Pixel Scroll 7/8/22 Doctor Scroll In The Multipixel Of Madness

(1) IN SUIT OVER CONTROLLED DIGITAL LENDING PARTIES FILE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. This week both parties to the lawsuit over “controlled digital lending” — four publishers on one side and the Internet Archive on the other — filed motions for summary judgment Publishers Weekly reports: “Publishers, Internet Archive File Dueling Summary Judgment Motions in Scan Suit”. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to render a decision on the record already submitted.

The battle lines have now been drawn in a potentially landmark lawsuit over the scanning and lending of books. In a motion for summary judgment filed this week, lawyers for Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House argue that the Internet Archive’s controversial program to scan and lend books under an untested legal theory known as “controlled digital lending” is a massive piracy operation “masquerading as a not-for-profit library.” And in a dueling motion for summary judgment, the Internet Archive counters that its scanning and lending program does not harm authors and publishers and is a public good protected by fair use.

Copies of both parties’ motions are available online, the publishers motion here, and the Internet Archive’s motion here.

The publishers contend Internet Archive’s practices violate copyright law:

…Yet Internet Archive assumes that all “information should be free” and has searched for years to find a legal rationale for its radical infringements. Around 2018, it helped manufacture and market a theory called “controlled digital lending” or “CDL,” which was developed with no input from authors or publishers and without the imprimatur of Congress. Directly contradicting the idea that copyright protects a bundle of divisible rights, IA posits that it is lawful for a library to make digital copies of any print book it acquires and distribute that digital copy over the internet, without a license, as long as (a) the library uses digital rights management (“DRM”) technology to prevent additional copying, and (b) the library “only loan[s] simultaneously the number of [print] copies that it has legitimately acquired.” SUMF¶436. Regardless of whether it actually complies with CDL – and it does not – Internet Archive’s practice of CDL violates fundamental principles of copyright law, and undermines market incentives necessary to spur the creation of new works…

The Internet Archive’s motion gives this explanation of Controlled Digital Lending:

…CDL is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending; it’s just a better way of getting the book to the one patron who borrowed it. Because every book in the Internet Archive’s print collection has already been bought and paid for, everyone agrees the Internet Archive could loan those books by handing or mailing them to a patron.  The only difference is that the Internet Archive is loaning the books over the Internet.  Either way, the books on loan are not available to other patrons until they are returned….

The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a press release supporting the Internet Archive’s motion: “Internet Archive Seeks Summary Judgment in Federal Lawsuit Filed By Publishing Companies”.

“The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right foreign to American copyright law: the right to control how libraries may lend the books they own,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “They should not succeed. The Internet Archive and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it are not pirates or thieves. They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of a library’s right to lend its books to its patrons, one at a time.”

(2) IT CAUGHT ON IN A FLASH. Space Cowboy Books presents an “Online Flash Science Fiction Reading” on July 19 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings with authors Douglas A. Banc, Ricardo Victoria, and Adele Gardner. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(3) MUSK TO TWITTER: EJECT! “Elon Musk tells Twitter he wants out of his deal to buy it” reports CNN.

Elon Musk wants to terminate his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter — the latest in a whirlwind process in which the billionaire Tesla CEO became the company’s biggest shareholder, turned down a board seat, agreed to buy the social media platform and then started raising doubts about going through with the deal. The next chapter in the saga is almost certain to be a court battle.

Musk claimed in a letter to Twitter (TWTR)’s top lawyer that he is ending the deal because Twitter (TWTR) is “in material breach of multiple provisions” of the original agreement, which was signed in April, according to a regulatory filing Friday evening.

Musk has for weeks expressed concerns, without any apparent evidence, that there are a greater number of bots and spam accounts on the platform than Twitter has said publicly. Analysts have speculated that the concerns may be an attempt to create a pretext to get out of a deal he may now see as overpriced, after Twitter shares and the broader tech market have declined in recent weeks. Tesla (TSLA) stock, which Musk was planning to rely on in part to finance the deal, has also declined sharply since he agreed to the deal….

(4) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS. An exhibit of top African-American artists in the comic book industry, “The Artist’s Experience: from Brotherman to Batman”, is being hosted by the Society of Illustrators through October 29.

The Society of Illustrators has announced a dynamic installation on display in the museum that delves between the pages of comic books and explores the artists’ process. “The Artist’s Experience: From Brotherman to Batman” on display from June 15 through October 29, 2022. The exhibit celebrates some of the top African-American artists in the comic book industry, and was co-curated by renowned culture journalist and writer Karama Horne (Marvel’s Protectors of Wakanda: A History and Training Manual of the Dora Milaje) and Eisner Award-nominated artist and writer Shawn Martinbrough (How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling, Thief of Thieves, Red Hood), whose work will be featured along with over sixteen other talented artists.

… Also featured are Eisner Award-winning artists Afua Richardson (Black Panther World of Wakanda, HBO’s Lovecraft Country), Alitha Martinez (Batgirl, World of Wakanda) and John Jennings (Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower), as well as veteran artists Larry Stroman (Alien Legion, X-Factor) and Darryl Banks (Green Lantern).

