Pixel Scroll 5/10/24 Pride And Prejudice And Pixels

(1) STAR TREK WINS PEABODY AWARD. The Star Trek franchise was among the Peabody Award winners announced today. Given to television, radio, and other media, the Peabody honors “stories that powerfully reflect the pressing social issues and the vibrant emerging voices of our day.”

TrekMovie.com homes in on the story of greatest interest to fans: “Star Trek Franchise Wins Peabody Award”

… This is actually Trek’s second Peabody. In 1987 the Next Generation episode “The Big Goodbye” won the Entertainment, Children’s & Youth Award. The first season of Star Trek: Discovery was also nominated for the same award.

Here is the full text of the announcement for Star Trek…

The Institutional Award – Star Trek

The original Star Trek television series aired on NBC for only three seasons, from September 1966 to June 1969. It was fresh, prescient, and so ahead of its time that it couldn’t quite capture the mainstream audience required for hits during a particularly insipid time in television. But fast forward nearly 60 years, and creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision is alive and well, having spawned a media franchise of 13 feature films, 11 television series, and numerous books and comics, with a legendary fan following. Today Star Trek is more vibrant, imaginative, funny, entertaining, and progressive than ever. And these days, we’ve got the special effects to make it look stellar.

The original science-fiction series was set aboard a starship, Enterprise, whose mostly human crew encountered alien life as they traversed the stars, led by the iconic Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). It was groundbreaking for its diverse cast and for its unapologetically progressive values—exploration over colonialism, cooperation over violence. Its fandom grew over time, and the successors to the original series have updated the franchise without losing its moral core—the dream of a future free from human destruction, poverty, and bigotry. Subsequent captains have served as models of ethical and diverse leadership: The Next Generation’s Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), and Voyager’s Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) among them.

With every passing decade, new versions have proliferated, attracting new generations of fans. Film reboots directed by J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin revived Kirk and his crew with new, young actors, zippier dialogue, and vastly improved effects in the 2000s and 2010s. The Streaming Era has brought a raft of reimaginings with a variety of sensibilities, from the dark and complicated Star Trek: Discovery to the crowd-pleasing prequel Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (featuring a young Spock!) to the hilariously meta cartoon Star Trek: Lower Decks. As the latest versions of Star Trek invite in a new generation of viewers, the interstellar travelers still encounter danger and difficulty, of course. But the Starfleet crew always comes out on top— and without sacrificing essential values that seem quintessentially human: valor, self-sacrifice, curiosity, compassion, broadmindedness.

“From a groundbreaking television series to an expansive collection of films, novels, comic books and so much more, Star Trek has been delivering joy, wonder, and thought-provoking stories since the 1960s,” said Jones. “With powerful anti-war and anti-discrimination messages, it has blazed trails for all science fiction franchises while winning over passionate fans across the globe. We’re proud to honor Star Trek with Peabody’s Institutional Award.”

The Hollywood Reporter has the complete list of Peabody Awards 2024 Winners.

Other winners of genre interest are:

CHILDREN’S/YOUTH

Bluey (Disney+)
Creator Joe Brumm’s endearing family of animated Australian dogs have captivated both children and adults for years in episodes equally delightful and heartrending. Very little feels off the table, as Bluey fearlessly tackles topics from death to infertility to fleeting friendships, all while maintaining a sense of innocence and exuberance for the children, and affinity and understanding for the parents, who are allowed to be dynamic, imperfect beings on their own growth journey. 
Ludo Studio, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Studios

ENTERTAINMENT

The Last of Us (HBO | Max)
In HBO’s post-apocalyptic The Last of Us, a faithful adaptation of the critically-acclaimed Naughty Dog video game, the road trip odyssey of Joel and Ellie (played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey) functions as a recursive meditation on love and loss—and how love is capable of changing people, for good and for ill. In the hands of showrunner Craig Mazin, who worked in collaboration with Neil Druckmann, a co-director on the original game, this adaptation extracts new layers from the text that expand its meaning—imagining what a life of love and fulfillment, and survival, can look like at the end of the world.
HBO in association with Sony Pictures Television Studios, PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint, and Naughty Dog.

(2) MINNESOTA BOOK AWARDS. The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced the Minnesota Book Awards winners. The complete list is at the link.

Emma Törzs’ fantasy novel Ink Blood Sister Scribe is the winner of the Genre Fiction category.

For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements—books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.

All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna’s isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they’ll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries . . .

(3) OUT OF TIME. Jonathan Russell Clark analyzes “Why We Love Time Travel Stories” for Esquire.

…For Wells’s contemporaries, Gleick notes, “technology had a special persuasive power.” For us, now a quarter of the way through the 21st century, things have grown complicated. Technology governs everything we do, but rather than enhancing our lives, our gadgets seem to exploit us, isolate us, box us in. Moreover, the technology itself has moved beyond our understanding, leaving us dependent on the two or three corporate entities producing it. The World of Tomorrow never arrived; no matter how much technology has progressed, it is still frustratingly Today.

Instead of holding out for a future that will solve our problems, contemporary readers now look into the past to address the wrongs inflicted on the less powerful, so what makes a convincing time-travel story in the 21st century isn’t the verisimilitude of the science but rather the morality of the characters’ intentions. In her book on ’80s movies, Life Moves Pretty Fast, Hadley Freeman notes that in Back to the Future, “Marty’s meddling in the past results in his parents living in a nice house, with chicer furnishings, posher breakfast dishes, and even domestic help in the form of Biff Tannen in 1985. Marty’s triumph is to lift his family up to middle-class status.” If Hollywood rebooted the franchise today, Freeman writes, “Marty’s challenge would be to save the world.” I still think a remake would keep Marty’s adventures confined to his personal bubble; it’s just that instead of reuniting his parents to ensure his existence, his mission would instruct him to meddle in his parents’ past because, down the line, this will save the world. Nowadays, to exploit time travel for personal gain—and indeed to tell a story in which such actions are uncritically celebrated—is unacceptable, as is returning to our discriminatory, segregated, slavery-filled history without seriously grappling with those realities. It’s no longer technology but rather moral conviction that now has a special persuasive power on us….

(4) A RARE HEINLEIN CONNECTION. Dave Hook has done fascinating research into a forgotten Heinlein collaborator: “Who is Elma ‘Miller’ Wentz?”

I know I’ve read this story in “Beyond the End of Time” at least once, but I remember nothing about it or even that it existed until seeing this. I found this very interesting for several reasons:

  1. To my knowledge, this is the only fiction published by Heinlein with a co-author during his lifetime.
  2. Heinlein clearly was not fond of it, as he never allowed this and two of his other early stories published as by “Lyle Monroe” to be reissued in a Heinlein collection during his lifetime (per Wikipedia).
  3. I had no idea who “Elma Wentz” was.

…Sometime in the early 1930s, she moved to Los Angeles. Her family did also, although it’s not clear if they moved at the same time or not.

