Pixel Scroll 7/25/22 Pixel 10-10 Whose Gracious Presence Illuminates The File Like The EdgeScroll Of A Knife

(1) BLACK MALE HEROES MIA. The Wakanda Forever trailer debuted at Comic-Con. Steven Barnes offered this reaction on Facebook.

There are three different, easily observable facts that I cross reference for my comments on WAKANDA FOREVER:

1) At this point in the MCU (movies and Disney+) they killed the only fully functional black male hero. Leaving ZIPPO. In comparison, every white hero has had relationships and sexual chemistry with a woman.

2) No dramatic network hourlong series had ever lasted more than two seasons with a black lead (name coming first in the credits) until about 2006, THE UNIT.

3) No film that earned over 100 million domestic ever had a black male star in a love scene until 2015, CREED.

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Yes, I connect these. Yes, I connect this with core human tribalism: there is nothing special, positively or negatively, about white people. But yes, they are the dominant group and therefore their money and decisions have disproportional impact.

And those white people, forced to admit I’m right about 2 or 3, tend to deny that any specific film was influenced by these factors. Unless they can, I conclude that they have a convenient blindness, and discount their opinions.

That’s it, right there. Unless one can disprove one of these three, you have nothing.

Barnes followed up with this analogy:

Imagine if Gal Gadot had died right after making WW, and they decided not to recast, and made the sequel about Steve Trevor and his male friends. Precisely how happy do you think women would be about this?

(2) CLIP JOINT. Gizmodo says this is a list of “All The Trailers Released At Comic Con 2022”. I probably don’t need to fill the Scroll with even more trailers than I already have, however, if you’re interested you can check for the ones I missed.

The 2022 San Diego Comic-Con was held in person last week for the first time since 2019, and exhibitors made up for the long time away with a huge number of new movie and TV show trailers. The big comic book movie news came when Marvel returned to Hall H and debuted trailers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and She Hulk: Attorney at Law; A Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania trailer were also shown, but only those at Hall H were able to see it. DC struck back with new trailers for Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Black Adam.

But of course, Comic Con has gotten a lot bigger than just comic books: By our current count, more than 35 trailers were released during the four day festival from studios including Universal, Paramount, Amazon, Fox and Disney….

(3) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. DreamHaven Books showed Facebook readers how much progress has been made on their new wall mural.

(4) THE VIEW FROM SPACE. In “There Is No Final Frontier” Publishers Weekly talks with William Shatner about his memoir Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder coming in October.

You write that when you went to space, “there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold… all I saw was death. I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness.” How surprised were you by that?

I was struck dumb. I was absolutely gobsmacked because I’ve been amazed by the miracles of space for a long time. And I saw none of that in that blackness. All I saw was what I described in that quote. And it came as a shock because I had just been looking at Earth as we were leaving it, and I was thinking, my God, look how beautiful it is….

(5) US IN FLUX. Last month ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched the 2022 summer season of Us in Flux, a series of short fiction and virtual events about reimagining and reorganizing communities in the face of transformative change.

Today CSI published the second story in the series: “University, Speaking,” by Phoebe Wagner, “a lyrical piece about how we might reimagine universities as radically open to their communities, better attuned to addressing local challenges.”

On Thursday, July 28, at 12:00 p.m. Pacific, they will host a virtual conversation with Phoebe and Punya Mishra, director of Arizona State University’s Learning Futures initiative, about the story and the task of redesigning educational institutions in the midst of crisis. Learn more and register here.

(6) DOES MOORCOCK NEED THE MEDAL? Christopher Neely has created a petition at Change.org calling for a “Michael Moorcock Nobel Prize IN Literature”.

There’s a kind, old English man that did everything the hard way and has given our culture iconic fiction, journalism, fantasy, and the foundation for a whole school of thought for both an entire branch of theoretical physics and one of the most successful entertainment franchises of the last two centuries.  And he’s still alive. He coined the word Multiverse almost 60 years ago. His characters are Iconic to the point that these attributes of humanity, story arc, and plot have become tropes in several genres of the literary world. He did it first, from steampunk, to his influence on cyberpunk with JerryCornelius. His alternate history writings alone are worthy of required reading for every thinking adult. He is an international treasure that transcends time and genres.  His contributions to music, art, and literature can hardly be overstated. He may very well be the most prolific original creator who’s works have ever been recorded. 

(7) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. The Ringer explains how he’s building his brand in “Jordan Peele Exists in a Space of His Own”.

…Just three movies into his directing career and a mere five years since moving from one side of the camera to the other, Peele has become the rarest of Hollywood anomalies: a filmmaker whose byline alone puts asses in seats. The Nope trailer—and in fact the entire marketing campaign for the movie, including the first poster, an intriguingly cryptic tease in its own right—is built around the assumption that audiences will not only recognize Peele’s name but be instantly enticed by it. His credit in big white letters is an invitation to step once more into the mind behind Get Out and Us—though, in a true testament to Peele’s fame, neither of those movies is even mentioned in the trailer. “From Jordan Peele” is enough.

There are plenty of directors who qualify as household names, recognizable to the average moviegoer. But in contemporary Hollywood, how many of them are treated like the actual draw of a project, more crucial to its appeal than the stars, the IP, or the premise? Even Steven Spielberg, probably the most famous filmmaker alive, isn’t assumed to be an attendance magnet….

(8) DAVID WARNER (1941-2022). Actor David Warner died July 24 at the age of 80. He performed many genre roles among his over 200 movie and TV appearances, including Time After Time, Tron, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Time Bandits, The Man With Two Brains, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Twin Peaks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Lost World, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lois & Clark, Babylon 5, Pooh’s Grand Adventure, Planet of the Apes, Doctor Who, and Mary Poppins Returns. He also was Ra’s-Al-Ghul in three series.

(9) MATT KING OBIT. Meow Wolf Co-Founder and Senior Creative Director Matt King died two weeks ago according to the Santa Fe Reporter, which did not specify the date. He was 37 years old. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. 

…King was present at the first-ever Meow Wolf planning meeting in 2008 and throughout its earliest immersive installations and dance parties that took place in the shabby old warehouse on Hopewell Street, where the company began. At one point, Kadlubek reminisces, King worked three jobs to help keep the rent paid at a time when community donations were scant.

King was also pivotal in the 2016 opening of Meow Wolf’s flagship Santa Fe location, House of Eternal Return, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada’s Omega Mart and Denver’s Convergence Station. At the latter, Kadlubek says, King’s vision led to the much-ballyhooed Cathedral room, another room-sized piece dubbed Gremlin Symphony and other projects….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] At the very first L.A. Con which was held fifty years ago at the International Hotel in Los Angeles with Charles Crayne and Bruce Pelz being Chairs, A Clockwork Orange wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. I know Mike was there. I believe it was his first Con. 

It was the overwhelming choice for that honor, garnering two hundred and eighty-five final ballots to the one hundred and forty-eight that the second-place finisher, Andromeda Strain, received.  

I recognized the entire ballot (which also included THX 1138, and I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus — serious drug vibes there, eh?) with exception of Name of the Game: Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. When I asked Mike about that one, he said, “You mean that you don’t recognize it? Yeah, it was a TV show. I watched it (and as you know, in those days if you didn’t see it when it aired, you didn’t see it!) I suppose it was only nominated because it was sf and people ran out of better ideas to put on their ballots.” 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one, and then twice more in the two-part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightenment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega Factor, A Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects have a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 25, 1921 Kevin Stoney. He appeared in three serials of the science fiction series Doctor Who over a period of ten years, playing Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Master Plan during the time of the First Doctor, Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion during the time of the Second Doctor and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen during the time of the Fourth Doctor. Other genre credits include: The Adventures of Robin HoodDanger ManThe AvengersThe PrisonerDoomwatchThe Tomorrow PeopleSpace: 1999, The New AvengersQuatermass, and Hammer House of Horror. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at the usual suspects shows two story collections but none of her novels. Interestingly, there are myriad stories by her offered up separately for sale. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1937 Todd Armstrong. He’s best known for playing Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. A film of course made excellent by special effects from Ray Harryhausen. His only other genre appearance was on The Greatest American Hero as Ted McSherry In “A Chicken in Every Plot”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 74. I am reasonably sure that I read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. His latest novel, Beyond the Mountains of Madness, just came out.
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 51. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets, a sort of game show. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 49. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, it won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Worldcon 76 (2018), having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. She has two nominations at Chicon 8, first for Best Semi Prozine as part of the Escape Pod team, second for Best Editor, Short Form with S.B. Divya. 

(12) ENJOY COMIC-CON’S SOUVENIR BOOK. Comic-Con International’s 2022 Souvenir Book is available as a free download should you be so inclined.

This year’s Souvenir Book is a downloadable pdf, filled with lots of full-color articles, including: centennial tributes to Charles Schulz, Stan Lee, Jerry Robinson, and William S. Gaines; a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man; 50th anniversary articles on Funky Winkerbean, Ghost Rider, Kamandi, Swamp Thing, and Luke Cage; and 40th anniversary pieces on The Rocketeer, Groo, and Love and Rockets. Plus: a special look back at Comic-Con’s 1970s El Cortez years!

The cover, a salute to Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer, is by Comic-Con Special Guest Bill Morrison.

(13) FLIGHT PLAN. “Vibrators, Weed, Plants: What Can You Take on a Plane?” – the New York Times checked in with TSA.

Is my Harry Potter wand OK?

…Cremated human remains get a little more complicated, while cricket bats and cutting boards are best left in checked luggage. Musical instruments like violins are allowed after they undergo a T.S.A. screening, but for brass instruments, the suggestion is to check them. And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, fear not — wands are allowed on flights.

Despite the T.S.A.’s rules, there’s one item in particular that Ms. Farbstein said she still sees confiscated far too often: knives. “We see knives every day,” she said.

As many as four tons of different kinds of knives and large tools get confiscated at Newark Liberty International Airport in an average year, according to Ms. Farbstein. The T.S.A. then sends them off in bulk to the State of Pennsylvania, she said, which sells them for profit at a surplus store in Harrisburg.

Travelers should remember that knives of all kinds are not allowed on flights, said Ms. Farbstein.

(14) THEY KNOW HOW TO TWANG THEIR MAGIC PLONKERS. CBR.com presents its list of the “10 Strongest Students At Hogwarts, Ranked”.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is one of the most acclaimed educational establishments in Harry Potter. Like Beauxbatons Academy and Durmstrang Institute, it forges young pupils into formidable witches and wizards. Hogwarts alumni include some of the greatest magic-users of the 20th century — Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, and Lord Voldemort, to name a few.

Starting at the bottom:

10. Vincent Crabbe Learns To Cast The Devastating Fiendfyre Curse

Along with Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe spends most of his time as Draco Malfoy’s boneheaded minion. He fails his Fifth Year O.W.L. exams, indicating that he’s exactly as intelligent as he sounds. Crabbe may not exhibit the stereotypical Slytherin shrewdness, but he’s certainly capable of casting the darkest magic known to Wizardkind.

He learns a variety of jinxes and hexes from Alecto and Amycus Carrow, although it’s still not clear how he knows the devastating Fiendfyre curse. The very fact that Crabbe uses Fiendfyre sets him apart from the rest of his cohort, regardless of what happens to him in the end.

(15) CANNED ENGINEER. “Google Fires Engineer Who Claims Its A.I. Is Conscious” reports the New York Times. The decision was a no-brainer.

Google fired one of its engineers, Blake Lemoine, on Friday, more than a month after he raised ethical concerns about how the company was testing an artificial intelligence chatbot that he believes has achieved consciousness.

A Google spokesman, Chris Pappas, said Mr. Lemoine, a senior software engineer in its Responsible A.I. organization, “chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to safeguard product information.”

