Pixel Scroll 3/18/22 When A Pixel’s Not Engaged In Its Enscrollment

(1) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. Brandon Sanderson shares a lot of information about his successful Kickstarter and his progress on other projects in “Some FAQs You Might Enjoy”. Also includes a long analysis of Amazon’s effect on his business.

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

I got this question from the journalist from the Associated Press who interviewed me.  He gave an excellent interview, and we had a really great conversation.  But this question stopped me for a moment.  It’s a valid question, but it took me by surprise, as I haven’t been looking at this the way that some people seem to be.  I didn’t hit the lottery, any more than any other business hits the lottery when they have a product that connects with their market.

I will spend the money as I spend the rest of my money.  Part into savings, part into paying salaries (along with nice extra bonuses because the Kickstarter did well), part reinvested into the company.  (We’re still planning on building a physical bookstore, and this will help accelerate those plans.  Also, it’s not outside of reason that as I move into doing more film and TV, I will want to partially fund some of the projects.)

While this Kickstarter is an incredible event, and (don’t get me wrong) is going to earn me a good chunk of money, it’s going to be comparable to other projects I’ve done.  Also, don’t underestimate how much money it costs to maintain the infrastructure (like a warehouse–or in this case, probably more than one) it takes to be able to ship several hundred thousand books.  It will likely be years before we can be certain how much this actually earned us after all expenses.  More than we’d get from New York on the same books, but potentially not that much more.

That said, I will almost certainly buy myself some nice Magic cards.  Still have a few unlimited duals in my cube that could use an upgrade to black border.

Did You Anticipate This Level of Success for the Kickstarter?

I did not.  I knew the potential was there, but I didn’t think it (getting to this astronomical number of backers) would happen.

My guess was that we’d land somewhere in the 2–4 million range, though I really had no idea.  My team can attest to the fact that in the lead-up, I was very conservative in my estimates and expectations.  This was an experiment from us that I’d been wanting to try for a while.  (I’ll talk more about that below.)  I didn’t have any idea how well it would go.

…How many of those potential 250k–800k people who normally buy a Sanderson book in the first year could be convinced instead to move and preorder it through Kickstarter?  Our guesses, it turned out, were way low.  But at the same time, it is interesting that (not disregarding our huge success, which I’m not at all complaining about) even this huge Kickstarter breaking all records is only grabbing a fraction of my normal audience.  So maybe you can see why we knew we had potential, but were conservative in our estimates. … 

There is also much inside baseball about what indie authors have to face:

…These days, according to some of my indie author friends, you have to spend a great deal to sell on Amazon.  Not everyone’s experience is the same, but I hear this time and time again.  To make it as an indie author, you need to shell out for expensive advertising on the very website selling your books.  I have indie author friends who are spending a good portion of their income on these advertisements–and if they don’t, their sales vanish.  Amazon has effectively created a tax where indie authors pay back a chunk of that glorious 70% royalty to Amazon.  (And this is for the authors lucky enough to be allowed to buy those advertising spots, and therefore have the chance at selling.)….

…Regardless, this has been bothering me for over a decade.  I feel that the current system has a gun to my head.  Heck, all that has to happen is for someone at Amazon read this blog post or see my Kickstarter and decide they just want to make an example out of me.  Poof.  85% of my sales gone.  And while some people might go to another vendor to get my books, the painful truth is that many would not.  Time and time again, studies of contemporary tech media consumption have shown that the person who controls the platform is the one who controls the market. …

(2) MAIL CALL. In “An Open Letter to the 2022 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be”, Cora Buhlert once again shares her experience and advice.

… Right now, no one except for possibly the Hugo administrators knows who those finalists will be. However, sometime in the next two weeks or so, some of you will receive an e-mail from Chicon 8, informing you that you are a finalist for the 2022 Hugo Award and asking you whether you want to accept the nomination. Some of you will have received such e-mails before, for others it will be the first time.

But whether it’s your first or your twentieth nomination, congratulations! That’s awesome.

As a first time recipient of such an e-mail in 2020, here are a few things I’ve learned…

(3) UNIVERSE WILL KEEP EXPANDING. Sharon Lee’s biggest news in “Liaden Universe® Updates” is that she and Steve Miller have accepted an additional three book contract with Baen for Liaden novels.

…The contract’s call-name is Traveler’s Trio, and we have no idea where those novels will take us, yet, but we do have delivery dates.  Those are:

Traveler’s Trio ONE:  September 2024
Traveler’s Trio TWO:  September 2025
Traveler’s Trio THREE:  September 2026

Note A:  In September 2026, I will be 74 years old.  Steve will have celebrated his 76th birthday three months prior.  This by way of reassuring those folks who have been worrying about our retirement that, err — writers don’t retire.  At least, writers at our level of the game don’t retire.

Here ends the Updatery.

(4) GUNN CENTER EVENTS. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF has posted the selections and dates for the next several meetings of their virtual book club, and another event. Zoom info and further details at the links. 

Discussion of Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionist. This choice anticipates Whitehead’s visit to Lawrence for the Paper Plains Literary Festival in early April! https://www.paperplains.org

Discussion of Angelline Boulley’s young adult thriller, Firekeeper’s Daughter. More aligned with conversations about Indigenous belief systems and spirituality than conventional science fiction; also in anticipation of the Paper Plains festival. Co-sponsored with Haskell Indian Nations University, KU’s First Nations Student Association, and others. Teens welcome!

Discussion of Franny Choi’s Soft Science. In celebration of National Poetry Month!

  • Friday, MAY 20th* @ noon (CT) – [no link yet] Discussion of Sarah Pinsker’s Two Truths and a Lie

Winner of the 2021 Nebula Award & 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. (*) Please note that this is not the last Friday of the month, which falls on Memorial Day Weekend.

(5) ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT YOU? The Silmarillion Writers’ Guild seeks the meaning of it all in “A Sudden Outcry: The Tolkien Estate and Fanworks”.

…When the Tolkien Estate recently presented their newly revamped website, it did not take fans long to see past the new artwork and other features to find that the Tolkien Estate has a policy on fanworks. The past several days have seen a whirl of discussion about what it all means that can be distilled down to a single burning question:

Did the Tolkien Estate just ban fanworks?

In short, no, the Tolkien Estate did not just ban fanworks. The fanworks you have posted, are in the middle of creating, or are even thinking about creating are not affected by what the Estate says on their website.

The longer answer depends on if you’re interested in the just or the ban part of that question (or maybe both!). While the following is not legal advice, we hope it will lessen the worry that the existence of fanworks is in jeopardy.  As always, bear in mind that laws vary from country to country. If you have specific concerns, the Organization for Transformative Works’ legal committee, while unable to give legal advice, can answer questions you might have.

The article contains an extensive history of the Estate’s policies towards fanworks. The writers come to this paradoxical conclusion:

…The Tolkien Estate is anti-fanwork and always has been. For all that the “other minds and hands” quote gets tossed about by fans eager to believe that Tolkien would have condoned their activities, Tolkien himself was anti-fanwork when it came to his books,2 unless it was something that he liked. This has neither changed nor prevented Tolkien fanworks from being made in the almost seven decades since The Lord of the Rings was published…

(6) OMELAS. The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog tweeted a crusher yesterday. There are nine tweets in the thread, which starts here.

(7) THE SAND OF MUSIC. Hans Zimmer tells Vanity Fair about the score for Dune in a video that dropped today: “How ‘Dune’ Composer Hans Zimmer Created the Oscar-Nominated Score”.

“Something I wanted to always do. Invent instruments that don’t exist. Invent sounds that don’t exist.” Hans Zimmer, ‘Dune’ composer, gives his in-depth analysis and insider’s look at how the score was created for Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film.

(8) MORE FROM DISCON III. Morgan Hazelwood posted her notes from the DisCon III panel “Ask An Editor: Longform Writing” with participants George Jreije, Katherine Crighton, Navah Wolfe, and Trevor Quachri, plus Joshua Bilmes as moderator. (The material is also presented in a YouTube video.)

The description for this panel was as follows:

What makes a good novel? How do you know it’s ready? Where should you send it and how should you respond to comments? This is your chance to ask burning questions to a panel of respected agents and editors.

(9) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share deep-fried wontons with Library of Congress curator Sara Duke in episode 167 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sara Duke

Library of Congress curator Sara Duke and I were supposed to have lunch two years ago, way back in March of 2020, but then … something happened. I suspect you can guess what that something was. We finally managed to break bread — or rather, share Pad See Ew — last week at D.C.’s Young Chow Chinese restaurant.

Sara Duke has been at the Library of Congress for more than 30 years, the past 23 as the curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in the Prints and Photographs Division. She’s in charge of cartoons, documentary drawings, and ephemera. Starting with Blondie Gets Married in 2000, she’s been responsible for curating many exhibits relating to popular culture, including Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages, and most recently, Geppi’s Gems.

We discussed the first piece of artwork she longed to get her hands on after a 13-month pandemic absence, our joint loathing of slabbed comics, the misconceptions many people have about the Library of Congress, the things most people no longer remember about Blondie, her comic book exhibit cancelled by COVID, the serendipitous way a PhD in 17th century Irish history led to her becoming a curator, her early (and continuing) love of MAD magazine, and much more.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge] On this evening forty-one years ago, the show that Warner Bros. sued for copyright infringement in Warner Bros. Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. premiered on ABC. The Greatest American Hero starred William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley in a suit that allowed him to fly and which looked sort of like that Super-Hero. The Court ruled, “as a matter of law, The Greatest American Hero’ is not sufficiently similar to the fictional character Superman.” 

It was created by producer Stephen J. Cannell and was his only genre undertaking.

The rest of the regular cast consisted of just Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson. ABC wasn’t going to deal with a bloated salary line here.  Culp of course had been Kelly Robinson on I Spy, but more importantly was in The Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand”, written by Harlan Ellison. Sellecca played Pamela Edwards in a recurring role in the Beyond Westworld series.

It would last three seasons and have a proper conclusion in which the story was wrapped up. That conclusion lead to the pilot for another series which was not picked up by another network. A reboot with a female lead was in the works at ABC several years back but not even a pilot was shot.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliche Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible, which if you not seen it you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 72. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap sac Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 63. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and comments leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less.
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. Another way too young death on Babylon 5 as he appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney.  (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 61. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group reads and comments on prior-to-Eighties SF and fantasy.

(12) SENDING UP DISNEY. “This Young Artist Successfully Wows Disney Fans With Hilarious Disney Fanarts” at Aubtu.

Disney fans tend to redraw Disney characters with their unique ideas, but Jorge D. Espinosa has taken it to another level. As a talented artist, Jorge has recreated several famous Disney characters with different settings. They can be about Aurora’s hangover or Jasmine as a dancer enjoying Beyonce’s song. There is no doubt that these unique and funny drawings can make even The Beast laugh….

(13) IDIOMATIC ACCESSION. I need one of these. Don’t I? Archie McPhee’s “Murder of Crows”.

(14) SQUEEZING OUT THE WATER. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Wonderfully Concise SFF Books”.

Olden-time SF authors, limited as they were to pen and paper, typewriters, and other now archaic methods of production, and trying to sell to markets uninterested in purchasing lengthy works, often delivered works that seem startlingly concise and to the point by modern standards. There’s nothing like not having a choice to urge people to make the right choices.

However, even in this age of word processing software and publisher enthusiasm for meandering series of enormous story-fragments, there are authors who deliver short, effective books that contain within them all of the necessary narrative elements. They even include that most elusive ingredient—an actual ending. Consider these five comparatively recent examples of books that are wonderfully short and to the point….