William H. Patterson, Jr.’s “Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve” (“Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue…”), 2010 Tor, noted that Elma was working for Upton Sinclair on Sinclair’s California 1934 governor’s campaign as his personal secretary. Patterson also notes that she and her husband to be, Roby Wentz, met Robert A. Heinlein when Heinlein joined Sinclair’s related “End Poverty in California” (EPIC) movement in early 1935. The EPIC movement overlapped substantially with Sinclair’s run for governor. This resulted in her and Roby becomes friends with Robert A. Heinlein and his first wife Leslyn (MacDonald) Heinlein, and with journalist (and future SF writer) Cleve Cartmill….

(5) GUARDIAN REVIEW ROUNDUP. Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup” for the Guardian encompasses The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard; A View from the Stars by Cixin Liu; Flowers from the Void by Gianni Washington; The Dark Side of the Sky by Francesco Dimitri; The Hungry Dark by Jen Williams; and To the Stars and Back by various writers.

(6) VANISHING POINT. Atlas Obscura advises “Don’t Stare at the Dark Watchers”.

… There are dozens of similar accounts of so-called dark watchers by hikers in the Santa Lucia Mountains near Big Sur, California. The stories often share details: The figure stands seven to 10 feet tall and has a walking stick and hat, for example. No one has ever been able to interact with the looming figures—they always disappear once the hiker acknowledges them…

…Despite their ephemeral nature—and claims that they only appear to hikers with low-tech, old-school gear—stories of these cryptids go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Some people trace the legend to the pre-colonial oral stories of the Chumash, Indigenous peoples that have lived along the Central Coast of California and the Channel Islands for 13,000 years. But while there are many Chumash accounts of various creatures in December’s Child by Thomas Blackburn—the most complete written record of Chumash stories—it’s unclear whether any describe the dark watchers.

“These entities—whatever they are—have not just influenced the local people,” says Offutt. “They influenced some pretty famous people, too.” The earliest written accounts of dark watchers go back to the 1700s, when Spanish colonists gave the mysterious beings their name: los vigilantes oscuros. Since then, sightings have continued, and in 1937, the creatures made their literary debut….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 55. This is not full accounting of everything that the rather prolific John Scalzi has done, nor is it limited to his fiction. Now that I’ve got that out of the way let’s start…

I was trying to remember what I first read by him and I think it was actually Old Man’s War whereas I expect you know the characters of Old Man’s War are senior citizens who leave Earth to have their brains transplanted into cyborg bodies and sent off to be fight in an interstellar war. Scalzi has said the series was in homage in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

John Scalzi in 2019.

I only read further in the series through the “Questions for a Soldier” short story, The Ghost Brigades and the Zoe’s Tale. The latter broke my heart really it. Damn, I so like the main character here, and spoiler alert, what happened to her really did severely distressed me. Effing hell. 

So who here has read and liked The Android’s Dream novels? I liked everything I read by Scalzi save this. Maybe it was the premise itself, maybe the weirdness of the sheep hybrid which I’ll not discuss lest somebody be here who’s keen to read it still, maybe there there was too much Philip K. Dick in it. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it. So tell me why I should have.

Space opera, I knew he had it in him. And the Interdependency series certainly proved that amply. Lovely premise of an Empire, spoiler alert again so go drink Romulan blood wine, as the portals connecting the worlds of their Empire are apparently collapsing. The titles of the final novel in the trilogy sums up the trilogy up nicely, The Last Emperox.

And then there’s the Hugo winning Redshirts. Obviously off the Trek’s infamous oh my he’s a red shirt and will die a horrible death meme, it allowed Scalzi to play around with that delicious premise. No, I’m not saying a word more, so no spoiler alert needed. It’s a great story told well. There’s even something that Scalzi might well have borrowed from the Clue film here.

The last novel I want to talk about involves Fuzzies. Fuzzy Nation, authorized by the estate of H. Beam Piper, was not intended to be a sequel to Little Fuzzy, the Piper novel which was nominated for a Hugo. Scalzi wrote it first and then got permission from the Estate to publish it. It doesn’t feel like something the Piper would have written, but it’s worth reading none the less. 

Now let’s note Whatever, no doubt the most entertaining blog done by any writer, genre or otherwise. Is this what he won a Fan Writer Hugo for? If so, great choice. It’s something I very much look forward to reading every day. I see his Hugo for Best Related Book was related to his blog, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever 1998–2008. 

Ok, that’s what I like by him. No, it’s not everything but I did say it would be. As always, I know you’ll give copious comments about what I didn’t mention. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark’s lines up the usual suspects.
  • Shoe lets the name speak for itself.
  • Speed Bump disappoints these readers.
  • Carpe Diem has an unexpected haunting.
  • Nathan W Pyle shows a character resisting inimical forces!

(9) A VICIOUS GANG OF FACTS. Those skeptics at ScreenRant pooh-pooh “8 Sci-Fi Movie Inventions Ruined By Real Science”. First on their list of impossibilities:

8. Lightsabers

The Star Wars Series

One of the most iconic movie weapons ever created, lightsabers need little introduction. The mythical weapons of both the legendary Jedi order and the insidious Sith, these blazing hot swords of pure light can slice through nearly anything in the Star Wars universe, barring specialty-made materials like Durasteel. Not only that, but they’re also capable of deflecting bolts from energy-based blaster weapons, making them an impressive source of offense as well as defense. In the lore of the franchise, the lightsabers are powered by the mysterious Kyber crystals.

The lightsabers operate on different laws of physics than those in reality. Creating a powerful enough beam of light to cut through solid metal would result in a much longer, unwieldy weapon, not limited in its projection to a mere three feet. Even ignoring the issues regarding the lightsabers’ power source, which would easily need to be connected to some kind of power-generating backpack with today’s available technology, the ability of the weapons to physically clash with one another disobeys the properties of light. In reality, crossing lightsabers would simply pass through one another.

(10) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER. Is it really? I don’t know, so better safe etc. “Doctor Who’ Star Ncuti Gatwa Filmed With 20 Babies in Season Premiere”.

While filming episode one of “Doctor Who” season 14, entitled “Space Babies,” Millie Gibson had to do the impossible: keep the attention of 20 infants at once. Although she was bearing her soul in a speech integral to her character’s backstory, the babies kept dozing off and losing their attention to the flashing lights of the space-age set. So, to keep their little eyes focused on her, she delivered her lines while a nursery rhyme played on her phone just out of camera view.

“It was so hard honestly,” recalled Gibson. “It was the most bizarre thing but it will stay in my mind forever.”

…“They were such divas,” Gatwa joked about his toddler co-stars. “They had so many demands.”…

(11) FLAME ON! I don’t know how this cooking news item ended up at Popular Mechanics: “’Star Wars’ Fans, Truff’s Latest Super-Spicy Hot Sauce Is for You”.

…That’s right: Truff—the brand behind the decadent truffle-infused hot sauces Oprah has named to her Favorite Things list for the last three years—just dropped a new hot sauce with some serious Star Wars flair. Truff’s Star Wars Dark Side Hot Sauce is nothing to play with, given it’s now the brand’s spiciest sauce, featuring the hot-as-Hades ghost pepper.