The company, which denies that its chatbot language model is sentient, had placed Mr. Lemoine on paid leave in June. Mr. Lemoine confirmed his dismissal in a text message on Friday, and said he was meeting with lawyers to review his options. The firing was first reported by the newsletter Big Technology….

(16) A NOT ENTIRELY UNEXPECTED PARTY. [Item by Dann.] No idea about the veracity of the image but it did make me laugh. Found it on Facebook with all of the cautions that implies.  

(17) SAY THE MAGIC WORD. Shazam! Fury Of The Gods opens in theaters internationally beginning December 15 and in North America on December 21.

From New Line Cinema comes “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which continues the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word “SHAZAM!,” is transformed into his adult Super Hero alter ego, Shazam.

(18) FLAME ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott goes to a 400-year-old dragon-slaying festival in a small German village where the dragon is the world’s largest walking robot, built for 2.3 million euros. “A 400-year-old festival has the world’s largest walking robot”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, Dann, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/14/22 You’ve Got To — Accentuate The Positronic

(1) SMACK IN THE MIDDLE (EARTH) WITH YOU. Amazon Prime put out “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” main teaser today.

Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(2) WESTERCON COVID TALLY. Westercon 74, held in Tonopah, asked that any person who contracted COVID-19 during the con or for one week following send them an email so they could track any outbreak.  Kevin Standlee reports that at the end of the week 11 members reported positive COVID-19 tests. That represents 7% of the members who picked up their badges and attended the convention. The contact reports by those who gave permission to have their information published are at http://westercon74.org/covid/.

(3) STOKING THE FLAMES. LitReactor interviewed Bram Stoker Awards administrator James Chambers to find out “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Bram Stoker Awards® | LitReactor

Each year there’s an official Stoker reading list. I have used this list a lot both to make recommendations and to read recommended works. A few questions about the list: Is it open for public viewing?

Yes, a public version of the list for works published in 2022 is available here. Members recommend works they think merit consideration for a Bram Stoker Award, and we share their selections with the public. It’s a great resource for anyone looking for reading suggestions or wondering what’s new that year. Libraries sometimes refer to this list to make book selections for their patrons. Anyone, HWA member or not, can view this record of horror publishing from year to year. Last year’s list is available here.

Who is allowed to recommend books to the list?

Any member of the HWA in good standing may recommend books….

(4) GETTING TO KNOW YOU. Kelley Armstrong discusses the historical research she did for her time travel mystery A Rip Through Time in “Adventures in Writing Time Travel” at CrimeReads.

…I decided to try a time-travel mystery… with a modern detective, transported into the body of a housemaid working for an undertaker-turned-early-forensic-scientist in 1869 Edinburgh. That meant researching domestic service, undertaking, law enforcement, medicine, forensics and so much more, all of it in Scotland while most of the resources are English.

I quickly learned that secondary resources aren’t necessarily reliable. I spent the first quarter of the book referring to my local police detective as Inspector McCreadie, based on secondary sources that insisted that was the proper title in both England and Scotland. Then I started poring over firsthand police accounts and contemporary newspapers, only to discover the correct title was Detective….

(5) PUPPY PUPPETRY [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming discusses a new musical version of 101 Dalmatians, which is playing at the Open Air Theatre (openairtheatre.com) in Regent’s Park through August 28.  She interviews the theatre’s artistic director, Timothy Sheader.

“There is the matter of 101 spotty dogs. And that’s before you get to the canine alliance that springs into action to rescue the stolen pups.  A pack of hounds on stage, park or no park, seems inadvisable, so while there might be a fleeting glimpse of a real puppy–‘things may get changed in previews,’ says Sheader — the vast majority of dog action will be down to puppets and children — ‘We have 96 puppets, four children, and a dog.’

For Sheader, puppets are not just a practical solution:  they also invite you to identify with the dogs.  ‘What the cartoon does brilliantly is what the novel does:  it manages to be from the perspective of the dogs,’ he says. ‘And when you go to (actual) dogs that can’t talk, they get sidelined.  We have managed to control the dogs like the cartoon. What I like about puppetry is the invitation to an audience to use their imaginations.'”

(6) A FAMILY TRADITION. “Long before Frank Oz brought many Muppets to life, his father, an amateur Dutch puppeteer, made a Hitler marionette as an act of defiance. He buried it during the war.” “The Saga of a World War II Ancestor of Miss Piggy, Bert and Yoda” in the New York Times.

A marionette of Hitler that was created in the 1930s as an instrument of parody by Frank Oz’s father, Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz, will be displayed at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.via Frank Oznowicz, Jenny Oznowicz and Ronald Oznowicz; Jason Madella

The puppet stands 20 inches tall, hand-painted and carved out of wood, its uniform tattered and torn. But for all it has endured over more than 80 years — buried in a backyard in Belgium at the outset of World War II, dug up after the war and taken on a nine-day cross-Atlantic journey, stored and almost forgotten in an attic in Oakland, Calif. — it remains, with its black toothbrush mustache and right arm raised in a Nazi salute, immediately and chillingly recognizable.

It is a depiction of Hitler, hand-carved and painted in the late 1930s by an amateur Dutch puppeteer, Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz, and clothed by his Flemish wife, Frances, as they lived in prewar Belgium.

The Hitler marionette, an instrument of parody and defiance, offers an intriguing glimpse into the strong puppetry tradition in the family of the man who retrieved it from that attic: Frank Oz, one of its creators’ sons, who went on to become one of the 20th century’s best-known puppeteers, bringing Cookie Monster, Bert, Miss Piggy and others to life through his collaborations with Jim Henson, and later becoming a force in the Star Wars movies, giving voice to Yoda. The marionette will be shown publicly for the first time later this month at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco….

(7) CHECKED OUT FOR GOOD. A local library is a casualty of the culture wars. “What’s Happening With The Vinton Public Library” asks the Iowa Starting Line.

Residents of a small Iowa town criticized their library’s LGBTQ staff and their displaying of LGBTQ-related books until most of the staff quit. Now, the town’s library is closed for the foreseeable future.

After having the same library director for 32 years, the Vinton Public Library can’t seem to keep the position filled anymore. Since summer 2021, the Vinton Public Library has gone through two permanent directors and an interim director who has served in that role twice. 

Located about 40 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, the doors of the Vinton Public Library—housed in a brick and stone Carnegie—have been open to the public since 1904, but were shuttered on Friday, July 8, while the Vinton Library Board tries to sort out staffing issues seemingly brought on by local dalliances with the national culture wars….  

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Muppets in Space which premiered on this day was the first film released after the death of Jim Henson. As such, it came with great hope and quite a few individuals expected it to, well, fail as it didn’t have the magic of Jim Henson in it. 

It was written by written by Jerry Juhl, Joseph Mazzarino, and Ken Kaufman. Juhl wrote every Muppets films that had been done as well as the chief writer on The Muppets, Mazzarino was the chief writer on Head Writer and Director on Sesame Street.  So serious writing creds here. Well excepting Kaufman who had none.

SPOILERS HERE! 

The plot is an SF one with Gonzo being told by a pair of cosmic knowledge fish, that he is an alien from outer space. Yes, I’m serious as he really as we will see an entire ship full of gonzo beings. Now having said that very weird tidbit, I’m not going to say another word about the story.

SPOILERS END!

One of the co-writers, Mazzarino. has repeatedly said that he left the film before shooting started, due to changes made to his draft of the screenplay. He said that his draft included parodies of AlienContact and  Men in Black but most of that got removed on the request of the studio. 

Reception was decidedly mixed. Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune said, “Muppets from Space is just not very good.” However, Robin Rauzi of the Los Angeles Times exclaimed “The magic is back.” Frank Oz, who was not there for the filming, kvetched that it was “not the movie that we wanted it to be.”   

Indeed, it lost money, not much, as it made just about two million less than the twenty-four that it cost to make.   

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent sixty-three percent rating.   

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 14, 1906 Abner J. Gelula. One of the many authors* of Cosmos, a serialized novel that appeared first in Science Fiction Digest in July 1933 and then has a really complicated publication that I won’t detail here. It was critiqued as “the world’s most fabulous serial,” “one of the unique stunts of early science fiction,” and conversely “a failure, miserable and near-complete.” The entire text, chapter by chapter, can be read here. [*To be precise, Earl Binder, Otto Binder. Arthur J. Burks, John W. Campbell, Jr., Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Ralph Milne Farley, Francis Flagg, J. Harvey Haggard, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller, M.D., Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, P. Schuyler Miller, Bob Olsen, Raymond A. Palmer, E. Hoffmann Price and Edward E. Smith. Gulp!] (Died 1985) 
  • Born July 14, 1910 William Hanna. American animator, voice actor, cartoonist, and who was the co-creator with Joseph Barbera of Tom and Jerry as well as the creator of the animation studio and production company Hanna-Barbera. He’s also responsible for The Flintstones and Jetsons. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 14, 1926 Harry Dean Stanton. My favorite genre role for him? The tarot card player in them video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding.  He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 14, 1943 Christopher Priest, 79. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders (both of which won BSFAs) and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound?  What would you add in? 
  • Born July 14, 1964 Jane Espenson, 58. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 (2003) for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 (2012) for Game of Thrones, season one. She was on the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica.
  • Born July 14, 1966 Brian Selznick, 56. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a traveling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre. His next work, Kaleidoscopic, due out this autumn looks to just as fantastic. 
  • Born July 14, 1987 Sara Canning, 35. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events, Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, she also appeared in Once Upon a TimeWar for the Planet Of The ApesAndroid EmployedSupernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Some JWST humor from Shane Bevin.

(11) NARRATIVE HOOK. Molly Odintz interviews Liz Michalski “Liz Michalski On Peter Pan, Motherhood, and the Meaning of Perpetual Youth” at CrimeReads.

In Darling Girl, Wendy Darling was merely the first of many generations of women to be visited by the perpetually youthful Pan. Is this a stand-in for generational trauma?

I was thinking more along the lines of the Me Too movement and what a struggle it has been for women to be heard. Peter Pan’s story has been told for years — now it’s the turn of the Darling women.

(12) USUAL THINGS. Once again – don’t let people work con security who want to work con security: “’Stranger Things’ Fans Brought Joseph Quinn to Tears After Security Yelled at Him for Speaking to Them”Yahoo! relays the latest example why.

Stranger Things” breakout Joseph Quinn broke down in tears during a recent appearance at London Film and Comic Con. The actor, who became an instant fan favorite thanks to his performance as Hellfire Club leader Eddie on the fourth season of the Netflix series, couldn’t hold tears back after a fan stood up to thank him for sharing his time with fans.

Reports surfaced on social media during London Film and Comic Con that security hounded Quinn for interacting with fans for too long while signing memorabilia (via BuzzFeed). The event reportedly oversold tickets to Quinn’s meet-and-greet, and thus wanted to filter guests in and out quickly. Quinn apparently was chatting with his fans for longer than security would have liked.

“The way Joseph Quinn was treated at LFCC is fucking disgusting,” one attendee wrote on social media “Staff fully yelled at him to shut the fuck up and to just sign and not to interact with fans [because] they over sold and couldn’t get all people seen.”

During a larger Q&A session with Quinn, one fan stood up and said, “Mine’s not really a question, it’s just more an extension of gratitude. A lot of us have heard of what happened yesterday, whether it’s true or not, about how you were treated. I really want to say, we’re really grateful that you’re sharing your time. Thank you for signing our things, for spending time with us and making our summer.”

(13) OVERDRAWN AT THE BLADE BANK. “House of the Dragon Iron Throne prop had to borrow swords” says SYFY Wire.

We regret to inform you that the supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 health crisis have finally reached Westeros. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly for a lengthy feature about the upcoming House of the Dragon (premiering on HBO and HBO Max late next month), co-showrunner, executive producer, and series director Miguel Sapochnik estimated that around 2,500 swords were used to build the show’s interpretation of the coveted Iron Throne.

