Pixel Scroll 8/2/22 I Took My Files Down To Jaxom’s Ruth (You Know That Dragon With The Pixeled Tooth)

(1) WITNESS FOR THE PLAINTIFF. Stephen King took the stand today and AP News was there: “Stephen King testifies for government in books merger trial”.

…King’s displeasure about the proposed merger led him to voluntarily testify for the government.

“I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition,” King said. The way the industry has evolved, he said, “it becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on.”

King expressed skepticism toward the two publishers’ commitment to continue to bid for books separately and competitively after a merger.

“You might as well say you’re going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for the same house,” he quipped. “It would be sort of very gentlemanly and sort of, ‘After you’ and ‘After you,’” he said, gesturing with a polite sweep of the arm.

King’s was entertaining and informative, although he had little specific to say over how the merger might harm bestselling authors, with the government’s case focusing on those receiving advances of $250,000 or more. Attorney Daniel Petrocelli, representing the publishers, told King he had no questions for him and demurred on a cross-examination, saying instead he hoped they could have coffee together some time….

(2) BAIL OUT. Costume Con 40 chair Sarah Richardson is trying to raise $80,000 to pay a large penalty owed to their facility because of the shortfall in meeting their room rental commitment: “Covid-19 Relief for Costume-Con 40”. (On the other hand, some are advising the concom to work with an attorney who specializes bankruptcy.)

…Because of the sudden cancellation of Costume-Con 38 and the rescheduling of Costume-Con 39, we lost any potential advertising and seed money that might have been generated by those events. So far, we have been able to cover all our expenses except one, the venue cost.

Many of our attendees, especially our international members, were unable to attend due to Covid travel restrictions were levied right before the convention. Because of this, over a fourth of our registered members (100+ people) were not able to attend. This led to our not meeting the room night obligations in our contract, and so we must pay a hefty “attrition” penalty. We have been negotiating since April with the hotel to resolve this outstanding balance and continue to do so.

This is where we need your help. As a small, volunteer-run non-profit, we are turning to our community and putting out a request for monetary donations to help defray this debt. Any amount will be a help to us. And we intend, should we exceed our goal of retiring this particular debt, to “pay it forward” to next year’s Costume-Con and thus further ease the financial strain caused by the pandemic. Remember, we are a 501(c)3 non-profit and would be happy to issue a receipt for tax purposes.

(3) THAT’S CLAWFUL. Cora Buhlert sent He-Man and friends on a beach holiday and posted another action figure photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Holiday on Orkas Island’”.

In the 1980s Filmation cartoon, Clawful looks quite different from his toy counterpart, probably because the cartoon was based on an early prototype. He also seems to be one of a kind. However, the 2002 He-Man cartoon reveals that there is a whole species of lobster people out there and that they hail from a place called Orkas Island, which also happens to be the retirement home of an aged warrior called Dekker, Duncan’s former mentor and predecessor at Man-at-Arms.

So I decided to send Prince Adam, Teela and Man-at-Arms on a well-deserved holiday and have Clawful and his fellow aquatic Evil Warrior Mer-Man cause some trouble. I also got out a bunch of maritime themed objects to serve as props….

(4) HE FIGURES IT OUT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a video by a toy collector and YouTuber named Pixel Dan who wound up as a panelist on the He-Man 40th anniversary panel at San Diego Comic Con (he wrote a collector’s guide to Masters of the Universe toys). He offers a rare look at what the infamous Hall H looks like backstage and on stage. His enthusiasm is certainly infectious. Plus, bonus interview with Kevin Smith who moderated the panel.

(5) PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE. Kim Bannerman wrote a nice profile of Zenna Henderson at Luna Station Quarterly“The Improbable Worlds of Zenna Henderson”.

…Henderson’s experiences as a teacher would influence her writing throughout her career. In her 1952 short story “Ararat”, aliens marooned on Earth are searching for a new teacher to guide their children; all the other teachers have been scared away by the children’s telekinetic powers. This story was the first in a series that featured ‘The People’, a community of gentle humanoids trying to survive on Earth.

The People are isolated, lonely individuals seeking safety and community, and they must suppress their inherent gifts in order to be accepted by human society. Instead of focusing on conquest and war, Henderson’s stories examine the quiet, personal lives of The People…. 

(6) CARS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We had a small science fiction fayre down our way here in Brit Cit. Stalls with SF miniatures, playing card collectables abounded. Sadly, no second-hand book stall (which, on second thoughts, did save a couple of hours of my time). Nor did there seem to be a tie-in with our local film memorabilia and gaming shop, The Movie Shack: even though it was just twenty yards away inside our indoors shopping precinct. However, in the mix was a Ghostbusters marshmallow man and car, and there was also a Back to the Future DeLorean: it was one way to beat the Worldcon queues — the last time a Back to the Future DeLorean was on Worldcon show…

(7) THE BIRD IS THE WORD. Sarah Z delivers “An Exhaustive Defense of Fanfiction” in a new YouTube video.

On art, transformativity, and the literary wonders of putting your middle finger up at preps.

(8) NEW FROM LEONARD MALTIN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to the podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Michael Uslan.  Although Leonard Maltin and Uslan never met, they quickly determined they were the same age, were both guys from Jersey (Uslan’s from exit 105) who developed obsessions very early (Maltin with animation, Uslan with comics) and both were probably two rows away from each other at a notorious  1966 screening of the 1943 Batman serial at Manhattan’s Eighth Street Playhouse where the audience got rowdier and rowdier as the film got stinkier and stinkier.

Uslan grew up with comic books and read everything.  But the event that changed him was in 1972 when he successfully proposed what became the first university course on comic book at Indiana University.  This led to his getting calls from Stan Lee and Sol Harrison at DC.  He first did scripts (He proudly remembers Julius Schwartz telling him. “Your story doesn’t stink:” when he did a story for The Shadow).  In 1979 he acquired the movie rights to Batman and spent ten years in development until Tim Burton’s film came out.  He has been an executive producer on every Batman project since, including Lego Batman.  He also got DC to give him the movie rights to Swamp Thing for free if he agreed to spend $15,000 on the character, which led to two Swamp Thing movies in the 1980s.

Uslan says he likes the takes Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, and Robert Pattinson have done with the character and people shouldn’t complain about a film until they’ve seen it.  Leonard Maltin quoted Harlan Ellison, “You have the right to your informed opinion.”  He has two volumes of memoirs about his life with Batman and a Broadway play in development.  In addition, Uslan is an executor of Stan Lee’s estate and is working on Lee’s forthcoming centennial celebration. Maltin on Movies: Michael Uslan.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] Since we just discussed the Grateful Dead by way of the Jerry Garcia birthday write-up, let’s talk about a novel, that according to the author in an email received just now was indeed named after a Dead song. (Yes, he is one of the writers that gets dark chocolate.) 

There are certain novels that I return to from time to time and Steve Brust’s Brokedown Palace is one of them. It’s the only stand-alone novel set in Dragaera series, which runs currently to over twenty five novels. (I’ve read quite a few of them.) It leads off the series. It is also notable for being set in Fenario, the human-populated portion of that world.

The novel is heavily influenced by Hungarian myth and culture, not surprising giving that Brust is of Hungarian descent.  Brust uses that tradition’s folklore to great effect while combining it with family dynamics  King László, the oldest of the brothers, is a fair and just ruler along the Princies of the Lands. All live in Brokedown Palace.

Once upon a time, there were four brothers who lived in the land of Fenario. These were the King and Princes of the land, and they lived together in the decrepit Old Palace in the center of the city of Fenario. Ahhh but things are not as they seem as things well become very complicated… I won’t say more than that as it’d spoil things if you’ve not read it yet. 

This is a more complex novel than Brust usually writes and the characters here actually have more agency, more feel of being actual individuals  than that they usually get in his novels. That’s a reflection of it being a family-based novel so it feels more intimate than usual.

The wonderful cover art on the first edition is by Alan Lee. Since the art on the actual first edition is obscured by title text and other typography, we’re using the version on a later edition to display it. (ISFDB has the real first edition cover here.)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 2, 1917 Wah Chang. Co-founder in the late 1950s, with Gene Warren and Tim Baar, of Project Unlimited Inc, the first true special effects company. They provided the effects for numerous George Pal productions, including The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Jack the Giant Killer, and The Time Machine (for which they won an Academy Award, although Chang’s name was erroneously omitted). Wang and his fellow Projects coworkers did essentially all of the effects for the original Outer Limits television series. Perhaps most famously, Chang created some of the best-known effects for the original Star Trek, including the communicator, the tricorder, the Romulan Bird of Prey, the Tribbles, and numerous aliens, although he did not receive screen credit for any of this work. A talented artist, later in life he gained reknown as a wildlife sculptor. (Died 2003.) (PhilRM)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second season Trek episode written by Robert Bloch that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair”, “The Minus-X Affair”, and “The Pieces of Fate Affair”. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 2, 1932 Peter O’Toole. I’m tempted to say his first genre role was playing King Henry in A Lion in Winter as it is alternate history. It really is despite some of you saying it isn’t. Neat film. Well the original is, the second, not so much. Stewart just doesn’t work in that role for me. Actually before that he’s got an uncredited role in Casino Royale as a Scottish piper. Really he does. His first genre role without dispute is as Zaltar in Supergirl followed by being Dr. Harry Wolverine in Creator. He’s Peter Plunkett in the superb High Spirits, he’s in FairyTale: A True Story as a very credible Arthur Conan Doyle, and Stardust as King of Stormhold. Not surprisingly, he played in a version of Midsummer Night’s Dream as Lysander. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. Tor, which has the rights to him in the States, has been slow to bring him to the usual suspects. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 68. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read of a certain author. And so it was of this author. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, just the first two of the Corporation Wars but I’ve got it in my to-be-finished queue, and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. His Restoration Game is quite chilling.  I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available from the usual suspects! Hugo Award wise, he didn’t win any but had some nominations. The Sky Road was nominated at the Millennium Philcon, Cosmonaut Keep at ConJosé and Learning the World at L.A. Con IV. 
  • Born August 2, 1956 Leslie Ackerman, 66. She is best remembered for her role as the waitress in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1996 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”. She also showed on the rebooted Twilight Zone as Time-Traveller in the “Lost and Found”.  She was on The Incredible Hulk and Project UFO.  She retired from acting several years after filming “Trials and Tribble-ations”.
  • Born August 2, 1970 Kevin Smith, 52. Well-loved comics writer who’s worked for DC, Marvel and other venues. He was involved with both Daredevil and Green Arrow. He directed the pilot for the CW supernatural comedy series Reaper, produced and appeared in a reality television series, Comic Book Men, and appeared as a character in the animated Superman: Doomsday.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • In The Far Side, an archeologist has dug up someone familiar, He’s not Yorick, but you knew him well.  

(12) GREEN TOWN. Wauke-Con 2022, Waukegan’s second annual comic book convention in Ray Bradbury’s home town, will take place October 8-9. The proceeds benefit Three Bros. Theatre.

(13) TURN OFF THE BATLIGHT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Warner Discovery won’t release Batgirl and has blown off the $70 million spent on it because the new regime doesn’t think the film works. “’Batgirl’ movie gets ‘shelved’ by Warner Bros: source” reports the New York Post.

Holy millions down the drain, Batman! 

The DC Comics film “Batgirl” will be completely “shelved” by Warner Bros., a top Hollywood source told The Post. 

That means it won’t hit theaters or the streaming service HBO Max. Fans will not see it.

The reportedly $70 million movie (the source said the budget was actually more than $100 million), which was doing test screenings for audiences in anticipation of a late 2022 debut, would rank among the most expensive cinematic castoffs ever.  

Those tests were said to be so poorly received by moviegoers that the studio decided to cut its losses and run, for the sake of the brand’s future. It’s a DC disaster….