Yes, the ghost pepper is certainly quite hot, topping out at over 1 million Scoville Units. That said, it isn’t the hottest. That title only recently belongs to Pepper X, which reaches more than double the ghost pepper’s 1+ million Scoville Units. According to Britannica, though, less than 20 years ago, the ghost pepper actually was the fieriest, most fearsome of them all. But just because there’s one hotter out there now doesn’t mean ghost peppers aren’t still fierce, as you’ll find out when you crack open this hot sauce….

(12) MONSOON Q&A. A BBC interview: “Doctor Who star Jinkx Monsoon on playing ‘zany’ villain Maestro”.

… American drag queen Jinkx Monsoon, who plays the new nemesis, tells BBC Newsbeat her “dreams have been granted in a wonderful way”.

Jinkx is known as the “Queen of Queens” after winning a regular and All Star season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

And she says moving to the world’s longest-running science fiction show felt like a natural progression for a self-described trans queer actor.

“Sci-fi has always been queer. Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional,” she says.

“There are prominent writers, directors, producers who are queer in these fields. And it just hasn’t really been able to be talked about and a lot of them nowadays are done being silent.”

She adds there has been “so much queer progress” in society, but feels in the entertainment industry “there’s still been this thing of queer people behind the cameras”.

“And only certain palatable society-approved queer people get to be in front of the camera.

“What I really love about this Doctor Who season is it saying: ‘To hell with that’.”

(13) HOLY SH!T! Aka the video of the day — Hell and Back by Scott Base. A short film based on original Bad Space comic. Mark sent the link with a warning, “I’m not sure I’d want to see a whole movie…”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Lise Andreasen, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Michael J. Walsh, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/21 Now We Know How Many Holes It Takes To Fill A Pixel Scroll

(1) REFUTING FOUNDATION. Who cares if a brutal autocracy is destroyed? Why would anyone want to make another one? The Atlantic’s Zachary D. Carter says “’Foundation’ Has an Imperialism Problem”. Beware spoilers.

Foundation is a grand sci-fi adventure, sure, but it’s better understood as a work of political theory—a young American’s dialogue with the Enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon about the promise and peril of empire. To its credit, Apple’s new series embraces the philosophical ambition of Asimov’s masterpiece. But in updating Foundation for the 21st century, Goyer has produced a near-comprehensive repudiation of his source material. This is a show not about space or science, but rather the limits of liberal politics….

(2) WITH A SENSE OF LOSS. David Drake told his newsletter readers he’s giving up writing new novels, but will keep writing short stories. In his own words: “Newsletter #123 – the last one”.

Karen suggested I title this newsletter last, so I’m doing that. My health problems continue, whatever they are. I can’t concentrate enough to write a novel and I even had to give up my project with Ryan Asleben, (who couldn’t have been nicer).

I just couldn’t keep my texts straight. I’m still able to write stories and I think they’re pretty good. One on military robots is coming out in what’s now called Robosoldiers: Thank you for your Servos, edited by Stephen Lawson (Baen June 2022). The later story I did as a whim has been accepted for Weird world War IIIChina, edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett.

I can’t tell you how much I regret retiring. I’m okay for money and the anger I came back from Nam with has settled down to the point I’m no longer dangerous to other people, but I would certainly be happier if I were able to write….

(3) THE INTERSTELLAR JEWISH DIASPORA. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In his article “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew,” Yair Rosenberg meditates on representation of his culture in SFF, on the relationship between mainstream Christianity and Judaism, and on the life (and death) of a little-known character actor. It’s an interesting bit of research, and a reminder about the importance of cultural details in fiction. “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew” in The Atlantic.

…But for my money, with apologies to Mel Brooks, the most remarkable and utterly unexpected space Jew is this guy from the cult classic Firefly:

Created by Joss Whedon, Firefly lasted only one season, but it sold so many DVDs after it was canceled that the studio revived it for a full theatrical film. The yarmulke-clad figure is Amnon, the space mailman [played by character actor Al Pugliese] who runs a post office frequented by the show’s heroes. He appears in only one episode, and his Jewishness is so fascinating because it goes entirely unremarked. The show’s characters never discuss it, and it plays no role in the plot. It’s just there.

So how did this happen—and in one of the most celebrated single seasons of television ever created, no less? And what explains the incredible attention to detail? Observant viewers will note that Amnon is even wearing tzitzit, the ritual fringes typically but not exclusively donned by Orthodox Jewish men, an impressively deft touch. Why so much effort for something so seemingly incidental?…

(4) PUGLIESE DEATH NOTICE. Incidentally, Steven H Silver reported today that Al Pugliese (December 24, 1946) died from complications from COVID on July 24, 2021. His genre roles included episodes of Firefly, American Horror Story, and Brisco County, Jr., and the films Annihilator and Philadelphia Experiment II. Pugliese was not, in fact, Jewish, though as he told the writer of The Atlantic article above: “Even some of the Jews on set—actors and crew members—mistook him for a religious authority. ‘I’d say, “Wait a minute guys, I’m not a rabbi, I’m an actor.”’”

(5) PEEVED IN TEXAS. This is the lede of a column by Karen Attiah in the Washington Post about librarians battling book banners. “Texas librarians are on the front lines in a battle for the right to read”.

“Librarians are the secret masters of the world,’ wrote American Canadian author Spider Robinson.  “They control information.  Don’t ever piss one off.”

(6) IN DIALOG. “Explicit Queerness: A Conversation with Charlie Jane Anders by Arley Sorg” is a feature in the November Clarkesworld.

What is the key to writing a coming-of-age story that really speaks to readers?

What I love in a coming-of-age story is a character who is discovering their identity at the same time that they’re learning how the world works. There’s something super powerful and also heartbreaking about realizing that the world wasn’t what you thought, while also claiming your own selfhood and your own power. I sort of think of Empire Strikes Back as the great coming-of-age story, alongside the Earthsea books. And more recently, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

(7) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd recently sat down for Wired‘s online series where celebrities answer the web’s most searched questions.

Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd answer the web’s most searched questions about themselves and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ What is Dominic Monaghan doing right now? How tall is Billy Boyd? Why is Peregrin Took called Pippin? What kinds of accents do Merry and Pippin have? Dominic and Billy Boyd answer all these questions and much more!

(8) THIS IS NOT FOR YOU, PADAWAN. “Star Wars’ Real Lightsaber Is the Only Thing Without a Price at Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser”Gizmodo has the story.

Hey, you remember that awesome lightsaber Disney revealed that looked like the laser blade was actually igniting and extending? Like a parent to a small child reaching for a pair of sharp scissors, Disney has said, “Only Daddy touch.” Meaning the company is not going to offer them to the public, even if you’re going to the stupid-expensive Galactic Starcruiser Star Wars LARP hotel.

In fact, the only way you’ll ever be able to get your hands on one is to get hired as an actor at the Galaxy’s Edge section of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida—specifically as a Jedi—since they’ll be the only ones allowed to carry them…

(9) OH WHAT FUN. Elves is a Danish horror series picked up by Netflix.