Construction on this prop required so many blades, in fact, that the Game of Thrones prequel was forced to borrow a few sabres from other fantasy projects like Netflix’s The Witcher and Duncan Jones’ Warcraft movie.

The resultant amalgamation of steel representing the epicenter of Targaryen power isn’t just a harmless bit of set dressing — it could actually take an eye out. “Literally we had to put [up] fences when we first built it,” Sapochnik revealed. “Some of them are real swords. It is as dangerous as it is [described] in the books.” While the crew could have gotten away with recycling the Iron Throne created for GoT, they decided to build something that felt more accurate to the one described in the books penned by George R.R. Martin.

(14) ALTERNATIVE TO RUSSIAN LAUNCHER. “Successful debut flight for Europe’s Vega-C rocket” reports BBC News.

The medium-lift vehicle was sent up from French Guiana to deliver seven satellites to orbit, the largest of which will test Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Vega-C has enormous importance for Europe’s continued access to space.

It’s needed to fill a big gap in capability now that Russian rockets are no longer available because of the war in Ukraine.

The withdrawal from the market of Moscow’s Soyuz launchers earlier this year left European institutional and commercial satellites scrambling for alternative rides.

Vega-C will be the obvious option for many, although even before Wednesday’s successful maiden flight, the new Italian-led rocket system was fully booked through 2023, 2024 and 2025.

And there’s a further reason why Vega-C’s entry into the launcher business is critical. Its first stage, the segment of the vehicle that gets it up off the ground, is also going to be used on Europe’s forthcoming heavy-lift rocket, the Ariane-6.

Sharing the stage technology across both launcher systems is expected to lead to significant cost savings…

(15) THIRD FIFTH. The Season 5 teaser for The Handmaid’s Tale dropped today.

In Season 5, June faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford while struggling to redefine her identity and purpose. The widowed Serena attempts to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada. Commander Lawrence works with Aunt Lydia as he tries to reform Gilead and rise in power. June, Luke, and Moira fight Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah.

(16) SPLISH SPLASH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It could be Waterworld Part II  if Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, et al. were anime characters. (Well, I hope I’m mistaken.): “Netflix’s ‘Drifting Home’ trailer introduces a mysterious, water-filled anime world”. Available to stream on September 16.

…The film follows two childhood friends who go to play in the now-abandoned apartment building where they grew up, only to suddenly find themselves floating through a watery world with their old neighbourhood no longer in sight.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Stranger Things (Season 4),” the Screen Junkies say that Stranger Things has run out of Stephen King material to copy, so they’re riffing off of heavy metal album covers and ’90s movies.  The character David Harbour plays “should be dead.  But someone wanted David Harbour tortured–a lot.”  And what rocker in the ’80s preferred Kate Bush to Lynyrd Skynyrd?

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Joey Eschrich, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, 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.]

Pixel Scroll 6/17/22 Three Scrolls And Three Pixels

(1) MAKING THE COPYRIGHT CLAIMS BOARD WORK FOR YOU. Victoria Strauss instructs authors how to access “The Copyright Claims Board: A New Option For Copyright Disputes” at Writer Beware.

Taking legal action if your copyright is infringed can be complicated and confusing–not to mention expensive. Suing an infringing party, which must be done in federal court, can rack up enormous legal fees, and take years to resolve. (For instance, the Authors Guild estimates that the average cost of a copyright suit is $400,000–often more than the value of the claim itself.) And there’s no guarantee of success. It’s a situation that, for many creators, renders their rights under copyright essentially unenforceable.

Traditionally in the USA, such suits have been creatives’ only avenue of redress. Now, though, there’s an alternative: the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), which opened for business yesterday.

Established by Congress in 2020 via the CASE Act, the CCB is a small claims court for copyright disputes, where creators can bring lower-dollar infringement claims (monetary damages are capped at $30,000) without having to hire an attorney or make a court appearance (proceedings are conducted entirely online). The CCB is housed within the US Copyright Office, and staffed by a three-person tribunal that oversees proceedings and is the final decision-maker on claims….

(2) ANALOG AWARD DEADLINE EXTENDED. The submission deadline for The Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices has been extended to June 30. Eligible to enter are “Any writer over 18 years of age who customarily identifies as Black, has not published nor is under contract for a book, and has three or less paid fiction publications is eligible.”

Here is what the award winner receives:

With editorial guidance, Analog editors commit to purchasing and publishing the winning story in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, with the intent of creating a lasting relationship, including one year of monthly mentorship sessions. These sessions will be opportunities to discuss new writing, story ideas, the industry, and to receive general support from the Analog editors and award judges.

(3) STAY FROSTY. The Game of Thrones spinoffs continue to multiply. The Hollywood Reporter brings news of another: “‘Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow Sequel Series in Development at HBO”.

The network has entered into early development on its first sequel to its blockbuster fantasy drama: A live-action spinoff series centered on the fan-favorite character Jon Snow, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Kit Harington is attached to reprise the role should a series move forward. The actor was twice nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of an action hero who struggles to uphold his family’s noble values in a brutal world.

In Thrones’ eighth-and-final season, Jon Snow discovered his true name was Aegon Targaryen, a potential heir to the Iron Throne. In the series finale, he was exiled from Westeros and journeyed North of the Wall with the Wildlings to leave his old life behind. 

… The development signals an intriguing new direction in HBO’s handling of author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy universe, a move not unlike Disney+’s management of its Star Wars and Marvel brands where the streamer has found success launching character-focused sequel series such as WandaVision (starring Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (with Ewan McGregor reprising his iconic role).

Perhaps most boldly from a creative standpoint, the project would upend Thrones’ final season as the last word on the fates of the surviving characters in HBO’s most popular and Emmy-winning series of all time. In theory, the project could open the door for other surviving characters from the Thrones universe to reappear – such as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).

This development news means there are now seven Thrones projects in the works in addition to the upcoming House of the Dragon prequel series, which debuts Aug. 21. 

(4) NEWS TO HER. “’Game Of Thrones’ Star Maisie Williams Thought Arya Stark ‘Was Queer’” reports Deadline.

One of the most memorable Game of Thrones scenes in a final season full of memorable scenes was Arya Stark getting it on with Gendry.

Many were surprised that the hookup took place. Not the least of them was Maisie Williams, who played Arya.

Williams told Teen Vogue she was “surprised” by her character’s choice on the eve of major battle.

“The first time that I was surprised by Arya, I guess, was probably in the final [season] where she whips off her clothes and sleeps with Gendry,” Williams says. “I thought that Arya was queer, you know? So… yeah. That was a surprise.”

(5) PLATONIC IDEAS. Camestros Felapton returns to an intriguing question having done more research: “Does Gandalf Know About Atoms? Part 2 Corpuscular Wizards”.

So my previous post on this topic spun out some theories based on very little at all. I didn’t actually believe that Tolkien himself had any views on the issue. It was only afterwards, and with the addition of more coffee, that I realised the issue is right there in the text of The Fellowship of the Ring

(6) LIBRARY CENSORSHIP ISSUES. Organizations continue to target certain graphic novels for removal from school libraries. Publishers Weekly says “Comics Librarians Are Up for the Fight”.

…Organizations such as Moms for Liberty claim that award-winning books often push racial agendas or are obscene and demand their removal from shelves and reading lists. Many librarians counter that these concerns arise from the fact the books’ creators are Black or identify as LGBTQ, or that the titles touch on queer themes. Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, a memoir about growing up nonbinary, was the most banned book of 2021 and continues to be a flashpoint for controversy. Even acclaimed graphic novels like Art Spiegelman’s Maus (which won a Pulitzer Prize) and Jerry Craft’s New Kid (which won the Newbery) have become targets for removal.

The challenges have left librarians anxious and intimidated. In Texas and Florida, widespread library challenges have become highly politicized, with librarians in one Texas district being harassed and called groomers, heretics, and child pornographers on social media.

The movement to remove books from libraries and schools has affected school board elections, and laws are being passed to change library reporting structures, resulting in highly confrontational board meetings.

“It’s just demoralizing,” says Tina Coleman, membership specialist for the ALA and liaison for ALA’s Graphic Novel and Comics Round Table (GNCRT). “I’ve talked to librarians who have had to deal with the challenges, and even if it’s a relatively straightforward, easy challenge, librarians are getting all of this vitriol and being harassed. And we have to work under the assumption that this is going to be going on for an extended period of time.”

Indeed, the challenges show no signs of letting up—Moms for Liberty just released a fourth list of books it wants removed from libraries, including classics like The Kite RunnerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Slaughterhouse-Five (coincidentally adapted into a graphic novel in 2020).

It’s a frightening and exhausting atmosphere for librarians across the country, says Matthew Noe, lead collection and knowledge management librarian of Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, who is wrapping up his second term as president of the GNCRT. “A lot of this stuff is sheer intimidation, and it’s mind boggling,” he adds. Noe feels that while the challenges were mounting all through last year, the phenomenon didn’t strike a chord in the mainstream news until Maus was removed from a school curriculum in Tennessee. “That seemed to be a wake-up call for a lot of people.”…

(7) WRITING ABOUT DISABILITY. Nathanial White draws from deep experience in this post for Tor.com: “Disturbing the Comfortable: On Writing Disability in Science Fiction”.

Six years ago I shattered my spine in a whitewater kayaking accident. The bone shards of my second lumbar vertebra sliced into my spinal cord, severing communication with the lower half of my body. Surgeons rebuilt my vertebra and scaffolded my spine with four titanium rods. I spent a year in a wheelchair. After hundreds of hours of therapy, my body established new neural connections. I learned to walk again. I’m tremendously grateful, and I know it’s an inspiring story. It’s the story that many want to hear. But it’s not the story I want to tell in my writing.

… I decide I need a more encompassing narrative, one that considers exasperation as well as progress, suffering as well as triumph. One that makes meaning not just from overcoming, but from the ongoing lived experience of pain. Maybe I can even exorcize pain through writing, transmute it into narrative. So I invent Eugene, the protagonist of my novella Conscious Designs. I give him a spinal cord injury. Maybe together we can find some sense in our suffering.

The more I get to know Eugene, the more compassion I feel for him. I consider giving him a shot at escaping his pain, so I send him into a near future where technology might be his savior.

Because I want to take away the visual signifier of his disability, his mobility impairment, I gift him a much more advanced robotic exoskeleton than the one that retrained my nerves. Eugene’s device is so svelte, it can hide under his clothes. He doesn’t even limp like I do, except when the machine fails.

But making Eugene mobile doesn’t make his disability go away. …

(8) MIDDLE-EARTH FASHIONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Costume designer Ngila Dickson discusses the 19,000 costumes she made for The Lord Of The Rings in this 2003 clip Warner Bros. released two weeks ago.

(9) YOU’RE INVITED. “NASA Invites Media, Public to View Webb Telescope’s First Images” on July 12.

NASA, in partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), will release the James Webb Space Telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data during a televised broadcast beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 12, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Released one by one, these first images from the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope will demonstrate Webb at its full power, ready to begin its mission to unfold the infrared universe.

Each image will simultaneously be made available on social media as well as on the agency’s website at: nasa.gov/webbfirstimages

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1960 [By Cat Eldridge.] Anniversary: Twilight Zone’s “The Mighty Casey”

What you’re looking at is a ghost, once alive but now deceased. Once upon a time, it was a baseball stadium that housed a major league ball club known as the Hoboken Zephyrs. Now it houses nothing but memories and a wind that stirs in the high grass of what was once an outfield, a wind that sometimes bears a faint, ghostly resemblance to the roar of a crowd that once sat here. We’re back in time now, when the Hoboken Zephyrs were still a part of the National League, and this mausoleum of memories was an honest-to-Pete stadium. But since this is strictly a story of make believe, it has to start this way: once upon a time, in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was tryout day. And though he’s not yet on the field, you’re about to meet a most unusual fella, a left-handed pitcher named Casey — opening narration of “The Mighty Casey”

Before you ask, yes, I really do like this series. I think it’s the best fantasy genre series ever done bar none. And when a episode is stellar, it is among the best genre fiction done, period. So it is with “The Mighty Casey” which first aired on CBS sixty-two years ago this evening. 

