Lis Carey Review: Ten Little Fen

Spade, a Microsoft millionaire who didn’t lose his millions, is an sf fan, a SMoF (Secret Master of Fandom), who helps fan-run conventions function smoothly. Usually that means helping out in his main area of expertise—how to run a non-profit, fan-run convention operation without getting into either financial or tax difficulties. This time he’s agreed to step in as program director of SierraCon, held at a fairly isolated hotel in the Sierra Nevada mountains, on the California/Nevada border. Soon he finds himself and the whole convention snowed in, while one by one, prominent attendees are having terrible “accidents.” Fortunately, Paladin, and their joint ward, Casper, are also there. They’ve dealt with dangerous crises at cons before. But can they solve this one before one of them falls victim?

Ten Little Fen: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing, November 2021

By Lis Carey: Spade, SMoF (Secret Master of Fandom), forensic accountant, and amateur detective for sf conventions when necessary, is program director of SierraCon, an sf convention held at a relatively isolated hotel in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, just barely on the California side of the California/Nevada state line. Oh, and this convention is in November. He’s filling in for the original program director, who is recovering from chemotherapy for cancer, and not able to do the job. He’s not fond of either mountains, or snow, but once the convention starts, no one really has to go out, and the locals say the snowstorms are overblown and don’t generally create real problems. Getting ready of the official start of the convention, Spade ignores the weather.

That’s a mistake. As the official start of the convention approaches, a major blizzard closes in, flights are canceled, both attendees and guests cancel, and Spade has to remind the hotel’s general manager of the unusual terms of their contract regarding cancellations. At least their Writer Guest of Honor arrived early, and the “Usual Set,” a group of New York-based writers and editors who travel a lot, show up unexpectedly, just before that becomes impossible, and can be used to fill program holes created by the cancellations. Except, of course, Spade’s troubles haven’t even started. That happens during dinner that night, when one well-known fan nearly chokes to death, is saved by fandom’s other traveling detective, Paladin, performing the Heimlich maneuver, and subsequently proves to have been poisoned. 

The tiny, plastic number 1 in his food, which caused him to choke, may actually have saved his life, but he’s still really sick from the poison. Spade, Paladin, and their young ward, Casper, do not yet suspect that the tiny, plastic number 1 is the first real sign of what they’re up against. The basic outline of what they’re up against can be found in an Agatha Christie book whose third and so far final title, after the first two titles offended even the less sensitive racial sensitivities of an earlier age, is …And Then There Were None.

Even with the cancellations, they’ve got a few hundred people on site.

It’s soon very clear that the would-be killer isn’t stupid, and is intimately familiar with fandom. This isn’t an outsider. Spade, Paladin, Casper because they can’t leave her unattended while they investigate, the writer Guest of Honor, Horatio Dunnett (who may strike some as remarkably similar to George RR Martin), and a few other convention members and the occasional member of the hotel staff, are rushing to find a wannabe killer before anyone is actually killed. And they can’t call in the police, because the storm has snowed in the hotel and anything that might be considered nearby. The police can’t get them. They’re lucky they have doctors and nurses attending the convention, or they’d have no knowledgeable care for the injured as the murder attempts mount.

Finding the perpetrator is going to take Spade’s deep knowledge of fandom and ability to dig out long-buried information as long as it’s buried in digital form, and Paladin’s quick thinking and fast reflexes.

It’s a clever mystery, a lot of fun, and satisfies at least a bit of that urge to attend a convention that’s been frustrated since early 2020.

Recommended.

I received this book as a gift.

Lis Carey Review: The Early Conundrums: A Spade/Paladin Collection

Spade is a SMoF, a “Secret Master of Fandom.” He travels the country helping fan-run conventions run successfully. Mostly that’s in his area of expertise, staying out of financial and tax trouble. Sometimes, something more obviously dangerous comes up. For instance, an unexpected dead body. In the first of these five adventures, Spade is on his own in solving the case while preventing a PR disaster for the convention. In the second, he meets Paladin. She’s somewhat of a rogue detective, also very much a part of fandom.  They do not mesh easily at first. Or ever, really, but they do tackle cases together, pooling their skills.

The Early Conundrums: A Spade/Paladin Collection (A Spade/Paladin Conundrum), by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

WMG Publishing, Inc., June 2012

Review by Lis Carey: Spade is a SMoF, a Secret Master of Fandom, i.e., one of the people who travel the country helping fan-run science fiction conventions operate successfully. He’s mainly the guy who understands the finance side of running a non-profit, fan-run convention, but every so often, a puzzle or problem comes up, that Spade is able to solve quickly and quietly, avoiding trouble for the con. That’s where he got the nickname, Spade, although in build, personality, and wealth, he’s more of a Nero Wolfe than a Sam Spade.

Paladin is short, smart, pixie-ish in build, with elf-like, slightly pointed ears–and by her own description a bulldozer in her approach to problems, rather than someone with any finesse. Like Spade, she solves mysteries and problems in science fiction fandom. Unlike Spade, though she’s very much a real fan like he is, she’s also earning her living doing this. Both she and Spade want to keep sf cons as safe as possible; Paladin does this by targeting those who would prey on the children and young teens in fandom.

This book includes five adventures, the first one Spade’s alone, and the other four the two of them teaming up for tasks that require both their skillsets.

Rusch captures the experience of working on an sf convention, even while including far more exiting and alarming events than I’ve ever actually encountered. (Of course, I’m a very local conrunner, and have mostly pulled back from major con jobs in the last several years. So there may be a lot I don’t know about…)

These stories are interesting, fun, and very satisfying. Recommended.

I bought this book.

Pixel Scroll 10/27/22 Shhh, Quiet. Schödingers Kitties Are Napping On The Scroll

(1) WRITERS GET READY FOR THE FUTURE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch suggests ways authors can prepare to manage their insecurity in “Business Musings: Thinking Big”.

…When I teach craft workshops, I admonish writers to write down everything someone says about their work, the good and the bad. Most writers still pause over their notes as I say something like, This story is marvelous. I loved reading it. They don’t write that down. They think those comments are irrelevant, and yet the positive comments are the truly important ones.

Because they’re the ones that show us the pathway to success. Not to make us write another work exactly like the one we just finished, but to show us that yes, indeed, there are people who love what we do.

No one will love everything that we do. It’s just not in the human DNA. If we were alike, then we wouldn’t have variety. Some of us like sf and some of us hate it. Some of us like to windsurf and some of us are afraid to try. Some of us love cities and some of us would rather live in a remote place.

We build readers one at a time, and at different times. Someone might not read our first novel until decades after it hit print. Someone might love a novel that we struggled to write. (Never discourage that fan or tell them that the novel was work.)…

(2) BETWEEN THE LINES OF HORROR. In the School Library Journal, Rozanna Baranets explains: “Two Sentence Horror Story Contest Lets Tweens Explore Their Dark Side”.

Hana O. came to the library to turn in her submission for the middle school’s first Two ­Sentence Horror Story contest. It was handwritten lightly, almost ­timidly, in pencil, with a smiley face and a flower drawn at the end of the last sentence.

“Here ya go,” the 12-year-old whispered as she looked down at her sneakers and handed me her entry:

“Margaret,” she calls, in that horrifyingly sweet voice that gives me the chills, and I see her, her lifeless, pitch black eyes meeting my gaze. I look away, and when I look back, she’s there, smiling at me with a knife in her hand.

Gulp! This seventh grader’s story caught me off guard, despite having received scores of similar ones over the two weeks prior. I have worked in the library at South Pasadena (CA) Middle School for over a decade, and one of the best parts of my job is coming up with ways to connect with students beyond circulating books. We’ve had famous guest authors, writing workshops, collaborative art projects, and poetry slams.

In October 2019, I tried to come up with a library-friendly way to celebrate Halloween—my favorite holiday—and thought a short writing contest would do the trick. Two sentences max, not a lot of gore please, and pinkie swear to me that you did not copy this off the internet. I figured a handful of my library regulars would participate, I’d pick “the scariest” story and reward the winner with a Starbucks gift card. And we’d all have a little fun in the process.

More than 150 entries later, I realized I’d hit a nerve. Kids who had never stepped foot in the library came in droves to turn in the darkest, most macabre and eyebrow-raising fictional tales of death, loss, and horror. It turns out, more than a few middle schoolers devote quite some time to pondering the concepts of death and dying….

(3) AFRICA RISEN EDITORS ONLINE. Loyalty Bookstores  in Washington DC and Silver Spring MD are having a virtual event on November 16 for Africa Risen featuring all of the editors: Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight for Africa Risen.

Loyalty is excited to welcome Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight, the editors of Africa Risen, for a virtual conversation moderated by Loyalty’s own Hannah Oliver Depp! This event will be held digitally via Crowdcast. Click here to register for the event with a donation of any amount of your choice. You can also order the book below to be automatically added to the event’s registration list. Donations will go to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. There will also be an option to snag the book during the event.

(4) STILL UNPACKING FROM THE WORLDCON. Read Morgan Hazelwood’s notes about the Chicon 8 panel “Decolonizing SFF” or view the video commentary at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer in Progress.

While most of us know the bloody tales of how the European powers colonized much of the globe, fewer are cognizant of the ways colonization affects the stories we tell today.

Science fiction and fantasy have a lot of bedrock colonial assumptions and strategies that need to be dug up, re-examined, and tossed out. What does decolonial SFF look like? We’ll talk about the tropes and publishing realities that need to be looked at critically and enthuse about our favorite writers and works that are combating the status quo within speculative fiction, as well as those that are striking off in new directions.

The panelists for the titular panel were: Michael Green Jr, Janna Hanchey, Sarah Guan, and Juan Martinez.

(5) WHO SIXTIETH ANNIVERSARY LOGO. “Doctor Who gets new logo for 2023 episodes but fans will recognise it” the Radio Times assures us.

The ‘new’ logo for Doctor Who‘s 2023 episodes has been revealed – though it’s more a new take on an old favourite.

In a new video teaser, it was confirmed that the BBC sci-fi series is bringing back the classic ‘diamond’ logo – as seen during Tom Baker’s tenure as the Fourth Doctor in the 1970s….

(6) COULD GANDALF PASS THE SAT? Something is happening inside Camestros Felapton’s brain. Whatever that may be, it’s not theology. “Does Gandalf Know the Sun is a ball of fusing hydrogen?”

Back in June, I asked whether Gandalf knows about atoms. Today’s question is a simpler one. The Sun, as you may be aware, is a huge ball of mainly hydrogen burning in a fusion reaction caused by the Sun’s own gravity squishing its atoms together, more or less.

Alternatively, the sun is the last fiery fruit of the golden tree Laurelin, rescued from its dying branches after it was murdered by Morgoth and the big-arse spider Ungoliant. The fruit was placed in a vessel and given to a demi-god who steers the burning fruit through the sky. The kind of fruit isn’t stated but it wasn’t a banana because that is technically a berry. Yet, even if it was a durian, that is quite a size difference….

(7) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon is Chris Garcia, Alison Scott is Chris Garcia, and Liz Batty is Chris Garcia in Octothorpe episode 69, “Hugo Thunderdome”.

What if we were all Christopher J Garcia? We discuss statistics from this year’s Hugo Awards and get into the weeds with Liz, before taking you back to Chicon 8 and featuring a chat between John, Alison, and Chris himself. Listen here!

(8) GUESS WHO TRANSLATED JOYCE INTO SWEDISH. [Item by Ahrvid Engholm.] Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka: Finnegan’s Wake in Dast Magazine. (Available from Booksamillion.)

He has worked on it since the 1950’s (a little now and then, not 24/7…). He calls the translation a “motsvariggörande” (“making equal/similar”) since the book is a huge maze in several layers difficult to really translate. Falk is known as the one reviving Jules Verne Magasinet in 1969 and recently also published a three-part history of Swedish science fiction, titled Faktasin.

Fan Erik Andersson (in the 1990s major fanzine publisher and fandom columnist in Jules Verne Magasinet) a few years ago translated Ulysses, though not the easiest prose still not as difficult as Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce seems to fit well with sf fandom, maybe because the world of fandom is just as odd and quirky as the world of Joyce…

(9) JULES BASS (1935-2022). Jules Bass, who co-created Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman, died October 25 at age 87 reports NPR.