(14) THE DOOR INTO BUMMER. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I found this USA Today headline funny for all the wrong reasons: “Fact check: Scientists at CERN are not opening a ‘portal to hell’”.

… The accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, had undergone repairs and upgrades, and scientists plan to use it to crash protons together and learn more about the origins of the universe.

Nevertheless, social media users are suggesting that the machine has a different purpose. A Facebook post shared July 5 shows a TikTok video of a woman who claims that CERN scientists are using the machine to open a doorway for demons.

“If y’all don’t know about cern it’s a demonic/Evil machine that opens up portals to other dimensions/Hell/other spiritual worlds(not Heaven/or bosom of Abraham)and it brings in demons wicked spirits/High Evil Principalities,” reads the caption of the post….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Stray,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, says that Stray is “A playable Internet cat video, wrapped around a cyberpunk dystopia” but the least realistic thing about it is that the cat follows a robot’s instructions, because a real cat would “ignore you for four hours and then throw up on your carpet.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cora Buhlert, PhilRM, Todd Mason, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/31/22 “How Many Files To Scrollbylon? Can I Get There By Pixel-Light?”

(1) FREE READ. The final free story in The Sunday Morning Transport’s month-long adventure of free reading is John Wiswell’s “Demonic Invasion or Placebo Effect?” “which shares a unique perspective on an experiment of sorts, gone very, very wrong.”

The Sunday Morning Transport is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work and our authors, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

(2) HOME COOKING. Media Death Cult posted two videos of conversations with author Claire North. First, “Meeting Claire North”.

I made myself comfortable in Catherine Webb’s kitchen, otherwise known as the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated author, Claire North.

Then, “Claire North Recommends Some Books”.

I hung around with Catherine Webb (Claire North), we talked about books.

(3) LIKE MOTHS TO A CANDLE. “Does Twitch Fame Have to Come With a Stalker?” The New York Times shows this is not a rhetorical question.

…Twitch, more than Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, is an intimate platform, designed to make its stars seem like actual friends of their fans, hanging out virtually with them. Those cozy relationships are a core part of the site’s business model. But they sometimes turn unhealthy.

“In livestreams, they see into your home, into your bedroom, and it feels very personal with them,” Ms. Siragusa said. “I think that is what contributes to a lot of the stalking: They feel like they know you.”

Streamers on Twitch and other platforms have had stalkers show up at their homes and at fan conventions, been targeted by armed and violent viewers or dealt with swatting, a sometimes deadly stunt in which someone calls the local police to report a fake crime at a streamer’s home, hoping the raid will be caught live on camera.

In response to the harassment, threats and stalkers she has endured since joining Twitch in 2016, Ms. Siragusa has bought guns, installed security cameras and gotten a Caucasian shepherd, a breed of guard dog, named Bear. She has been swatted so often that law enforcement agencies in her area know to check her Twitch stream when they get a call. Last year, when a trash can outside Ms. Siragusa’s house caught on fire, police suspected arson….

(4) ORIGIN STORY. George Jetson was born today, July 31, 2022. Don’t ask me where – I only know that in The Jetsons he lived in Orbit City. But NPR can tell you why the date is a logical inference.

…Here’s how the math works: The show first aired in 1962, but was set 100 years in the future. That would be 2062.

During the first season of the show, George reveals that he’s 40 years old. So 2062 minus 40, and there you go.

The fact-checking website Snopes looked into the claim and concluded it is, in fact, a “reasonable estimation of his birth year.”…

(5) TONOPAH TALES. You can read “John Hertz’s Westercon Notebook” at Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura.

… Holding a Westercon there was Lisa Hayes’ idea. The Tonopah Convention Center had been a USO hall (United Services Organization; entertainment, hospitality for armed-forces personnel and their families) when armed forces had bases nearby. The Belvada Hotel 100 yards (90 m) away, and the Mizpah Hotel 150 yards (140 m) away, are historic buildings. A 2,000-person Westercon wouldn’t fit there, but a 200-person Westercon, about what could be expected even with COVID-19 easing, would. Hayes was vindicated. 278 attending memberships were sold (and 59 supporting memberships); 159 people arrived. This was an intimate con. It was also hybrid, with some programming available virtually via Zoom. The Convention Center was its hub, like a great Hospitality Suite….

(6) CLARION NEWS. The Clarion Write-a-Thon ended July 30. They raised $4,232.00, which is not as much as they hoped. However, they are still accepting donations.

As it is the last day of our annual Write-a-Thon, there’s still time to squeeze in some writing towards your goal or help us get closer to our fundraising goal! A huge thank you to all of the participants, cheerleaders, signal-boosters, and donors who have helped us with the Write-a-Thon this summer. This annual fundraiser is an essential source of scholarships that provide opportunities for future students.

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Bloch was a very prolific genre writer and among those writings were three scripts for the original Trek series. (IMDb says that he wrote fifty-five tv and film scripts in total.) I would argue that his three Trek episodes were among the best episodes done. So let’s look at them

The first of them was the one I was least aware that he’d done, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” A season one undertaking, this is a straight SF story involving androids, one of whom of is played by Ted Cassidy as Ruk. I’d rate it a decent story. The make-up on Cassidy is quite wonderfully done. And yes, we get a bit of eye candy as well, something Trek did in its female androids more than once. 

Now the next Trek story, “Wolf in the Fold”, from the second season, with its take off the Ripper mythos is delightful indeed. Bloch does horror very, very well and within the restrictions of Sixties television governing what can be shown for blood and violence, he does quite a bit here. I’ll single out the acting of the nebbish like killer Administrator Hengist as played by John Fiedler. 

Now I admit that I had to go back and rewatch “Catspaw”, another second season episode, as I sort of remembered it but not quite though I knew Bloch had scripted it. Fortunately I subscribe to Paramount+, home of everything Trek. Ahhh, now I remember the All Hallows episode with the delightful Antoinette Bower as Sylvia and Theo Marcuse as Korob. And let’s not forget the cat as where would All Hallows’ Eve be without a cat. All in all a most wonderful tale. 

Bloch I’d say acquitted himself most admirably in these three scripts. 

Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek which is mentioned above in today’s featured essay and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the “The Corbomite Maneuver” episode and the Gorn in the “Arena” episode. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair” episode, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. And failed magnificently.  I watched a few months back. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1939 France Nuyen, 83. She showed up in the original Trek as “Elaan of Troyius” as Elaan and was on the new Outer Limits in the “Ripper” episode.  She was in the original Fantasy Island series, also the Battle for the Planet of the ApesAutoman, and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
  • Born July 31, 1950 Steve Miller, 72. He is married to Sharon Lee, and they are the creators of the vast and throughly entertaining Liaden universe. I was surprised though they’ve won both a Golden Duck and Skylark that they have never been nominated for a Hugo. 
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 71. Though best known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first though y’all corrected me when I first ran this Birthday note several years back. 
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 66. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnificent Tombstone film. Likewise he was in The Magnificent Seven series as Chris Larabee.
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 62. Though best known for his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. 
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 60. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. Most likely deservedly.) I also like him a lot as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. And he was Aman in Gallowwalkers, a Western horror film.
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 46. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond. He did The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed Magazine since the early part of the previous decade. He is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Nominated for the Hugo many times, he won for the Lightspeed prozine at Loncon 3 (2014) with Rich Horton and Stefan Rudnicki and at Sasquan (2015) with Horton, Rudnicki, Wendy N. Wagner and Christie Yant. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a plan for a more powerful monster.
  • Off the Mark reveals the original French name of the movie Jaws.
  • Calvin and Hobbes is about Calvin’s science fiction story.

(10) SPLISH, SPLASH. Amazon is taking a bath. “Amazon reports $2B net loss in Q2” reports Becker’s Health IT.

Amazon reported a $2 billion net loss in the second quarter ending June 30, a blow to the company that reported net income of $7.8 billion in the same period last year.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon, blamed inflation among other issues for the disappointing quarter.

“Despite continued inflationary pressures in fuel, energy, and transportation costs, we’re making progress on the more controllable costs we referenced last quarter, particularly improving the productivity of our fulfillment network,” Mr. Jassy said.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon’s plans to purchase One Medical for $3.9 billion last week.

(11) FOR YOUR MT. TBR. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes recommendations in “New And Notable Film Books July 2022 – Part One”. For example —

THE DISNEY REVOLT: THE GREAT LABOR WAR OF ANIMATION’S GOLDEN AGE by Jake S. Friedman (Chicago Review Press)

This deeply researched book tells the backstory of the notorious strike that occurred at the Walt Disney studio in 1941. It was a life-altering event for Walt and its aftereffects were still felt decades later. One of its many ironies is that it pitted Disney against the man he once regarded as his star animator, Art Babbitt. They would become blood enemies as a result of Babbitt’s passionate unionism—and his strident nature.

Students and followers of Disney know his side of the story by now, but may not recall that his father Elias was an active socialist. His upbringing wasn’t so very different from that of Arthur Babitsky, the son of Russian immigrants, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Fate brought these two gifted and strong-willed individuals together as Disney was envisioning new horizons for animation in the early 1930s….

(12) BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE. CNN’s reviewer Brian Lowry finds “‘DC League of Super-Pets’ goes to the dogs in more ways than one”.

Who’s a good movie? Not “DC League of Super-Pets,” a big colorful idea that proves promising in theory – tailor-made for a two-minute trailer – but a rather tedious slog as a full-length animated film. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s “Jumanji” reunion as the central voices and an intriguing start to serve up a few bones fun-wise, but not nearly as much as there should be….

(13) PREPARE TO DIE. Paul Weimer tells us what he heard while listening to The Killing Machine, second in the audio reissue of Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series: “Microreview: The Killing Machine by Jack Vance” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Something I didn’t appreciate when I first read (and re-read) these novels previously but is now clear to me know is the role of serendipitous luck in how these novels kick off. It is luck and chance in both volumes that puts Gersen in the path of this latest foe, quite by chance and accident, and he spends the rest of the novel trying to force a decisive confrontation with the Demon Prince. Also in both novels, there is a sense of “I want you to know it was me” Olenna Tyrell sort of feel to Gersen’s revenge. Shooting the Demon Prince out of the sky is not quite satisfactory enough for Gersen  The Prince must face his avenger…. 

(14) ARTIFICIAL INNUENDO. On The Tonight Show artificial intelligence doesn’t sound any smarter than the ordinary kind. So should I admit that I listened ’til the end? “Bruce the Robot Performs a Freestyle Rap About Hot Dogs and Taylor Swift”.

The world’s first autonomous AI-powered robot, Bruce the Robot, talks about his desire to fly first class, tells Jimmy his best pickup line and shows off his rapping skills.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage’s Tested looks at an animatronic Baby Yoda at Comi-Con built by Garner Holt Productions.  The price of this “bespoke” object isn’t mentioned, because, if you have to ask you can’t afford him! “Lifelike Animatronic Grogu Puppet at Comic-Con 2022!”

The highlight of Comic-Con 2022 so far is this fully animatronic Grogu from EFX Collectibles, designed by the engineers and artists at Garner Holt Productions. We get up close with this incredible animated puppet, which uses 15 servos to recreate all of the character’s joyful expressions seen in The Mandalorian. Star Wars fans at San Diego Comic-Con have to check this out!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 7/9/22 Pixeled In The Scroll By A Chuck Tingle Pixel Scroll Title

(1) CULTURAL INSIGHTS INTO A MULTIVERSE. [Item by Soon Lee.] This terrific article by S. Qiouyi Lu explores many aspects of Everything Everywhere All at Once from a Chinese-American perspective that might not be immediately apparent to a Western viewer. At Strange Horizons: “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. SPOILERS.

