Pixel Scroll 11/14/22 One Scroll Makes You Pixel, The Other Makes You Smaug

(1) DESTINATION FOR THE STARS? The New York Times’ Blake Gopnik reports that last week Christie’s auction house broke records by selling more than $1.5 billion in art from the estate of Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who died in 2018. Although a lot of high art went under the hammer, his pop culture holdings, including sf art, did not and may have a different fate.  

… It all made me think of Allen as the kind of person who might have enjoyed buying, and owning, a $15 million Stradivarius violin and a $12 million Mickey Mantle baseball card and a $10 million stamp from British Guiana.

But there was one work in the sale — a real outlier — that meshed with stronger, more focused feelings that I seemed to glimpse when I met with Allen. Hanging among pieces by the certified geniuses of Western “high” art at Christie’s sat a dreamy, sunset scene of teen-girls-in-nature, painted in 1926 by the American Maxfield Parrish, best known for his truly great work in commercial illustration. It called to mind the tremendous excitement that Allen showed, a decade ago, when he had me look at a series of paintings that had been used, sometime in the 1950s or ’60s, I’d guess, for reproduction on the cover of science-fiction novels or magazines: I remember seeing weird Martian landscapes, galactic skies and maybe a rocket ship or two.

I can’t confirm those memories, right off the bat, because none of those pictures ended up at Christie’s. (Even though you could say that Allen’s Botticelli has some extraterrestrial strangeness to it, if only because of its distance from today’s culture, and that his paintings by Salvador Dalí and Jacob Hendrik Pierneef might work with stories by Philip K. Dick.) But I do remember that in our interview Allen’s enthusiasm for those objects from so-called “popular” culture seemed much more intense, and heartfelt, than the feelings he expressed for masterpieces that had cost him thousands of times more.

And that may be born out in the future that seems in store for those sci-fi objects, different from the fate of the ones sold into private hands at Christie’s. Last month, a spokesperson for Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, founded by Allen in 2000 — his sister Jody Allen is its current chair — told The Times that more than 4,000 objects of un-fine art and culture from the Allen estate, valued at some $20 million, were due to end up among its holdings, and I can only hope that the sci-fi paintings will be among them. (A representative from Vulcan, the Allen company in charge of his estate, later weighed in to say that the bequest to MoPOP was not final and that Vulcan could not confirm the exact number or type of objects in it. As when their boss was alive, his Vulcans play their cards close to their chests.)…

(2) AO3’S FANZINE SCAN HOSTING PROJECT. “AO3’s fanfiction preservation project: Archivists are digitizing zines to save fan history” reports Slate.

Archive of Our Own is probably best known as the place to read fans’ carefully crafted Harry Potter prequels or Lord of the Rings stories millions of words long. But the fanfiction website also has a lesser known, though no less important mission: to save older fanfic that’s at risk of disappearing. A new initiative, the Fanzine Scan Hosting Project, aims to make fan stories and art from physical fanzines accessible through the Archive, preserving pieces of history previously confined to university libraries, scattered eBay sales, and forgotten corners of attics….

Over the last year or so, however, Open Doors’ Fan Culture Preservation Project has expanded, finally giving them room to launch the Fanzine Scan Hosting Project. So far, they’re making their way through the backlog of scans that Zinedom has already accumulated, which Dawn estimates is “a couple thousand.”

These came from various sources, with Dawn doing a lot of outreach herself simply by searching Facebook for names she came across in zines and making phone calls. Janet Quarton, a Scottish Star Trek zine publisher and preservationist, scanned about 500 zines herself in 2013. But even Zinedom’s digital collection is only a fragment of what’s out there. One Zinedom participant has a collection of around 8,000 physical zines from the Star Trek fandom alone, and digs out the appropriate copies if Dawn is contacted by someone looking to save something in particular.

Open Doors is now preparing to post on the Archive those zines from Zinedom’s backlog which they already have permission to share. Some of these overlap with online zine archives that they’ve been previously importing, like the Kirk/Spock archive. But new requests and permissions have also been coming in since the announcement, and it will be an ongoing process, with volunteers working hard to convert and edit each individual zine.

(3) THE RIGHT WORD? Nisi Shawl was still in search of an answer that hits the spot when I looked at Facebook this afternoon:

What’s the word for the kind of apology you get that blames you for what went wrong?

