Pixel Scroll 6/27/22 Scroll Ain’t Nothing But Pixel Misspelled

(1) STOP STICKING IT TO AUTHORS. In “Amazon’s e-book return policy comes under criticism from authors” NPR takes up the cause of the writers whose pockets are being picked.

… Authors are protesting Amazon’s e-book return policy, a system they say allows readers to “steal” from self-published authors. Amazon’s current return policy for e-books allows customers to “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But, for some readers, seven days is more than enough time to finish a book and return it after reading, effectively treating Amazon like a library.

When an Amazon customer returns an e-book, royalties originally paid to the author at the time of purchase are deducted from their earnings balance….

…Those suggesting the read-and-return practice think they’re “sticking it to Amazon,” but in reality are only harming the authors, said Eva Creel, a fantasy writer who publishes under the name E. G. Creel.

“I have my book available at the library. If somebody wants to read it for free, they can,” Creel said. “But reading it and making me think that I’ve made an income and then that income being taken away from me, that feels like stealing.”

Science fiction and fantasy author Nicole Givens Kurtz said she’s concerned that this trend will continue.

“If people continue to promote [reading and returning e-books], it impacts my income, which impacts my quality of life and my ability to take care of my family,” she said. “I don’t think readers quite understand or see the person behind the product.”

(2) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM CFP. The Gunn Center reminds everyone that the deadline for proposals for the first annual Sturgeon Symposium is only 3 days away. The event takes place September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. See the call for papers here.

(3) INCIDENT INTERRUPTS BUSINESS AT MACMILLAN. “After ‘Security Incident,’ Macmillan Closes, Will Not Process Orders” reports Shelf Awareness. The details are not disclosed.

Macmillan sent a notice to customers saying that because of “a security incident” on Saturday that involved its servers and internal system, the company has closed offices today, Monday, June 27, in order to continue its investigation and to rebuild “a secure working environment.” As a result, Macmillan is currently not able to process, receive, place or ship orders. The company added that it will keep customers posted.

(4) HUGO TAKES. This month the SF Insiders blog launched. Who’s writing it? No idea! It’s a secret.

Not unlike other writers hoping to break into the science fiction and fantasy field, we have high hopes, many opinions, and no power. We remain anonymous to protect ourselves from the Internet horrors we’ve seen inflicted on others.

The blog’s first order of business is evaluating the 2022 Hugo finalists. They’ve written about two Hugo categories and the Astounding Award so far.

2. Sheila Williams

Williams is the only previous winner on this year’s ballot and the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction. She’s also edited several anthologies, but none of those were published in 2021. Asimov’s output for 2021 was exactly what we’ve come to expect and Williams continued involvement with the Dell Award did not go unnoticed by us. There’s a reason she’s won two Hugos and continues to appear on this list.

5. Escape Pod

A science fiction podcast that publishes a mix of reprint and original stories. Their editors are finalists for Editor Short form and we stand by the opinions stated there. On discussing this publication for the second time, however, we questioned why the same work is eligible for two awards. This isn’t the first time it has happened, but we think it would be more fair if these magazines choose to be in one or the other. With how often there are repeat finalists in these categories, restricting it to one would give us more variety to choose from.

We were supposed to talk about the Astounding Award finalists during this week’s Zoom, but we went in a different direction instead: the “not a Hugo” status of the award. Maybe someone can tell us how has this never become an official Hugo Award? As writers, the current status feels like a slap in the face and we’re not even eligible yet….

(5) LE GUIN, ROBINSON, AND UTOPIAS. The Tin House podcast offers “Crafting with Ursula : Kim Stanley Robinson on Ambiguous Utopias”.

Today’s guest, Kim Stanley Robinson, is perhaps the living writer most associated with utopian literature today. And as a student of the philosopher, political theorist, and literary critic Fredric Jameson, Robinson has thought deeply about the history of utopias, the history of the novel, and the strange hybrid form that became the utopian novel. In his mind it was Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote the first truly great utopian novel. We discuss Le Guin’s utopian work alongside his, and contextualize her importance historically. Robinson also shares some incredible anecdotes from his time in the 70s as her student and the ways their lives as fellow writers have intersected over the decades.

What is a utopian novel? What is an ambiguous utopia? And why has this genre become a particularly vital form and even a critical tool of the human imagination today? Listen in to find out. 

(6) NO COUNTRY FOR YOUNG MEN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Ringer does some interesting research into the trend of Hollywood blockbuster action movies that center on older actors and finds that it’s a multifaceted phenomenon that can be tied to economic heft of older moviegoers, changing media tastes in younger generations, and shifts in how movie studios build tentpole features around intellectual property rather than around individual actors and their personal brands. “The Golden Age of the Aging Actor”.

They quote film historian Mark Harris: “Maybe they’re gamers, or maybe what they really enjoy is TikTok, or maybe it’s something else, but a generation can’t generate stars if it doesn’t really love the medium that creates and accommodates stars.”

(7) BRYAN BARRETT OBITUARY. Fan and bookdealer Bryan Barrett, who co-chaired the 1998 World Fantasy Convention, died June 21. Lucy Huntzinger relayed the news from Bryan’s nephew, and wrote a tribute about him on Facebook which says in part:

…I can’t say enough about what a genuine, caring, intelligent, interesting man he was. He was always willing to help out friends with his little truck while he still had it, and he had a marvelous time at the San Jose Worldcon in 2018 seeing many old fannish and mystery friends again.

Because of his poor health in the last few years he lived a life that became increasingly housebound and full of medical appointments, but he never stopped caring about the world, about fairness and justice, about democracy….

(8) MEMORY LANE

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-six years ago this evening on ABC, the rather at first mundane soap opera Dark Shadows first aired. Now it wasn’t until ten months later that the Toothy One, vampire Barnabas Collins, as played by Jonathan Frid, made his first appearance. 

Before its six seasons and one thousand two hundred and twenty-five episodes ran their course, those of us who watched it will have seen Frankenstein style monsters, ghosts, a parallel universe, time travel, warlocks, werewolves, witches, and even zombies. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something of a fantastic nature that happened there. 

It has never left syndication in forty years. Dark Shadows (later referred to as Dark Shadows: The Revival) was attempted in 1991. That too created by Dan Curtis who was responsible for Dark Shadows, it lasted twelve extremely poorly received episodes. Dan Curtis also did two films set in the Dark Shadows continuity, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows.

It was somewhat unusual in a small company of performers played many roles; and as performers came and went, some characters were played by more than one performer.

I am not going to comment about Tim Burton directing a film version of this starring Johnny Depp, who finally realized one of his childhood fantasies of being Barnabas Collins. Really. I’m not. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1909 — Billy Curtis. You’ll best remember him as the small Copper-Skinned Ambassador in Trek’s “Journey to Babel” episode. His genre experience goes all the way back to Wizard of Oz where he was a Munchkin, and later on he’s a mole-man in Superman and The Mole-Men, and later on a midget in The Incredible Shrinking Man. He had lots of one-offs, be it on Batman (twice there), Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Planet of The Apes or Twilght Zone. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 27, 1941 — James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. The group that gave out the Prometheus Award certainly thought so with fifteen nominations and two Awards for two novels, The Multiplex Man and Voyage from Yesteryear. I’m sure that I’ve read at least a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1952 — Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice”. Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available at the usual suspects. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 — Stephen Dedman, 63. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it. He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles.
  • Born June 27, 1966 — J.J. Abrams, 56. Executive Producer of AliasLost: Missing PiecesStar Trek, Lost, FringeStar Trek Into DarknessAlmost Human… Well you get the idea. Most fans really like, a few very vocal ones really hate his guts mostly for his Star Trek work. I love Fringe unreservedly and therefore will forgive any transgressions he committed elsewhere. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 — Christian Kane, 50. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before becoming Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 — Tobey Maguire, 47. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one seriously weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film. 
  • Born June 27, 1987 — Ed Westwick, 35. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarize), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy shows a writer with ambitious goals.

(11) TRALFAMADORIAN TOOLKIT. Emily Temple has collected “Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Writing Advice” for Literary Hub.

5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

(12) HISTORY JUMPS THE TRACKS. Annalee Newitz joins Margaret Atwood on the list of sff writers who didn’t set out to predict the present in “Science fiction, abortion, and predicting the future” at Slate.

A few months before COVID shut the world down in 2020, I published a book called The Future of Another Timeline. Set in 2022, it’s about a group of time travelers who live in an alternate United States where abortion was never legalized. Working in secret, they travel 130 years back to the 19th century to foment protests against the anti-abortion crusader Anthony Comstock. Their goal is to change the course of history. Spoilers: They succeed—sort of. When they return to 2022, abortion is legal in a few states, though it remains illegal in the majority of them.

It is not a good feeling to live through a version of the dark timeline I imagined in my fiction….

(13) A LONG TIME AGO. Craig Miller posted the letter he sent to winner of a contest he ran for The Star Wars Corporation in the Seventies.

In issue two of the Newsletter of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, I announced a contest to come up with an actual name for the newsletter. Fans could send up to three suggestions. We received a huge number of entries. I don’t remember how many but, apparently, there were thousands.

…The winning name: Bantha Tracks. And the winner, Preston Postle.

The letter is dated just 10 months after I started this newzine. I should have asked Craig for some of his discards – I’ll bet there were some better ideas in there than File 770, eh?

(14) THIS REMINDS ME. [Item by Chris Barkley.] When I heard this story, naturally I thought of this quote: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Listen to the Here and Now report on WBUR: “Don’t worry about the robot revolution: One expert explains why AI is nowhere near sentience”.

For decades, robot revolutions have been a staple of science fiction stories. But earlier this month, the stuff of fiction came a little too close to reality when Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer, claimed that the company’s artificial intelligence had achieved sentience, the ability to experience feeling and thought.

While Lemoine’s claims made waves online, many experts are pretty skeptical. They argue that just because a program can imitate human language doesn’t mean it’s actually human.

One of those critics is Emily M. Bender, a professor at the University of Washington specializing in computational linguistics and grammar engineering. She spoke with Here & Now‘s Celeste Headlee.

(15) GOOD FORM. Walter Jon Williams told readers he recently leveled up in his martial arts training: “Achievement Unlocked”.

…I successfully tested for my 6th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. In the days since, I’ve been judging at the tests of lower-ranking belts, and participating in a demonstration in front of a live audience.

All with a torn achilles tendon which requires me to walk with a cane much of the time.

Fortunately most of the test consisted of theory and philosophy. I was required to do some forms, but I designed most of these myself, and could alter them when I needed to. (For the demonstration, I was able to do my own kata more or less without modification, and the other form requires me to alter the steps once. It was uncomfortable and a little awkward, but I wasn’t left with the impression I’d bungled anything.)…

(16) POORFEADING. Jon Del Arroz, who styles himself a leading figure of ComicsGate, wrote an article belittling Heather Antos’ work for IDW. A true case of Muphry’s law in action, as Taylor Talks Comics pointedly reveals in a thread that starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(17) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Thanks for a friend alerting me that Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is now available on the Disney+ streaming service for free (well, no $ other than the monthly fee), I’ve got one non-spoiler question (not directly germane to the movie, but I suddenly found myself wondering):

What happens when Blackadar Boltagon (aka Black Bolt), a (Jack Kirby-created) Inhuman usually ruler of Attilan and (often but not always) spouse to (the Inhuman named) Medusa, whose slightest whisper is explosive, burps, hiccups, or sneezes. (Or, for that matter, snores — let’s hope he doesn’t have sleep apnea.)

(18) OLDER THAN LUCY AND PROBABLY DESI. “Ancient fossils in the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ are more than 1 million years older than previously thought” reports Yahoo!

In 1936, archeologists began unearthing a trove of early human fossils in a South African cave. Now, researchers say most of those ancient bones date back 3.7 million years, which makes them more than 1 million years older than previously thought….

To gauge the ages of the hominid skeletal remains, Granger and his team used a technique known as “cosmogenic nuclide dating,” or burial dating, which involves examining the rocks that encased the ancient bones. It works like this: When energetic particles from space, or cosmic rays, hit rocks, they produce elements like aluminum and beryllium that build up and decay at a known rate.

“We’re able to take a rock that was exposed to cosmic rays, and if it falls into a cave, it’s shielded from more radiation,” Granger told Insider, adding, “It’s called burial dating because, really, what we’re doing is dating when the rock was buried.”

Granger used the same method in 2015 to estimate that one set of Australopithecus remains found in the Sterkfontein Caves, nicknamed Little Foot, was about 3.4 to 3.7 million years old. The new study suggests that in addition to Little Foot, all Australopithecus remains on the site are between 3.4 and 3.7 million years old, rather than roughly 2 million years old, as scientists previously thought.

The remains’ shifting age puts the species within roughly the same time frame that the famous human ancestor “Lucy” — which belonged to the species Australopithecus afarensis — roamed what’s now Ethiopia, 3.2 million years ago. According to Granger, that refutes the theory that the Sterkfontein individuals descended from Australopithecus afarensis. “There must be an older common ancestor somewhere,” Granger added…

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, Stephen Burridge, Alan Baumler, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/22 Chapter Scroll Dune

(1) SFF A “FORM OF SUBVERSIVE ACTIVISM”. Eugen Bacon’s thoughtful review appears in the latest issue of Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research, Volume 8, Issue 2 (Feb 2022): “Trends in Black Speculative Fiction”.

… More than two decades after the publication of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Thomas), black speculative fiction continues to rise as a powerful conversation in genre fiction, and increasingly tackles precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial themes pertaining to identity and culture, as well as feminist and queer themes pertaining to engaging with difference. Anthologies have become instrumental in the proliferating Afrofuturistic writing that heroes black people in stories from Africa and the diaspora, stories whose visibility is increasingly evident in award nominations and recommendations – for example 2021 Hugo nominee Ekpeki Donald Oghenechovwe, whose novella Ife-Iyoku won the 2020 Otherwise Award.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color (Shawl) – in its showcasing of interracial and cross-cultural stories – may have stunned its publisher, editor, contributors, and readers by winning the 2020 Locus, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Ignyte, and Brave New Words Awards. Casting a diverse range of new and established writers, including (among others) Tobias S. Bucklell, Minsoo Kang, Kathleen Alcalá, Alberto Yáñez, and Chinelo Onwual, and featuring a foreword by LeVar Burton, New Suns explored intergalactic stories, dream stories, song stories, coming-home stories, futuristic stories, and even self-aware stories that encapsulate person-of-colour chants full of longing and conviction of belonging and place. With the success of New Suns, it’s no wonder that Solaris announced its acquisition of New Suns 2 for release in 2023 (“Solaris to Publish New Suns 2”)….

… It is clear from just these select exemplars that publishers, authors, and readers alike have a steeping interest in black people’s stories. Thanks to the internet, audio books, and ebooks, the world is in the heart of an ongoing digital revolution that continues to stagger traditional publishing and make best sellers as well as anthologies and collections from smaller presses cheaper and accessible to ravenous readers. As e-publishers and self-publishers create opportunities for writers and readers alike, and more awards recognise calibre and uniqueness, rather than the author’s or publisher’s muscle, black speculative fiction will continue to rise in global distribution, and be increasingly accessible. A reader has only to look for it in anthologies, collections, even award nominations….

(2) CRITTERS ANNUAL READERS POLL. The Critters Workshop, “for serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” is hosting its Annual Readers Poll, which honors print and electronic publications published during the past year. (Click here for the official rules.) There are 41 categories. Voting is open through January 14. View the Current standings at the link.