…It was as if I had just seen my own brain projected onto the screen. And there were things in Everything Everywhere All At Once that I’d never seen before on the big screen. I’m not talking about the dildo fights, though those were indeed new to me. I’m talking more about seeing an immigrant Chinese mother allowed to fail, and fail repeatedly; seeing a dorky Chinese dad be a badass and a love interest; seeing a Chinese family openly having emotionally vulnerable reconciliations with each other; seeing an entire cast of people from multiple Chinese diasporas coming together to create a movie in which the greatest villain to defeat is the bureaucracy excluding Chinese people from being part of the United States. Nor had I ever seen a movie that so thoroughly reflected my own philosophical, moral, and ethical understandings of the world, mirroring them so closely that I wept with the resonance of its message….

(2) HE, THE JURY. Alex Hormann of the At Boundary’s Edge review site discusses his experience as a judge in the inaugural Self-Published Science Fiction Competition: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Closing Thoughts”.

Who Is It For?

This one has been weighing on my mind a lot recently. When I look at social media, there are two groups I see talking about the SPSFC. The first are the judges, promoting their reviews and favourite books. The second group is the authors themselves, sharing the positive reviews and using the contest to support each other. This is all great, by the way. While I do think the self-publishing community can be a little insular and self-congratulatory at times, that goes for just about any group of people. But what I’m not seeing a whole lot of is readers. Now, it’s always going to be true that most people who visit a blog aren’t going to comment or engage beyond their initial reading, but it has left the SPSFC feeling somewhat inward-looking. If the majority of the interest is from bloggers and writers, then the SPSFC isn’t really helping books find a wider audience, which to me is the whole point of the competition. For context, the fewer books I talk about in a post, the fewer views it receives. The initial cut posts are all in the three figure range, while the individual reviews still sit in the double digits. To me, this suggests that the people reading the reviews are the authors and their already interested following. I could be wrong about this though. If you’ve found a book through the SPSFC, do let me know.

The caveat here is that this is only year one of the SPSFC. Success doesn’t come overnight. It grows over time. Right now the only people following the SPSFC are those with a stake in it. Next year, there will presumably be more. Exposure is an exponential curve….

(3) SILENTS ARE GOLDEN. The New York Times’ Calum Marsh has a pretty good handle on “The Real Reason the Minions Have Taken Over the World”.

…“Despicable Me” is Gru’s story, but it’s the Minions that made the biggest impression, leading to a larger role in “Despicable Me 2” (2013) and their own vehicle in 2015. Central to their appeal is their unique manner of communicating. Voiced by [Pierre] Coffin himself, they speak a peculiar, made-up language, Minionese, that is both indecipherable and strangely coherent. A gibberish tongue that borrows words from English, Spanish, Dutch and other languages, it has a bubbly, mellifluous tone that is used to almost musical effect. When the Minions hijack an airplane in “Rise of Gru,” one makes an announcement to the passengers over the intercom. What he says is nonsense. But it sounds exactly like the bland, soothing patter of a pilot before takeoff; that you get the gist of the message without identifying a single word is the joke.

Of course, because the Minions don’t use a comprehensible language, their humor isn’t based on spoken jokes. This has doubtless helped the franchise find success abroad — with few punch lines in English, little is lost in translation. But the emphasis on sight gags and physical humor makes the Minions films very different from what you’d expect of family-friendly modern animation. Given the abundance of acrobatic antics, pratfalls and slapstick action, what the Minion movies end up resembling most is silent-era comedies.

Coffin has often mentioned the influence of silent comedians on the style and spirit of the Minions, and he has said he drew inspiration from such titans of the form as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, particularly their gift for “telling a story through character that conveys humor, emotion, even plasticity.”…

(4) FIRST, THEY HAD TO FIND THEM. [Item by Michael Toman.] “Don’t Bogart that old NASA Voyager manual, pass it over to me?” “NASA’s Voyager 1 from the ’70s is glitching. Engineers are consulting 45-year-old manuals to troubleshoot.” reports Business Insider.

…During the first 12 years of the Voyager mission, thousands of engineers worked on the project, according to Dodd. “As they retired in the ’70s and ’80s, there wasn’t a big push to have a project document library. People would take their boxes home to their garage,” Dodd added. In modern missions, NASA keeps more robust records of documentation.

There are some boxes with documents and schematic stored off-site from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dodd and the rest of Voyager’s handlers can request access to these records. Still, it can be a challenge. “Getting that information requires you to figure out who works in that area on the project,” Dodd said. 

For Voyager 1’s latest glitch, mission engineers have had to specifically look for boxes under the name of engineers who helped design the altitude-control system. “It’s a time consuming process,” Dodd said…. 

(5) IT’S A THOR SPOT WITH HIM. Leonard Maltin drops the hammer on the latest Marvel film: “Thor: Love, Thunder And Shtick” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

… But there can be too much of a good thing, as anyone who’s overindulged in chocolate or ice cream can verify. The new Thor: Love and Thunder is a scattered affair that, at a certain point, is played as out-and-out comedy. Can this really be Chris Hemsworth spouting gag lines? Is his relationship to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) a springboard for sitcom-style jokes? Even the rock-like creature Korg, played by Waititi, wears out his welcome before this meandering story concludes….

(6) YOU WON’T HAVE TO SHELL OUT FOR THESE PEANUTS. “Charles M. Schulz: An American Cartoonist” is a free online event hosted by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum of Ohio State University. The webinar will run July 23 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Join us via Zoom for a pictorial journey through Charles M. Schulz’s life and career and learn why Peanuts is one of the most popular and influential comic strips ever. This live, interactive experience includes a hands-on, how-to-draw Snoopy workshop at the end. This event is presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California in partnership with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s exhibition Celebrating Sparky.

(7) L. Q. JONES (1927-2022) L. Q. Jones, a character actor with a deep resume, who also directed A Boy and His Dog based on the Harlan Ellison story, died July 8. His first film role was a solder in Battle Cry (1955), and his latest was in Robert Altman’s final film A Prairie Home Companion (2006). Variety adds:

…Jones’ career also extended beyond screen acting, producing four independent features over his life. He produced, directed and wrote the 1975 feature “A Boy and His Dog,” which is adapted from Harlan Ellison’s novella of the same name. Jones began the project as an executive producer, but took over writing and directing responsibilities as other collaborators fell through.

A post-apocalyptic black comedy, “A Boy and His Dog” follows a teenager and his telepathic dog as they fight for survival in the southwestern U.S. of 2024, a time when nuclear fallout grips the world. Starring a young Don Johnson and Jason Robards, Jones’ fellow Peckinpah alum, the film has garnered the reputation of a cult classic over the years, with Jones stating that director George Miller cited it as an influence for his “Mad Max” series…

Jones and Ellison were both on hand at DisCon II (1974) where a rough cut of the movie was shown. It was really rough, because one of the two 35mm projectors broke down and they were forced to show it one reel at a time, with yawn-inducing delays each time they mounted the new reel. And when it was shown again at next year’s NASFiC in LA – the same thing happened!

(8) MEMORY LANE

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] An Appreciation: Ellen Kushner’s Riverside series

I read it starting with the first book Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners. The second paragraph of that novel has this lovely sentence: “Let the fairy tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood newly-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as a single spot of claret on the lace cuff.” Oh my. 

I was hooked. A novel that was a fantasy of manners as Kushner called it, set in a city where it was always winter, where being gay was normal and nothing to be commented upon, conversations are sharp as the ever-present sword fighting is and the drink of choice is hot chocolate. What was there not to love? 

Riverside itself is a fascinating setting. As the name implies the place is set up in now decaying buildings near a river which I don’t recall as ever being named. Kushner simply calls it “an unsavoury quarter in a prosperous city”. It is always cold there, and dressing properly is of course important as is dressing with a degree of elegance. One character notes that “He felt the cold, the wind cutting across the river, even in his new clothes. He had bought himself a heavy cloak, jacket, and fur-lined gloves.”

Oh, and the stories told here are quite fascinating. I’m going to avoid talking about them as there’s a good possibility that some of you might not have read this series yet. Our Green Man reviewer of Swordspoint in his retrospective review said “I once called this book ‘elegant, magical, and bitchy’,” and that, I think, still catches the feel of it. George R. R. Martin said “Swordspoint has an unforgettable opening . . . and just gets better from there.” That’s only the truth.” 

If you decide to read the series, you are for a extended and absolutely great reading experience as there would be quite a few novels to come telling a complex story that will extend over a considerable period of time. There are also a number of short stories too.

There are also audiobooks of the series which I should bring to your attention as these are full cast productions in which damn near everyone performs including Neil Gaiman and Simon Jones. It’s a stellar experience. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1906 Walter Sande. He’s best remembered for being on Red Planet MarsThe War of the Worlds and Invaders from Mars, but he also showed up playing a heavy in such serials as The Green Hornet Strikes Again! and Sky Raiders, the latter being at least genre adjacent. He’s had a recurring role as Col. Crockett on The Wild Wild West, and one-offs on Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Lost in Space and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but three novels in the series (Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series which isn’t out yet. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1938 Brian Dennehy. One of my favorite performers. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2 which I immensely enjoyed. He also voiced Django in Ratatouille, a film that was, err, very tasty.Sorry I couldn’t resist the pun. I thought his very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series, but he shot three films that either have come out since he died, or will, none genre or genre adjacent. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 Glen Cook, 78. Yes, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I really should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. I’m really, really surprised not only that he hasn’t won any awards, but how few he’s been nominated for. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 Ellen Klages, 68. Her story “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her novel set in 1940s San Francisco, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
  • Born July 9, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 52. Her Heart of Iron novel which was nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternate History is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow and the recent The House of Discarded Dreams as well, the latter is a fantastic audio work which is narrated by Robin Miles. It’s worth noting that the usual suspects list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilfill Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. They’re quite superb it turns out as is Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy for which she won a World Fantasy Award. She had a story out just last year, “Ghost Shop”, in Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World.  She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects. She’s also very deeply stocked at the audio suspects as well which sort of surprised and delighted me as I’ve added a number of her works to my To Be Listened to list, including The House of Discarded Dreams which sounds really fascinating in the manner of Gaiman’s Sandman.
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 44. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer Hoshi Sato on Enterprise, a series that deeply divides Trekkies. (I really liked it.) Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, and she was Renee Hansen in the Spectres filmwhich Marina Sirtis was also in. She was in something called Star Trek: Captain Pike as Captain Grace Shintal. It has to be another one of those fan video fictions which are quite common. Her latest genre role was in For All Mankind as Amy Chang in the “Pathfinder” episode. 
  • Born July 9, 1995 Georgie Henley, 27. English actress, best remembered for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen. Not even vaguely genre adjacent, she recently played Margaret, Queen of Scots in The Spanish Princess.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side features a Stone Age alien encounter.
  • Tom Gauld’s latest cartoon for the Guardian:

 (11) FANS MOURN TAKAHASHI. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation for “Yu-Gi-Oh” creator Kazuki Takahashi. “’Yu-Gi-Oh!’ creator Kazuki Takahashi dies at 60”.

…Takahashi’s creatures range from horror to fantasy, yet “there’s a common craftsmanship among them — the kind of thing that reveals hidden details over time, as well as the visceral ‘Oh my God, that looks so rad,’ ” [Daniel Dockery, senior writer for Crunchyroll] said. “The fact that they would be summoned in a world not too unlike our own makes them even more appealing to the eye. They are truly yours to adore and play with, making you feel powerful and inspired in equal measure.”

Takahashi had recently worked on this year’s Marvel’s “Secret Reverse,” a manga graphic novel team-up featuring Spider-Man and Iron Man/Tony Stark, who travels to a Japanese gaming convention….

(12) OH, THOSE REBELLIOUS YOUNG PEOPLE. The New York Times is curious: “‘Why Is Everyone Wearing Suits?’: #GentleMinions Has Moviegoers Dressing Up”.  

Normally when Carson Paskill heads to the movie theater, he opts for a comfortable outfit of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. But last weekend, he arrived in a black suit, white collared shirt and dress shoes.

Mr. Paskill, 20, attended a screening of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” at the Century 16 in Beaverton, Ore., on July 2 with eight of his friends, all dressed in suits for the occasion.