Obviously the episode title is in homage to the “Casey at the Bat” baseball poem. Now go away if you’ve not seen this episode, go away as SPOILER ALERT I’m going to discuss it now. A really bad baseball team somehow acquires a robotic pitcher (really don’t ask as it makes no sense) but the League says Casey is not human and cannot play. So Casey is, sort of Wizard of Oz-ish given a human heart, which makes eligible Casey to play.  Unfortunately the human heart makes him realise that he shouldn’t be throwing those really fast balls. Oh well.

With the team sure to fold soon without its star robotic pitcher, the creator of that robot gives the manager Casey’s blueprints as a souvenir. Looking at them, McGarry suddenly has a brilliant idea, as he runs off after Dr. Stillman to tell him his idea. Rumors later surface suggesting rather strongly that the manager has used the blueprints to build a world-champion team of Casey robots. END SPOILER ALERT.

The entire production was originally filmed with Paul Douglas in the manager role. (Douglas previously played a baseball team manager in the Fifties film Angels in the Outfield. He died right after it was filmed and Serling decided that it needed to be done again with a new actor. CBS being cheap wouldn’t pay for it, so Serling paid for the entire shoot. 

It was filmed at Wrigley Field, a ballpark in Los Angeles, California that hosted minor league baseball teams for more than thirty years. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 17, 1898 — M. C. Escher. Dutch artist whose work was widely used to illustrate genre works such as the 1976 Harper & Row hardcover of Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, or Berkley Books 1996 cover of Clive Barker’s Damnation Game(Died 1972.)
  • Born June 17, 1903 — William Bogart. Pulp fiction writer. He is best remembered for writing several Doc Savage novels using the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. Actually he’s responsible for thirteen of the novels, a goodly share of the number done. It’s suggested that most of his short stories were Doc Savage pastiches. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 17, 1927 — Wally Wood. Comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics’s Mad magazine, Marvel’s Daredevil, and Topps’s landmark and stellar Mars Attacks set. He was the inaugural inductee into the comic book industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 17, 1931 — Dean Ing. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. His “Devil You Don’t Know” novelette was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon ‘79. I also liked  his L-5 Community series. (Died 2020.)
  • Born June 17, 1941 — William Lucking. Here because he played Renny in Doc Savage: Man of Bronze. (I know I’ve seen it, but I’ll be damn if I remember much about it other than I like Doc Savage.)  He also had one-offs in Mission: ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkThe American HeroThe QuestVoyagersX-FilesThe Lazarus ManMillenniumDeep Space Nine and Night Stalker. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 17, 1953 — Phyllis Weinberg, 69. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan the late Robert E. Weinberg. She co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector. She co-chaired World Fantasy Convention 1996. 
  • Born June 17, 1982 — Jodie Whittaker, 40. The Thirteenth Doctor who did three series plus several upcoming specials. She played Ffion Foxwell in the Black Mirror‘s “The Entire History of You”, and was Samantha Adams in Attack the Block, a horror SF film. I like her version of The Doctor a lot with David Tennant being my other favorite modern Doctor. 
  • Born June 17, 1982 — Arthur Darvill, 40. Actor who’s has in my opinion had two great roles. The first was playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. The second, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, was playing the time-traveller Rip Hunter in the Legends of Tomorrow, a Time Lord of sorts. (And yes, I know where the name came from.) He also played Seymour Krelborn in The Little Shop of Horrors at the Midlands Arts Centre, and Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe.  

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) PLANET OF THE APES COMICS RETURNING. Marvel Entertainment has announced the Planet of the Apes franchise is coming back to Marvel Comics with all-new stories starting in early 2023. The legendary science fiction franchise has spanned over five decades with media including comics, books, films, television series, video games, and toys. 

Marvel Comics and Planet of the Apes have a history that goes back over 40 years. Marvel first published Planet of the Apes stories in 1974, and in 1975, Marvel published Adventures on the Planet of the Apes, full-color adaptations of the iconic Planet of the Apes films. 

(14) A MEREDITH MOMENT. Peter Roberts once edited a fan newzine (Checkpoint) but he got better. For a few hours more the Kindle edition of his 2014 book The Book of Fungi: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World co-authored with Shelley Evans is available for $2.99.

The blurb from Popular Science promises, “The lurid photographs and enticing, offhandedly witty descriptions make the reader want to go out collecting specimens right away.”

(15) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter did not touch that dial and was rewarded with a “double-stumper” while watching tonight’s Jeopardy! episode.

Category: Sci-Fi Characters

Answer: In an H.G. Wells tale, Griffin, whose face is wrapped in rags, turns out to be this title guy.

Wrong question: Who is the guy in the time machine?

Right question: Who is The Invisible Man?

Answer: Walter M. Miller Jr. won a Hugo Award for penning “A Canticle for” this saint.

No one could ask, “Who is Saint Isaac Leibowitz?”

(16) BUSINESS PLANS TO MAKE A LOT OF DOUGH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s not so much a pizza-making robot as a pizza-making factory full of several robots & all fitting in a 16-foot box truck.

A start up headed by an ex-SpaceX employee has demonstrated an automated pizza-making machine designed to crank out one 12-inch pie every 90 seconds and to fit in a food truck. The only human would drive the truck, fold boxes, and hand over the goods. Ordering would be via an app. 

The pizzas are estimated to retail from $7-$10 depending on toppings… But first there’s a little matter of convincing the health authorities. CEO Benson Tsai wants to put his first trucks on the road in his home LA market this summer. “SpaceX rocket scientists built a robot that makes $8 pizzas” – the Los Angeles Times has the story.

… “Our vehicle build cost is on the same order of magnitude as building out a Domino’s store,” Tsai said. He declined to give specifics but said that the cost was in the low six figures. Domino’s franchise agreement estimates that, minus franchise fees, insurance, supplies and rent, opening a new location costs between $115,000 and $480,000 to build out.

With lower overhead compared with a store staffed by humans, Tsai says Stellar can drop prices but still maintain the fat profit margins enjoyed by pizza chains. Company-owned Domino’s locations had profit margins of 21% in 2021, according to the company’s annual report, even after 30% of revenue was eaten up by labor costs….

(17) SPEAKING OF LIGHTYEAR. Chris Evans and Taika Waititi chat with BBC One about Lightyear and the problems of doing voice work in this video, which dropped today. “’I have to get off this planet!’ Chris Evans, Taika Waititi on Lightyear and ‘quoting’ Thor Ragnarok”.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Interstellar Probes over at Isaac Arthur’s Science & Futurism channel.

We continue our discussion of surveying for habitable exoplanets by touring our possible option for interstellar probes, dumb and smart, flyby and protracted orbital.

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

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 6/15/22 No! It Was Professor Scroll, In The Fifthorium, With An Appertained Beverage

(1) SOME LIKE IT HOT. Gwenda Bond, to promote her novel The Date from Hell, got herself appointed the Mayor of Hell for one day. As Bond told told Facebook readers:

When I found out you can be Mayor of Hell, Michigan, for the day, my reaction was obviously: Hell yes. So consider this a celebration of the Match Made in Hell books being out in the world — with the @lexwritersroom fire happening the week before The Date from Hell released, I feel like I didn’t do enough to get the word out about it. So consider this ridiculous fun your excuse to go buy either or both the books and/or leave reviews somewhere if you enjoy them. Meanwhile, the Mayor must do some writing!

Coincidentally, today the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader also published its interview with Bond about the tie-in novel she wrote about a popular TV series: “Love ‘Stranger Things’? Try out the series’ first official novel, written by Lexington author”.

…Her novel, Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds, evolved to tell the story of Terry Ives, the mother of Eleven, a protagonist in the Netflix series. Suspicious Minds focuses on the backstory behind why Terry became involved in the experiment with Dr. Brenner, the show’s main antagonist….

Returning to Hell, Michigan for a moment – the questionnaire on their reservation page shows how open-minded those folks truly are. They ask —

Is our upcoming Mayor: 

A Human

An Animal (dog, cat, lizard, etc.)

A Nonhuman (sock, stuffie, door knob, etc.)

(2) FACE-TO-FACE AT LAST. Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams’ editorial in the current Issue provides much more detail – and photos – about the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Dell Magazines Award winners. (See File 770’s report of the 2022 winner here.)

…After two years of Zoom ceremonies, It was a delight and a relief that the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing could once again be presented in sunny Orlando, Florida, at the annual International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA). The award, which is co-sponsored by Dell Magazines and the International Association for Fantastic in the Arts, and supported by Western Colorado University’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing… 

The finalists [who were able to attend IAFA] dined with returning Dell Award finalists Rich Larson, Kay Chronister, and Eleanor Griggs, as well as Joe and Gay Haldeman, Nick Wolven, Alan and Karen Smale, Gregory Norman Bossert, Stephen R. Donaldson, James Patrick Kelly, Suzanne Palmer, Walter Jon Williams, and editor/publisher Jacob Weisman.

(3) TOLKIEN’S ORIGIN STORY. John Garth told Facebook readers he’d received his contributor copy of The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien, edited by Richard Ovenden and Catherine McIlwaine for Bodleian Publishing. To be released June 24, the book’s other contributors include the late Priscilla Tolkien, Vincent Ferré, Verlyn Flieger, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, Carl F. Hostetter, Stuart Lee, Tom Shippey and Brian Sibley.

Garth also shared a page from his own contribution, “The Chronology of Creation: How J.R.R. Tolkien misremembered the beginnings of his mythology”, which “establishes that he wrote his creation myth, The Music of the Ainur, in 1917 during recovery from the Battle of the Somme – two years before we thought.”

(4) PEEVED. Amanda S. Green tells Mad Genius Club readers “Rules are made to be broken” – or at least, not all advice about how to “win” at NaNoWriMo deserves to be followed.

… So, what had me reacting so strongly? It was one of those articles where “real writers” are asked for advice for those of us who struggle to finish writing projects. At least that’s the way the promo for the article is framed. But it really comes down to asking why less than 17% of writers who sign up for NaNoWriMo actually finish the challenge and what those 83% who fail to finish should do.

The first piece of “advice” give is to create “a comprehensive outline before you start writing.” 

Look at that again. Not only are you supposed to outline your book but you are supposed to write a “comprehensive outline”. Forget the fact you might be a pantser. Forget the fact that you might do a one-five chapter general outline, staying ahead of where you currently are on the project. Oh no, you MUST write a comprehensive outline before you even start writing the book….

(5) TO INFINITY. Chris Evans, who voices the lead role in Lightyear, an animated Pixar movie that features a female space ranger who marries another woman, does his best to tell homophobic critics of the movie to kiss off in this Reuters interview.

“The real truth is those people are idiots,” Evans said in an interview with Reuters Television ahead of the debut of “Lightyear”…

“Every time there’s been social advancement as we wake up, the American story, the human story is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good,” he added.

…”There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before. But those people die off like dinosaurs,” Evans said. “I think the goal is to pay them no mind, march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.”

…”Lightyear” was banned in the United Arab Emirates because it depicts homosexuality, and Disney has been unable to secure permission to show the movie in 13 other Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

(6) NO BONES ABOUT IT. Vanity Fair had a paleontologist review a bunch of famous dinosaur movie scenes. He said every one of them is 100% scientifically accurate. Okay, you got me, I lied.

How accurate is Hollywood when it comes to depicting dinosaurs on the big screen? Paleontologist Mark Loewen reviews dinosaur scenes from films including Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Land Of The Lost, King Kong, Night at the Museum, and more.