Novels pages: Horror Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Steampunk | Magical Realism | Positive Future | Erotica Mystery Thriller Children’s | Young Adult | All other |
Short Stories pages: Horror | Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Steampunk | Magical Realism | Positive Future | All other | Anthologies page Poems page Nonfiction articles page Nonfiction books page |
Other Categories: Artwork page Book/e-book Cover Artwork page Magazine/e-zine Cover Artwork page Authors page Poets page Artists page Book/e-book Editors page Magazine/e-zine Editors page Book Publishers page Review site | Bookstore | Promotional Firms, Sites, and Resources page Fiction ‘zines page Poetry ‘zines page Nonfiction ‘zines page Writers’ Discussion Forum page Writers’ Workshop page Writers’ Resource/Information/News Source page |

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Tochi Onyebuchi and Sarah Pinsker in a virtual event on Wednesday, January 19 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The readings will be live on YouTube, link to come.

  • Tochi Onyebuchi

Tochi Onyebuchi is a novelist and essayist, who won the World Fantasy Award, the Ignyte Award, and the New England Book Award for Fiction for his novella Riot Baby, a Nebula, Locus, and Hugo Award finalist. His works include the Beasts Made of Night and War Girls series, and the non-fiction book (S)kinfolk. His most recent novel is Goliath from Tordotcom Publishing. He lives in Connecticut.

  • Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker is a writer of novels and short stories and everything in between. She has won three Nebulas, including best novel for A Song For A New Day in 2020 and best novelette for “Two Truths And A Lie,” in 2021. Her most recent novel is We Are Satellites. She’s also a musician with four albums to her name, including 2021’s Something to Hold. She lives in Baltimore with her wife and two terriers.

(4) WINDY CITY. Doug Ellis notes the 21st Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention is just four months away.  The event will be held May 6-8 at the usual venue, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Lombard, Illinois.  

We’ve sold out all 180 of our dealer tables, to dealers spanning the U.S., from Canada and the U.K.  We’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of pulp and comic publisher Fiction House.

At this point, we don’t know what COVID requirements may be in place when the show takes place.  Currently, masking would be required, but protocols may change during the next four months.  We’ll update those as we learn them.

As has been the case in years past, this year’s convention will feature some incredible material in our estate auctions. Friday night (May 6), our auction will focus on material from the estate of legendary collector Robert Weinberg (including many more issues of Weird Tales and a complete run of Planet Stories), while on Saturday night, (May 7) material from the estate of Glenn Lord, literary agent for the estate of Robert E. Howard, takes center stage.  In addition, we also will have a number of interesting items from other consignors.

The deadline to book your hotel room and receive the convention rate is 5:00 central on April 12, 2022.  The link for con hotel reservations is here.

We hope to see you there!

(5) SECOND FÜNF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Elliot Ackerman reviews The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut And The Many Lives Of Slaughterhouse-Five by Tom Roston. Roston argues that Vonnegut may have had undiagnosed PTSD from his experiences in World War II (including being a prisoner of war) and that Slaughterhouse-Five is an expression of his PTSD.  Ackerman finds Roston’s diagnosis unpersuasive and thinks Vonnegut’s own descriptions of how war affected him are a better guide than Roston’s posthumous diagnosis. “Book review of The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five by Tom Roston”.

… This defiance of categorization is probably why I found myself bristling early on when Roston asserts that his book will seek to answer “whether or not ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ can be used as evidence of its author’s undiagnosed PTSD.” This investigation, which animates much of Roston’s book, seems misguided. Roston himself acknowledges the reductivism he’s engaged in when he writes, “I imagine reducing his book to a clinical diagnosis or, perhaps worse, putting it in the self-help category, would make Vonnegut shudder.” Indeed, I think it would. Nevertheless, Roston soldiers on, casting himself as part literary scholar and part psychoanalytic sleuth. He deconstructs “Slaughterhouse-Five” and the history around the book in search of incontrovertible proof that Vonnegut had what we would today call post-traumatic stress disorder, even though Roston acknowledges Vonnegut’s consistent denials throughout his life that his wartime experiences left him traumatized….

(6) STAR TREK’S BRIDGE. SFGate’s Victoria Sepulveda explains “Why ‘Star Trek’ made San Francisco the center of the universe”.

…On top of that, San Francisco is a beautiful city with a major recognizable landmark, great for letting TV viewers know when an episode takes us from the far-flung reaches of the cosmos back to Earth. 

But there are other naval cities and major Earth landmarks that could suit this purpose. What really made San Francisco special, Bernardi says, was its progressivism and diversity. Roddenberry was a liberal humanist, and San Francisco, out of all American cities in the 1960s, best captured the issues Roddenberry wanted to delve into in the show. It was a hub for the civil rights and anti-war movements, says Bernardi, who has studied Roddenberry’s papers, which are collected at UCLA….

(7) DEL TORO INTERVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Guillermo Del Toro — Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro is promoting Nightmare Alley (an excellent film I regard as horror-adjacent), but fantasy is never far from Del Toro’s mind; two minutes into the podcast there’s a discussion about whether Berni Wrightson or Richard Corben did better scary clown illustrations.  Del Toro also says Forrest J Ackerman was his “godfather” because Famous Monsters of Filmland was a source of inspiration and education when he was a kid.  Also credited is the great makeup artist Dick Smith, who was very generous with his time and met Del Toro at the train station when he took the train from Guadalajara to meet with the makeup master.  Del Toro tries to follow Smith’s example and give education and encouragement to young people getting started in the movie industry.  Finally, he thinks that Doug Jones, who has a small role in Nightmare Alley and a major one in The Shape Of Water, is a protean talent who is our generation’s Lon Chaney.

Del Toro’s next project is an animated Pinocchio, developed as a collaboration with The Jim Henson Company.

Del Toro shares a lot of wisdom about movie production and life, in what I think is one of the Maltins’ better episodes.

(8) DWAYNE HICKMAN (1934-2022). Actor Dwayne Hickman, best known as TV’s Dobie Gillis, and for appearing in the Western comedy Cat Ballou, died January 9 reports the New York Times: “Dwayne Hickman, T.V.’s Lovelorn Dobie Gillis, Is Dead at 87”. He had a couple of genre roles – if Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) counts, or else there’s his appearance on an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1975).

(9) BOB SAGET (1956-2022). Actor Bob Saget, best known for his comedy sitcom work, died January 9. He worked on episodes of The Greatest American Hero (1983), Quantum Leap (1992), and Robot Chicken (2016), and voiced roles in the animated movies Madagascar (2005), and Casper’s Scare School (2006).

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1980 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-two years ago, New York City public television station WNET’s Experimental TV Lab project premiered their adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven. Based off the Ursula Le Guin novel of the same name, it was directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. It should be noted Le Guin, by her own writings later, was involved in the casting, script planning, script editing, and filming of the production. Thus, we’ll give scripting credits to Diane English, Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Swaybill. Primary cast was Bruce Davison, Kevin Conway (earlier in Slaughterhouse-Five as Roland Weary) and Margaret Avery. It was budgeted at a quarter of a million dollars.

The Lathe of Heaven became one of the two highest-rated shows that season on PBS that year. Michael Moore writing for Ares magazine liked it saying that “The best science fiction, such as Lathe, examines humankind’s place in the universe and the products and problems created by intelligence.” It was nominated for a Hugo at Denvention Two which had Ed Bryant as Toastmaster, the year The Empire Strikes Back won. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a seventy-two percent rating. 

The Lathe of Heaven is the most-requested program in PBS history. It took twelve years to clear up rights to rebroadcast it and that involved replacing the Beatles music with a cover band version. In 2000, The Lathe of Heaven was finally rebroadcast and released to video and DVD. 

I’ve seen this version several times and remember as being rather well crafted but I’ve not the second version made twenty-two years later. Who here has seen that version? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890 Karel Capek. [Spelled with Latin “c” because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.] Author of the his 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born January 9, 1908 Simone de Beauvoir. You know who she is but likely don’t know she wrote All Men Are Mortal (Les Hommes Sont Mortels in its original French)in 1946 which tells the story of Raimon Fosca, a man cursed to live forever. It’d be published in English in the States a decade later, and was adapted into a 1995 film of the same name. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York but he was best known for acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Genre wise, he was also Col. Stone in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Dr. Tom Anderson in Corman’s It Conquered the World. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 9, 1932 Algis Budrys. I am trying to remember what I read by him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and really enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for GalaxyMagazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and wrote genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. I should note his Tomorrow Speculative Fiction prozine was quite excellent. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 72. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in the oh-so-perfect Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in the aforementioned Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here. 
  • Born January 9, 1955 J.K Simmons, 67. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League.
  • Born January 9, 1956 Imelda Staunton, 66. Voice of the Snow Queen in The Snow Queen’s Revenge, A Nurse in Shakespeare in Love, Polly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dolores Jane Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well and Knotgrass in Maleficent and the sequel. 
  • Born January 9, 1957 Greg Ketter, 65. A Minneapolis SF Bookstore owner, DreamHaven to be precise, and con-running fan as well. He is a member of MN-Stf. He’s been involved in myriad regionals and Worldcons. He‘s chaired Minicons and World Fantasy Conventions alike.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SEÑORITA RIO CREATOR. The work of Lily Renée was part of the “Three with a Pen” exhibit at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York that ended in September. Although the exhibit is over, much material remains online, including a trailer.

Lily Renée

The only child of a well-to-do family, Lily Renée Willheim discovered drawing early, creating opulent fantasy worlds with mythical creatures. As a result of the so-called “Anschluss”, her father lost his job, her school friends were no longer allowed to play with her, and, like many, the family endured a variety of hardships. In 1939, at age seventeen, her parents put her on a children’s transport bound for England where she briefly stayed with a British family.

She reunited with her parents in New York City in 1940, where she lives today. After studying at the Art Students League and School of the Visual Arts, she was hired by comic book publishers. An exception in the male-dominated field, she created illustrations for several comic books including Señorita Rio, a glamorous Brazilian secret agent fighting the Nazis, the comedy duo Abbott and Costello, and others. Her later works include children’s books, decorative motifs, and textile designs. In 2007, Lily Renée attended Comic-Con in San Diego to receive their Inkpot Award and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Friends of Lulu, an organization promoting women in comics. She celebrates her 100th birthday this year.

Read more about her in The Forward: “This female comic book artist was unknown for decades”.

Like the comic superheroes they invented, the Jewish creators of the characters often had secret identities – at least different names. Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerome Siegel used the pseudonyms Joe Carter and Jerry Ess. Bob Kane, born Robert Kahn, created Batman. Jack Kirby, the pen name of Jacob Kurtzenberg, concocted Captain America.

Although lesser known, the comic book heroine Señorita Rio was Hollywood starlet Rita Farrar by day and Nazi-fighting secret agent by night. The artist who drew Rio’s action-packed panels in the 1940s, and signed as L. Renee, lived a sort of double life, too.

“Everybody assumed I was a man,” artist Lily Renee Phillips has said of the fan mail she received at the time, which was always addressed to “Mr. Renee.” Fans knew neither Renee’s gender nor her incredible origin story, which rivaled the plotline of Señorita Rio….

(14) DISNEY’S INSPIRATION. In the Washington Post, Philip Kennicott reviews “Inspiring Walt Disney:  The Animation of French Decorative Arts,” an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Walt Disney’s fascination with France explored in Metropolitan Museum’s ‘Inspiring Walt Disney’”

I have watched more Disney princess films in the past few weeks than in the entirety of my first five decades on the planet. As a citizen of American popular culture, I enjoy their grace and charm. But as a citizen of this thing called the American republic, with its roots in revolution and its rhetoric of equality, I find them often surreal. Isn’t it odd — and perhaps even wrong, in some deeper ethical sense — that Americans are addicted to these gilded fantasies of privilege?A fascinating exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art explores something that is hiding in plain sight if you watch Disney cartoons closely: the curious affinity for all things French, especially the trappings of French aristocracy.

The curators of “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts” are upfront about one basic fact: Walt Disney made his movies for a very different audience than that for which the artisans of the French rococo produced their dazzling luxury objects….

(15) EFFECTS OF CHINA CENSORSHIP ON INTERNET AND TECH. According to the New York Times, “As Beijing Takes Control, Chinese Tech Companies Lose Jobs and Hope”.

…Beijing wants its cyberspace to become a tool of governance and national rejuvenation. And it will penalize anyone who fails to serve the goal.

In mid-December, the country’s internet regulator said it had ordered platforms to shut down more than 20,000 accounts of top influencers in 2021, including people who spoke ill of the country’s martyrs, entertainers involved in scandals and major livestreaming stars.

Alibaba was slapped with a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine in September. That was followed by a $530 million fine of Meituan, the food-delivery giant, a month later.

Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was fined 44 times between January and November. Douban, the popular film- and book-reviewing site, was fined 20 times.

Li Chengdong, an e-commerce consultant who invests in start-ups, said some consumer internet companies he owned were struggling with higher compliance costs. “To stay on the safe side, they have to be stricter in compliance than what the government requires,” he said….

(16) ONLY HOW MANY SHOPPING DAYS LEFT? Sold by The Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, these Christmas Cards that look like book covers. Click through the slideshow to see all four examples.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/21 A Pixel Upon The Deep

(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —

The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.

(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.

With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:

1: Anime

The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….

(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large…. 

(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.

… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….

(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.

You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.

Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.

(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.

… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.

The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….

(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.

… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….

(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama”Tor.com has the story.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….

(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.

An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….

(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.

In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.

“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.

Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.

Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn. 

The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).”  It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent. 

Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1952 Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The LostThe Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1953 Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed. 
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the  Supergirl series..   Her other genre appearences include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.

Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly.  Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design.  You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers.  Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on.  Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….

Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world.  This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.

(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.

(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.

‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)

This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….

(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.

… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….

(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question  “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”

…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered… 

(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled.  “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.

Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.

In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….

(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.

…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…

(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25/21 I Just Took The Pixel Scroll Test Turns Out I’m 100% That File

(1) BABY YODA ON PARADE. A helium-filled Grogu designed by the toy company Funko was in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – the New York Times tells how that happened.

(2) CITY TECH SYMPOSIUM. The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium at City Tech in New York will be held December 9. Read the full program and register to see the event on Zoom at this link. (For those who would like to watch the event without registering, watch the YouTube Livestream here.)

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and Science Fiction will be held on Thursday, December 9, 2021 from 9:00am-5:00pm online via Zoom Webinar.

To participate in this free event, attendees will need to (1) Signup for a free Zoom account here (if you don’t already have one), and (2) Register here to receive access instructions to the Zoom Webinar. Participants may register any time before or during the event!

Here are a couple of the program items:

2:30pm-3:55pm
Analog Writers Panel and the Analog Emerging Black Voices Award
Emily Hockaday – Moderator; Panelists: Alec Nevala-Lee, Marie Vibbert, Chelsea Obodoechina, Trevor Quachri

4:00pm-5:00pm
Keynote
“Writing Ourselves In: Teaching Writing and Science Fiction with Wikipedia”
Ximena Gallardo C. and Ann Matsuuchi
Wanett Clyde – Introduction and Moderator

(3) THE GALACTIC IMAGINARIUM FILM FESTIVAL TAKING SUBMISSIONS. The Galactic Imaginarium Film Festival from Dumbravita-Timis, Romania, is one of the few Sci-fi and Fantasy Film Festivals in Eastern Europe. The festival has film screening, conferences, debates and happenings in a hybrid format. The 2022 edition will have Jury Awards and Popular Awards, for five categories (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Animation, Comedy/Parody and Documentary) for short and feature films.