“Anybody over the age of 25 was, like, really, really confused about what we were doing there,” said Mr. Paskill, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok. “Like, ‘why is everyone wearing suits?’”

The inspiration is a TikTok trend known as #GentleMinions, which has amassed more than 61 million views on the platform. It encourages “Minions” moviegoers to film themselves as they dress up in suits and sunglasses to attend screenings of the latest installment of the “Despicable Me” series….

(13) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? “Why the [expletive] can’t we travel back in time?” from Ars Technica in 2021.

Look, we’re not totally ignorant about time. We know that the dimension of time is woven together with the three dimensions of space, creating a four-dimensional fabric for the Universe. We know that the passage of time is relative; depending on your frame of reference, you can slip forward into the future as gently as you please. (You just need to either go close to the speed of light or get cozy with a black hole, but those are just minor problems of engineering, not physics.)

But as far as we can tell, we can’t reverse the flow of time. All evidence indicates that travel into the past is forbidden in our Universe. Every time we try to concoct a time machine, some random rule of the Universe comes in and slaps our hand away from the temporal cookie jar.

And yet, we have no idea why. The reasons really seem random; there is nothing fundamental we can point to, no law or equation or concept that definitively explains why thou shalt not travel into the past. And that’s pretty frustrating. It’s obvious that the Universe is telling us something important… we just don’t know what it’s saying.

Go ahead, kill your grandfather

There are all sorts of philosophical debates for and against the possibility of time travel. Take, for example, the famous “grandfather paradox.” Let’s say you build a time machine and travel back in time. You find your own grandfather and shoot him dead (I don’t know why, but roll with me here). But wait… if your grandfather is dead, it means he can’t father your father, which means you never exist. So how did you go back in time to do the awful deed?…

(14) CATCH A FALLING STAR. In this week’s Nature: “European mission plans to ambush a rare comet”.

The European Space Agency (ESA) last month approved the first mission that will launch without a pre-selected target. Instead, it will wait in space, ready to fly at short notice.

The Comet Interceptor mission will launch in 2028 and will travel to a point of gravitational stability 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. Once there, it will be able to wait for up to six years for a suitable comet to pass close enough to Earth’s orbit to visit. If that occurs, the probe will leave on a fly-by course. The main spacecraft will approach to a distance of about 1,000 kilometres — far enough away to avoid being damaged by nearby material — while two smaller probes will dive closer, down to as little as 400 kilometres from the surface.

The goal is to find a pristine object, known as a long-period comet, that is approaching the Sun for the first time. The encounter would provide a window on material that formed at the dawn of the Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago. Other missions have visited comets that have been altered by the Sun because they have spent time in the inner Solar System.

Alternatively, the craft could intercept an object from another solar system, similar to the rock ‘Oumuamua, which crossed the Solar System in 2017.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: V Rising,” you play a vampire who isn’t harmed that much by sunlight, “Making him like a really committed Goth.”  But the real vampires are the gamers who spend too long on this “because they’re sucking their parents’ retirement money.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/6/22 I Come From A Pixel Down Under, Where Fen Scroll and Pros Wonder

(1) HEARING FROM DELANY. Sally Wiener Grotta kicks off a new video interview series — “What If? Why Not? How?” – with the help of Samuel Delany (who has more to say in the comments at Facebook).

A few weeks ago, when Samuel Delany and I were at a gathering of friends at Michael Swanwick‘s and Marianne Porter’s home, he explained why he feels that spelling “black” with a capital “B” is racist. As is always true, Chip’s discourse was fascinating, keeping us spellbound. There and then, I knew I would want to record him on the subject. So, here he is, helping me launch my new video interview series: “What If? Why Not? How?” 

(2) IN PERSON IN SAN DIEGO. Heidi McDonald scouts the layout for Publishers Weekly in “San Diego Comic-Con Is Back”.

For the first time in three years, San Diego Comic-Con is returning as an in-person event. However, in a world changed by an ongoing global pandemic, even the gigantic pop culture institution will look very different when fans finally return to the San Diego Convention Center July 20–24.

It’s all part of the event industry’s transition away from the most severe pandemic restrictions, as comics publishers and media companies approach events, sales, and marketing in a new social and economic landscape. For publishers, online sales have soared, and the cost of exhibiting at giant pop culture conventions isn’t always justified financially. Nevertheless, the glamour and excitement of SDCC remains a draw, and the intangible value of seeing popular artists, as well as industry colleagues, in person has been much missed.

But this year the layout of the exhibit floor at the San Diego Convention Center will feature significant changes. Warner Bros. Discovery, the newly formed parent company of DC, has pulled out of the massive booth that once anchored the end of one hall and housed DC’s SDCC booth presence. DC will have a full lineup of panels and talent, but no booth. Dark Horse Comics, which has had a large centrally located booth for years, will also be missing, along with the longtime floor presence of indie publisher Drawn & Quarterly and publisher/merchandise producer Graphitti Designs. Image Comics, also a major presence on the exhibit floor, will have a much smaller booth.

Making up for this, newer graphic novel publishers, such as Immortal Studios, Interpop, Tapas Media/Wuxia World, Three Worlds/Three Moons, and Z2, will have booths for the first time….

(3) TRACKING COVID AFTER WESTERCON. Westercon 74, held over the July 4th weekend in Tonopah, has created a COVID tracking page on its website to collate COVID-19 reports.

We ask that any person who contracts COVID-19 during Westercon 74 or for one week following the convention please send an email to covid@westercon74.org so that we can track any possible outbreak. We will not release any personally-identifying information without prior approval from the person who reports having been infected.

So far there is one report from an attendee of Westercon 74 reporting a positive COVID-19 self-test.

Kevin Standlee emphasizes, “We won’t report personal information without the person’s permission.”

(4) A SLICE OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Here’s about 25% of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Prime Video Exclusive Sneak Peek available today to Prime Video subscribers.

(5) DOMINIQUE DICKEY Q&A. Sarah Gailey interviews “Dominique Dickey of Plant Girl Game, “a cozy tabletop roleplaying game about a family of plant children working together to prevent an ecological disaster.” The crowdfunding appeal for the game is open for another 14 days at Gamefound.

The character age range for this game is young, ranging from 11 years old and up. What makes a child or adolescent’s perspective on community unique?

Children often think of very simple solutions to complex problems, because they’re more immersed in how the world should work than how it actually functions. Adolescents tend to run face first into that complexity: I remember at the age of fifteen or so, going from “Well, why can’t we just fix climate change?” to “A lot of very powerful people are invested in maintaining the status quo, and we have a narrow window of time in which to break that status quo, and it won’t be easy to do so.” I was absolutely enraged, because the childish part of me was still unable to conceptualize cruelty on a larger scale than playground bullies or mean girls in the locker room. I had a child’s expansive empathy, and wasn’t able to understand why anyone would lack that empathy.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I want players to face that tension. I want players to begin a session of Plant Girl Game with the childlike knowledge that the world should be a kinder, fairer place, and leave with the adolescent realization that if we want that world—for ourselves and for our loved ones—we’re going to have to fight like hell for it….

(6) BE A FRINGE FAN IN A GOOD WAY. [Item by Alison Scott.] Filers might in general be interested in the Chicon Fringe programme, with local Chicago and online events. Events are free and you do not need to be a Chicon 8 member to attend. 

But I’m writing specifically because I’m hosting, on behalf of Glasgow in 2024, an online ‘book club’ discussion on the Best Fanzine finalists.

Tuesday 19th July, 19:30 p.m. BST, 1:30 p.m. CDT. Tickets, which are free, are available at Eventbrite here.

It would be lovely to see Filers, and fanzine readers more generally, there. 

(7) DEVELOPING FRIENDSHIPS. Elizabeth Bear’s guest post on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog is about a different bit than she anticipated: “My Favorite Bit: Elizabeth Bear Talks About The Origin of Storms.

When I sat down to write this essay, I was thinking that I was going to write about the extremely ancient and slightly dimensionally shifted dragon, possibly, or maybe that I was going to write about the snarky magic pen. But (“upon contemplation,” as they say) I realized my favorite part of The Origin of Storms—the thing that was absolutely the most fun to write—is the friendships…..

(8) ON THE TUBE. “Neil Gaiman’s Books Have Enchanted Millions. Finally, Hollywood Is on Board” reports the Washington Post.

…“All of the things that made ‘Sandman’ wonderful were the same things that made it almost impossible to adapt for film and television for 30 years,” says David S. Goyer, a filmmaker and producer who was a co-writer on the “Dark Knight” Batman trilogy. “All of the features that we love about ‘Sandman’ — that it is, in essence, a story about stories — are the bugs that stymied Hollywood.”

Today that is no longer the case. Quietly and steadily over the past six years, Gaiman has matched some of the most prolific creators in Hollywood. And after 32 years trapped in the purgatory of Hollywood development, a 10-episode series based on “The Sandman” will premiere on Netflix on Aug. 5. Developed by Gaiman, Goyer and writer Allan Heinberg, it represents one of the streaming service’s biggest-budget original productions. Meanwhile, Gaiman’s 2005 novel “Anansi Boys,” a modern twist on the ancient stories of the West African trickster god Anansi, is now an Amazon Studios series in postproduction, and “Good Omens” recently wrapped filming its second season. These follow on the heels of the series“American Gods,” which premiered in 2017 on Starz — earning two Emmy nominations for its first season — and aired its third season last year.

In total, Gaiman has seven shows that he has developed or that are based on his writing, with more in the works. He has become the great adapter, pulling from the store of fable and myth for his books, and transmogrifying his written work into radio and stage plays, audiobooks and movies. And now television.

Gaiman’s books “couldn’t get made in a three-network landscape,” Hamm says, owing to their complexity. As television has matured, though, so too have the opportunities to tell more-nuanced stories….

(9) MEMORY LANE

1957 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-five year ago, one of the very best Warner Bros. cartoons ever done was released on this in the form of Bugs Bunny’s “What’s Opera, Doc?”

It directed by Chuck Jones as written by Michael Maltese whose longest association not unsurprisingly was with Warner Bros. Cartoons, though he did work with other animators such as MGM Cartoons and Hanna-Barbera.

BEWARE! SPOILERS! I MEAN IT! 

In this cartoon, Elmer is chasing Bugs through a number of Richard Wagner’s operas, including Der Ring des NibelungenDer Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser. Fudd is dressed as Siegfried and Bugs as Brunhilda to start it off and then, well let’s just say it’s just it gets even more manic. 

Bugs is apparently dead at the end of the cartoon as Fudd carries him off but he suddenly breaks the fourth wall and raises his head to face the audience while remarking, “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?”

END SPOILERS

Given it has only two characters, it won’t surprise there’s only two voice actors. Mel Blanc was Bugs Bunny (as Brünnhilde) and  Elmer Fudd (yelling “SMOG”) which is no surprise, but the surprise for me that that Mel Blanc wasn’t Elmer Fudd being Siegfried but rather it was Arthur Q. Bryan who went uncredited in the cartoon.

It has been voted the best Warner Bros. Cartoon ever. 

A look at the iTunes stores shows it is available there. 