(7) SASA NEUMAN (1952-2022). LASFS member Sasa Neuman died Monday, June 13 of a heart attack. Craig Miller who knew him since high school, wrote a tribute on Facebook.

Neuman joined LASFS in 1982 but I know he was networked with fans earlier than that because the 30 gallons of ice cream we served at the 1978 Westercone Ice Cream Social came from his Baskin Robbins franchise.  

Many more tributes are pouring in at Neuman’s own Facebook page.

(8) SHAMUS YOUNG (1971-2022). Shamus Young, who has written the Twenty Sided gaming blog since 2005, died June 15 of cardiac arrest at the age of 50. Young was a 2016 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, and was on the Rabid Puppies slate. He wrote a long post about his health challenges last year on his fiftieth birthday.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1955 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-seven years ago this day, This Island Earth went into general circulation in the United States, five days after it premiered in New York. 

It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. It was written by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan as based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones, first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories as three separate novelettes, “The Alien Machine” in the June 1949 issue, “The Shroud of Secrecy” in the December 1949 issue, and “The Greater Conflict” in the February 1950 issue.  

The primary cast was Jeff Morrow as Exeter Faith,  Domergue as Ruth Adams,  Rex Reason as Cal Meacham, Lance Fuller as Brack and Russell Johnson as Steve Carlson. The last of course will be will known later as the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. 

It was made at a cost of around eight hundred thousand and made at least one point eight million in its first run. 

Critics in general loved it, it did very well at the box office but currently the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not so great forty-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 15, 1910 — Harold Lawlor. April 1942 saw “The Eternal Priestess” published in Fantastic Adventures, his first sale. His first story for Weird Tales was “Specter in the Steel”,  May 1943. Over the next decade, twenty-nine stories by him would appear in Weird Tales. Alas I don’t believe his stories were ever collected and published. If I’m wrong, please do tell me. (Died 1992.)
  • Born June 15, 1939 — Brian Jacques. British author who surprisingly is not on the ISFDB list today. Writer of the exceedingly popular Redwall series of novels (I read a few of them, they’re excellent) and also of the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman series. He also wrote two collections of Alan Garner style fiction, Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales and The Ribbajack & Other Curious Yarns. (Died 2011.)
  • Born June 15, 1941 — Neal Adams. Comic book artist who worked for both DC and Marvel. Among his achievements was the creation with writer Dennis O’Neil of Ra’s al Ghul. I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel but he did amazing work on DeadmanBatmanGreen Lantern and Green Arrow. All of this work is now available on the DC Universe app.  It should be noted he was instrumental in the efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving long overdue credit and  financial remuneration from DC. (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 15, 1942 — Sondra Marshak, 80. Author of multiple Trek novels including The Price of the Phoenix and The Fate of the Phoenix, both co-written with Myrna Culbreath. She also wrote, again with Myrna Culbreath, Shatner: Where No Man…: The Authorized Biography of William Shatner which of course naturally lists Shatner as the third co-author. She also co-wrote the fandom reference book Star Trek Lives! with Jacqueline Lichtenberg and television producer Joan Winston. She was an important early promoter of Star Trek fan culture, and a publisher of fan fiction.
  • Born June 15, 1951 — Kirstie Alley, 71. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, her very first film. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner.
  • Born June 15, 1960 — Sabrina Vourvoulias, 62. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. The Readercon 25 panel she was on, “East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction” is available from the usual suspects as is all of her fiction. 
  • Born June 15, 1960 — William Snow, 62. He is best remembered as Lord John Roxton on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. (Yes, that’s it’s official title.) He also had the lead as David Grief on the Australian series Tales of the South Seas which had Rachel Blakey from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as Isabelle Reed. It was definitely genre. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Funky Winkerbean hasn’t suddenly gone genre, however, I can imagine fans having this conversation.

(12) NEW SERIES. [Item by N.] Scavengers Reign is on its way from HBO Max.

Looks like this short was the original pilot, or proof-of-concept.

(13) NOT QUITE WALTZING MATILDA. Tor.com’s Molly Templeton says “Emma Thompson Is a Terrifying Miss Trunchbull In the Trailer for Nextflix’s Matilda the Musical, based on the work of Roald Dahl.  

…Matilda is the story of a clever little girl surrounded by idiot adults. School is no better than home; at school, she has to contend with Trunchbull, a nightmare headmistress who basically tortures students. Smart, bookish Matilda has only her teacher, Miss Honey, for support—until she discovers she has a way to fight back.

In 1996, the novel was adapted into a film starring Mara Wilson as an iconic Matilda and Danny DeVito as Mr. Wormwood. The musical debuted in 2010, and arrived on Broadway in 2013. The trailer for this new version is full of tiny children singing about being revolting, which makes me love them all; I wish to watch this film immediately….

(14) UP ALL NIGHT. Andrew Porter sent a link to a February announcement — “These Six ‘Beloved’ Restaurants Won the 2022 James Beard America’s Classics Award” – because one of the honorees has a fannish connection. Says Porter, “Ted White established a tradition of ending Brooklyn NY Fanoclast meetings by a trip, in the middle of the night, to go to Wo-Hop, either by subway, or, sometimes, by car.”

It’s officially James Beard Award season: Today, the Foundation announced the first winners of 2022. As in years past, six long-tenured restaurants have been named “America’s Classics.” Per the Foundation, the award “is given to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” Over 100 restaurants have won the award…and winners tend not to receive other nominations for Beard Awards.…

Wo Hop, New York, NY: One of the oldest restaurants in NYC’s Chinatown, Wo Hop stands as a testament to the old-fashioned Chinese American cooking that is increasingly hard to find.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Here’s a video interview with Dave McKean on illustrating the limited edition of The Gormenghast Trilogy. The Folio Society’s edition of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy is introduced by master of modern fantasy Neil Gaiman, illustrated by the extraordinary Dave McKean and signed by both contributors.

Award-winning illustrator Dave McKean provides the collection’s 142 original hand-drawn illustrations, as well as startling cover designs for each book and an exclusive art print of iconic villain Steerpike. Eschewing the traditionally gloomy and gothic, McKean’s concept has been inspired by the Gormenghast trilogy’s often overlooked sense of passion and colour. His renditions of Peake’s cast – from the enigmatic Countess Groan to the spidery manservant Flay – seethe with life and feeling, capturing the often stark surrealism of each book. Dave McKean has also created the hypnotic maze design that envelops the hinged collection case, bound in stone-grey Dubletta cloth and blocked in crimson metallic foil with the title screen-printed in black ink. Opening the case itself releases a burst of corvids silhouetted against the sky in silver ink.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, N., Jan Vaněk jr, Steven H Silver, Daniel Dern, Aaron Pound, 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 Steve “Clueful” Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/22 Never Gonna File You Up, Never Gonna Scroll You Down

(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.

As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.

(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.

….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…

(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.

There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?

I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine…. 

(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:

… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…

(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.

Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….

… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….

… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit. 

“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….

(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.  

…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.

Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….

(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.

…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….

(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.

An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. 

This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.

Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.

It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, AliensAlien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.

So what the critics think?

Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”

And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second  feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid  form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film.  The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”

It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1913 Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats
  • Born May 25, 1944 Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. 
  • Born May 25, 1950 Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.  She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.  

(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.

To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.

Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]

Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.

(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.

… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?… 

The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”

(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.

Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…

(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.

Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride.  As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.

Also trailer here.

(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.

Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.

The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.

Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.

… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.

“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.

Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.

Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….

(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.

All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.

Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.

I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.

Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….

(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.

…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in  films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago. 

Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.

The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and  utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.

“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jennifer Hawthorne, 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 Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/22 Scroll Me A Pixel I’ll Be Back For Breakfast

(1) BRAM STOKER LOSERS UNITE. Scott Edelman has famously lost many Bram Stoker Awards – and he has the card to prove it. He invites tonight’s unlucky nominees to become card-carrying members of this group.  

Tonight’s Bram Stoker awards ceremony means — there will be winners — but also losers. If any of the new Never Winner losers created tonight would like this Susan Lucci of the HWA to mail you one of my “It is an honor to be nominated” cards — ask, and one will be sent your way!

However — if you’re a previous Never Winner in Denver tonight who already owns of one of these cards and should lose yet again — please track down Lee Murray, whom I have deputized to punch you a new hole. Good … luck?

(2) LIVE LONG ENOUGH, YOU’LL PROSPER. Somtow Sucharitkul tells Facebook readers why a recent Star Trek episode rang a bell. BEWARE SPOILERS.

SPOILER COMING – But For What Exactly?

The Enterprise discovers that a comet is hurtling toward a planet that doesn’t have warp drive and whose civilization they cannot interfere with because of the prime directive. Presently, they discover that the comet is alive, and has some kind of intelligence. The only way to save the planet is to find a way to communicate with the comet, and it turns out that the key is to sing to it a folk song from someone’s homeworld….

Yes, this is the plot of the new episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, but it’s also the plot of my 2001 Star Trek Novel, “Do Comets Dream?” which is itself vaguely adapted from a tale told in my Inquestor series, “The Comet That Cried for Its Mother”, originally published in AMAZING….

(3) IT’S A MASSACRE. “Everything on Broadcast TV Just Got Canceled” Vanity Fair declared yesterday. It will feel like that if you watched sff on CW.

In the ever-changing television landscape, this past Thursday was a particularly tough time to be a broadcast television show. Per TV Guide, 17 broadcast television shows were officially given the axe by their respective networks yesterday. “It’s the Red Wedding at WBTV/CW today,” tweeted showrunner Julie Plec, whose CW shows Legacies and Roswell, New Mexico were both among the carnage. “Much more to say, but not today. Loads of gratitude coming for fans and cast and crew in future tweets. But today, we mourn.” 

The CW was hit particularly hard, with nine shows getting chopped in all. Along with Legacies and Roswell, New Mexico, the teen-focused network said goodbye to Dynasty after five seasons, In The Dark after four seasons, and Batwoman after three seasons. The network is currently up for sale, which may explain why it was particularly ruthless with its cancellations and downsizing its slate from 19 original scripted series to 11 original scripted series ahead of next fall….

(4) WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE? James Wallace Harris reprints and analyzes Alfred Bester’s vintage analysis of the genre in “Blows Against The Empire: Alfred Bester’s 1953 Critique of Science Fiction” at Classics of Science Fiction (a 2020 post).

…Bester is looking back over what many have called the Golden Age of Science Fiction and burning it down with his blaster. I wish I could find the fan reaction to this essay from back in the 1950s, but Google only returns seven results. And for those who aren’t familiar with the name Alfred Bester, he wrote two books in the 1950s that became classics: The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man. At the time Bester had a reputation for being a writing stylist and innovator. So getting a dressing down from one of our own must have been painful.

I wonder what I would have thought if I read and understood this essay in 1962 when I first began reading science fiction. Science fiction wasn’t popular then like it is today. Science fiction was one step up from comic books, and you were called retarded (their word back then) by your peers if you read comics. I remembered also being called a geek and zero for reading SF. Back then those terms were the social kiss of death. I had two buddies that read science fiction in high school and I remember being very hurt by George’s mother when she sat is down one day and gave us a serious talk about evils of reading science fiction. George’s mother was a sophisticated, well-educated, widely traveled woman, and I was always impressed with her thoughts, so it really hurt when she tried to convince us we were reading trash. She implied reading SF was a sign we were emotionally and intellectually immature. We thought we were Slans…

(5) OPPOSING BOOK BANS. “More than 25 Organizations Join ALA’s ‘Unite Against Book Bans’ Campaign”. Among them are the Authors Guild and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The American Library Association this week announced that more than 25 major organizations, including a host of publishers and author and bookseller groups, have joined its Unite Against Book Bans campaign, an effort to help communities defend the freedom to read. The ALA launched the campaign in April to raise awareness about the surge in book bans and other legislation targeting the work of schools and libraries, with support from the Steve and Loree Potash Family Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“Our partners and supporters are critical in moving the needle to ultimately bring an end to book bans,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “It’s time that policymakers understand the severity of this issue. ALA is taking the steps necessary to protect individuals’ access to information, but we can’t do this alone.”…

“Three-quarters of the 1,100 plus books currently banned in public schools in the United States have been written by authors of color, LGBTQ authors, or other traditionally marginalized voices,” said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger, in a statement.