(4) HORROR WRITING VETERANS. The Horror Writers Association blog has been running a “Veterans in Horror Spotlight” series. Here’s an example: “Veterans in Horror: Interview with Jonathan Gensler”.

What role, if any, did reading and writing play during your military service?

I still have stacks of my journals from the whole nine-year period sitting on my bookshelf, unread to this day.  I had written poetry and journaled most of my teenage years up to that point, but when I got out of the service I stopped journaling and writing almost completely for reasons I haven’t quite grasped.  That was over 15 years ago.  Reading, on the other hand is something I have never stopped doing.  These combat deployments were well before I had anything like an e-reader, so it was physical books all the way.  I must have lugged around a ridiculous amount of books with me. The big ones that hit me the hardest while deployed are still some of my favorites: Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, Epictetus’ The Enchiridion, my first readings of Ender’s Game and that series. I got my first copy of House of Leaves while deployed to Iraq and that copy is scrawled with my own footnotes and reflections, and is falling apart at the seams.  And then of course, King finished out The Dark Tower while I was deployed so I had those tomes sent to me and to tote around as well. So, yeah, I filled my spare hours with both reading and writing, quite a bit of both.

Here are the links to the rest of the series.

(5) BOOKSTORE REBOUNDS FROM ARSON ATTACK. “L.A. book emporium the Iliad recovering from mysterious fire” reports the Los Angeles Times. The bookstore’s GoFundMe has been an enormous success. The owner asked for $5,000 to cover his insurance deductible. “The response has topped $34,000, sparing him the need to file a claim at all.”

…The cause of the blaze remains unknown. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said it has been ruled undetermined.

[Iliad owner] Weinstein said he believes an arsonist started the fire. It appeared that books the store leaves outside for the community to browse were stacked in a pyramidal shape next to the entry door and lit, he said.

An inscrutable motive was suggested by 15 to 20 copies of a flyer Weinstein said he found taped to the sides of the building. It was a collage of conspiratorial references — the Irish and South African flags, a photo of the burned-out cabin where policeman-turned-killer Christopher Dorner died, an address of a nearby home, and a handwritten letter attributed to Alex Cox, a deceased figure in a complex family homicide case depicted in a Netflix documentary….

(6) AMAZON WORKFORCE CUTS COMING. Reuters has learned “Amazon to lay off thousands of employees”. (And last week, Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc said it would cut more than 11,000 jobs, or 13% of its workforce.)

… The cuts, earlier reported by the New York Times, would represent about 3% of Amazon’s corporate staff. The exact number may vary as businesses within Amazon review their priorities, the source told Reuters.

The online retailer plans to eliminate jobs in its devices organization, which makes voice-controlled “Alexa” gadgets and home-security cameras, as well as in its human-resources and retail divisions, the person said. Amazon’s time frame for informing staff remained unclear….

(7) THE ART OF FANHISTORY. Garth Spencer’s name was chosen from the hat to be Corflu Pangloss’ Guest of Honour. He has published the speech he gave “revealing the hideous basic truths of fandom” in Obdurate Eye #21.

…There was a time when I thought every other country seems to have a published fanhistory; why shouldn’t a Canadian fanhistory be published? Maybe I could compile it, from any information I could gather. Then I got strange responses like “Who are you? Why are you asking me questions? Who sent you? I’m not responsible!” So, I learned that There Are Things Fans Must Not Put on Record. More to the point, my search to find out what people can be expected to do, when to expect it, and how to defend yourself, is not the first thing people think of when they think of fanhistory….

(8) A MEMORY PROMPT. Daytonian in Manhattan’s “The Lost ‘Furness House’ — 34 Whitehall Street” is an article about the NYC headquarters building for the steamship line A. Bertram Chandler once worked for.

In 1891, Christopher Furness, owner of the Furness Line of steamships, and Henry Withy, head of the shipbuilding firm Edward Withy & Co., merged their businesses to form Furness, Withy & Co., Ltd.  Starting out with 18 vessels, by the outbreak of World War I, it sailed more than 200–and it was ready for a new New York City branch office building….

Andrew Porter reminds readers that he published Chandler’s autobiographical “Around the World in 23,741 Days” in Algol 31. You can read it here.