…Bass pioneered stop-motion animation with Arthur Rankin Jr. under Rankin/Bass Productions, which formed in 1960. The duo produced 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and 1969’s Frosty the Snowman, becoming the creators of other iconic characters like the narrator for Rudolph, Sam the Snowman (voiced by Burl Ives), and the Abominable Snowman.

Rankin/Bass Productions’ animation style, called Animagic, used dolls with wire joints and captured their movements one frame at a time, Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt told NPR in 2004. The single-frame stop motion process took a painstakingly long time, with a movie that lasted under an hour taking more than a year to animate, he said….

Bass and Rankin not only worked on holiday specials but produced other animated series like ThunderCats and The Jackson 5ive. They also created adaptations of novels like J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, for which they received a Peabody award for in 1977, and The Return of the King in 1980….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ “And So Died Riabouchinska”

Good evening. This misty bit of ectoplasm forming on the inside of your television tube is one Alfred Hitchcock. Coming to you from across that great barrier that divides the quick from the dead: the Atlantic Ocean. I have materialized with the expressed purpose of warning you that during tonight’s sales you will witness a playlet entitled “And So Died Riabouchinska”. Oh yes, before we have our play I would like to make an announcement to those of you who can’t stay until the end. The butler did it.— Alfred Hitchcock making his introduction.

Ray Bradbury scripted “And So Died Riabouchinska,” which was broadcast on Alfred Hitchcock Presents on CBS on February 12, 1956. It was one of five scripts he’d write for the series, while two more stories of his stories would be adapted for it.

Bradbury wrote the original which was titled “Riabouchinska” in the 1940s and it was first sold to Suspense, a CBS radio series and broadcast on November 13, 1947. Bradbury resold serial rights and it was first published under the title “And So Died Riabouchinska” in the second issue of The Saint Detective Magazine which published it in their June/July 1953. It was last published in his Machineries of Joy collection.

OK REALLY STRANGE SPOILERS NOW. SENSITIVE FILERS SHOULD GO AWAY. REALLY GOOD THEY SHOULD.

I hadn’t realized how well our author could script pure horror, quiet horror, until I researched this one. The ventriloquist was inspired by Michael Redgrave’s performance in the Dead of Night anthology film. 

In the Hitchcock episode we have Fabian played by Claude Rains, an ageing and none too successful vaudeville player who gets tangled up in a murder at the run-down theater where he was performing. 

When he goes home, he has a conversation with his wife.  He’s pulls out his doll, Riabouchinska, an actual doll here who was voiced by Iris Adrian, and engages in conversation with it, much to the utter anger of his wife and the bemusement of the detective who’s played by Charles Bronson who has shown up to ask him about the murder. The doll claims that Fabian’s wife is jealous of her and doesn’t like her very much. 

Note the doll apparently replies to the astonishment of the detective. The look on the Riabouchinska’s face is always chilling. Our detective comes to be suspicious of Riabouchinska believing that she’s much more than a mere doll. Which she is obviously. 

(Yes, there’s is a murder here. It really doesn’t count other as a way to get the detective there.)

He discovers that Fabian’s doll eerily resembles that of a missing girl called Ilyana from back in the Thirties, but Fabian says that cannot be and with explains how he fell in love with his Russian assistant and that he modeled his dummy after her. 

He created his wooden dummy by crafting her with love and devotion. Before long he claims the doll started talking to him. The detective of course still doesn’t believe him. Smart detective.

It’s left absolutely ambiguous if it’s a magical doll or that missing infant. 

AND NOW THE CURTAIN CLOSES.

Hitchcock had these words to finish the show 

That was pleasant. It also reminded me of my youth. When I was once a part of a vaudeville act called ‘Dr. Speewack And His Puppets’. But I never cared for Dr. Speewack, he thought he was better than the rest of us. But so much for tonight’s entertainment. Until the next time we return with another play. Good night

Bradbury would later do this story again on The Ray Bradbury Theatre. That version you can see on Paramount +, Alfred Hitchcock Presents is streaming on Peacock.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1926 Takumi Shibano. Teacher, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Japan. He co-founded and edited Uchujin, Japan’s first SF magazine, in 1957. He was a major figure in the establishment of Japanese SFF fandom, and he founded and chaired four of the first six conventions in that country. In 1968 the Trans-Oceanic Fan Fund (TOFF) paid for him to attend a Worldcon for the first time, in the U.S., where he was a Special Guest. He wrote several science fiction novels starting in 1969, but his work translating more than 60 science fiction novels into Japanese was his major contribution to speculative fiction. From 1979 on, he attended most Worldcons and served as the presenter of the Seiun Awards. He was Fan Guest of Honor at two Worldcons, in 1996 and at Nippon 2007, he was given the Big Heart Award by English-speaking fandom, and he was presented with a Special Hugo Award and a Special Seiun Award. (Died 2010.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1939 John Cleese, 83. Oscar-nominated Actor, Writer, and Producer from England whose most famous genre work is undoubtedly in the Hugo finalist Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but who has also appeared many other genre films, including the Saturn-nominated Time Bandits, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Great Muppet Caper, the live-action version of The Jungle Book, two of the Harry Potter movies, and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still – and, surprisingly, in episodes of the TV series The Avengers, Doctor Who, and 3rd Rock from the Sun. And he wrote a DC Elseworlds tale, Superman: True Brit, in which Superman was British. Really. Truly.
  • Born October 27, 1940 Patrick Woodroffe. Artist and Illustrator from England, who produced more than 90 covers for SFF books, including works by Zelazny, Heinlein, and GRRM, along with numerous interior illustrations, in the 1970s. He was also commissioned to provide speculative art for record album cover sleeves; his masterwork was The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony: The Birth and Death of a World, a joint project with the symphonic rock musician Dave Greenslade, which purported to be the first five chapters of an alien Book of Genesis, consisting of two music discs by the musician and a 47-page book of Woodroffe’s illustrations. It sold over 50,000 copies in a five-year period, and the illustrations were exhibited at the Brighton UK Worldcon in 1979. Hallelujah Anyway, a collection of his work, was published in 1984, and he was nominated for Chesley and BSFA Awards. (Died 2014.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist and Illustrator, whose credits include dozens of comic books and fiction book covers, and more than hundred interior illustrations, as well as a number of accompanying works of short fiction. His first comic book story, “The Man Who Murdered Himself” appeared in the House of Mystery No. 179 in 1969. With writer Len Wein, he later co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing in House of Secrets No. 92. In the 70s, he spent seven years drawing approximately fifty detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Frankenstein. And in the 80s, he did a number of collaborations with Stephen King, including the comic book adaptation of that author’s horror film Creepshow. In 2012, he collaborated with Steve Niles on Frankenstein Alive, Alive! for which he won a National Cartoonists Society’s award. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, was honored with an Inkwell Special Recognition Award for his 45-year comics art career, and received nominations for Chesley Awards for Superior and Lifetime Artistic Achievement and for a Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Illustrated Narrative. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1953 Robert Picardo, 69. Actor and Writer who played the Emergency Medical Hologram on 170 episodes of the Saturn-winning Star Trek: Voyager, a role which he reprised in cameos in the film Star Trek: First Contact and episodes of Deep Space Nine and the fan series Star Trek: Renegades. He is also credited with writing a Voyager tie-in work, The Hologram’s Handbook. He has a long list of other genre credits, including the films The Man Who Fell to Earth, Total Recall, Innerspace, Legend, Amazon Women on the Moon, and Gremlins 2 (for which he received a Saturn nomination to match the one he received for Voyager), and recurring roles in the TV series Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Smallville, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Since 1999 he has been a member of the Advisory Board, and now the Board of Directors, of The Planetary Society, which was founded by Carl Sagan to provide research, public outreach, and political advocacy for engineering projects related to astronomy, planetary science, and space exploration.
  • Born October 27, 1963 Deborah Moore, 59. English actress and the daughter of actor Roger Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. She’s an Air Hostess in Die Another Day, a Pierce Brosnan Bond film. And she was a secretary in Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. Her very first role was as Princess Sheela in Warriors of the Apocalypse.
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 52. Writer from England who produces speculative genre literature for children and young adults. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, winner of Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature, is set in an alternate London, and involves a thousand-year-old djinn; Lockwood & Co. is a series involving ghost hunters in another alternative London. I’ve read a few of the latter – they’re fun, fast reads.  

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! gets silly about a favorite childhood book.

(13) SHOPPING LIST. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the latest Bud’s Art Books e-newsletter.

The 700-page Complete Little Nemo from Taschen that I wrote about (“Finding A More Complete (Little) Nemo — Upcoming Bargain Book Alert, Plus A Few Snakes-Hands And Rabbit-Holes”) is available, for a mind-bogglingly modest $80.00 — Winsor McCay The Complete Little Nemo, at Bud’s Art Books.

[I know it’s a few bucks cheaper on Amazon.com, who also claims they (already?) have used copies…)

Bud’s Art Books also has the Miracleman Omnibus ($90) (MSRP $100). Given that it’s 800+ pages, not necessarily overpriced. Looks like it includes, cough, more of the pre-Moore MarvelMan. (Not on my shopping list, but definitely on my library/e-library borrow list)

(14) RETURN OF THE NO-PRIZE. I first learned what a “No-Prize” was from Deb Hammer Johnson – who had won one — when we were grad assistants in the Dept. of Popular Culture at BGSU. Marvel Comics will be celebrating the tradition with variant covers.

Coveted by generations of True Believers, Marvel Comics’ legendary No-Prizes return in the form of eye-catching new variant covers this February! Coined by Stan Lee, the legendary Marvel No-Prize was originally awarded to fans who called out continuity errors in stories and later were given to those who could expertly explain them away! Over the years, the term and format of the prize itself evolved in many ways, but the spirit of it has remained the same! Celebrating this staple of comics fandom, these variant covers will take readers back to the glory days of the No-Prize by utilizing photographs of the actual iconic envelopes that were mailed out to “winners” in decades past!

 For more information, visit Marvel.com.

(15) THEY DROP KNOWLEDGE. Dream Foundry’s YouTube channel is adding program content. Two recent additions are:

Take a walk with four Black speculative poets through the state of Black speculative poetry today. Come discover what they’re reading, what they’re writing, and their favorite places to read Black speculative poetry. What themes are at the forefront of the field for Black voices, and what are they hoping to see more of in the future.

Effie Seiberg, a consultant for Silicon Valley tech startups, gives you a brief overview of some of the really cool stuff happening in technology today that people might not be aware of, and some thoughts on how to approach researching topics for your writing without going into an endless vortex.

(16) EXOPLANET CAMPOUT. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] You could make one hell of a S’more with this. “Astronomers discover giant fluffy ‘toasted marshmallow’ gas planet orbiting small star” at Chron.

Astronomers recently discovered an unusually fluffy, Jupiter-sized planet akin to a marshmallow that may be the least dense gas giant ever recorded orbiting a red dwarf star. The planet, dubbed TOI-3557 b, is located 580 light-years away from Earth in the Auriga constellation and was recently observed by scientists using a 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt National Observatory in Arizona who recently shared their findings in The Astronomical Journal. 

The planet was initially spotted by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) by detecting a drop in brightness of the host star as the marshmallow world passed in front of it. Through further observations, Kanodia and his team were able to deduce that TOI-3757 b is approximately 100,000 miles wide, which is slightly larger than Jupiter, and that the planet completes an orbit around its host star every 3.5 days…. 

(17) THEY WILL BE ASSIMILIATED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature cover story is DNA Borgs. Yes, they were named after Star Trek.

The cover shows an artist’s interpretation of Borgs, a novel kind of extrachromosomal element described by Jillian Banfield and her colleagues in this week’s issue. Many microorganisms have extra genetic information encoded in DNA that is outside their chromosome. These extrachromosomal elements are usually in the form of relatively small plasmids. But in their analysis of groundwater, sediments and wetland soil, Banfield and her colleagues found that species of the methane-oxidizing archaea Methanoperedens hosted unusually large, linear extrachromosomal elements.