(6) NAMING CONVENTIONS. He has a point –

(7) PERSONAL TAXONOMY. Joe Vasicek, often quoted here in the Sad Puppy days of 2015, shares what he calls “an interesting personal discovery” at One Thousand And One Parsecs.

…I just made a very interesting personal discovery, gleaned from the data on my reading of the Hugo and Nebula winning books. Of the 110 novels that have won either award, I have now read all but 16 of them, which is enough data to get some representative results.

One of the best predictors that I will DNF a book is whether the author is a childless woman. Of the 18 books written by childless women, I have DNFed all but three of them (Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh, which I read years ago and would probably DNF today, and Network Effect by Martha Wells, which is a genuinely entertaining read, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke, which I haven’t read yet). For childless men, it’s a little bit more of a crapshoot: of the 31 books written by childless men, I’ve DNFed 16 of them and read 11, but only 6 of those are books I thought were worth owning.

Conversely, one of the best predictors that I will enjoy a book is whether the author is a mother. Of the 20 books written by mothers, I have DNFed only 6 of them and read 8, all of which I think are worth owning. Of the six remaining books that I haven’t read yet, I will almost certainly finish four of them, and may finish all six. The only book by an author I haven’t already read and enjoyed is The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, which I am currently reading and will probably finish next week…

(8) LIGHT MY FIRE. “Firestarter (2022) vs. Firestarter (1984): Which Stephen King adaptation burns brightest?” – Clark Collis supplies his answer at Entertainment Weekly. The summaries of each film make good reading, too.

… The 1984 film stars Barrymore as Charlie McGee, a young girl with pyrokinetic powers who is fleeing from a sinister government organization called “The Shop” with her father Andy, played by David Keith. Andy has been training Charlie to use her powers properly by getting her to turn bread into toast with her mind but it is the unfortunate Shop agents who get browned as Barrymore’s character periodically sets them ablaze. The supporting cast is notable for a few reasons. Oscar-winners Art Carney and Louise Fletcher play a couple who befriend Charlie and Andy, while Martin Sheen portrays the head of the Shop just a year after his performance in David Cronenberg’s adaptation of King’s The Dead Zone. Finally, another Academy Award-winner, George C. Scott, is inexplicably cast as the seemingly First Nation assassin John Rainbird, who has a fondness for punching his targets’ noses into their brains and an unhealthy interest in our heroine…

(9) TOM SWIFT. Edge Media Network supplies an intro as “First Trailer Drops for New CW Series ‘Tom Swift’ Featuring a Black Gay Lead Character”.

…”Tian Richards already made his debut as Tom Swift on one of the best episodes of ‘Nancy Drew’ yet, but get ready to see him in a whole new light on his own show,” EW said.

As previously reported at EDGE, being gay was a prominent part of the character’s depiction when he made a guest appearance on “Nancy Drew.” Sparks flew between Tom Swift and “Nancy Drew” regular character Nick (Tunji Kasim), leading to an onscreen kiss….

(10) WHEN I USE A WORD. At Tor.com, CD Covington’s series on sff linguistics finally tackles the 500-lb gorilla: “On Tolkien, Translation, Linguistics, and the Languages of Middle-earth”.

Since I started this column in 2019, I’ve been avoiding one famous—possibly even the most famous—example of using linguistics in SFF literature: the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s not because I don’t like Lord of the Rings—quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just such an obvious topic, and one which people have devoted decades of scholarship to exploring. Hell, my Old English prof has published academic scholarship on the topic, in addition to teaching a Maymester class on the languages of Middle-earth. But I suppose it’s time to dedicate a column to the book that first made me think language was cool and to the man who wrote it.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2010 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m starting this essay by acknowledging that everyone has their favorite Robin Hood. My all-time favorite is the one in the Robin of Sherwood series, Robin of Loxley as played by Michael Praed. And yes, I acknowledge that the second Robin, Robert of Huntingdon as performed by Jason Connery was quite excellent too. Richard Carpenter did himself proud with this series. 

But I’m here tonight to talk about one of my favorite Robin Hood films (the other being Robin and Marian.) Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood premiered in the States on this date twelve years ago. It was written by Brian Helgeland who had done mostly horror films before this but was also the screenwriter of the beloved A Knight’s Tale. He along with Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris were responsible for the story.

It was produced by Ridley Scott, Brian Grazer and Russell Crowe. Yes the actor who played Robin Hood here helped produce it. So let’s turn to casting. 

I think Crowe made an outstanding Robin Longstride and Cate Blanchett as Marion Loxley was a great casting move. Other interesting casting here includes Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley and William Hurt as William Marshal. This was not a cast of unknowns. I thought Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham was interesting as the actor usually had much lighter roles. Mark Addy as Friar Tuck was well cast. 

It was a very expensive undertaking costing at least two hundred million and it took in least three hundred and twenty-five million, so it likely just broke even.

And what was the opinion of critics at the time? Well it was decidedly mixed with Deborah Ross of UK’s Spectator on the side of the dissenters: “Scott decided, I think, to get away from the whole campy thing in tights business and wanted to make this ‘real’. So there is sweat and dirt and rats at the cheese and even bad teeth, which is fair enough, but it is also joyless.” 

But Richard Klein of Shadows on the Wall liked it: “Ridley Scott and his usual Oscar-winning crewmates turn the familiar old English legend it into a robust, thumping epic. The pacing is a bit uneven, but it keeps us thoroughly engaged.”

Let’s finish off with Jeffrey Westhoff of the Northwest Herald:  “Robin Hood doesn’t become the swashbuckling bandit of Sherwood until the final moments, when the tag “And so the legend begins” appears. You may walk away liking this Robin Hood well enough, but wishing you had seen the sequel.” 

It gets just a fifty eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 14, 1929 Kay Elliot. The actress who shows up in “I, Mudd” as the android form of Harry Mudd’s wife Stella Mudd. SPOILER ALERT (I promised our OGH I’d put these in. It’s possible someone here hasn’t seen “I, Mudd”.) Need I say she ends getting the upper hand in the end? She also had appearences in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Miss Prendergast in “The It’s All Greek to Me Affair” episode and multiple roles on Bewitched. That’s it, but she died young. (Died 1982.)
  • Born May 14, 1933 Siân Phillips, 89. Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in David Lynch’s Dune, Cassiopeia in Clash of The Titans, Grandmother in A Christmas Carol, Charal in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, and The Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. And I’m about to see her on Silent Witness.
  • Born May 14, 1935 Peter J. Reed. A Vonnegut specialist with a long track history starting with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays that he wrote with Marc Leeds; Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations again with Leeds again. He also wrote a handful of essays such as “Hurting ’til It Laughs: The Painful-Comic Science Fiction Stories of Kurt Vonnegut” and “Kurt Vonnegut’s Bitter Fool: Kilgore Trout”. (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 78. For better and worse, he created the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine, the others suck royally in my opinion. Later Star Wars films are meh though I adore the original trilogy. And let’s not forget THX 1138. So you ask, what are my favorite works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Yes Willow. Oh, and The Young Indiana Jones series which I really, really loved. 
  • Born May 14, 1945 Francesca Annis, 77. Lady Jessica in David Lynch’s Dune, Lady Macbeth in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. I know only two roles, but what a pair of roles they were! She also appeared in Krull as The Widow of The Web but I’ll be damned if I can remember her in that role. 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Kathleen Ann Goonan. Her Nanotech Quartet is most excellent, particularly the first novel, Queen City Jazz. Her only Award was given for In War Times which garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. She’s wrote an interesting essay on the relationship between sf and music, “Science Fiction and All That Jazz”. (Died 2021.)
  • Born May 14, 1952 Robert Zemeckis, 70. He’s responsible for some of my favorite films including the Back to the Future trilogy, The Muppet Christmas CarolThe WitchesWho Framed Roger Rabbit and the savagely funny in a twisted sort of way Death Becomes Her. So what’s your favorite films that’s he had a hand in? 
  • Born May 14, 1955 Rob Tapert, 67. I’d say he’s best known for co-creating Xena: Warrior Princess. He also produced and/or wrote several other television series including Hercules: The Legendary JourneysM.A.N.T.I.S. and American Gothic. Tapert also co-created the prequel series Young Hercules which I loved. He’s married to actress Lucy Lawless.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Let Nick Mamatas introduce Tom Gauld’s strip for today’s Guardian.
  • Next, here’s Gauld’s latest comic for New Scientist.

(14) CLUES OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Keith Roysdon remembers newspaper crime comic strips (remember Steve Roper and Mike Nomad?) “Black and White and Noir All Over: A Brief History of Vintage Newspaper Crime Comic Strips” at CrimeReads.

Who could have known that newspaper comic strips and crime stories, including noir, were a match made in heaven?

Newspaper comic strips are an artistic genre that’s largely forgotten now. The strips that remain are for the most part humor strips like “Garfield.” A handful of dramatic strips are still published.

But serial dramatic strips were once a staple of the newspaper comics page. Many of them were soap opera-ish strips like “Mary Worth” and “Apartment 3-G.” To say that drama strips were slow moving is an understatement. I wish I could remember who joked that they came back to read “Apartment 3-G” after decades away and the caption read, “Later that afternoon …”

But that deliberate pace – well, maybe not quite that deliberate – was perfect for teasing out a good crime storyline. And crime and noir look awesome in black and white newsprint.

(15) MUSIC WITHOUT THE SPHERES. “Peace is Still Weirder Than War” asserts Laurie Penny in a very entertaining essay about Eurovision. Admittedly, nothing to do with sff except a brief reference to Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera at the end.

…Britain is a lot worse at Eurovision than you’d think. We’ve spent half a century distracting the world from our post imperial decline by flinging out wild handfuls of pop music and self deprecating humour, so we really ought to be able to deploy them here. Sadly, we’re scuppered every time by our even more fundamental fear of looking daft in front of the French.

We’ve made worse choices for the same reason.

But reasons are not excuses, and the land of Monty Python, David Bowie and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band should be able to do better than another basic bearded guitar boy. We do have the best tv commentary by miles, after Graham Norton seamlessly accepted the baton from the great Terry Wogan, proving once again that Britain’s comfort zone is making fun of other people.  Yes. Hi.

…For related reasons, Ukraine are likely to win this year. Russia can sulk all they like, just like they did when Ukraine stood down from Eurovision in 2015with the reasonable excuse that they were busy being invaded by Russia. in 2016, Ukraine was back, and it won, narrowly beating Russia, whose entry looked like someone repurposed a rave club as a re-education camp without redecorating. Not only did Ukraine win, it won with a song called ‘1944’, about the Soviet genocide of the Crimean Tartars. Russia has not forgotten this. State Television spent a long time denouncing Eurovision as a degenerate spectacle of homosexuality, which did as much good as denouncing bears for defecating in the woods.

But Russia has never really been any good at Eurovision. This year they’re not even going, partly because the Kremlin has no interest in any competition it can’t cheat at, but mostly because they got banned. It’s hard to get banned from Eurovision, but invading a neighboring country and massacring tens of thousands of people will do the trick….

(16) STOP, NOW, WHAT’S THAT SOUND? ScreenRant suggests “10 ‘Subtly’ Scary Horror Movies (For Horror Fans Sick Of Jump Scares)”. A Bradbury adaptation leads the list!