(10) S&S PODCAST. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Rogues in the House podcast interviews Philip Gelatt and Morgan King, creators of the animated sword and sorcery film The Spine of Night. This is exactly the sort of project — both movie and podcast — that deserves more attention.  “’Spine of Night’ with Creators Morgan King and Phil Gelatt”.

 (11) THEY NAMED YOU AFTER THE DOG? Olivia Rutigliano talks about fatherhood as portrayed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“’Don’t Call Me Junior’: Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989)” at Bright Wall / Dark Room.

… Furthermore, this man’s whole outfit is the one Indy will later wear on his adventures—the button-down and khakis, the leather jacket and shoulder bag. The grown-up Indy has fashioned himself in the image of this man, emulating the look and even the occupational stylings of this nameless stranger for his whole adult life. That this man means so much to him suggests firmly that he has rejected his own father—the man who sits in such close proximity, yet has no time, patience, or interest to listen to his son and understand what is wrong. This man, this bandit he has just met, offers the young Indy admiration and pride—fond paternal regard which, it is implied, he has long been denied…. 

…Indy’s name is Henry Jones, Jr., but he never goes by it …

For Indiana Jones, everyone is a formative father figure—random criminals, animals—except his own father.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 — Twenty-two years ago, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow premiered. You know what’s it’s rather loosely based with the story here being scripted by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker. The former is notable for being known as responsible for Freddy Krueger’s makeup and the Crypt Keeper creature. They met when the Walker was working on the latter series. It starred Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien and Jeffrey Jones. 

Generally critics loved it with Roger Ebert praising both Johnny Depp’s performance and Tim Burton’s visual look.  And Doug Walker said the “clever casting” gave it the feel of a classic Hammer film, high praise indeed.  It was a reasonable box success making two hundred million against the rather high costs of a hundred million. Remember the studio doesn’t get all of a ticket sale. Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather exemplary eighty percent rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike of course has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 68. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that identifies it as Trek related.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 66. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1958 Charles Stewart Kaufman, 63. He wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both definitely genre. The former was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000, the year Galaxy Quest won. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also a Hugo nominee, losing to The Incredibles at Interaction. 
  • Born November 19, 1962 Jodie Foster, 59. Oscar-winning Actor, Director, and Producer who played the lead in the Hugo-winning film version of Carl Sagan’s Contact, for which she received a Saturn nomination. She has also received Saturn noms for her roles in horror films The Silence of The Lambs, Flightplan, and Panic Room, and she won a well-deserved Saturn trophy for her early horror role at the age of thirteen in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Other roles include Elysium, the recently-released Hotel Artemis, and voice parts in The X-Files series and the animated Addams Family.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 58. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She, too, shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. Anyone seen this? 
  • Born November 19, 1965 Douglas Henshall, 56. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander.
  • Born November 19, 1975 Alex Shvartsman, 46. Author of the delightfully pulpy H. G. Wells: Secret Agent series. A very proficient short story writer, many of which are collected in Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories.

(14) FAMOUS TUBES. “The Wonderful World of Disney Neon” will be a Zoom artist talk hosted by the Museum of Neon Art on December 9 – cost $10.

Zoom Artist Talk
Thursday, December 9, 7pm PST

The Museum of Neon Art and Steve Spiegel, Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering will present a one-night-only Zoom event on December 9th at 7pm showcasing the history of luminous tubing in Disney Parks. Disney theme parks are known for their rigorous attention to historic and aesthetic detail and the “Imagineers,” Disney’s team of artists, writers, engineers and technicians use neon and other forms of lighting in multiple ways, from perfectly replicating Golden Age movie houses of Hollywood to transporting audiences into hyper-realistic future worlds. This illustrated lecture draws from the Disney archives as well as Steve’s own photographs. Through images, the presentation details both the history of neon and of Disney. Audiences will learn when neon first appeared in Disney parks, and how the medium influenced park architecture, visitor experience, and storytelling. Audiences will be wowed by the levels of narratives presented through light at Disney theme parks worldwide, such as the dazzling neon collection at Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park.

Presenter Steve Spiegel is the Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, the theme park design and development division of The Walt Disney Company.

(15) 5-7-5, OR WHATEVER TICKLES YOUR FANCY. Fantasy Literature is taking submissions to its “Eighth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. In addition to receiving the glory, “We’ll choose one haiku author to win a book from our stacks or a FanLit t-shirt (depends on size availability). If you’re outside of the U.S.A., we’ll send a $5 Amazon gift card.” Here are two of their “inspirations from previous years.”

We fear the new plague.
Still, we come together at
Station Eleven.


When they realize
that I’m there to rescue them–
I don’t hate that part.

(Murderbot, paraphrased)

(16) PLAY IT AGAIN. “’A Voyage to Arcturus’ may have sold 596 copies in its first printing, but it deserves a wider audience” Michael Dirda advocates for the David Lindsay novel in the Washington Post.

…Of course, fantasy and science fiction have long welcomed and celebrated books that require serious effort from a reader. Samuel R. Delany’s “Dhalgren” is perhaps the most famous recent example, but the locus classicus remains David Lindsay’s “A Voyage to Arcturus.” Its pages are crowded with strangely named beings, most of them bizarre and off-putting; each stage of the hero’s extraterrestrial “Pilgrim’s Progress” generally ends with a murder or two; and the reader closes the book puzzled about what it has all meant.And yet “A Voyage to Arcturus” is deservedly regarded as titanic, the depiction of a spiritual rite of passage that interlaces death and renewal with a quest for transcendence….

(17) SFF ON SIXTIES TELEVISION. Cora Buhlert has reviewed two more episodes of the German TV show Space Patrol Orion at Galactic Journey

…While the streets of West Germany were shaken by anti-war protests, “Deserters”, the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) showed us what warfare might look like in space. Because humanity is fighting the mysterious aliens known only as the Frogs, and that war is not going well: the Frogs have developed a shield that repels energy weapons, rendering them useless….

.. However, West German science fiction fans were a lot more excited about the day after St. Martin’s Day, because the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) aired.

“Der Kampf um die Sonne” (Battle for the Sun) plunges us right in medias res, when the Orion makes a remarkable discovery. The planetoid N116a has uncommonly high temperatures, a breathable atmosphere and lower forms of plant life, all of which should be impossible, since N116a is supposed to be a dead rock in space….

(18) ADMIRE ALAN WHITE’S NEFFY CERTIFICATE. Lovely!

(19) VORTEX BLASTERS. “Microwave observations reveal the deep extent and structure of Jupiter’s atmospheric vortices” – an article in Science.

Jupiter’s atmosphere has a system of zones and belts punctuated by small and large vortices, the largest being the Great Red Spot. How these features change with depth is unknown, with theories of their structure ranging from shallow meteorological features to surface expressions of deep-seated convection. Researchers present observations of atmospheric vortices using the Juno spacecraft’s Microwave Radiometer. They found vortex roots that extend deeper than the altitude at which water is expected to condense, and they identified density inversion layers. Their results provide the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s vortices and their extension below the top cloud layers. They detected a perturbation in the planet’s gravitational field caused by the storm, finding that it was no more than 300 miles (500 kilometres) deep….