The team named these elements Borgs — after the aliens in Star Trek — because they assimilate genetic material from other organisms and their environment. The researchers identified at least 19 types of Borg and speculate that they might be helping their hosts to consume methane.

Primary research here. (Open Access ‘cos Trekies will no doubt want to see) 

(18) REFUGEEING TO GALLIFREY. Matthew Jacobs, who wrote the script for 1996’s Doctor Who: The Movie, is the figurative tree on which the ornaments hang in his documentary Doctor Who Am I about the world of Doctor Who conventions and events. A lot of the fannish bits in the trailer were shot at Gallifrey One in LA.

In 1996, a Doctor Who TV movie was envisioned to lead the franchise into an exciting new future with a fresh direction but was met only by an outcry from disapproving fans. Now, follow the film’s screenwriter, Matthew Jacobs, as he is reluctantly pulled back into the world of the Doctor Who fandom that rejected his work 25 years earlier, where he unexpectedly finds himself a kindred part of this close-knit, yet vast, family of fans. The documentary features the original cast of the 1996 movie, including Paul McGann (The Three Musketeers, Queen of the Damned), Eric Roberts (Inherent Vice, The Dark Knight, The Expendables), and Daphne Ashbrook (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cathy Green, Steven French, Jennifer Hawthorne, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Ahrvid Engholm, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/22 No Pixels Were Harmed In The Production Of This Scroll

(1) ANALYZING SANDERSON’S KICKSTARTER SUCCESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an in-depth commentary about a seismic event in self-publishing, “Business Musings: Brandon’s Kickstarter”.

… If the past is any indication, however, these big Kickstarters increase the people who watch  the category and, to use the cliched phrase, they will become the rising tide that will lift all boats.

That’s the small picture.

The larger one? Smart traditionally published bestsellers should be looking closely at this. Smart unpublished writers should use this as a wake-up call.

Traditional publishing will never pay its writers tens of millions for unnamed projects. Traditional publishing can barely afford the million-dollar advances these days.

And please, remember, the Kickstarter numbers are only the beginning of the earnings on these books. These books will live for decades. Brandon will earn money on them for decades—without licensing any of the copyright to some gigantic corporate entity that does not have his best interest at heart.

Also, remember that this Kickstarter is advertising. It’s introducing millions of readers to Brandon Sanderson. These new readers are asking Who is this guy and why is he getting so much money? What are these new readers going to do? Why, they’re going to buy a backlist book and try to read it before the Kickstarter ends.

His published book sales are going to increase dramatically. So the tens of millions he’s earning on the Kickstarter does not count the other ways this Kickstarter is benefitting him financially. Nor is it counting the promotion value that he’s getting from projects that he felt inspired to write.

There’s a lot more to unpack—from some of the innovations he’s doing to the impact on the fantasy and science fiction field. But for the moment, I’m stopping here.

If you’re one of the sour grapes people, perhaps you should ask yourself why you’re being so very negative. Are you jealous? Or scared?

The rest of you should watch what happens next. This is a very big deal. For all of us.

(2) KDP WTF. Philip Beaufoy, author of the Lochwood Series, is another casualty of a sudden and unexplained Kindle Direct Publishing account closure.

(3) LOVE IS ALL AROUND. The SFWA Blog’s “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” series begins with Alex Chantel’s “I See Romance … Everywhere!”

… I see romance everywhere, on all levels, and it makes me love the books I read even more. There are books without romance, that don’t need romance, and readers that are perfectly happy without it. But borrowing from the romance genre can strengthen a story and the readers’ connection to the characters. 

We all want to craft memorable characters, and the strong ones can become more enduring with a partner—two are stronger than one, as the adage goes. Princess Leia and Han Solo from Star Wars—closely followed by Ben and Rey. Paul and Chani from Dune. Nahri and Ali from S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy. K and Chloe from Terry Miles’s Rabbits. Euthalia and Conrí from Jeffe Kennedy’s Forgotten Empires series. Niko and Petalia from Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing. Some of those names may strike a romantic chord within you?…

(4) DISNEY RECORD ON LGBTQIA+ SET STRAIGHT. Deadline reports a “Internal Pixar Letter Disputes Disney’s Support Of LGBTQIA+ Employees & Questions Company’s Commitment to Change”. (The full text of the letter is quoted at the end of Variety’s coverage.)

Shortly after Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out publicly against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill today, a very pointed response began circulating internally at the studio. A letter signed by “The LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies” took Chapek to task. It refuted, point by point, an internal memo Chapek sent to employees on Monday and also criticized the fact that the company “did not take a hard stance in support of the LGBTQIA+” at the shareholder meeting.

“Monday’s email, ‘Our Unwavering Commitment to the LGBTQ+ Community,’ rang hollow,” read the LGBTQIA+ letter. It said Chapek’s communication “began with the claim that Disney has a long history of supporting the LGBT community, but Disney Parks did not officially host Pride until 2019, in Paris alone. Disney has a history of shutting down fan-created Pride events in the parks, even removing same-sex couples for dancing together in the 1980’s.”

The letter goes on to say the corporation is “capitalizing on Pride” through merchandising, specifically The Rainbow Mickey Collection.

“It feels terrible to be a part of a company that makes money from Pride merch when it chooses to ‘step back’ in times of our greatest need, when our rights are at risk,” the letter asserts.

The “step back” bit is likely a reference to Chapek’s assertion at a shareholders’ annual meeting today that “we chose not to take a public position on [the bill] because we felt we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.” It later came out that Chapek had only reached out to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis very recently….

… Finally, the letter damningly addresses Chapek’s repeated insistence that the best way for Disney to make change is through creating “powerful content that changes hearts and minds.”

It reads [in part]:

“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were. Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”

(5) CALL TO REMOVE A 2023 WORLDCON GOH. SF² Concatenation has tweeted the link to an editorial comment ahead of its next seasonal edition (slated for April). Read it here.

Science fiction is far more than a genre, it enthuses science and warns of possible futures, among much else. More, many of its aficionados are part of a community: a community that crosses nations. Sometimes that community needs to nail its colours to the mast. Now, at this moment in time, due to circumstances up-to-now unthought-of in the early 21st century, those colours are blue and yellow….

On Wednesday, 2nd March (2022), the UN moved to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine. 141 nations supported that call: only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea supported Russia, while China, Cuba and Venezuela abstained. And here’s the thing, if China is abstaining then arguably the 2023 SF Worldcon should dis-invite Sergei Lukyanenko as a Guest of Honour: Lukyanenko has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed his support for his nation’s war against Ukraine…

In particular, there is one person in the west who is currently due to share the platform at the 2023 Worldcon with Lukyanenko. Is that something he really wants to do?…

(6) REVIEWING SFF. Strange Horizons hosts “The Author and the Critic I: Christopher Priest and Paul Kincaid”, featuring the two named figures discussing the present and future of sff criticism. They begin at the beginning.

Christoper Priest: Before I wrote and published my first novel I had already written several amateurish book reviews. I was young and inexperienced, unguided, learning slowly as I went along. I was writing for fanzines published by Peter Weston and Charles Platt, and others. It was a way of writing something and seeing it in print—or at least, typed out by someone else, which at the time felt almost as good because after the process of being retyped, with bits cut out or changed or just got wrong, it looked different. By looking different it made me read it again and look at it with some objectivity. Overall, it was much easier and quicker to write an opinion piece on a new book by Brian N. Ball or Ken Bulmer than write a novel of my own. None of this counted in the long run, of course, although I still think for a beginning writer it was a good way to learn.

Paul Kincaid: Personally, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read reviews. This goes back to a time when newspapers used to publish things like book reviews and film reviews. But I never thought about writing them until I started getting involved in fandom…. 

(7) MORE FROM THE WORLDCON. Morgan Hazelwood posts her notes about another DisCon III panel: “The Nuts and Bolts of Chapters”. (She also presents the material in a YouTube video.)

The panelists for the titular panel were: Ada Palmer, Aparna Verma, Elle E. Ire, Nancy Kress, and Patricia A. Jackson, with Delia Sherman as moderator.

The panel description was as follows:

Do you even need chapters? How long should they be? Should you title your chapters or just number them? Where do you break a chapter, and how do you write a good cliffhanger? How do you write chapters with multiple character points of view? So much to discuss for such a small topic!

While the panelists didn’t address all of these, they shared some valuable tips.

(8) UNMADE HITCHCOCK PROJECT. “Alfred Hitchcock once planned a sci-fi epic, which he envisaged as ‘a projection into the life of a generation ahead’” – BFI looks back at “Hitchcock’s sci-fi movie, ‘a forecast of days to come’”.

… News of Hitchcock’s sci-fi project broke in October 1926, a month after The Lodger was first shown to the press. P.L. Mannock of the Kinematograph Weekly, who had spoken to Hitchcock about his “film laid in the future”, wrote that “If we except ‘Metropolis,’ it will be the first screen forecast of days to come,” the last words being a deliberate reference to a novella by one of Lang’s inspirations, H.G. Wells. “Television will be used dramatically, and Sir Alan Cobham will probably be consultant on big episodes of the air.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge]

“My specialty is wisdom. Do you know what wisdom is?””- Dr. Lao

“No sir.” – Mike 

“Wise answer.” – Dr. Lao

Fifty-eight years ago, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao premiered. It was George Pal’s last directorial effort. As you well know, it’s based off of Charles G. Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao. (There is now a Kindle edition of The Circus of Dr. Lao though it won’t be mistaken for a Meredith Moment.) It was nominated for a Hugo at Loncon II, the year Dr. Strangelove won. 

The screenplay was by Beaumont, who wrote twenty-two Twilight Zone episodes which given he died at 38 is quite astonishing, and Ben Hecht (originally uncredited), whose most notable work was Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Notorious, though he did have a genre credit writing The Thing from Outer Space, an early Fifties film. He also did uncredited work on Casino Royale.

Tony Randall played myriad roles in the 7 Faces of Dr. Lao including of course Dr. Lao, the Mysterious Visitor. And if you look carefully, you spot Randall simply as himself sans any makeup as a silent audience member. He also voices the Serpent, a stop-motion animated snake which has the face of another actor. Quite a performance indeed. 

Pal originally wanted Peter Sellers for the role of Dr. Lao and Sellers very much wanted to do the role. However, MGM had Randall under contract who was far cheaper than Sellers would’ve been. 

Pal also saved quite a bit of money here by reusing footage from Atlantis, the Lost Continent and The Time Machine. The Woldercan spectacular that Dr. Lao does as his grand finale of his circus is drawn entirely from the former. 

Pal has stated that it’s only film that he lost money on. It made just one million and I can’t find any mention of how much the production costs were but they were obviously higher than the very small box office was.

So how was it received? The Hollywood Reporter at the time said Randall’s performance was “a dazzling display of virtuosity, in some stunning makeup created by Bill Tuttle.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a very strong rating of seventy-eight percent.

I don’t believe it’s streaming anywhere but you can rent it pretty much everywhere. Or you can buy it for little more than a Meredith Moment. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe, His first role was in Lost Horizon as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script for the latter surprisingly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydn. Actor who appeared in a number of genre undertakings including voicing the Caterpillar in the early Fifties Alice in Wonderland, Professor Summerlee in the early Sixties version of The Lost World and Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. I’d be very remiss not to note his appearance on The Twilight Zone as Bartlett Finchley in the chilling “A Thing About Machines”. And he had one offs on BewitchedShirley Temple’s Storybook and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in the “The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair” an unusual episode as it takes place almost entirely within U.N.C.L.E headquarters. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed theirs and each other’s works. A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M Miller.”  Having not read these, I’ve no idea, what this details, but I’m betting one of y’all know. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1921 Cec Linder. He’s best remembered for playing Dr. Matthew Roney in the BBC produced Quatermass and the Pit series in the later Fifties, and for his role as James Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, in Goldfinger. He also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the Amerika series, The Ray Bradbury Theatre and The New Avengers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye. Editor of Weird Tales, he also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. His Cold Blue Light novels with Parke Godwin are quite superb. The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award. He wrote the “Marvin Kaye’s Nth Dimension” for the Space and Time website. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Ken Sobol. New to our Birthday honors list. I will single him out for having personally received Astrid Lindgren’s personal blessing to write the Pippi Longstocking series which he worked on with puppeteer Noreen Young. He also contributed scripts to Batman, Curious GeorgeG.I. JoeGeorge of the JungleHardy BoysHighlander, Superman, and Wizard of Id, and that’s hardly a complete listing.  He also wrote one of the best works done on baseball, Babe Ruth and the American Dream. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 10, 1951 Christopher Hinz, 71. His Liege Killer novel, the first in his most excellent Paratwa Saga, won the Compton Crook Award, the BSFS Award for the Best First Novel. (And yes, there is a prequel, Binary Storm, which was written much later.) He was nominated for an Astounding Award for Best New Writer. 
  • Born March 10, 1956 Robert Llewellyn, 66. He plays the mechanoid Kryten in the Red Dwarf series. His It2i2 which was a television show about AI depicting fictional events but presented as a documentary. And he played a gryphon in the oh-so-superb MirrorMask

(11) AFROFUTURISM. The Schomburg Center’s 10th Annual Black Comic Book Festival in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Afrofuturism Festival! Presents “Black Feminist Futures Series: Planting for the Future”.