(15) THAT OTHER JAMES. ScienceAlert says “Webb Just Sent Back Its First-Ever Sharp Image of a Star, And It’s Breathtaking”.

…To demonstrate its capabilities, Webb focused on a single star, named 2MASS J17554042+6551277, more commonly known as TYC 4212-1079-1.

This bright object, around 2,000 light-years away, is just over 16 times intrinsically brighter than the Sun – a nice, clear target for Webb. A red filter was used to optimize visual contrast; and, although the telescope was just looking at the star, its instruments are so sensitive that background stars and galaxies can also be seen.

“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA Goddard….

(16) PARADOX RESOLVED. “Scientists claim hairy black holes explain Hawking paradox” reports BBC News. I have nothing to say about that headline at all.

Scientists say they have solved one of the biggest paradoxes in science first identified by Prof Stephen Hawking.

He highlighted that black holes behave in a way that puts two fundamental theories at odds with each other.

Black holes are dead stars that have collapsed and have such strong gravity that not even light can escape.

New research claims to have resolved the paradox by showing that black holes have a property which they call “quantum hair”….

(17) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS. “’Muppets Mayhem’ Series a Go at Disney+”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Disney+ is taking another swing at a Muppets TV series.

The streamer, following a lengthy development process, has handed out a series order to comedy The Muppets Mayhem, with Lilly Singh set to star.

The comedy will follow the Electric Mayhem Band as it records its first-ever album. Singh will star as the human lead, Nora, the junior A&R executive who is tasked with managing and wrangling the band that originally debuted in the pilot for The Muppet Show in 1975. (Watch the band’s debut below.) Sources say the 10-episode comedy will begin filming in April.

The series — which will feature Dr. Teeth, Animal, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot and Lips — is described as a music-filled journey in which the 45-year-old band comes face to face with the current-day music scene as they attempt to go platinum….

(18) ALIEN SCHOOL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, how to be a Thermian in six “easy“ lessons. 

Digg.com has, um, dug up a short docu-feature on how the Thermans came to be so wonderfully quirky in Galaxy Quest. It’s a Class A lesson in the collaborative nature of filmmaking – where the screenwriter, director, actors, and everyone else contribute to what is eventually seen on the screen.

The singsongy, pitchy, sound of the aliens was originated by character actor Enrico Colantoni, who absolutely nailed his audition for the Thermian leader when he broke out that voice. Then they had to develop the walk, their native speech when the translator box breaks, and mannerisms for all sorts of situations. And the whole alien ensemble had to nail all of it. 

Just watch the video. You’ll love it. 

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dr. Giselle Anatol, Steve Miller, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller Liaden Universe® News

What’s happening in the Liaden Universe®? Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have a new update for fans. They have a lot of books and stories on the way.

FAIR TRADE. The 24th novel set in the Liaden Universe® is Fair Trade, created and written by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. It also is the third book in the so-called “Jethri arc.” Previous volumes were: Balance of Trade and Trade Secret.

The hardcover comes out from Baen on May 3, 2022. Signed hardcovers can be preordered from Uncle Hugo ONLY.  Click here. There are eARC’s already available from Baen Books — here’s the link.

LIADEN UNIVERSE® CONSTELLATION, VOLUME 5. The new collection of Liaden Universe® stories that have already appeared elsewhere was released as a trade paperback (and a Kindle edition) on February 1.

Table of Contents: Authors’ Foreword, “Fortune’s Favors,” “Opportunity to Seize,” “Shout of Honor,” “Command Decision,” “Dark Secrets,” “A Visit to the Galaxy Ballroom,” “The Gate that Locks the Tree,” “Preferred Seating,” “Ambient Conditions,” and “Dead Men Dream.”

IN TIMES TO COME. Lee and Miller are under contract to Baen Books for more three Liaden Universe® novels after Fair Trade. Those novels are:

1 TRADE LANES, the sequel to Fair Trade — Steve Miller, Lead Writer

2 SALVAGE RIGHT — Sharon Lee, Lead Writer

3 A Liaden Novel to be Named Later — Sharon Lee, Lead Writer – probably. The authors say, “At the moment, this is looking like a return to the Redlands and checking in with Padi, Tekelia, Aunt Astra, Eet, and the gang. This could change, as all things may change, and only reflect our thoughts at the moment.”

BOSKONE 59 SCHEDULE. Steve Miller will be a virtual panelist at Boskone 59, February 18-20. Boskone is a Hybrid Convention this year. All of Miller’s panels are Virtual. His schedule is below. All times are Eastern Standard.

VIRTUAL: Unhappy Endings
18 Feb 2022, Friday 8pm – 8:50pm, Marina IV (Westin)
Jane Yolen, Steve Miller, Julie Czerneda, Paul Di Filippo (M), Ada Palmer

Tragic plays from Shakespeare, Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides are still with us … hundreds, even thousands of years later. Not all stories let the protagonist triumph — sometimes they lose; sometimes they even die losing. Some science fiction and fantasy writers’ unhappily ending stories are quite popular. Why do they succeed? Why do other such stories fail — even fail so hard their authors never try to write unhappily ever after?

VIRTUAL: My Favorite Character
18 Feb 2022, Friday 9pm – 9:50pm, Marina IV (Westin)
Olav Rokne, Jen Gunnels, Steve Miller, David Marshall, James Moore (M)

Google once estimated that humanity had published 129,864,880 books. If about half were SF/F/H trilogies — never mind, let’s ask it this way: from all the speculative fiction stories ever published, who’s your favorite character, and why? Heroine, villain, sidekick, romantic interest, alien bystander? Would you like to meet, have dinner with, or be that person? What does your choice say about your own character?

VIRTUAL: Solo Reading
19 Feb 2022, Saturday 12:30 – 12:55, Marina IV (Westin)
Steve Miller

BAEN PODCAST.  Lee and Miller have a Zoom event coming up later this month — chatting with Griffin Barber about Liaden Universe® Constellation, Volume 5. See or listen to this podcast here.

Pixel Scroll 12/16/21 A Pixelness In The Scroll

(1) COLBERT’S LOTR CAST REUNION RAP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Stephen Colbert (of The Late Show) is a self-proclaimed Lord of the Rings fanatic (both the books and the movie series).His show is going on hiatus after this week for the rest of the year and Colbert bemoaned the fact that he will not be on air to celebrate Sunday’s 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of the first LOTR movie directed by Peter Jackson.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert assembled Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, pro rappers Killer Mike and Method Man, plus bandleader Jon Batiste, host Colbert, and (for reasons unknown) Anna Kendrick, to create a rap video that pounds home the dominance of the LOTR movie trilogy.

(2) LEE AND MILLER’S FREE HOLIDAY STORY. Steve Miller says he “is in a strange land far away from Worldcon” —

The plan was that our new Liaden story would hit the interwebz while we were off at Worldcon, but we dropped that plan awhile back due to the pandemic. The story came out on time, but we’re home in Maine! FWIW I had several convention dreams last night (guess I’m missing the whole crew!), but it still isn’t the same.

Yesterday some folks were having a hard time finding the new release, though, so this is a direct link to “From Every Storm A Rainbow”, our official free online Liaden Universe holiday story for 2021, which follows pretty hard on the heels of our recent “Bread Alone” chapbook, which ran a week or so as “#1 new release” under SF anthologies right at Thanksgiving. “Bread Alone’s” on sale in many venues now, but here’s the Amazon link.

Have a good holiday season, a good year, and we’re still hoping for Chicago….

Bests wishes from all of us here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory …

(3) CLARION WEST IS HIRING. The annual Clarion West Writers Workshop is looking to fill several positions – Six-Week Workshop Facilitator, Residential Workshop Administrator, and Communications Specialist. See Jobs – Clarion West for the details.

Do you believe that stories are important? Do you want to work with a diverse and passionate team to bring emerging writers to the field of speculative fiction? Do you want to support more writers of color and from traditionally underrepresented communities? Take a look at our open opportunities and see where your expertise can grow Clarion West.

(4) SITE SELECTION CONTINUES. Rich Lynch sent along this photo he took of DisCon III’s at-con Site Selection voting area.  

(5) ON YONDER SHOREHAM. Highlander tweeted a video walkthrough from the first day of DisCon III. I see John Hertz in his beanie appears around the 25-second mark.

(6) HALL COSTUMES. Ian Randal Strock tweeted a photo of cosplayers at DisCon III dressed as the TARDIS and two Doctor Who nemeses.

(7) MOFFAT TEASES WHO FANS. Radio Times plucked some juicy quotes from an hour-long conversation about Steven Moffat’s career hosted by the Oxford Union: “Steven Moffat talks Russell T Davies’ ‘fantastic’ plans for Doctor Who”.

…“I had no idea Russell was going to do that,” Moffat told Oxford Union. “He told me the night before, he sent me an email and I read it. I was just coming home from a restaurant and I thought: ‘Is that real? I’ll see if that email is still there in the morning.’

“Then I phoned him up and said, ‘Have you read [behind-the-scenes Doctor Who book] The Writer’s Tale? Have you read it? Because I think you should’,” continued Moffat. “He said, ‘I want to do it again, I’m excited, I’m thrilled.’”…

View the complete Q&A session on YouTube.

Writer of Doctor Who and Sherlock, Steven Moffat has won an Emmy award, five BAFTA Awards and four Hugo Awards. He had been a fan of Doctor Who since childhood, and is responsible for some of the most famous episodes including ‘Blink’ and ‘Silence in the Library.’ In 2015, he was appointed an Order of the British Empire for his services to drama

(8) SIGNED BY EGO. Rob Hansen has posted a real rarity at his THEN British fanhistory website – the text of a 1940s chain letter with Arthur C. Clarke as one of the participants: “FAN-MAIL (1941)”.

Here’s something I never thought I’d ever see – one of Clarke’s WW2 chain-letters. Yet, amazingly, this one has survived after 80 years. And finally seeing one has, I think, enabled me to figure out the how these chains worked, an explanation of which appears after the scans. I described them in THEN as essentially operating like APAs, but the logistics involved were a bit more complicated than that.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1987 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty four years ago, A Muppet Family Christmas first aired on ABC. It was produced not by Jim Henson (though he did executive produce it) , a rare thing indeed, but rather by Peter Harris and Eric Till from a script by Jerry Juhl who had earlier scripted the most excellent Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. For a Muppet film, it had an unusually large cast, to wit Gerry Parkes, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Caroll Spinney, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell and David Rudman. 

This is one of the rare Muppet productions to feature the Muppets that were associated with all four of the major Muppet franchises: Fraggle RockMuppet Babies (who are seen here as actual puppets instead of their usual animated selves), The Muppet Show and Sesame Street

If you’ve saw it on TV and then watched it later on the North American DVD and VHS release, you might’ve notice that a lot of the original film was missing. That was because the Henson company only secured broadcast rights, not subsequent rights to songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” weren’t available. 