…One very early—but remarkably vivid—memory I have is of a Zeppelin raid on London during World War I. can still see the probing searchlights, like the questing antennae of giant insects and, sailing serenely overhead, high in the night sky, that slim, silvery cigar. I can’t remember any bombs; I suppose that none fell anywhere near where I was. It is worth remarking that in those distant days, with aerial warfare in its infancy, civilians had not yet learned to run for cover on the approach of raiders but stood in the streets, with their children, to watch the show….

(9) READ COMPLETE MOORE REMARKS ON KEVIN O’NEILL. [Item by Danny Sichel.] At the request of the New York Times, Alan Moore wrote an obit for Kevin O’Neill which was too long to publish. Jeet Heer posted it to Twitter.(O’Neill did the art for Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)

(10) WOOSTER EULOGY. Philanthropy Daily, where he was a contributor, paid tribute to him in “Martin Morse Wooster, RIP”.

…In addition to writing for Philanthropy Daily, Martin was a senior fellow at the Capital Research Center, and contributed significantly to research on philanthropy and especially the issue of donor intent. Martin’s contributions to questions around philanthropy, charity, and donor intent can scarcely be overstated. How Great Philanthropists Failed remains the leading book on donor intent and the history of failed philanthropic legacies.

Martin’s work has appeared everywhere from the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post to the Chronicle of PhilanthropyReason, and numerous other publications.

Martin will be sorely missed by all of us at Philanthropy Daily and countless others who have benefited from his important work.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1985 [By Cat Eldridge.] Shadow Chasers 

Before we get started on talking about today’s essay, may I note that this was the day fifty-eight years ago that Santa Claus Conquers The Martians premiered was well? It was considered one of the worst genre films ever released, bar none.

Thirty-seven years ago this evening a series premiered on ABC, receiving almost no notice: Shadow Chasers. Let’s talk about the show before we turn to a brief autopsy on its numbers.

LOOK— I SEE BIGFOOT COMING WITH SPOILERS!

British anthropologist Jonathan MacKensie (Trevor Eve who played Peter Boyd in the excellent Waking the Dead forensic series) works for the fictional Georgetown Institute Paranormal Research Unit (PRU). MacKenzie’s department head, Dr. Julianna Moorhouse (Nina Foch), withholds a research grant to force him into investigating what she says is a haunting involving a teenage boy. He is paired with flamboyant tabloid reporter Edgar “Benny” Benedek.

Benny and Jonathan do not get along, but manage to solve the case without killing each other. The episodes continued in this vein, with Jonathan and Benny grudgingly learning to respect and admire each other, in the fashion of American cop shows.

LOOK IT WASN’T REALLY BIGFOOT, WAS IT? 

Now for the rating autopsy I promised.

So understand that it was on ABC as I said for just ten episodes of its sad existence with the last four shows being broadcast solely on the Armed Forces network. Just how bad was its existence? It was the lowest-rated of a one hundred and six programs during the 1985-1986 TV season.

Why so, you ask? Well that’s easy. It was broadcast against NBC’s The Cosby Show and Family Ties and CBS’s Magnum P.I. and, later on, Simon & Simon on CBS. It didn’t stand a chance. 