The Black Feminist Futures Series features programs highlighting the powerful and long-standing relationship between Afrofuturism and Black feminism in genres ranging from literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. Planting for the Future, a virtual conversation on Black women’s participation in Afrofuturism through literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. The program features Dr. Andrea Hairston (author of Master of Poisons), Sheree Renee Thomas (author of Nine Bar Blues), Tananarive Due (author of The Between: A Novel), and Tanaya Denise Fields (founder of Black Feminist Project & Black Joy Farm, and author of “Dirty Business: The Messy Affair of Rejecting Shame” in the book You Are Your Best Thing). Moderated by Dr. Chesya Burke.

(12) GAIMAN MIRACLEMAN REPRINT. Following the herald of his return in Timeless #1 and the announcement of an all-new omnibus, Marvel Comics continues to mark the 40th anniversary of Miracleman’s modern era with a new printing of award-winning writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham’s redefining work on the character.

 Arriving in October, Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will collect the first six issues of Gaiman and Buckingham’s groundwork to give a legendary super hero a fascinating future —a future that will now come to pass! Available for the first time in paperback, the Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will give fans a chance to revisit this beloved era of Miracleman ahead of the exciting plans Marvel has in store for the iconic character later this year.

Atop Olympus, Miracleman presides over a brave new world forged from London’s destruction. It is a world free of war, of famine, of poverty. A world of countless wonders. A world where pilgrims scale Olympus’ peak to petition their living god, while miles below the dead return in fantastic android bodies. It is an Age of Miracles — but is humankind ready for it? Do we even want it? Is there a place for humanity in a world of gods? Gaiman and Buckingham delve into the lives of lonely idealists, rebellious schoolchildren and fracturing families, exploring the human constant in a changing world of gods and miracles.

(13) STAR WARS FAN NEWS. “’Star Wars’ fans are raising money for transgender youth”Yahoo! Life has the details. (The direct link to the GoFundMe is here: “Fundraiser by The Amidala Initiative (A Community Effort) : The Amidala Initiative for Equality Texas”. They have raised $8,292 of their $25,000 goal as of this writing.)

…Fans of the Star Wars franchise can relate to Padmé Amidala, a character from the Star Wars prequel trilogy played by Natalie Portman, for a multitude of reasons, from her troubled romance with Anakin Skywalker to her desire to do her best to protect her people.

It’s the latter that inspired the Amidala Initiative, a group of Star Wars fans and content creators who have joined … forces … to raise money for Texas advocacy organization Equality Texas after Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of trans children who have had or are seeking elective gender-affirming procedures or treatments.

“We, the undersigned, are 77 fan content creators, podcasters, YouTubers, TikTokers, artists, writers and cosplayers who have joined together to use our limited platforms to stand in solidarity with our trans siblings and their families in Texas,” a GoFundMe site for the Amidala Initiative states. “No child should fear that their teachers will report their parents to the government for allowing them to live as their true gender. No parent should fear criminal charges for supporting their transgender child and helping them seek therapeutic and medical support to treat their gender dysphoria … this is something we refuse to stand by silently for.”…

(14) DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS. Radio Times listens in as “Christopher Eccleston rules out Doctor Who multi-Doctor story return”.

…However, according to the latest comments from The A Word star, there’s seemingly no chance he would return for a 60th anniversary team-up special currently rumoured for 2023.

He told crowds at Australian convention Supanova: “I’ve never been a fan of multi-Doctor stories. When I worked on the series, I had really strong ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and I always think that multi-Doctor stories are a bit of a cash-in, and a bit of exploitation.

“Creatively, they never worked for me. I looked at the script for the 50th anniversary and I felt as soon as I said I wasn’t doing it it got better because, well, if I’m not in it, it’s better. The creation of the War Doctor introduced a whole new facet to the canon.”

Interestingly though, a later comment from Eccleston suggested he would consider returning to Doctor Who in live-action for a solo storyline following the Ninth Doctor.

He added: “The Ninth Doctor, in particular, is a one-man band. Definitely. So he doesn’t work with other Doctors. If you want me back, you’d get me on my own.”

(15) HEAR FROM EDITORS. Space Cowboy Books will host an online panel discussion “Beyond the Submission Guidelines” on March 29 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us for an online panel discussion with editors of SF/F magazines. Learn about the behind the scenes of running science fiction and fantasy magazines with editors: Arley Sorg (Locus & Fantasy Magazines), F.J. Bergmann (Mobius & Weird House), Rob Carroll (Dark Matter Magazine), and JW Stebner (Hexagon Magazine)

(16) PREDICTING THE PAST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Inscriptions provide an invaluable insight into the ancient world. But over the centuries, many inscriptions have been damaged and exist in fragmented or semi-legible forms, making the job of reading and interpreting them extremely difficult. In this week’s issue of Nature, “Restoring and attributing ancient texts using deep neural networks”, Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield and their team introduce Ithaca, a deep neural network designed to help historians restore and understand ancient Greek inscriptions. Working alone, Ithaca is able to restore damaged texts with a 62% accuracy, but when historians use Ithaca, their accuracy on the same task rises to 72%. Ithaca can also determine the original geographical location of inscriptions with 71% accuracy, and can date them to within 30 years from the date ranges proposed by historians. The researchers say that such cooperation between artificial intelligence and historians could help transform studies of the ancient world. 

(17) SOUNDTRACK OF SPACE. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory page hosts a “Sonification Collection” – maybe there is a “music of the spheres.”

…By translating the inherently digital data (in the form of ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers create visual representations that would otherwise be invisible to us.

But what about experiencing these data with other senses like hearing? Sonification is the process that translates data into sound, and a new project brings the center of the Milky Way to listeners for the first time. The translation begins on the left side of the image and moves to the right, with the sounds representing the position and brightness of the sources. The light of objects located towards the top of the image are heard as higher pitches while the intensity of the light controls the volume. Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone….

There’s a demonstration in this tweet:

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke chats with Dick Cavett about 2001, life on other planets, and perpetual motion machines in this clip from a 1972 Dick Cavett Show. “Arthur C. Clarke on Why Aliens Would Be Superior To Humans”.

English science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke discusses the on-going research in astronomy into discovering new planets and how he believes there is life on other planets, although we don’t know it yet.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/22/21 There’ll Be Time Enough To File When The Clicking’s Done

(1) WORLDCON PROGRAM. DisCon III has posted a basic outline of the times programming will take place – on their website here. They’ve also included specific times on significant events and for important DisCon III locations, such as Registration and the Exhibit Hall.

(2) OP-ED. Nicholas Whyte writes about the “2021 Worldcon Business Meeting agenda: my comments” at his LiveJournal, From the Heart of Europe. Here’s an excerpt:

A.3.2: Hugo Awards Study Committee – I was one of the original proposers of this committee. I am very disappointed with the results. The only concrete output that it has achieved in four years of existence is the addition of the words “or Comic” to the category title of “Best Graphic Story”. In the meantime other proposed changes have been killed off by referring them to this committee, which has then failed to consider them. I would not support the continuation of this committee’s mandate. I do not blame anyone, especially in the circumstances of the last two years, but I think we have proved that this is not a format that will deliver change.

On the other hand, if it is renewed, I would prefer to continue as a member, and I strongly urge (yet again!) that it takes the reform of the Best Artist categories as a priority. This was the main motivation for my proposing the committee in the first place. It is the single issue that has caused most headaches in my four years of Hugo administration. The Artist category definitions are very out of date, and present a risk to the future reputation of the awards because it would be very easy to make a public and embarrassing mistake. A bit more on this further down….

(3) C.J. CHERRYH HEALTH UPDATE. In a public Facebook post, C.J. Cherryh discusses the effects of her chemotherapy.

Coming to grips with chemo and change…

I’ve decided to go with the Gandalf look. I had reconciled myself to the Yul Brynner or Zhaan look, but I didn’t lose the hair with chemo. It just went snow-white and brittle. It’s not bad, now that I’m not trying to be Cher. I think I’ll let it grow and see if I can rock the look. I have a light hat I can wear when the wind’s blowing, so I don’t look like sfx surround me—it’s super light, and doesn’t stay put.

Complexion—well, that’s aged a whole lot. Dropping 40 sudden pounds will do that to you: I am developing…character. That’s my take on it. Always wondered where the lines would go. Not too bad.

Strength: that’s the big one. I don’t have much stamina for standing upright—or for walking very far…

She is getting a portable powered scooter and plans to attend cons as they continue to open up again.

(4) ROWLING DOXXED? “J.K. Rowling condemns activists for posting her address to Twitter” reports Yahoo!

…[On] on Friday, …activist-performers Holly Stars, Georgia Frost and Richard Energy held a protest ahead of Saturday’s Trans Day of Remembrance in front of Rowling’s Scotland home to protest what many see as the author’s anti-trans viewpoints. They held signs that read “Don’t Be a Cissy” and ‘Trans Liberation Now” and, while there, took a photo in front of Rowling’s house in which the address was visible, then posted it on Twitter.

Rowling’s thread starts here.

Rowling’s response included the Twitter URLs of the three who had tweeted the picture – they have since deleted their accounts.

Forbes has subsequent developments: “J.K. Rowling Slams ‘Activist Actors’ Who Doxxed Her During Trans Rights Protest”.

… According to Pink News, their demonstration outside Rowling’s home in Edinburgh, Scotland, was in support of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event to memorialize the scores of trans and gender nonconforming people murdered every year.

The Post Millennial reported Stars, Frost and Energy stood by their tweeting of the photo, but Stars tweeted they made the decision to delete it after a backlash from Rowling supporters:

“Yesterday we posted a picture we took at JK Rowling’s house. While we stand by the photo, since posting it we have received an overwhelming amount of serious and threatening transphobic messages so have decided to take the photo down. Love to our trans siblings.”

(5) PLAYING MONOPOLY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch thinks about what-might-have-been if the DOJ had been on the job sooner: “Business Musings: The If-Only Lawsuit”.

The United States Justice Department is suing to stop the big merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. That I can write about without a lot of research, because I’ve been following this merger for a long time….

All the promises in the world mean nothing when large companies merge.

I read the complaint for the suit the day the suit was announced. The complaint is worth reading because, if nothing else, it’s a what-if. What if the DOJ had been on this as the mergers started twenty years ago? What would the traditional publishing landscape look like now?

I can tell you: It would look completely different. Instead of the traditional part of the industry being dominated by five large conglomerates, the traditional part of the industry would look the same or better than it did in the early 1990s. There would be a lot of publishing houses, a lot of working editors, a lot of imprints, and a lot of competition….

(6) DC METRO NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This article about the problems of the Washington Metro is important because it’s going to affect DisCon III attendees.  The short version: one of the 7000 series of Metrorail cars derailed on October 12 and Metro pulled these cars out of service.  They haven’t brought them back yet. So Discon attendees should factor in extra time when using the troubled Washington D.C. subway. “Metro extends limited rail service through December”.