The submission period is open now, for the above categories. Filmmakers and distributors are invited to submit their films using FilmFreeway platform at the address:  https://filmfreeway.com/TGIFF

(4) THE MILLENNIUM. F&SF columnist Joachim Boaz published his thousandth blog post for Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations. In it, he reviews three stories by Melisa Michaels:

On May 31st, while perusing the indispensable list on The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, I came across an author unknown to me–Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) (bibliography). She’s best known for the five-volume Skyrider sequence (1985-1988) of space operas “depicting the growth into maturity of its eponymous female Starship-pilot protagonist” (SF Encyclopedia).

As I’m always willing to explore the work of authors new to me, I decided to review the first three of her six published SF short stories. Two of the three stories deal with my favorite SF topics–trauma and memory.”

Source: Short Story Reviews: Melisa Michaels’ “In the Country of the Blind, No One Can See” (1979), “I Have a Winter Reason” (1981), and “I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes” (1982)

(5) TWAIN’S THANKSGIVING. The Mark Twain House & Museum shared:

When asked what Twain was thankful for, he said…

“You ask me for a sentiment which shall state how much I have to be thankful for this time. For years it has been a rule with me not to expose my gratitude in print on Thanksgiving Day, but I wish to break the rule now and pour out my thankfulness; for there is more of it than I can contain without straining myself. I am thankful — thankful beyond words — that I had only $51,000 on deposit in the Knickerbocker Trust, instead of a million; for if I had had a million in that bucket shop, I should be nineteen times as sorry as I am now. Trusting this paean of joy will satisfy your requirement,

I am Yours truly,

Mark Twain.”

– letter to editor of New York World, 27 October 1907

They make up for it with a video about the Clemens family pets. (Warning: Mostly dogs, no matter what this intro says.)

The Cat in the Ruff is one of many cats who’ve graced the Mark Twain House over the years. Do you know how many cats Sam Clemens remembered having in his childhood home? Find out in the latest episode of Catching Up With The Clemenses.

(6) MIDDLE-EARTH AFTER ACTION REPORTS. [Item by Alan Baumler.] At A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, Bret Deveraux has a long series of blog posts analyzing the Siege of Gondor (“The Siege of Gondor, Part I: Professionals Talk Logistics”) and Helm’s Deep (“The Battle of Helm’s Deep, Part I: Bargaining for Goods at Helm’s Gate”) in both the films and the books from the point of view of a historian.

It is a really good set of posts for both fantasy geeks and history geeks, in part because he knows his history and does a good job of explaining both the battlefield details and the broader historical background behind “medieval” warfare. (Tolkien understood that despair could destroy an army. He fought at the Somme). He also does a good job with some of the films’ reasons for changes, beyond the film-makers are dummies. (Doing a proper cavalry battle between Wargs and the Men of Rohan would cost too much, ruin the pacing of the film, and get some stuntmen hurt.) Those are my brief summaries, he does it much better.

 …But Saruman does not have a lot of experience. Théoden does. As Saruman himself notes, the house of Eorl has “fought many wars and assailed many who defied them” (TT, 218). Théoden himself had been a king even longer than Denethor had been steward (Théoden becomes king in 2980; Denethor becomes steward in 2984) and given what we know about the political situation, it is safe to assume he had some fighting to do even before he became king and much more afterwards. The film has Théoden say this, and at moments shows it on-screen in interesting ways, but the desire to insert some conflict between Théoden and Aragorn means that this characterization gets a bit muddled, as we’ll see. Nevertheless, it is clear that Théoden, in book and film, is an experienced and capable commander – he may lack the subtly and sophistication of Denethor (who, as an aside, I’d probably rate as the better pure tactician of the two, but the worse overall leader), but reliable workman-like generaling is often the best sort, and proves to be so here….

(7) NOT THROWIN’ AWAY MY SHOT. Continuing a theme, Fandom Entertainment obliges with this video comparing archers from three SFF franchises:  Legolas vs. Hawkeye vs. Katniss: “By The Numbers | Best Movie Archer”.

(8) IN THE BEGINNING. In “Michael Moorcock Interview – Elric of Melnibone”, Screen Rant takes the occasion of the 60th anniversary of a Moorcock character’s debut to let him reminisce.

Screen Rant: So you, and some of the formative figures, were just writing your own works. You weren’t trying to adhere to genre conventions, because there wasn’t really a genre to adhere to yet.

Michael Moorcock: Yeah, when I first started writing it, nobody knew what to call it at all. I mean, the publishers didn’t know what to call it. They thought that Tolkien was (writing about) a post-apocalyptic nuclear world. That’s the only way they could perceive an alternate world, in other words. And it was the same with Mervyn Peake… they’re all interpreted that way. The idea of putting ‘fantasy’ on a book meant usually meant that it was a children’s book. And if you put fantasy as the genre, they usually put ‘SF’ larger than ‘fantasy’ to show that it was what it was. So really, there really was nothing like an adult fantasy genre… Today’s experience is just totally different.

(9) BLAME THE DOCTOR! [Item by Olav Rokne.] Conservative UK politician Nick Fletcher provides the most baffling quote of the week, linking Jodie Whittaker’s work on Doctor Who to recent increases in crime. His logic is so tenuous and contrived it has to be heard to be believed. 

(10) TODAY IN ALTERNATE HISTORY. This happens to come from a movie, but Filers tell me they often get these kinds of wild dates in the drafts of their comments, too.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1887 — One hundred thirty-four years ago, the very first Sherlock Holmes story was published this month in the December issue of Beeton’s Christmas Annual which came out a month ahead of the pub date. It was published sometime in November at a price of one shilling and sold out before Christmas. The other contents were Two Original Drawing Room Plays: “Food for Powder” by R. André, and “The Four-Leaved Shamrock” by C. J. Hamilton. 

A Study in Scarlet is one of only four full-length novels in the original canon. The story was originally titled A Tangled Skein and Doyle wanted royalties from Beeton’s Christmas Annual but settled for a twenty-five pound payment instead in return for the full rights to the novel. 

Bibliographic experts say this copy of Beeton’s Christmas Annual is “the most expensive magazine in the world,” with a copy selling for $156,000 at Sotheby’s in 2007 as only twelve copies are thought to currently exist. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 25, 1920 Ricardo Montalbán. Khan Noonien Singh and the first Mr. Rourke. Armando and Grandpa Valentin Avellan as well. I’m picking those as four most memorable roles he’s played and they just happen to all be genre in nature. Oh, and is Khan Noonien Singh the only occurrence of a non-crew character carrying over from the original series into the films? I suspect not but I can’t think of anyone who did. If there is, I’m sure one of you will tell me. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Jeffrey Hunter. Best known for his role as the first Captain Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and the later use of that material in “The Menagerie” episode which won a Hugo at NyCon 3.  Other genre work included Dimension 5A Witch Without A BroomStrange Portrait (never released, no print is known to exists), Alfred Hitchcock HourJourney into Fear and The Green Hornet. Hunter suffered an intracranial hemorrhage while walking down a three-stair set of steps at his home in Van Nuys, California. He died in-hospital despite brain surgery. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Poul Anderson. My favorite ones by him? Orion Shall Rise for the mix of personal scale story with his usual grand political stories, and all of the Flandry and van Rijn stories. I also enjoy his Time Patrol stories as well, and the two Operation Luna tales are quite fun. Not to forget the ever so entertaining The Unicorn Trade that he wrote with his wife Karen. He was quite honored with seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 25, 1947 John Larroquette, 74. I think his best genre role is as Jenkins in The Librarians. He’s also had one-offs in Almost HumanThe Twilight ZoneChuck, Batman: The Animated Series and Fantasy Island. He’s uncredited but present in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, does voice acting in Green Lantern: First Flight, is the Klingon Maltz in The Search for Spock and the oddly named K.K.K. in Twilight Zone: The Movie. Did you know he was the narrator of two Texas Chainsaw Massacre films? 
  • Born November 25, 1950 Alexis Wright, 71. A Waanyi (Aboriginal Australian) writer known for winning the Miles Franklin Award for her novel Carpentaria which might well be genre. She has one definitely genre novel, The Swan Game.
  • Born November 25, 1953 Mark Frost, 68. He’s best known as a writer for Hill Street Blues (I know it’s not genre but superb nonetheless) and as the co-creator with David Lynch of Twin Peaks in which he’s been involved with in other roles as well. He had a hand in writing both of the not well regarded Fantastic Four films. He was also one of the Executive Producers of the very short lived All Souls series. 
  • Born November 25, 1953 – Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, 68. A fan, free citizen of the ImagiNation, husband, daddy, union leader, Esperantist, wearer of orange garments, Quaker, feminist, Irishman, Mac user, Wobbly, Hordesman, Wikipedian. He’s been active in fanzines (Vojo de Vivo) and apas, the N3F, mailing lists, Usenet, social media. Voted the 2020 TAFF delegate – trip postponed due to the pandemic. Frequent Filer! (OGH)
  • Born November 25, 1974 Sarah Monette, 47. Under the pen name of Katherine Addison, she published The Goblin Emperor which garnered the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the NebulaHugo and World Fantasy Awards. She won the Spectrum Award in 2003 for her short story “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland”.  Her first two novels Mélusine and The Virtu are quite wonderful and I highly recommend her Iskryne series that she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear. 
  • Born November 25, 1986 Katie Cassidy, 35. Best remembered as Laurel Lance / Black Canary in the Arrowverse, primarily on Arrow but also Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. She was also Ruby on Supernatural, Patricia “Trish” Washington on Harper’s Island and Kris Fowles on A Nightmare on Elm Street.

(13) KURT VONNEGUT DOCUMENTARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The three of us (from the group I blog with) who saw the Kurt Vonnegut documentary Unstuck in Time were torn about it. That being said, I’d recommend it to every File770 person; there’s an awful lot of good in the documentary, lots of great moments, even if it sometimes doesn’t quite hold together. “Slipping on the stickiness of time” at the The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Weide is too close to his subject to provide an unflinching look. But it also seems that he’s too much of a documentarian to lean into the personal. Both perspectives suffer for this, but one can also see why the movie took 40 years to make: it’s filled with incredible moments, and archival footage, and surprising snippets. With the amount of footage that Weide gathered in four decades, one can only imagine the riches that had to be left on the cutting room floor….

(14) PAIR OF CHAIRS. In Two Chairs Talking Episode 66, “Where great whales come sailing by”, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss recent news; David talks about “Bewilderment”, the best book he’s read all year; Perry reviews “Fathoms”, a magnificent book about whales; and he interviews prominent SF fan Justin Ackroyd.

Where great whales come sailing by,
Sail and sail, with unshut eye,
Round the world for ever and eye.

— Matthew Arnold, The Forsaken Merman

(15) THAT WAS FAST. This is sort of a How It Should Have Ended for Disney animated films: “Disney Movies With Quicker Endings Are Pretty Funny” at Pupperish. These cartoon cels are a hoot.

Disney characters are sometimes not that bright, they love to overcomplicate things and they just have to dramatize everything, which can be very infuriating, even if it is sometimes exciting. But of course, that’s what makes Disney’s storylines so magical and full of plot twists.

Every Disney movie features an evil protagonist that could have got the job over and done with quickly, rather than dragging it on. Or a Disney character who could have made even a single decision to speed up the plot.

In a world where Disney characters are a lot more logical and use common sense more often, the movies would end in less than two minutes. If you’ve ever wondered what that may look like, one Disney fan decided to depict it all artistically.

(16) A JWST OOPS. Ars Technica fills us in: “An ‘incident’ with the James Webb Space Telescope has occurred”.

A short update on the projected launch date of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope came out of NASA on Monday, and it wasn’t exactly a heart-warming missive.

The large, space-based telescope’s “no earlier than” launch date will slip from December 18 to at least December 22 after an “incident” occurred during processing operations at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. That is where the telescope will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket provided by the European Space Agency.

“Technicians were preparing to attach Webb to the launch vehicle adapter, which is used to integrate the observatory with the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket,” NASA said in a blog post. “A sudden, unplanned release of a clamp band—which secures Webb to the launch vehicle adapter—caused a vibration throughout the observatory.”

Let’s be honest, words like “incident,” “sudden,” and “vibration” are not the kinds of expressions one wants to hear about the handling of a delicate and virtually irreplaceable instrument like the Webb telescope. However, NASA, the European Space Agency, and the rocket’s operator, Arianespace, have a plan for moving forward….

(17) G AND ENKIDU. Tracen Wassily, a junior at Dillingham High School in Alaska, has turned the Epic of Gilgamesh into a rap reports Literary Hub.

According to KDLG, Public Radio for Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Wassily chose to produce a rap for his literature class, where the assignment was to write an essay, skit, or song on the topic of Gilgamesh. Though at first he didn’t like the Epic of Gilgamesh, Wassily got more excited when he started making beats. “Not even a day after—like, right after school, I got to work producing a beat, a good rhythm, like a fast-paced rhythm for what I’m going to be doing,” Wassily told KDLG. “Cause that’s what I’m most comfortable on.”

Here’s a slice:

g and enkidu on a quest for glory

slayin humbaba is the start of his story
our heroes make it to the gate
but before they serve h his fate
their knees begin to shake

[Thanks Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Will R., Alan Baumler, Ben Bird Person, Olav Rokne, Darius Hupov, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nancy Sauer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/15/21 The Ones Who Stalk Away From Scrollmelas

(1) GOT THAT RIGHT. The imminent Hugo voting deadline – November 19 – caused Camestros Felapton to call forth a special GIF: “Deep from within the sarcophagi of time, a preternatural force awakens!” Remember what the Robot on the original Lost In Space said: “When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!”

(2) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT THAT YOU ARE A COWBOY. Christina Tucker tells Slate readers there’s a lot wrong with the new version: “Netflix Cowboy Bebop review: Another underwhelming live-action anime adaptation”.

Cowboy Bebop, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, remains one of the most iconic anime of all time. Lauded by mainstream critics and anime fans alike for its visual style, Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack, and its explorations of mortality, nihilism, and identity, Cowboy Bebop has enjoyed an excellent reputation since its 1998 premiere. And stateside, it is especially renowned for being many Americans’ first experience with anime, first airing in English on Cartoon Network in 2001 as part of the nascent Adult Swim programming block. All told, it remains one of the most beloved anime by new and old fans, who still praise it as a must-watch and a modern classic.

This legacy, however, is something of an albatross around the neck of Netflix’s 2021 live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. Netflix’s take on the show has a love-hate relationship with its source material, retaining the premise and almost every single character from the original and re-creating and referencing memorable shots and scenes, but adding original elements like comically trite dialogue, embarrassing dramatic turns, and an original and unengaging plotline that only pull focus from the core story it’s trying to adapt. The result only creates unfavorable comparisons with the original and is likely to turn off both fans of the original and newcomers. If this Cowboy Bebop accomplishes anything, it’s to highlight the quality of the original series, justifying many anime fans’ belief that trying to translate anime series from one medium to another never works out….

(3) VISIT WITH THE EATON COLLECTION. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA will have an online “Spotlight on the Eaton Science Fiction Library” on Tuesday, November 30 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific.

Join us for an in depth interview about the behind the scenes at one of the world’s largest public collections of science fiction. Sandy Enriquez and Andrew Lippert of the Eaton library will share how you can utilize the collection and some of the many treasures contained within. Learn about SF from an academic perspective.

