown in the novel suggests a lot about the French Quarter in the Eighties! 

A note for y’all to consider. Most reviewers consider it a cyberpunk novel. I do not. It’s very good SF novel but the personality chips just don’t feel cyberpunkish to me. Neither the Arabesk trilogy or Alif is cyberpunk either.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 16, 1896 — Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 “First Contact” novella, a 1996 Retro Hugo-winner, one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 16, 1924 — Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties film This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999.)
  • Born June 16, 1938 — Joyce Carol Oates, 84. To my utter surprise, she’s won a World Fantasy Award for a short story, “Fossil-Figures”. And though I didn’t think of her as a horror writer, she’s won five, yes five, Stoker Awards.  Her short fiction, which is legion, is stellar. I recommend her recent Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense collection . 
  • Born June 16, 1939 — David McDaniel. A prolific writer of The Man from U.N.C.LE. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The  Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two which I must find. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director, writing various APAs and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” which is to say he financially support the Club. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 16, 1940 — Carole Ann Ford, 82. Best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in Doctor Who, and as Bettina in of The Day of the Triffids. Ford appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born June 16, 1957 — Ian Buchanan, 65. Best remembered as Dick Tremayne on Twin Peaks. He’s done one-offs on the first Flash series, Quantum Leap, voice roles on GargoylesBatman: The Brave and the BoldBatman Beyond and Justice LeagueCharmed and Stargate SG-1
  • Born June 16, 1972 — Andy Weir, 50. His debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal”  which is only available as an Audible audiobook. Project Hail Mary is nominated for the Hugo Award this year. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater is based on a gag I bet every comics reader has thought of at some point.
  • Bizarro finds it’s time to have that discussion when little robots wonder where they came from.
  • Close to Home overhears what the next thing is that a kaiju wants to eat.

(14) VOYAGE CONTINUES WITH A NEW PILOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randy Milholland, who has just taken over Popeye from 95-year-old Hy Eisman.  Cavna explains that Milholland is trying to preserve Popeye’s noble spirit and champion of the underdog while making Popeye a GenXer and Olive Oyl a MIllennial. “Popeye is getting a makeover at age 93”.

…Today, he thinks characters like Olive Oyl, as shaped long ago by Segar and writer Tom Sims, can speak to modern audiences. He notes that their Olive was outspoken and in your face. “She was never the damsel in distress in the comics.” He says her stance was: “I’m here and I will fight either at Popeye’s side or I will get in front of him.”

All these characters have flaws — and Popeye’s father, Poopdeck Pappy, “is a flaw on his own,” Milholland notes with a grin — but Popeye and Olive are the types to “find their moral centers” when needed.

Milholland likes to play with character faces and shapes, including the antagonistic witch the Sea Hag and the magical pet Eugene the Jeep. He enjoys designing the ballet of fisticuffs that flows across the page. Yet, for all the enduring dynamics of “Popeye,” Milholland comes back to valuing the familial heart that beats at the center of the strip….

(15) DINO MIGHT. Did you ever ask yourself “Why Does Batman have a T-Rex in the Batcave?” MSN.com’s Aman Singh did.

Debuting in 1943, the Batcave is a fascinating place that holds many mementos to Batman’s long history. The Caped Crusader’s lair features many interesting items such a giant penny and a large replica of Joker’s playing card. Though some may say it’s ridiculous, the cave is a reflection of Batman’s character evolution. Despite going through many changes over the years and different iterations across creative teams, one of the few items that remains constant is the iconic T-Rex prop. The origins for this unusual memento go way back into Batman’s formative years….

(16) NINEFOX GAMBIT TRPG ON ITS WAY. Yoon Ha Lee has designed an RPG for his Machineries of Empire universe.

(17) ONE THUMB DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This reviewer pretty much hates Kyra Sedgwick‘s directorial premier, indie feature film Space Oddity. I’ve seen others reviews that were kinder to it. Me? I have no clue. “Space Oddity Review: Kyra Sedgwick’s Sexless, Spaceless Rom-Com” by Samantha Bergeson at IndieWire.

….But the film heavy-handedly relies on a climate change component to beat people over the head with a bouquet of reasons why the world as we know it is dying. True, but this film makes a good reason for why it should.

At one point, Alex angrily lectures a mirror: “I hope you all had a good time at the farewell party for the tigers and the lions!” And no, he is not talking about Detroit teams finishing their seasons. It is hysterical in the best way. “I’m going to Mars!” is Alex’s refrain in “Space Oddity,” and he even says it to himself — “over and out.”….

(18) BUGS, MR. RICO. ZILLIONS OF ‘EM. “Spilling the Tea: Insect DNA Shows Up in World’s Top Beverage” is the jolly news from The Scientist.

How do you monitor which species live in an area? In addition to traditional ecological tools such as camera traps, researchers have reported new methods in recent years that allow them to detect minute traces of DNA known as environmental DNA, or eDNA, that animals leave behind in water and even air. In a study published June 15 in Biology Letters, a group reports picking up eDNA from a new source: dried plant material. The team purchased tea from grocery stores, and were able to detect hundreds of species of arthropods in just one bag….

TS: Was there anything about the results of this study that surprised you? 

HK: What really surprised me was the high diversity we detected. . . . We took one tea bag, and . . . I think it was from 100 [or] 150 milligrams of dried plant material, we extracted DNA. And we found in green tea up to 400 species of insects in a single tea bag. . . . That really surprised me. And the reason probably is that this tea, it’s ground to a relatively fine powder. So the eDNA [from all parts of the tea field] gets distributed.  

(19) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. The Scientist reports on evidence that the “Black Death Likely Originated in Central Asia”.

In the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains in what is now Kyrgyzstan, tombstones in the Kara-Djigach cemetery with Syriac inscriptions showed that the village’s death rate skyrocketed over a two-year period. Phil Slavin, a historian at the University of Stirling in Scotland, says that “out of a total of 467 stones that are precisely dated to the period between 448 and 1345, 118 actually turned out to be dated to the years 1338 [and] 1339.”…

(20) A CLOSER LOOK. “NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” reports Nature. “Rolling up an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, the rover starts crucial rock sampling.”

More than 15 months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.

On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover there. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.

Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter.

The rover will spend the next few months exploring the Jezero delta, while mission scientists decide where they want to drill and extract rock samples. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to retrieve those samples and fly them back to Earth for study, no earlier than 2033, in the first-ever sample return from Mars….

(21) DEL TORO OPENS HIS CABINET. Guillermo Del Toro and Netflix have shared the first teaser trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, an eight-episode horror anthology featuring original plots and adaptations of short stories. No release date has been set.

The maestro of horror – Guillermo Del Toro – presents 8 blood-curdling tales of horror. This anthology of sinister stories is told by some of today’s most revered horror creators, including the directors of The Babadook, Splice, Mandy, and many more.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Jurassic World: Dominion Pitch Meting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode says that neither the producer or the screenwriter can remember the names of the characters Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt play so a quick Wikipedia search is in order. Also, when the producer learns that several characters from Jurassic Park have come back, he asks, “Is there any other way to make money? We’re rapidly running out of iconic characters to bring back!”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rich Horton, Ferret Bueller, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/22 Don’t Step On My Blue Suede Stepping Disks

(1) RUSSIA PUTS SF WRITER ON WANTED LIST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Popular Russian science fiction author Dmitry Glukhovsky has been put on a list for prosecution based on his anti-war comments. He’s one of the first major figures to be targeted under a new law in Russia that criminalizes opposition to the war in Ukraine. “Russia Adds Popular Sci-Fi Writer to Its Wanted List” on Reuters.

 “Stop the war! Admit that this is a war against an entire nation and stop it!” he wrote on Instagram. (The post is here. It’s in Russian.) 

Russia on Tuesday placed Dmitry Glukhovsky, a popular science fiction writer, on its wanted list after accusing him of spreading false information about its military intervention in Ukraine.

…The Interior Ministry’s website listed Glukhovsky, best known for the “Metro 2033” sci-fi novel and its sequels, as wanted under an unspecified article of the criminal code.

Russia has already targeted opposition figures and journalists with a law seeking jail terms of up to 15 years for those convicted of intentionally spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.

Glukhovsky is the first major cultural figure to be put on the wanted list due to the new law, adopted days after Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24….

Glukhovsky is not in Russia according to the BBC.

(2) PIX THAT SELL TIX. In “‘Prey’: Intense New Trailer Brings Back the Predator in Ferocious, Deadly Fashion”, Variety introduces the trailer.

From 20th Century Studios, the newest installment in the “Predator” saga features a face-off between the alien super-hunter and the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Throughout the two-minute trailer, viewers get to see the Predator in full apex-hunter mode, murdering bears with ease, showing off its skilled hand-to-hand combat and invisibly chasing down human prey through a field.

“Prey” is set to follow the story of a young Comanche woman, Naru, played by Amber Midthunder. The vicious and deadly warrior sets out to protect her people from the horrifying killing machine, vowing that she can kill the creature. Of course, that task is easier said than done. Nevertheless, Naru must use wit and intense skill to stand a chance against the ancient alien being.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg of “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “The Boys,” the filmmakers behind “Prey” aimed to create an accurate portrayal of the Comanche. The film thus features numerous Native American identities in front of and behind the camera, including Native Comanche producer Jhane Myers and a cast made up almost entirely of Native and First Nations talent. Joining Midthunder is Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp and Julian Black Antelope. Dane DiLiegro plays the Predator….

(3) WOODEN YOU LIKE TO BE A PEPPER TOO? Joan Acocello explores “The Transformations of Pinocchio” in The New Yorker. “How Carlo Collodi’s puppet took on a life of his own.”

Of the half-dozen or so films that turned Walt Disney, in the public’s mind, from the father of Mickey Mouse to the creator of the animated fairy-tale feature—thereby making his work a fixture in the imaginative life of almost every American child—“Pinocchio” (1940) feels like the odd one out. Many people say it is their least favorite. It is surely the most frightening. Go to anyone you know who was in grammar school in the nineteen-forties and fifties and ask, What was the Disney movie that scared you the most? Was it “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), where the evil queen falls off a cliff to her death? (Dr. Benjamin Spock once wrote that all the seats in the vast auditorium of Radio City Music Hall had to be reupholstered because so many children wet their pants while watching the film.) Well, what about “Dumbo” (1941), where the baby elephant has to watch as his mother is whipped and chained, howling for her child? O.K., what about “Bambi” (1942), where the fawn’s mother is shot to death a few feet away from him? You can’t beat that, can you?

But, for some reason, “Pinocchio” does. Perhaps the answer lies not in any one scene but in the movie’s over-all bleakness….

(4) FREE READ. Issue 5 of Whetstone Magazine of Sword and Sorcery is now available, and Cora Buhlert has a story called “Village of the Unavenged Dead” in it. There also are stories by G.T. Wilcox, Michael Burke, George Jacobs, Dariel Quiogue, T.A. Markitan, Robert O’Leary, Charles Dooley, Jason M. Waltz, Gregory D. Mele, H.R. Laurence, Anthony Perconti, Chuck Clark, Nathaniel Webb, Patrick Groleau, J. Thomas Howard, B. Harlan Crawford, Rev. Joe Kelly, Rett Weissenfels and Scott Oden as well as an evocative cover by Carlos Castilho. And it’s 100% free.