Metro will operate with reduced rail service through the end of the year as it works to return its 7000-series rail cars to the tracks, the transit agency announced Monday.

The trains, the newest in Metro’s inventory, make up 60 percent of the transit agency’s fleet but have been sidelined since the October derailment of a Blue Line train near the Arlington Cemetery station….

[Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld] said a more likely scenario would be a gradual ramp-up of service as trains are cleared to resume carrying passengers. In all, Metro has 748 rail cars in the series. The transit agency is operating with about 45 trains using its older 2000-, 3000- and 6000-series rail cars.

Wiedefeld said rail ridership, which had been around 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels, has dipped to about 28 percent in recent weeks.

No one was injured in the Oct. 12 incident, but an initial investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found defects in the trains’ wheelsets that could make them more prone to derailment. 

(7) OKORAFOR IN THE NEWS. In the Chicago Tribune, an article (which you may find blocked by a paywall) refers to fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor in reporting on Black residents who have moved out of the Chicago area. “Black residents leaving Chicago with few regrets”. Here are the paragraphs about her:

Award-winning fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor said she moved from the south suburbs to Phoenix earlier this year, drawn there by its year-round warmth. The author of 19 books, Okorafor said her resolve to stay in the Southwest grew after her daughter, Anyaugo, was accepted at Arizona State University.

“Each time I’ve gone (to Arizona), I’ve gradually fallen in love with the area because I love heat and the desert,” she told the Tribune. “Once (my daughter) got into ASU, it all just lined up and made sense.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1996 — Twenty-five years ago, Star Trek: First Contact premiered. It was the eighth film of the Trek films, and the second of the Next Gen films following Star Trek Generations. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes from the screenplay by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore. The story was written by Rick Berman, Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore.  It of course starred the Nex Gen cast plus guest stars Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell and Alice Krige, the latter as the Borg Queen. 

First Contact received generally positive reviews upon release. The Independent said “For the first time, a Star Trek movie actually looks like something more ambitious than an extended TV show.”  And the Los Angeles Times exclaimed, “First Contact does everything you’d want a Star Trek film to do, and it does it with cheerfulness and style.” It did very well at the box office making one hundred fifty million against a budget of fifty million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent rating of ninety percent. 

It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2, the year that Babylon 5’s “Severed Dreams” won. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being in Teenage Caveman, Starship InvasionsThe Lucifer ComplexVirusHangar 18Battle Beyond the StarsSuperman III C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that awful title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 81. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else.  Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his work for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had the staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes. Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  He’s not won any Hugos though he has been nominated for four — Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime BanditsBrazil and Twelve Monkeys. My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 78. Fata Morgana might be in my opinion his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories of which there are many are quite excellent too.  Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books.
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Encyclopedia of Fantasy which won a Hugo at BucConeer.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo at Noreascon 4 for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of His short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 22, 1957 Kim Yale. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer, she was a writer whose first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. For First Comics, she co-wrote much of the amazing Grimjack with her husband.
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 63. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well, that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives.  She would reprise the role of Laurie in six sequels, including Halloween H20Halloween: ResurrectionHalloween II and Halloween III: Season of the WitchHalloween (a direct sequel to the first Halloween) and Halloween Kills.  She shows up in one of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version. Is True Lies genre? Probably not, but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say.  No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career. 
  • Born November 22, 1979 Leeanna Walsman, 42. Spoiler alert. She’s best known as the assassin Zam Wesell from Attack of The Clones.  Being Australian, she’s shown up on Farscape, a Hercules series (but not that series), the BeastMaster and Thunderstone series, and Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord
  • Born November 22, 1984 Scarlett Johansson, 37. Best known perhaps for her role as the Black Widow in the MCU films including the present Black Widow film but she has other genre appearances including playing Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell which was controversial for whitewashing the cast, particularly her character who was supposed to be Japanese. 

(10) REUBEN WINNER. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a profile of Ray Billingsley, creator of “Curtis,” who is the first Black winner of the Reuben Award, given by the National Cartoonists Society for best cartoonist of the year. “Cartoonist Ray Billingsley has been portraying Black family life for decades — and now he’s getting his due”.

Ray Billingsley didn’t much like his second-floor Harlem home on Bradhurst Avenue back then. It was affordable — this being the mid-’80s — but he felt isolated, and he knew crime was a threat: “One evening while in bed with the window open, I actually heard three guys planning on burglarizing my apartment.”Yet this setting was also where, later that night after going to bed, Billingsley drew inspiration. He awoke with a creative burst. “I had a vision of these two kids. I sketched them down in the dark and went back to sleep. That morning, I found the first images of Curtis and Barry.”

There they were, two cartoon brothers — the taller one wearing Curtis’s signature ball cap, the shorter one in suspenders. With minimal line work, he had rendered his future….

(11) TAKE A BOW (WOW). “League of Super-Pets: John Krasinski Teases Role as Superman” at Comicbook.com.

…When DC’s League of Super-Pets comes to theaters next year, fans will get an odd pairing as Superman and Lex Luthor: facing off against Marc Maron’s scheming Luthor will be a Man of Steel voiced by The Office star John Krasinski. Sharing a still from the upcoming, animated movie, Krasinski revealed not only that he is Superman, but what his Superman will look like. The costume owes a debt to the one from the Max Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s — a look that recently popped back up again in flashbacks of Tyler Hoechlin’s character on Superman & Lois.

While the Super-Pets getting their own feature film may seem strange, the movie has an absolutely stacked cast providing the voices for its characters. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is starring in the film as Krypto the Superdog, the canine pal of one Superman. Kevin Hart, Johnson’s friend and frequent collaborator, will be voicing Batman’s four-legged friend, Ace the Bat-Hound….

(12) FAMOUS LIGHTSABERS AND WANDS. Julien’s Auctions “Icons And Idols: Hollywood” auction starts December 2. “I am almost grateful that I don’t have unlimited funds,” says John King Tarpinian, who sent links to such items as this lightsaber.

Collectors Hype ran a feature about some items on their “Original Movie Prop and Costume Blog”:

From the Harry Potter franchise: David Thewlis’ wand in his role as Professor Remus Lupin from the 2004 installment Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban ($5,000-$7,000), a wand used by Death Eater “Alecto Carrow” in the 2011 film Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows and Rupert Grint’s hero wand in his role as “Ron Weasley” from the same film as well as signed stamp sheets by the cast members, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, call sheets and Hogwarts acceptance letter;

Julien’s is also hawking “Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck voice artist Mel Blanc’s personal memorabilia” according to the Daily Mail.

Also included in the collection is a signed animation cel from 1958 featuring five of Blanc’s famous characters, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Bugs Bunny, Sylvester the Cat, and Daffy Duck. 

The cel is inscribed in black fountain pen ink on the background page, which reads, ‘For Pat/ with love from/ ‘Uncle’ Mel Blanc/ 4/8/58.’

(13) FIRST BLACK VOICES MATTER ACQUISITION. Angry Robot Books has officially announced their first signing through the Black Voices Matter unagented submissions.

Denise Crittendon

Denise Crittendon is a former editor of NAACP’s The Crisis, and her debut Where it Rains in Colour infuses romance, mystery and the mythology of the Dogon tribe of Mali, West Africa in a magical mythological retelling. Significantly inspired by her time in Zimbabwe, Crittendon questions and plays with universal beauty standards, and challenges the structure and system in which they live. Where it Rains in Colour will be published in December 2022.

Launched as an open submissions program for sff novels by Black authors in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, this window was originally meant to run from July to September 2020, but Angry Robot Books has since announced it would be extended indefinitely. For more details, click through here.

(14) ZERO GRAVITY NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport talks about how he experienced weightlessness for only $7,500 on a Zero-G flight from Dulles Airport, as he talks about adapting to weightlessness and how these flights give a lot of encouragement to disabled people who get to stand for the first time in years. “You don’t have to go to space to experience weightlessness”.

… I did the flips, flew arms wide like Superman, did the Spider-Man crawl along the ceiling, all in an airplane with a couple dozen others as part of a flight organized by Zero Gravity Corp. (Zero-G) that flew out of Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia earlier this month.

For years, the company has been able to create an experience for customers that mimics the weightless experience of going to space by flying in parabolic arcs. The plane flies up on a pitched ascent, and then crests over like a roller coaster into a steep dive that allows passengers to float for about 30 seconds at a time.

In a hollowed-out cabin of a 727 jet, with padding all around, your body rises involuntarily, and you float, effortlessly, as if you were a molecule in a state of matter that suddenly went from a solid to freewheeling gas, pinging around with abandon….

(15) ACRONYMS IN SPACE. “The Search for Life Around Alpha Centauri Just Took a Major Leap Forward”Gizmodo tells how.

Our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is 4.37 light-years from Earth, which is super close from a cosmological perspective but achingly far from a human point of view. A new telescope promises to bring this intriguing star system, and any habitable planets it holds, into closer view.

The new mission, called TOLIMAN, was announced today in a press release. TOLIMAN is the ancient Arabic name for Alpha Centauri—the closest star system to Earth—but it’s also an acronym for Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighbourhood. Once in space, astronomers will use the orbital observatory to search for potentially habitable exoplanets around Alpha Centauri.

The international collaboration includes teams from the University of Sydney, Breakthrough Initiatives, Saber Astronautics, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Peter Tuthill from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney will lead the project.

(16) PUSHBACK. NPR tells how“NASA’s DART spacecraft will smash into asteroid to test planetary defense tool”.

…In the first real-world test of a technique that could someday be used to protect Earth from a threatening space rock, a spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Tuesday at 10:20 p.m. PST.

The golf-cart-size spacecraft will travel to an asteroid that’s more than 6 million miles away — and poses no danger to Earth — and ram into it. Scientists will then watch to see how the asteroid’s trajectory changes.

NASA has identified and tracked almost all of the nearby asteroids of a size that would cause world-altering damage if they ever struck Earth. For the foreseeable future, none that big are headed our way. But there are plenty of smaller asteroids, the size that could take out a city, that still haven’t been found and tracked.

It’s a space rock of that smaller size that the DART mission — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — will take head-on…

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Jim Meadows III, Chris Barkley, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/24/21 The Pixel Of The Species Is Deadlier Than The Scroll

(1) PRIORITIZING THE CREW. Claudia Black weighs in on the death of Halyna Hutchins and set safety. Thread starts here. Some excerpts:

(2) LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Business Musings asks why publishers aren’t pivoting the way TV streamers are: “Untapped (Part One)”.

… Which is why the upfronts were so odd this year. A few networks didn’t even push their fall line-ups, which used to be essential for ad revenue. Now, these networks are pushing their platforms or even, at times, their older programming, trying to pair up the right ad with the right program in the right way so that consumers will see it all.

What I wrote in my blog was that, for publishers, IP should be the new frontlist. Rather than promoting the new books and titles at the expense of everything else, traditional publishers should be mining their backlist for items that will capture the moment.

For example, let’s take the pandemic. (Please, as the old comedians used to say.) If publishers had been smart, they could have combed their backlist for stories of survival in the middle of a plague.  Or maybe a few books that would make us all feel better about the extent of the pandemic we’re currently in. With just a little time on the Google (as a friend calls it), I found a dozen lists of good plague literature. None of the lists were published in 2020, by the way.

Here’s one that has books by Octavia Butler (with a novel first published in 1984, and a paper edition of 1996 that seems to be OP), Mary Shelley (with a novel that has an in-print edition), and about eight others, some of whom have their plague/pandemic in print and some of whom do not.

The point isn’t whether or not the books are still in print—although that’s part of this argument. The point is also that the publishers themselves should be putting books like these out as part of their front list, books they’re throwing money behind so that readers know about them and buy them….

(3) BUH-BACK IN THE KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from the first in-person KGB reading in 18 months at Flickr. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB even on October 20 featured readings by Daryl Gregory and Michael J. DeLuca.

Daryl Gregory and Michael DeLuca 1

(4) RIGG PROFILE. Rachael Stirling recalls her mother’s last months for The Guardian: “Diana Rigg remembered: ‘Ma didn’t suffer fools: she exploded them at 50 paces’”.