 (20) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. Just how early does this training start?

(21) MY FAIR OMNIVORE. This sketch from The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, which dropped last week, has Kermit the Frog in a blond wig!  (Thanks to Mark Evanier for the link.)

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Morgan Matyjasik asks, “What if there was a two-lane blacktop you could take your motorcycle to the Moon on?”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Olav Rokne, Steven H Silver, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Karl-Johan Norén, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeffrey Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/21 Let Us Now Scroll Famous Pixels

(1) USPS ‘DROID STAMPS ISSUED TODAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From a post office near you, or via online: Star Wars Droids Stamps.

Use ’em to mail stuff! — or as an affordable, fungible gift to a Star Wars fan.

(2) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Fansided’s “Dork Side of the Force” shares a collection of “25 of the most iconic Star Wars movie posters of all time”.

… The movie posters used to promote the movies have sometimes become as iconic as some of the movie moments themselves. These are 25 of the iconic works of art that have become some of the most memorable Star Wars images over the years….

1. The Phantom Menace teaser poster

After a decade and a half without a new Star Wars movie coming to theaters, The Phantom Menace was announced. We would all finally get to experience the first chapter of the saga.

There were rumors as to what we would get to see and more than a few images released of the movie being worked on, but this was the first official image we got advertising the upcoming movie — and really the trilogy as a whole. The image of a 9-year-old Anakin casting a Darth Vader shadow on the wall hit the world with a bang…

(3) BRADBURY STRIKES BACK. This 2019 IndyStar article begins its list of “7 cool items you can see at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” with a Star Wars relic —

Star Wars ‘Empire Strikes Back’ script

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection.

(4) THE LOREMASTER. Craig Miller, author of the superb Star Wars Memories, shared a joke with Facebook readers that got an immediate laugh from George Lucas and Gary Kurtz at the time, and that he needs to explain to the rest of us.  

…And now, the story. This is one that appears in my book, Star Wars Memories (available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart). More, and less obscure, stories throughout Star Wars Season.

Suggesting a Title for Film #3

(Warning: This story has a punch line. But it requires deep knowledge of both Star Wars lore and motion picture history in order to get it. I’ll explain it at the end but it won’t be as funny – maybe not funny at all – if I have to explain it you.)…

(5) LOCATING THE LOCATIONS. And Craig has definitely been to some of the places in “The Real Star Wars Universe” charted by Statista. (Click for larger image.)

(6) BIGGS SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. “Star Wars: A New Hope – Deleted Scenes” on YouTube is 8 1/2 minutes of footage cut from Star Wars, including several scenes with Garrick Hagon as Biggs Darklighter that never appeared in the final cut of Star Wars.

(7) BRING ME THE HEAD OF DARTH VADER. “Darth Vader’s helmet raises charity funds in May the 4th auction” reports The Guardian.

In an auction house far, far away (well, Bristol actually), the enduring power of the force was clear.

A Darth Vader helmet sold for £2,200, more than five times the top estimate, and a signed picture of Alec Guinness in his Obi-Wan Kenobi robes was snapped up for £3,100, treble what was anticipated.

Someone, somewhere, paid £9,000 for a prototype lightsaber, the weapon of choice of Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga, which the Earthlings at East Bristol Auctions had judged might bring in £80-£120.

Hundreds of items hoarded and collected by David Prowse, the Bristolian who played Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, were sold off in his home city following his death, aged 85, last year.

Naturally the sale took place on May the 4th

(8) DISSENTING VOICES. Not everybody is attuned to the spirit of the day.

(9) INSIDE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch learned something about how Amazon handles internal controversies:

Controversies
From this article we learned that Amazon has an executive who serves as director of book content risk and qualitySarah Castle. It was her job to assess internal complaints from “dozens of Amazon employees” asking the company to stop selling Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by journalist Abigail Shrier, arguing that the book violates Amazon’s recently stated policy against selling books “that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” The Seattle Times reports that Castle told employees on an internal message board, “After examining the content of the book in detail and calibrating with senior leadership, we have confirmed that it does not violate our content policy.”

(10) DOOM IN RETROSPECTIVE. GamesRadar+ does a Q&A with a past writer of a popular comic book: “Doom Patrol, New Gods, Old Gods, and a Fissure King: The Rachel Pollack Interview”.

In 1993, Rachel Pollack took over DC/Vertigo’s Doom Patrol following Grant Morrison’s star-making turn on the book. Her run lasted 25 issues, but has never been collected – but has begun making its way to DC digital platforms recently.

Among the memorable stories is the initial ‘Sliding In the Wreckage’ arc, as well as the introduction of Kate Godwin (Coagula) – the first trans superhero for DC or Marvel comic books. Over the course of her run, Pollack touched on concepts of family, fitting in, and making a path for yourself in a world that didn’t have a set path for you.

Newsarama spoke to Pollack earlier this month about her Doom Patrol run, her prose work such as the new novella collection The Fissure King, and her poised return to comic books.

Newsarama: Rachel, what are you working on today?

Rachel Pollack: I’m actually typing up a second draft of a story called ‘Visible Cities.’ I always write everything longhand with fountain pen and then type it up, and that’s my second draft. I’m doing that at the moment. And then I’m preparing for a trip to Scotland.

(11) MOORE ACQUISITIONS. “’I’m bursting with fiction’: Alan Moore announces five-volume fantasy epic” in The Guardian.

Two years after announcing that he had retired from comics, Alan Moore, the illustrious author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has signed a six-figure deal for a “groundbreaking” five-volume fantasy series as well as a “momentous” collection of short stories.

Bloomsbury, home to the Harry Potter novels, acquired what it described as two “major” projects from the 67-year-old. The first, Illuminations, is a short story collection which will be published in autumn 2022 and which moves from the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the “Boltzmann brains” fashioning the universe. Bloomsbury said it was “dazzlingly original and brimming with energy”, promising a series of “beguiling and elegantly crafted tales that reveal the full power of imagination and magic”.

The second acquisition is a fantasy quintet titled Long London, which will launch in 2024. The series will move from the “shell-shocked and unravelled” London of 1949 to “a version of London just beyond our knowledge”, encompassing murder, magic and madness. Bloomsbury said it “promises to be epic and unforgettable, a tour-de-force of magic and history”….

(12) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 4, 1962 The Twilight Zone‘s “The Dummy”.