Indeed, local ABC affiliates within a few weeks in started preempting the series for other programming.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i LönnebergaKarlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s eighteenth most translated author, and the fourth most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.  There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter was an animated series in Japan recently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 14, 1932 Alex Ebel. He did the poster for the first Friday the 13th film, and his cover illustration for The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin published by Ace Books in 1975 is considered one of the best such illustrations done. I’m also very impressed with The Dispossessed cover he did as well as his Planet of Exile cover too. His work for magazines includes Heavy MetalSpace Science Fiction and Fantastic Story Magazine. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 14, 1950 Elliot S. Maggin, 72. A writer for DC Comics during the Bronze and early Modern ages of comics where he helped shaped the Superman character. Most of his work was on Action Comics and Superman titles though he did extensive work elsewhere including, of course, on the Batman titles.
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 71. In 1984, she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor which she just retired from.  She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction.  A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy that she co-wrote wrote Michael Franklin and Baird Searles was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II. She has been nominated for six Hugos as Best Professional Editor or Best Editor Long Form.
  • Born November 14, 1959 Paul McGann, 63. Yes, he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who: The Television Movie, but he has reprised that role in numerous audio dramas, and the 2013 short film entitled The Night of the Doctor.  He also appeared in “The Five(ish) Doctors” reboot. Other genre appearances include The Pit and the Pendulum: A Study in TortureAlien 3, the excellent FairyTale: A True StoryQueen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers.
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 59 . All around great person. Past President of SFWA.  She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 nomination in the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional category. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a 2020 Nebula, and her short story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” was a 2013 Nebula Award finalist.  Her impressive fantasy Tabat Quartet quartet begins withBeasts of Tabat, Hearts of Tabat, and Exiles of Tabat, and will soon be completed by Gods of Tabat. She also writes amazing short fiction as well.  The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills through live and on demand classes about a range of topics. You can get details here.  Her latest, You Sexy Thing, was a stellar listen indeed and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.
  • Born November 14, 1969 Daniel Abraham, 53. Co-author with Ty Franck of The Expanse series which won a Hugo at CoNZealand. Under the pseudonym M. L. N. Hanover, he is the author of the Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series.  Abraham collaborated with George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to write the Hunter’s Run. Abraham also has adapted several of Martin’s works into comic books and graphic novels, such as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, and has contributed to Wild Cards anthologies. By himself, he picked up a Hugo nomination at Denvention 3 for his “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” novelette. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump knows of one effect that’s not special at all!

(14) HAPPY NEW YEAR. Lois McMaster Bujold pointed out to her Goodreads followers that the next Penric book Knot of Shadows garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly. The Subterranean Press hardcover is due to be released on January 1. [Update: Bujold’s author page shows the Kindle edition of Knot of Shadows came out last year in October, so this will be a new hardcover edition, but not a new release per se.]

Temple sorcerer Penric and demon Desdemona return in this page-turner fantasy mystery from Bujold, the 11th in the series (after The Assassins of Thasalon) and possibly the best yet. Penric and Desdemona, the chaos elemental who shares his body, are joined by Alixtra and her own demon, Arra, to help the healers of the Mother’s Order in Vilnoc with an unusual case: a corpse has revived and is now shouting gibberish. Penric discovers that the victim is not one but two dead people—a man slain by death magic and a ghost that has begun animating his body. Death magic is so rare that even Desdemona has never witnessed it performed. A supplicant offers their own life to ensure that the Bastard, Penric’s god, will kill their target. This ritual opens multiple quandaries: Who is the corpse? Were they the supplicant or the target? And where is the other party to the death prayer? Penric remarks that “this case is bound to get ugly and sad”—and indeed it does, in the most creative of ways. Bujold has her protagonists combine mundane and mystical investigative methods to unravel the questions at hand, creating a truly enticing mystery. Series fans and new readers alike will want to savor this intricate , unusual case.

(15) WORLD MUSIC. “Ludwig Göransson Discusses His Globe-Trotting ‘Wakanda Forever’ Score” in Variety.

… The challenge, Göransson says, was to find a new sound for the African kingdom of Wakanda and its grief-stricken people while also trying to imagine the sound of Prince Namor’s undersea kingdom of Talokan, whose origins lay in Mexico’s ancient Mayan civilization.

Göransson consulted musical archaeologists and spent two weeks in Mexico City collaborating with Mexican musicians. He auditioned “hundreds of ancient instruments,” from clay flutes to unusual percussion instruments, and saw paintings of Mayans playing on turtle shells, among dozens of similar musically inspirational moments. He discovered the “flute of truth,” a high-pitched whistle-like woodwind instrument, and vowed to incorporate the “death whistle,” which has a piecing sound like a human scream.

By day, Göransson recorded with Mexican musicians, and by night, he was recording with Mexican singers and rappers. “I was using the morning sessions to put together beats and songs that we would use later that day with the artists,” the composer reports….

(16) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. Leaflock™ The Ent™ from WETA Workshop is only fifteen hundred dollars… The image of this veteran of the attack on Isengard “Contains two (and a half) Orcs, squashed, pinned and/or crushed by the Ent’s wrath.”

(17) MAKE IT GO. And if you have any money left after buying the Ent, you can order the Volkswagen-built Star Trek captain’s chair that goes 12mph – assuming it truly exists, which the Verge says should not be taken for granted.