 (5) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Vertlieb, who made it through heart surgery, told Facebook friends his recovery from another procedure to fix a pseudoaneurysm and blood clot is not going well and will require more work by the surgeon.

I remain in a weakened and fragile condition due to these latest setbacks. My vital signs for my heart and lungs appear strong, however. Everyone’s continued prayer support would be deeply and most genuinely appreciated. Thanks most sincerely.

(6) OH, YOU RASCAL! John Scalzi will do it his way. Of course!

(7) SHALLOWFAKE. How a crisis actor conspiracy theory rises in times of tragedy: “Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the Man in This Photo” says the New York Times.

In the outpouring of grief immediately after the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, posts appeared on Twitter and other social media platforms about a man named “Bernie.” He was a teacher at Robb Elementary School who died sheltering his students from gunfire, the posts said. Many of the posts included a picture of a grinning, bearded man in glasses.

Some commenters piped up, saying they had seen that face, and that name, before.

On that point, they were right. “Bernie” and the photograph had appeared before on some Twitter accounts that looked as if they were from news organizations like CNN, Fox News and the BBC. One of those accounts said the man was a journalist executed in Kabul by the Taliban. A second one said he was an activist killed in Ukraine by a mine planted by Russian-backed separatists. A third said he was murdered in last month’s massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo.

For those inclined toward conspiracy theories, the conclusion was obvious: “Bernie” was a so-called crisis actor, employed by the left to drum up sympathy for causes like gun control. His repeated appearances were used to prop up theories that major tragedies were hoaxes and that the mainstream media was complicit.

On all those points, the conspiracy theorists were wrong. There is no “Bernie,” he’s not a crisis actor, and news organizations are not behind the posts. And the photo? It is of a 36-year-old online gamer, Jordie Jordan. He’s alive, and he had nothing to do with the posts.

Instead, the posts are part of a yearslong harassment campaign against him, taking place on online platforms like Twitter, Reddit and Discord….

…Mr. Jordan, who streams himself playing video games on YouTube under the Wings of Redemption handle, has nearly 440,000 subscribers. He began playing Call of Duty for an online audience in 2008, after losing a job at a steel mill. Before that, he regularly appeared on a podcast, where he attracted some criticism for his statements, including some homophobic and racial slurs, and comments in support of lowering the age of consent. “I have apologized profusely for the error of my juvenile thought process and live with the ramification of that every day,” he said, attributing the comments to his “shock jock” routine.

He said he had first learned of the “Bernie” meme from Reddit posts in 2020. The photo that is used is a selfie he took on his front porch in 2018 and posted on Twitter….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] If you had HBO back a quarter of a century ago on this night, you might have seen the first episode of the Perversions Of Science series. It is a spin-off of the horror series Tales from the Crypt, another HBO series, and like that series, all of its episodes were based on EC Comics’s Incredible Science FictionWeird Fantasy and Weird Science books.

William Gaines, the publisher and co-editor of EC Comics, gets credit as creator of this series. 

Perversion of Science is hosted by a computer-generated female robot named Chrome which is voiced by Maureen Teefy. Chrome both introduces the story and adds a coda. Unlike the Crypt Keeper who was decidedly grim, Chrome preferred a light banter with element of sex tossed in. 

There was but one season of ten episodes — unlike Tales from the Crypt which lasted seven seasons and eighty-nine episodes. It was supposed to be pure SF with the added elements being HBO of graphic violence, nudity, profanity and sex. I did say it was HBO. 

It really had a lot of well-know performers — Will Wheaton, William Shatner, Sean Astin, Jeffery Coombs, Yancy Butler and Keith Carradine are but some of the actors you’ll recognize there.

The stories I remember as being, well, not bad, not great. HBO never did really get the jones for doing true SF. They were more comfortable with horror. A lot more comfortable. 

As Chris Varner of Dallas Morning anew summed up neatly: “The formula goes something like this: Take liberties with sex and psychopaths whenever possible and let the plot chips fall where they may. ADVERTISEMENT  Unfortunately, they tend to fall in big, ungainly heaps. No one expects Serling-esque profundity from an after-hours HBO fantasy. But with only one of the first four episodes transcending the series’ comic-book source material, the future of Science looks dim.”

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes because to my knowledge it was never released on any digital media, and it’s not available anywhere to buy, rent or stream anywhere. I think they put it back in the vault and decided to keep it there.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 7, 1915 Graham J. Ingels. Illustrator best remembered for his work in EC Comics during the Fifties, most notably on The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. He illustrated one genre magazine, Planet Stories cover as you can see here. Though he didn’t do any other covers, he was a regular interior artist for both Planet Stories and Planet Comics. (Died 1991.)
  • Born June 7, 1932 Kit Reed. Her first short story, “The Wait” (1958), was published by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She would write more stories than I care to count over her career for which she was nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award three times. I’m not at all familiar with her novels, so do tell me about them please. The usual suspects now have a generous amount of her fiction available which wasn’t true a few years ago. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 7, 1937 Jack Zipes, 85. A truly amazing academic who once royally irritated a friend of mine for having an unrelentingly negative attitude towards Walt Disney whose films, he believes, corrupted the original works of folklorists such as Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Disney, according to Zipes, completely distorted those stories. Need I add that friend lived near Disney World and had met Disney more than once? I like him and think that he’s a folklorist of the first order. His Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales is required reading for anyone interested in that subject, and if can accept if his anti-Disney bias, The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films is fascinating reading. Again setting aside that matter of the anti-Disney bias, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales, Children, and the Culture Industry is really great reading. He did a lot of fairy tale anthologies of which I’ll single out Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves and Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic French Fairy Tales. Both are most excellent reading. 
  • Born June 7, 1952 Liam Neeson, 70. He first shows up in genre films as Gawain in Excalibur and as Kegan in Krull. He plays Martin Brogan In High Spirits, a film I enjoy immensely. Next up is the title role in Darkman, a film I’ve watched myriad times. He’s Dr. David Marrow In The Haunting which I’d contend is loosely off of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Now we get him as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Followed unfortunately by his horrid take as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and as a cameo in The Dark Knight RisesNow he voiced Aslan with amazing dignity in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise and I hope voiced Zeus as well in the Titans franchise. Recently he showed up on The Orvillle — who hasn’t? — as Jahavus Dorahl in “If the Stars Should Appear” episode. He’s in the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series as Qui-Gon Jinn in two episodes by using archive material and in the Tales of the Jedi series voicing the same character.  
  • Born June 7 1954, Louise Erdrich, 68. Writer of novels, poetry, and children’s books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Her genre work includes according to ISFDB the Ojibwe series of The Antelope Wife, a work which won a World Fantasy Award, and The Painted Drum, plus stand-alone novels of The Crown of Columbus (co-written with her husband Michael Dorris) and Future Home of the Living God. She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects at reasonable prices.
  • Born June 7, 1955 Mark Schultz, 67. His best work I think is his own written-and-largely-illustrated-by-him Xenozoic Tales book series about a post-apocalyptic world where dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures coexist with humans. He’s done more mainstream work including Star Wars and Aliens (Dark Horse), The Flash (DC) and Prince Valiant currently at King Features.
  • Born June 7, 1960 Bill Prady, 62. Impressively, he’s co-creator with Chuck Lorre of The Big Bang Theory and The Muppets series which he did in 2015 with Bob Kushell. Well maybe not impressively in the case of the second… He wrote one episode of Voyager, “Bliss”.  And he’s the writer of a Munsters film I’ve never heard of, Here Come the Munsters.
  • Born June 7, 1968 Sarah Parish, 54. In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. 

(10) UNICORN RETURNING. Paste Magazine boats an “Exclusive Cover Reveal: Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn Reissued in Author’s Preferred Text Edition”. See the design at the link.

…Though the new edition of The Last Unicorn will officially arrive on July 26, 2022, we can exclusively reveal its (gorgeous!) new cover below….

(11) WHEN IT’S EASY BEING GREEN. Quartz offers an explanation why green screens are – guess what color? — in “A brief history of green screens”.

Where would Superman be without the red flutter of his cape, the yellow light of Earth’s sun—and the green screen behind him? The green screen never makes it into the movies, of course; it’s replaced by a sky full of stars, or the skyline of Metropolis. For more than a century, filmmakers have been using the “green screen” technique—or, to be precise, chroma key compositing—to allow us to believe that their actors are doing the impossible. That they’re soaring above the Earth, or investigating a crime in Toontown, or assembling the Avengers, or encountering a T. rex.

In fact, green-screen filmmaking is so easy—and, studio execs will admit thankfully, so cheap—that it’s even used for less fantastic scenes. Men getting out of a car near a motel in David Fincher’s series MindhunterGreen screen: there was no motel, just a sign on a studio set in front of a big ol’ screen of green. Man explaining the cold front on the nightly news? Green screen. It’s gotten to the point where not using green screens, as in the recently released (and box office smash) Top Gun: Maverick, is a matter of sweaty, hard-working pride.

So where did the green screen come from? And why is it so popular? And most importantly: why is it green?….

(12) QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie found a video of the “Platinum Party at the Palace” that is watchable outside the UK. He advises, “For optimal viewing include one large mug of builders tea and/or pint real ale served at cellar temperature (4 – 5’C) and commence viewing 1 hour 50 minutes before sunset (to get a feel of the live experience).”

(13) YIKES. Meanwhile, Cliff photographed this off-trail celebration of the Jubilee: “Imagine my wife and I’s surprise when, during a hospital visit, we stumbled upon the lair of the Lich Queen of Chelsea And Westminster!”

(14) CLASSIC BRICKWORK. “The Vincent van Gogh ‘Starry Night’ LEGO Set Is Now Available: It’s Created in Collaboration with MoMA” reports Open Culture.

…A collaboration between MoMA and LEGO, the set reinterprets Van Gogh’s thick impasto brushwork in 2316 tiny plastic bricks, including a mini figure of the artist, equipped with paintbrush, palette, easel, and an adjustable arm for positioning him at sufficient distance to gain perspective on his world famous work.

… The set is the winning entry in a LEGO Ideas competition. Designer Truman Cheng, a 25-year-old LEGO fan and PhD candidate focusing on  medical robotics and magnetic controlled surgical endoscopes. He had long wanted to render The Starry Night in LEGO, but its execution required a lightbulb moment…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Fantastic Beasts:  The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the Screen Junkies say the film has “magic politics” and “Magic black-site prisons and execution chambers” that “bleeds the child-like wonder from this franchise like a necromancer’s jacuzzi.”  But what glop is in this film that reminds the narrator of “The Mexican pizza at Taco Bell?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Jan Vaněk jr, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cliff, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/19/22 That’s Why I Called The Song Alice’s Pixel Scroll

(1) HWA RELEASES SOCIAL MEDIA STATS. The Horror Writers Association shared some numbers about their coverage of social media platforms.

a. Facebook page: 3713 followers 
b. Facebook group: 15.8K members
c. Twitter: 22.3K followers
d. Instagram: 3713 followers 
e. Slasher: 5500
f. Discord Server: 150 members – has same functions as HWA’s old message boards but is more secure.
g. TikTok: 108 followers

(2) NEW DELANY NOVEL. No indication that it’s sff that I’ve seen: “Samuel R. Delany to Publish Serial Novel in The Georgia Review. The first installment is out.