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

On this day in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and  George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with its own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 4, 1893 – Alfred Pollard.  Four novels for us; outside our field, crime and war stories, fiction and non, threescore books all told.  Served in World War I, earned the Victoria Cross.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull-faced Bombers and finally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.) (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. The DC UNIVERSE streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1940 – Bob Layzell, age 80.  Threescore covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Farthest Star.  Here is Drunkard’s Walk.  Here is Dangerous Frontiers.  Here is A Trace of Memory.  Here is The Grey Prince.  [JH]
  • Born May 4 (year unknown) – Ernie Wheatley.  Known as the Dormouse of the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) for falling asleep with his head on his arms at table during restaurant after-meetings, raising it to speak aptly, sleeping again.  Once after we had adopted “Death will not release you” and someone uttered it on some such occasion EW piped up “Even if you die!” which was promptly added.  In 1960 while Westerns were big, also home-made films, and fanfiction meant fiction about fans, Lee Jacobs wrote “The Musquite Kid Rides Again” for SAPS about a transparently-disguised Wrai Ballard; it was filmed; here is EW as “Killer Kemp” i.e. Earl Kemp who by then had won a Hugo for Who Killed SF?  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 78. 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 early Cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Do tell me about him. (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 65. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1957 – Nancy Canepa, Ph.D., age 64.  Here is Teaching Fairy Tales she edited.  Professor at Dartmouth.  “My teaching and research centers on early modern Italy (1550-1700).  I’m particularly fascinated by the development of new literary forms and languages during this period, in genres that range from the fairy tale to the mock epic to the travelogue.”  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1960 – Kate Saunders, age 61.  A dozen novels, a couple of shorter stories for us; two dozen books all told, some for adults, some for children.  Newspapers, magazines, radio, television.  Trask Award.  Costa Children’s Book Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 47. He’s a 14-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 44. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1978 – Shaenon Garrity, age 43.  A score of short stories.  Known for Webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award for Outstanding Writing.  Lulu of the Year Award.  Summa cum laude from Vassar.  Website.  [JH]

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) BLADE STUNNER. “Star Wars Day: Disney Parks shares footage of a real-world lightsaber” – as SYFY Wire explains.

When guests head to Orlando’s Walt Disney World next year for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (an immersive, two-night experience housed at Galaxy’s Edge), they’ll probably catch sight of an actual lightsaber. That’s right, the Disney Parks Imagineering Research and Development team have built an honest to goodness retractable Jedi blade inspired by the iconic franchise.

To celebrate May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), the Mouse House’s theme park division revealed a short video of the potentially patented lightsaber (it works kinda like a high-tech, dual measuring tape) — wielded by a cast member dressed as Rey — in action, and it’s beyond cool.

(16) A SHARPER IMAGE. Jeff Foust reviews the Folio Society Edition of Andrew Chaikin’s famous history of the Apollo missions for The Space Review: “Review: A Man on the Moon”.

…To be clear, the text of the book is unchanged from earlier editions: this is not a revised or expanded version. The only new words in this version is a brief preface by Chaikin, which he uses to explain the other major change of the book: the inclusion of nearly 200 color and black-and-white photos that he curated for the book. As high-quality digital versions of the photos became available in the years after he first wrote the book, he explains, “I was amazed at the details I could now see; I felt they had opened a new portal I could step through to witness what the astronauts had seen and done.”

This is not the first illustrated edition of the book, but this version strikes a better balance between the photos and text than that earlier three volume set, where the images at times drowned out the text. Here the images are better ties to the text, and include a mix of obvious famous pictures as well as less-famous ones from the missions or training for them. The book includes fold-out color plates, such as one that combines several views of the Earth taken by the Apollo 8 mission on its way to the Moon; it illustrates the spacecraft’s journey by showing our home planet get ever smaller.

The real value of A Man on the Moon, though, remains Chaikin’s account of the missions, enabled by his interviews with the Apollo astronauts. At the time he started the book, all but one of the 24 men who went to the Moon on nine Apollo missions were still alive (Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert died of cancer in 1982.) Enough times had passed for the astronauts to reflect on their journeys, but not so long that we would lose the chance to have them recount their experiences….

(17) RHUBARB PIE. Doris V. Sutherland received a virtual ovation for the new lyrics to “American Pie” posted as a comment on Camestros Felapton’s post “About three months to the Dragon Award 2021 finalists”. The first stanzas are —

A long, long time ago,
The Hugo Awards came along to honour sci-fi at its height
And I knew when I’d had a look
That each winner had been a classic book
Except perhaps for They’d Rather be Right

Then Puppies made some voting slates
The ’15 Hugos weren’t so great
The big winner was No Award
In science fiction’s culture war…

(18) KISS YOUR ASS GOODBYE. IFL Science has – simulated – bad news: “Large Chunk Of Europe “Annihilated” In NASA’s Latest Asteroid Impact Simulation Exercise”.

Every two years, international governmental and space agencies take part in a tabletop scenario as part of the Planetary Defense Conference. In this exercise, a space rock is discovered to be heading toward Earth and members of different agencies have to work out what are the best things to do to try and avoid catastrophe.

… The second day also sees a detailed look at what missions could be sent to deflect such an asteroid. And it’s not good news. The asteroid is too close and too fast (and possibly too big) for a course correction. So you ought to hit it hard. Either a nuclear weapon, among the biggest, ever assembled during the Cold War, or shooting like dozens of rockets at it. With the risk that it would fragment and still crash into Earth.

“If confronted with the 2021 PDC hypothetical scenario in real life we would not be able to launch any spacecraft on such short notice with current capabilities,” members of the group stated….

(19) CTHULHU FHTAGN. When a “Japanese Town Uses Relief Money To Erect Giant Squid Statue”, Cracked is there to haul in a net-full of puns.

…So folks, whether you hate the giant squid statue or find it ink-redible, what’s fin-ished is fin-ished. 

(20) FLY CASTING. In “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the series “comes from the military espionage side of the MCU, where the morals are as grey as the visuals” and that the cameo appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads them to speculate about when the rest of the Seinfeld cast will show up in the MCU. No spoiler warning – but who knows?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The World Begins With You” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the game is set in “nightmare Tokyo a place where you have to worry about how good you will look when you’re dead” and is so busy that the game “will have you tapping at your screen like a crazed woodpecker.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/17/20 The Eliot Ness Monster

(1) CARRYING OUT THEIR LAST WISHES. J. Michael Straczynski posted on Facebook today about his all-consuming role as executor for Harlan and Susan Ellison.

… “How do YOU know what the deal is, huh? My guy talked to the executor just yesterday, who told him this straight-up. How do YOU know better than HE does?”

How do I know better? How do I know these are just rumors?

Because I am the Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust.

I’ve kept a low profile since accepting this position in order to focus on of the million-and-one details that have to be addressed. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been appointed an executor, but it is a massive undertaking. To be an executor is to inherit nothing but be responsible for everything, and to implement the last wishes of those who entrusted you with the totality of their life’s work.

Consequently, ever since Susan’s passing, 80% of my day, every day, has gone into establishing the Trust, dealing with tax issues, creditors, court documents, lawyers, accountants, affidavits, death certificates, corporate minutes…in simpler cases, the process only takes a few months, and usually ends by parceling out bequests or auctioning off the estate.

But that is not the case here, because there is the legacy of Harlan’s work that must be preserved and enhanced. Looking after all this, and seeing to Harlan and Susan’s wishes, is something I will likely be doing for the rest of my life.

Everything that Harlan ever owned, did or wrote will be fiercely protected. Steps are being taken to certify Ellison Wonderland as a cultural landmark, ensuring that it will remain just as it is long after I have gone to dust.