…She was always curious. Her mind was always engaged. She read prodigiously. She tested herself constantly; learning great swathes of poetry just to see if she could. She said to the Cyberknife man: “I shall be reciting Katherine’s speech at the end of Taming of the Shrew and if I get a word wrong I’ll know you’ve FUCKED it UP!” She was entirely self-educated, having been dropped off at one appalling boarding school after another….

(5) MORTON Q&A. Voyage LA Magazine caught up with past Horror Writers Association President and Halloween expert Lisa Morton for an interview: “Rising Stars: Meet Lisa Morton”.

Hi Lisa, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?

I’m a writer, a Halloween expert, a paranormal historian, a bookseller, and a lifelong Southern Californian. My particular genre happens to be horror; I’m a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award (for both fiction and non-fiction works) and a former President of the Horror Writers Association. As a writer, I actually started in film; but after having six feature films produced – four of which I’d like to disown – I moved into prose. I’ve had more than 150 short stories and four novels published in the horror and mystery genres. Last year I had a story included in Best American Mystery Stories 2020; this year started with my story from the anthology Speculative Los Angeles receiving a Locus Recommendation…. 

(6) NO TUBE STEAKS ANYMORE. Mental Floss delivers an ambitious look at off-planet dining in “Gastronauts: A History of Eating in Space”.

…While today’s space meals are planned with taste, nutritional value (usually under 3000 calories, with the proper ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates), and visual appeal in mind, NASA’s earliest attempts at providing sustenance for astronauts was focused mostly on one thing: Could a human even swallow or digest food in space?

Astronaut John Glenn answered that question in 1962, when he became the first American to consume food on board the Friendship 7 spacecraft as part of the Mercury mission. “The original space food was tube foods,” Kloeris says. “These were puréed foods you’d squeeze into your mouth.” Glenn dined on applesauce, and his side dish of sugar tablets and water went down without issue (unless you consider the experience of eating from a toothpaste tube an issue). Applesauce wasn’t the only option, either; if Glenn wanted a fancier dinner, puréed beef with vegetables was available.

… With a decline in Space Shuttle missions and a shift to long-duration trips on the International Space Station (ISS) beginning in 1998, Kloeris and her team began to focus more on a menu variety that could sustain astronauts both nutritionally and psychologically. Omega 3-rich foods low in sodium help offset bone density loss common during space exploration. Food also had to be appropriate for the environment.

Most dishes were a success; some were not. “With something like soup, you had to check the viscosity to make sure it was thick enough,” Kloeris says. “It needs to stick to a utensil. If it’s too thin, it will just float.”

Kloeris and her team created freeze-dried scrambled eggs, thermostabilized seafood gumbo, and fajitas. Food was either flash-frozen or superheated to kill off any bacteria, then air-sealed in a process similar to canning. Once a recipe was proven stable after processing—and making it palatable could take numerous attempts—NASA’s kitchen would invite astronauts in for a taste test….

(7) CAROLE NELSON DOUGLAS OBIT. Author Carole Nelson Douglas died earlier this month at the age of 76. She wrote sixty-three novels and many short stories in a range of genres. Her best known mystery series were the Irene Adler Sherlockian suspense novels and the Midnight Louie mystery series about “the twenty-pound black tomcat with the wit of Damon Runyon.”

After selling a paperback original novel, Amberleigh (published 1980), to Jove and an adventurous and original high fantasy, Six of Swords (1982) and its sequels to Del Rey Books, she became a fulltime fiction writer in 1984.

Her genre series included Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator, and the Sword & Circlet fantasy series.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1997 – Twenty-four years ago, Fairy Tale: A True Story was released by Paramount. It was directed by Charles Sturridge and produced by Bruce Davey Wendy Finerman from a story by Albert Ash, Tom McLoughlin and Ernie Contreras.  It has a stellar cast of Florence Hoath, Elizabeth Earl, Paul McGann, Phoebe Nicholls, Harvey Keitel and Peter O’Toole. So what’s it about? It is loosely based on the story of the Cottingley Fairies. Its plot takes place in the year 1917 in England, and follows two children who take a photograph soon believed to be the first scientific evidence of the existence of fairies. (Hint: it wasn’t.)  Oh, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini and Peter Pan figure into the narrative. Peter Pan? Yes. It received mixed reviews from critics with many thinking it quite “twee” and others really, really liking it. Audience reviewers at Rotten currently give it a sixty-six percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 24, 1915 Bob Kane. Editor and artist co-creator with Bill Finger of Batman. Member of both the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. Batman was nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at ConFiction. (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade won that year.)  (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 24, 1952 David Weber, 69. Best known for the Honor Harrington series, known as the Honorverse. He has three other series (DahakWar God and Safehold), none of which I’m familiar with. The Dragon Awards have treated him well giving him three Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels for Hell’s Foundations QuiverA Call to Vengeance and Uncompromising Honor. His only other Award is a Hal Clement Young Adult Award for A Beautiful Friendship.
  • Born October 24, 1954 Jane Fancher, 67. In the early 80s, she was an art assistant on Elfquest, providing inking assistance on the black-and-white comics and coloring of the original graphic novel reprints. She adapted portions of C.J. Cherryh’s first Morgaine novel into a black-and-white graphic novel, which prompted her to begin writing novels herself. Her first novel, Groundties, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and she has been Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at several conventions. Alliance Rising, which she co-authored with C.J. Cherryh, won the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. 
  • Born October 24, 1954 Wendy Neuss, 67. Emmy-nominated Producer. As an associate producer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, her responsibilities included post-production sound, including music and effects spots, scoring sessions and sound mixes, insertion of location footage, and re-recording of dialogue (which is usually done when lines are muffed or the audio recording was subpar). She was also the producer of Star Trek: Voyager. With her husband at the time, Patrick Stewart, she was executive producer of three movies in which he starred, including a version of A Christmas Carol which JJ says is absolutely fantastic, and a rather excellent The Lion in Winter too. Impressive indeed.
  • Born October 24, 1955 Jack Skillingstead, 66. Husband of Nancy Kress, he’s had three excellent novels (HarbingerLife on the Preservation and The Chaos Function) in just a decade. I’ve not read the new one yet but I’ve no reason not to assume that it’s not as good as his first two works. He’s due for another story collections as his only one, Are You There and Other Stories, is a decade old. All of his works are available at the usual suspects for quite reasonable rates. 
  • Born October 24, 1971 Sofia Samatar, 50. Teacher, Writer, and Poet who speaks several languages and started out as a language instructor, a job which took her to Egypt for nine years. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of two wonderful novels to date, both of which I highly recommend: Stranger in Olondria (which won World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards and was nominated for a Nebula) and The Winged Histories. Her short story “Selkie Stories are for Losers” was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, and BFA Awards. She has written enough short fiction in just six years that Small Beer Press put out Tender, a collection which is an amazing twenty-six stories strong. And she has a most splendid website.
  • Born October 24, 1972 Raelee Hill, 49. Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu (called Sikozu) on Farscape, a great role indeed enhanced by her make-up and costume. She’s also in Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. Genre wise, she’s also been on The Lost World series, Superman ReturnsBeastMaster and Event Zero.

(10) COURTING A MARVEL CELEBRITY. Aussie town creates campaign to get Chris Hemsworth to visit.

Suggested “plot twist: he sends Liam Hemsworth dressed as Loki.”

(11) ANOTHER MARVEL CELEBRITY. Got a big laugh with this at the Ringo Awards last night.

(12) TAKE A RISK. It’s been around since 2003 but it’s news to me (blush) — “Review: Lord of the Rings Risk – Trilogy Edition” at Critical Hits.

LotRR presents a number of very obvious differences from standard Risk.  First of all, the theme is different.  Instead of Napoleonic warfare, we have Middle Earth warfare.  Naturally, the board is also different.  Instead of continents from the Earth that we know, (Africa, Asia, North America, etc.) there are regions from the Middle Earth (Gondor, Mordor, Mirkwood, Rohan, etc.).  The regions function the same way as continents from Risk – you control the entire region, and you get bonus troops.  One of the key differences in this regard is that in LotRR, there are 9 different regions; in regular Risk there are only 6.  Thus, in LotRR, it is easier to control at least one region than it is to control one continent in regular Risk.

But the map adds additional complexity by designating certain territories as fortresses, and others as ‘sites of power’ (more on ‘sites of power’ later).  Fortresses aid in defense, by adding 1 to the defender’s highest die roll of each round of combat fought in the territory where it is located.  Fortresses also generate 1 free unit every turn, and are worth 2 victory points at the end of the game.  Because of these advantages, fortresses tend to be pretty important, and territories that have a fortress become key areas in a region….

(13) BLOCKING A THIEF. “Lego trafficking scheme of stolen sets worth thousands busted ‘brick by brick,’ Seattle police say”MSN News has the story.

…The [Seattle] PD said they began to investigate after Amazon 4-Star, an in-person store owned by the online retail giant, reported in July they had been the target of repeated thefts.

Between July and September, one thief allegedly stole an estimated $10,000 worth of sets and electronics from the store, according to a criminal complaint.

It wasn’t until September when an employee from Amazon 4-Star entered Rummage Around, a store in downtown’s Pike Place Market, and noticed that the Lego sets for sale seemed to match the sets stolen from Amazon.

“He notified police, and a detective went to the store to investigate. While the detective was at the store, the prolific shoplifter arrived and sold multiple items to the shop’s owner,” the SPD wrote on their crime blotter….

(14) A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. “NASA Plans February Moon Launch With Giant Rocket”  — the New York Times has the story.

A flight of the Space Launch System and Orion capsule without astronauts aboard is planned for early next year, a first, long-delayed step toward returning astronauts to the moon’s surface….

.. In January 2021, the rocket was finally ready for its first big test, a sustained firing of the engines that would simulate the stresses of a trip to orbit. The test was supposed to last for eight minutes, but was cut off after only about a minute.

During the second attempt in March, the rocket recorded a sustained 499.6-second burn of the giant engines that sent a giant cloud of steam over the massive test stand in Mississippi. Once the test was deemed a success, the agency shipped the massive rocket to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin preparations for flight.

This week, the Orion spacecraft was lifted atop the rocket and put into place. Together, they stand 322 feet tall, or higher than the Statue of Liberty and its base.

If an assortment of spaceflights stick to their schedules, 2022 could be one of the busiest years the moon has ever seen. In addition to Artemis-1, NASA plans to send a small satellite to orbit the moon and a pair of robotic landers carrying a variety of private cargo to the lunar surface. China, Russia, India and South Korea have all announced plans for lunar orbits or landings in 2022….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Hear Kurt Vonnegut talk to Case Western Reserve students in 2004. At around 37 minutes he draws diagrams.

Known as one of America’s literary giants, Kurt Vonnegut visited the campus in 2004 to meet with Case’s College Scholars and to give a public lecture.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, 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 rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 8/31/21 The Pixelscroll Experiment

(1) FINAL GIRLS CONSIDERED. Stephen Graham Jones cheers on the “final girls” of slasher movies at CrimeReads: “Let’s All Be Final Girls”.

…Part of the final girl’s DNA, after all, is the scream queen, typified in Fay Wray’s performance in King Kong. She wasn’t necessarily the first of her kind, but talkies were relatively new in 1933, so her scream was especially loud—loud enough to carry across the whole century.

However, final girls may come from the tradition of scream queens, but that doesn’t mean scream queens are final girls themselves. Yes, scream queens are menaced by horror, and yes, they survive their ordeals, but what their screams tend to do, actually, is bring the men in to deal with this bully. These scream queens are, after all, “white women in peril,” usually from some “dark” monstrosity—a giant gorilla, say. Their main function in the story is to cringe and run, and be abducted. Scream queens are damsels, perpetually in distress.

The final girl is no damsel. She doesn’t scream to call a man in to help her. No, she takes this lumbering beast down herself….

(2) PAGES MISSING. Dean Wesley Smith’s and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s WMG Publishing told Facebook readers their website is currently having major problems. Their ISP, Bluehost, is to blame – a company that no longer hosts File 770 I’m relieved to say.  