The Georgia Review is proud to announce that our Summer 2022 issue will begin our serial publication of This Short Day of Frost and Sun, a new novel by Samuel R. Delany. The novel begins on New York’s Upper West Side sometime in the early 1990s, and, in an embedded tale, moves to a millionaire’s estate somewhere in the Midwest, a residence called “Mapless.” 

Somone on Facebook asked how long the serial will run. Delany replied:  

It might take them as much as three or four years to finish up the whole thing. I’m fiddling with it as I feed them chapters.

(3) NEXT YEAR’S STOKERCON. The Horror Writers Association’s StokerCon® 2023 will be in Pittsburgh, PA from June 15-18. Michael Arnzen, Benjamin Rubin, and Sara Tantlinger will co-chair the event. Register here.

(Early Bird) Launch through September 30 – $150
October 1st through October 31st – $200
November 1st through December 31st – $250
January 1st through May 15th – $300
More info will be available in the coming months.

(4) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE YIELDS GOOD SF TV? The LA Times interviewed several showrunners to learn “How science fiction is shaping prestige TV”.

With storylines rooted in the Cold War or climate change or any number of other deep-seated earthbound concerns, no fewer than four new series (and counting) are boldly proclaiming an emerging era of prestige science fiction this season.

Why this sudden surge?

“Science fiction has always flourished when things weren’t going too well, and right now, there’s just a ton of anxiety in the world,” says David S. Goyer, showrunner for the Apple TV+ series “Foundation.”

That anxiety is reflected in these wildly variegated, star-packed offerings: Goyer’s “Foundation,” starring Jared Harris, traffics in “Dune”-style interplanetary strife set 25,000 years in the future; folksy heartland drama “Night Sky” (May 20, Prime Video) features Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons as a couple who periodically visit a distant planet via the teleportation device ensconced in their backyard shed; time-travel western “Outer Range” (Prime Video) stars Oscar nominee Josh Brolin as a Wyoming rancher spooked by a giant hole on the edge of his property; and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (Showtime) casts Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor as a charismatic extraterrestrial.

And while “Star Trek” in all its versions has been a relatively constant presence on screens big and small since the mid-1960s, its presence in these current times is growing ever larger, adding to the mix the recently launched “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (Paramount+), which follows Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and his USS Enterprise crew on fresh adventures. And there’s still more to come as Apple TV+ will be back in the space race soon with “Constellation,” featuring Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks.

The Envelope spoke to these showrunners about how they’re reshaping sci-fi TV amid troubled times….

(5) STILL GUESSING. “Doctor Who casts Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney for 60th anniversary”Radio Times declines to leap to any conclusion about the history of the character named Rose that this actor will play.

…However, Rose is also the title of Davies’ very first Doctor Who episode, where NuWho (and his own involvement in the series) all began. As he returns to take over the show again, it seems oddly appropriate for there to be another Rose in the mix – and given his heartbreaking parting from the original Rose, we might assume it’ll have some resonance for Tennant’s Doctor as well.

For now, it’s still unclear exactly what role Finney will play alongside Tate and Tennant, how many episodes (or specials) she’ll appear in, and whether she’s just a guest star or whether she’s here for the long haul. If she is a companion, Finney will be the first trans actor to hold that position in the TV series (though Rebecca Root has played a trans companion in audio dramas, and trans actors have appeared in episodes and spin-offs before)….

Similiarly: “Doctor Who casts new Rose but what’s her connection to Billie Piper?” at Radio Times.

This new version of Rose isn’t necessarily a multiversal revamp or reincarnation. She’s not necessarily Donna’s surprise daughter (though that would be cool, right?) or a herald for Billie Piper’s own comeback (though again, let’s not rule that one out).

For the last 17 years, that name has been a crucial motif in Doctor Who. And as Davies looks back for the 60th anniversary of the show, it might have just felt right to have a new Rose blooming for a new generation.

(6) ANOTHER HUGO-WINNING PRONOUN ANTAGONIST. [Item by Anne Marble.] I didn’t know Barry Longyear would use words like “woke” and complain about pronouns. Maybe Barry Longyear should be shipwrecked on another planet with an asexual pregnant alien… Then he might learn about his prejudices. Longyear’s May 17 Facebook post begins:

I usually shy away from this sort of nonsense, but after watching the news this morning, enough is enough.

Of all the cruel, pointless, wastes of time in existence, “woke” pronoun designation and enforcement is vying with CRT and the new college segregation to promote “racial harmony” for first place. Three Wisconsin middle school boys have been charged with sexual harassment for using “incorrect gender pronouns.” A student in rather crude terms, berated a boy for not using “they” and “them” when referring to that student….

(7) DEATH DID NOT RELEASE HIM. “Marvel Signs Deal to Insert CGI Stan Lee Cameos Into Future Films”Futurism has the story.

…What happens when a brand puts words in a dead guy’s mouth? And how come Marvel reversed course? In 2021, the company said the digitally-aged cameo of Lee they inserted into “End Game” would be his last.

And emotionally, it’s worth noting that the whole thing feels a little icky. Is it really what Lee would have wanted?

“Ghoulish behavior,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “Do not resurrect the man for further movie appearances as a CGI puppet, no matter what his estate is willing to sign off on.”

(8) OH, SNAP! Seems like death did not release Nick Fury, either. How did that happen? “Secret Invasion Taking Place ‘During The Blip’ Raises Obvious Question” and Bleeding Cool tries to find the answer.

…During Disney’s Upfronts on Tuesday, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige brought out Jackson to help him promote the six-episode series. And that’s when things got interesting because while folks knew Secret Invasion would take place within the MCU timeline, Feige offered a bit more clarity that… caused a bit of confusion. While still engaging in the Marvel Studios’ policy of offering as few details as possible, did say that the series would take place “during The Blip, when half of the universe was decimated by Thanos and will explore the events that happened in that period.” So if that’s the case and it takes place between Avengers: Infinity War (especially that post-credits scene) and Avengers: Endgame, then we have a huge mystery in front of us. Because as far as everyone saw during that previously mentioned post-credits scene, Fury and Cobie Smulders‘ Maria Hill (who is also set to appear in the series) found themselves on the wrong side of Thanos’ finger-snap…

(9) VANGELIS (1943-2022). The Guardian reports Vangelis, composer of Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner soundtracks died May 17. His music was also associated with space exploration.

…A fascination with outer space found voice in 2016’s Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, and Nasa appointed his 1993 piece Mythodea (which he claimed to have written in an hour) as the official music of the Mars Odyssey mission of 2001. His final album, 2021’s Juno to Jupiter, was inspired by the Nasa probe Juno and featured recordings of its launch and the workings of the probe itself in outer space….

Sultana Raza commemorated his passing in verse: “Cosmic Rainbow – Vangelis’ music inspired this poem”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, William Shatner got his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It as the 1762nd such star. He’d actually also get a star on the Walk of Fame in Canada. 

It is said that hundreds of people attended Shatner’s dedication ceremony, including Leonard Nimoy. He gave a speech on the day, in which he said that Shatner was “a wonderful man and a great actor” before telling the crowd about the terrible jokes Shatner liked to play on him. 

Shatner also spoke, “This is my small ticket to the stars. All of the other accolades are so ephemeral one never has anything that’s truly concrete and this is the one exception.” 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 19, 1904 Anthony Bushell. He played Colonel Breen in the Quatermass and the Pit series. He showed in DangerInvisible Man and The Saint. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 19, 1937 Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer but his first named role was being Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And of course he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh, and he played a very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight.  Can we say he earned a Hugo at IguanaCon II? I know I’m stretching it there. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite films. He had an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. He died at age forty-six of congestive heart failure in his sleep at a Paris hotel while there for his father’s funeral. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 74. Singer, best known for a song about looking for a parking spot, but also acts. In addition to other genre roles, she was a companion of Conan in Conan the Destroyer and a Bond Girl in View to a Kill. (Alan Baumler) 
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 56. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder). She also has a most excellent two volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. 

(12) WE INTERRUPT THIS SCROLL. John Scalzi has not been neglecting his Coca-Cola tasting duties – we just missed the coverage!

In February CNN Business featured another variation on the soft drink: “Coca-Cola Starlight: Coke’s new flavor is out of this world”. That week Scalzi obtained a can and shared his impression:

Then earlier this month he also wrote up another new limited edition flavor: Pixel Flavored! (How on earth – or off it – did we miss that?) “In Which I Try the Latest Coca-Cola Creations Flavor” at Whatever.

It is the Byte Limited Edition Pixel Flavored Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which you cannot get in the stores; you have to order it off the Coca-Cola Web site, where it comes in a specialty boxed package (which you can see in the background) featuring two cans, a sticker and a QR card for a video game, all for $15 or thereabouts. Apparently only 25,000 of the boxes will be made. Well, okay; I bought two boxes, just in case I fell so in love with whatever “pixel flavored” tastes like that I needed to have a couple extra to string it out.

(13) MORE LOVE, MORE DEATH, MORE ROBOTS. And unrelated to beverages, About Netflix tapped John Scalzi for comments on “’Love, Death + Robots’: The Story Behind the Anthology Series’ First-Ever Sequel”.

How did it feel to return to these characters?

For me, the thing that was great is I wrote the characters because, years ago, a friend of mine kept poking me until I contributed to her anthology, Robots Vs. Fairies. I knocked it out in about an hour. The fact that something I did to keep my friend from annoying me has gone on to have such a long life – first in the book, then the first season, then being the only episode that is explicitly a sequel – just tickles me. And it thrills me, because the longer I’m with those characters, the more I love them….

(14) BRADBURY DNA. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater will be inspired by a bard from another world when they stage “It Came from Outer Space” from June 22-24.

A new musical comedy adapted from the ‘50s cult classic sci-fi film from Universal Pictures! Amateur astronomer John Putnam encounters an alien spaceship in the desert and becomes the laughingstock of his small town—until the extraterrestrial visitors make their presence known and he must convince the gathering mob that they have come in peace. A clever musical score and creative physical humor puts a new spin on Ray Bradbury’s flying saucer tale, examining society’s fear of outsiders as it simultaneously embraces the wonder of what lies just beyond the stars. Commissioned and developed by Chicago Shakespeare with Creative Producer Rick Boynton, the production reignites an artistic partnership with creators Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, following the triumph of their Jeff Award-winning 2011 musical, Murder for Two, which went on to an acclaimed New York run.

(15) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was planted in front of the TV tonight when Jeopardy! contestants stumbled over this genre item.

Category: Lit Bits

Answer: This book introduced us to the Eloi and Morlocks.

Wrong questions: What is “The Lord of the Rings” and “What is “War of the Worlds”?

Right question: What is “The Time Machine”?

(16) TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE. The answers to Thursday’s puzzle are hidden to avoid spoilers. Though we guess most Filers will get this four-letter answer pretty easily.

(17) ORION SHALL WRITHE. “In The Original ‘Star Trek’ Pilot, It Wasn’t Easy Being Green” explains H&I. It’s not a long anecdote, and would be spoiled by running enough of an excerpt to read coherently. So just click over and be entertained.

(18) NOT A FLOOR BUT A CEILING? Dr. Matt O’Dowd analyzes possible answers to a reciprocal of the usual assumption: “What If the Galactic Habitable Zone LIMITS Intelligent Life?” at PBS Space Time.