Critics generally like it. Myles McNutt of the A.V. Club said of it that was “a love letter to the Muppets as a wide-ranging, meaningful part of viewers’ childhoods.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most cheery eighty-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome.  I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there and I passed by his residence one day. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read.  I’ve read a lot of short fiction including of course Tales from The White Hart. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. (The later Lord Darcy collection has two previously uncollected stories.) Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say that saying he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. I was surprised his only Hugo win was for at The Man in The High Castle at DisCon though Blade Runner would pick up one at ConStellation. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley.  He had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of DragonsThe Ropemaker garnered a well-deserved Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His James Pibble upper-class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 64. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the BuffyverseOutlandersTime PoliceRogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1961 Jon Tenney, 60. He’s best known as Special Agent Fritz Howard on The Closer and continued in its spinoff Major Crimes, but he does have genre creds. He played Jimmy Wells in The Phantom, Martin Jordon in Green Lantern, and Lt. Ching in two episodes in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also showed up on Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits and neXt
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 54. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. (I stopped watching after The Fellowship of The Rings.) She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an amazing cast even if the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a five percent rating meaning the critics really didn’t like it.

(11) GUESS WHAT? This March, make way for the new Sorcerer Supreme!

With Doctor Strange dead, another sorcerer has taken the title, or should we say Sorceress? Clea, mistress of the Dark Dimension and Stephen Strange’s powerful partner, will rise to the challenge of defending earth from mystical and otherworldly danger in writer Jed MacKay’s STRANGE #1! Featuring artwork by AMAZING SPIDER-MAN artist Marcelo Ferreira, this all-new ongoing series will spin directly out of the story still unfolding in MacKay’s DEATH OF DOCTOR STRANGE. 

.. Here’s what MacKay had to say about continuing this unprecedented Doctor Strange saga:

“After the apocalyptic events of The Death of Doctor Strange, there’s a new Sorcerer Supreme in residence at 177A Bleecker Street, and a new Doctor Strange- Clea Strange. And she’s got her work cut out for her- when she’s not fighting off the magical gangsters of the Blasphemy Syndicate, or battling undead super-monsters, she’s going after what’s hers: the late Stephen Strange. Clea is of the Faltine, that race of Warlords and conquerors, and like her relatives Dormammu and Umar, she will not be thwarted in her desires, not even by the mysterious Harvestman standing in her way.”

(12) NOW PLAYING. You can listen to Connie Willis and Nalo Hopkinson’s LOA Live appearance to promote American Christmas Stories on Soundcloud or watch the program on the Library of America website.

(13) FLICK PICKS. Wired presents its list of “The Best Sci-Fi Movies of 2021”. They start with Dune, but let’s skip ahead to one you haven’t read a million words about:

… Perhaps, at this stage, you’d prefer your women on the more visible side of things. If so, consider the French film Oxygen (Netflix), whose main—nearly only—character is a scientist played by the marvelous Mélanie Laurent. She wakes up in an AI-controlled cryogenic pod and must figure out how to escape it before the titular oxygen runs out. Who put her there? Where even is there? Soon enough, she begins to remember a man. A husband. The love of her life. Who died in a horrible pandemic back on Earth. Yes, that’s it: She’s part of a mission to save the human race, predicted to die out completely in two generations….

(14) A BIG DEAL. Radio Times fills us in on the new owner’s ambitions for Bad Wolf: “Doctor Who’s Bad Wolf could be biggest drama producer in UK, says Sony”.

Sony Pictures has invested £50 million into Welsh drama producer Bad Wolf, in the hopes of helping the maker of Doctor Who and His Dark Materials reach its “zenith”.

Wayne Garvie, Sony’s president of international production, recently revealed his hopes that Bad Wolf could become “the biggest drama producer in Britain and in Europe” (via BBC News).

He said: “We have invested in a company that has not reached its zenith. We have [another] company called Left Bank Pictures who make The Crown, which you may have watched, and which is Britain’s biggest drama company. And we built that together with the founders of the company over about eight years or so.

“And we want to do the same with Bad Wolf. There is no reason why Bad Wolf should not be or could not be the biggest drama producer in Britain and in Europe. And that is our ambition.”

(15) KEEPING TRACK OF CENSORSHIP. “School Library Journal Starts a Library Censorship Tips Hotline” reports Book Riot.

…In response to this wave of censorship attempts, the School Library Journal has opened a library censorship tips hotline, which allows library professionals to report censorship attempts anonymously. Hopefully, this will give a more complete picture than the ALA numbers and shed light on censorship happening that is not getting covered on the news. The censorship tips hotline form asks for name and email (both optional); the library/school district, and state; and a comments field: “Tell us who is behind the objection—parents, school board members, or other parties—and how the district/library responded. Was challenge policy followed? Let us know anything else relevant.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang have an opinion about Spider-Man.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Steve Miller, Rob Thornton, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 9/1/21 Pixel At The Well Of Scrolls

(1) LIADEN UNIVERSE BULLETIN. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller report from the wilds of Maine on what’s upcoming.

  • Their fifth Liaden Universe Collection, Liaden Universe Constellation V, will be published February 1, 2022.
  • A mass market 30th anniversary reprint of Local Custom, a Liaden Universe® novel by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, is coming  November 30, 2021. 
  • A Sharon Lee and Steve Miller Liaden holiday story is slated for mid-November at Baen.com, title and exact release date TBD.
  • Sooner than that: The mass-market version of Trader’s Leap by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will be released September 28, 2021 — it is currently available in hardback and ebook. 
  • Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are the Guests of Honor at Albacon 2021 in September — held over from last year. This year it’ll be a virtual con held September 17-18.
  • Their chapbook Bad Actors, was published July 31, 2021 from the authors’ Pinbeam Books imprint and is widely available in ebook and paper. That’s their 33rd “Adventures in the Liaden Universe” chapbook. 
  • Also, on July 26, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller turned in Fair Trade, a Liaden Universe novel (#24), which is due to be published next year by Baen. The follow-up novel is under contract and started, due to be turned in next year. Two more Liaden novels are under contract thereafter.

(2) ADAPT & IMPROVE. Charlie Jane Anders’ newsletter discusses “Everything I Learned From Working on Season One of Y: The Last Man”.

Working on season one of Y: The Last Man was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I got to be in a writer’s room with some of the smartest minds in the biz, and learned a ton about story structure  — and how to think on your feet when your episode has to change completely for the ninth time, because we rethought the endgame of the season. But I also got a crash course in how to adapt and update a beloved classic. 

In Y: The Last Man, a mysterious event kills every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for one dude named Yorick Brown, and his pet monkey Ampersand. This is the setup for an epic journey across a shattered United States with the mysterious Agent 355 and the brilliant scientist Dr. Allison Mann. It’s also a vehicle for talking about what a world without patriarchy would look like, and how the survivors would rebuild, and expand to fill the spaces left by cis men. I love the comic’s playful approach to genre and the madcap verve with which it keeps reinventing itself, and I’m here for the “found family” aspect with the central trio. This is the comic that made me a fan of both writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra.

There’s just one problem: the comic largely ignores the existence of trans people (and when it does mention us, the treatment is much worse than I had remembered.) Like many other classics, Y: The Last Man reflects the time when it was created — and when we adapt the things we love, we also have an obligation to update and improve them, especially where they have the potential to do harm to a marginalized community here and now….

(3) MOVING RIGHT ALONG. In conjunction with the new Amazon Prime TV show, Orbit UK is releasing the entire set of The Wheel of Time books in paperback with new covers, all of them showcased in a nifty animated GIF (which I’ll link to rather than embed so the strobe effect won’t drive us all to distraction.)

There’s also an Instagram video version with musical accompaniment. Design by Duncan Spilling. The books go on sale September 16 in the UK, just in time for folks to read The Eye of the World before the TV show is released in November

(4) A FOCUS ON NATURE. The South Pasadena (CA) Public Library is calling for patrons to Vote for One City One Story. This year’s theme is “Navigating Nature.” Two of the five titles proposed by the staff are genre. A video about the program is here. Voting ends at midnight on September 10, 2021. The winning title will be announced on September 27, 2021.

  • Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

(5) NO SECOND FIFTH. Chapter 61 of Camestros Felapton’s Debarkle is called “The Sad Demise of the SP5” but I remember laughing more than crying. Because when Declan Finn tried to commandeer the Sad Puppy steering wheel, Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green smacked him with a rolled-up internet.

…While not mentioning Declan Finn by name, the post title identified his post as the issue. By using the name “Sad Puppies” Finn had apparently crossed a line, even though his open campaigning during Sad Puppies 4 had not visibly caused offence.

Green was clear though. Sad Puppies 5 was coming soon….

Green was also clear that she would be helping Hoyt with SP5 and also be taking over the reins (leads?) for SP6.

Facing a sudden and unexpected backlash to his list Declan Finn came to the only possible conclusion he could make. The negative reaction he was receiving must be coming from the comment section of the popular fanzine File 770!… 

(6) AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION. R. Talsorian Games is bowing out of Gen Con, which is happening September 16-19: “RTG Exiting Gen Con 2021”.

After considerable internal discussion, R. Talsorian Games has decided to exit Gen Con 2021. We don’t do this lightly. We had planned on our biggest Gen Con yet this year, with more events than ever, more booth space than ever, and a larger crew than ever.

And that’s why, in good conscience, we cannot attend the convention. The health and safety of our crew comes first and the numbers in Indiana are abysmal. The vaccination rates are too low, the positivity rates and new case rates too high, and the social mandates designed to protect people too few. If even one member of our crew caught COVID-19 while attending Gen Con or carried it home to their loved ones and their local community, that would be one too many.

At R. Talsorian Games, we write about Dark Futures for fun, but we also believe we have a responsibility to try and prevent them from happening.

We want to make it clear, we do not blame the staff of Gen Con 2021 or the Indiana Convention Center in any way. 

(7) AUREALIS AWARDS NEWS. The 2021 Aurealis Awards are open for entry through December 14.

The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction, are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021.

Full Award Rules and FAQ can be found on the Aurealis Awards website.

The Aurealis Awards judges welcome electronic entries in all categories, including novels, short stories, novellas, illustrated work / graphic novels, collections, anthologies, children’s and young adult fiction.

Finalists of all award categories will be announced early in 2022 and winners announced at a ceremony to take place in the first half of the year. For more information on the awards or for the entry form, visit the Aurealis Awards website at https://aurealisawards.org/.

The Convenors’ Award for Excellence is also open to entries.

This is awarded at the discretion of the convenors for a particular achievement in speculative fiction or related areas in the year that cannot otherwise be judged for the Aurealis Awards.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1974 – Forty-seven years ago today, Jefferson Starship’s Dragon Fly was released on Grunt Records, a vanity label founded in 1971 by themselves. It was the debut album for the recently renamed Jefferson Airplane. The entire album is somewhat SF in nature, particularly  “All Fly Away” and “Hyperdrive”.  Two years later, the latter song would be used in the opening ceremonies at MidAmeriCon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 — Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I said last year that he has largely fallen out of public notice and I’ll stand by that claim. So what’s your favorite works by him? The Barsoom stories are mine. (Died 1950.)
  • Born September 1, 1942 — C. J. Cherryh, 79. I certainly think the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners. Anyone familiar with “Cassandra“, the short story she won a Hugo for at Seacon ‘79? What’s it part of? 
  • Born September 1, 1943 — Erwin Strauss, 79. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Do tell me about him. 
  • Born September 1, 1952 — Timothy Zahn, 69. Apparently he’s known more these days for the Thrawn series of Star Wars novels, but oh, ok, so it is perhaps better written and more interesting than his mainstream genre sf. His sole Hugo Award was at L.A.Con II for his “Cascade Point” novella, and he get a nomination at Aussiecon Two for “Return to the Fold” novelette. 
  • Born September 1, 1952 — Brad Linaweaver. Alternate history Moon of Ice is one of his better works and it won the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. It was nominated for a Nebula though oddly as a novella which it was originally published as. He owned the brass cannon which was the property of the Heinleins and which Virginia bequeathed to him in her will. (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 1, 1964 — Martha Wells, 57. She’s won two Nebula Awards, three Locus Awards, and two Hugo Awards.  Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Diaries are truly amazing reading?
  • Born September 1, 1967 — Steve Pemberton, 54. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in the Gormenghast series and Harmony in the Good Omens series as well.
  • Born September 1, 1968 — Zak Penn, 53. He wrote the script for The Incredible Hulk, co-wrote the scripts for X2X-Men: The Last Stand, and the story but not the script for The Avengers. With Michael Karnow, Penn is the co-creator of the Alphas series. He contributed to the script of The Men in Black. 