Sometimes the unknown or the unnatural can be much more terrifying than any masked slasher with a chainsaw.

….It’s not so much that these films rely on someone hiding in the shadows and yelling boo, but rather the audience knows something is wrong but can’t identify what. While jump scares and other such tactics might be sparsely employed, the real horror in these movies comes from both knowing and not knowing what might be in store.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Sometimes, the scariest movies are the ones where nobody dies, and Disney’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is a brilliant example. Based on the book by Ray Bradbury, the film tells the story of what happens when a mysterious carnival lurks into town one windy October.

Led by the mysterious Mr. Dark, Cooger and Dark’s Shadow Show has the uncanny ability to grant anyone’s wishes and make their dreams come true. But like with most things Disney, all magic comes at a price. When two boys and the local librarian are able to see through the illusions, a slow-burning battle with the freakshow for the souls of the town takes place.

(17) THE HUNDREDTH SHADE. Paul Weimer reviews “Gregory A. Wilson’s Grayshade” at A Green Man Review.

… We meet Grayshade in the midst of an assassination that doesn’t go quite to plan, and a relatively atypical assassination target at that – the outwardly flighty socialite wife of a political powerful man, which in itself seems odd to Grayshade. We come to Grayshade at a point in his career where he is extremely experienced and very good at what he does. This is no “coming of age” novel where we follow the assassin through his first mission; rather this is someone who has past adventures and missions behind him, which grounds him for when things do not go according to his expectations. Things spiral out from the assassination not going right, to the point where Grayshade starts to question his purpose, his role, and the entire Order.

This makes a lot of the novel about information control and dissemination, which in turn reminds me of Wilson’s gamemastering….

(18) BAD BACK TO THE FUTURE. At Galactic Journey, Jessica Holmes gives us an recap of the latest (in 1967!) episode of Doctor Who. “[May 14, 1967] Ben And Polly To The Departure Gate (Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones [Part 2])”.

…We left things off with the Doctor having a sudden attack of a bad back, and things only get worse, with Spencer disabling Jamie and Samantha within moments of the episode’s opening.

Now would be a good time to finish them off, you’d think, but instead he sets up some sort of death ray to kill them… eventually. The thing moves so slowly the trio would probably have time for a round of golf before the ray fries them. Though mostly paralysed, Samantha conveniently has enough control of her faculties to get her mirror from her bag and hand it to Jamie, who uses it to reflect the beam and blow up the death ray machine.

With the machine destroyed, their partial paralysis wears off, which doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me. I thought it was the freezing pen that paralysed them? And I’m still not sure what that device on the Doctor’s back did to him…

(19) AND YOU ARE THERE. This fossil is in a way a snapshot: “How the dinosaurs died: New evidence In PBS documentary” – the Washington Post digs into the story.

…The ground started shaking with intense vibrations while water in the nearby sea sloshed about in response. The sky filled with burning embers, which drifted down and set fire to the lush primordial forest.

Thescelosaurus panicked and looked to flee — but it was too late. Everything changed in a heartbeat as a 30-foot-high wave of mud and debris came racing up the seaway from the south, sweeping away life and limb in the process. The dinosaur was caught in the destructive deluge, its leg ripped off at the hip by the devastating surge.

That moment — 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, when an earth-shattering asteroid ended the reign of the dinosaurs — is frozen in time today through a stunning fossil found last year at the Tanis dig site in North Dakota. This perfectly preserved leg clearly shows the skin, muscle and bones of the three-toed Thescelosaurus.

While the details of the death scenario described above are embellished, they’re based on remarkable new findings and accounts by Robert DePalma, lead paleontologist at Tanis.

“We’re never going to say with 100 percent certainty that this leg came from an animal that died on that day,” the scientist said. “The thing we can do is determine the likelihood that it died the day the meteor struck. When we look at the preservation of the leg and the skin around the articulated bones, we’re talking on the day of impact or right before. There was no advanced decay.”…

(20) DRAWN WITHOUT DRAWERS. CBR.com remembers: “Star Wars: Why George Lucas Had to Fight for Chewbacca Not to Wear Shorts”.

…So he wanted McQuarrie to go beyond humanoid and try to do more of an animal design for Chewbacca. Lucas’ recall led him to a recent issue of Analog Magazine, which had a short novel in it by a pre-Game of Thrones George R.R. Martin called “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Artist John Schoenherr had designed some characters for Martin’s story and they made it to the cover of the magazine…

Lucas sent the drawings to McQuarrie and basically said, “Draw Chewbacca like that” and so that’s what McQuarrie did…

The problem with having basically a giant dog as a character is that dogs, well, you know, don’t have pants. McQuarrie kept coming up with some designs with the character in pants and Lucas kept saying no and that carried over to when the film started production. Lucas’ specific vision of what Chewbacca would look like required him to not have pants and that was a bit of a strange thing for the studio executives at the time.

During the DVD commentary for the 2004 release of Star Wars on DVD, Mark Hamill recalled what Lucas had to go through with regard to Chewbacca’s lack of clothes. “I remember the memos from 20th Century Fox. Can you put a pair of lederhosen on the Wookiee?’ All they could think of was, ‘This character has no pants on!’ This went back and forth. They did sketches of him in culottes and baggy shorts.”…

(21) BEING SNARKY. Would Lewis Carroll readers with an unassigned two hours or so available be interested in the opportunity to watch this complete production? “The Hunting of the Snark” posted by Official London Theatre.

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

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 5/10/22 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls In To Mine

(1) RICK RIORDAN HURLS THUNDERBOLT. Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan today condemned the racist backlash against Leah Jeffries, the young actor who is set to play Annabeth Chase in the upcoming Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase”

This post is specifically for those who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase. It’s a shame such posts need to be written, but they do. First, let me be clear I am speaking here only for myself. These thoughts are mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect or represent the opinions of any part of Disney, the TV show, the production team, or the Jeffries family.

The response to the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous, as it should be. Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.

If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.

…You have decided that I couldn’t possibly mean what I have always said: That the true nature of the character lies in their personality. You feel I must have been coerced, brainwashed, bribed, threatened, whatever, or I as a white male author never would have chosen a Black actor for the part of this canonically white girl.

You refuse to believe me, the guy who wrote the books and created these characters, when I say that these actors are perfect for the roles because of the talent they bring and the way they used their auditions to expand, improve and electrify the lines they were given. Once you see Leah as Annabeth, she will become exactly the way you imagine Annabeth, assuming you give her that chance, but you refuse to credit that this may be true.

You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white.

Friends, that is racism.

And before you resort to the old kneejerk reaction — “I am not racist!” — let’s examine that statement too….

(2) SPECIAL COPYRIGHT OPERATION. “Bill Targeting Disney’s ‘Special Copyright Protections’ Introduced”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Disney, under siege by Republican lawmakers, may immediately lose its copyright for Mickey Mouse if a law slashing the duration of ownership is passed.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Tuesday proposed legislation that limits copyright protection to 56 years. According to the Copyright Clause Restoration Act of 2022, the law would retroactively apply to existing copyrights.

The move follows Florida lawmakers last month stripping Disney of special privileges of self-government that allowed it to independently oversee its sprawling theme park area. The feud started when the company vowed to push for repeal of the Parental Rights in Education Law, which bars discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in grades K-3 and allows parents to sue school districts if they think there’s been a violation.

…Gov. Ron DeSantis placed Disney front and center in a culture war against what he called “woke corporations.”

Hawley, employing DeSantis’ playbook, said in a statement, “Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists.”

Hawley’s mention of “special copyright protections” refers to Disney’s major role influencing the evolution of copyright law. Mickey Mouse was first introduced with the 1928 release of Steamboat Willie. At the time, Disney was afforded 56 years of protection for the character.

But with the copyright set to expire in 1984, Disney lobbied for reform and secured the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976. This allowed ownership of works by corporations for 75 years. In 1998, Disney was again able to delay the entry of Mickey Mouse into the public domain with the adoption of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. The law extended protection of copyrights by corporations for 95 years from their original publication, pushing the expiration of Disney’s copyright for Steamboat Willie to 2024.

Several Republican lawmakers have said that they won’t support an extension of copyright protections for Disney if a bill is introduced. In a letter to chief executive Bob Chapek, Jim Banks (R-In.) denounced the company for capitulating “to far-left activists through hypocritical, woke corporate actions” with its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Act….

Variety says the damage to Disney would be less than one might assume.

…But even if Disney’s copyright for Steamboat Willie expires, only the original design of Mickey Mouse will hit the public domain. There have been several iterations of the character over the past century….

(3) READ SFF FROM THE MARGINS. Anathema’s first issue of 2022 (#15) is live. The May 2022 issue features new fiction from Saswati Chatterjee, Choo Yi Feng, M.S. Dean, Wen-yi Lee, poetry from Rasha Abdulhadi and Folarin James, and cover art by Yu Ying. Read the entire issue free online: Anathema: Spec from the Margins Issue 15, May 2022

(4) KOJA Q&A. “’The Fringe Is Where the Fun Really Happens’: A Conversation with Kathe Koja”, conducted by Rob Latham at the LA Review of Books.

 When you moved into writing YA, I’m sure you confronted kneejerk assumptions about the field: that it had to pull its punches when dealing with contentious topics, that it couldn’t be as sophisticated as “adult” literature. Yet your YA novels are, if not as obviously transgressive as your horror fiction, quite bold and even worldly: they never pander, never assume their readers can’t grasp complex motivations or ambiguous desires. The young heroine of The Blue Mirror, for example, one of your more overtly supernatural stories, is as seduced by darkness as any of the protagonists in your horror novels. Can you say a bit about what drew you to the field? Did you find that you had to adapt your style or writing method at all? And I’m curious, have you had any response from young readers to your books? 

At my first meeting with my YA editor, the completely legendary Frances Foster at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, she cautioned me about that very thing. And there were some readers who mourned that I had “stopped writing” when they learned I was writing YA! It just floors me that anyone would think writing for young(er) readers is “easier” — writing YA demanded all the same skills I’d deploy in any novel, and even more stringent narrative drive: younger readers are wonderfully unforgiving, and if you bore them, they will straight up let you know.

It was one of the things I loved most about doing school and library visits: the kids would ask pointed questions, they’d confront me if they thought they found errors in the books. And they would question and debate with each other. During one especially remarkable visit, bleachers full of middle schoolers argued, passionately, over whether a book should show the world as it ought to be rather than as it is, “so we can see it and change it.” Writing YA asked of me a heightened level of intention: because younger readers know that they don’t know everything (older readers don’t either, but they might not believe that anymore), and a new idea, a new point of reference, can change a young reader’s point of view, change the way they view the world. There’s a responsibility inherent in that, and I took it very seriously….

(5) PALISANO MEDICAL UPDATE. Horror Writers Association President John Palisano announced last night on Facebook he has contracted Covid and will miss this weekend’s StokerCon in Denver.

It’s with a very heavy heart I’m sharing I will not be attending StokerCon this year. Over the weekend, I developed strong symptoms of Covid-19. A positive PCR test confirmed my worst fears just yesterday. For the record? I’m fully vaccinated and boosted. Obviously, the virus is still a serious threat.

With my bags packed, ready to celebrate years of hard work, to say I’m devastated at not being able to see friends new and old and see this come to life is an understatement.

(6) JANELLE MONÁE. Two interviews in synch with the release of Memory Librarian.

…The book’s five thematically linked stories, each co-written with a different author, all play off Monáe’s 2018 post-cyber-punk album “Dirty Computer,” which blended many sounds and styles — rap, pop, funk, R&B, rock and every subgenre imaginable — but felt more directly personal in its celebration of Black women and their sexuality than her earlier, more metaphorical albums.