…Assuming all of this is real, of course. Volkswagen has a recent history of lying to people. This time, the company seems to be fairly transparent that it’s a one-off marketing stunt, while also suggesting that “it will be available for test drives at various locations.” Hopefully that means citizens of Norway will soon be able to prove its capabilities….

(18) COMING FROM DUST. The short film Jettison will be released online December 7 by DUST & Film Shortage.

A restless young woman ships off to fight an interstellar war, only to struggle with the effects of being cut off from her home by both time and space.

(19) BELA WINS. “The 20 best horror villains of all time”, according to Entertainment Weekly.

…But for every icon of the macabre, there are a much larger number of deranged dentists, serial-killing Santa Clauses, and sorority house murderers who don’t quite rank as highly in the frightening food chain. In fact, it’s been a while since a character came along and asserted his or herself as the next count of the Carpathians or chainsaw-wielding maniac. Whoever steps up next has some big shoes to fill, because these are the crème de la crème when it comes to history-making evildoers….

1. Dracula

Dracula is the most influential horror villain of all time. The Count stalks like a slasher, murders in droves like a serial killer, and is the inspiration for every single vampire movie made after 1931. Dracula’s vast powers, and his immortality, make him the most formidable of any killer on this list, and while Bela Lugosi is most often associated with the character, it was Sir Christopher Lee who made the Count the vile, sadistic creature of the night.

Lee gave the character a grandiose feel thanks to his imposing height, and there was a sexuality the villain exuded which made him irresistible to women. Unlike his colleague and friend, Peter Cushing, Lee loathed reprising the role because Hammer wasn’t faithful to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. “I wanted to play Stoker’s character,” Lee explained. “It wasn’t remotely like the book.”

You’ll also enjoy Horror of Dracula (1958).

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dream Foundry has released the video of “Fantasy? On MY Spaceship?! Blending Science and Sorcery” on their YouTube channel. Features panelists Valerie Valdes, Tobias Buckell, and Bogi Takács.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Danny Sichel, David Doering, Andrew (not Werdna), 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/20 Pixel The Scroll That Makes You Happy

(1) NEW NINTH DOCTOR STORIES COMING FROM BIG FINISH. Christopher Eccleston has finally come around to playing the Doctor again announces BBC Studios.

Big Finish Productions, in association with BBC Studios announces the long-awaited return of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.

First seen on screen in 2005, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor introduced a whole new generation of fans to Doctor Who.

Now he’s back, with a brand-new series of twelve fantastic full-cast audio adventures in space and time, due to be released across four box sets, starting with volume one in May 2021.

Christopher Eccleston said: “After 15 years it will be exciting to revisit the Ninth Doctor’s world, bringing back to life a character I love playing.”

Big Finish’s own press release hints at how Eccleston was won over (even after turning down Steven Moffat’s attempt to get him for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who).

Big Finish’s Chairman, Jason Haigh-Ellery said: “I first talked to Christopher about returning to the role of the Doctor at the Gallifrey One convention in February this year. Christopher said he was enjoying meeting the fans and was pleased that his Doctor was remembered so fondly.  He indicated he would be open to discussing a project with Big Finish. 

“And then the pandemic happened and time moved both quickly and very slowly. Over recent months, ideas have been exchanged and discussions had. I am so pleased that Christopher has decided to return to the role with us – and I’m excited to welcome him to the Big Finish family as we discover the new adventures of the Ninth Doctor.” 

(2) SCARY GOOD. On the Horror Writers Association blog: “HWA Poetry Showcase Featured Poets” features a Q&A with Sarah Read, K.P. Kulski, and Sarah Tantlinger.

(3) WHERE TO FIND THEM. James W. Harris has been working on analysis and comparison of lists of the “great works” of SFF for several years. This week, while everyone else is busy damning the canon, he posted about the optimal solution for acquiring all the greatest sff stories in as few anthologies as possible. “The SF Anthology Problem – Solved” at Classics of Science Fiction.

Two years ago when we completed version 1 of The Classics of Science Fiction Short Story list I proposed a math challenge. Version 1 came up with 275 stories. I asked if there was any mathematically way to decide what were the fewest anthologies that contained all 275 stories using ISFDB.org as a reference database. Version 1 was generated using .csv files. Since then we updated the process to a database for version 2 of the list, which produced 101 stories — we believe that was a more practical reading list.