To revive interest in his prose, literary representation has been shifted to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the largest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Film and TV rights will be handled through A3, previously known as the Abrams Agency, also a leading and influential agency. I will be working hand in glove with them to get Harlan’s work back into print in a big way.

There is more to say on future plans – much more – but all of that will come in time….

(2) WORD MAGIC. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick promises that Alix E. Harrow’s “‘The Once And Future Witches’ Will Have You Spellbound”.

…Harrow likes a secret society in the best way, and Witches is riddled with secrets, honeycombed with groups working toward overlapping or opposing goals. The Sisters engage in imaginative skulduggery, scrounging plans from overlooked skills and ignored know-how. She also likes an uprising, and here, where witchery and sickness both run deep as water under a layer of oil, that’s heady stuff. We all (I hope) agree women getting the vote was long overdue. Framing the reclamation of magic and power against that real-world struggle, which we know turned out a certain way, feels particularly apt to themes of once and future, poignant to the powerlessness many feel this year.

I adored watching characters as their expectations were subverted, as their understanding of their world expanded. Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay….

(3) MAUS ARTIST. The Guardian’s Sam Leith interviews “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly'”.

…Spiegelman’s success had the disconcerting effect of placing an artist who had been happy in the comix-with-an-x underground – a lysergic disciple of R Crumb – very firmly in the literary establishment. He became a staple of Tina Brown’s New Yorker, a darling of academics, and came to be regarded by many, not without resentment, as a sort of capo of the US comics scene.

“I remember when I first got this Pulitzer prize I thought it was a prank call,” he says, “But immediately after I got back to New York, I got an urgent call from a wonderful cartoonist and friend, Jules Feiffer: ‘We have to meet immediately. Can you come out and have a coffee?’ And we met. He said: ‘You have to understand what you’ve just got. It’s either a licence to kill, or something that will kill you.’”

That comics are now considered “respectable” – thanks in part to Maus – is something Spiegelman never quite looked for. But he acknowledges it has its advantages. “I’m astounded by how things have changed. And I would say I might have been dishonest or disingenuous when I said I wasn’t interested in it being respectable. I love the medium. And I love what was done in it from the 19th century to now. But I know that on some level, I want it to be able to not have to make everything have a joke, or an escapist adventure story.”

His rocket launch into canonicity was both “liberating and also incredibly confining – trying to find places to go where I wouldn’t have to be the Elie Wiesel of comic books”. Even at the time, Spiegelman seems to have been conscious that Maus would be in danger of defining him. The next project he took on was illustrating Moncure March’s jazz-age poem The Wild Party for a small press: “This was going to be a kind of polar opposite [to Maus]: decorative, erotic, frivolous in many ways and involved with the pleasures of making; although it didn’t turn out to be so pleasurable in its third year. Every project I start turns into a coffin.”

(4) MAKE IT SO. “‘I Longed To See Something Different, So I Wrote It’: Questions For Rebecca Roanhorse” at NPR.

… In an email interview, Roanhorse tells me that’s something she’s always wanted to write about. “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different,” she says. “So I wrote it. I never made a conscious decision to go in that direction. That direction was simply the natural culmination of my love of the architecture, poetry, politics, and history of these places and people that I’ve been learning about forever.”

(5) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. The actress says it ain’t so: “Tatiana Maslany Refutes She-Hulk Casting Report: Lead Role In Disney+ Series ‘Not Actually A Thing” at SYFY Wire.

Previous reports that Tatiana Maslany was getting ready to go green may have been premature. The Canadian-born Orphan Black star recently told an Ontario newspaper that she’s not been cast, after all, as the star of Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk series at Disney+.

Speaking with the The Sudbury Star this week, Maslany tapped the brakes on all the She-Hulk hype, saying she’s “unfortunately” not currently tied to the series. First reported by Variety in September, word quickly spread that Marvel had tapped Maslany to play Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk), the comics-based cousin of Bruce Banner.

(6) GAME FACE. Ty Schalter’s “Personal Canons: Ender’s Game” is the latest guest post in Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series.

…So why, then, am I putting on my cape and riding out for this book as one that Everyone Must Read?

It’s not just because it remains a beautiful piece of art. Neither is it just because many other great books Card wrote have been silenced by his own inability to let them speak for themselves. Nor is it just because Ender’s Game deserves to be snatched from the canonical pyre and preserved for future generations.

It’s because Ender’s Game is a warning.

It’s a warning to privileged kids like me, who believe they know better than everyone else, when they don’t know how to turn in their homework on time. It’s a warning to everyone who thinks the universe owes them anything, just because of the circumstances of their birth. It’s a warning to a society that will stop at nothing to put itself first, even if that means perverting everything it’s supposed to stand for. Most of all, it’s a warning to authors, to readers, to writers, to the SFF community.

Yes, it’s possible to build a future where everyone can thrive together. Where our stories and our lives are enriched by the diversity of our voices, experiences, myths, cultures, and canons. Where the stories we tell light the way for all of humanity.

But the moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by default. It requires constant, collective work with hammer and tongs. It requires pain, exhaustion, sacrifice by those who are able on behalf of those who aren’t. It requires humble reflection on everything we’ve ever done and choosing to do the right thing now, again and again, no matter how badly (or how often) we’ve screwed up. It is the journey of a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

(7) THE LIGHTHEARTEDNESS OF OTHER DAYS. James Wallace Harris surveys the field in “Poking Fun at Science Fiction”, but confesses, “My problem is sarcasm, satire, and subtle jabs go right over my head (my lady friends take advantage of this).”

…Study that Emsh (Ed Emshwiller) painting above. At first I thought it a clever way to suggest action – a woman had been abducted from a space colony. But then I thought of something, and it became funny, But how could it possibly comic? Obviously a woman has been kidnapped by an alien on a colony world – that’s tragic. But if you know the history of science fiction magazines, and the cliches about covers with BEMs carrying off a scantily clad women, then you might think Emsh is playing around. In case you don’t know the lingo, BEM stands for bug eyed monster. Sex sells, even for science fiction magazines. Why did Emsh leave off the sexy woman and lower the sales of that issue? Because we expected a naked woman he thought might be funny to disappoint us. Sure, the painting is of a serious action scene, a man is running to rescue a woman. Maybe even the editor told him, “No babes.” But I like to think Emsh is also poking fun at science fiction (See the section below, Sex, Nudity, and Prudity in Science Fiction.)

(8) FLEMING OBIT. Actress Rhonda Fleming died October 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead”. Here’s a brief excerpt concerning her genre connections.

Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress who became a popular sex symbol in Hollywood westerns, film noir and adventure movies of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fleming’s roles included those of a beautiful Arthurian princess in the Bing Crosby musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949).

… Ms. Fleming’s … last film was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based on the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart,” in which she played Edith Von Secondberg, an international fashion designer.