Our solar system is a tiny bubble of habitability suspended in a vast universe that mostly wants to kill us. In fact, a good fraction of our own galaxy turns out to be utterly uninhabitable, even for sun—like stellar systems. Is this why .. most of us .. haven’t seen aliens?

(19) NOT A FAN OF FOX. Screen Rant takes notes as “Star Trek Writer Hits Back At Controversial Fox News Op-Ed”. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe reacts to a Fox News op-ed that smeared the show as having suddenly adopted ‘woke politics.’”

(20) MEANWHILE, BACK IN FLORIDA. Reason brings you “Democratic Disney vs. Republican Disney”.

Tired of Disney not bending to their partisan sensibilities, two politicians update their theme parks.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, says that when the writer tells the producer that Wanda has gone bad because she’s been “possessed by an evil book,” the producer says, “this is why I don’t read.”  But the producer discovers who to cast for cameos when the writer makes smirky faces to him.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Anne Marble, John Scalzi, Will R., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/22 Never Scroll Pixels After Midnight

(1) JEMISIN ON BBC. The BBC World Service’s In the Studio program features “N K Jemisin: Writing new worlds”. (Also available at BBC Sounds.)

New York-based writer N. K. Jemisin is one of the biggest names in modern science-fiction. She’s the first in the genre’s history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards, for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy. 

In conversation with presenter Dr Vic James, Jemisin talks in-depth about world-building. She reveals how the initial idea for Broken Earth came to her in a dream. This then led her to a NASA writing residency and a trip to Hawaii, flying over its volcanoes in order to accurately visualise the trilogy’s setting: a super-continent called The Stillness that is ravaged by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

Jemisin reflects on how it all came together, how she gives voice to the oppressed, and why she thinks these books have resonated with so many people around the world. 

(2) GET YOUR IMAGINARY PAPERS. Imaginary Papers is a quarterly newsletter about science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

Imaginary Papers Issue 10 features an essay by writer, editor, and scientist Pippa Goldschmidt on the 2014 short film Afronauts, and humanities scholar Paul Cockburn on Ignatius Donnelly’s 1890 novel Caesar’s Column and its vision of a gridlock-free New York City. There’s also a writeup of UNICEF’s Imagining Health Futures project.

(3) SFF IS WHERE YOU FIND IT. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] Finally made it back to Mongolia, and here’s pictures of two of the recent SF translations in a local bookstore.

(4) STAND BY FOR NEWS. The Guardian takes a teasing tone as it communicates that Russell T Davies is back in charge of Doctor Who, and changing everything – with the trans actor Yasmin Finney playing Rose Tyler and David Tennant returning, too: “Two Doctors, and a trans actor playing Rose? How Russell T Davies is mixing things up in the Tardis all over again”. The article ends —

A black Doctor? A trans Rose? This is political correctness gone mad. You’re right. There is no way on earth that a shapeshifting ancient alien god and an interdimensional explorer trapped in a parallel dimension should be played by anything other than a white British guy and the woman from I Hate Suzie respectively.

This isn’t the Doctor Who I am used to. But it is. The transgender actor Bethany Black had a role on Doctor Who in 2015. In an episode in 2006, Jack Harkness said that he had a trans co-worker. If you factor in the audio episodes, you’ll find yourself inundated with trans characters, actors and writers.

Wait, so I’m the one who’s wrong? Exactly right. Stop watching. The rest of us will have a blast.

Do say: “It’s great that Rose Tyler is being played by a trans woman.”

Don’t say: “Oh God, does this mean I have to start watching Doctor Who again?

(5) HEAR FROM THREE LEADING FANTASY WRITERS. Waterstones Bookshops offers “Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark in conversation” on Monday May 30 at 18:30 British Summer Time — livestream tickets for £5. (The in-person component is sold out).

Join us for what promises to be a brilliant evening of conversation with bestselling fantasy authors Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark.

Masters of sapphic fantasy literature, these three authors will be talking about their most recent books: Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel She Who Became The Sun (publishing in paperback this June), Tasha Suri’s epic fantasy The Jasmine Throne and C. L. Clarks’s political fantasy The Unbroken.

(6) REWARDS FOR ADVENTUROUS READERS. Simone Heller, in the fourth installment of “Speaking the Truth with Oghenechovwe Ekpeki”, asks the Nigerian author about the intricacies of writing from a complex multilingual background for a global audience. 

Your stories are usually set in a (futuristic) Nigeria. Do you include bits and pieces or even chunks from the languages surrounding you? And if so, is it accepted by international editors and readers?

Well, there’s a bit of truth telling to my writing. Chunks of my reality mixed in with it. Set in Nigeria as you observed, my themes usually touch on issues that are relevant here, and this is also reflected in my language. The dialogue of my characters shifts between pidgin English and regular English as a speaker in my position would. The subject matter, humour, delivery of the conversation also aims to reflect the way we communicate. It’s as I said, your culture and identity are reflected in your language. So it does come across as unfamiliar or odd to Western or other readers removed from that culture and identity. It’s definitely created a difficulty in publishing sometimes, it’s led to odd and overediting requests and an inability to connect or be properly appreciated by readers and reviewers who are not open to these diverse tongues and see everything different as inferior. But I suppose that is the price for speaking my truth with the tongue in my mouth in a world that sees the other as inferior. So yea.

(7) A COUPLE OF MIDWESTERNERS. Hear John Scalzi fielding questions on the “Page Break with Brian McClellan” podcast.

Brian’s guest this week is science fiction author John Scalzi. John is known for a massive variety of work, including his early career as a reviewer and columnist, his bestselling breakout novel Old Man’s War, his time as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and his well-known blog, Whatever.

John and Brian talk about paradigm shifts in their industry, being a longtime public figure, and his well-publicized thirteen-book contract with Tor. They also talk about living and working in the Midwest, and the real nature of professional jealousy.

(8) STUDIO 54. Rich Horton shared on Facebook a post with his picks for “potential Hugo awards from the year 1954 (that is, alternate 1955 Hugos, since two of the 1955 Hugos went to stories from 1955, and the one winner from 1954 is widely regarded as the worst Best Novel Hugo winner of all time. Short version: I actually came up with what I think is a quite strong list of novel nominees…”

(9) PROTACTILE. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] The New Yorker reports ways that “DeafBlind Communities May Be Creating a New Language of Touch”. Being an SF fan of a certain age, I can’t help think of John Varley’s “Persistence of Vision.”

…Protactile is full of a kind of tactile onomatopoeia, in which a hand resembles the feel of the thing it’s describing. In what the linguists call “proprioceptive constructions,” the speaker recruits the receiver’s body to complete the word, say, by turning her hand into a tree (five fingers as branches) or a lollipop (fist as candy). At one point, I asked Nuccio where she was from, and she told me to make my hand into a fist, which represented the globe. “You and I are in America, over here,” she said, touching my first knuckle. “And this is the ocean.” She traced a finger to my wrist to find the country where she was born, Croatia. She accomplished all of this in a series of movements that Edwards said followed consistent grammatical rules. At another point, Nuccio described how difficult her life had been when she’d worked as a technician in a genetics lab as she went blind. She had me point my finger up, and told me that it was now the flame of the Bunsen burner that she’d used in her lab. She demonstrated how to adjust the flame on one of my knuckles, and how delicate the apparatus was. I was astonished by the precision of this tactile illustration, which felt, in the moment, more vivid than any verbal description could have….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, Man from Atlantis: The Killer Spores aired on NBC. It was the third of four pilot episodes that preceded the regular Man from Atlantis television series which only lasted thirteen episodes. Calling them pilot episodes is I think just a bit disingenuous — they were full blown episodes of the series. 

The extended episode, I hesitate to call it a movie, was directed by Reza Badiyi and written by John D.F. Black. Badiyi is best known for directing episodes of shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Phoenix and Deep Space Nine. Black was associate producer on ten episodes of Trek including “The Man Trap”, “Mudd’s Women” and “The Corbomite Manuever”. 

It of course starred It Patrick Duffy as Mark Harris and Belinda Montgomery as Doctor Elizabeth Merrill. 

Just in case, someone here hasn’t seen it, I won’t discuss the story which was actually a damn good SF one. Unfortunately the series itself was doomed as it has very high production costs and an audience that dropped way too fast, so NBC didn’t pick up its option after the first thirteen episodes were made. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 17, 1913 Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter output was as he did work on The Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the LostBattle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, which warrants his being noted here. (Died 1983.)
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his first genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire film very thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! He followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. No, I didn’t like it. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. Would you?  (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 76. I’ve read, let me check, oh about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone here finished them off, and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? He’s won five Prometheus Awards for Best Libertarian SF Novel, very impressive indeed. 
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 72. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s ‘Commando Cody.’ Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as Bill Higgins says here, their MT VOID is one of the longest published fanzines still going. 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 68. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. Greenland’s The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. And yes, he won the Clarke Award for that Take Back Plenty novel.
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 68. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows, plus the screenplays for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
  • Born May 17, 1956 Dave Sim, 66. Did you know there was a Cerebus radio show at one point? Well there was. Need I say that I read the entire run of Cerebus. The three hundred issues ran from 1977 until 2004. It was created by Sim, written and drawn by him and remained solely his undertaking until background artist Garhard joined up with sixty-fifth issue. As Cerebus continued, it incorporated more and more of Sim’s very controversial views, particularly on women, feminism and the fall of Western Society from those factors. Collected Letters: 2004 and Dave Sim’s Collected Letters 2 contains his responses to the letters he got criticizing him but not the letters themselves. 
  • Born May 17, 1967 Michael Arnzen, 55. Winner of four Bram Stoker Awards, one for his Grave Markings novel, another for Goreletter and yet another for his poetry collection, Freakcidents. Very impressive indeed. Not to mention an International Horror Guild Award for Grave Markings. 

(12) GODDESS HISTORY. Read an extract from Queens of the Wild by Ronald Hutton at the link.

Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Witch, returns with Queens of the Wild, a history of the goddess-like figures who evade both Christian and pagan traditions, from the medieval period to the present day.

In this riveting account, Hutton explores the history of deity-like figures in Christian Europe. Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, literature, and history, Hutton shows how hags, witches, the fairy queen, and the Green Man all came to be, and how they changed over the centuries.

Looking closely at four main figures—Mother Earth, the Fairy Queen, the Mistress of the Night, and the Old Woman of Gaelic tradition—Hutton challenges decades of debate around the female figures who have long been thought versions of pre-Christian goddesses. He makes the compelling case that these goddess figures found in the European imagination did not descend from the pre-Christian ancient world, yet have nothing Christian about them. It was in fact nineteenth-century scholars who attempted to establish the narrative of pagan survival that persists today. In this extract, Hutton focuses on the how the goddess-like figure of Nature develops during the Middle Ages and early modernity….

(13) PARANORMAL CRIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I didn’t know there were people who collected “haunted dolls!” “Haunted Dolls, Curses, and a True Crime Voodoo Cold Case” by Susan Furlong at CrimeReads.

In writing my crime novel What They Don’t Know, I wanted my lead character to have an unusual relationship with her collection of dolls. As a psychological thriller, what better than to include haunted dolls? Not knowing a lot about haunted dolls and wanting to learn more, my research took me to Alabama where I met with Kevin Cain, ghost hunter, haunted doll collector, and author. There we discussed real doll-infested crimes, proving once more, that reality is sometimes stranger than fiction….