Register for free here at Eventbrite

(4) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Also available is Space Cowboy Books’ podcast “Simultaneous Times” featuring readings of “Tips for Living Out-of-Synch for the Frequent Time Traveler” by A.C. Wise (read by Jean-Paul Garnier) and “Premium Resurrection Pack $99” by by Renan Bernardo (read by Jean-Paul Garnier & Zara Kand).

(5) NEW STOKERCON GOH. StokerCon2022 has added Jennifer McMahon as its sixth GOH. The convention takes place in Denver from May 12-15 next year.

Jennifer McMahon is the author of The Children on the Hill and ten other novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Promise Not to Tell and The Winter People. She lives in Vermont with her partner, Drea, and their daughter, Zella. Visit her at Jennifer-McMahon.com or connect with her on Instagram @JenniferMcMahonWrites and Facebook @JenniferMcMahonBooks.com.

She joins a GoH lineup that includes John Edward Lawson, Sheree Renée Thomas, Ernest Roscoe Dickerson A.S.C., Gemma Files, and Brian Keene.

(6) FOR YOUR STOCKING. Is this the first time that the Library of America has offered this kind of a deal on a book edited by an SFWA Grandmaster? American Christmas Stories:

Library of America and Connie Willis present 150 years of diverse, ingenious, and uniquely American Christmas stories

Ghost stories and crime stories, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, humor, and horror; tales of Christmas morning, trees, gifts, wise men, and family dinners everywhere from New York to Texas to outer space: this anthology is an epiphany, revealing the ways Christmas has evolved over time—and how the spirit of the holiday has remained the same. Ranging from the advent of the American tradition of holiday storytelling in the wake of the Civil War to today, this is the best and widest-ranging anthology of American Christmas stories ever assembled.

…Available now. Clothbound 467 pages. List price: $29.95. Web Store price: $22.50 | With coupon code LIB2021: $19.12 .

(7) CELEBRITY CRUSH. Adam Driver told Graham Norton Show viewers why he will never go to Comic-Con again.

… The Oscar nominee then elaborated, describing his experience at SDCC as more than a little constricting. “I didn’t know the rules of Comic-Con,” he said. “I got in at the hotel at 2 in the morning… and I’m like, ‘Maybe tomorrow I’ll go get a coffee.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh no, you can’t get a coffee.’ I’m like, ‘Well, maybe I’ll get a coffee in the hotel.’ They’re like, ‘No, you can’t get a coffee in the hotel.'”

Driver went on to explain that he was given the option of wearing either an Iron Man mask or a Darth Vader mask in order to leave. “‘If you want to go outside,’ they’re like, ‘Put a mask on so nobody knows who you are.'”

This doesn’t happen only to Star Wars actors. John King Tarpinian remembers being one of Ray Bradbury’s five escorts at Comic-Con and “that was a pain traversing the hall.” And if they wanted to give a Darth Vader mask to Adam Driver, what mask would they have had Ray put on? 

(8) ROLL ON IN. Billy Todd touts Wheel of Time fandom in “Welcome to the Family: An Open Letter to Old and New Fans of The Wheel of Time” at Tor.com.

…Worrying about new fans—and any talk of gatekeeping around the series—is historically out of character for the Wheel of Time fandom. I’ve participated in many sci-fi and fantasy franchise fandoms in the past 40 years, and I remain amazed at how open, inclusive, and downright familial the Wheel of Time fanbase is. I have been an active fan since cramming pages between junior high classes in 1992. After I finished my friend’s copy of The Shadow Rising, our friend group fell into a hole of geeking out over these books. I never made it out of that hole. Shortly thereafter, in the days before the World Wide Web, I discovered the Robert Jordan USENET newsgroup and its population of Darkfriends who modeled rational, good-natured, respectful debate online.

It took many years before I realized this was not how the rest of the Internet was going to turn out….

(9) PRE-PREDATOR ON THE WAY. “Predator Prequel Starring Indigenous Actress Amber Midthunder Reveals Title Prey , Summer 2022 Release Date” reports Yahoo!

Amber Midthunder is making her mark on the Predator franchise with its next installment.

Entitled Prey, the upcoming prequel will premiere on Hulu in summer 2022, it was announced Friday during Disney+ Day.

“Set in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, the action-thriller follows Naru, the skilled warrior who fiercely protects her tribe against a highly evolved alien predator,” a plot summary from Disney reads.

Midthunder, 24, celebrated the news on Instagram, sharing an image of herself in the film with the franchise’s extraterrestrial villain lurking behind her in the shadows.

(10) DREAM TIME. By the way, Melanie Stormm is very inventive but she didn’t have to make up the two tweets she included in today’s “Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Fourteenth”:

(11) NEW BUCKELL COLLECTION ANNOUNCED. Apex Publications has acquired a new short story collection from Tobias S. Buckell titled Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories. It’s scheduled to come out next year. Apex has also acquired the trade paperback rights to his four-book Xenowealth series (Crystal RainRagamuffinSly Mongoose, and The Apocalypse Ocean).

Tobias S. Buckell

Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling and World Fantasy Award-winning author born in the Caribbean. He grew up in Grenada and spent time in the British and US Virgin Islands, which influence much of his work.

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories is Tobias S. Buckell’s seventh short fiction collection and is comprised of 15 stories, several of which are original to the collection or were previously only available through his Patreon.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1968 — Fifty-three years ago on NBC, Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” first aired on this date. It was written by Judy Burns, her first professional script, and Chet Richards, his only such script. She would later write scripts for myriad genre series including Mission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar Man and Fantasy Island

Primary guest cast was Sean Morgan as Lt. O’Neil, Barbara Babcock as the voice of Loskene who was the Tholian commander and Paul Baxley as Captain of the Defiant. It is considered by critics and fans alike to be one of the best Trek episodes done though it did not get a Hugo nomination unlike a lot of other Trek episodes. 

In a two-part episode of Enterprise, “In a Mirror, Darkly”, it is told that the Defiant has reappeared in the Mirror Universe of Archer’s time, where it is salvaged by the Tholians and later stolen from them by the Terran Empire. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.The InvadersThe Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleShelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & LegendsBatman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while. What’s your favorite genre role by him? (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is well worth reading. Flicker is available at the usual suspects,  though no other fiction by him other than his Japanese folktales is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto. If we count the Bond films as genre, and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film that it is, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV. (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 79. She’s a writer of mostly speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening “, and in 2016 for “Time Travel Vocabulary Problems”.  She was the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. In 1973, she was a finalist for the first Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She edited the Dunkiton Press genre zine for a decade or so.  She was nominated for Best Fan Writer Hugo at Baycon (1968). Impressive indeed. 
  • Born November 15, 1972 Jonny Lee Miller, 49. British actor and director who played Sherlock Holmes on the exemplary Elementary series, but his first genre role was as a  nine year-old with the Fifth Doctor story, “Kinda”. While he’s had a fairly steady stage, film, and TV career across the pond since then, it’s only in the last decade that he’s become well-known in the States – unless, like JJ, you remember that twenty-three years ago he appeared in a shoddy technothriller called Hackers, with another unknown young actor named Angelina Jolie (to whom he ended up married, until they separated eighteen months months later). Other genre appearances include a trio of vampire films, Dracula 2000Dark Shadows, and Byzantium, the live-action Æon Flux movie, and the lead in the pseudo-fantasy TV series Eli Stone

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a hilarious Zoom panel.

(15) A SHOW RECAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night on Bob’s Burgers, a group of teenagers came in to the burger joint and asked to play a game which was clearly Dungeons and Dragons but which was called something else.  The dungeon master got Bob’s attention because she ordered the Burger of the Day when everyone else was getting plain old cheeseburgers.  The dungeon master made a move where she turned everyone into goblins and they played goblin characters instead of their regular characters.  Bob saw that she was being creative and explained to her his creative outlet was creating the Burger of the Day every day.  The gamers played very late but ordered big breakfasts before they left so Bob was tired but happy after meeting gamers.

(16) FERAL STATES. “Neal Stephenson Predicted the Metaverse. His New Book Imagines Something Even Stranger.” Laura Miller reviews Termination Shock at Slate.

A maestro of the dramatic opener, Neal Stephenson began his 2015 novel, Seveneves, with the line “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” That’s a hard act to follow, but he gives it the old college try in his latest, Termination Shock, heralded, when first announced, as the celebrated science-fiction author “finally” taking on the subject of global warning. Termination Shock begins with the queen of the Netherlands piloting a business jet in an emergency landing at the Waco airport, a maneuver that goes terribly wrong when her plane’s landing gear collides with a herd of feral hogs that, chased by an oversize alligator, swarm the airstrip.

Like a lot of plot twists in Termination Shock, this scenario is not as outlandish as it seems. Frederika Mathilde Louisa Saskia, a fictional character, is apparently the daughter of the real-life King Willem-Alexander, who in 2017 revealed that he had been moonlighting as a commercial airline pilot for more than 20 years. (He said that he found it a “relaxing” hobby.) Saskia, as the queen—who is one of the novel’s central characters—calls herself, has inherited a taste for this pastime from her father. As for the feral swine, they are partly an allusion to a viral tweet defending private ownership of assault rifles in the event that “30-50 feral hogs” run into a yard in which small children are playing. The internet found this argument hilarious, but feral hogs are in fact a dangerous and destructive invasive species in many parts of the U.S. The novel’s second central character, Rufus, a former farmer turned professional hog exterminator, knows this all too well….

(17) GAS SITUATION. CNBC also has an interview with the author: “Neal Stephenson on ‘Termination Shock,’ geoengineering, metaverse”.

How did you get interested in this subject and become fascinated with it enough to base a novel on it?

I’ve been hearing about the idea for a number of years. I’m interested in history. I’m interested in science and the physics of the planet. And so, the idea that a volcano could erupt somewhere and affect temperatures all over the planet is a natural, fascinating topic for me. Over the last decade or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the CO2 content in the atmosphere is a huge problem, and that it’s getting worse fast, and we’re not really being very effective. Despite efforts by a number of people to draw attention to the problem and and push for emissions reductions, that number is still climbing rather rapidly and probably will keep climbing for a while. So rolling that together in the brain of the science fiction novelist, that looks like the basis for a story that that’s got that technical angle to it, but that’s also got a strong geopolitical and personal storytelling basis.

(18) OUT OF THE WILDERNESS AT LAST. The Guardian’s David Smith profiles the new Vonnegut documentary: “Unstuck in Time: the Kurt Vonnegut documentary 40 years in the making”.

… In 1994 Weide took the author back to his childhood home in Indianapolis. Vonnegut is seen touching imprints of his child-size hand, and the hands of of other family members, that remain in concrete poured in the 1920s. The project received a boost when Vonnegut’s brother, Bernie, handed over some 16mm home movies that had been gathering dust in a closet.

But the memories also carried pain. In 1958 his beloved sister, Alice, died of breast cancer days after her husband drowned in a train accident. Weide reflects: “He would say how much he missed his her and how ‘she taught me what was funny; she imbued my sense of humour; we thought the same things were funny’.

“A lot of what they thought was funny had to do with a lot of good comedy, which is a tragedy befalling other people. If they saw somebody fall down on the street in Indianapolis, they’d laugh about it for years sometimes. He talked a lot about his sister in very fond terms. He never was that vocal specifically about how her death affected him but his daughter says in the film all these years later, ‘I don’t think he can even now get his arms around it’.”…

(19) FAMILIAR PLAYBOOK. Yes, John Scalzi has seen these plays run before on social media.

(20) DOO DOO OVER. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Time Travel Stories Where Things Get Rather Messy”.

Who among us has not dreamed over getting a do-over? Perhaps this time around, one could defer the two-hour discourse on the history of stirrups until the second date, leave the nearly-red hot frying pan to cool a little longer, or at the very least, take steps to ensure that some major historical debacle never happens, changing the course of human events for the good of all. Armed with knowledge of how things played out in the original timeline, surely one could shape a more perfect history!

That’s in reality. In fiction, of course, there’s no plot if everything goes as expected. Thus, these five works about altering timelines that did not, alas, work out entirely to plan….

(21) GENRE ADJACENT NEWS. “’It’s like hunting aliens’: inside the town besieged by armadillos” – the Guardian says North Carolina is not welcoming their new overlords.

….“It’s like hunting aliens,” said Bullard, who is more used to hunting feral pigs. “We know nothing about them. We can’t seem to kill them easily. They show up unexpectedly. And their numbers have just exploded.”

…An emerging theory for this advance of armadillos is the climate crisis. The animals dislike freezing conditions and global heating is making winters milder, turning northern parts of the US more armadillo-friendly. Around Sapphire [NC], the armadillos happily root around in the dirt with their snouts and claws, feasting on insects at elevations above 4,000ft. “We just don’t have those really cold winters any more and I’m sure that’s helped them,” said Olfenbuttel.

The armadillos have made it into Missouri, Iowa and even the southern reaches of Nebraska. Barriers such as rivers aren’t a problem – the animals can hold their breath for up to six minutes and walk on the riverbed, or even inflate their intestines to float across to the other side….

(22) ROBOTS UNDERGROUND. In the Washington Post Magazine, David Montgomery reports on the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, held in a giant cavern in Louisville, in which robots competed to see how many “humans” (mannequins with sensors) they could rescue in a simulated underground disaster.

…In this scenario, meticulously constructed for the finale of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge — an elaborate three-year, $82 million Pentagon robotics competition — something bad has happened to humans underground, and the robots are coming to the rescue. Spot and its robo-teammates and competitors — dozens of walking, driving and flying robots — were on a scavenger hunt for “survivors” (mannequins giving off body heat and vocal sounds) and objects such as cellphones, backpacks and helmets. The robots scored points by sending the objects’ locations back to their human teammates. Finding all the objects meant exploring a trap-filled labyrinth with a half-mile of passages, featuring three made-from-scratch environments: urban, with a subway, storeroom and offices; a tunnel (a mock mine shaft); and a cave, a claustrophobic mash-up of spelunking’s greatest hits….

(23) WEIRD WEST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Here’s an art collage piece by Lauren Fox (@LaurenFoxWrites):

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] This video isn’t short but it’s good. It does a thorough breakdown of both the Starship Troopers book and the film, plots and themes both, and toward the end compares them to Haldeman’s Forever War. “If Veterans Ruled the World”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Alan Baumler, Steven French, Jennifer Hawthorne, Ben Bird Person, 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 Jayn.]

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 10/22/21 I Must Not Scroll, Scroll Is The Pixel-Killer

(1) MCINTYRE FILM ADAPTATION COMING TO THEATERS. Moviegoers at last will be able to see the film based on the late Vonda McIntyre’s 1997 Nebula-winning novel The Moon and the Sun: “A Fantasy Blockbuster Shot In 2014 Is Finally Being Released” reports Looper. It arrives in theaters in January.

The Moon and The Sun actors Kaya Scodelario and Pierce Brosnan.

… However, one fantasy blockbuster’s release problems predate the worldwide pandemic by over half a decade. It’s a film that has been mysteriously missing ever since its production finished in 2014. That film was originally known as “The Moon and the Sun,” before it dropped off the radar ahead of its planned 2015 release date. The vanishing movie is based on the 1997 Nebula Award-winning novel of the same name by Vonda N. McIntyre (via Deadline). The family-friendly fantasy epic features Pierce Bronson in a lead role, and — had the film arrived on schedule — it would have been the realization of nearly two decades worth of effort to get the story to the big screen.