There’s are clips from it legally up YouTube but the entire cartoon is not so please do not offer links to such as they’ll just need to be removed as we don’t host pirated material here. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 6, 1916 — Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
  • Born July 6, 1918 — Sebastian Cabot. He’s here because he’s in The Time Machine, which was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon, as Dr. Philip Hillyer. Several years later, he’ll be in the animated The Sword in the Stone voicing both Lord Ector and The Narrator. Likewise he’d be Bagheera in The Jungle Book, and The Narrator in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Lastly he shows up in several episodes of Fifties series Conrad Nagel Theater. (Died 1977.)
  • Born July 6, 1927 — Janet Leigh. Certainly best remembered as doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. She would also be in with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, in both The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She’s also in the Night of the Lepus, a very odd 70s SF film. (Died 2004.)
  • Born July 6, 1945 — Rodney Matthews, 77. British illustrator and conceptual designer. Among his many endeavors was one with Michael Moorcock creating a series of 12 large posters that showed scenes from Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series. This is turn became the Wizardry and Wild Romance calendar. He also worked work with Gerry Anderson on the Lavender Castle series. 
  • Born July 6, 1945 — Burt Ward, 77. Robin in that Batman series. He would reprise the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes, and two animated films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. (Has anyone seen these?) The latter are the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • Born July 6, 1946 — Sylvester Stallone, 76. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the 2000 A.D. series which was something the second film, which though it had a perfect Dredd in Karl Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect.
  • Born July 6, 1950 — Rick Sternbach, 72. Best known for his work in the Trek verse sharing with Star Trek: The Motion Picture where he designed control panel layouts and signage for the Enterprise. He’s next hired for Next Gen where communicator badge, phasers, PADDs and tricorders are all based on his designs. These designs will also be used on DS9 andVoyager. He also pretty much designed every starship during that time from from the Cardassian and Klingon ships to the Voyager itself. He would win Best Professional Artist Hugos at SunCon and IguanaCon II, and he was the Artist Guest of Honor at Denvention 3. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro is about a bit of financial planning for frogs that reminds me of a bit in Hitchhiker’s Guide.
  • The Argyle Sweater is funny – if you get the reference. I once had a 5-year-old, so I do.

(12) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to the podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Dean Fleischer Camp about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.  Both the Maltins very much like this film. Camp doesn’t provide many technical details, although he credits animation director Kirsten Lepore with doing a lot of the work during the 2 1/2 years it took to make this film.  He also explained that Isabella Rosselini was attached to the project because she likes making quirky artistic choices. Camp also discussed how he and Jenny Slate, who voices Marcel and worked on the script, remain close professional collaborators even though they broke up their relationship. Fun unrelated fact:  director Mike Mills lifts the spirits of his set by bringing in a harpist every friday to play for an hour. Maltin on Movies: Dean Fleischer-Camp”.

The Maltins also had a 2017 conversation with Jenny, available here.

(13) UPGRADE. “The Mars Express spacecraft is finally getting a Windows 98 upgrade” reports The Verge. Although you probably want to know, the ESA hasn’t detailed the exact software that the MARSIS is being upgraded to.

Engineers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are getting ready for a Windows 98 upgrade on an orbiter circling Mars. The Mars Express spacecraft has been operating for more than 19 years, and the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument onboard has been using software built using Windows 98. Thankfully for humanity and the Red Planet’s sake, the ESA isn’t upgrading its systems to Windows ME.

The MARSIS instrument on ESA’s Mars Express was key to the discovery of a huge underground aquifer of liquid water on the Red Planet in 2018. This major new software upgrade “will allow it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before,” according to the ESA. The agency originally launched the Mars Express into space in 2003 as its first mission to the Red Planet, and it has spent nearly two decades exploring the planet’s surface….

(14) SOMETHING FOR HUMMERS TO BE HUMBLE ABOUT. “Over 11 years and 570 episodes, John Rabe and Team Off-Ramp scoured SoCal for the people, places, and ideas whose stories needed to be told, and the show became a love-letter to Los Angeles. Now, John is sharing selections from the Off-Ramp vault to help you explore this imperfect paradise.” Off-Ramp at LAist.

Alex Ross says you’re probably humming “Star Wars” wrong … and more on the surprising music of John Williams, who is NOT a copycat.

John Williams is so ubiquitous now, as former leader of the Boston Pops and the man behind the music for so many Lucas and Spielberg films; and old-fashioned lush orchestral scores are now so common, it’s hard to believe they were endangered a few decades ago. But they were, and Alex Ross, the New Yorker music writer, says you can thank Williams. In a long Off-Ramp interview from 2016 with tons of musical examples, Alex makes the case for Williams, and debunks the notion that the maestro is any sort of plagiarist. He also gamely demonstrates how to properly hum the Star Wars theme. Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live; and bythe Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. (Off-Ramp theme music by Fesliyan Studios.)

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Metal Gear Rising: Revengance,” the narrator says that this game is like equivalent of “if George Orwell downed 10 Monster Energies and asked you to cut up with a katana in the backyard.” It’s slice and dice action that “lets you rip through everything like a kid at Christmas.” And “revengance” means “revenge with a vengance.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/3/22 Oh No, Not I, I Will Be Five; But As Long As I Know How To Read, I Know I’ll Stay Alive

(1) MARCHING WITH SHERMAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with songwriter Richard Sherman, which they did in 2016 but recently reposted because Richard Sherman turned 92. Maltin on Movies: “Revisiting Richard Sherman”.

Leonard Maltin knows a lot about all aspects of cinema but what he really knows a great deal about is the history of animation and Disney films.  Much of this podcast is devoted to the idea that Walt Disney really was as nice as he presented himself on Sunday nights on “The Wonderful World of Disney.”  Sherman says Disney liked being called “Walt” and if he liked an idea said, “That’ll work!”  He also said that P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins novels, was as fiercely protective of her intellectual property as portrayed in Saving Mr. Banks, and he has 16 hours of tapes with Travers to prove it.  She insisted the tapes be made as a record of her conversations.

Most of the conversation here is about Mary Poppins, which earned Sherman and his brother Robert Sherman two Oscars.  He only briefly mentions Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, which had songs by Sherman and his brother and was in effect the James Bond people trying to do a Disney musical.  He does mention that he was working on an album containing songs for two unmade fantasy films:  Sir Puss-N-Boots and The 13 Clocks, based on the James Thurber novel.  These songs were released in 2016 by castalbums.org.

Fun fact: Voice actor Paul Winchell not only voiced Tigger, but also invented an artificial heart valve.

Disney fans will enjoy this hour.

(2) THE STRANGER THINGS EXPERIENCE. Delish brags, “We Tried All The Food At Stranger Things: The Experience”.

We’re beyond excited for part 2 of Stranger Things season 4. To get into the spirit, Team Delish traveled to the new Stranger Things: The Experience in Brooklyn. With locations in New York, San Francisco, and London, the hour-long immersive adventure transports visitors straight to Hawkins, Indiana.

As much as we loved fighting Demogorgons with Eleven and the gang, our favorite part was obviously the food! Once you finish the experience, you enter Mix-Tape, an ’80s-themed area with some of the show’s iconic locations. Guests can play vintage arcade games, sit in the Byers’ living room, and snack on the character’s favorite treats.

… If you need a drink to wash everything down, head to the Upside Bar for some cocktails inspired by the show. Our favorite is the Demogorgon, which Agbuya describes as “smoky-sweet version of an Old Fashioned with a twist.” The drink is made with bourbon, maple syrup, and Angostura Bitters, but the main attraction is when the bartender uses a flavor blaster gun to blow a giant bubble. Then you puncture it with a stroopwafel and it releases citrus-scented smoke over the drink.

(3) MEDALIST. At The Heinlein Society blog (where “Right click is disabled!”) you can read a “Balticon 56 Report” that’s focused on personally presenting David Gerrold with his Heinlein Award.

(4) AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES. Bill sends along a clipping of something by Robert A. Heinlein’s second wife, Leslyn.  This was after she had divorced Robert and remarried, but refers to the place they had lived on Lookout Mountain Ave.  It’s from the July 1956 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

(5) THE SMITHSONIAN RECOMMENDS OCTAVIA BUTLER. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] In the June issue of the Smithsonian, in the column “Ask Smithsonian”, a reader asked “Who is a science fiction writer you hold in high esteem?” Their answer:

Octavia Butler was an Afrofuturist author who was born in 1947 and died in 2006. In her “Patternist” novels, published during the 1970s and ’80s, she foresaw many aspects of our current era–climate change, pandemics, ethical questions about genetic engineering, struggles for racial justice–yet she struck a chord of hopefulness, especially for Black and women readers, her body of work, which is featured in Smithsonian’s current FUTURES exhibit, grapples deeply with what it means to be human and inspires us to build a more equitable future, no matter what obstacles lie in the way.”

(6) A LOT ON HIS PLATE. “What Makes Taika Waititi Run and Run and Run?” The New York Times asks, but the subject isn’t sure!

Even when your job is to dream up the interplanetary adventures of a Norse god, you might still want to run off and play pirates.

So during the weeks he was editing “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Marvel movie that opens on July 8, Taika Waititi, its director and co-writer, would occasionally take weekends off for a different journey.

He would get outfitted in a flowing gray wig, matching facial hair and temporary tattoos, and don deliciously fetishistic leather gear to portray Blackbeard, the swashbuckling, loin-kindling buccaneer of the HBO Max comedy series “Our Flag Means Death.”

This is admittedly not a bad way to spend your spare time, though Waititi did occasionally fret over the trade-offs. As he explained recently, “Sometimes you’re pissed off at life and you’re like, ‘Why did I say yes to everything? I don’t have a social life — I’m just working.’ But then the thing comes out, you see where the hard work goes and it’s really worth it.”

On TV, Waititi, 46, has had a hand in the FX comedies “Reservation Dogs” (as a co-creator) and “What We Do in the Shadows” (a series based on a movie he co-wrote and co-directed), as well as a “Shadows” spinoff, “Wellington Paranormal.” At the movies, you can hear him voice a good guy in “Lightyear” or see him play a bad guy in “Free Guy.”

Waititi is also editing “Next Goal Wins,” a soccer comedy-drama that he co-wrote and directed for Searchlight. He’s writing a new “Star Wars” movie for Lucasfilm, a “Time Bandits” series for Apple TV+. He’s preparing two Roald Dahl projects for Netflix and adapting a graphic novel by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius for a feature film.

(7) HIDDEN BEAUTY. Book Riot probes beneath the surface in its article “Underneath It All: Books Where The Hardcover Has a Clever Design Beneath Its Dust Jacket”.

WHAT MAKES THE BEST DESIGN UNDER THE DUST JACKET?

Let me tell you, YA really shines in this category of book beauty. While many adult hardcovers had wonderful color combinations, I was looking for them to have a design under the dust jacket that stood out. The science fiction and fantasy section did a bit better with their designs under the dust jacket, but proportionally, did not hold a candle to the sheer number of books in YA with interesting reveals. I wanted to cast a broad net and hoped to reel in a fine set of books across genres. These are the final 15 books.

Three main categories drew my eye when it came to the design under the dust jacket. First, we have the embossed stamp design, where designers created a clever design pressed into the hardcover and perhaps added some foil to enhance the contrast. Next, we have the flat graphic design, where the cover has some kind of drawn, painted, or printed image that lays flat on an almost silky cover underneath the dust jacket. Finally, we have a small but visually impressive group, the repeating print design, with a pattern that creates a textile-like pattern.

One example is the cover of this novel by the redoubtable T. Kingfisher.

NETTLE & BONE BY T. KINGFISHER

Jacket art by Sasha Vinogradova

When you wait long enough for someone to save you and no one comes, you learn how to save yourself. Marra, the third-born daughter, has seen the way the prince abuses her older sisters and is determined to kill him, once and for all. A series of legendary companions help her perform the three tasks that will free everyone from a prince too cruel to live. The golden embossed skeleton creature pops against the vibrant green cover, daring you to read the first page.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] “Presumably I’m the condemned man and obviously you’re the hearty breakfast.” —from Diamonds are Forever

Let’s us talk about Fleming’s Diamonds are Forever novel whose first part was published in the Daily Express on April 12, 1956 and heralded by an article by Ian Fleming on how he wrote the novel and that readers were invited to “meet James Bond, secret agent, meet M, his boss, and get ready to meet the girl you won’t forget”.  It was the first novel that the Daily Express did but hardly the last as they would go to do all of them.

Fleming wrote the story at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, inspired by a Sunday Times article on diamond smuggling. 