(14) WHERE TO GET YOUR GEAR. The Octothorpe podcast – John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty – have unfurled a logo short at the Octothorpe Fans shop.

Octothorpe the Podcast

The shop has quite a few other things for sale. I laughed out loud when I saw this quote on a pillow: “Dave Kyle says You Can’t Sit Here“.

(15) A START TO YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST. Meanwhile, others of you may need this “Edward Gorey Sterling Cat Reading a Book Pin”.

This sterling silver pin is adapted from a drawing by Edward Gorey that is part of a series of renderings of fanciful cats engaged in unusual activities. Here a casually seated cat is reading a book with obvious delight. Edward Gorey’s initials are engraved on the back. 

(16) THIS SIDE UP. Thanks to David Dyer-Bennet linking to this on FB I learned today “Why do refrigerator magnets only stick on one side?”. EngineerDog.com explains Halbach Arrays.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Moon Knight” the Screen Junkies say that having used up its A team, its B team, and its C-team, Marvel was down to either doing Moon Knight or Hellcow. “Are you ready for action?” the narrator says.  “Moon Knight isn’t.  When danger strikes, he blacks out.”  There are so many blackouts in this series “that it reminds me of when Four Loko was legal.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Ferret Bueller, Rob Thornton, Joey Eschrich, Andrew (not Werdna), Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/22 We Will Always Have Pixels

(1) IS IT WASTED ON THE YOUNG? At Young People Read Old SFF James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on Joe Haldeman’s “Tricentennial”.

This month’s selection has an unusual history for a Hugo finalist, having been commissioned to accompany an already completed cover….

Generally speaking, this sort of exercise does not result in notable fiction1. Haldeman managed to deliver a story that wasn’t simply a finalist but a Hugo winner. Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that even though his career as an SF writer was still in its early days, he had by this point racked up two Hugo nominations2, a Hugo win, a Nebula win, a Ditmar win, and been a finalist for the Locus six times. 

Tricentennial stuck a chord with readers way back in the mid-1970s. Will it be as successful with the youth of today? Let’s find out!…

(2) THAT NEW LAFFERTY STORY. Meanwhile, at Galactic Journey the Traveler is reading the latest Galaxy – back in time, when the stories themselves were young! “[May 12, 1967] There and Back Again (June 1967 Galaxy)”.

Polity and Custom of the Camiroi, by R. A. Lafferty

A three-person anthropological team investigates the highly libertarian planet of Camiroi.  Society there is highly advanced, seemingly utopian, and utterly decentralized.  Sounds like a Heinleinesque paradise.  However, there are indications that the Terrans are being put on, mostly in an attempt to just get them to leave.

The result is something like what might have happened if Cordwainer Smith and Robert Sheckley had a baby.  That’d be one weird tot…but an interesting one.

Four stars.

(3) HE’LL GIVE YOU AN EARFUL. In “An Observation on Audiobooks” John Scalzi discusses his experience with the medium.

…As an author, I was not initially in love with audiobook versions of my books because it was an interpretation, and because the narration was not the way I heard the book in my own head — the narrative beats would sometime be different; a word would be given a different emphasis; a character who I heard one way in my head would sound different (and sometimes would feel like they had a different personality entirely).

Two things got me over this. The first was that audio increased my annual income from writing by about a third, which smoothed over quite a lot. The second thing was that I realized that audiobook narration is a performance and that, like one can appreciate the myriad of ways that actors have approached the “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy in Hamlet, one can equally look at the choices the narrator makes in their performance and see how they are in conversation with the text, often in ways that are a surprise to me, the author. So the necessary fact of the interpretation stopped being an annoyance and became a thing of interest….

(4) POINT OF DO RETURN. “Once more with feeling: why time loop stories keep coming back”, according to the Guardian’s Gillian McAllister.

If you die, what’s the plan for the next life?” This is the question posed in the opening scene of the recent BBC adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life, in which the protagonist, Ursula, repeatedly dies and starts over from birth. It’s a fascinating idea: what would you do differently, and what would remain the same? It is one explored in another hit TV show that has just returned for a second season, Russian Doll, the first season of which saw the main character, Nadia, return endlessly to the night of her 36th birthday party, suffering a different death each time.

Mainstream film and television have a long history of playing with time loops. But while Groundhog Day was a huge success in the early 1990s, narratives about ordinary people caught in this speculative twist have been harder to pull off in literature. Perhaps this is because there tends to be an earnestness to such stories that doesn’t translate into fiction, and a tendency towards repetition that readers may not tolerate as well as viewers. It is trickier to create a montage in fiction: part of what makes Groundhog Day so compelling is the ability to only show the differences in Bill Murray’s repeating days….

(5) ORVILLE THIRD SEASON. “Our return is imminent.” The Orville: New Horizons arrives June 2 on Hulu.

(6) THE MOON THAT SOLD ITSELF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “A Twenty-First Century Moon Race Is Kicking Off A New Era of Lunar Exploration” reports Nature. These six countries are about to go to the Moon — here’s why.

Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States aim to send missions to the Moon in the next year. But will they all make it?

NASA’s US$93-billion Artemis programme might be stealing most of the limelight with its maiden launch this year because it’s the first step towards sending astronauts to the Moon. But the United States is just one of many nations and private companies that soon plan to launch missions, heralding what scientists say could be a new golden age of lunar exploration.

Science isn’t the only driving force. The flurry of missions also signals the growing ambition of several nations and commercial players to show off their technological prowess and make their mark, particularly now that getting to the Moon is easier and cheaper than ever before….

(7) MUSK CONTRADICTED. Shannon Stirone says let the record reflect that “Mars Is a Hellhole” in The Atlantic.

There’s no place like home—unless you’re Elon Musk. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship, which may someday send humans to Mars, is, according to Musk, likely to launch soon, possibly within the coming days. But what motivates Musk? Why bother with Mars? A video clip from an interview Musk gave in 2019 seems to sum up Musk’s vision—and everything that’s wrong with it.

In the video, Musk is seen reading a passage from Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot

…Musk reads from Sagan’s book: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.”

But there Musk cuts himself off and begins to laugh. He says with incredulity, “This is not true. This is false––Mars.”

He couldn’t be more wrong. Mars? Mars is a hellhole. The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many)…

(8) CURIOSITY SNAPS A PHOTO. Mars may be a hellhole, but it’s a hellhole with a door. “’Secret doorway built by aliens’ spotted in picture taken by rover on Mars”. Picture at the link.

Recent pictures from Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover show an intriguing feature which looks like a doorway nestled in the rocks on the Martian landscape.

It looks so convincing that it can almost tempt you to believe that it leads to a Martian hideaway – or a gateway to another Universe entirely.

While the internet seems to be having a field day with conspiracy theories about the mysterious doorway, some Reddit users aren’t buying it.

Many party poopers have pointed out the door is likely just a shear fracture — the result of some kind of strain on the rock, breaking part of it off….

(9) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe 57 is out now! Listen here! “Back Bacon is Best”.

John is a muppet bilby, Alison is actively drinking, and Liz MURDERS OWLS. We discuss Reclamation 2022 and the COVID that ensued, before talking about Horizon Forbidden West a whole bunch. Also other things.

Below, the Octothorpe cast are depicted as Australian mammals in muppet form. John is a bilby, Alison is a quokka, and Liz is an echidna. John has a glitter octothorpe on his forehead.

(10) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Gustav Hoegen.  Hoegen is Dutch, and when he was 6 he went with his father to the Tuchinski Theatre (an old-school picture palace) in Amsterdam to see Return of the Jedi, and he decided he wanted a career in the movies.  He worked his way up through British special effects shops in 2013 and now runs his own company, Biomimc Studio.  His creatures have appeared in four recent Star Wars movies, one of the Jurassic World pictures, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  He says that Ridley Scott, J.J. Abrams and Tim Burton were the best directors to work with, and he gets work because directors realize that actors do a better job reacting with an actual object on screen rather than doing the entire film via green screen. “Maltin on Movies: Gustav Hoegen”.

(11) SOMETHING FISHY. Radio Times spoke with the showrunner: “Russell T Davies confirms he planted Doctor Who red herrings”. But he won’t tell which ones.

…”There’s been a few false stories and false tales and we placed a few posts ourselves, a couple of misleading things, and we’re very pleased that that kind of worked.”

However, Davies clarified that the rumour James Corden might be taking on the role wasn’t one of his red herrings, adding: “We didn’t plant that one, so that caught me frankly.”

While Davies did not expand on which names he’d planted in the press, a number of actors associated with the award-winning screenwriter were rumoured to be Jodie Whittaker’s replacement

(12) ANN DAVIS (1934-2022). The Guardian paid tribute to the late Ann Davies as an “actor admired for her many roles in TV drama series including Z Cars, EastEnders and in 1964 an appearance in Doctor Who.” She died April 26 at the age of 87.

…Television immortality came early on when when she joined forces with the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell, in 1964 in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. As Jenny, a determined and capable freedom fighter, Davies was a cold and efficient co-combatant with the series regular Barbara (Jacqueline Hill, in real life Davies’s friend and neighbour).

The action required them to encounter the Daleks in arresting scenes filmed at London landmarks. At one point they smashed through a patrol with a van, which required early morning shooting in the capital to avoid the crowds. Although it was just one guest role in her long career, Davies remained in demand for Doctor Who interviews and signings.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Samuel Delany’s Nova was nominated for a Best Novel Hugo at St. Louiscon fifty three years ago, the year that Stand on Zanzibar won. Two amazing novels; in this Scroll I’m here just to talk about Nova though I won’t deny that Stand on Zanzibar is an amazing novel as well. 

Nova came at a point in Delany’s career after he had just won three Nebulas, two for novels, Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection, plus one for his short story, “Aye, and Gomorrah..” The first novel was nominated for a Hugo at NYCon 3, the short story and the latter novel at BayCon. BayCon would see him get also nominated for “The Star Pit” novella, and St. Louiscon the next year would see his “Lines of Power” novella get nominated. It was a very fecund time for him. 

And then there was Nova, a fantastic novel that was first published by Doubleday in August 1968. Is it space opera? Is it really early cyberpunk? Of course it also had strong mythological underpinning and the tarot figured prominently into the story as well, so it couldn’t be nearly put into any categories, could it? All I know is that I really liked reading it. 

Reviewer Algis Budrys said in the January 1969 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction that it was “highly entertaining to read” and a later review on the Concatenation site said, “Though a novel, this runs like a string of tangled short stories fused and melted through one another, with fantastic concepts, but making its preposterous mission sound utterly credible for its extraordinary characters.” 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 12, 1937 George Carlin. Rufus in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. He also showed up in Scary Movie 3 and Tarzan II. I once met him many decades ago at a Maine summer resort. He was really personable and nice. (Died 2008.)
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best-known for the Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well (novelized by Longyear in collaboration with David Gerrold.) An expanded version of the original novella, plus two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy, make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. 
  • Born May 12, 1973 Mackenzie Astin, 49. His major genre role was in The Magicians as Richard/Reynard but he’s also appeared in I Dream in Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later (who knew?), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Outer LimitsLost and The Orville.
  • Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 72. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron and Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker.
  • Born May 12, 1953 Carolyn Haines, 69. Though best known for her Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series at twenty books and counting, she has definite genre credits having two orbs in her Pluto’s Snitch series, The Book of Beloved and The House of Memory, plus the rather excellent The Darkling and The Seeker though you might not recognize them as being hers as she wrote them as R.B. Chesterton. Her genre books are on Kindle. 
  • Born May 12, 1958 Heather Rose Jones, 64. Member of our File 770 community.  She received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for the Mother of Souls, the third novel in her Alpennia series which has now seen four novels published, quite an accomplishment. For six years now, she has presented the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast subseries of the Lesbian Talk Show.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) WALK THIS WAY. “How far did Sam and Frodo walk in Lord Of The Rings?” Yahoo! Movies found someone who thinks they know the answer.