Obviously, “The Moon and the Sun” didn’t make its release date and lost the attention of both the media and moviegoers as it went into a lengthy post-production limbo. However, it seems that the film, which has been rebranded and renamed, is finally ready for a wide release and will be headed to theaters in early 2022. Here is everything fans need to know about “The King’s Daughter,” and why they’ve had to wait nearly six years to finally see it….

McIntyre got to see production shooting in France (“Vonda Visits Versailles”). A print reportedly was shown during her GoH slot at Sasquan in 2015.

(2) SAND THROUGH THE HOURGLASS. Alissa Wilkinson dissects “Dune’s expansive, enduring appeal” at Vox.

Harkonnens. Messiahs. Deadly, insect-like hunter-seekers. A secretive all-women order of spies, nuns, scientists, and theologians that’s bending history to its will. A spice harvested from an arid desert that enables space travel. ’Thopters. Interstellar war. Giant sand worms.

The world of Dune is a wild one, a tale spun by Frank Herbert in the tumultuous 1960s that mixes fear of authoritarian rule and environmental collapse with fascism, racism, and hallucinatory imagery. The 1965 novel, which eventually garnered widespread acclaim, was followed by a universe of sequels for its rabidly devoted fans. The trappings of its imagined, distant-future world feel wondrous, unfamiliar, and strange.

Or they would, if we hadn’t been steeped in Dune fever for so many years, even prior to the recent arrival of Denis Villeneuve’s extraordinary and resolutely abstruse film adaptation. Even the most Dune-averse person can hardly avoid the long tail of Herbert’s saga, whether they realize it or not.

The story has been referenced by pop stars like Lady Gaga, who made a sly nod to Dune in the “Telephone” music video, and Grimes, whose debut studio album, Geidi Primes, is a concept album based on Dune. Fatboy Slim’s song “Weapon of Choice,” the one with the music video starring Christopher Walken, is one big reference to the book (“Walk without rhythm / It won’t attract the worm”). Video games like Fallout and World of Warcraft contain references to Dune, as do plenty of TV shows from Scooby-Doo to Rick & Morty to SpongeBob SquarePants. There’s a crater on the moon officially named Dune, and some of the features on Saturn’s moon Titan have been named for planets from the series….

(3) A HOUSE DIVIDED. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda offers his assessment of the book and film of DUNE and recalls his meeting with Frank Herbert in 1984. “’Dune’ has long divided the science fiction world. The new film won’t change that.”

… Unlike “Star Wars,” though, Villeneuve’s “Dune” isn’t a sparky, upbeat space opera. It’s more like a Wagnerian music-drama, a somber story built around intimations of doom and orchestrated with a soundtrack of pounding drums and high-pitched wailings and ululations. It is, however, packed with eye-popping visual spectacle, notably speedy little aircraft that resemble mechanical dragonflies and enormous space cruisers as sleek as any on the cover of an old issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. Like Herbert’s book, the film is also deliberately majestic in its pacing and virtually without humor. Life is real, life is earnest and nobody has much fun. Instead, characters nobly pontificate or murmur gnomically about whether the young hero, Paul Atreides, is or isn’t the Kwisatz Haderach, the promised warrior prophet who will lead the tough and fiercely independent Fremen to victory over their brutal oppressors. Their cruelest enemy, the consummately evil Baron Harkonnen, symbolically dwells in darkness, surrounding himself with swirling smoke and completely hairless attendants. He is a grotesque vision of rampant, unbridled capitalism….

(4) DUNE VS. TATTOOINE. On This Day in Science Fiction delivers an assessment of this week’s cinematic history by comparing two sf epics with grit in “Stardate 10.22.2021.B: 2021’s ‘Dune’ Needed More Spice”.

… Paul means little to me.  Luke?  I get Luke.  I want to be Luke.  I’ll fly the Death Star trench with him, and I’ll gladly join him on Dagobah for secret Jedi training, or I’d even stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a blazing lightsaber battle with Emperor Palpatine if Luke asked me to.
 
But … Paul?
 
He’s Christlike … so what does he need me for?
 
Now, categorically, none of this lessens the strengths of what director Villeneuve accomplishes visually.  Clearly, he’s immersed himself in these worlds, and he’s spared no investor’s expense to bring them to life on the screen.  He’s taken the wide, open, endless desert seas of Arrakis and made them visual poetry – certainly real enough for fans of this franchise to enjoy again and again, much like Marvel fans flock to their superhero yarns for endless repeats.  He’s given breath to the political machinations of a galaxy that really only existed before in Herbert’s series of books in such a way that I’m sure folks will be reminded of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and HBO’s Game Of Thrones adaptations.  These ships and vehicles are unlike anything many have ever seen before, and I’m convinced these production designs will become influential in the years and decades ahead for other filmmakers who want to tackle similar challenges with the kind of scale employed here….

(5) A CHALLENGE FACED BY INTERNATIONAL WRITERS. Jason Sanford has posted a public Genre Grapevine column on his Patreon about the issues that international authors in Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America, etc… face to get paid for their work:  “Genre Grapevine Special Report: A Truly Global SF/F Genre Must Recognize the Financial Barriers Faced by Many International Authors and Creatives”.

…3. A fear that many people in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe don’t understand the financial barriers faced by those in other countries and that the hassles of arranging payments could cause some international authors and creatives to not have their works considered for publication in the first place.

That last point is a critical one to emerge from my interviews with more than a dozen authors, artists and creative people in countries such as Colombia, Australia, India, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, and Mexico, all of whom have experienced issues with receiving payments.

None of the people I spoke with knew of a single technical solution to the problems they’ve encountered with receiving payments. Instead, they spoke of worries about how the editors, publishers, and clients they’ve worked with in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe perceive these difficulties in receiving payments. It’s likely even their fellow authors and creatives in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe don’t generally understand these concerns.

In fact, most of the people I interviewed asked to remain anonymous because they feared harm to their career if they spoke publicly about the issue….

(6) REMEMBERING TRAGIC ACCIDENT VICTIM. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Everybody is talking about Alec Baldwin, but the Guardian has a profile/obituary of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer Baldwin accidentally shot. Some of the films she worked on were genre. Plus, I think she deserves to be remembered as more than just a footnote: “Halyna Hutchins profile: a talented and passionate cinematographer”.

Halyna Hutchins was a talented and passionate cinematographer who was clearly enjoying her job as director of photography on Alec Baldwin’s latest cowboy movie.

Over the past three weeks, she posted photos on her Instagram account from the film’s rugged set in the foothills of New Mexico. They included vivid sunsets and a cast and crew picture in which Hutchins is standing next to Baldwin against the backdrop a log cabin.

There is also a short video clip taken on Wednesday in which Hutchins – wearing a grey scarf and wide-brimmed hat – sets off on horseback with colleagues. “One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off,” she wrote….

(7) FRIGHTENING ADVICE. Will Maclean shares some tips in writing scary ghost stories: “How to write scary ghost stories” at Writers Online.

The first and most important thing to remember when writing a ghost story is the difference between scariness and creepiness. You will need to deploy both moods, so it’s well worth giving the matter some thought.

The part of us concerned with pure scariness is indescribably ancient, concerned only with fight or flight, with survival. As such, we are only truly, properly terrified when we’re confronted with those same primal terrors that threatened us a million years ago – being alone, being watched, being hunted or chased or otherwise pursued, with deadly intent… that small stock of evergreen human nightmares is where the pure, visceral scares will always come from….

(8) ANATOMY OF A SUBGENRE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Bill Ward has an article about the intersection of cosmic horror and sword and sorcery at Goodman Games, who are a remarkably good source of SFF related articles: “The Cosmic Horror of Sword & Sorcery”.

… The bones of sword & sorcery lie close to the skin, and one sure blade-stroke is enough to lay them bare for all to see. There is plot-driven pulp action there, at the core, but supporting that is a foundation of swashbuckling historical adventure, and expectations of encounters of the picaresque and the exotic kind. To be sure we can also see the unsentimentality of the hardboiled, the individualism of the American experience, and a surprising dose of literary realism for a genre concerned with fantastic monsters, haunted crypts, and vampiric blades….

(9) FOUNDATION REVIEW. Camestros Felapton weighs in on “Foundation Episode 6”. As he says, spoilers follow.

The show has been taking its time by introducing the background and a broader plot about the fall of the Galactic Empire. However, if the pace was slow it was still moving. Episode 6 was a case of the show spinning its wheels without really going anywhere. There are some good bits but what momentum the story had in the previous episodes got caught up in dithering. Spoilers follow….

(10) YAKKO, WAKKO AND DOT. Hulu dropped this trailer for season 2 of Animaniacs yesterday.

“We’re so meta the shark jumped us!”

(11) SAME MOTIVE AS EVER, GETTING PAID. The Digital Antiquarian’s article about “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” begins with an expansive biography of author Harlan Ellison before turning to the game based on one of his stories.

… Ellison’s attitude toward computers in general was no more nuanced. Asked what he thought about computer entertainment in 1987, he pronounced the phrase “an oxymoron.” Thus it came as quite a surprise to everyone five years later when it was announced that Harlan Ellison had agreed to collaborate on a computer game.

The source of the announcement was a Southern California publisher and developer called Cyberdreams, which had been founded by Pat Ketchum and Rolf Klug in 1990. Ketchum was a grizzled veteran of the home-computer wars, having entered the market with the founding of his first software publisher DataSoft on June 12, 1980. After a couple of years of spinning their wheels, DataSoft found traction when they released a product called Text Wizard, for a time the most popular word processor for Atari’s 8-bit home-computer line. (Its teenage programmer had started on the path to making it when he began experimenting with ways to subtly expand margins and increase line spacings in order to make his two-page school papers look like three…)

(12) ANGEL OBIT. Legacy.com covers the career of the late “Jack Angel (1930–2021), voice actor in ‘Super Friends,’ ‘Transformers’” – who I remember listening to on KFI at the beginning of his career.

Angel got his start in the entertainment industry as a radio disc jockey in California. He worked in radio for almost 20 years before beginning his voice acting career on the popular Saturday morning cartoon “Super Friends.” Angel provided the voices of Hawkman, the Flash, and Super Samurai. He went on to perform in beloved cartoons including “The Smurfs,” “Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo,” and “Spider-Man.” In 1985, Angel began voicing a number of characters for “The Transformers,” including Ramjet, Smokescreen, and Omega Supreme. He was the voice of Wetsuit in “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” and Dr. Zachary Darrett in “Pole Position” as well as providing a number of voices in “Voltron: Defender of the Universe.” Angel also worked in animated feature films, providing voices for many movies including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “A Bug’s Life,” “The Iron Giant,” “Spirited Away,” and “Monsters Inc.” Angel was a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea.

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2006 – On this evening in 2006, Torchwood first aired on BBC Three before moving to BBC Two and finally to the level BBC One. A spin-off of Doctor Who which returned the previous year after a long hiatus, it was created by Russell T. Davies, the first Showrunner for the new Doctor Who. Its principal cast was John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori. Over five years, it would run for four series and forty-one episodes. I personally liked the first two series much better than the last two series. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent seventy-four percent rating. Both BBC and Big Finish have continued the series in audio dramas. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list.  (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 83. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s played Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass. I’ll single out that he’s played Macbeth at Barbican Theatre in London as part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre ensemble.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 83. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in the most excellent Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and played a wonderful Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Though I admit didn’t spot him in that makeup.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 82. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. “Boobs” won the Best Story Hugo at ConFiction. Her Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast novelette was a nominee at LoneStarCon 2. She’s also won the Otherwise, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, Nebula, Gaylactic Spectrum, and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series? 
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If for three years. In late 1999, he started Webscriptions, now called Baen Ebooks, which is considered to be the first profitable e-book service. He also was the editor of Destinies and New Destinies which I remember fondly.  He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo five times between 1975 and 1981 but never won. At Nippon 2007, he’d be nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 69. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Independence Day: Resurgence), but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the  Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. Well, I do really like Independence Day. Though not even genre adjacent, he’s got a nice run on Law and Order: Criminal Intent as Zack Nichols.
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. No Hugos not even a short list nomination but he’s won quite a few BFAs and one WFA for The Facts of Life novel. (Died 2014.)

(15) TANANARIVE DUE PROFILE. “Afrofuturist and horror writer Tananarive Due: ‘Invite more Black creators to the table’”. So she tells interviewer Roxane Gay at Inverse.

RG: You have this seemingly idyllic upbringing with both of your parents, loving family, surrounded by books. How do you develop an interest in writing horror?

TD: That’s also my mother. She was a huge horror fan. It’s only in recent years really since her loss, ironically, which has been the biggest trauma of my life that I’m thinking, “Ah, I wonder if her love of horror had a lot to do with the trauma she suffered, first growing up under Jim Crow then being subjected to state violence as a civil rights activist?” That monster on a screen, whether it’s Frankenstein or the Wolf Man, can represent the real-life trauma you have to stand up to. And you watch characters stand up to it even when they don’t understand it, even when they don’t know how to fight it.

(16) VONNEGUT ON FILM. Thom Dunn gets us ready to “Watch the trailer for the new Kurt Vonnegut documentary ‘Unstuck In Time’” at Boing Boing.

The upcoming documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time looks pretty interesting if you (like me) are a fan of the late author. Filmmaker Robert Weide first approached Vonnegut in 1988 to propose the idea of a documentary, and they filmed on and off until Vonnegut’s death in 2007. As a result, the movie not only documents Vonnegut’s life and career, but also the evolution of the relationship between the two men. 

(17) SOURCES OF DUNE. Haris Durrani analyzes Herbert’s drawing on Islam in “The Muslimness of Dune: A Close Reading of ‘Appendix II: The Religion of Dune’” at Tor.com.

… I find the books’ engagement with Islam to transcend linguistic wordplay and obscure intertextuality. After all, Herbert was fascinated by linguistics and believed words shape substantive meaning. The use of “Voice” by the Bene Gesserit, an order of imperialist superhuman female breeders, is a prime example of this, as is the saga’s running obsession with symbols and myths. As these semiotic tools wield tremendous power within the Dune universe, Herbert’s references likewise generate a profound “Muslimness” that goes beyond mere orientalist aesthetics. (This is not to say that the Dune novels are not orientalist in other ways, which I have detailed elsewhere.) Dune does not cheaply plagiarize from Muslim histories, ideas, and practices, but actively engages with them….

(18) NOT THE EXPANSE. Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Lucy Launches to Eight Asteroids.”

(19) VERSATILE AARDVARK. Cat discovered recordings of six episodes of “Cerebus: The Radio Show” at the Internet Archive.

Comic book series created by Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim, which ran from December 1977 until March 2004. The title character of the 300-issue series is an anthropomorphic aardvark who takes on a number of roles throughout the series-barbarian, prime minister and Pope among them. The series stands out for its experimentation in form and content, and for the dexterity of its artwork, especially after background artist Gerhard joined with the 65th issue. As the series progressed, it increasingly became a platform for Sim’s controversial beliefs.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]

“A Crewneck for Pete” on Vimeo, directed by Andy Mills, is about how you know it’s fall in New England, when the leaves turn and you drink cider straight from the jug.  But where is Pete going to find a cozy crewneck sweatshirt?

[Thanks to  JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Will R., Cora Buhlert, Jason Sanford, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/21 The Scrolls Are Lovely, Dark And Deep, But I Have Pixels To Keep

(1) SANDBAGGING GOODREADS FOR RANSOM. TIME probes “Goodreads’ Problem With Extortion Scams and Review Bombing”.