The book was first published by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom on March 26, 1956. It was the fourth novel featuring Bond. 

The Daily Express publication was in abridged firm, and interestingly, they followed it, by adapting into as a graphic comic series. 

As you all know, it would be adapted into the seventh Bond film which was the last Eon Productions film to star Sean Connery as Bond. Both the novel and the film were considered to be very good. That is not that all British critics loved it as Julian Symons of The Times Literary Supplement thought it was the “weakest book so far”. On the other hand, Raymond Chandler, yes that writer, said for the Sunday Times said “Mr. Fleming writes a journalistic style, neat, clean, spare and never pretentious”. 

It has, like all Bond novels, been in-print ever since it was first published. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 3, 1898 — E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 3, 1926 — William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a many time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist for 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He is responsible for giving Uhura her first name. He wrote “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 — Tim O’Connor. He was Dr. Elias Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for much of its run.  (I really, really liked that series.) Other genre appearances were on The Six Million Dollar ManThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsWonder WomanKnight Rider, Next Gen and The Burning Zone. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 — Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay is certainly his best remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm which he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part off The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.)
  • Born July 3, 1937 — Tom Stoppard, 85. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  • Born July 3, 1943 — Kurtwood Smith, 79. Clarence Boddicker in Robocop which was nominated for a Hugo atNolacon II, Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and voiced Kanjar Ro in the most excellent Green Lantern: First Flight. He’s got series appearances on Blue ThunderThe Terrible Thunderlizards (no, I’ve no idea what it is), The X-FilesStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: VoyagerMen in Black: The Series which I got wrote up, 3rd Rock from the SunTodd McFarlane’s SpawnJustice LeagueBatman BeyondGreen Lantern, Beware the Batman, Agent Carter and Star Trek: Lower Decks. His last genre role is Dr. Joseph Wanless on the Netflix remake of Firestarter.   

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Junk Drawer shows that when it comes to alien abduction, many are called but few are chosen.
  • Bizarro shows an exasperated jury foreman who can’t deliver a verdict.

(11) BACK IN THE USSR. From the Sidewise Award-winning author of the acclaimed Clash of Eagles trilogy comes an alternate 1979 where the US and the Soviets have permanent Moon bases, orbiting space stations, and crewed spy satellites supported by frequent rocket launches. Hot Moon: Apollo Rising Book One by Alan Smale will be released July 26.

Apollo 32, commanded by career astronaut Vivian Carter, docks at NASA’s Columbia space station en route to its main mission: exploring the volcanic Marius Hills region of the Moon. Vivian is caught in the crossfire as four Soviet Soyuz craft appear without warning to assault the orbiting station. In an unplanned and desperate move, Vivian spacewalks through hard vacuum back to her Lunar Module and crew and escapes right before the station falls into Soviet hands.

Their original mission scrubbed, Vivian and her crew are redirected to land at Hadley Base, a NASA scientific outpost with a crew of eighteen. But soon Hadley, too, will come under Soviet attack, forcing its unarmed astronauts to daring acts of ingenuity and improvisation.

With multiple viewpoints, shifting from American to Soviet perspective, from occupied space station to American Moon base under siege, to a covert and blistering US Air Force military response, Hot Moon tells the gripping story of a war in space that very nearly might have been.

Available for preorder at Amazon and Amazon.ca.

Larry Niven says, “I loved it. Great ‘hard’ science fiction with convincing space battles.” Robert J. Sawyer declared, “Alan Smale is one of the brightest stars in the hard-SF firmament, and Hot Moon is his best novel yet. Enjoy!”

Alan Smale writes alternate and twisted history, and hard SF. His novella of a Roman invasion of ancient America, A Clash of Eagles, won the Sidewise Award. Alan grew up in Yorkshire, England, and earned degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from Oxford University. By day he performs astronomical research into black holes and neutron stars at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, with over a hundred published academic papers; by night he sings bass with high-energy vocal band The Chromatics.

(12) WET WORK. “Filmmakers of Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Vesper’ on Finding Hope in Grim Future” in Variety.

…The sci-fi-fantasy thriller, which takes place after the collapse of the earth’s eco-system and centers on a 13-year-old girl caring for her paralyzed father, who must use her wits and bio-hacking abilities to fight for survival and the possibility of a future, has proved a popular item for sales agent Anton. They have announced distribution deals in the U.S. (IFC Films), UK (Signature Entertainment), Germany (Koch Media), Italy (Leone Film) and Japan (Klockworx). IFC plans to release the film in U.S. theaters and VOD on Sept. 30….

The live-action scenes were shot in natural locations, mainly around Vilnius. Finding the fairytale forest that they wanted took nearly a year. But shooting outdoors came with its own set of problems. Samper confesses that one of the most challenging elements of the shoot was the spring weather in Lithuania. He says, “One day we had snow, storm, rain, hail and finally sunshine in the same shooting day.”…

(13) HIS AUDITION WAS A BUST. Didn’t he hear, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”? “Florida Man Posing as Disney Worker Charged in Removal of R2-D2 at Hotel” in the New York Times.

A Florida man who said he applied for a security job at Walt Disney World in Florida wanted to impress his would-be bosses.

So, to highlight what he said was the company’s lax oversight, the man, David Proudfoot, donned the gray T-shirt, beige pants and Disney name tag worn by employees of a Disney resort, the Swan Reserve, and removed an R2-D2 “Star Wars” droid as well as an unidentified game machine, the authorities said.

R2-D2 might have been the droid he was looking for, but Mr. Proudfoot’s test of Disney’s security backfired: He was charged with grand theft and obstruction by false information, according to an arrest report dated May 31.

Mr. Proudfoot, 44, of Kissimmee, Fla., admitted to investigators that he moved the droid, which was valued up to $10,000, and the game machine, Deputy Christopher Wrzesien of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office wrote in the report.

Deputy Wrzesien wrote that Mr. Proudfoot had “temporarily moved” the droid from the third floor of the hotel to an unknown location. As for the game machine, Mr. Proudfoot told deputies that he had no intention of moving it off the property, according to the report.

He told investigators “he had an application for Walt Disney World Security pending and was moving the items to show weaknesses in the security of the resorts in the hope of securing a better-paying job at WDW,” the report said….

(14) HOME IS WHERE YOU HANG YOUR HAT. “Resident Alien: Season Two Return Date Announced” at SYFY Wire.

Resident Alien fans don’t have long to wait for the return of the science fiction comedy-drama series. Season two kicked off on Syfy in January and ran for eight episodes before going on hiatus. The remaining eight installments of the season will begin airing on August 10th.

Based on the Dark Horse comics, the Resident Alien series stars Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds, Elizabeth Bowen, Alice Wetterlund, Levi Fiehler, and Judah Prehn. The story follows an alien (Tudyk) who has come to Earth with a mission to kill humans, but he finds life on this planet is more than he planned.

(15) CURIOSITY. BBC knows you can’t resist watching video of the “World’s smallest cat”.

A rusty spotted cat, the world’s smallest cat, explores his forest home in Sri Lanka, but his natural curiosity is destined to get him into a spot of trouble.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bill, Darrah Chavey, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/22 Scrolls Against Pixelry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal 

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

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 

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

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

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

I thought this was a good interview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harris released a photo of him in character on Instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/22 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) FAHRENHEIT – NEVER MIND. The Associated Press reports: “Burn-proof edition of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ up for auction”.

Margaret Atwood has imagined apocalyptic disaster, Dystopian government and an author faking her own death. But until recently she had spared herself the nightmare of trying to burn one of her own books.

With a flamethrower, no less.

She failed, and that was the point.

On Monday night, timed for PEN America’s annual gala, Atwood and Penguin Random House announced that a one-off, unburnable edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be auctioned through Sotheby’s New York. They launched the initiative with a brief video that shows Atwood attempting in vain to incinerate her classic novel about a totalitarian patriarchy, the Republic of Gilead. Proceeds will be donated to PEN, which advocates for free expression around the world…

…The Gas Company’s principal owner, Doug Laxdal, told the AP that instead of paper, he and his colleagues used Cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product. The 384-page text, which can be read like an ordinary novel, took more than two months to complete. The Gas Company needed days just to print out the manuscript; the Cinefoil sheets were so thin that some would fall through cracks in the printer and become damaged beyond repair. The manuscript was then sewed together by hand, using nickel copper wire….

(2) THE NEXT UNICORN. “Peter S. Beagle Returns to the World of The Last Unicorn With The Way Home reports Molly Templeton at Tor.com.

…The Way Home, according to a press release, “continues the story of beloved characters unicorn, Molly Grue, and Schmendrick the Magician from the point of view of a young girl named Sooz.” The two works included in the collection are Two Hearts, which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novelette in 2006, and Sooz, which has not been previously published. It’s described as “a lyrical story of childhood left behind, dedicated to the love of Beagle’s life, who passed away before it could be published.”

The new edition of The Last Unicorn will be available in July; The Way Home publishes in spring 2023.

(3) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. “‘Stranger Things’ Is Back, and the Duffer Brothers Made It Big” – and the New York Times knows just how big.

…During the two days I observed them, the Duffers, who continue to direct, write and oversee “Stranger Things,” had enough on their plates just getting things manageable. The pandemic had already caused significant delays, and the new season is five hours longer than any previous one. That was the main reason they had decided to release it in two chunks, Ross said. There was just so much material to get through. Demogorgons needed animating. Run times needed tightening.

“How long is the episode right now?” Ross asked their editor Dean Zimmerman about the episode on the screen. Zimmerman glanced my way.

“You want me to say it out loud?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“Two and a half hours.”

With episodes like short movies (three of the first four are 75 minutes or more), one might worry that the Duffers have succumbed to excess. For now, they seem content to let the fans decide; Netflix has proved willing to support their expanding vision. Meanwhile, the tone is decidedly shifting this season (think “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Hellraiser”), and its young cast has been shaving for at least a few years. (Want to feel old? Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink are 20.) Plenty can change in three years, including viewer attention. Will fans still flock to “Stranger Things”?

(4) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. Jeff VanderMeer needs no predictive powers to speak about “The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy” in Current Affairs.

…In his 1944 book That Vanishing Eden: A Naturalist’s Florida, Thomas Barbour bemoaned the environmental damage caused by development to the Miami area and wrote, “Florida … must cease to be purely a region to be exploited and flung aside, having been sucked dry, or a recreation area visited by people who …  feel no sense of responsibility and have no desire to aid and improve the land.”

Even then, a dark vision of Florida’s future was clear.

Most of this harm has been inflicted in the service of unlimited and poorly planned growth, sparked by greed and short-term profit. This murder of the natural world has accelerated in the last decade to depths unheard of. The process has been deliberate, often systemic, and conducted from on-high to down-low, with special interests flooding the state with dark money, given to both state and local politicians in support of projects that bear no relationship to best management of natural resources. These projects typically reinforce income inequality and divert attention and money away from traditionally disadvantaged communities.1

Consider this: several football fields-worth of forest and other valuable habitat is cleared per day2 in Florida, with 26 percent of our canopy cut down in the past twenty years.  According to one study, an average of 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation worldwide.

The ecocide happening here is comparable for our size to the destruction of the Amazon, but much less remarked upon. Few of the perpetrators understand how they hurt the quality of life for people living in Florida and hamstring any possibility of climate crisis resiliency. Prodevelopment flacks like to pull out the estimates of the millions who will continue to flock to Florida by 2030 or 2040 to justify rampant development. Even some Florida economists ignore the effects of the climate crisis in their projects for 2049, expecting continued economic growth. but these estimates are just a grim joke, and some of those regurgitating them know that. By 2050, the world likely will be grappling with the fallout from 1.5- to 2-degree temperature rise and it’s unlikely people will be flocking to a state quickly dissolving around all of its edges….