They might have big feet, but with those little legs Hobbits Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins had their work cut out trekking from Bag End to Mount Doom in JRR Tolkien’s seminal The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One thing that has always enthralled fans when picking up Tolkien’s books is the attention to geography and the maps of Middle Earth.

Well now, thanks to one brilliantly thorough Imgur user called Mattsawizard, we can see how far those little legs had to go.

Better still he’s contextualised them with the UK….

(17) QUITE A HANDFUL. James Davis Nicoll directs us to “Five SFF Stories That Are Much Funnier Than They Sound”. First on the list:

The Night Life of the Gods by Thorne Smith (1931)

At first glance, Hunter Hawk seems to have been served the same dismal gruel as any other Thorne Smith protagonist. His home is inhabited by a swarm of grasping relatives, each one more feckless than the last. Other Smith protagonists require some external impetus to jar them out their conventional rut. Not Hunter Hawk, for long before the reader meets him, Hawk has energetically embraced mad science.

Having invented a petrification ray, Hawk’s immediate impulse is to turn it on his disappointing relatives. This leaves the inventor free for a meet-cute with Megaera, a 900-year-old fairy. It happens that Megaera has a trick that mirrors Hawk’s: she knows how to turn stone to living flesh. The couple could use this to de-petrify his relations. Instead, they transform statues of Roman gods into living deities.

The gods demand entertainment. Fortuitously, Jazz Age America is more than able to provide it.

(18) CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Holm, author of a near-future sf novel where antibiotics have failed, offers eight recommendations for movies where disease is amok and creatures are covered with goo. “Eight Biological Horror Movies Guaranteed to Make Your Skin Crawl” at CrimeReads.

…Since [my novel] Child Zero seems to be scaring the bejesus out of everybody, I thought a fun way to celebrate its release would be an alphabetical roundup of my eight favorite biological horror movies.

Why biological horror rather than, say, body horror? Because even though the latter is an accepted horror subgenre, I’m not convinced everything on my list qualifies. Besides, I’m here to hype a biological thriller, not a body horror novel—so, y’know, synergy!…

(19) SAY CHEESE. What else do you say when you photograph something with a big hole in it? From the New York Times: “The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light”. (Photo at the link.)

Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the veil of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.

The image, released in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington, and around the globe, showed a lumpy doughnut of radio emission framing empty space. Oohs and aahs broke out at the National Press Club in Washington when Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona displayed what she called “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy.” She added: “It seems that black holes like doughnuts.”…

 … Black holes were an unwelcome consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as how a mattress sags under a sleeper.

Einstein’s insight led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape it.

Einstein disapproved of this idea, but the universe is now known to be speckled with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed inward on themselves and just kept going.,,,

(20) NOVA FIREBALL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover of the latest Nature is inspired by the article, “Chance discovery sheds light on exploding stars” (which is behind a paywall.) Here’s the introduction:

Nova explosions occur when a runaway thermonuclear reaction is triggered in a white dwarf that is accreting hydrogen from a companion star. The massive amount of energy released ultimately creates the bright light source that can be seen with a naked eye as a nova. But some of the energy has been predicted to be lost during the initial stages of the reaction as a flash of intense luminosity — a fireball phase — detectable as low-energy X-rays. In this week’s issue of NatureOle König and his colleagues present observations that corroborate this prediction. Using scans taken by the instrument eROSITA, the researchers identified a short, bright X-ray flash from the nova YZ Reticuli a few hours before it became visible in the optical spectrum. The cover shows an artist’s impression of the nova in the fireball phase.

(21) DEEP SUBJECT. Terry Pratchett talks to Leigh Sales of Australian Broadcasting about his Alzheimer’s and his support for right-to-die legislation in this 2011 clip: “Sir Terry Pratchett on life and death”.

(22) LEGO MUPPETS. IGN invites everyone to “Meet the LEGO Muppets Minifigures”.

On May 1, LEGO will release a series of Muppet Minifigures depicting Jim Henson’s most iconic creations: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, Animal, Janice, Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler, and Waldorf. LEGO sent IGN a preview set of all 12 minifigures, and we took a few photos (see below) to show off their details….

Part of what makes the Muppets lovable is their scruffiness; they’re cute, but not cloying in appearance or mannerism. And LEGO captures this quality by customizing each head distinctively–to be rounded, or conical, or exaggerated as need be.

Gonzo’s nose is huge. Beaker’s head is narrow. Honeydew’s eyes are non-existent. The Muppets are not subsumed by the LEGO aesthetic; if anything, LEGO compromised its design boundaries to ensure these figures retained that intangible ‘Muppet-ness’ they all possess….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another conversation between Lewis and Tolkien (from Eleanor Morton): “JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis realise something about dwarves”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Andrew (Not Werdna), 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 Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 4/27/22 It Was The Time Of The Pixel, In The Year Of Scroll One

(1) ZAGREB CON’S SPECIAL DEAL. Croatia’s SFeraKon 2022, taking place May 13-15, is offering free admission to Ukrainians taking temporary shelter in the country.

Given the current situation in Eastern Europe, we decided to invite Ukrainians who are currently in Croatia to SFeraKon without paying a registration fee.

Free SFeraKon 2022 attendance for citizens of Ukraine If you are a citizen of Ukraine who came to Croatia to find temporary shelter from war, and are interested in science, science fiction, fantasy, horror literature, films or series, or borderline geeky activities such as board or computer games, cosplay or stuff like that, we would love to help you drop your worries for at least one weekend: come to SFeraKon for free. We offer three days of programme, but more importantly, an opportunity for you to take part in a gathering with a lot of fun and friendly people who may share some of your interests. Unfortunately, we cannot offer any translation into Ukrainian language, but if you speak English, then you already have something in common with 90% of the population at SFeraKon. Even of you don’t speak English, Ukrainian and Croatian have some similarities so most likely you will be able to communicate with others with a moderate amount of good will and a bit of hand waving SFeraKon is taking place from 13th till 15th of May (Friday evening till Sunday evening) at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (If you are in Zagreb, simply look for FER). We will be glad to meet and hang out with you.

(2) AMERICAN WRITERS FESTIVAL. [Item by Steven H Silver.] The American Writers Festival, sponsored by the American Writers Museum, will take place on May 15 at the Chicago Cultural Center.  It will include a panel discussion moderated by Chicon 8 Special Guest Dr. Eve L. Ewing (“The Future of Black”), and a talk between Ewing and Ashley C. Ford, and a discussion between Chicon 7 Toastmaster John Scalzi and Michi Trota.

The inaugural American Writers Festival on May 15, 2022 in Chicago coincides with the American Writers Museum’s fifth anniversary. The free literary festival will be held at four stages inside the Chicago Cultural Center and one stage at the American Writers Museum, and feature more than 75 beloved contemporary authors, artists and playwrights. Participating writers will address their perspectives on many of today’s most timely and controversial topics including immigration, book censorship, racism and equality through themes within their literature.

As a special bonus, the AWM will waive museum admission fees on Sunday, May 15 and Monday, May 16 – AWM’s fifth anniversary – to encourage more people to experience the literary works of the greatest American writers.

Proof of vaccination and masks are required to enter the American Writers Museum and all event spaces at the Chicago Cultural Center.

(3) CHARITY STREAM. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Twitch streamer Keffals will be having a charity stream to help Alabaman trans kids and their parents. Lilly Wachowski, Anthony Fantano, and Chelsea Manning are confirmed guests!

(4) AVATAR SEQUEL LEAVES DRYDOCK. Variety was there as “’Avatar 2′ Footage Debuts at Cinemacon”.

Avatar 2” is real, and it’s here — naysayers be damned.

After at least seven delays in the last eight years (the film was originally supposed to open in 2014), director James Cameron is finally ready to show audiences his otherworldly, underwater vision for “Avatar’s” long-awaited sequel. It’s newly titled as “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Disney, which inherited the franchise after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, unveiled new footage of the highly anticipated film at CinemaCon, the annual gathering of movie theater owners that’s currently unfolding at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

CinemaCon attendees were given 3D glasses to watch the minutes-long trailer, which contained almost no dialogue. Instead, exhibitors were immersed into different regions across the dazzling world of Pandora through sweeping visuals of the planet’s crystal blue oceans and lakes. The footage also shows the local tribe of Na’vi interacting with various species resembling whales and pelicans, some of which flew through the screen and into audience member’s faces thanks to the three-dimensional technology.

(5) COME FROM AWAY. Sarah Gailey responded to the angst about Twitter’s future by encouraging writers and artists to use her comments to tell where to find their newsletters. Thread starts here.  

(6) KAREN GILLAN INTERVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Karen Gillan, which is the first time I’ve heard Gillan speak in her normal Scottish voice (she’s from Inverness). Much of Gillan’s work is genre-related, ever since she was Matt Smith’s companion for three seasons on Doctor Who, a part she enjoyed because the cast bonded as a family through nine months of shoots where they worked 11 days out of every 14. She talks about what it is like being behind a table at media conventions, where fans pepper her with really arcane trivia questions about her roles, most notably as Nebula in the MCU. (Fans, Leonard Maltin says, “are a wily lot.”)  But she also talks about promoting MCU films in giant press conferences where the stars have two goals:  Not saying anything about the movie and making sure that Tom Holland doesn’t blurt out spoilers.

Gillan is currently developing Conventional, based on a short film she wrote and starred in in 2018 about a horror film star who meets fans who dress as the serial killer in her movies.  The film is on YouTube and would be rated R if it had a rating.

(7) ESSAY: JACK KLUGMAN ON THE ORIGINAL TWILIGHT ZONE.

By Cat Eldridge: Only three individuals did four or more appearances on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and Jack Klugman was one of them. 

Let’s discuss his appearances. He was in “A Passage for Trumpet,” “A Game of Pool”, “Death Ship” and “In Praise of Pip”. 

In “A Passage for Trumpet” he’s Joey Crown, a hopeless NYC trumpeteeer with no money, no friends, and no job prospects due to being an alcoholic. He ends in Limbo talking to an Angel. 

Next he’s Jesse Cardiff in “A Game of Pool,” where we get told the story of the best pool player living and the best pool player dead. No points for guessing which he is. 

Now this episode was remade in the eighties Twilight Zone. That version featured Esai Morales as Jesse Cardiff and Maury Chaykin as Fats Brown. This version used the original alternate ending that Johnson intended for the original version. (Nope in keeping with the File 770 policy of not having spoilers if at possible, I’m not telling you what that ending was. After all it’s only been sixty years and some of you might not have seen it yet.) 

The next episode he’s in is definitely SF and based on a Richard Matheson short story with the same title, “Death Ship”. (It was first published in Fantastic Story Magazine, March 1953.) Matheson wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. Only Serling wrote more. In this episode, a spaceship crew discovers a wrecked replica of their ship with their own dead bodies inside. Klugman plays the Captain Paul Ross.