Monáe felt the album was still resonating after she finished recording it. She made a 45-minute short film inspired by the album but even that wasn’t enough. “The themes were strong and I knew there were more stories to tell,” she explains.

“Memory Librarian” explores a futuristic world in which an organization called the New Dawn takes a Big Brother-esque approach to wiping out human desires deemed abnormal, seeking to create “their versions of what ideal citizens should be,” Monáe says. “They’ll strip people of their own selves.”

People in marginalized groups, especially in the LGBTQ community, are in danger of having their memory wiped out with a drug called Nevermind. Anyone who sympathizes with them or rebels against the system is also in danger….

What’s it like to share the space of Dirty Computer with collaborators?

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: community. Everything I’ve tried to do, I’ve tried to keep it rooted in community—like starting my arts collective, the Wondaland Arts Society, at the beginning of my career. It’s full of writers, it’s full of filmmakers, it’s full of actors, it’s full of musicians. And coming from a big family as well—I have like 49 first cousins—I don’t know how to not be communing. So it just felt right as I entered into the literary space to find other like-minded spirits, other dirty computers, whose work I admired and I knew admired my work. How can we make this innovative? What we’re doing is not common; what we’re doing is super special and I love it: being able to have the back and forth, to give character, to give plot point and say, OK, run wild! You read that first draft and you’re like, “OK, this is it! OK, let’s tweak this, let’s do that.” The writers feeling seen in the way they’re writing and me feeling seen in the vision I have, it’s amazing!…

(7) 2022 PULITZER PRIZES. No genre in the list of today’s 2022 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists that I could see. There were a couple winners connected with areas we’ve followed in the Scroll: 

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

For coverage that revealed the complexities of building the James Webb Space Telescope, designed to facilitate groundbreaking astronomical and cosmological research. 

ILLUSTRATED REPORTING AND COMMENTARY

For using graphic reportage and the comics medium to tell a powerful yet intimate story of the Chinese oppression of the Uyghurs, making the issue accessible to a wider public.

(8) 1957-1958 HUGOS THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Rich Horton’s research into the early Hugos revealed something that inspired a Facebook post that begins —

Wandering through the history of the Hugos in the 1950s — a chaotic time, with no well established rules, with constantly changing award categories, with a con committee, in one case, refusing to give fiction awards at all … I realized that no stories from 1957 won a Hugo. (The 1958 Hugo for short story went to “Or All the Seas With Oysters”, by Avram Davidson (Galaxy, May 1958) and the Hugo for — get this — “Novel or Novelette” went to “The Big Time”, by Fritz Leiber, a novel (albeit very short) that was serialized in Galaxy, March and April 1958. In 1957, no Hugos for fiction were given.

So, what the heck — here’s my list of proposed fiction nominees from 1957….

(9) SERGEY DYACHENKO (1945-2022). Publishers Lunch reports Russian-Ukrainian sff author Sergey Dyachenko died in California on May 5 at 77. With his wife, Marina Dyachenko, he was the co-author of more than 30 books, including Vita NostraThe Scar, and Daughter from the Dark. A sequel to Vita Nostra will be published by Harper Voyager next year. Adam Whitehead has more at The Wertzone: “RIP Serhiy Dyachenko”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1975 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Monty Python and the Holy Grail premiered in the States. It would be nominated for a Hugo at MidAmericaCon (A Boy and His Dog which I’ve written up was the choice by Hugo voters.)

The film was written and performed by the Monty Python which course was Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, and was directed by Gilliam and Jones in their directorial debuts. It was done during a break between the third and fourth series of their Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So it was just another episode of that series in an extended format. Yes, it is but one skit, that of King Arthur, but it is a Python skit none-the-less. A really, really long one at ninety minutes. 

(Not wanting a good, or bad idea depending on which critic you were, to go to waste, the film was the basis for the Eric Idle’s Tony Award-winning Spamalot musical thirty-five years later.) 

It cost virtually nothing, somewhere around a half million dollars, to produce and made five million dollars in its first run. Not bad at all. 

Speaking of critics, and we should at this point, what did they think of it? 

Well Chicago-Sun Tribune gave Gene Siskel reviewing duties this time instead of Roger Ebert and he thought that “it contained about 10 very funny moments and 70 minutes of silence. Too many of the jokes took too long to set up, a trait shared by both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. I guess I prefer Monty Python in chunks, in its original, television revue format.” 

And Geoff Brown of The Monthly Film Bulletin says “The team’s visual buffooneries and verbal rigamaroles (some good, some bad, but mostly indifferent) are piled on top of each other with no attention to judicious timing or structure, and a form which began as a jaunty assault on the well-made revue sketch and an ingenious misuse of television’s fragmented style of presentation, threatens to become as unyielding and unfruitful as the conventions it originally attacked.” 

It currently has an extraordinarily good ninety-five rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As the authors of SFE put it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels, prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ‘mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these novels is available from the usual suspects. (Died 1920.)
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable.  Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both. Darkness and the Light was nominated for a Retro-Hugo At WorldCon 76 as was Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord at CoNZealand. He was the first recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2001 and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2014. (Died 1950.)
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.)
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original  Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English-language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.)
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes, sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short lived BBC series that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 59. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre, so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here.
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 53. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes. The Interdependency series is excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokey for my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of.

(12) S&S NEWS. If you sign up for the Thews You Can Use sword and sorcery newsletter, you now get a free sampler of contemporary sword and sword stories, including two by Cora Buhlert as well as fiction by Remco van Straten and Angeline B. Adams, Dariel Quioge, Chuck E. Clark, Nathaniel Webb, J.T.T. Ryder, Mario Caric and Michael Burke: Thews You Can Use.

(13) TOLKIEN AND UKRAINE. The Washington Examiner invites you to “Meet the publisher bringing JRR Tolkien and military manuals to Ukraine’s readers”.

It says something about modern Ukraine’s place in the world that an academic who takes “special pride” in publishing a Ukrainian translation of the complete works of J.R.R. Tolkien was determined also to print a series of manuals on military tactics and civilian survival in a war zone.

“This is a bestseller,” Astrolabe Publishing founder Oleh Feschowetz told the Washington Examiner during a recent interview in his office. “One hundred thousand copies.”

He was referring not to The Hobbit or The Silmarillion, but to Swiss army Maj. Hans von Dach’s mid-century guerrilla warfare manual, Total Resistance: A small war warfare manual for everyone — already in its seventh Astrolabe edition, just eight years after Feschowetz first printed the Ukrainian translation. “It was the first military book in the beginning of the war, [in] 2014.”…

“Because Russia always interpret[s] the culture just like a weapon,” he said in another conversation. “We must do the same. Culture is a weapon.”

So his team has published translations of works as ancient and various as the poems of Catullus, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The Old English epic Beowulf and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales were unavailable in the Ukrainian language before Astrolabe brought them forth. For Feschowetz, the study of “high literature” such as the works he has published (including Tolkien’s works, which he rates as “one of the best books” of Western civilization) holds a special resonance for Ukrainian readers who continue to labor to establish strong institutions within their civil society, beyond as it is the protection of Western allies.

“In other words, [Tolkien] speaks more of a man who relies not on an institution, procedures, but on ‘his own hands and his own ship,’ as in Beowulf,” Feschowetz, more comfortable writing in English than conversing, explained in a subsequent note. “In other words, it is not so much about institutionalized freedom, so important for the West, as about gaining and defense of it, that is, [in] fact, about the basis and origins of this freedom, about the real, internal mechanism of its functioning, from which we are so often removed by well-established institutions and procedures. This is, so to speak, the inner ‘West.’”…

(14) HUGO NEWS AUF DEUTSCH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The other local paper Kreiszeitung ran a great article about me and my Hugo nomination: Only in German alas: “Science-Fiction-Preis: Cora Buhlert auf der Jagd nach der Rakete”.

… Für Cora Buhlert sind solche postapokalyptischen Geschichten zurzeit kein Thema. „Die will ich nicht schreiben. Außerdem gibt es viele Möglichkeiten, die Welt untergehen zu lassen. Ich habe selbst eine Menge ausprobiert. Fiktional“, schiebt sie noch hinterher und lacht….

(15) JEOPARDY! [Item by Rich Lynch.] Going into tonight’s episode the current Jeopardy! champion Danielle Mauer is a costumer who attends Dragon Cons.

Andrew Porter adds that one of tonight’s new Jeopardy! contestants was editor-author Mallory Kass, profiled by Publishers Weekly.  

For the Daily Double, contestants, here’s your clue: she’s a senior editor at Scholastic who’s also a bestselling YA fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian author writing under the name Kass Morgan. Correct response: who is Mallory Kass? And on Tuesday, May 10 she makes her debut as a contestant on Jeopardy! on ABC at 7 p.m. ET. …The Monarchs—the second book in the Ravens duology she co-wrote with Danielle Page—came out in January.

We won’t blab about who came out on top. (There was a third contestant, too, without a genre connection anyone has mentioned.)

(16) HBCU CON. DCist reports that “Black Cosplayers Celebrate ‘Black Geek Homecoming’ At HBCU Con”. The event took place April 30.

Chauna Lawson, who cosplays by the name “CC the Geek,” thinks about the last time she felt truly embraced and acknowledged for all of who she was.

“That was when I was at Bowie State,” says Lawson, an alum of the historically Black university and founder of HBCU Con, a fandom convention held there April 30.

At her dorm in Alex Haley Residence Hall, she and her friends would play video games, watch anime like Sailor Moon and Digimon Adventure and talk about life.

“Nothing was off the table and everyone was respected in the room, regardless of where they came from,” Lawson says. “I just wanted to take that experience and recreate it and give it back to the people because it really got me through some really tough times in my life.”

Lawson, who graduated from Bowie State University in 2009, is the CEO of HBCU Con. It’s a convention where people dress up as their favorite characters from video games, anime, science fiction novels, comics or even their own creations, and celebrate both HBCUs and Black geeks.

At the three-day event, people meet other cosplayers, participate in panels on anything from life as a Black K-pop fan to the history of cosplay, participate in a gaming tournament, and attend events like a step show and fashion show put on by HBCU students….

(17) YAY? “Great News: An Autonomous Drone Swarm Can Now Chase You Through a Forest Without Crashing“ reports Core77.

If you have a deep passion for being surveilled, you probably dream of living in a city in the UK or China, festooned as they are with security cameras and face-rec. But what if you want to be spied on in a rural environment? It’s not feasible to install cameras on every tree in a forest. Autonomous tracking drones exist (thank you Skydio and Snapchat!) but they’re probably not progressing as fast as you’d like them to.

Well, help is here thanks to a team of researchers at Zhejiang University. As New Scientist reports, this research team has been working on drone swarms composed of ten tiny, fully autonomous drones that use off-the-shelf components, a camera and an algorithm to navigate through a forest without crashing into anything, or one another….

(18) CAMERON BLUE IT. The Guardian is every bit as skeptical about the Avatar 2 trailer as the critics at CinemaCon were impressed by it: “Avatar 2 trailer: prepare to be swept away by boredom”.

…Well, luckily for us the Avatar 2 trailer went online yesterday, giving us lowly non-exhibitors a chance to have our brains splattered out of the back of our skulls as well. And, upon watching it, there’s a good chance that we all had the same thought at the same time. Wait, are we watching the thing that they watched?

Because the trailer that dropped on YouTube really isn’t particularly spectacular. Some Na’vi jump across a tree. A sort of lizardy bird thing flies across some water. Some characters go for a bit of a swim. Sam Worthington’s character looks like he’s doing his best to hold in a fart. And, apart from the soundtrack – which is effectively the sound of Enya passing out from boredom and landing on a synthesiser – that’s about it….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] John Cleese and Michal Pailn discuss the difficulties making Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life in this clip from the BBC in December 1982 that dropped yesterday.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, Rich Lynch, Cathy Green, Chris Barkley, 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 Rob Thornton.]