A few months after posting a message on Goodreads about the imminent release of a new book, Indie author Beth Black woke up to an all-caps ransom email from an anonymous server, demanding that she either pay for good reviews or have her books inundated with negative ones: “EITHER YOU TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR WALLET OR WE’LL RUIN YOUR AUTHOR CAREER,” the email, shared with TIME, read. “PAY US OR DISAPPEAR FROM GOODREADS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.”

Black, who has self-published both a romance novel and a collection of short stories in the past year, didn’t pay the ransom. “I reported it to Goodreads and then a couple hours later, I started noticing the stars dropping on my books as I started getting all these 1-star reviews,” she says. “It was quite threatening.”

Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of “review bombing” their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.

… Goodreads remains one of the primary tools on the internet for book discovery, meaning lesser-known authors often have to rely on the site to get their work noticed. But at this point, some feel that Goodreads’ ratings and reviews system is causing more harm than good.

In a July 29 statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Goodreads said that the company is actively working to resolve many of these review bombing problems.

“We take swift action to remove users when we determine that they violate our guidelines, and are actively assessing all available options to take further action against the small number of bad actors who have attempted extortion scams,” the statement read. “We have clear guidelines for reviews and participation in our community, and we remove reviews and/or accounts that violate these guidelines… We also continue to invest in making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behavior and inauthentic reviews in order to better safeguard our community.”

Review bombing, ransom emails and extortion

As author Rin Chupeco told TIME, Goodreads is a “good idea that slowly became unmanageable over the years due to lack of adequate moderation and general indifference.”

One emerging issue is review bombing: when a coordinated group, or a few people with multiple accounts, intentionally tank a book’s aggregate rating with a flurry of one-star ratings and negative reviews….

.. But Black isn’t the only author to be targeted. There are many threads on Goodreads discussing similar issues, with posts from writers who’ve been targeted….

(2) MAKING RULES DIFFERENTLY. Eleanor Konik shows colleagues a way to expand their horizons in “Unusual Governments to Take Inspiration From” at the SFWA Blog.

Often, speculative fiction relies on common government types, like monarchies and republics, because they’re familiar to readers. History, however, offers other examples of sociopolitical systems. They can be a gold mine for worldbuilding ideas that stretch beyond the mainstream.

Cycling Governments

Age-sets are a sociopolitical system common in East Africa. Among Kenya’s Nandi people, each ibinda (age-set) corresponds to a stage of the life cycle. Boys and girls from each region would be initiated into their age-sets during a series of mass ceremonies.  As an analogy, consider a series of nearby communities gathering children into one centralized boarding school then transitioning them out of school and into the lifestage of young adults marrying and being busy with young children, after which they would return to the workforce before finally amassing the experience to lead the community as political figures. 

In the Ethiopian Highlands, this sort of cycling age-set system, known in some places as gadaa (for men) or siqqee (for women), led to the development of a republic with democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which took roughly eight years to accomplish. It is not the “democratic republic” as described in ancient Greece. Men were bound to their neighbors by the bonds of shared experiences, handling infrastructure projects for the whole region. In some places, this led to peace. In others, expansion of the length of time men spent in the warrior stage meant an increase in raids and conquest. 

(3) SILVERBERG TO BE DISCON III VIRTUAL PARTICIPANT. Robert Silverberg revealed online today: “Apparently I will be at the DC worldcon after all, though only virtually.  Since I am unwilling to travel to the East Coast in wintertime, they have arranged for me to do a virtual conversation with Nancy Kress, with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro acting as moderator.  So my 67-year streak of worldcon attendance will remain intact, if only virtually.”

(4) ENTER THE DRAGONS. Camestros Felapton’s epic has now reached a key moment of 2016: “Debarkle Chapter 55: The Dragon Award Begins”.

…With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.

So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website…

(5) DULCET TONES. Open Culture invites you to listen as “Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088”.

A few years ago we posted Kurt Vonnegut’s letter of advice to humanity, written in 1988 but addressed, a century hence, to the year 2088. Whatever objections you may have felt to reading this missive more than 70 years prematurely, you might have overcome them to find that the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions single-mindedly importuned his fellow man of the late 21st century to protect the natural environment. He issues commandments to “reduce and stabilize your population” to “stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems,” and to “stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars,” among other potentially drastic-sounding measures.

Commandment number seven amounts to the highly Vonnegutian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can easily imagine these words spoken in the writer’s own voice, but with Vonnegut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spoken in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch instead?

(6) END TIMES. Netflix dropped this trailer for the final season of Lucifer today.

Lucifer scored the promotion, but does he really want the job? Plus, Chloe prepares to give up detective work, Amenadiel joins the LAPD, and more.

(7) SOUNDING OFF. The Guardian interviews actors who are better known for their voice than their face. One of them is Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery fame: “’They wanted my meerkat to sound like a Russian Alan Sugar’ – meet TV’s secret superstars” in The Guardian.

…[Doug Jones:] When you say yes to playing something that doesn’t look human, you’re saying yes to the entire process. I don’t get to shout: “Get this off me! It’s so hot and sticky.” I need the mindset of a performer, but also the endurance of an athlete, one who can take five or six hours of makeup application, then get through a long day of shooting.

Because of all the parts I’ve played, I often end up skipping the conventional casting process. People in creature effects just say: “It’s a tall skinny alien – we need Doug Jones.” I was playing the amphibian in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water when Star Trek: Discovery approached me. I was actually thinking “I’m not sure how much more rubber and glue I want in my life,” but there was no way I could turn it down. For Saru, I wear a four-piece prosthetic over my head that comes down past my collarbones, with gloves to change my hands. It’s all been moulded to my shape and pre-painted so getting it all glued on is only a two-hour process. I wear a Starfleet uniform like everybody else, but I do have special hoofed boots that add five inches to my height. That makes me about 6ft 8ins!…

(8) TRAPPED IN AMBER. Irish/Dutch writer couple Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten talk about the future of the sword and sorcery genre — and if it has one: “Fled & Done: Sword & Sorcery” at Turnip Lanterns.

…Modern Sword & Sorcery writers face an uphill battle, if they want to emerge from the shadow of Conan (including, and in particular, his Marvel comics and Schwarzenegger film incarnations). And that indeed sums up our dilemma: is it worth trying to expand the genre, when the general audience’s idea of S&S has calcified in cliché? Especially when a large section of S&S fans (and authors) have very firm ideas of what S&S was, is and always will be?…

(9) INTERNATIONAL TOLKIEN FANDOM. Brazilian podcast Tolkien Talk did a video Q&A with acclaimed Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson. It’s the fifth in their series of major international interviews. Find the others at their Tolkien Talk YouTube channel.

Meet Douglas A. Anderson, creator of The Annotated Hobbit and one of the most important tolkienists of our time. All the way from his first contact with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to unveiling misconceptions throughout the time, get an overview on Tolkien’s life and works from one that accessed them directly.

(10) CRIMINAL RECORD. Anthony Horowitz has reached a crime fiction award milestone: “Horowitz becomes Japan’s most-decorated foreign crime author” at The Bookseller.

Author Anthony Horowitz has won the Best Mystery of the Decade award by Honkaku Mystery Writers Club for his first Daniel Hawthorne novel, The Word is Murder, making him the most-decorated foreign crime author in Japanese history.

Horowitz is the first author in Japanese history to win 16 literary awards in total, according to his publisher…. 

(11) WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. “’I Am Legend’ screenwriter responds to conspiracy theory about vaccines and zombies”Yahoo! has the story.

There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?

New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.

As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.

On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.

“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”…

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2013 – Eight years ago, Futurama ended its run. It had four seasons on FOX, and when cancelled there was revived by Comedy Central and ran another three seasons. In between, reruns aired on Adult Swim.  It was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame. Over its seven seasons, it would run for one hundred and seventy episodes. There would be four later films, Bender’s Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. It had a legendary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman and Frank Welker. It was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Script for the “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” episode during the last season. It has a ninety-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. He won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at Dublin 2019  for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and was nominated for six more. ISFDB notes Donovan’s Brain was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents — four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World including “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine.“ (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 90. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that? And he won the Rotsler Award for fan art in 2006.  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read, so do tell me about them please. 
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 77. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her?
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 66. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell, written by Alan Moore, and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell.
  • Born August 10, 1960 Antonio Banderas, 61. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in the Puss in Boots and Shrek franchises, appearances in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and the New Mutants. He’s James Mangold in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 56. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six episode series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) UP TO DATE. Entertainment Weekly says Robin is now bi. “Robin becomes a bisexual icon in new Batman comic”. Clearly it doesn’t cut it to keep visualizing Burt Ward/Robin as Adam West/Bruce Wayne’s teenage ward — I missed the part where Robin was dating at all.

The latest issue of Batman: Urban Legends, a monthly anthology series, revealed that the Caped Crusader’s longtime sidekick Robin, specifically the Tim Drake version of him, is bisexual. 

The moment came at the end of part 3 of the Sum of Our Parts story, from writer Meghan Fitzmartin, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau. 

(16) SUBSTACK GROWING. “Comic Book Writers and Artists Follow Other Creators to Substack” – the New York Times tells how it will work.

… Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of the comic book shops and the creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin AhmedJonathan HickmanMolly OstertagScott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 percent cut.

Mr. Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honor, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

(17) KEEPING THE BOOKS. Lazy Rabbit has a set of humorous pictures of librarian jokes on Facebook.

(18) CATS FOR ADOPTION. Let’s signal boost the availability for adoption of a new litter of kittens in Los Angeles. The owner is a friend of Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey. You can reach her by emailing digginginthewrongplace (at) gmail (dot) com.

The momma cat is approx two years old. We just had her spayed and she had a dental check too. She’s negative for all diseases/fleas/worms, and in great health.

Kitties are 9 weeks old. All in great health. Too young to be neutered yet.

Let me know if anyone’s interested!

(19) CANDLING THE EGGS. SYFY Wire got first dibs on this 90-second video: “Monsters at Work: Explore the Pixar show’s various Easter eggs”.

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive featurette that breaks down a number of these subtle — and not-so-subtle — references in the Disney+ series. Series executive producer Bobs Gannaway tells us that all of the Easter eggs “happened naturally and came from anyone on the crew at any phase of production — be it a storyboard artist adding something in the board, or the art director dressing the set.” 

“We focused mostly on world expansion — using the graphics to suggest parts of the world we will never see: like the Laffeteria menu, or advertisements on the back of Roz’s newspaper,” he continues. “We also focused things more inward and on our characters. For example, Duncan’s nameplate changes every episode, and whenever he’s listening to his boom box, the ‘mixtape’ is labeled. You have to really zoom into the frames to see those. Other things aren’t so much Easter eggs as they are just having fun: like changing the theme music every time during the credits to reflect that episode’s story, and doing something different each time with the wind-up teeth in the Mike’s Comedy Class title card. Everyone has a good time adding the details to the world.”

(20) TRICK OR TRICK. “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Halloween Special First Images Revealed” – see the pics at Halloween Daily News. Below is the trailer from May.

On today’s 52nd anniversary of the premiere of the Haunted Mansion dark ride at Disneyland, two first-look images from this October’s new Muppets Haunted Mansion Halloween special have been released, including Kermit and Miss Piggy in costume …as each other.

The special will feature the Muppets cast, along with celebrity cameos, new music, and fittingly seasonal fun for all ages.

Muppets Haunted Mansion will take place on Halloween Night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers, The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword”, Fandom Games says this is “the motion-control Zelda game no one asked for” where “every fight feels like doing a bunch of morphone before a high-school fencing match.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/3/21 A Round Pixel In A Square Scroll

(1) HE IS THE CHAMPION. LeVar Burton is the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. [H/t to Locus Online.]

We are excited to announce that LeVar Burton, award-winning actor and longtime host of Reading Rainbow, has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. Launched in conjunction with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s 40th Anniversary, this annual commendation will recognize devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.

…PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion LeVar Burton will be honored, along with this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner and finalists, in a virtual celebration to be held on May 10, 2021.

(2) INTERZONE REVERSES COURSE. Today Andy Cox announced “Interzone Does Not Have A New Publisher…” Plans to turn the magazine over to PS Publishing have been revoked.

Following concerns expressed by subscribers and the increasing confusion about what the new publisher intended to do with the magazine, we sought some clarity. The deal we had was a very simple one and they had to commit to just one thing, but as soon as it became obvious they weren’t going to honour it we had no choice but to withdraw the magazine, along with the various parts of it we’d already handed over. In other words, we are still the publisher of Interzone.

Admittedly this does throw a spanner into the TTA works. We’d already made plans for Black Static and other things – including my own “retirement” – based on Interzone being given to a new publisher. So I’d like to ask for some time to get things back into place, and to make any changes that have to be made in order to fulfil our commitments to you. We will do everything we can to fill subscriptions, but stuff like format and schedule may have to change. We might even have to stop taking new subscriptions and follow the winding-down Black Static route. Meanwhile we will continue to try to find a trustworthy publisher who is right for Interzone.

Your input on all of this and more is always welcome so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I’d like to finish this update by thanking everybody for the heartwarming messages received over the past few weeks. I’ve tried to reply to everybody but if I missed you please don’t think for an instant that I’m ungrateful. Like I said before, it really has been an honour.

(3) BUTLER AS VISIONARY. [Item by Joel Zakem.] In honor of Black History Month, the NPR podcast radio show Throughline is looking at the lives and legacies of three Black visionaries including Octavia Butler, whom they describe as follows:

Octavia Butler was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. She described herself as a pessimist, “if I’m not careful.” As an award winning science fiction writer and ‘mother of Afrofuturism,’ her visionary works of alternate realities reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. Butler was fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warnings is her message of hope – a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perished in her books, came a story of rebuilding, of repair. These are themes Butler was intimately familiar with in her life. She broke on to the science fiction scene at a time when she knew of no other Black woman in the field, saying she simply had to “write herself in.”

While the show is scheduled to debut on February 18, 2021, you should, as they say, check your local listings. My local NPR news station (WFPL in Louisville)  is running the show on Saturday, February 27 at noon.

(4) PLAYABLE DOOMS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 27 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at why gamers love apocalypses.

You know how it looks.  Even though the original cataclysmic text, The Book Of Revelation, is extraordinarily vivid, with the sun turning black, stars falling to earth, and a pregnant woman fighting a seven-headed dragon across the sky, gaming apocalypses are drab affairs. You trudge past areas of grey and brown wreckage, shattered cities and crumbling landmarks.  You wear tattered, colourless clothes, eat out of cans and sleep in bunkers and dirty mattresses. The Whore of Babylon never swoops down on unbelievers the way she does in the Bible, drunk on the blood of slain martyrs.  Clearly the apocalypse just isn’t what it used to be.”

…While the aesthetics of the gaming apocalypse are mostly tired, there are a few exceptions.  Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda:  Breath Of The Wild argue that the end might look colourful and lush,  Meanwhile, The Last Of Us series offers evocative dioramas of lives lived in abandoned American homes following a zombie outbreak.  There are the crops on a deserted farm left to wither on the vine, and the diary entries of a girl who cannot understand why her father never comes home.

(5) THE WINTER OF OUR CONTENT – MUCH CONTENT. George R.R. Martin’s “Reflections on a Bad Year” at Not A Blog talks about the pandemic, isolation, and loss. On the other hand —  

What was good about 2020?   Besides the election?