A science fiction fan could read the entire list over the summer by reading one story a day, or in a year by reading one story every three days, but where would they get the 101 science fiction short stories?…

(4) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s“The Full Lid for 7th August 2020”processes his experiences with the virtual CoNZealand.

…To all the CoNZealand volunteers: I see you. I see your hard work. Thank you.

The issues being raised by our community this week are with the structure you inherited and were bound by. None of that is the fault of volunteers, acting with minimal resources, time, communication and support.

My intention here is to report my own experiences and do so honestly. There are things that have to be done to make this experience better for everyone. My hope is my experiences can help with that.

It includes a segment evaluating the successes and criticisms of CoNZealand Fringe.

(5) A THING OF BEAUTY. The Astounding Award.

(6) RESTART TREK. All those Star Trek movies you’ve read about being developed in the past couple of years? You might not be hearing about some of them any more. Mike Fleming Jr., in the Deadline story “Emma Watts’ Top Priority At Paramount: Figure Out ‘Star Trek’ Reboot” says that Paramount CEO Watts has shelved all existing scripts for the fourth Star Trek movie, including one with Noah Hawley as writer/director, one with Mark L. Smith as writer and Quentin Tarantino as director, and one with S.J. Clarkson as director that would have had Chris Hemsworth play Chris Pine’s father.  But since Star Trek is a “monster franchise” for Paramount so Star Trek 4 will get made.

…What we’re hearing is that both the [Noah] Hawley pic — which calls for a new cast and might be about a deadly virus which might feel awkward given current circumstance — and the [Mark L.] Smith version — [Quentin] Tarantino dropped out as director, but the project is still viable based on an episode of the classic Star Trek series that takes place largely earthbound in a 30s gangster setting — might serve the franchise best as Logan-like spinoffs when the core franchise has been revitalized. But that the other one might have the cleanest path toward a relaunch, with an emphasis on boosting overseas gross numbers which have never been the franchise’s strong suit. These decisions will take place over the next few weeks.

(7) A GEM IN WAITING. ScreenRant’s Crag Elvy pooh-pooh’s the idea of a Silmarillion adaptation, but doesn’t go so far as to whinny a big horse laugh at it: “Lord of the Rings: Why A Silmarillion Movie Wouldn’t Work”.

But just because The Silmarillion could be turned into a feature-length film, that doesn’t necessary mean it should be. The book offers a fascinating insight into Middle-earth’s long history, adding context to the events of The Lord of the Rings and widening the lore in fascinating and organic ways. Arguably, there are events in The Silmarillion that eclipse anything in Tolkien’s more famous books in terms of importance. However, The Silmarillion is not a conventional novel in the same style as The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. There is no central protagonist, while the narrative spans many eras of time and vast expanses of geography. Moreover, The Silmarillion reads more like a religious text or a history textbook (albeit an infinitely more interesting one) than a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. Telling the same sort of heroic tale movie fans are used to would be a tough ask from The Silmarillion‘s source material, as would constructing one complete start-to-finish narrative suitable for mainstream cinema.

(8) BEYOND THE PANDEMIC. ConTamination2020,  “An online convention using Science Fiction & Science to explore pandemics and the long-term future of humanity,” will be held September 12-13, 2020, between 1p.m.-9p.m. GMT+1. The con is being organized by a small group of volunteers interested in using speculative fiction to explore the future of humanity after COVID-19, led by Vivienne Raper, Kat Kourbeti, and Catrin Osborne. Follow them on Twitter here.  

To avoid stepping on any toes, we’ve narrowed the focus of ConTamination to be a science-meets-speculative-fiction convention. Our aim is to tackle the big questions that many of us are asking about the future, and our place as science fiction and fantasy fans within it.

They’re looking for volunteers – if you’re interested, click on the “ConTamination 2020 Volunteer Interest Form”.

In a time of social distancing and home isolation, how about we all get together to talk books, pandemics, and the social impact this current evolving crisis will have worldwide, in both science and literature?