(10) INSIDE LYNCH’S DUNE. At Deadline, “‘Dune’ 1984: Francesca Annis, The Original Lady Jessica, Lifts The Lid On Life Behind The Scenes Of David Lynch’s Epic, The ‘Heaven’s Gate’ Of Sci-Fi”. The interviewer is the actress’ son.

…It’s kind of funny. You were well known for doing a lot of well-received classical and period film, TV and stage work. But just before Dune, you’d also done Peter Yates’ Krull, which was another massive-budget sci-fi adventure movie. People don’t know the movie well these days but it was a big production. And sadly, another big flop…

Yes, it’s been a shame for me — or maybe it was a hidden blessing — that the few very big-budget things I’ve done didn’t take off, otherwise I would have risen with them…

When you first read the script for Dune did it seem complicated or convoluted? People have always said how difficult the novels would be to adapt…

I’ll tell you, when I first went to see the film at the premiere — and I’ve only seen it once – as soon as Princess Irulan started to talk in voice-over at the beginning, explaining the story, I thought “Uh oh, this film is in trouble.” Any Hollywood film that has to explain itself in detail at the beginning is in trouble…

My experience of working on Dune was that if David Lynch had been able to make his own film, it would have been brilliant, but unfortunately Dino oversaw every single tiny thing. Dino was already thinking about the video sales. David had wanted to make the scenes very dark, all the underworlds very dark and look very sinister. Dino wouldn’t allow it. It had to be lit brightly so that it would transfer well to video, where I think at that time things went down a shade. David and DoP Freddie Francis were constantly being hamstrung and I don’t think David made the film he wanted to make.

I was a big David Lynch fan. I thought he was terrific. But Dino was a huge personality. He had tapped David to do multiple films….

(11) SCOTS WITCH HISTORY. “Double, double toil and trouble: New exhibition uncovers the dark history of witchcraft in Scotland” reports The Press and Journal.

The exhibition is aptly named “Toil & Trouble” as a homage to a poem spoken by the witches in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which was first performed in 1606 – a time when accusations of witchcraft were rife.

Examining and compiling the dark history of witchcraft into an online experience, the students focused specifically on the period between the 16th and 18th centuries.

The exhibition has launched this week, just as Holyrood heard a plea for the Queen to pardon thousands of Scottish women brutally killed in witch trials.

The online exhibit can be accessed here: “Toil and Trouble · Toil and Trouble: Witchcraft in Scotland”.

(12) VISIT THE CONCATE-NATION. SF² Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance alert of an article ahead of their seasonal edition.

In 2017 an oddly-shaped object whizzed through the Solar system.

Astronomer and SF author Duncan Lunan looks at some exotic, some positively SFnal, explanations.

(13) HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW. Heroes & Icons tells “The Story of the Signature Star Trek Sideburn”.

…The origin of the distinct sideburn pointiness came after filming the second pilot for the series, Where No Man Has Gone Before, which is the last episode you can find of Kirk and the crew sporting normal sidebdurns. “Normal” being a lot bushier for the 60’s mind you.

With the series being picked up, Gene Roddenberry wanted the cast to commit to having a futuristic hairstyle going forward. For the sole reason of wanting a social life outside the set without having to look like men of the future, the cast disagreed….

(14) HONEST GAME TRAILERS. Fandom Games says “NEO: The World Begins With You” lets you reenter a world where “Spiky-haired protagonists with terrible fashion sense” enter “history’s hippest purgatory.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Marvel Leak Protection Tutorial” on Screen Rant and written by Seb Decter, Jack Eastcott plays C.I  Foreman., MCU Leak preventer, who warns “those nerds are everywhere” and if you see an MCU actor on the set squirming, it’s because this guy has cue cards telling the guy not to leak.(This dropped today and Ryan George doesn’t have anything to do with this one.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Jeffrey Smith, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, James Davis Nicoll, Steve Miller, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7/20 When All You Have Is A Scroll, Everything Looks Like A Pixel

(1) WHERE THE BLOOD STILL PULSES – SO TO SPEAK. R.S. Benedict’s article for Blood Knife “How Horror Makes Itself Ungovernable” says that horror alone resists the corporatization of geek culture.

…Geek culture—comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy—is mainstream now, squeezing out mysteries, dramas, and period pieces at the box office.

…This is nothing to be celebrated. This is not victory. The mainstreaming of geek culture is artistic gentrification, a way for moneyed interests to wrest control of culture from the creatives who built it and crowd out any voice with something new or subversive to say. Sci-fi, which once gave us visions of the future, and fantasy, which once nurtured our imaginations, have been hijacked to sell imperialism and soda pop. The invaders have won; our loved ones have been replaced by pod people.

Only one speculative genre has managed to escape the Disneyfication process and retain something resembling a soul: horror….

(2) THE TRUTH, OR SOMETHING, IS OUT THERE. The news got George Takei’s attention.

“Former Israeli space security chief says aliens exist, humanity not ready” reports The Jerusalem Post.

Has the State of Israel made contact with aliens?

According to retired Israeli general and current professor Haim Eshed, the answer is yes, but this has been kept a secret because “humanity isn’t ready.”

Speaking in an interview to Yediot Aharonot, Eshed – who served as the head of Israel’s space security program for nearly 30 years and is a three-time recipient of the Israel Security Award – explained that Israel and the US have both been dealing with aliens for years.

And this by no means refers to immigrants, with Eshed clarifying the existence of a “Galactic Federation.”

The 87-year-old former space security chief gave further descriptions about exactly what sort of agreements have been made between the aliens and the US, which ostensibly have been made because they wish to research and understand “the fabric of the universe.” This cooperation includes a secret underground base on Mars, where there are American and alien representatives.

If true, this would coincide with US President Donald Trump’s creation of the Space Force as the fifth branch of the US armed forces, though it is unclear how long this sort of relationship, if any, has been going on between the US and its reported extraterrestrial allies.

But Eshed insists that Trump is aware of them, and that he was “on the verge” of disclosing their existence. However, the Galactic Federation reportedly stopped him from doing so, saying they wished to prevent mass hysteria since they felt humanity needed to “evolve and reach a stage where we will… understand what space and spaceships are,” Yediot Aharonot reported.

As for why he’s chosen to reveal this information now, Eshed explained that the timing was simply due to how much the academic landscape has changed, and how respected he is in academia.

“If I had come up with what I’m saying today five years ago, I would have been hospitalized,” he explained to Yediot.

Of course, the timing may also have something to do with the release of Eshed’s newest book, The Universe Beyond the Horizon – conversations with Professor Haim Eshed. And considering all the year’s travails, I liked this reaction —

(3) FELLOWSHIP OF THE PREQUEL. In the “Silmarillion Seminar”, hosted at The Tolkien Professor, a bunch of academics sit down and talk about the Silmarillion chapter by chapter:

Despite its challenging learning curve, The Silmarillion is an amazing set of stories. Some of these stories may be even more profound and more moving than The Lord of the Rings. What’s more, once you know The Silmarillion, you will begin to understand The Lord of the Rings in a whole new way.

In the Silmarillion Seminar, listeners will be reading through the book slowly and carefully, at the pace of about a chapter a week, and gathering together to have an online audio discussion with the Tolkien Professor about each chapter. Each session will be recorded and posted here on this page. Hopefully, you will pick up your copy of the book and give this truly incredible book another chance.

(4) IN A BEGINNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] OK, now here’s a book I want to read (and have just library-reserved)…

A year or two or three ago, I went to an interesting lecture at Harvard on the origins of alphabets. It was interesting… but it didn’t address my question, and, when either in the Q&A session at the end or while we were milling afterwards, I asked about the origin of alphabetic order, to which I was told, more or less, IIRC, that was a different question. Fair ’nuff.

So, I just saw this review in our paper edition of the December 6 New York Times’ Book Review section (tho, per the URL, I see it ran online back in late October): A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders.

A few paragraphs into reading the review, I made a note (snapped a pic using my phone) and have reserved-requested it through/from my local library.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. Young People Read Old SFF reaches the second-to-last story in the Rediscovery collection from Journey Press, “Cornie on the Walls” Sydney van Scyoc. What does James Davis Nicoll’s panel think about this 1963 entry?

Sydney J. van Scyoc was mainly active in the 1960s through the 1980s. Although new short pieces appear as late as 2005, her most recent novel was 1991’s Deepwater Dreams. I haven’t read Deepwater because van Scyoc occupied a blindspot in my collecting. Having read this example of her work, I’ve taken to picking up her novels when I see them. Finding time to read them has thus far eluded me.

But were my Young People as enthusiastic? Let’s find out…. 

(6) MURDER IN SPACE. James Davis Nicoll also found time to write about “Five Space-Based Murder Mysteries” for Tor.com. One of them is —

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre (2017)

230,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Ciudad de Cielo is filled with almost every vice and foible known to humanity. This is a paradise for bent private cop Nicola “Nikki Fixx” Freeman, because it offers many ways for a high-ranking Seguridad officer to siphon off some extra wealth for herself. The system works, as long as nobody gets too greedy and everyone remembers that there are limits to the crimes to which the authorities can turn a blind eye….

(7) GHOSTS IN THE BIG APPLE. The NY Ghost Story Festival can be viewed free on YouTube.

Night One: Thursday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests are Gwendolyn Kiste, Hysop Mulero and Rudi Dornemann

Night Two: Saturday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests Sarah Langan, Lee Thomas, and Douglas Wynne

Here is the event page for Night Two on Facebook.