Artwork from award-winning artist Ronald Wimberly, founder of the experimental art magazine THE LAAB (whose Prince of Cats graphic novel is currently being adapted to film by Spike Lee), Khary RandolphJamal Igle, Micheline Hess, Sanford Greene, Eric Battle, Marcus Williams, Chuck Collins, Damion Scott and Robyn Smith will all be on display, as well.

(5) TOLL ON LIBRARY WORKERS. “Groundbreaking Study Explores Trauma, Stress in Frontline Library Workers”Publishers Weekly gives an overview.

The 2022 Urban Libraries Unite Trauma Study draws upon a wide-ranging literature review, survey responses from more than 435 urban library workers (conducted between August and September 2021), focus groups, and a two-day forum. The final report paints a vivid picture of the difficult working conditions facing many urban librarians and library workers, as well as a promising framework through which the library community can begin to address its needs.

“It is clear that there is a crisis of trauma in urban public libraries and the evidence for this is so overwhelmingly compelling that it seems likely that trauma impacts work in libraries of all types across the profession,” reads the report’s conclusion. “It is also clear from the literature search and the conversations that created this report’s conclusions that the library profession is starting to wake up to this deeply corrosive crisis.”

The report describes a range of violent or aggressive patron behavior toward library workers, including racist and sexist verbal abuse, harassment, physical assault including having guns and other weapons brandished, and drug and alcohol issues including overdoses. In addition, library workers reported significant instances of “secondary trauma” from constant interactions with community members (including children) struggling with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, or drug abuse….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join David Gerrold for a breakfast buffet on episode 175 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

David Gerrold

Now it’s time for breakfast with David Gerrold, who I first encountered when I was 12, because I saw the Star Trek episode scripted by him, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” when it first aired in 1967. And they say 12 is the Golden Age of science fiction, right?

But David is so much more than that famed episode. He’s the author of more than 50 books, hundreds of articles and columns, and numerous hours of television. His TV credits include episodes from Star Trek (such as the aforementioned “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “The Cloud Minders”), Star Trek Animated (“More Tribbles, More Troubles” and “Bem”), Babylon 5 (“Believers”), Twilight Zone (“A Day In Beaumont” and “A Saucer Of Loneliness”), Land Of The Lost (“Cha-Ka,” “The Sleestak God,” “Hurricane,” “Possession,” and “Circle”), Tales From The Darkside (“Levitation” and “If The Shoes Fit”), Logan’s Run (“Man Out Of Time”), and others.

His novels include When HARLIE Was One (which I believe was the first prose of his I read, at age 17), The Man Who Folded HimselfThe War Against The Chtorr septology, The Star Wolf trilogy, and The Dingilliad young adult trilogy, the Trackers duology, and many more. The autobiographical tale of his son’s adoption, “The Martian Child,” won the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette of the Year and was the basis for the 2007 movie, Martian Child.  He was the 2022 winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which was presented during Balticon.

We discussed what he means by “humility in the face of excellence,” the curse of fame and why J. D. Salinger may have had the right idea, how the more you know the slower you write, the challenge of living up to having won the Heinlein Award (and why Heinlein once called him “a very nasty man”), the scariest story he ever wrote, how Sarah Pinsker helped him understand what he really felt about Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the kind of person he might have been had he not moved to L.A. as a kid, the fannish way he found out he’d been nominated for a Hugo Award, how it feels to already know what the headline of his obituary will be, and much more.

(7) TOM FABER ON VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber recalls seeing Braveheart with his cousin, who asked, “Where are all the wizards?”

On surveying my collection of fantasy movies and video games the next day, I realized that almost all of them were set in a place that resembled 13th-century Scotland, from Lord Of The Rings to Skyrim to Game Of Thrones.  Given that fantasy is the only genre that gives writers unlimited creative licence to dream up the wildest worlds, why do we see the same tired cliches again and again?…

…This is finally starting to change with the emergence of game developers outside the conventional industry hubs who are weaving new fantasies from the threads of their own history and myths.  Earlier this year, Mexican studio Lienzo released Aztech:  Forgotten Gods, which imagines a sci-fi world in which the Aztecs were never conquered.  Rafi:  An Ancient Epic incorporates Hindu mythology and draws inspiration fro the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Maori developer Naphtali Faulkner created the stylish Umurangi Generation, a photo game set in a near-future New Zealand. Meanwhile, Aurion:  Legacy of the Kori-Odan and the ambitious upcoming game The Wagada Chronicles both explore complex African mythologies.

(8) NOT JUST ANY STREAM. “Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novels are set for TV adaptation” – the Guardian tells about the deal.

A new partnership will bring together all nine of the novels, plus the accompanying short stories, novellas and graphic novels, for the screen.

Rivers of London is part urban fantasy, part police procedural, centring on detective constable Peter Grant. A newly graduated police officer from London, he is recruited in the first book by wizard and inspector Thomas Nightingale to the Folly, a police unit working on supernatural crimes, after an encounter with a ghost….