(5) WALDEN WITH AN ELECTRIC SOCKET. And if you need cheering up after that last excerpt – surprisingly, Kim Stanley Robinson is the one about to help you out. “Q&A with Sci-Fi Author Kim Stanley Robinson” in Sactown Magzine.

I hear birds singing in the background. Where are you right now?

I’m outside. My office is my front courtyard on the north side of the house. I’ve got a tarp slung up so that I can be in the shade all the time and see my laptop screen. I also work outside in the rain. I’ve got a waterproof power cord and it powers the laptop and sometimes a little heating pad like you use for your lower back that I throw over my feet. I work all the days of the year out here. In the cold, I wear my winter backpacking gear, including a down hood and [fingerless] wool gloves. I feel like I’m on a little backpacking trip.

My work life has turned into an outdoor adventure. I did this about 15-20 years ago, and it was a great move. I thought I was burning out on writing, but what I was really burning out on was staying indoors all day. When I moved out to this courtyard, the first day that it rained and I slung a tarp up, that was it for me. I have never written a single word of my novels indoors since. I’m looking at white-crowned sparrows now. That’s probably what you’re hearing. And the scrub jays, these are my office mates. I’ve got a couple bird feeders around in this courtyard, and because I’m just sitting here for hours every day, I’m just part of the landscape as far as they’re concerned. I’ve had a scrub jay land on my boot at the end of my footstool and just stare at me like, “Are you alive or dead?”

(6) ACTIVISM. “Workers at an Activision studio vote to unionize, a first for the gaming industry.” The New York Times has the details.

A group of workers at a video game studio that is part of Activision Blizzard has voted to form a union, a first for a major North American video game company.

The vote, which passed 19 to 3, affects 28 quality-assurance employees at Raven Software, the Wisconsin studio that helps to develop the popular Call of Duty game. The workers voted over the past several weeks, and the results were tallied by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Activision has one week to formally object if it finds grounds for complaint.

The new union, the Game Workers Alliance, is the culmination of months of labor organizing at Activision, which has faced increasing pressure from employees to improve working conditions after a lawsuit accused the company of having a sexist culture in which women were routinely harassed.

Organizing at Raven in particular increased in intensity in December, when quality-assurance, or Q.A., workers walked out to protest the ending of about a dozen workers’ contracts. The Communications Workers of America, a prominent tech, media and communications union, helped lead the unionization effort….

(7) BRING THE HAMMER.  The trailer for Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder dropped today.

“Let me tell you the story of the space viking, Thor Odinson…”

(8) HE MORPHED THOSE CHECKS. The New York Times tells why “A former ‘Power Rangers’ actor is charged with helping steal millions in Covid relief funds.”

The actor who led a team of teenage superheroes on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been accused of helping steal millions of dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program pandemic relief fund.

Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, who played the Red Ranger under the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 others were charged with fraud this week in a Texas federal court over what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to illicitly obtain $3.5 million in P.P.P. loans.

Mr. Geiger and the others he is said to have worked in coordination with used a mix of genuine and sham businesses to obtain loans from the relief program, prosecutors said. According to court filings, they fabricated documents and made false claims about sales and payroll to obtain inflated loans, then spent the cash on jewelry, precious metals and cars.

Mr. Geiger received a loan of $225,754 in June 2020 for his company St. John Enterprises, which sells Power Rangers memorabilia, such as $60 autographed photos and $100 personalized video messages. Instead of using the money to pay workers — the relief program’s intended purpose — Mr. Geiger funneled most of the money to two of his co-defendants, prosecutors said in court filings….

(9) DENIS MEIKLE (1947-2022). In the Guardian, Jasper Sharp pays tribute to his late friend, film historian Denis Meikle.

…In 1996 Denis’s first book, A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer, was published, after almost six years of writing and intensive research during which time he developed a close friendship with Michael Carreras, the head of the studio in its later years. It is considered the definitive history of Hammer Films.

This was followed by Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies (2001), Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (2003), Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion (2004), The Ring Companion (2005) and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out (2006).

With Jane, in 2007 he founded Hemlock Books, specialising in non-fiction publications on film, horror, mystery and the macabre and actor and director biographies, through which he edited and published the journals The Fantastic Fifties, The Sensational Sixties and The Age of Thrills (1930s and 40s), and published his final work, Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019), jointly researched with Kip Xool and Doug Young.

This recent Tod Slaughter biography encapsulates Denis’s approach to film writing perfectly: scholarly, fact-driven and intensively researched without being dry, and writerly and critical without thrusting his role as the writer to the fore….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is the month that saw the publication of John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of the Travis McGee novels. (Warning: there’s nothing genre or genre adjacent here. So go away if that’s what you were expecting.) In my opinion, the Travis McGee novels are among the finest mystery series ever done.

I’m listening to them now because Audible dropped the price way, way down on each work. And it’s been at least twenty years since I read them all. So it’s an excellent time to re-experience them. The narrator, Robert Perkoff, is quite excellent, capturing the first person voice of Travis as well as I expect him to. 

This novel was only accepted by in 1964 by Fawcett Publications editor Knox Burger after MacDonald says in a later interview with Ed Gorman: “At the request of Knox Burger, then at Fawcett, I attempted a series character. I took three shots at it to get one book with a character I could stay with. That was in 1964. Once I had the first McGee book, The Deep Blue Good-by, they held it up until I had finished two more, Nightmare in Pink and A Purple Place for Dying, then released one a month for three months. That launched the series.” 

McGee is of an uncertain background, he’s ex-military, but that may be the Korean War or it might be just out of the very early Vietnam War, as MacDonald hints at both. He is a big man and knows how to fight, has a temper, but controls it.  He won the Busted Flush, his house boat, in a card game. Was it a honest game? Who knows? 

The novels really should be read in the order written as both McGee and the America that he’s part of change in a very chronological fashion. Travis has definite strong political opinions and I won’t say I always agree with them, but that’s the character. And no, I won’t say that this character is altogether pleasant as he isn’t as in this novel and in every novel in the series, he will do things that make me cringe. 

If you haven’t read The Deep Blue Good-by, go ahead and read it — if you like it, you’ll like the whole series. The Deep Blue Good-by is reasonably price at the usual suspects for six dollars.

A film version of The Deep Blue Good-by, directed by Oliver Stone, was optioned a decade ago. Christian Bale who is six feet tall to Travis McGee’s stated six feet four was going to the lead. The film was never developed. There’s one film based off a later novel in this series, Darker Than Amber starring Rod Taylor, and one, Travis McGee: The Empty Copper Sea that starred Sam Elliott but which moved McGee to sunny California. McDonald vetoed a television series in the Sixties on the grounds that if it was popular no one would read his novels. 

See? Not a single spoiler! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accidental gunshot wound. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 70. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series. She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 69. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2 and inSpider-Man: No Way Home, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot in the modern day version of Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. 
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 62. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1963 Michael Chabon, 59. Author of what I consider the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland, which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but was Executive Producer for the just concluded season.
  • Born May 24, 1965 John C. Reilly, 57. I honor him for just his performance as Amos Hart in Chicago but as that film is hardly genre I’d better go on and list genre appearances, shouldn’t I? (Chicago is streaming on Paramount +.) He’s Lefty in A Prairie Home Companion which we’ve established is genre followed by being Crepsley in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and he shows up in the Guardians of the Galaxy as Corpsman Dey. He’s Hank Marlow in Kong: Skull Island. He was Dr. Watson in the film everyone wants to forget, Holmes & Watson. His last genre role that I’m aware of was playing Cap in the Moonbase 8 comedy series. 

(12) KAMALA KHAN. Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel starts streaming June 8 on Disney+.

Good is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do.

(13) MADE (UP) MAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Ron Perlman.  Perlman is of interest to us because nearly all of his work has been genre-related, beginning with his debut in Quest For Fire.  Perlman says he got his job in the first Beauty and the Beast because makeup artist Rick Baker said Perlman worked well with prosthetics.  Perlman also discusses his long-running collaboration with Guillermo del Toro; Perlman worked on del Toro’s first film, Cronos, and has collaborated with Del Toro on seven other projects, including the forthcoming Pinocchio.  Perlman also discusses what actors do during a daily four-hour stint in the makeup chair and his extensive voice work, including playing Optimus Prime in two Transformers movies. “Maltin on Movies: Ron Perlman”.

In his earliest screen appearances (remember Quest for Fire?) Ron Perlman was buried under a ton of makeup and prosthetics. That’s also how he became the Emmy-winning star of television’s Beauty and the Beast. Since then he’s shown his versatility, especially in his collaborations with the gifted filmmaker Guillermo del Toro like Hellboy and the forthcoming Pinocchio. His new film The Last Victim, casts him as a weary sheriff in the modern-day West. As Leonard and Jessie quickly discovered, Ron has the soul of a poet and the heart of a movie buff. Wait till you hear him singing the praises of Gary Cooper!

(14) I GUESS WE DO TALK ABOUT HIM. Tonight Andrew Porter witnessed another item that stumped Jeopardy! contestants.

Category: Bruno

Answer: “Sylvie and Bruno” was a dreamy 1889 children’s book by this Brit who was comfortable with fantasy worlds.

Wrong questions: “Who was Barrie?” and “Who was Tolkien?”

Right question: “Who was Lewis Carroll?”

(15) GENUINE TRIVIA. It doesn’t get much more obscure than this: “10 actors from The Andy Griffith Show who voiced major cartoon characters” at MeTV.

The Andy Griffith Show hired a sprawling cast to play all the quirky citizens of Mayberry. Many of those actors were skilled at performing in amusing voices. No wonder they tended to have careers in cartoons, too.

Many of the faces from Mayberry were notable animation voice-over artists. Here are some of our favorite that might surprise you.

1. Arlene Gorlonka

Speed Buggy was one of several successful Hanna-Barbera clones of its hit Scooby-Doo. Substitute the Great Dane with a talking anthropomorphic dune buggy and it’s essentially the same show. “Tinker” looked and acted a whole lot like Shaggy. And then there was Debbie, the Daphne, if you will. The mystery-solving teen was voiced by none other than Howard Sprague’s girlfriend, Millie!

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Morbius,” the Screen Junkies say that “Michael Morbius is a doctor living a serious challenge: being Jared Leto.”  Dr. Morbius chugs enough blood at blood banks that the narrator says it reminds him “of the time at camp when we found the Capri Suns.” Also Matt Smith (speaking of doctors) “acts with the freedom of someone who knows he’s in a train wreck.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(15) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Andrew (Not Werdna), Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twilight Zone streams on Paramount +. 

From “Death Ship”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Borys Sydiuk, Steven H Silver, Ben Bird Person, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 2/24/22 The Naming Of Scrolls Is A Difficult Matter. It Isn’t Just One Of Your Pixel-File Games

(1) BONDS OF EUROCON. The editors of SF2 Concatenation are mindful of the fans affected by the Russian invasion:

(2) REALITY CHECK OR CHECK ON REALITY? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Pulp scholar Jason Ray Carney talks about the value of escapist reading and sword and sorcery at the LA Review of Books“Reading Sword-and-Sorcery to Make the Present Less Real”. (For some reason, the LA Review of Books felt the need to illustrate the essay with a Weird Tales cover that’s not for a sword and sorcery story.)