When the year grows old and December’s daylight departs too soon it is time to fill the dark nights with stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

Welcome to The New York Ghost Story Festival. An annual event of ghost story readings and discussion hosted by Daniel Braum. Featuring authors of the uncanny, strange and fantastic from New York and around the globe.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1995 — “Two Tales of Korval,” the very first stories in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Adventures in the Liaden Universe series was published by SR in a very limited sixty copies. There was two stories here, “To Cut an Edge” and “A Day at The Races”, plus “A Partial Liaden Glossary”.  More printings would follow. Both stories are in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 7, 1873 – Willa Cather.  A dozen stories for us, besides the work of her fame like O Pioneers!My ÁntoniaOne of Ours.  Pulitzer Prize.  Fellow, Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Nat’l Inst. Arts & Letters gold medal for fiction.  Nat’l Women’s Hall of Fame.  New York Writers Hall of Fame.  (Died 1947) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1886 – Heywood Broun.  Sportswriter, drama critic, columnist, editor; co-founded the Newspaper Guild.  One of the Algonquin Round Table.  Often wrote against racism, censorship, persecution of people for their beliefs. A novel and three shorter stories for us, much other work.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Let’s us praise her first for her Retro Hugo this year for Shadow Over Mars, originally published in the Fall 1944 issue of Startling Stories. Now surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she competed The Empire Strikes Back script just before she died.  Is that the actual shooting script? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1947 – Anne Fine, O.B.E., age 73. Three novels, four shorter stories for us; seventy children’s books, eight adults’.  Two Carnegie Medals, two Whitbread Awards, The GuardianAward.  Children’s Laureate (U.K., awarded every two years).  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 71. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli. (CE)
  • Born December 7, 1953 Madeleine E Robins, 67. I’m very fond of her Sarah Tolerance series which starts often Point of Honour, it features a female PI in an alternate version of Georgian London. The Stone War set in a post-apocalyptic NYC is quite interesting as well, and she has quite a bit short fiction, though only three have been collected so far in Luckstones: Three Tales of Meviel. Much of her fiction is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1957 – Terri Blackstock, age 63.  Six novels for us; forty others.  Carol Award.  Two NY Times best-sellers.  “I still print things out and mark all over the hard copies after each draft.  Under glass, I have pictures of my characters, with important stats about them, such as their ages, so I can refer to them often.”  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1973 Kelly Barnhill, 47. Her The Girl Who Drank the Moon novel was awarded the Newbery Medal and she was a McKnight Writing Fellow in Children’s Literature. Four years ago, her “Unlicensed Magician” novella received the World Fantasy Award for Long Fiction. Iron Hearted Violet was nominated as Andre Norton Award.  (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1980 – Satô Yûya, age 40.  (Surname first, Japanese style.)  Mishima Yukio Prize.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  “Same as Always” closes the just-released Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1984 – Walter Dinjos.  This just-emerging Nigerian had a dozen stories in e.g. Abyss & ApexBeneath Ceaseless SkiesGalaxy’s Edge.  (Died 2018) [JH]

(10) ROLLING ON THE RIVERS. You Rivers of London fans might want to know about Ben Aaronovitch’s Titan Comics series, the latest title being Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious. (Writers: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel. Artist: Lee Sullivan.)

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park. Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

They’ve also diagrammed where the comics fit into the overall series. (Click for slightly larger version.)

(11) PANDEMIC HEROES. “Real Nurses, Real Stories” describes The Vitals, a comic Marvel produced in collaboration with the Allegheny Health Network based on true stories of nurses fighting the pandemic. Read the comic here —  The Vitals: True Nurse Stories (2020). (I’ll start typing again in a moment, right now I have something in my eye…)

(12) ALIEN COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel Comics earlier announced plans for all-new comics set in the iconic world of the Alien franchise. The first of these will arrive March 2021 with ALIEN #1, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, art by Salvador Larroca, and cover by InHyuk Lee.

ALIEN #1 will be a thrilling addition to the incredible legacy that began with the groundbreaking 1979 film. Featuring both new and classic characters from Earth and beyond, this bold take on the Alien mythology will entertain both longtime fans and newcomers to the legendary horror/science-fiction saga.

The new story will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph with the survival of his child hanging in the balance.

(13) THE PLAY’S THE THING. File 770 contributor Francis Hamit’s stage play Memorial Day is now available for community and other theatre groups. See Stageplays.com. To read the opening scenes, click here.

Francis Hamit is the last guy you would expect to write an anti-war play.  He is an Army brat who served four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War and had a tour there himself.

“I mostly write about two things,” he says, “Soldiers and spies.  My background is in Military Intelligence and I try to stay current with how the American military has changed in the decades since the Vietnam War ended.  For many of those who were it there, it never did, because American society turned on us and blamed us for losing the war and every bad thing that happened there.  We were all accused of being drug addicts and war criminals, and that legacy has passed to subsequent generations of American soldiers.  Most Americans no longer know us, nor do they want to.  We are there on the front lines, but everyone else is at the Mall.”

MEMORIAL DAY is a two act, one set, seven character play set in a small town or city neighborhood someplace in the USA.  Anywhere between Alabama and Alaska.  One of the men was an Army Ranger on D-Day in World War Two.  Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”.  The others came later.  The bar is owned by a Vietnam veteran, a draftee who one day got into a situation that earned him the Medal of Honor.  He doesn’t know what to do with the fame that comes with that award, and resists efforts by other to exploit it.  He will not even march in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade.  Anyone who ever lived in a small town will find these folks relatable.

(14) A NIP HERE, A TUCK THERE. Peter Jackson didn’t pull a Lucas on Lord of the Rings, but here’s what did change: “Peter Jackson talks 4K remasters for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies” at SYFY Wire.

Peter Jackson recently revisited Middle-Earth to remaster his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies in 4K Ultra HD. The undertaking allowed the celebrated director to go back to the original films (for example, The Fellowship of the Ring turns 20?! next December) and update their visual effects with modern tools. But don’t worry, this isn’t a Star Wars Special Editions-type situation of a director going back in and adding a bunch of stuff that wasn’t there originally.

“Visual effects technology has advanced a lot in 20 years and when they became ultra-crisp and sharp with the 4K process, we realized that some of the shots were not holding up too well. So, we got the opportunity to go back and remove and paint out any imperfections,” Jackson explains in a new video posted by Warner Bros. “I should make it clear: we didn’t upgrade or enhance any of the effects shots. They’re exactly the same as you’re used to seeing them, except they do look as if they were done today rather than 20 years ago.”

In doing so, he was also able to make both trilogies feel like one seamless unit, despite the fact that The Hobbit adaptations were shot years later and at a much higher frame rate. “They now feel like it’s one big, long film, telling the same story and looking and sounding the same,” Jackson added.

(15) CELEBRITY TSUNDOKU. “Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas” according to the New York Times Book Review. Some of what she reads is sff!

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? 

Not enough folks know what a great book “Kindred,” by Octavia E. Butler, is. It’s kind of tricky to describe but somehow it all works — it’s about race relations and there’s time travel and romance. It’s powerful.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? 

I love historical fiction with a touch of romance — writers like Lee Smith or Diana Gabaldon. I avoid horror.

(16) WERE YOU INVITED TO THE FUNERAL? Colin Broadmoor claims “The Future Died in 1999” at Blood Knife.

The future died in 1999. Ever since, we’ve been trapped in the eternal present—waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For two decades, we’ve fought the same wars, watched the police murder the same people, voted for the same duopoly, and paid for the same IPs in books, movies, and video games. I’m typing this at the close of A.D. 2020—the year I waited for all my life, the way some Christians wait for the Second Coming.

2020, the year forever associated with media like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd ed., 1992). Each day I wake in 2020 and look around to see myself surrounded by the ash and shadows of the spent neon future of my youth.

For those of you who were not there or don’t remember, it’s difficult to explain the ways in which the 1990s were different from today. There are two key aspects of that final decade of the 20th century that you must keep in mind:

  1. It was the last decade in the West in which the analog took precedence over the digital in all fields.
  2. People felt as if we were witnessing the first rays of a 21st-century dawn, one that promised humanity better living through technology.

(17) A REASON FOR THIS SEASON. Several versions of this holiday tree decoration are for sale — no wonder! The 2020 LED Flickering Dumpster Fire.

[Thanks to Cliff, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, R.S. Benedict, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

Pixel Scroll 11/22/20 If You Pixel Any Of That, I’m Out Of A Scroll

(1) WILLIS DISCUSSES SURGERIES. Connie Willis gave a medical update to her fans on Facebook:

I haven’t posted anything recently, mostly because I had a difficult summer and fall. I had two surgeries in a row: an emergency surgery for a herniated disc in my upper back and then four weeks later a knee replacement, and the combination completely laid me low. I know, that sounds like poor planning, but the doctor was anxious to get it (and my ensuing physical therapy) done before the Covid got completely out of hand in our area.

We just made it–Weld County goes red tomorrow, with 45 of our 48 available ICU beds filled–so it was the right decision, but two surgeries that close together really took it out of me, and I’ve been too exhausted to do much more than my exercises and my worrying about the political and pandemical situation.

Willis nevertheless has completed a couple of projects:

… In spite of surgeries, the pandemic, and obsessing about the election, I did manage to get some writing done. I finally finished my UFO novel, THE ROAD TO ROSWELL, it’s now in my agent’s hands! Yay!

It’s about a young woman, Francie, who goes to Roswell to be a college friend Serena’s maid-of-honor. Serena (who has horrible taste in men) is marrying a UFO nut, so they’ve scheduled the wedding to take place during the UFO convention that happens every year in July on the anniversary of the Roswell crash. And when Francie goes to get something from Serena’s car, she’s abducted by an alien and dragged off on a road trip across the Southwest that includes RVs, wind farms, rattlesnakes, chemtrails, casinos, cattle mutilations, a charming con man, a truly annoying conspiracy theorist, a sweet little old lady, a Western movie buff, Las Vegas wedding chapels, and Monument Valley.

I also finished a Christmas story called “Take a Look at the Five and Ten,” which is out right now in ASIMOV’S November/December issue and is coming out in a beautiful edition from Subterranean Press.

(2) WOODEN SHIPS. Watch as renowned artist “Johnna Klukas Turns a Spaceship.”

(3) LIADEN AUTHORS ASSIST UNCLE HUGO’S. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have announced how they’re helping Don Blyly of Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore by providing an exclusive signed page —  

Don Blyly at Uncle Hugos Bookstore, working from home after his store was burnt out, has been trying to keep up with demand for our books. He tells us that the exclusive to the Uncles signed-via-tipped-in-sheets Trader’s Leap (latest hardcover Liaden novel) has arrived and is being shipped as he has time — he’s already packed some Canadian orders as well as a bunch of US orders. Official publication date was set for December 1, but since Baen doesn’t usually embargo books (and Don’s house can only hold so many books) Don is going ahead now. He mentions that he has more than enough for the 150 or so pre-orders, and he’ll ship new orders first-come basis after the pre-orders are done.   http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/ah-lee-miller.php

In the face of this, we’re releasing the related Ambient Conditions chapbook in paper edition as soon as it can work through the Amazon.com  …. the ebook is still set to be published November 27.

And that’s the news this morning …

(4) LIMITED TIME BARGAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Amazon Unlimited for $0.99 for two months –(remember to cancel before the period is up, it’s $9.99/month regularly… although there’s also a $29.97 for 6 months deal on this page.)

While I own an Amazon eReader — Kindle — I’m more likely to read it on my iPad or my non-Fire tablet, so I’ll splurge for the $0.99 deal.

And then do my best to remember to use it while I’ve got it!

(5) SETI. The John W. Kluge Center will host an online discussion of the latest thinking on the search for life and intelligence outside of Earth on December 3 at 10 a.m. Eastern. Register here:“Artificial Intelligence and the Search for Life in the Universe Tickets”.

Join the John W. Kluge Center for a discussion of the latest thinking on the search for life and intelligence outside of Earth.

This conversation, hosted by Blumberg Chair Susan Schneider, and featuring Caleb Scharf and Sarah Imari Walker, explores the relationship between intelligence, life, and consciousness, in biological and synthetic cases. It considers whether AI could be conscious, as well as the related epistemological questions of how to identify intelligence and consciousness in beings that are very different from us perceptually and cognitively. The speakers will consider philosophical issues about the nature of intelligence, discussing how to identify intelligence in biological life and AI, and how our understanding of these areas informs the search for life in the universe and our ability to detect it.

This event is cosponsored by Florida Atlantic University, Initiative on the Future of Mind.

Susan Schneider leads the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Initiative on the Future Mind, and is the William F. Dietrich Professor of Philosophy at FAU. She is the most recent Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific innovation at the Kluge Center.

Caleb Scharf is Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York as well as a research scientist studying exoplanets, exomoons, and the nature of environments suitable for life.