Well… for me… there was work.

I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of THE WINDS OF WINTER in 2020.   The best year I’ve had on WOW since I began it.    Why?  I don’t know.   Maybe the isolation.   Or maybe I just got on a roll.   Sometimes I do get on a roll.

I need to keep rolling, though.   I still have hundreds of more pages to write to bring the novel to a satisfactory conclusion.

That’s what 2021 is for, I hope.

I will make no predictions on when I will finish.   Every time I do, assholes on the internet take that as a “promise,” and then wait eagerly to crucify me when I miss the deadline.   All I will say is that I am hopeful.

(6) THE NEXT MIDDLE AGES. You won’t have to go back in time to get to the Middle Ages. Tribes of Europa premieres on Netflix on February 19.

2074. In the wake of a mysterious global disaster, war rages between the Tribes that have emerged from the wreckage of Europe. Three siblings from the peaceful Origines tribe – Kiano (Emilio Sakraya), Liv (Henriette Confurius) and Elja (David Ali Rashed) – are separated and forced to forge their own paths in an action-packed fight for the future of this new Europa.

(7) RAISED BY WOLVES. South African reviewer Elene Botha is enthusiastic about the series; not everybody is. “Hard core sci-fi fans rejoice: Raised by Wolves is live on Showmax” at 9Lives.

…If you do not enjoy sci-fi, turn around now. Raised by Wolves is modern sci-fi at its best. The production value is very high and the scenes are beautifully shot and executed. The actors they have chosen have extremely interesting features that kind of picks up on the modernity of the entire series.

Despite being quite modern in both look and feel, it is definitely reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s earlier interests (like the first Bladerunner or Alien) which actually gives it a very retro-modern feel. We had a sneak-peek of the first two episodes, and the use of the barren landscapes and hostile environments are contrasted against the technological advances that Scott, who produced the first two episodes, fully leans into.

(8) THE NARRATIVE. “Interview with Kurt Vonnegut” at Robert Caro’s website is a terrific roundtable interview LBJ biographer Caro, Barbara Stone and Daniel Stern conducted with Kurt Vonnegut in 2012.

VONNEGUT
Let’s just use a simple word here: truth. In Slaughterhouse Five I wanted a person who dies of carbon monoxide poisoning to be a beautiful blue, and then you know I wanted a sort of swooning with the beauty of this corpse. Well, that was a mistake and I got a letter from a doctor who said a person who is a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning is rosey and it’s often commented on how well the person looks. I got letter after letter about that for about two or three years.

CARO
To my mind, the prose in a non-fiction work that’s going to endure has to be of the same quality as the prose in a work of fiction that endures. And I actually tested this out for myself. I read one hunk of Gibbon ‘s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, then I read a part of War and Peace which is a grand historical novel, right, so I figured that’s the closest to Gibbon. So I would read a part of one then apart of the other. I did this all summer. And the writing in Gibbon is at the same level, you know, they don’t read at the same cadences but it’s at the same intensity and level as in War and Peace. I’ve always felt that no one understands why some books of non-fiction endure and some don’t, because there’s not much understanding among many non-fiction writers that the narrative is terribly important. I would say what we both do that is the same is the narrative. I mean history is narrative, just like your books are narrative.

VONNEGUT
Or the reader will stop reading….

(9) JRRT. Shelf Awarenessfeature “Reading with… John Hart” – a multiple Edgar Award winner – includes these fond memories of Tolkien.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was a birthday gift when I turned 15, and I read the entirety of it in two days, mostly sprawled out on the living room floor, or in bed until the wee small hours. This was before the movies, of course, so the experience was one of raw imagination and total immersion. Few people build worlds the way Tolkien did. I still see it my way, and not as Peter Jackson brought it to the screen….

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Is it sad that I keep coming back to The Lord of the Rings? As an adult, I read very little fantasy. As a child, though, I was transported by the remarkable depth of this imaginary world, the complex interweaving of multiple geographies, religions, histories, cultures and interests, the peoples and places, and how they’d evolved, fought and co-existed for thousands of years. Tolkien created a foreign, remarkable, unforgettable world, yet made it entirely real to me. Total conviction. I read those stories with childlike wonder, and would pay dearly to have the experience again. I’m too old and jaded, I’m sure, but if anyone could make it happen, Tolkien would be the one to do it.

(10) WILLIAMS OBIT. Film publicist Karl Williams died January 31. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro has an extended profile of this genre expert: “Karl Williams Dead: Longtime Paramount Film Publicist Was 52”.

…Karl worked for Paramount for roughly 15 years, … an integral part of the campaigns for the first two Transformers movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Star Trek, Paramount’s early Marvel movies Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Thor and the Shia LaBeouf pics Disturbia and Eagle Eye. 

Post-Paramount, Karl served as the Head of Publicity for Digital Domain as well as serving various PR stints with 20th Century Fox, CBS Films and most recently Amazon…

Paramount’s Waldman told me today: “Karl was the original fanboy digital publicist. He was friendly with all the fanboy-site guys and could talk the talk. He was an integral part of Paramount’s most successful movies like the Transformers launch in 2007, Iron Man in 2008 and so many more. When we had Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he knew Lucasfilm left, right and center. When it came to that incredible Comic-Con when we assembled The Avengers in 2010Karl was there.”

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2016 — Fifteen years ago, the Sidewise Award went to Charles Stross to Merchant Princes series for the Best Long Form Alternate History for the first three novels, The Family TradeThe Hidden Family, and The Clan Corporate. (Stross on his blog tells the story of reediting the early books in this series for republication on Tor in substantially different form. It’s well worth reading.) Invisible Sun, the next novel in the series, is due out in September of this year after being delayed several times. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 3, 1870 – Beatrice Grimshaw.  Journalist with three decades in the South Pacific.  Two novels and thirty shorter stories for us; a dozen novels all told, essays, a memoir.  You might be able to read The Sorcerer’s Stone here.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1907 – James Michener.  Pulitzer Prize.  Tales of the South Pacific became a Broadway musical and two feature films.  From best-selling novels and nonfiction (75 million copies sold during his life, e.g. HawaiiCaravansCentennial; nonfiction IberiaThe Floating World on Japanese prints; A Century of Sonnets, his; memoirs) a major philanthropist.  Space (1982) starting with the Space program as it then existed becomes SF and is worth attention.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1925 John Fiedler. He’s solely here as he played the ever so bland bureaucrat who gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper on the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. I’m less interested in him than who wrote that screenplay. It was written by Robert Bloch, a master of horror who would write two other Trek episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1938 Victor Buono. I remember him best in his recurring role of Count Manzeppi in The Wild Wild West. In his very short life, he showed up in a number of other genre roles as well including as a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled “The Cyborg”, as Adiposo / Fat man in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Colonel Hubris in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Professor William McElroy / King Tut in Batman, Sir Cecil Seabrook in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Schubert on Man from Atlantis. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1946 – Eclare Hannifen, age 75.  (Personal name pronounced “ee-klar-ee”.)  As Hilda Hoffman, grew interested in SF and fandom, married Owen Hannifen; active awhile as Hilda Hannifen; changed her name.  Learned Dungeons & Dragons, introduced it to many West Coast fans; she and O conducted Lee Gold’s first session.  Part of Sampo Productions with O and the late great Jerry Jacks.  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1954 – Shawna McCarthy, age 67.  One story with Charles Platt.  Edited SF Digest.  Followed Kathleen Moloney at Asimov’s, promptly won a Hugo as Best Pro Editor; four anthologies, Isaac Asimov’s Wonders of the WorldIA’s Aliens & OutworldersIA’s Space of Her OwnIA’s Fantasy; succeeded by Gardner Dozois.  SF editor at Bantam.  Co-edited two Full Spectrum anthologies.  Fiction editor at Realms of Fantasy.  Then a career as an agent.  Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 21, WindyCon XXIX, World Fantasy Convention 2011.  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1963 Alex Bledsoe, 57. I highly recommend his Tales of The Tufa which can sort of be described as Appalachian Fae though that’s stretching it. His Eddie LaCrosse novels remind me of Cook’s Garrett PI series and that’s a high compliment as that’s one of my favorite fantasy PI series. Anyone read his Firefly Witch series? (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1964 – Rita Murphy, age 57.  Five novels. Taught awhile at Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica.  Delacorte Press Prize, starting with two pages in mid-September and turning in her book by December 31.  “I sometimes feel that I have very little to do with the setting of the story or the characters that emerge.”  For Harmony, “I contacted the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma, spoke with a man there of Cherokee descent, and used their online Cherokee dictionary.”  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1970 Warwick Davis, 51. Nearly fifty live and voice appearances since first appearing in the Return of the Jedi in place of Kenny Baker who was going to be an Ewok before he fell ill. Did you know he’s in Labyrinth as a member of the Goblin Corps? I certainly didn’t. Or that he did a series of humorous horror films centered around him as an evil Leprechaun? They did well enough that there was six of them. Hell he even shows up in Doctor Who in the “Nightmare in Silver” episode. (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1979 Ransom Riggs, 42. He’s best known for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I’ll confess I know absolutely nothing about, so educate me. I know it was turned into a film by Tim Burton which could a Very Good Thing. His first book btw was The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: The Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective. (CE)
  • Born February 3, 1984 – Rodrigo Adolfo, age 37.  Ten covers for us.  Here is Trial by Fire.  Here is Sunker’s Deep.  Two DeviantArt sites, one pro, one for his hobbyist photography.  [JH]

(13) BOOK WILL BENEFIT DWAYNE MCDUFFIE FOUNDATION. Publishers Weekly previews “A New Guide to the Black Comic Book Community”.

Three comics industry veterans have joined together to produce The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021. The title is the first in a series of reference works that will introduce creators of color who released books in 2020 as well as industry institutions and events that spotlight their works.

The reference work will be released on February 17 and all proceeds will be donated to the Dwayne McDuffie Foundation to be used to subsidize academic scholarships for diverse students. The foundation is named after the late McDuffie, an Eisner-award winning comics writer, animator and a cofounder of Milestone Media, a celebrated Black superhero publishing venture that focused on minority representation in comics….

(14) TBR ASAP. So says Book Riot about “8 of the Best Queer Science Fiction Books”, a list that includes:

CHILLING EFFECT BY VALERIE VALDES

In this adult and humorous space opera, Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family….

(15) TODAY’S WILD-ASS THEORY. Film Theory, to be specific: “Titanic is about Time Travel… No REALLY!”

Titanic is a movie that has stood the test of time… and has one of the BIGGEST unanswered questions of any movie. No, I don’t mean could they both fit on the door if Rose had just moved over a little. I mean the question is Jack a time traveler sent to make sure the Titanic sinks? Yes, that age old question. Well Theorists, today we are going to answer that once and for all!

(16) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Peeps are not genre, or even genre adjacent. Why do I feel compelled to write about them? These new flavors must spark a connection between “exotic” and “alien” in my imagination. “Holiday Peeps Are Back in Time for Easter”.

In addition to returning fan-favorite flavors, Peeps-lovers can look forward to two “delectable new flavors” — Hot Tamales Fierce Cinnamon Flavored Marshmallow Chicks and the Froot Loops Flavored Pop — which will be available nationwide….

(17) AFROFUTURISTIC SERIES ON THE WAY. “Idris and Sabrina Elba Working on Afrofuturistic Sci-Fi Series for Crunchyroll” Slanted has the story.

… The Afro-futuristic science fiction series, which is currently in development, will be set in a city where the rise of biotechnology has created an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Two rising stars from either side of this divide are pitted against each other in a story that will ultimately explore equality and kinship within a corrupt society.

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Idris and Sabrina to develop this anime-inspired sci-fi epic,” said Sarah Victor, Head of Development, Crunchyroll. “It is a privilege to work with such talented, creative partners and we look forward to bringing this exciting project to life.”

(18) IMMATERIAL PLANET. “Fans petition NASA to name planet TOI-1338 b in SOPHIE’s memory” reports The Fader.

As the world continues to mourn the tremendous loss of SOPHIE, who passed away this weekend following an accident in Athens, fans are asking for the Scottish producer’s otherworldly legacy to be honored in space. A new petition created by Christian Arroyo asks for NASA to consider naming the recently discovered planet TOI 1339 b after SOPHIE, due to the aesthetic similarities between the planet and SOPHIE’s visual lexicon….

Here’s the link to the petition at Change.org – ”NASA, name TOI-1338 b in honor of SOPHIE”.

…When artist renditions of TOI 1338 b (a circumbinary exoplanet discovered by Wolf Cukier and fellow scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) were featured in the press following the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, many fans noticed the similarities between the interpretations and the aesthetic sense of SOPHIE’s visual work, specifically the cover for her 2018 album Oil of Every Pearl’s UnInsides.

I am requesting, at the discretion of the incredible scientists who discovered the planet, that TOI 1338 b be named in honor of the great LGBT+ influence, SOPHIE. Her fans would love to pay homage by having her name be remembered in this way and for her influence to continue to flourish for years to come.

(19) ROLLING MORE THAN THE DICE. “Dungeons and Diversity brings phenomenal wheelchair minis to D&D”All Gamers has the story.

Dungeons and Dragons sells itself on the principle of creativity, allowing you the freedom to imagine someone entirely different to play, or design a fantastical version of yourself. Yet for all the innovation encouraged in its play, the game’s core rules have proven somewhat restrictive, or non inclusive for many. 

Dungeons and Diversity is hoping to change that, starting with the creation of some seriously impressive combat wheelchair miniatures. Created by Strata Miniatures, the models include a Human Druid, Elf Rogue, Tiefling Cleric and Dwarf Barbarian. Each is intricately detailed, with equipment loaded across the sides and back…

(20) FANTASTIC FOUR AT 60. Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and now the company will present their saga in a radical new way in Fantastic Four: Life Story.

Written by acclaimed writer Mark Russell (Second ComingWonder Twins) and drawn by Sean Izaakse (Fantastic FourAvengers No Road Home) , Fantastic Four: Life Story …will tell the entire history of the Fantastic Four from beginning to end, set against the key events of the decades through which their stories were published.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 will take place in the “Swinging Sixties” when Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny took that fateful journey to space that changed the face of comic book storytelling forever. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and the Space Race, a terrible accident occurs that gives them great powers and a terrible secret, entangling them in Earth’s history forever as they transform into the world’s premiere super hero team.

“What I’ve always loved about the Fantastic Four is how it reduces the cosmic struggle of human survival to the scale of a family squabble while treating personal relationships as a matter of truly galactic importance,” Russell said. “Weaving their story and their world into our story and what’s happened in our world over the last sixty years was an important reminder to me of how smart it is to approach life like that.”

Click to view larger images:

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Joel Zakem, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, N., and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3/20 Scrolls Are Seldom What They Seemeth, Mithril Masquerades As Scrith

(1) DISCON III ASKS QUESTIONS. Should DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, move its date, should it emphasize virtual or in-person participation? The committee has launched a survey to find what fans think:  

We’re working hard to figure out the best path forward for our Worldcon next year and we need to hear from you! Please take this brief 2-question poll which seeks your preference between shifting DC III to December 15-19, 2021, with a high probability to be an in-person Worldcon, or keeping with our existing August 25-29, 2021, which would be mostly virtual with the potential for limited in-person activities.

Anyone is welcome to take the DisCon III Date Survey – you don’t have to be a member.

(2) STOKERCON CONTINGENCY PLAN. For now, the Horror Writers Association is planning on StokerCon 2021 being an in-person event next May in Denver – but what if that changes?