The model used in this episode of the hovering spaceship is that of a C-57D Cruiser, a leftover prop from Forbidden Planet. It would also be used in the episodes “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and “Third from the Sun”. The crashed ship is a model created for this episode.

The final appearance by him is in “In Praise of Pip” where his role is Max Philips,  a crooked bookie, who after learning that his soldier son has suffered a mortal wound in the Vietnam War, apparently encounters a childhood version of his son.

The Twilight Zone streams on Paramount +. 

From “Death Ship”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I know he’s written some genre fiction but I’m interested this time in his mysteries. He wrote The Maltese Falcon which was turned into the film you remember and another film a decade earlier. And, of course, there are Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series that got turned in a six film series. Now my favorite character by him is the Continental Op in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. And let’s not forget the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip which artist Alex Raymond  of Flash Gordon fame illustrated. (Died 1961.)
  • Born April 27, 1899 Walter Lantz. Cartoonist, animator, producer and director who founded Walter Lantz Productions. He created the Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy characters among others. He received an Academy Award “for bringing joy and laughter to every part of the world through his unique animated motion pictures”. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1901 Frank Belknap Long. John Hertz says that he should be singled out for the “To Follow Knowledge” novelette which John lovingly discuses here. Let me add that Long received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1920 Doris Baumgardt. Well-known and loved fan, illustrator and writer under the name of Leslie Perri. She was a member of the Futurians, and a founding member of FAPA. She was also a member of the CPASF and the Science Fictioneers. She was one of five members of the Futurians allowed into the first World Science Fiction Convention by Sam Moskowitz  with the other four were Isaac Asimov, David Kyle, Jack Robinson and Richard Wilson. She wrote three pieces of short fiction that were published in the Forties and Fifties; she contributed artwork to fanzines. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 27, 1962Rachel Caine. She had two series, the Weather Warden series which is most excellent and the superb Great Library series. I can’t speak to the Morganville Vampires series as I don’t really do vampires. She’s got a number of other series, far more than can detailed here. She won the Nebula Solstice Award last year, given for significant impact on speculative fiction. Ben Bova and Jarvis Bernard Sheffield also were given the Award that year. (Died 2020.)
  • Born April 27, 1963 Russell T. Davies, 59. Responsible for the 2005 revival of the BBC One of Doctor Who. A Whovian since the very beginning, he thinks “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” has the best dialogue in the entire series, an opinion I concur with. Of course he’s also responsible for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well. (Need I note that the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was his idea?) Oh, and a few years back, he produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And that hardly covers everything that he’s done. Hugo nominations and awards? Oh yes. Starting at Nippon 2007, where he was nominated for Doctor Who’s “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”, then at Anticipation both “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” and “Turn Left” were nominated. At Aussiecon 4, he finally won a Hugo for “The Water of Mars”. “The Next Doctor” and “Planet of the Dead” were also nominated.  And y’all know he’s the new Who showrunner. That should be interesting. 
  • Born April 27, 1986 Catherine Webb, 36. She’s writes under a number of names but I only know her under her Kate Griffin name where she wrote the extraordinary London set Matthew Swift series which one of the best urban fantasy series I ever read. Hugo worthy indeed. I’ve not read any of her fiction written as Claire North which is major other name, so if you have, do tell me how it is. As North, her book The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August won the Clarke Award and Campbell Memorial Award, and The Sudden Appearance of Hope won a World Fantasy Award. Now go read the Matthew Swift series! 
  • Born April 27, 1986 Jenna Coleman, 36. Clara Oswald, Companion to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors.  She remains the longest serving companion since the series was revived. Genre wise, she was also Connie in Captain America: The First Avenger, and did voice work on the animated reboot of Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, she showed up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot which deserves to be annotated. 

(9) SAGA IS BACK. NPR’s Mallory Yu tells how “Radical pacifism and violence collide in the ‘Saga’ comic series”.

There’s a frog playing drums, an alien on guitar, and a humanoid creature with a television for a head on vocals on the cover of Saga‘s Issue 58.

It’s a collection of characters that’s par for the course for the award-winning science fiction epic, which pretty quickly amassed a legion of fans after its first issue in 2012. Then, in 2018, creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples announced their saga would be going on hiatus.

Their series returned this year, in February, and Vaughan was ready to get started.

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” he said. “I think most of my hiatus was really spent still focused on Saga and sort of plotting out the next several years of these character’s adventures.”

If you call running for your life while dangerous assassins shoot lasers at you “adventures.”…

(10) WHO – OR WHAT? – WILL EXPLORE SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jeff Foust reviews a new book that argues that we don’t need astronauts anymore and can just rely on unmanned missions. “The End of Astronauts” at The Space Review.

…For the last couple of decades, there has been a truce between advocates of robotic and human space exploration, with an acknowledgement that the two can and should work together: robots serving as precursors and assistants for later human missions. But in The End of Astronauts, Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees—a veteran science writer and the UK’s Astronomer Royal, respectively—argue that exploration beyond Earth orbit should be left to robots, a case that is certainly controversial but not necessarily compelling.

…Of course, governments don’t send astronauts into space exclusively or even primarily to do exploration: it’s one rationale of several, like geopolitics and national prestige. Goldsmith and Rees appear to acknowledge this, expecting the US and China to land humans on the Moon in the next decade or so, with Mars missions possibly by the 2040s but perhaps later….

(11) HOW ANCIENT DNA HIT THE HEADLINES; [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The origins, politics and motivations of the people who sequence age-old genomes dance with science fiction In tomorrow’s Nature….

In 1993, the day after the film Jurassic Park premiered in Washington DC, Nature reported the sequencing of DNA from a weevil encased in amber more than 120 million years ago. Then, in 2015, days before the global premiere of a sequel, Jurassic World, Nature Communications published evidence for the preservation of red blood cells and proteins in a 75-million-year-old dinosaur sample. Coincidence? The authors of the 1993 paper (R. J. Cano et al. Nature 363, 536–538; 1993) insisted it was, notes historian of science Elizabeth Jones. One of the co-authors of the 2015 paper https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8352.pdf (S. Bertazzo et al.Nature Commun. 6, 7352; 2015) told me theirs was, too: “100%”. These tantalizing parallels between life and art open Jones’s book Ancient DNA, a fun and thought-provoking introduction to the origins, politics and motivations of research into age-old genomes…

...Will the ancient-DNA big-hitters go back in time once more? The latest film in the franchise, Jurassic World Dominion, premieres in June; perhaps we’ll find out.

(12) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum chat with Vanity Fair about Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Dominion, which they are all in, in this video that dropped today.

(13) ON THE HORIZON. Snopes.com expects “Musk’s Twitter Ambitions to Collide with Europe’s Tech Rules”.

A hands-off approach to moderating content at Elon Musk’s Twitter could clash with ambitious new laws in Europe meant to protect users from disinformation, hate speech and other harmful material.

Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” pledged to buy Twitter for $44 billion this week, with European Union officials and digital campaigners quick to say that any focus on free speech to the detriment of online safety would not fly after the 27-nation bloc solidified its status as a global leader in the effort to rein in the power of tech giants.

“If his approach will be ‘just stop moderating it,’ he will likely find himself in a lot of legal trouble in the EU,” said Jan Penfrat, senior policy adviser at digital rights group EDRi.

Musk will soon be confronted with Europe’s Digital Services Act, which will require big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent Meta to police their platforms more strictly or face billions in fines….

(14) YOU’LL WANT TO RUSH TO YOUR NEAREST THEATER 45 YEARS AGO! “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Gets a Modern Trailer Makeover” and ScreenRant admires it greatly.

1980’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back gets a brand new, modern trailer that doesn’t give away any of the film’s surprises. As one of the true blockbusters, the release of 1977’s original Star Wars movie marked the beginning of one of the most influential franchises of all time. For its first sequel, creator George Lucas stepped back from directorial duties, handing off the role to his former film school professor Irvin Kirshner. With a story by Lucas and a script by Lawrence Kasdan, The Empire Strikes Back took a much darker tone than its predecessor and was all the better for it.

(15) FOR THEIR FANS. This trailer explains what happens when a character “has CGI surgery,” shows Chip and Dale going to cons, and hopefully will not have kids ask, “What are the Chippendale dancers?” Coming to Disney Plus in May!

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Honest Game Trailers: Tunic,” Fandom Games says this game first asks “What if Zelda were a furry?” but then goes on to be a game where all the rules and plot mechanics are hidden, so the game “captures the feeling of being a lost child in Costco.” But as you repeat actions over and over, “It’s like having OCD–but the fun kind!”

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Borys Sydiuk, Steven H Silver, Ben Bird Person, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/19/22 Better Call Scroll

(1) SCUM VS. VILLAINY. At Unusual Things in “Being a Better Writer: Delivering a Villain and Making Them Truly Scary”, Max Florschutz hosts a deeply thoughtful and fascinatingly detailed seven-course meal about writing “bad guys.” This is just an appetizer for you —

…Now, as a quick aside, I do want to remind us all that there is a difference between an antagonist and a villain. Just as there is a difference between a hero and a protagonist. Someone that is acting in opposition to a protagonist is not automatically a villain. They are an antagonist. Merely being opposed to a primary character is not an automatic trait of villainy. In fact, even the definitions of these two terms note the difference. An antagonist is one who opposes the protagonist of a story and acts as an obstacle, but that is the limit. A villain on the other hand, is a character who’s evil motivations are integral to the plot.

And yes, the definition does include the term “evil” there. A villain may have ambiguous reasons (for example, Thanos), but there is no doubt that what they are doing is wrong in some awful fashion, and their aims are more than just being an obstacle to the protagonist.

In other words, it’s like the old logic puzzle or play we all encountered in grade-school: Some antagonists are villains, and some villains are antagonists, but not all antagonists are villains, and not all villains are antagonists….

(2) OCTAVIA BUTLER AS FOLK OPERA. “’Parable of the Sower’ comes to Strathmore Music Center” and the Washington Post interviews the show’s composer on the eve of its national tour.

Singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon has had the idea of adapting Octavia Butler’s 1993 novel, “Parable of the Sower,” as a folk opera since the late 1990s. But recently, she’s felt a new sense of urgency. More and more, Reagon says, the book’s prophecy of a dystopian future seems to resemble our real-life present. That’s why the Washington-raised, Brooklyn-based artist pushed to take the show on a national tour, which stops at the Strathmore Music Center for two performances on April 28 and 29.

“When I looked at Octavia’s timeline, I realized that her story starts in 2024, when slavery is starting up again,” Reagon says in a phone interview. “The government is giving up on being a good government, and fires and droughts are ravaging the environment. That’s not so different than what’s on the news. It’s an emergency; we all have to do something in our communities to stop that from happening. I felt like we have to get this show out there before it’s too late.”

(3) FROM YOU, I GET THE STORY. “Janelle Monáe Writes For The Marginalized In New Science Fiction Collection ‘The Memory Librarian’”, an Essence interview.