Sara Imari Walker is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University (ASU), Associate Professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, Deputy Director, Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at ASU, and an associate professor at ASU

(6) READY TO MOVE IN. Suzanne Walker’s addition to the series hosted by Sarah Gailey — “Personal Canons: Lloyd Alexander”.

…Somewhere during that period, I picked up a book called The Black Cauldron, by Lloyd Alexander. It was my first introduction to a secondary fantasy world so vast and lush that I could imagine myself in it with remarkable ease. Based loosely off Welsh mythology, the world of Prydain contains undead soldiers, evil witches, giant cats, dwarves, and giant winged birds called gwythiants.

I was enchanted in a way I’d never been with any other book before. I wanted to live in this world, despite its rather high body count. I wanted to pick up a sword and ride on a horse and follow Taran of Caer Dallben on his adventures. I discovered the book was actually the second in a series, and quickly devoured the rest of the Chronicles of Prydain. 

Lloyd Alexander’s books are what made me fall in love with fantasy. Theybecame a direct line to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, and Megan Whalen Turner. I might have discovered those books eventually, but Prydain was my first and best love. They introduced me to the themes that so often appear in fantasy, ones I cherish and hold dear. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 22, 2012 — The animated Rise Of The Guardians enjoyed its premiere. It was directed by Peter Ramsey and produced by Christina Steinberg Nancy Bernstein from a  screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire. The feature starred the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Isla Fisher. It was based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood series, it really bombed though most critics at least grudgingly liked it. However, the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is very healthy 80%. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 22, 1862 – Warwick Goble.  Illustrator, mainly of children’s books or what was so thought.  First to illustrate The War of the Worlds.  I’ve found only a few covers made during his lifetime; at least a hundred fifty interiors.  Here is Vector 202 re-using a War of Worlds interior.  Here is another for War of Worlds.  Here is the 2014 reprint of Green Willow (1910), with his forty watercolor-over-ink interiors.  Here is a Pook Press biographical page showing several reprints.  Here is a 2008 Dover edition of reprints.  Here is The Star Lovers.  Much more outside our field, e.g. Van Milligan’s 1906 Constantinople, Fletcher’s 1919 Cistercians in Yorkshire.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1896 – Joel Townsley Rogers.  A dozen short stories for us; his fine novelette “Beyond Space and Time” is in Boucher’s Treasury vol. 1 (don’t complain of its 1938 style, it’s a masterwork; Boucher was no dope), “No Matter Where You Go” is in Mills’ 9th Best from “[The Magazine of] Fantasy & Science Fiction”.  Four other novels, hundreds of shorter stories.  JTR was one of the first U.S. Navy flyers.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being in Teenage CavemanStarship InvasionsThe Lucifer ComplexVirusHangar 18Battle Beyond the StarsSuperman III C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that awful title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. God did he do some truly awful films. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1940 – Roy Thomas, 80.  Took over Alter Ego from Jerry Bails, appeared in DC and Marvel lettercols; going pro, worked a while for Weisinger at DC, then Marvel: Sgt. Fury, Doctor Strange, Conan, the Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, first successor to Lee as editor-in-chief.  Back to DC: Wonder Woman, revival of the Justice Society.  Marvel again and independents.  Saw Lee about RT’s Stan Lee Story 48 hours before Lee died.  Inkpot.  Roll of Honor in the Eagle Awards.  One of Fifty Who Made DC Great.  Eisner Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 80. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else.  Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his work for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had the staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one. He’s not won any Hugos to date.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits. (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 77. Fata Morgana might be in my opinion his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories of which there are many are quite excellent too.  Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books. (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant, 71. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1953 – Marly Youmans, 67.  (Pronounced like “yeoman’s”.)  Ten novels, two dozen shorter stories, poems (five books so far).  Interviewed in ClarkesworldLightspeedWaylines.  Six of her books collaborated with Clive Hicks-Jenkins who decorated; MY did title poems for The Book of Ystwyth: Six Poets on the Art of CHJ.  Website here (“Seek Giacometti’s Palace at 4 a.m.  Go back two hours”).  [JH] 
  • Born November 22, 1957 Kim Yale. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer, she was a writer who’s first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. Oh,and for First Comics, she co-wrote much of Grimjack with her husband. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 62. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978  Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well, that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Niight. In all, she’s the only character that survives. She would reprise the role of Laurie in four sequels, including Halloween H20, Halloween: ResurrectionHalloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  She shows up in up of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version. Is True Lies genre? Probably not but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say. No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career. (CE)
  • Born November 22, 1980 – Daniele Lanzarotta, 40.  A dozen novels, four shorter stories.  Recently some film work.  Has read The Old Man and the Sea, looks forward to Dracula.  Hockey fan.  [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1982 – Maryse Meijer, 38.  One novel, two collections; novella “Northwood” separately published.  I thought this interview after a reading MM headlined more helpful than her Website, but what do I know?  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Dilbert, naming calls.

(10) ANOTHER THEORY OF FANDOM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is a passage from Isaac Asimov’s In Memory Yet Green (1979) about how he joined fandom only to learn that in 1938 the Queens Science Fiction Club and the Futurians were engaged in a titanic fan feud.

Science-fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp (another dear friend of mine) has…developed a theory of human contentiousness that I rather like. He points out that in the long history of human groups in the food-gathering stage. a multiplying tribe was always in danger. A group of fifty could not gather any more ground than a group of twenty-five could, and would not find any more food.  Therefore, the fifty might starve where the twenty-five would not.

If the fifty were full of loving kindness and brotherly affection and could not bear to break up, they would be in serious trouble.  If they were contentious individuals who tended to split up, each smaller group, staking out a territory of its own, might survive.  Hence contentiousness had survival value and flourished, and still exists among mankind despite the fact that ever since agriculture became the most important activity of man, co-operation, and not contentiousness, has been required.

Sprague says that if the contentiousness of small groups is to be studied seriously, no better start could be made than to read and study (however painful that might be) The Immortal Storm [by Sam Moskowitz].

(11) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. “Scientists Say Laser Device Can Make Lightning Strike Specific Targets” reports The Futurist.

An international team of researchers says that small lasers could be used to guide lightning strikes — much like Thor’s legendary hammer Mjölnir.

“It turns out that to deliver particles, you do not need high-intensity lasers, even low intensity like your laser pointer will be already enough,” Andrey Miroshnichenko, a researcher at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia, told Agence France Presse of the work.

The team says it’s already tested the concept in labs using devices known as hollow lasers, which in effect create a pipe of light. These lasers can short circuit storm clouds and trigger lightning strikes by heating micro-particles in the air.

(12) KEEP YOUR IDEAS IN CIRCULATION. WIRED finds there’s “A New Way to Plug a Human Brain Into a Computer: via Veins”.

… On Wednesday, a team of scientists and engineers showed results from a promising new approach. It involves mounting electrodes on an expandable, springy tube called a stent and threading it through a blood vessel that leads to the brain. In tests on two people, the researchers literally went for the jugular, running a stent-tipped wire up that vein in the throat and then into a vessel near the brain’s primary motor cortex, where they popped the spring. The electrodes snuggled into the vessel wall and started sensing when the people’s brains signaled their intention to move—and sent those signals wirelessly to a computer, via an infrared transmitter surgically inserted in the subjects’ chests. In an article published in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery, the Australian and US researchers describe how two people with paralysis due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) used such a device to send texts and fool around online by brain-control alone….

(13) DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS. Mental Floss simulates a trip on America’s “Most Haunted Roads”.

What could be scarier than driving down a dark road at night? Driving down one of these dark roads at night. If any of the below routes—compiled by Commercial Truck Trader—pop up on your GPS this spooky season, consider finding an alternate way to your destination.

1. JEREMY SWAMP ROAD // SOUTHBURY, CONNECTICUT

Jeremy Swamp Road and several other streets in southwestern Connecticut are said to be frequented by Melon Heads, creatures that, according to the New England Historical Society, live in wooded areas and “look like small humanoids with oversized heads” that “survive by eating small animals, stray cats and human flesh, usually the flesh of teenagers.” Some say the Melon Heads are the result of inbreeding, with others theorizing that they escaped from local hospitals or asylums….

(14) ESCAPE CLAWS. Den of Geek reminds us never to underestimate “The Importance of Cats in Horror Cinema”.

… Exempting terrors such as Nine Lives and Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas from the canon of feline representation, these everyday animals are turned to all sorts of purposes in horror, and seeing as it’s Halloween, we’ve been thinking about some of those different portrayals. There’s a famous storytelling maxim that states characters should ‘save the cat’ early on in the story, but in horror, they more often need saving from the cat.

What follows is not a complete, exhaustive cat-alogue of their screen history in the genre. We haven’t included one-off models of moggyness, such as the 2010 home invasion film Burning Bright, which contrives a Lemony Snicket-esque tower of circumstances to put a live tiger in a boarded up house with a teenager and her autistic brother during a hurricane. Instead, we’re using key examples to look at nine major tropes for cats in horror, whether lucky or unlucky; natural or supernatural; good or evil…

2. Revenants

Getting onto actual feline characters, there are a fair few films that position cats as zombies or revenants, to one end or another, usually to differing degrees of gross-out.

For instance, on one end of the scale, we have Thackery Binx in Disney’s Hocus Pocus, with his immortal soul trapped inside a black cat by the wicked Sanderson sisters. He gets flattened by a tyre at one point, but the curse affords him a swift return. On the gorier end, Re-Animator‘s Herbert West demonstrates his ghastly green serum on his roommate’s dearly departed pet Rufus, though it’s unclear if he was already dead when West got hold of him….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Genshin Impact” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game has so many micropayments that it’s perfect for people who played trading card games as a teenager and can say to themselves, “I’ve been ripped off this way since I was a kid and I’m not stopping now!”

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

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
News Torrent

Steve Miller told his and Sharon Lee’s fans they have a lot to look forward to in the coming months, even if the pandemic keeps the authors home. He also shared a medical update about Sharon.

A strange year — the first year in decades that we haven’t had an in-person convention experience, though we have taken part in some virtual stuff. So, for fans and friends we haven’t caught up with in RL recently, this is what’s happening with us. Writing has been interrupted several times, but it is moving forward.

Elsewise, we’re generally doing well. Sharon’s recovery from her foot-rebuilding operation last October is complete and she’s now able to comfortably wear and walk with matched shoes, so that’s good and in fact we both have been getting in a few miles a day of walking when we can.

Also she’s done with her radiation treatments following her March mastectomy and though we’re basically staying home and isolating, we have been getting in some fall day trips around the state around once a week to enjoy the foliage and visit lakes and seashores. At the behest of several of Sharon’s doctors we’ve been moving to a more plant-based diet and slowly losing weight — so hey, progress is happening on that front, but ham and cheese sandwiches are still on the occasional menu.

Elsewise, we keep our cats as happy as we can … and as with most of us, things move on despite the pandemic.