We still have open slots for panels so if you are interested in speaking and have a topic in mind that relates to any of the theme strands of the convention (science, fiction, or social change – where it relates to pandemics and the way we are dealing with the current pandemic), however remotely, do reach out and let us know your thoughts.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 9, 1996John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. as it was stylized on screen premiered. The sequel to Escape from New York, it was co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter, co-written and produced by Debra Hill and Kurt Russell, with Russell again starring as Snake Plissken. It also co-stars Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, and Pam Grier.  Reception was definitely mixed. With most critics thinking the script was uneven, the film bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 39% rating.  Carpenter has said that, “Escape from L.A. is better than the first movie. Ten times better.” (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 – P.L. Travers.  Four novels, two shorter stories and a cookbook about Mary Poppins; other novels, poetry, nonfiction.  Also had a career as an actress; parents disapproved, thus “Pamela Travers”.  First two MP books unsurpassed, perhaps unequaled.  Translated into Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian.  Never happy with the Disney version though it made her rich; “It’s glamourous and a good film on its own level, but I don’t think it’s very like my books.”  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1908 – Joan Kiddell-Monroe.  Author and illustrator, famous for children’s books.  Oxford Myths & Legends (i.e. Oxf. Univ. Press).  Muriel Levy’s six Adventures of Wonk.  Four of her own In His Little Black Waistcoat about a panda.  Aesop’s Fables.  Arabian Nights.  Here is “The Exploits of Hanuman”.  Here is Queen Amata singing of Turnus and Lavinia from The Aeneid.  Here is a cover for The Magic Bed-Knob.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson. Swedish-speaking Finnish artist wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with Småtrollen och den stora översvämninge (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Over the next decades, there would a total of nineteen books. Currently Moominvalley, the new animated series is playing, on Netflix. And Terry Pratchett in “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” credits her for him becoming a fiction writer. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1920 – Jack Speer.  Pioneer of fanhistory with Up to Now (1939) and what we now know as Fancyclopedia I (1944).  Introduced mailing comments, i.e. on others’ contributions in mailings, or distributions, of amateur publishing associations, thus ancestor of blog postings.  His SF Song Sheet at Chicon I (2nd Worldcon) was the ancestor of filk music; the costume party he and Milt Rothman suggested was the ancestor of the spectacular on-stage contest we call the Masquerade.  Fancestral Voices collects his fanwriting.  When in my fanzine Vanamonde I misspelled the famous typo poctsarcd he promptly wrote back “Nothing is sacrd.”  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1941 – Jamila Gavin, F.R.S.L., 79.  Her Indian father and English mother met in Iran; she calls herself half and half.  The Wheel of Surya, two sequels, follow two generations of Indian Sikhs; The Magic Orange TreeThree Indian Goddesses and Three Indian Princesses are short stories from Indian legends; she is also a patroness of the Shakespeare Schools Festival.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories, for us; twoscore more books (e.g. Coram Boy about the 18th Century foundling hospital established by Thomas Coram; Whitbread Prize).  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 76. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits, Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. (CE) 
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 73. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 71. Author of two novels so far in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1953 – Jim Theis.  To him is attributed The Eye of Argon, said to be from 1970 when the author was 17 (maybe 16 when he wrote it).  For two decades he has been subject to De mortuis nil nisi bonum (Latin, “Of the dead, say nothing but good”, various reasons e.g. they cannot defend themselves), to which the reply may be that we are speaking not of him but of his Eye, or that it’s so bad it’s —  anyway, see here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1956 Adam Nimoy, 64. Son of the Leonard Nimoy and the actress Sandra Zober. His wife is Terry Farrell.  He’s directed episodes of Babylon 5Next GenerationThe Outer Limits (he directed his father in the “I, Robot” episode, and Sliders. He’s responsible for For the Love of Spock, the documentary about his father. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1970 – Thomas Lennon, 50.  Actor, screenwriter, producer-director, guitarist.  Played Eddie the Shipboard Computer in the 2005 film of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mr. Mxyzptlk in Supergirl on CW television this year.  Two novels for us; the first, Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles, was a NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville calls into a Trekkie talk show.
  • Prickly City wonders if Earthmen should stay home.
  • Non Sequitur says these complaints have been valid for a long while.
  • Another Non Sequitur has the “true reason” these species missed Noah’s Ark.

(12) THE UPSIDE OF THE PANDEMIC. Sir Julius Vogel Best Novel winner Sascha Stronach thinks, “One of the few saving graces of this year’s worldcon is that we didn’t end up having to host all these very important writers in TSB Arena, the worst events venue in New Zealand.” Thread starts here.