“In The Memory Librarian there is a threat of censorship and I feel like that’s happening right now,” Monáe explains. “When you look at them trying to take critical race theory out of schools. Nobody wants to talk about slavery if it upsets a child, so they say. In Florida, they’re not wanting to even talk about the LGBTQIA and how these kids are identifying. That is a censorship that is happening now. It happens in The Memory Librarian, the protagonists are from marginalized communities. They do rebel. They do fight against it. It is going to be this book that predicts a potential future where the current sh-t we’re trying to ban is amplified in a way that our characters are fighting for the ability to live in our truth and to be seen in a nation’s larger story.”

(4) KAMALA KHAN’S GEAR. “Ms. Marvel’s Vibrant Poster Provides Best Look Yet at Kamala’s Costume” as CBR.com explains.

The latest poster for Ms. Marvel contains fans’ best look yet at Kamala Khan’s superhero threads.

The image, which depicts the titular hero surrounded by her friends and family, highlights Kamala’s crime-fighting threads. Fans of the character will undoubtedly recognize her iconic design, including the blue mask that covers her face and the long red scarf which dangles around her shoulders. While it’s currently unknown how the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Ms. Marvel comes into possession of her costume, the source material sees her creating it herself by modifying a burkini. At the very center of the image, Kamala can be seen sitting on a street light, a homage to both the series’ original poster and the cover of Ms. Marvel #5 which was created by artist Adrian Alphona.

The new poster also highlights the various characters in Ms. Marvel’s life that either aid or hinder her superhero adventures. Kamala’s closest friends Bruno Carrelli and Nakia Bahadir (Matt Lintz and Yasmeen Fletcher, respectively) can be seen on the bottom left while her overprotective brother Amir, played by Saagar Shaikh, takes a prevalent spot on the right. It’s worth noting that Kamran, who acted as Kamala’s crush and love-interest with ulterior motives in the comics, is also highlighted on the poster.

(5) SEE THREE. Is there anybody who didn’t already see this announced by John Scalzi at Whatever? Maybe you’d like to watch it again? Collider sets the frame: “Love, Death + Robots Volume 3 Trailer Reveals New Stories in Eclectic Series”:

…Created by Tim Miller and David FincherLove, Death + Robots invites different teams of artists and screenwriters to produce short stories about fantastic discoveries, distant corners of the galaxy, or surreal events. Some episodes of the previous volumes were horror stories, while others were straight-out comedies. While this variation makes each volume unbalanced, with some stories stealing the spotlight, that’s also what allows fans to explore a diverse set of creative narratives….

(6) NUTS. “Marvel Launches ‘Squirrel Girl’ Scripted Podcast From Writer Ryan North” reports Yahoo!

The six-episode SiriusXM podcast series titled “Marvel’s Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show,” which stars Milana Vayntrub of AT&T-ad fame as Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl and is written by North, debuted across multiple platforms on Monday. The podcast is produced by Radio Point, the podcast arm of “I Think You Should Leave” and “Life & Beth” production company Irony Point.

Variety adds:

…Here’s the official description for the “Squirrel Girl” podcast: “Squirrel Girl has taken down Thanos and Doctor Doom — but now she faces something far more terrifying… living authentically. The new series follows Empire State University college student, Doreen Green, who has recently been outed as a super hero — The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! Hoping to unify her personas in the public eye, Squirrel Girl has created a new student radio show on ESU’s own college station…

According to Marvel’s press release:

The first episode of Marvel’s Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show! is available now on all podcast platforms. Fans can also get early access to next week’s episode starting today via the SXM App or by subscribing to Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, which also has exclusive bonus content! Future episodes will be available exclusively via the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited for one week before being available widely on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the U.S. Learn more at Marvel.com/SquirrelGirlPodcast.

(7) ASK ERICKSON ANYTHING. Severance writer Dan Erickson announced on Twitter that he will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) Thursday, April 21, 2022 at 12 PM PST to 1 PM PST.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Back in the summer of ‘20, I looked here at the first publication of Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” short story in the Bananas literary zine where J.G. Ballard, Sara Maitland and John Sladek were the other writers present. (Copies of that zine are readily available as Meredith moments at online booksellers. The story itself is in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.) The Company Of Wolves film premiered in the States thirty-seven years ago on this date.

The screenplay was written by Carter and Neil Patrick Jordan, an Irish film director, screenwriter, novelist and short-story writer who I’ll praise for his later High Spirits film he directed and wrote. Carter would also write the screenplays for The Bloody Chamber and The Magic Toyshop films which I didn’t know exist. 

Did you know there’s a film on her, Angela Carter: Of Wolves & Women? I need to see this. Really I do. 

The film was directed by Jordan was produced by Chris Brown and Stephen Woolley. The latter would be responsible for producing Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and was the producer of the aforementioned High Spirits

It had an amazing cast: Sarah Patterson was Rosaleen, Angela Lansbury was Granny,  David Warner was Father,  Tusse Silberg was Mother,  Micha Bergese was The Huntsman, Brian Glover was The Amorous Boy’s Father,  Graham Crowden was The Old Priest,  Kathryn Pogson was The Young Bride, Stephen Rea as The Young Groom and  Georgia Slowe was  Alice, The Girl Killed by Wolves. Note the only two performers have personal names, Carter is using archetypes here. 

So how was the reception for the horror film? Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times was quite impressed saying it was a  “disturbing and stylish attempt to collect some of the nightmares that lie beneath the surface of “‘Little Red Riding Hood’”. And the anonymous TV Guide reviewer riffs on the erotic nature of Angela Carter’s story: “ The most innovative, intelligent, and visually sumptuous horror film of recent years. Not a traditional werewolf movie, this film explores the psychosexual undercurrents of the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale.  Taking place almost entirely in the troubled dreams of 13-year-old Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), the film takes the viewer deep into the archetypal, erotically charged realm of fairy stories.” 

The film would win a British Science Fiction Award for Best Media. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are rather fond of giving a seventy three percent rating. 

The film is available for purchase digitally off Amazon but not ITunes. Huh.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.)  He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, not the Asimov Probe, the pilot for the sf TV series Search. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 87. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 76. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance. He’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers (1993), a most excellent genre film, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series, a most excellent affair. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 55. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine seven times. In 1995 he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He has published the fanzine, Argentus, edited several issues of the Hugo-nominated Journey Planet. His debut novel After Hastings came out in 2020.
  • Born April 19, 1978 K. Tempest Bradford, 44. She was a non-fiction and managing editor with Fantasy Magazine for several years, and has edited fiction for Fortean BureauPeridot Books and Sybil’s Garage. She’s written a lot of short fiction and her first YA novel, Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion, is coming out this autumn. She was a finalist last year for two Ignyte Awards, the Ember Award for unsung contributions to genre and the Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre. 
  • Born April 19, 1981 Hayden Christensen, 41. Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the ClonesReturn of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith. And Christensen also plays Vader in his suit in the latter. He later has a voice cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In the forthcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney +, he’s Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater shows us some rare superhero paraphernalia.
  • Existential Comics shows that having a product return policy doesn’t really cut short the arguments with customers if they are not properly grounded in philosophy.

(11) JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM. H&I says it’s true — Star Trek’s Klingons were named after this LAPD Officer seen on Dragnet.

…And that’s where the alarm bells ring in the ears of Trekkies. W.L. Clingan is mentioned in several episodes of Dragnet 1967. In this particular case, he is played by Dennis McCarthy. That’s him with the white coat and gray hair in the top picture.

It just so happens this character was based on a real Los Angeles police officer, Wilbur Lee Clingan. He worked for the LAPD and the Pasadena police department for three decades. He was also, reportedly, a consultant on Dragnet. Which would explain the little nod Jack Webb worked into his TV show.

In his LAPD days, Clingan happened to work with a young man named Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry’s pop was a cop and he had followed his dad’s footsteps in the LAPD. Roddenberry first worked in the traffic division before ending up penning speeches for the chief of police in the Public Information department…. 

(12) LATE CHECKOUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] After some bonus time on orbit due to a NASA-initiated delay, members of the first all-private trip to the International Space Station are due to head home tonight. “All-private SpaceX astronaut mission to return home from the ISS” at CNN.

The first all-private mission to the International Space Station is slated to complete the final leg of its journey this week, capping off what will be about a 12-day, multimillion-dollar journey.

The mission, called AX-1, was brokered by the Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space, which books rocket rides, provides all the necessary training, and coordinates flights to the ISS for anyone who can afford it. The mission has set off yet another round of debate about whether people who pay their way to space should be referred to as “astronauts,” though it should be noted a trip to the ISS requires a far larger investment of both time and money than taking a brief suborbital ride on a rocket built by companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic.

The four crew members — Michael Lopez-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee who is commanding the mission; Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate magnate Larry Connor — are slated to leave the space station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Tuesday around 10:00 pm ET….

(13) THIRTEEN’S COMPANY. Something to look forward to: “Doctor Who: Former companions to join Jodie Whittaker’s farewell” at BBC News.

…Tegan and Ace will join the 13th Doctor in the special episode being broadcast this autumn.

The news was revealed in a trailer that followed the show’s Easter special.

The short teaser also revealed that the episode will feature the Doctor’s arch enemy The Master (Sacha Dhawan) and two of her most famous foes, the Daleks and the Cybermen….

(14) CLUELESS ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is only very vaguely genre adjacent (it does at times get surreal) and so may
not be of that much interest to Filers unless they are into British humour such as PythonI’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue is a long-running radio show that has this weekend celebrated half a century of being on air.  It is a comedy panel show with silly games.
For example, in a game giving a dictionary definition what would be the definition of ‘cabaret’?  Answer: ‘taxi rank’.  (Cab-array’ – get it?).

If you like silliness like such word play or games such as ‘singing one song to the tune of another’ or ‘verbal charades’ (well, it is a radio show) then you can download an .mp3 from BBC Sounds and you’ll gain an insight into British culture. “50 Years Without a Clue”.

(15) FREQUENCY 13. Or you might like to listen to “Doctor Who: Redacted – 1. SOS” at BBC Sounds. It’s an Thirteenth Doctor audio drama with Jodi. And yes, you can hear in the States.

Cleo, Abby and Shawna make The Blue Box Files – a podcast about their favourite conspiracy theory: is this one random blue box actually a spaceship? This week they discuss shady pharmaceutical company Adipose Industries. But things get a bit real when they start hearing about a mysterious figure called ‘the Doctor’.

(16) WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE. MAYBE. “Europa’s similarity to Greenland hints that Jupiter moon could harbor life” at MSN.com.

The uncanny resemblance between features on Europa’s frozen surface and a landform in Greenland that sits atop a sizable pocket of water are providing intriguing new indications that this moon of Jupiter may be capable of harboring life.

A study published on Tuesday explored similarities between elongated landforms called double ridges that look like huge gashes across Europa’s surface and a smaller version in Greenland examined using ice-penetrating radar.

Double ridges are linear, with two peaks and a central trough between them.

“If you sliced through one and looked at the cross section, it would look a bit like the capital letter ‘M,'” said Stanford University geophysicist Riley Culberg, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Radar data showed that refreezing of liquid subsurface water drove the formation of Greenland’s double ridge. If Europa’s features form the same way, this could signal the presence of copious amounts of liquid water – a key ingredient for life – near the surface of this Jovian moon’s thick outer ice shell….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands,” Fandom Games says this is “a generic role-playing game that can be gently described as a parody of Dungeons and Dragons” and that Tiny Tina is “one of the most irritating characters in the history of video-game making.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Bill, Will R., Nickpheas, Ben Bird Person, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, 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 Daniel Dern.]