And they have a lot of books and stories upcoming. Miller says —

  • On October 27 last year’s best-selling Liaden novel Accepting the Lance will have a mass market release from Baen, to go along with the existing hardback, audio, and ebook editions. On the same day, Sharon and I will be publishing “The Wrong Lance” as part of our Splinter Universe Presents chapbook series — “The Wrong Lance” is a collection of outtakes and scenes from Accepting the Lance. This is aimed at folks already familiar with our Liaden Universe® SF series and will be in ebook (for Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and etc.) and an Amazon paper edition, on October 27. The outtakes ought to be illustrative of what can go wrong when trying to keep a series full of characters and ideas in line!
  • Around November 16, Baen.com will publish our Liaden short story “Preferred Seating” — available to read free online.
  • Next up is the publication of Trader’s Leap on December 1 — that’s from Baen Books and will be available as hardback, ebook, and audio book — this is the 23rd novel in the Liaden series.
  • Along with the book publication we’ll be doing a series of interviews (with Paul Semel, among others) and events, including a December 2nd Mysterious Galaxy virtual reading and interactive session — “Virtual Event – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller discuss Trader’s Leap”
  • Later in December our next Pinbeam Books chapbook — including our 93rd joint fiction effort. That’s Ambient Conditions:  Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 31.  This chapbook contains a short story reprint “A Visit to the Galaxy Ballroom,” as well as an original novelette “Ambient Conditions” and an Authors’ Foreword. This chapbook is still in process, so no link yet.  Watch the skies.
  • Beyond that our AlbaCon Guest of Honor gig, originally scheduled for September of this year, is still on hold pending news on the coronavirus front.  Also, I’m at work on a short story I hope to finish this month, Sharon’s working on another short story for an anthology, and we’ve got a novel in process due for submission early next year.

[Thanks to Steve MiIler for the story.]

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
News Torrent

  • In November Sharon Lee and Steve Miller released two chapbooks of previously published stories — Cultivar and Heirs to Trouble. These echapbooks with limited paper editions from Amazon, are part of the Adventures in the Liaden® Universe chapbook series.
  • Their holiday story “Block Party”, published on December 15, is a free read on the front page of Ben’s website until January 15.

  • The next Liaden Universe novel, Neogenesis hits all the major outlets on January 2 in hardback, ebook, and audio editions. A few dozen signed copies will be available from Uncle Hugos in Minneapolis starting January 2, as well. Neogenesis is the 21st Liaden novel.
  • Sharon Lee & Steve Miller are signing Neogenesis locally come Saturday, January 13, at Childrens Bookcellar, 52 Main St, Waterville, ME 04901 from 1:00 to 3:30.
  • On January 15 their all new echapbook Degrees of Separation will be available from Pinbeam Books and distributed by major ebook venues as well as on paper from Amazon. Degrees of Separation is a prequel to the “Block Party” story currently online at Baen, and is Number 27 in our Adventures in the Liaden Universe chapbook series that started at SRM Publisher in 1995.
  • In March Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will travel from the wilds of Maine via Amtrak to be Author Guests of Honor at MidSouthCon, (March 9-11), in Memphis, TN. Mike Resnick will be toastmaster, Ellen Datlow is Editor GoH.
  • Also, this year’s Liaden novel The Gathering Edge — already available in hardback, ebook, and audio editions —  will be released in mass market paperback July 31, 2018.

[Thanks to Steve MiIler for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/17 All Along The Scrolltower Pixels Kept The View

(1) BY PIXEL AND PAPER. The Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid tells what its publications policy will be for PR’s and the Souvenir Book.

So what should we do about our progress reports?

I note that for some people this is an access issue, and therefore, we will be having hard copies available for anyone who selects them as an access issue. To be clear, Progress Reports are complimentary and we’d like to send them to anyone who needs them for an access issue. Just tick the box please.

We will be sending them out electronically of course if you allow us to.

I noted that some people still liked them, as a historical document or just because they enjoy reading hard copy, and that is very cool, and the Dublin 2019 team will be making sure that anyone who wants a hard copy progress report can get one. There will be a charge of €10 Ten Euro for this.

I hope all of you are OK with this decision and support us in it.

This does not affect our plans for our Souvenir book which we plan to offer in hard copy to all members, full and supporting, and which we are happy to mail to anyone who doesn’t pick it up at con.

(2) HELP PABLO GO THE DISTANCE. Leigh Ann Hildebrand has launched a Generosity.com appeal to send Pablo Vasquez to Helsinki for Worldcon 75. The goal is $1,100. Here’s the pitch:

Bringing NASFiC to San Juan, Puerto Rico was great thing — and one of the prime movers behind that successful bid and con has been Pablo Vazquez. I was really looking forward to congratulating Pablo at the con in Helsinki and to hearing all about that NASFiC.

And then Pablo told me he wouldn’t be joining fans in Helsinki this year.

Money’s tight for Pablo; he’s been prioritizing travel and preparations for this historic and awesome NASFiC. Now he finds himself short of funds for his last travel expenses. He’s got accommodations and a membership covered, but his fixed-cost airfare and incidental expenses are beyond his means this summer.

This is where my fellow fans come in. Help me get Pablo to Helsinki! Here’s what he needs:

$600 for the air fare (it’s a fixed cost, ’cause he knows a guy.)

$500 for food, travel incidentals, walkin’ around money and buying a round. That may seem like a lot, but food in Finland is not cheap, and there’s no con suite this year, so he can’t live on Doritos and free sodas. 🙂

(3) SFF FILM FESTIVAL. Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in partnership with SIFF is now accepting entries for the 2018 Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF).

The festival will accept animated or live-action submissions of original science fiction or fantasy stories (examples: futuristic stories, space adventure, technological speculation, social experiments, utopia and dystopia, sword and sorcery, folklore, urban fantasy, magic, and mythic adventure).

A nationally recognized panel of distinguished film, television, literature, and science fiction industry professionals, peers, and film critics will review qualifying submissions to determine the winners of the Grand Prize, Second Place, Third Place, and the Douglas Trumbull Award for Best Visual Effects. Festival films will also be eligible for the Audience Favorite award.

In order to qualify, submitted films must have been completed after December 31, 2012, and must not exceed 15 minutes. Films that exceed 15 minutes may still be considered for festival inclusion but will not be eligible for awards.

See the link for guidelines, deadlines and fees.

(5) WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING? Adam-Troy Castro sighed on Facebook:

Over the past few years I have encountered Harry Potter fans who were abusive bullies, Star Trek fans who were against diversity, and now Doctor Who fans who were close-minded and unkind.

It’s like none of them were paying any attention at all.

I am looking forward to the emergence of Batman fans who are in favor of crime.

Since the targets of Castro’s comment might miss the point, Matthew M. Foster restated the message more explicitly:

The second is that people don’t see theme. SF is about space ships and explosions. Fantasy is about swords. The actual thing trying to be conveyed is missed far more often than not. The light was brought to this in a “funny” way to our little lit community by Brad and the Pups a few years back when Star Trek was pointed out to be first and foremost, about adventure and action–about combat in space. From the same group, there was a great deal of discussion in which they confused the theme with something incidental to the story because the incidental thing was not part of their normal life. So, if a story happened to have someone gay in it, then the story must be about sexual preference. If the story had a Black lead, then the theme must be about race. These are people that are big fans of science fiction, and they couldn’t see the themes.

(6) MAD PENIUS CLUB. And right on time, here’s Dave Freer’s death-kiss for the Thirteenth Doctor.

The trouble with this is it’s a judgement call, and especially inside the various bubbles (New York Publishing, Hollywood, and in the UK the Beeb’s little Guardian-and-Birkenstock club) they’re often so distant and unconnected with audiences outside their bubble that they assume they think like them and will respond like them. Which is why they have flops like the Ghostbusters remake, because they assumed the audience for the movie was just dying for a feminist version, with lots of man-kicking. Dr Who is trying much the same thing with a female Doctor. It could work because that audience is already pretty much restricted to inside their bubble. Still, with a new writer, and female lead after 12 male ones… She’ll have to be a good actress, and he’ll have to be a better writer. I expect we’ll see a long sequence of designated victim minorities cast in the role in future, until the show dies. I doubt we’ll ever see another white hetero male, but maybe that’s just me being cynical.

(7) HEADWRITER CANON. Prospect’s James Cooray Smith declares: “Uncomfortable with a female Doctor Who? It’s time to admit your real motives”.

…Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Executive Producer from 2010 to 2017, used to make a habit, when asked if there was ever going to be a female Doctor, of throwing the question back to the audience. He’d ask for a show of hands as to who did and didn’t like the idea. Even half a decade ago, those audiences would be roughly balanced into pros and antis—although, as he noted, the proportion of “likes” was exponentially increasing every time he passed the question back.

In the last few years, the idea has gone from almost universally disliked to “Why hasn’t this happened already?”

Laying the canonical foundations

Moffat has played no small part in that himself. The first lines of dialogue given to Matt Smith’s Doctor, the first lines of Moffat’s era, see the newly regenerated Doctor, who cannot see his own face, wondering if he’s now female. A year later in “The Doctor’s Wife,” produced by Moffat and written by Neil Gaiman, the Doctor comments of a dead Time Lord friend The Corsair, “He didn’t feel himself unless he had a tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times”.

Three years after that, Moffat cast Michelle Gomez as ‘Missy’, the Doctor’s oldest friend and arch enemy, a character previously only played by male actors and usually referred to as the Master. A year after that—just to make sure that no one regarded Missy as an exception that proves the rule—Moffat had Ken Bones’ recurring Time Lord character The General regenerate into T’Nia Miller, changing sex and ethnicity simultaneously. Other Time Lords in the series treated this as momentarily distracting but thoroughly routine.

It now seems daft to say that such groundwork needed to be done: after all, the character of the doctor is an alien who merely looks human. But the series itself had never hinted that the idea was possible before 2010. Now, any viewer who has seen an episode with Missy in knows the Doctor’s own people can, and do, change sex. No one can pretend the idea isn’t part of the series, no matter how much they may want to. Moffat’s careful layering over years shows up any objections to the series having a female lead for what they are.

(8) NEVERTHELESS. Alison Scott has a shirt she would love to sell you. I bought one for my daughter. (U.K. orders here; U.S. orders here.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California
  • July 17, 1967 — Contact with Surveyor 4 lost 2.5 minutes before Moon touchdown.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop, released on this day
  • July 17, 1988 – Debut of the sci-fi telefilm Out of Time…starring Bill Maher…yes that Bill Maher.
  • July 17, 1992 — Honey, I Blew Up The Kid in theaters.

(10) COMIC SECTION. Andrew Porter noticed Zippy the Pinhead mentioned d Emshwiller.

(11) READING PLEASURE. Look for the SF pulps! Photos of old newsstands.

(12) ADAM WEST REMEMBERED. “Family Guy pays tribute to Adam West with nine-minute highlight reel” – from Entertainment Weekly.

As famous as he was for playing Batman — and he was very famous for that — Adam West was also known to another generation of fans for his wacky work on Family Guy. The late actor, who popped up and scored in more than 100 episodes as Mayor Adam West, left a colorful, indelible imprint on the animated Fox comedy — as well as on its producers and fans.

 

(13) WORLDCON PROGRAM. Worldcon 75 put its draft program schedule online today.

There are three ways to view the programme schedule DRAFT:

(14) HAUNTED HELSINKI. Adrienne Foster has arranged a “Ghost walking tour of Helsinki” for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members. It will be an English-speaking tour at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 August 2017.

Once again, those interested in reserving a spot on the tour need to be a member of Meetup.com and join Bay Area Ghost Hunters. Joining is free on both counts, but the fee for the ghost walk is to cover the cost of the tour operator. Yes, it was deliberate putting the “prere…gistration” fee in U.S. dollars and the “at-the-door” cost in euros.

As the 75th World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon 75) rolls around again, it gives me another opportunity to arrange a ghost walk of its host city, Helsinki. Yes, that’s in Finland. Ghost walks are one of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling and it’s always a lot more fun to do them with like-minded companions. To make it even more attractive to the many members who don’t speak Finnish, the tour operator has an English-speaking tour available.