If you’ve tried going to the WMG website the past week or so, you’ll discover that it seems to no longer have any content. This is a result of an issue with our website hosting platform, Bluehost, that we are still trying to get them to resolve. They accidentally deleted it…all 1,500 or so pages of it (we have backups, of course, but they can’t seem to restore the site even using those…it’s a long, frustrating story). At this point, we have no idea how long our website will be down, so in this newsletter, all of the links we direct you to are external. Please send some positive tech vibes our way that Bluehost resolves this issue soon.

(3) HEARING FROM FRIENDS. Cora Buhlert’s Fancast Spotlight introduces listeners to the “Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection” podcast hosted by Oliver Brackenbury.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

I host, screenwriter Chris Dickie is the producer, and ultimately the Friends of Merril volunteer group are behind the show. The Friends of Merril are dedicated to spreading awareness of, and otherwise supporting, the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy – located on the 3rd floor of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library system. With over 80,000 spec fic texts going back over two hundred years, it’s a tremendous asset for writers, scholars, and readers, one I’ve benefited from greatly.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Well, Chris had just joined the Friends and when I asked him if he had anything specific he’d like to try in promoting the Merril, he said he’d been wanting to try podcasting. I’d been wanting to create some kind of shareable promotional content for the Merril, and had plenty of experience with hosting from my old Youtuber days. So, we figured we’d give it a whirl and see if it helped spread awareness of the Merril!

As far as I can tell, it’s certainly helped spread the good word. But we can always do more!

(4) STRONG MUSEUM’S ERIC CARLE EXHIBIT. Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit opens at The Strong Museum in Rochester, NY on Saturday, September 18 and will be on display through January 2.

Step into the pages of beloved author and illustrator Eric Carle’s Very series of picture books—including the iconic Very Hungry Caterpillar… Co-organized by Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, Very Eric Carle is the first North American traveling exhibit for children inspired by the work of Eric Carle.

At this play-and-learn exhibit, visitors step into the pages of Eric Carle’s colorful picture books. His classic “Very” series, all illustrated in his hand-painted tissue paper collage technique, introduces five special insects who take journeys of discovery. Each story is a testament to Eric Carle’s love of nature, his respect for the emotional lives of children, and his recurring themes of friendship, creativity, and the power of imagination….

(5) RAY’S HOMETOWN GETS A CONVENTION. Wauke-Con, Waukegan’s First Comic Book Convention, will be held October 16-17 at the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum, located at lucky 13 N. Genesee, from 12-6 p.m. both days. 

(6) STAR SCRIPTURE. “Star Trek Series Bibles Released Through Official Website” reports Gizmodo. Links to the Bibles themselves are here.

Series bibles are a staple of television production. Part early pitch, part worldbuilding exercise, they form the fundamental basis for the earliest concrete visions for a TV show on the road to production. And now you can get a glimpse at the documents behind decades of Star Trek TV, giving access to some truly fascinating behind-the-scenes materials.

The series bibles for TNGDS9Voyager, and Enterprise have been floating around the internet in various iterations for a while, but in a new piece by Rob Wieland today, the official Star Trek website provided a fresh look at the foundations of the first four major Star Trek TV continuations. Thanks to these documents, fans can see how these iconic shows were first imagined, what changed on the road to the small screen, and what ideas were the ones writers decided were the most-thought provoking and exciting to sell these shows on to networks….

(7) PUPPIES: THE NEXT GENERATION. With Debarkle Chapter 60, Camestros Felapton some significant late arrivals to sf’s culture wars, Nick Cole and Jon Del Arroz: “Dramatis Personae — The Next Generation”.

…In February of 2016 former soldier, actor and writer Nick Cole[5] announced that he had been “banned by the publisher”. Cole had already published a few books with Harper Collins including a trilogy of post-apocalyptic books and a novel Soda Pop Soldier in which gamers fight a virtual reality war for corporations. It was the sequel (or rather prequel) to Soda Pop Soldier that led to the dispute. Cole had planned for the story to feature a Terminator-style AI rebellion and for motivation, he had decided that the AI at the source of the rebellion would deduce that humanity would kill it after watching a reality TV show in which a character has an abortion….

(8) FILE 007. The next James Bond movie, No Time To Die, comes to U.S. theaters on October 8.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this date, Time After Time premiered. (It would lose out to Alien for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon Two.)  It was directed by Nicholas Meyer who wrote the screenplay from a story by Karl Alexander and Steve Hayes, and produced by Herb Jaffe. The primary cast was Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. Reception by critics was unambiguously positive, the box office was good and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 — Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. He showed up on The Island of Dr. Moreau as Sayer of the Law. (Died 1984.)
  • Born August 31, 1933 — Robert Adams. He’s remembered for the Horseclans series, his overall best-known works though he wrote other works. While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 — Richard Gere, 72. He was Lancelot in First Knight, which starred Sean Connery as King Arthur, and he was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it for genre film work. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honors, but he also was in live performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in the Sixties. Though definitely not genre, one of my roles by him was as defense attorney Billy Flynn in Chicago
  • Born August 31, 1958 — Julie Brown, 63. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 — Jonathan LaPaglia, 52. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favorite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history as far as I can tell unless you count the Bones series as SF in which he’s in “The Skull in the Sculpture” episode as Anton Deluca.
  • Born August 31, 1971 — Chris Tucker, 50. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man. 
  • Born August 31, 1982 — G. Willow Wilson, 39. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Sasquan Hugo Award-winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list as well. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but should soon. Her Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything is nominated at DisCon III for a Best Graphic Story Hugo.
  • Born August 31, 1992 — Holly Early, 29. She was Lily Arwell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.” She was also Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

(11) HE LOST ON JEOPARDY! “Mike Richards is out as producer of ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel’”AP News has the story.

Mike Richards is out as executive producer of “Jeopardy!”, days after he exited as the quiz show’s newly appointed host because of past misogynistic and disparaging comments.

Richards is also no longer executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune,” according to a memo to staff that was confirmed by Sony Pictures Television, which produces both of the shows.

“We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened,” Suzanne Prete, an executive with the game shows, said in the memo.

…In her memo, Prete said she will work with Richards’ interim replacement, Michael Davies, until further notice. Davies produces ABC’s “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.”

(12) STAY FROSTY. James Davis Nicoll helps Tor.com readers find “Five Chilly SF Stories to Help Beat the Summer Heat”, including —

Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster (1974)

Interstellar salesman Ethan Frome Fortune made one small mistake when he traveled to the desolate ice-world of Tran-ky-ky. He boarded the same starship as the fantastically wealthy and eminently kidnappable Hellespont du Kane, and du Kane’s daughter Colette. An attempted kidnapping ensues.

The kidnapping fails. A single kidnapper survives. He and his prospective kidnappee and several innocent bystanders (including Fortune) end up marooned on Tran-ky-ky.

The castaways are a diverse lot; at least one of them, adventurer Skua September, is suited to survival on a backward, frozen world. Other off-worlders could save them…if the stolen shuttle had not crashed on the other side of the world from the trading post.

Providentially, a nearby community of indigenes are willing to assist the odd-looking off-worlders. There is just one minor complication. Even now, a nomad horde is bearing down upon the town. Perhaps the off-worlders can help the desperate townsfolk repel the attack. If not, the humans will die alongside the townsfolk.

(13) PORTAL CREATOR. At The Walrus, Jason Guriel makes the case for “Why William Gibson Is a Literary Genius”.

…It’s been four decades since William Gibson’s short story “Johnny Mnemonic” appeared in the May 1981 issue of Omni magazine. He’d already published a couple of pieces, but “Johnny” was a landmark feat of fiction: in a matter of eight magazine pages, Gibson roughed out the contours of an entire world.

The world Gibson was building was a wormhole away from most science fiction—from space-opera optimism and the sort of intergalactic intrigue that’s settled by laser sword. Gibson’s heroes were hustlers, their turf the congested city. They used substances, skirted the law, and self-edited via surgery (see Molly’s nails). He provided more detail, the following year, in the story “Burning Chrome,” which coined the term cyberspace: a boundless 3-D grid, “an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems”—a kind of web. And then, in 1984, he went even deeper with Neuromancer. His zeitgeist-rattling debut novel was about a hacker for hire who navigated cyberspace using a modem and an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7 deck, a Gibson confection that rests on his hacker’s lap (and sounds a lot like a modern-day laptop)….

(14) DOUBLING DOWN. In “Tales Twice Told”, episode 60 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss recent award winners, the nominees for the Short Story category of this year’s Hugos, and the books they’ve been reading. 

David was particularly impressed by “The End of the World is Bigger Than Love” by Davina Bell, winner of this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers: “Probably the best piece of SF I’ve read all year”.

(15) OLDER THAN YOU THINK. Smithsonian Magazine says archeologists have established “King Arthur’s Stone Is Older Than Stonehenge”.

Arthur’s Stone, an enigmatic rock burial in Herefordshire, England, is one of the United Kingdom’s most famous Stone Age monuments. Now, reports Carly Cassella for Science Alert, excavations carried out near the tomb—named for its supposed ties to King Arthur—have shed light on its beginnings, revealing that Neolithic people built it as part of an intricate ceremonial landscape.

“Although Arthur’s Stone is an iconic … monument of international importance, its origins had been unclear until now,” says dig leader Julian Thomas, an archaeologist at the University of Manchester, in a statement. “Being able to shine a light on this astonishing 5,700-year-old tomb is exciting and helps to tell the story of our origins.”

(16) METAVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says for a Ready Player One-style metaverse to happen, tech companies not known for cooperation will have to work together and virtual reality headsets will have to be much more popular than they are now (the Entertainment Software Association says only 29 percent of America’s 169 million gamers have a virtual reality system). “What is the metaverse? Microsoft, Facebook want to build next version of the Internet”.

What is the metaverse?

The term was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash.” In it, the metaverse refers to an immersive digital environment where people interact as avatars. The prefix “meta” means beyond and “verse” refers to the universe. Tech companies use the word to describe what comes after the Internet, which may or may not be reliant on VR glasses.

Think of it as an embodied Internet that you’re inside of rather than looking at. This digital realm wouldn’t be limited to devices: Avatars could walk around in cyberspace similar to how people maneuver the physical world, allowing users to interact with people on the other side of the planet as if they’re in the same room.… But for a robust virtual universe, everyone needs to want and afford VR headsets. The technology would need to be stylish and minimal enough to interest more people and sophisticated enough to work seamlessly. That hasn’t happened yet.

Nimble wireless headsets, like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2, take a hit on image quality, while bulky VR goggles, like the HTC Vive Pro 2, enable more computing power with their wires. Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 is among the most affordable at $299, while the HTC Vive Pro 2 headset starts at $799 plus the cost of controllers.

(17) ANOTHER VERSE. When you’re a fan, it’s important to be able to tell your multiverse from your metaverse. “Marvel Comics Reveals 8 New Tentpole Titles”.

In celebration of Marvel’s Birthday today, Marvel Comics revealed its first look at eight new tentpole titles that will shape the future of the Marvel Universe in the months to come.

Here’s one of them —

Marvel Comics’ Avengers Forever pulls together archaeologist Tony Stark aka the Invincible Ant-Man and Avengers from across the multiverse to bring order to timelines where ‘hope’ is a four letter word. Jason Aaron and Aaron Kuder present an all-new series that will redefine the Avengers as…the Multiverse’s Mightiest Heroes.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Brian And Charles is a short film about a lonely farmer who decides to build a robot to be his friend and what happens when the robot starts having issues.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/28/21 The Pixel On The Edge Of Scrollever

(1) HOME ON THE CIMMERIAN RANGE. Horror author Stephen Graham Jones shares his love for the Conan stories and how he identifies both with Conan and with his creator Robert E. Howard in “My Life With Conan the Barbarian” in Texas Monthly.

… But Conan the Barbarian.

Imagine you’re a Blackfeet kid growing up in the windswept pastures twenty miles east of Midland, with no other Blackfeet around. Like Conan the Wanderer, -the Adventurer, -the Outcast, I was out in the trackless wastelands, far from civilization. The way I saw it, we’d come up the same. Conan’s homeland of Cimmeria was high and lonely? From our back porch in West Texas, I couldn’t see a single light. Cimmeria was packed with formative dangers? Every third step I took, I found myself entangled in barbed wire or jumping back from a rattlesnake. And when I mapped Cimmeria—the land Conan spent decades away from—onto my world, it could have been Montana, where the Blackfeet are….