In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, relaxing at her California home with Mr. Mann, she said, “My husband recently asked me if I’d seen any movie I wanted to appear in.” She went straight for a specific role. “I said yes, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination form O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 17, 1856 – Jane Barlow.  Knew French & German; classical scholar; pianist.  D.Litt. from Univ. Dublin.  A score of books; Irish Idylls went into nine editions.  For us The End of Elfintown book-length poem; translation of The Battle of Frogs and Mice, title page here; under another name, A Strange Land.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 103. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next GenerationShadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 86. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.  (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1942 – John Sapienza, Jr., 78.  Gamer (six years in Alarums & Excursions), WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) stalwart, helpful con-runner (he was at SMOFcon 7; SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” being as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better; SMOFcon 37 was in 2019), and lawyer, who found himself marrying Peggy Rae Pavlat, which had an effect like Atomic Mouse’s U-235 pills.  He was and is quite worthy; I said the only way Peggy Rae could have got more sapience was by marrying him.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan.  Best known for the Wheel of Time series, finished by Brandon Sanderson at RJ’s death.  Also Conan the Barbarian books.  Under other names, historical fiction, a Western, dance criticism.  In the Army earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with oak-leaf cluster, Bronze Star with “V” and oak-leaf cluster, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.  His widow continues as an editor.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, F.N., 70.  Another WSFA stalwart, he chaired ConStellation the 41st Worldcon, three Disclaves including one he couldn’t attend, two Capclaves, Balticon 15, three World Fantasy Conventions.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 29, Lunacon 40, Armadillocon 36, World Fantasy Con 2018.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Publisher, Old Earth Books.  Occasional Filer.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1951 – Geraldine Harris, 69.  Five novels, two shorter stories; see her Website here.  Also children’s books on ancient Egypt.  Married name Geraldine Pinch identifies her academic work in Egyptology, from which she says she has retired.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 62. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 52. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1983 Felicity Jones,  37. She played Ethel Hallow for one series of The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. She’d later be in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy and in Rogue One as Jyn Erso. I’d say her role as balloon pilot Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts is genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 36.  Stick-figure cartoons can degenerate into word gags, and the endlessly sour can tire like the sweet, but speaking of endlessness, “Time” in RM’s xkcd won the Best-Graphic-Story Hugo having been updated every thirty minutes 25-30 Mar 2013, then every hour until 26 Jul, in total 3,099 images; he evidently learned Time must have a stopHuxley did.  A teacher of mine said “There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.
  • Bliss suggests the next Harry Potter title.
  • A mega-dose of secret history at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

(12) GRAB AND GO. October 20 will be the day NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex snatches a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Planetary Society has a briefing: “Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection”. Click on planetary.org/live for NASA TV coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET / 21:00 UTC.

…Collecting a sample from Bennu is no small challenge. The asteroid, which measures 500 meters (a third of a mile) wide, ended up being much rockier than mission designers expected. The sample site is just 16 meters in diameter and surrounded by boulders bigger than OSIRIS-REx itself. The spacecraft must collect its sample without guidance from Earth, since it currently takes nearly 20 minutes for signals to travel between our planet and Bennu at the speed of light.

The entire process takes almost 5 hours. OSIRIS-REx will match Bennu’s 4-hour rotation rate and slowly descend to the surface. To give the spacecraft more room to maneuver, it adjusts itself into a Y-shape, extending its sample arm 3 meters and tilting back its two solar panels. Eventually OSIRIS-REx must turn its high-gain antenna away from Earth, restricting the volume of information ground controllers can receive. The spacecraft figures out where it is by comparing surface views from prior flyovers with real-time camera images. It will back away immediately if it thinks it’s going to crash.

Bennu barely has any gravity, so OSIRIS-REx can’t land. Instead, the spacecraft will high-five Bennu with a cylindrical dinner plate-sized device at the end of its arm called TAGSAM, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM blasts nitrogen gas into the surface, kicking dust and small rocks into a collection chamber that runs around the inside of the device.

OSIRIS-REx won’t overstay its welcome, immediately backing a safe distance away from Bennu. The mission team will take pictures of TAGSAM to verify they got a sample, and later spin the spacecraft to weigh it. If for some reason things go awry, the spacecraft carries enough nitrogen for two more collection attempts. But if everything goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will store the sample in a capsule and depart for Earth next year. In September 2023, the capsule will parachute to a landing in Utah.

(13) POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH WITH BRAIN INSPIRED COMPUTING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A core trope of science fiction has been ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) from Arthur Clarke’s HAL 9000 to Philip K. Dick’s replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the rod to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore’s Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so’s time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have just had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.

All this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade’s time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article as well as the primary research abstract and the full paper (available only to subscribers and at subscribing academic libraries’ computer terminals.)

Meanwhile you can see a summary of last season’s science over at ;SF² Concatenation.

(14) REPEATEDLY FRAMED. Not Pulp Covers gives Ray Harryhausen a taste of his own stop-motion:

Special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, demonstrates animating a skeleton warrior from 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

(15) VOLUMES OF MONEY. Learn “Why first edition books can attract obsessive collectors and sell for eye-watering sums” at Inews.

Sales of first editions have made headlines around the world this week after fetching eye-watering price tags.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of his plays, from 1623 – was sold by Christie’s at auction in New York for a record $9.98m (£7.6m), hot on the heels of the sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for £75,000 on Tuesday.

But beyond the big hitters, there are collectors all around the world quietly seeking out first editions. They can amass important collections that would be nigh-on impossible to achieve if it was art, and not books, they were buying.

… Beyond that, collectors love first editions because they can show how the author wanted the book to look and can be a joint collaboration between author and publisher.

F Scott Fitzgerald, for example, was shown the original artwork for the dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and it influenced his thoughts on the novel. He wrote to his publisher in August 1924, begging them to keep the jacket for him as he had “written it into the book”.

Arthur Ransome so disliked the drawings produced for his book Swallows and Amazons that only the dust wrapper, endpaper and frontispiece designs were retained. He would eventually go on to illustrate it himself.

The Hobbit’s famous first edition cover – featuring a mountainous landscape – was designed by JRR Tolkien himself and is loved by collectors and fans alike.

And Lewis Carroll withdrew the initial print run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the quality of the images. There are thought to be only 22 of them in existence; with such scarcity comes a willingness from collectors to pay huge sums.

(16) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it’s actually a plasma torch, but it does look (and somewhat act) like the “real” thing. “Lightsaber technology has improved in the real world with the help of this retractable plasma sword” at SYFY Wire.

Lightsaber technology has come a long way since Star Wars‘ George Lucas painted some wooden dowel rods for Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Now people in the real world have actually created the ancient and respected blade of the Jedi — and it’s getting closer and closer to the legit canon construction. The latest evolution involves a retractable flaming beam that offers up 4000° of Darth Maul-halving power.

The latest step in The Hacksmith‘s grand quest for a real-life lightsaber (the YouTuber has been advancing his constructions over many different iterations) involves a retractable “blade” that replaces the super-hot metal rod from previous editions like the protosaber. Now it really looks like the lightsaber blade is extending and retracting, along with all the fiery damage it brings.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Every now and then.]