Although this has been timed for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members, all BAGH members are welcome to participate. If anyone just happens to have coinciding travel plans to Helsinki, please join us.

In addition to ghost stories, guests on these tours learn a lot about the history of the locale, particularly some of its macabre past. It even starts at a hotel that is a converted prison.

(15) MINGLE LIKE TINGLE. Is this going to be an “I am Spartacus” kind of thing?

(16) AUREALIS AWARDS. The 2017 Aurealis Awards are now open for nominations. Eligible works must be created by an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, and published for the first time this year.

(17) VENUS AND MARS. David D. Levine’s second novel, Arabella and the Battle of Venus, sequel to the Andre Norton Award winning Arabella of Mars, comes out this week.

The thrilling adventures of Arabella Ashby continue in Arabella and the Battle of Venus, the second book in Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s swashbuckling sci-fi, alternate history series!

Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

To do this she must enlist the help of the dashing privateer, Daniel Fox of the Touchstone and build her own clockwork navigational automaton in order to get to Venus before the dread French general, Joseph Fouché, the Executioner of Lyon.

Once on Venus, Arabella, Singh, and Fox soon discover that Napoleon has designed a secret weapon, one that could subjugate the entire solar system if they can’t discover a way to stop Fouché, and the entire French army, from completing their emperor’s mandate.

Levine will be doing a book tour:

He is currently drafting the final book in the trilogy, currently titled Arabella and the Winds of Phobos but may end up being called Arabella the Traitor of Mars.

(18) NEWCOMERS TO THE HEARTH. Fireside Fiction is undergoing a change of management, with Brian J. White stepping down. Pablo Defendini is taking over as publisher and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry as managing editor. Julia Rios and Mikki Kendall are also joining the team.

White is leaving to focus on his work as a journalist.

As many of you know, I work at a newspaper. And that work has been consuming more and more of my time lately, with both the volume and the importance of the news rising in a way we’ve never experienced in this country. And it comes alongside a level of furious, violent antipathy toward the press that is somehow both wildly shocking and banally predictable.

Fireside has been the labor of love of my life, and it kills me to step away. But I am a journalist, first and always, and I need to focus my energy on the work we are doing. A lot of people have made fun of the earnestness of the Washington Post’s Democracy Dies in Darkness slogan, but it is true, and I won’t let the light go out.

Mikki Kendall has been signed on as editor to lead the follow-up to last year’s #BlackSpecFic report, which White says will be out soon. [Hat tip to Earl Grey Loose-leaf Links #43.]

(19) THE COOLEST. Arthur C. Clarke would be proud, as the search for extra-terrestrial life turns to ice worlds.

Chris McKay has fallen out of love with Mars. The red, dusty, corroded world no longer holds the allure it once did.

“I was obsessed with life on Mars for many years,” confesses the Nasa planetary scientist, who has spent most of his career searching for signs of life on the red planet.

“It’s seduction at the highest level,” he says. “I’m abandoning my first love and going after this other one that’s shown me what I wanted to see.”

The new object of McKay’s affections is Enceladus, the ice-encrusted moon of Saturn. Investigated by the joint Nasa and European Space Agency (Esa) Cassini space probe, the moon is spewing out plumes of water from its south pole – most likely from a liquid ocean several kilometres beneath the surface. Cassini has found this water contains all the vital ingredients for life as we know it: carbon, nitrogen and a readily available source of energy in the form of hydrogen.

“I think this is it,” says McKay. “From an astrobiology point of view, this is the most interesting story.”

(20) SO BAD IT’S GOOD. Marshall Ryan Maresca extols the antique virtues of the 1980s movie: “ELECTRIC DREAMS: A Bad Movie I’ve Watched Many, Many, MANY Times”.

The Eighties got a lot of mileage out of the idea that computers were magic.  I mean, the fundamental principle of Weird Science is that Wyatt has, like, a 386 with a 14.4 modem and a scanner, which he can connect to the Pentagon and make a goddamn genie with it.  Most Hollywood movies today still let computers be magical, but not to the same degree.  And few movies go as full out crazy with the idea as Electric Dreams.

For those not in the know, Electric Dreams is a relatively small, simple movie, in which an architect named Miles (he might be an engineer—something to do with buildings) lives in the downstairs part of a duplex, below gorgeous cellist Virginia Madsen.  And he gets himself a computer so he can design an earthquake brick.  So far, all normal.

It turns into a love triangle with Wyatt and a sentient PC as rivals.

(21) THE LATTER DAY LAFFERTY. Adri’s Book Reviews praises “Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty”.

As in any good mystery, it soon becomes clear that there are shady things lurking in the past of each and every crew member, as well as the traditional untrustworthy AI. Six Wakes builds its narrative through an omniscient third person narrator which switches between character viewpoints, as well as flashbacks to the crews’ lives in the lead up to being selected for the ship. Each crew member knows the others have volunteered for the mission because they are convicted criminals who will be pardoned upon arrival, but they have been told their crimes must remain confidential. From the ship’s doctor who was one of the original people cloned when the technology began, to the AI tech who has been on the verge of a breakdown since waking, to the shady machinations of the captain and the security officer, Six Wakes uses a small cast to great effect, with the world of the clones coming across as claustrophobic and restrictive even in background chapters set on Earth, thanks to both the Codicls as well as the inequalities and power struggles that arise from a society of functionally immortal beings. Six Wakes’ characters aren’t likeable in a traditional sense but I found them generally sympathetic, and the backgrounds go a long way towards making that balance work.

(22) A BOY AND HIS HORSE. The British Museum blog asks “The Dothraki and the Scythians: a game of clones?”

The Dothraki in Game of Thrones are represented as feared and ferocious warriors. Jorah Mormont describes their culture as one that values power and follows strength above all, and there is no greater way to demonstrate power and strength according to the Dothraki than through war. Like their fictional counterparts, the Scythians were pretty terrifying in battle. The Greek historian Herodotus writes that Scythians drank the blood of the men they killed and kept their scalps as trophies and skulls as drinking cups. While we should probably take Herodotus with a pinch of salt, by all accounts they were pretty brutal! The Dothraki also like decapitating their defeated enemies – guards known as the jaqqa rhan, or mercy men, use heavy axes to do this.

The Scythians and the Dothraki fight on horseback and are excellent archers. They both use curved (or composite) bows to maximise the range and the damage of their arrows. As Jorah Mormont says of the Dothraki, ‘they are better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows outrange ours.’

(23) THE NEXT STAGE. The Verge has learned that “The Twilight Zone is being adapted into a stage play” in London.

The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling’s landmark sci-fi anthology series about technological paranoia, creeping dread in 1960s America, and monsters and weirdos of all sorts, will be adapted as a stage play, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed this morning.

The play will debut in a limited run at London’s Almeida Theatre this December, with a script from Anne Washburn. Washburn’s best-known play is her 2012 Off-Broadway work Mr. Burns, which is about a traveling theater troupe in post-apocalyptic America that performs episodes of The Simpsons from memory. The play will be directed by Olivier-winner Richard Jones, who is best known for the 1990 London run of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, as well as the short-lived 1997 Titanic musical on Broadway, and has also directed several operas and Shakespeare productions.

(24) LIADEN UPDATE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s 81st joint project — Due Diligence (Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Book 24) – was released July 10. The pair was also recently profiled by Maine’s statewide newspaper the Portland Press Herald“Welcome to the universe of Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller”.

For Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, all it took to launch a brand-new universe was a single sentence.

The opening line for what would become “Agent of Change,” the inaugural volume of their Liaden Universe space opera series, was “The man who was not Terrence O’Grady had come quietly.”

It’s not quite “Call me Ishmael,” but something about typing those 10 words back in 1984 made Lee say to her husband, “I have a novel here.” And there was sufficient inspiration on the page for Miller to say, “I’m sorry, but I think you have a series.”

Both were right. Reached by phone at their Maine coon cat-friendly home in Winslow, surrounded by oil paintings, prints, book cover and other science fiction and fantasy artwork, Miller remembered, “We sat down that night and fleshed out the basic idea for the first seven books.” Four years later, in 1988, their collaborative debut was published in paperback by DelRey.

Since then, Lee, 64, and Miller, 66, have published 20 Liaden Universe novels and nearly five dozen related short stories. Baen Books published their latest hardcover novel, “The Gathering Edge,” in May.

.And they’ll be Guests of Honor at ConFluence from August 4-6.

(25) YOU WOULD BE RIGHT.

(26) PLASTIC IS NOT FANTASTIC. Jewish Business News has the story behind the commercial: “Mayim Bialik and Hodor From ‘Game of Thrones’ In New SodaStream’s Funny Viral Video”.

Following Jewish celebrity Scarlett Johansson’s campaign for the Israeli beverage company SodaStream, the Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik is the new face proudly representing the company new campaign in a Viral Video.

Features Mayim Bialik as an anthropologist, recalling her first encounter with the Homo-schlepien played by Kristian Nairn known as Hodor from “Game of Thrones.” The story reflects the devastating effect of single-use plastic bottles on Humanity. A habit that is hazardous to Earth and no longer exist in the future.

In this funny story, the Museum of UnNatural History features encounters between Mayim and the last tribe of plastic dependent species, the Homo-schlepien.

The shooting of the campaign was brought forward while Bialik had to rest her vocal chords for one month due to a medical advice. “This campaign has a powerful message and one that needed to be told before I went on vocal rest,” said Mayim Bialik.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Bill, Steve Miller, David Levine, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Baen Ebooks Offers Pinbeam Press Ebooks on Retail Site

Baen logoBaen Books has struck an agreement with Pinbeam Books to offer 15 ebooks and ebook story collections by Liaden Universe® creators Sharon Lee and Steve Miller on the Baen Ebooks web site. Pinbeam Books is a Maine-based publisher offering many works by Lee and Miller.

“We are very happy to be offering these excellent tales by Sharon and Steve,” says Toni Weisskopf, Publisher of Baen Books. “They are among our best-selling and most beloved Baen authors, and we want to make available to their readers as much Lee and Miller content as we possibly can.”

The Pinbeam ebooks will be promoted in monthly bundles. Included in the first thematic bundle are:

  • Barnburner, a cozy mystery set in Maine, the first of two novels concerning reporter and accidental sleuth Jennifer Pierce. The Wimsy mysteries are the grandparents of Sharon Lee’s Carousel trilogy, out from Baen.
  • Chariot to the Stars. Chariot to the Stars features some of Steve Milliers’s early work, reprinted from Amazing Science Fiction and elsewhere.
  • Quiet Magic, a collection of fantasy stories. From Steve Miller comes “And Hawks for Heralds,” original to this book. Sharon Lee contributes “Master of the Winds,” first published in Dragon Magazine. Contemporary fantasy “Candlelight,” is the entry from the Lee and Miller team; it was previously published in Pulphouse.
  • Sleeping with the Enemy: Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 22 is Pinbeam Book’s newest chapbook. It contains two stories: “Chimera,” which was first published on Baen.com, and “Friend of a Friend,” which is original to this collection. Both stories take place on Surebleak, Clan Korval’s new planetary home.
  • Variations Three features three of Sharon’s early stories. “Coffeecat” first appeared in Owlflight. “The AfterImage,” an inside look at the beauty pageants of the future, and “Passionato,” in which artists are valuable collectibles, are original to this collection.

The first group of Pinbeam Books ebooks can be found by going to Baenebooks.com and searching for Pinbeam Books.