…As of now, we intend to hold the convention as scheduled. At the same time, we are working on contingency plans should that not be possible. We are discussing the issue on an ongoing basis with The Curtis, who are sensitive to the situation and the needs and concerns of our attendees. 

If for some reason we cannot hold the convention as planned, any change will be announced more than sixty days before May 20th so that those who wish to change their plans may still obtain a refund for their registration fee and change or cancel hotel reservations and alter travel plans. We recommend those planning long distance travel who wish to purchase airfare or other tickets in advance look into refundable options and travel insurance. 

If for some reason we cannot hold StokerCon™ 2021 in person, we will look into the possibility of a virtual convention and have begun investigating options. This contingency is too far into the future to make concrete plans, though we will work to ensure a complete and enjoyable convention….

(3) EREWHON BOOKS: THE PUBLISHER ANSWERS QUESTIONS. Glitchy Pancakes episode 119 interviews Liz Gorinsky, Hugo-winning editor who’s now publisher of Erewhon Books.

[GLITCHY PANCAKES] Why don’t we start out and talk about your most recent venture Erewhon Books. This is really interesting because what i was personally curious about is after so many years working as an editor what made you want to take the leap and like hang out your own shingle and go into like the full scale publishing?

[LIZ GORINSKY] So yeah it was a tour of basically my entire adult career before that I did one internship in the industry which is DC Comics and then a long time at Tor, and it was great but I guess it was a combination — Publishing is intensely cyclical we had a three season schedule so just imagine doing the same thing three times a year for 15 years and like even if it’s doing a thing like working on books that you love, it is, you know, kind of repetitive in some ways. And i think it was also, you know, many great things were going on but I think that like around the time that i was working there there was like I guess a drive towards becoming a little bit more professional and a little bit more corporate and, I think, ultimately to the benefit of the company, but I felt like sort of cowboy territory when I started that we were just like a bunch of science fiction weirdos, and they still are to be sure, but there was also kind of a like let’s fit a little bit more into the greater Macmillan culture. So I was basically at the point where I could consider kind of working independently for a little while. So i was attempting to leave and go freelance and try to do some freelance editing for a while to focus on some other things that I was interested in exploring, just not do the same thing over and over again for a little while. Then some folks found me and they said would you like to start a new speculative fiction company that will be funded and you can do whatever you want, basically. I spent a little while wrestling with imposter syndrome about that and then, basically, like, you know, enough people said some variations on how can you not do that that. I kind of figured that i had to do that and that’s where we started…

(4) CONDENSED CREAM OF CONZEALAND. Morgan Hazelwood has completed a series of reports on some of the panels at CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon.

Here’s the list of panels I managed to squeeze in:

  • Cultures and Their Myths
  • Accessible Magic
  • World-Building: Economics
  • What’s In A Name? Characters in Fiction
  • Stranger in a Strange Head: Imposter Syndrome
  • Spirits Abroad and At Home
  • Fairy Tale Contract Law
  • Constructed Languages
  • Writing SFF From The Margins
  • What Fanfiction Can Teach Genre Writers
  • Writing For Young Adults
  • and last, but certainly not least!
  • In Space No One Can See You Hide The Evidence: Crimes in Space

(5) THICK AS A BRICK: David Langford has added his vast compilation of a decade’s worth of Ansible (2011-2020) to the TAFF ebooks library. It’s a free download, however, if you feel moved to donate to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund that would be a good thing.

Issues 282 to 401 of the infamous Hugo-winning SF/fan newsletter. First published from January 2021 to December 2020 and archived online here. Compiled into an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 3 December 2020, with cover logo (compressed second-series version) by Dan Steffan and artwork by Atom. 429,000 words.

(6) LETTERS FROM VONNEGUT. In “Satirist to the Galaxy” in The American Scholar, Anne Matthews reviews Love, Kurt, a collection of 226 letters Kurt Vonnegut wrote during World War II to the woman he would marry, which give new insights into Vonnegut’s views about war.

…At SS gunpoint, Vonnegut dug Dresden’s dead from the rubble, an extreme tutorial in entropy and decay for the Cornell biochemistry major. He was only 22, raised in a prosperous German-speaking family proud of its Old World ties. The funeral pyres of Dresden became the core of his moral vision and the engine of his later literary fame, but the price of witnessing was nearly unbearable, and everyone who tried to love him paid it, too.

Two women kept him sane. His big sister Alice was his muse, a spiritual twin. His future wife, Jane Cox, a friend since kindergarten days, also a would-be writer, became his literary umpire. “One peculiar feature of our relationship is that you are the one person in this world to whom I like to write,” he told her in 1943. “If ever I do write anything of length—good or bad—it will be written with you in mind. … And let’s have seven children xxxxxxx.” Two weeks after V-J Day, they married and raised, yes, seven children, three of their own plus four young nephews, orphaned after their father’s commuter train fell into Newark Bay two days before Alice died of cancer….

(7) FLING CAUTION TO THE WINDS. James Davis Nicoll finds “Five Stories Driven by a Disregard for Basic Safety” for Tor.com readers.

Nothing delivers unrequested adventures quite like normalization of deviance. It works like this:

Suppose one has a safety protocol. Suppose one decides that this protocol is onerous for some reason: it consumes extra time, it requires extra effort, or worst of all, it costs money. So, one shaves a step here and a precaution there. And nothing happens! Clearly, the whole shebang was not necessary in the first place. Clearly the thing to do here is to keep skipping steps until circumstances line up wrong and you’re looking at a trip to the emergency room or a burning pile of expensive rubble.

The end results of normalization of deviance are undesirable in reality. But…the process is oh-so-irresistible for authors looking for ways to drop their characters neck-deep in a pig lagoon. Take these five examples…

(8) TRAILER TIME. Wetware will be released December 11.

WETWARE is set in a near future where there are tough and tedious jobs no one wants to do – and people down on their luck who volunteer for genetic modifications to make them right for this work — in slaughterhouses, infectious disease wards, landfill and other hard jobs. With business booming, programmers at Galapagos Wetware up the stakes by producing high-end prototypes, Jack (Bret Lada) and Kay, for more sensitive jobs like space travel, deep cover espionage or boots on the ground for climate or resource conflicts.Galapagos genetic programmer Hal Briggs (Cameron Scoggins) improvises as he goes on what qualities to include or delete in his gene splicing for Jack and, especially, Kay, to whom he develops a dangerous attachment. Then word gets out that Jack and Kay have escaped, before Briggs has completed his work. As Briggs scrambles to track his fugitive prototypes, he makes a provocative discovery that changes everything.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 3, 1965 — Fifty five years ago this evening, The Wild Wild West’s “The Night of the Human Trigger” was first aired on CBS. It starred Robert Conrad as Jim West and Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon with Burgess Meredith as the guest star this episode. He’s a mad scientist named Professor Orkney Cadwallader that’s using nitroglycerin to set off the earthquakes of horrendous size. The episode uses a number of genre tropes including Chekhov’s gun, mad scientist, deus ex machina and soft glass.  You can legally see it here, though oddly enough it’s not up on the CBS All Access app.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 3, 1922 – Donald H. Tuck. From his home in Tasmania with help from fans round the world he built a great card index, published A Handbook of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Special Committee Award, Chicon III the 20th Worldcon), then The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Best Nonfiction Book, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon – Australia’s first Hugo).  Guest of Honor at Aussiecon One the 33rd Worldcon, though he could not attend.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1937 – Morgan Llywelyn, age 83.  A score of novels, three dozen shorter stories for us; much other work in historical fiction and nonfiction.  Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year award.  Nat’l League of American Penwomen Novel of the Year award, Irish-American Heritage Committee (she then still lived in the U.S.) Woman of the Year award.  Two Bisto awards, Reading Ass’n of Ireland award.  A horsewoman; missed the U.S. Olympics team in dressage by .05 per cent.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1949 – Malcolm Edwards, age 71.  Fanzine, Quicksilver.  Edited FoundationInterzoneVector.  A hundred fifty essays, letters, reviews there and in The Alien CriticNY Rev of SFSF CommentarySF Monthly, Bleiler’s SF WritersSpeculation.  Guest of Honour at Loncon 3 the 72nd Worldcon.  Chair of SF at Gollancz (retired 2019), edited its SF Masterworks.  Not his fault that Peter Weston knowing no better wrote earlier as “Malcolm Edwards”, which we eventually sorted out.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1953 – Doug Beason, Ph.D., age 67.  Eight novels with Kevin Anderson, one with Ben Bova, two more, a score of shorter stories, for us; five novels, two nonfiction books, on next-door topics.  Science columns in Analog and SF Age.  Retired Air Force colonel.  Fellow of Amer. Physical Society.  Nat’l Defense Univ. President’s Strategic Vision award.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1955 Stephen Culp, 65. His first genre appearance was in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday followed by being in the much different James and the Giant Peach. His next role is as Commander Martin Madden in the extended version of Star Trek: Nemesis, before showing up in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Congressman Wenham. He also had a recurring role on Enterprise as Major Hayes. (CE) 
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 62. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1959 – Shawn Lamb, age 61.  From her Allon Books, a dozen novels for us; also historical fiction; television screenwriting.  Family Review Center Editors’ Choice and Gold Award for The Great Battle.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 60. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear before being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she really that bad in it?  Last genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1965 Andrew Stanton, 55. Director, screenwriter, producer and voice actor, all at Pixar. His work there includes co-writing A Bug’s Life (as co-director), Finding Nemo and its sequel Finding DoryWALL-E (Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Anticipation) and over at Disney, he directed John Carter. He also co-wrote all four Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc. (CE) 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 52. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Titans series that now airs on HBO. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1981 – Alyson Noël, age 39.  Sixteen novels, two shorter stories for us; half a dozen more novels; nine NY Times Best-Sellers, eight million copies in print.  Has been a flight attendant and a T-shirt painter; has kept pet turtles and tarantulas. Learned to read with Horton Hatches the Egg; favorite maybe The Catcher in the Rye.  Motto, Don’t believe everything you think.  [JH
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 35. She plays Ed Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds her playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis, a role within In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

As Lise Andreasen translates this Politiken cartoon:

Elon Musk is building a star ship.

“Thank God we got away.”

(12) THEY’RE BACK. Another monolith, this one in California. “Mystery Obelisk Appears on Pine Mountain”. The Atascadero News says it’s not the identical to the one found in Utah.  

In late November, a mysterious 9-foot obelisk appeared in Utah, sparking world-wide awe as many made a pilgrimage to see it in San Juan County.

The Utah obelisk was illegally installed without cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management.

On Black Friday, it disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared, leaving a triangular divot in the ground.

On Wednesday morning, a similar monument appeared at the top of Atascadero’s Pine Mountain, and sparked similar patronage. Dozens of local hikers made the trek to the top of Pine Mountain to view the object. (The object has since been removed)

The three-sided obelisk appeared to be made of stainless steel, 10-feet tall and 18 inches wide. The object was welded together at each corner, with rivets attaching the side panels to a likely steel frame inside. The top of the monument did not show any weld marks, and it appears to be hollow at the top, and possibly bottom.

Unlike its Utah sibling, the Atascadero obelisk was not installed into the ground (however it was attached with rebar), and could be knocked over with a firm push. The Atascadero News estimates it weighs about 200 pounds.

(13) BYO POPCORN. You won’t have to leave the house for these move debuts if you’re subscribed to HBO Max — “Warner Bros. Announces ‘Matrix 4,’ ‘Dune,’ and All Its 2021 Movies Will Debut on HBO Max and in Theaters”. Includes Dune (October 1, 2021) and The Matrix 4 (December 22, 2021). Could it spell the end of movie theaters? (If COVID-19 hasn’t done that already?)

In a move that some may have suspected was on the horizon while most will consider it quite the shock, Warner Bros. has announced plans for its entire 2021 roster to debut simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming platform and in theaters.

Per a press release shared on Thursday, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group CEO Ann Sarnoff is calling this approach a “unique one-year plan,” which points to the possibility of it indeed being a single-time rollout strategy inspired solely by the difficulties facing theaters across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances,” Sarnoff said.

(14) LIBRARY ON A ROLL. Here’s something for booklovers: “Round Top Yano Design Washi Tape – Debut Series Natural – Bookshelf”.

This cute roll of washi tape is die-cut to highlight the shape of its bookshelf print.

Washi tape is a Japanese craft masking tape that comes in many colors and patterns and has tons of creative uses. Use it to add whimsical, creative accents to scrapbooks and cards, or stick it on your wall calendars and personal planners to mark important dates. The tape is removable, which means that you can easily stick it on, unpeel it, and move it to a different spot—this is especially convenient when marking ever-changing schedules. It can be cut with scissors to create a clean edge or torn by hand to create a more textured look.

(15) MORE HOLIDAY IDEAS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Projections from Hingston & Olsen Publishing is an original anthology edited by Rebecca Romney in which the 12 stories are individual pamphlets in a collectible box.

They also have an “Advent calendar” of short stories that includes Sofia Samatar but I don’t know how many of these stories are sf or fantasy.

For the past five years, the Short Story Advent Calendar has lit up libraries and living rooms around the world with shimmering smorgasbords of bite-sized literary fiction. But all good things must come to an end. So grab the emergency schnapps from the back of the liquor cabinet, and join us for one last holiday hurrah.

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers around.

(16) PASSING FANCIES. “Jupiter and Saturn will look like a double planet just in time for Christmas” – CNN tells us when to look.

The two largest planets in our solar system are coming closer together than they have been since the Middle Ages, and it’s happening just in time for Christmas.

So, there are some things to look forward to in the final month of 2020.

On the night of December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear so closely aligned in our sky that they will look like a double planet. This close approach is called a conjunction.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said Rice University astronomer and professor of physics and astronomy Patrick Hartigan in a statement.

“You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

(17) WILDCATS ARE BIGGER, OF COURSE. Did you know? At Literary Hub, John Gray says “House Cats and Wild Cats Aren’t Actually That Different”.

…Unless they are kept indoors, the behavior of house cats is not much different from that of wild cats. Though the cat may regard more than one house as home, the house is the base where it feeds, sleeps and gives birth. There are clear territorial boundaries, larger for male cats than for females, which will be defended against other cats when necessary. The brains of house cats have diminished in size compared with their wild counterparts, but that does not make house cats less intelligent or adaptable. Since it is the part of the brain that includes the fight-or-flight response that has shrunk, house cats have become able to tolerate situations that would be stressful in the wild, such as encountering humans and unrelated cats….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Mad Max:  Fury Road Behind The Scenes Documentary” on YouTube is a 2017 film, directed by Cory Watson, originally titled Going Mad:  The Battle Of Fury Road, which is a behind the scenes look at the 2015 Mad Max:  Fury Road.  The documentary reveals this film had an extremely long gestation, as George Miller originally had the idea for the film in the late 1990s,  Production was shut down in 2002 in Namibia because the US dollar tanked in the wake of 9/11, wiping out a quarter of the film’s budget, and halted a second time in Australia in 2010 because of floods shortly before shooting which turned the desert set into a lush flowery landscape. The documentary includes interviews with stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and many behind-the scenes looks at the mixture of feminism, car crashes, and gratuitous consumption of fossil fuels that led to six Oscars in 2016.

My favorite behind the scenes bit:  dozens of bald-headed extras preparing for their day of being weirdoes by singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

[Thanks to Lise Andeasen, Michael Toman, JJ, N., Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]