(13) FIRST THINGS FIRST. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick says “‘The First Sister’ Is Stylish, Substantial — And Very Cool — Space Opera”.

Linden A. Lewis’s debut novel The First Sister (book one in a trilogy of the same name) is a lot of fun, as stylish as it is substantial. Would you like your space opera with the social commentary and swaggery cool of Alexandre Dumas, with a dash of Cowboy Bebop and some awesome queer characters? Are you interested in political maneuverings and space economics, fantastically rich worldbuilding and sneaky spy stories? Read on. First Sister might be just the book you’ve been waiting for.

(14) IT’S IN THE CARDS. In The Washington Post Magazine, Gavin Edwards went to the 2019 Magic: The Gathering Mythic Championship in Richmond to profile players able to compete at a level where they can win serious money.  He note that nearly all of the top Magic:  The Gathering players are men, but Jessica Estephan, the first woman to win a Magic Grand Prix tournament, says that rather than two or three women at a big tournament, “I need more than two hands” to count the women competing, “and that just blows my mind and I love it.” “Strange Magic”.

The best Magic players have their games broadcast on Twitch with up to 30,000 people watching at once and up to 750,000 sampling the tournament at some point.

…After Lee gathered his cards and departed, Nettles told me quietly, “He’s a high-profile player, a Hall of Fame guy. I’m a tier below.” (Magic does have an official Hall of Fame, honoring 48 of its greatest competitors.) Nettles had played enough matches against the world’s best Magic players to assess his abilities vs. theirs: “I make a mistake in three percent of the games, they might make a mistake in one percent, and that’s the difference in a tournament.” One minute you’re a hero; the next minute, you’re a goat. Or in this case, an elk.

In 2019, Wizards provided 32 top players with sponsorship contracts worth $75,000 and, almost as important, gave them automatic invitations to major tournaments. Nettles wasn’t in that tier, but he had played well enough at Magic tournaments to get a sponsorship from a company that makes protective card sleeves, allowing him to play the game for a living.

(15) AARGHONOMICS. “The pandemic has put video game equipment in unusually high demand. The gaming chair is ascendant,” declares the New York Times: “This Is Not a Desk Chair”. (It is also not the chair John Scalzi recently bought. I checked.)

In a rented home on a sunny street in Los Angeles, a team of professional gamers sat hunched over in swivel chairs while a pair of ergonomic specialists observed their posture, asked questions and took notes.

The gamers reported pain in their necks, their lower backs, their hips, wrists and shoulders. Carpal tunnel was a common complaint. Most of them were not yet 20.

Over several days in May 2018, specialists who had come from Herman Miller, the modern furniture company, and Logitech, the computer accessory and software manufacturer, watched professional teams practice in their training facilities (often large homes they shared with teammates) and play in a tournament.

They noticed how the gamers gripped their toes on the bases of their chairs to support their bodies, how they would incline forward when they played and how, in their downtime, they would exhibit what Herman Miller personnel dubbed “the teenage slouch.”

“We’re over 50, we don’t know anything about gaming,” said John Aldrich, the vice president of advanced engineering at Herman Miller, which is best known for its Eames lounge chair and mid-century modern furniture. “Watching multimillionaire 19-year-olds playing games was not what I expected to do with my career.”

Perhaps not, but Mr. Aldrich has devoted much of his professional life to ergonomic design, an area of relevance to anyone who sits for extended periods of time, as gamers do. And many players gravitate toward models that resemble chunkier, aggressively colorful office chairs….

(16) DON”T FORGET TO CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a talk given at Boskone 5 (1968): “Larry Niven: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation.” We didn’t have YouTube in Ye Olde Days, so this material was still all new to me when Niven reprised it at a convention I attended a few years later.

In this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images), Larry Niven gives a delightful talk on the effects of teleportation on a society. Five years before his “Flash Crowd” was published, this recording is a grand exposition of what goes on in this author’s mind as he works out the impact of new technology. “The limitations you assume for your teleportation are going to define your society.” Isaac Asimov (and a number of other audience members) challenge Larry with questions and suggestions. There’s even a chalkboard talk (which you can follow from the audio). The program provides a very entertaining and complete logical framework for thinking about the problems and advantages of different implementations of mechanical teleportation, with the eager participation of the engineers in the audience.

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