(2) NAMING POLICY. At the FANDOM-run Wookieepedia editors are voting on an “Amendment to naming policy for real-world transgender individuals”.  

For about the last decade or so, the naming policy for real-world people on Wookieepedia has been “Articles for real-world people, such as actors and authors, shall be titled according to their actual credited name in a Star Wars work, whether that be an abbreviation/stage name or pseudonym,” with a handful of exceptions.

In recent years, it’s become apparent that this policy is inadequate for transgender individuals and an additional exception needs to be made so that their articles are titled according to their chosen name, whether or not they return to Star Wars after coming out, as a matter of respect. As our society evolves, so too must Wookieepedia.

To that end, I propose the following addition to the naming policy, to be added alongside the three existing exceptions:

“If a real-world person is transgender and has changed their name since working on Star Wars, their article may be titled by their chosen name and the credited name turned into a redirect.”

For anyone unfamiliar with transgender issues, and how it relates to naming articles, these pages on Wikipedia and GLAAD should help (ctrl+f “name”) Toqgers (talk) 04:35, 16 March 2021 (UTC)

Here’s some of the discussion from supporters.

(3) KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH KICKSTARTER ENDING. [Item by rcade.] Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have a current KickStarter project ending on Wednesday to fund Rusch’s first new work in 20 years in the world of The Fey: “The Return of the Fey by Dean Wesley Smith” — Kickstarter.

The project, which has rocketed past its funding goal by raising over $25,000 from 400 backers, is for a new novella of undetermined title. A $30 pledge receives all seven The Fey novels as ebooks along with the new work. A $250 pledge takes home the book Lessons from Writing of The Fey and a class taught by Rusch about  “the writing and publishing of a major epic fantasy series, and all the good stuff and mistakes along the way.”

The Fey series comprises seven books — a five- and two-book series that each tell complete stories. On the Kickstarter funding page, Smith dishes on the frustrating publication history of The Fey:

Bantam put Kris under contract for seven books in total. The first five were called The Fey Series, the next two were the Black King and Black Queen Series. 

They were two separate stories set in the world of The Fey. And the readership continued to grow until the year 1999, with the 5th book just published and the 6th book ready to come out. All four of the first books were in multiple printings. But Bantam Publishing, for reasons no one ever said, let the 4th book go out of print. And kept it out of print, even with an intense demand for it. Not kidding. 

By the time the 7th book came out in late 2000, the 4th book in its original mass market paperback edition was selling for hundreds and hundreds of dollars in collector’s markets because fans just wanted to read it.

Rusch regained the rights from Bantam and the novels are published today by WMG Publishing. They even publish book 4!

(4) THE ASKING PRICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov says in his autobiography In Joy Still Felt that in 1961 he was invited by the MIT Science Fiction Society to give a talk.  They asked what his fee was and he decided to charge them a hundred dollars.  After the talk, they took him to dinner at Joseph’s, “one of Boston’s posh eating places…it was very expensive and I had never eaten there.”

My conscience smote me.  They were being very nice to me after I soaked them for a hundred dollars.

I said, deeply troubled, ‘Where the heck do you kids get the money to pay speakers?’ because I gather my talk was one of four for the year.

I expected them to say they gave up lunches or sold pencils on the corner,  and I was quite prepared to force the hundred dollars back on them.

But one of them said, cheerfully, ‘We show first-run movies and collect lots of proceeds.’

‘Lots of proceeds?’

‘Sure.  Up to five or six thousand dollars for the year.’

I mentally divided that by four and said, ‘That means you must pay some of the speakers more than a hundred dollars.’

‘Of course,’ said the spokesman, apparently unaware of the enormity of what he was saying.  ‘Wernher von Braun, who was the speaker before you, got fourteen hundred dollars.

I stared at him for quite a while, and then he said, ‘Was he fourteen times as good as I was?’

‘No.  You were much better.’

Asimov says he subsequently went to several MITSFS picnics, which concluded with a trip to the school’s observatory, which is at the top of a big hill.  Asimov dutifully climbed the hill every year, even though he didn’t like to exercise.

(5) THE WORLDCON YOU DESERVE. Seanan McGuire shared this dream with Twitter. The commenters took the idea and ran with it. Thread starts here.

(6) REMEMBERING. “A poem by Jane Yolen in remembrance of her friend Norton Juster (1929-2021)”has been posted by The Horn Book: “Norton Passes Go”.

Jane Yolen receives the 2009 Norton Juster Award for Devotion to Literacy, presented by its namesake. Photo: Seth Kaye Photography.

(7) BOOK WITHDRAWN, AUTHOR APOLOGIZES. Publisher Scholastic has made the decision to pull Dav Pilkey’s 2010 graphic novel The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future due to its perpetuation of “passive racism.” “From Scholastic Regarding The Adventures of Ook and Gluk”.

On Monday, March 22, 2021, with the full support of Dav Pilkey, Scholastic halted distribution of the 2010 book The Adventures of Ook and Gluk. Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism. We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake. Scholastic has removed the book from our websites, stopped fulfillment of any orders (domestically or abroad), contacted our retail partners to explain why this book is no longer available, and sought a return of all inventory. We will take steps to inform schools and libraries who may still have this title in circulation of our decision to withdraw it from publication.  

Throughout our 100 year history, we have learned that trust must be won every day by total vigilance. It is our duty and privilege to publish books with powerful and positive representations of our diverse society, and we will continue to strengthen our review processes as we seek to support all young readers.

Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series, shared an apology that was posted on YouTube.

About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using Kung Fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution. But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 28, 2003 — On this day in 2003, Tremors: The Series premiered on Syfy. It followed three Tremors films and starred Michael Gross, Gladise Jimenez, Marcia Strassman and Victor Brown. Created by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson who brought us the entire Tremors franchise, it lasted but thirteen episodes. It was followed by Tremors 4: The Legend Begins whichstars Michael Gross as Hiram Gummer, the great-grandfather of the character Burt Gummer. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 28, 1483 – Raphael.  (In Italian, more fully Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino.)  Painter and architect; with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, one of the masters of the High Renaissance.  Here is his Portrait of a Young Woman with a Unicorn on the cover of the Mar 05 Asimov’s.  Here is The Triumph of Galatea.  Part of The School at Athens is on the cover of The Philosopher Kings.  (Died 1520) [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1918 – Robert Stanley.  A dozen covers for us.  Here is Universe.  Here is our next-door neighbor Rocket to the Morgue.  Here is When Worlds Collide.  Also ArgosyDime DetectiveThrilling Western, publishers e.g. Bantam, Dell, Popular Library, Pyramid.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian-tinged space opera that was the universe of John Grimes was such. A very good starter place is the Baen Books omnibus of To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born March 28, 1930 – Barbara Ninde Byfield.  Wrote and illustrated five novels for us; also The Glass Harmonica – nonfiction; there was one at the Millennium Philcon, 59th Worldcon.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1932 Ron Soble. He played Wyatt Earp in the Trek episode, “ Spectre of The Gun”.  During his career, he showed up on a hunger of genre series that included Mission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar ManShazamPlanet of The ApesFantasy IslandSalvage 1 and Knight Rider. His last genre role, weirdly enough, was playing Pablo Paccasio in Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1944 Ellen R. Weil. Wife of  Gary K. Wolfe. She wrote a number of works with him including the non-fiction study, Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. They wrote a fascinating essay, “The Annihilation of Time: Science Fiction; Consumed by Shadows: Ellison and Hollywood,” which can be found in Harlan Ellison: Critical Insights. (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1946 Julia Jarman, 75. Author of a  children’s book series I like a lot, of which I’ll single out Time-Travelling Cat And The Egyptian GoddessThe Time-Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasure and The Time-Travelling cat and the Viking Terror as the ones I like the best. There’s more in that series but those are my favorites. (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1955 Reba McEntire, 66. Her first film role was playing Heather Gummer in Tremors. Since then, she’s done voice work as Betsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and as Etta in The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave. She also voiced Artemis on the Disney Hercules series. (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1958 – Davey Snyder, F.N., age 63.  Chaired Boskone 34, co-chaired World Fantasy Con 25.  Bibliography for The Neil Gaiman Reader (the 2007 one, “Essays and Explorations”).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1960 Chris Barrie, 61. He’s as Lara Croft’s butler Hillary in the most excellent Tomb Raider franchise films. He also shows up on Red Dwarf for twelve series as Arnold Rimmer, a series I’ve never quite grokked. He’s also one of the principal voice actors on Splitting Image which is not quite genre adjacent but oh so fun. (CE) 
  • Born March 28, 1964 – Gloria Oliver, age 57.  Half a dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Sparked by the Gatchaman apa Bird Scramble, attending ConDFW, and her husband.  [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1983 – Josephine Angelini, age 38.  Half a dozen novels.  Has read The Once and Future KingAs I Lay DyingSiddhartha, two by Jane Austen, Fagles tr. The Iliad and The OdysseyThe Count of Monte CristoFrankenstein.  “Dreams are messy and they don’t make sense, but what works for me is to take the feeling that I have from a dream and try to re-create it on the page.  If I can get one or two images from a dream to work in a story I feel satisfied.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds some stars shouldn’t get wet.
  • Off the Mark reveals a delivery mistake with major fairy tale implications.
  • Non Sequitur transports a babysitter into an unexpected pulp adventure

(11) SERIAL SUPERHERO. Comic book superhero movies made their debut in theaters 80 years ago today. At least this one did: “Adventures of Captain Marvel”.

(12) NEXT SUPERHERO. The Black Adam movie is slated for a July 29, 2022 release.

(13) ALWAYS WINTER, BUT SOMETIMES CHRISTMAS. In the Washington Post, Shannon Liao says that Animal Crossing:  New Horizons was released on March 20, 2020.  She interviews people who have played Animal Crossing for over 1,000 years in a year and how the game provided a lot of comfort during the worst part of the pandemic. “Meet the Animal Crossing users who spent up to 2000 hours in game”.

Snow topped trees, ice sculptures and the sound of rushing waterfalls. Susana Liang built out her “Animal Crossing” island complete with a Christmas dinner, various shops, a wedding reception, an igloo campsite, a picnic, a mini version of the Greek island Santorini, elaborate walkways and a cozy home with plenty of Christmas trees.“Winter makes everything covered in snow and it’s all white, so it makes it feel a bit more ethereal and dreamy. It’s one of my favorite seasons in the game,” said Liang, who works in health science in New York and has spent over 2,300 hours playing Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” since a few weeks after the game’s release. It’s always winter on her island. Every time winter is about to end, she time travels back to the beginning of January to stay in the season…

(14) GETTING WARMER. “A Warmer Superconductor Found” reports New Energy and Fuel.

The team at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry (Mainz, Germany), the University of Chicago (USA), and the Soreq Nuclear Research Center (Yavne, Israel) used a variety of analytical methods to refine the phase diagrams for hydrogen sulfide in the H(3)S form and D(3)S, its deuterium analogue, in relation to pressure and temperature, and to shed additional light on their superconducting properties.

The scientists have now introduced new findings that show the materials become superconducting at the relatively high temperatures of -77 and -107 °C, respectively.

(15) ANDY! ANDY! Yesterday’s photo of Captain Kirk and Edith Keeler on the set in front of an identifiable Mayberry landmark prompted a Filer to point out MeTV’s Star Trek / Andy Griffith Show mash-up commercial.

Kirk and Spock travel to Mayberry! And Barney looks to nip it in the bud. Explore strange new worlds on MeTV!

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark Evanier hosts a virtual panel on Jack Kirby with Jonathan Ross and Neil Gaiman for [email protected] 2021: “Jack Kirby Panel”.

Mark Evanier (Kirby: King of Comics) talks about the man some call “The King of the Comics” with author Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and TV host and mega-Kirby fan Jonathan Ross. They will attempt to discuss what was special about the work of Jack Kirby and why, long after we lost him, he seems to be more popular than ever.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, N., Cora Buhlert, Bill, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rich Horton, Andrew (Not Werdna), Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
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