 …Whether we read to engage or to escape reality, we continue to read fiction because it provides us with an experience that cannot be satisfied by other means. Additionally, as a cultural practice, reading fiction has taken on a quasi-spiritual aura; it has become a secular ritual, not unlike mindfulness meditation, that is robustly encouraged by its proponents. One recalls the Orwellian “READ” posters that have been published by the American Library Association since 1985, the most recent a rendering of Channing Tatum, holding a copy of Peter Pan, standing in front of a glittering star field. Evoking the imperious command of alien billboards in John Carpenter’s They Live — obey, marry, reproduce, consume — these posters celebrate reading as an activity of unquestionable social value and say nothing about what is real. Why not read fiction to escape the real?…

(3) LIVING BY THE SWORD. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Dariel Quiogue, a Filipino author of Asian based sword and sorcery or sword and silk, in episode 34 of the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with Dariel Quiogue – So I’m Writing a Novel…”

…Their discussion covers portrayal of war elephants in history and stories, Alexander the Great being a war criminal to some, Carter & De Camp (and Nyburg) Conan tales, Howard Lamb’s Khlit the Cossack stories (a huge influence on Robert E Howard), drawing from Asian history for his stories – including an intriguing alternate path for Genghis Khan, wanting to write more fiction based in where you’re from, being anxious about a lack of experience to the world limiting your fiction, how late in history Dariel feels you can set a story and still have it feel like sword & sorcery, the “Sword & Sorcery attitude”…

(4) APPENDIX N(ORTON). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The good people of Goodman Games continue their series of profiles of classic SFF authors. Jim Wampler profiles Andre Norton: “Adventures in Fiction: Andre Norton”.

… Norton’s influence on adventure gaming and its creators was not accidental. She often employed a recurring motif in her books in which the protagonist begins as an outsider or “other”, and through dedicating themselves to a perilous journey in the wilderness, eventually becomes a fully-realized heroic figure. The parallels to the level advancement and experience point systems of early role-playing games is obvious….

And Michael Curtis profiles Margaret St. Clair — “Adventures in Fiction: Margaret St. Clair” – focusing almost exclusively on those two novels by her which are listed in the Appendix N of the original D&D Dungeon Master’s guide, even though St. Clair wrote so much more. But Goodman Games is an RPG company, so I guess that’s fair.

…Margaret St. Clair is an interesting figure, one whose work is largely overlooked in the present age. St. Clair was one of only three women authors who appeared on Gygax’s list of influential writers and their works. During both the Golden and Silver Ages of fantasy fiction, the field was dominated by white males, so much so that the now-often derided pronouncement on the back cover of the Bantam Books 1963 printing of The Sign of the Labrys (“Women are Writing Science Fiction!”) was actually somewhat shocking. The fact that Appendix N includes three women authors is a testimony to the breadth of Gary’s reading….

(5) HOW WORLDCON GOHS ARE CHOSEN. Esther MacCallum-Stewart of the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid has written a thoughtful post about the committee’s process for picking their prospective GoHs: “From the Chair: Selecting Our Guests of Honour”.

5. The selection team and the chair’s team then met to decide a Short List, based on the recommendations of the committee, but also considering several other criteria which allowed flexibility in looking at the list:

  • Who will represent Glasgow in 2024’s vision of Inclusion, Caring and Imagination best?
  • Who could present an indicative picture of science fiction and fantasy in 2024?
  • Who might make an interesting Guest of Honour, able to participate to the best of their ability and help create a fun, exciting contribution to a Worldcon in Glasgow 2024?
  • What other elements, like involving local voices, varied perspectives and contemporary discussions, should these Guests represent?
  • How might the Guests of Honour look as a group? (more on this later)

6. Phew! This seems like a lot, but at last there is a short list, and since this process is still happening, I’m expecting it to be about 30 names. We’re ready to start making the decision.

(6) ATWOOD ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Margret Atwood was on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this week with a 15 minute interview. Topics included when did women’s status fall and how
the right purloins left tools.

The programme is downloadable from here for a month after which it will be available on BBC Sounds.

Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of essays, Burning Questions, gathers together her essays and other occasional non-fiction pieces from 2004 to 2021. She is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin which won the Booker prize in 2000. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, was followed in 2019 by a sequel, The Testaments, which was also a Booker Prize winner (with Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other). Margaret joins Emma to talk about culture wars, free speech, feminism, grief and being in your 80’s.

(7) CLONE ARRANGERS. Edward Ashton names books by Tiptree, Simak, and Mur Lafferty while recommending books about clones and replicants at CrimeReads: “Eight Books About What It Means to be Human”.

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

It’s probably a lucky thing that I didn’t read this book until after I’d finished writing Mickey7, because Six Wakes begins in a very similar place—clones, mind-mapping, immortality, an interstellar colonization mission—but then takes off in a wildly different direction….

(8) CLOTHES FOR THE OCCASION. Hypebeast shares a fashion display as “Disney Launches Official ‘Star Wars’ Galactic Starcruiser Merchandise”.

…Offered by the boutique located just off the Atrium of the Halcyon, “The Chandrila Collection” will allow you and your family and friends to fully embrace the world of science-fiction and fantasy with futuristic garments inspired by some of the most iconic characters and factions from the epic franchise. From hooded black dresses and saber-training tunics to mechanics’ jumpsuits and starship captains’ jackets, the collection carries something for every fan. You’ll also find the classic white Princess Leia dress as well as a cloak inspired by Padmé Amidala’s royal wardrobe….

There’s a video here of The Chandrila Collection – some philistines would call it a commercial, I’m sure.

(9) JEOPARDY! As usual, the wrong Jeopardy! questions are the most entertaining. Andrew Porter saw this one tonight.

Final Jeopardy: Fictional Families

Answer: Introduced in the 1930s in The New Yorker, they’ve appeared on TV & Broadway & in live action & animated films.

Wrong question: Who are the Von Trapps?

Correct question: Who is The Addams Family?

(10) KELLERMAN OBIT. Actress Sally Kellerman, whose many roles included a Star Trek appearance, has died at the age of 84. The New York Post profiled her career.

…Kellerman is also rooted in “Star Trek” history. Fans of the original series will remember her role as a psychologist in the third episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — which actually was originally filmed as one of two pilots for the sci-fi series….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2010 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Jack Vance who I think I can say without fear of contradiction is beloved by all here won three Hugos. The first was at the first DisCon for “The Dragon Masters” which was originally published in the August 1962 issue of Galaxy, the second was at NyCon 3 for “The Last Castle” published in Galaxy in the April 1966 issue, and the third, and this one surprised me, was Best Related Work at Aussiecon 4 (2010) for This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”)

His first Hugo nomination that didn’t result in a win was at Detention for “The Miracle-Workers”, published in Astounding in July 1958, his other nomination was a Retro Hugo at Millennium Philcon for The Dying Earth novel. 

His I-C-a-BeM novelette was longlisted at Seacon. His Ecce and Old Earth novel was likewise at MagiCon. If we’re being completists… Queen of Air and Darkness, I love databases! 

Dick Lupoff delivers Jack Vance’s 2010 Hugo.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not at all like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 89. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 77. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2. He also won a Tony Award for his role in The Robber Bridegroom, a play based off the Eudora Welty novella.
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 75. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was Blade Runner as Detective Gaff, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He has made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka.
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 71. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. Though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer LimitsAmazing StoriesRay Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a excellent series indeed. 
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 56. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 54. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(13) ARTHURIANA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says very few people were asking for the PBS animated series Arthur to end after 25 years with their characters aging two decades and the beloved cartoon aardvark turning into “a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee.” “Arthur grew up in the finale of his PBS show. It’s a betrayal.”

… PBS’s sendoff of his namesake show after a quarter-century of seasons unexpectedly age-accelerates its characters two decades or so. It’s a move undoubtedly designed to offer closure to fans from preschooler to professional. But maybe closure is exactly what we didn’t need.

To recap, for those too busy living adult life to dip back into the old days for the finale of the longest-running animated children’s series in history: The (non-)boy the New York Times dubbed “the world’s most popular student aardvark” has apparently become a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee. His sister, the perennial pest D.W., has become … a cop? Buster the bunny is a drably dressed teacher; self-proclaimed tough guy and secret softie Binky Barnes the bulldog is a journalist….

(14) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with director Ken Kwapis, which is worth listening to for one very good anecdote about Jim Henson.  Kwapis directed Henson as a puppeteer in Sesame Street Presents:  Follow That Bird (which Leonard Maltin thinks is an underrated musical).  Jim Henson only had one request.  Before the shoot began, Henson asked everyone–cast and crew–to hold one arm high in the air for a minute. The reason: to give everyone a sense of what puppeteers had to do during a movie.

This is an entertaining hour, but most of what Kwapis directed is not genre.  Even though he directed all seven episodes of the second season of Space Force, he doesn’t have much to say about the show. “Maltin on Movies: Ken Kwapis”.

(15) THE WINTER OF THEIR DISCONTENT. “Patton Oswalt Slams Comixology Changes as Fans Call Out Amazon” reports Screen Rant.

…As Oswalt makes clear, with the changes, ComiXology has gone from being a dedicated hub for comics to just another tab for digital content in Amazon’s Kindle storefront. Whereas before the change, in addition to being a place where subscribers could “collect” and “curate” their digital collections, ComiXolgy provided a way for fans to explore the wonderful world of comics, manga, graphic novels in efficient and enjoyable manner.

Oswalt wasn’t the only one to find fault with the changes. Indeed, from hardcore fans to casual readers, from writers to gamers, the change seems to have struck a chord everywhere….

(16) JEFFERSONIAN STARSHIP. Politico tells “Why Musk’s biggest space gamble is freaking out his competitors”. “Starship is threatening NASA’s moon contractors, which are watching its progress with a mix of awe and horror.”

Elon Musk is planning yet again to rocket beyond the status quo. And if he succeeds, the aerospace giants that won the first space race may never catch him in this one.

Standing in front of the towering Starship rocket at Space X’s southwest Texas “Starbase” on Thursday night, Musk pledged that his most ambitious spaceship yet will make its first journey in the coming months….

Starship is designed to be the first all-purpose space vehicle: a reusable and refuelable spacecraft that can take scores of people and millions of tons of cargo from Earth directly to the moon and eventually Mars — and do it over and over again.

If he can pull it off, Musk’s previous breakthroughs — electric cars, reusable rockets for launching satellites, the first commercial space capsule to dock with the International Space Station — might seem, by comparison, to be modest achievements….

(17) DUSTING OFF HISTORY. Pollen leads to a picture of “The Uneven Sweep Of Black Death’s Assault On Europe” in a Nature article.

The historical pandemic known as the Black Death might not have been as devastating as was previously thought, an analysis of ancient pollen suggests.

Historians estimate that a wave of bubonic plague in the mid-1300s killed about half of the people in Europe, at a time when most lived in rural areas. To investigate the Black Death’s true toll, Alessia Masi at the Sapienza University of Rome and her colleagues analysed ancient pollen from 261 lakes and wetlands across Europe (pictured, a sampled bog in Poland). By assessing the varieties of pollen, the team determined whether fields and pastures had been abandoned after the plague and eventually replaced by forests.

Levels of pollen from species common in agricultural lands were much lower in many places, including France and central Italy, between 1350 and 1450 than during the previous 100 years. This suggests high mortality rates. But in other regions, including Ireland and much of eastern Europe, agricultural activities were stable and even expanded, suggesting that populations there were growing.

Factors such as weather and local economies might have caused the pandemic’s course to vary, the authors say.

(18) FELL WEAPON. Nature discusses a “Gift From Above: The Meteorite Origins Of King Tut’s Dagger”.

Chemical analysis of an iron dagger found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb has identified the type of meteorite from which the metal was derived — and suggests the knife might have been a gift from another ruler.

Tut reigned in the fourteenth century bc, before iron working was common in Egypt. Previous research identified an iron– nickel meteorite as the probable
source of the blade’s metal, but little was known about how the dagger was manufactured.

Tomoko Arai at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Narashino, Japan, and her colleagues mapped the metal’s elements by shining X-rays along the blade and analyzing the resulting fluorescence. They found that the nickel was distributed in a crosshatched pattern typical of a group of meteorites called octahedrites. The blade must have been forged at a relatively low temperature to retain the pattern and other meteorite specific features, they say….

(19) GALAXY CHEX QUEST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1996 computer game Chex Quest. According to Wikipedia, Chex Quest was included as a cereal prize in boxes of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and Wheat Chex. “Daily bunny no.1676 is fighting for a balanced breakfast (A Patreon reward for @DrWho42!)”.

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