(9) DIRDA ON BOOKS OF INTEREST TO FANS. Michael Dirda reviews three volumes of Folio Society collections of Marvel comics and three volumes of Penguin Marvel collections. He also reviews a book called Cosplay which is a history of cosplayers going back to Worldcon masquerades. “Marvel comics in updated editions from Penguin and Folio, reviewed” in the Washington Post.

…All this past spring, then, I was eagerly looking forward to recapturing some of that ancient enchantment by immersing myself in six colorful volumes of Marvel superhero comics: three Penguin Classics collections of the early adventures of Spider-ManCaptain America and Black Panther, and three Folio Society best-of collections devoted to Spider-Man, Captain America and Hulk.

For fans, both series are desirable and contain little overlap. The general editor of the Penguin editions, Ben Saunders, a comics scholar from the University of Oregon, provides historical background on how Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others co-created these modern legends. Contemporary writers such as Qiana J. Whitted, Gene Luen Yang, Jason Reynolds and Nnedi Okorafor contribute additional introductions or winningly personal forewords. Appendixes feature recommended reading lists and sometimes supplemental essays, such as Don McGregor’s memoir of how he wrote the multi-issue “Panther’s Rage,” which supplied some of the plot elements to the “Black Panther” movie. Each of these collectible Penguin hardbacks runs to roughly 350 pages and is priced at $50. Paperback editions cost $28.

The Folio Society volumes cost $125 apiece, but for purists they offer a slightly more authentic reading experience….

…At least, I continue to be childishly delighted by adult cosplay, the practice of dressing up as a favorite fictional or cinematic character. As our troubled superheroes know, donning a mask can be liberating, a way of releasing one’s deeper self. Appropriately, Andrew Liptak’s opens his chatty “Cosplay: A History” by looking at costume balls, historical reenactors, Halloween and the tradition of masquerade night at science-fiction conventions. Still, his heart really belongs to the Star Wars franchise.

(10) R. C. HARVEY (1937-2022). Cartoonist Robert C. Harvey, a respected comics historian and columnist, died July 7. His autobiographical intro at The Comics Journal sums up an incredible career.

Harv’s first foray into expository text was with a column in the fondly recalled Menomonee Falls Gazette (a weekly newspaper of comic strips) in the fall of 1973. A couple years later, he launched his Comicopia column in No.130 of the Rocket’s Blast – ComiCollector, which, by then, had been taken over by James Van Hise from Gordon Love, the founder. For RB-CC, he created a mock comicbook superhero, Zero Hero.

In March 1980, Harvey abandoned early columns and started writing for The Comics Journal, with a new effort, The Reticulated Rainbow, starting in No. 54 and continuing regularly under various titles for an insufferably long time. By the time he was in his eighties, Harv’d become, probably, the Journal contributor with the greatest longevity.

Bob also was a longtime contributor to Jud Hurd’s Cartoonist PROfiles magazine, The Thompson’s Comics Buyer’s Guide, Hogan’s Alley, and Nemo, the Classic Comics Library, among others. He also contributed to the early version of the scholarly comics publication Inks. The R.C. Harvey archives for The Comics Journal can be accessed here, and his recent Humor Times columns are here.

Harvey has written or collected and edited thirteen books on comics and cartooning, including his Milton Caniff: Conversations (2002) from the University Press of Mississippi, followed by a full biography of Caniff, Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon (2007) published by Fantagraphics. His most recent book is Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators (2014) from UPM. A complete list of his books appears at his website.

Harvey still has two books scheduled to be released this Fall. He annotated the current Fantagraphics Complete Pogo series giving context to references in Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Volume Eight will arrive with R.C.’s contribution. He has also wrote and assembled The Art and History of Popeye due later this year.

(11) LARRY STORCH (1923-2022). Actor Larry Storch died July 8 at the age of 99. His most famous role was the scheming Corporal Agarn of F Troop (1965-1967). His genre work included co-starring with Bob Burns (who wore a gorilla costume) and Forrest Tucker on the Saturday morning children’s show The Ghost Busters. Storch appeared in more than 25 films, including The Monitors (1969, based on a Keith Laumer novel), and Without Warning (1980). He voiced characters in animated shows such as Merlin the Magic Mouse and Cool Cat. In Journey Back to Oz he voiced Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s farmhand Amos.

(12) KAZUKI OBITIARY. Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Takahashi Kazuki hwas found dead at sea says Deadline. He was 60.

Takahashi Kazuki, the creative force behind manga trading card and Japanese entertainment franchise Yu-Gi-Oh!, has been found dead, according to local public broadcaster NHK.

It was reported Takahashi, whose real name is Kazuo Takahashi, was discovered floating while in snorkeling gear in near Okinawa Prefecture in Japan on Wednesday. A coast guard is looking into the cause of death.

Takahashi began as a manga artist in the 1980s and found success in 1996 when he created manga comic series Yu-Gi-Oh! and began serializing it in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. He later outlined the rules for an accompanying trading card game.

The franchise grew to span several TV shows, manga spin-offs and video games and is now one of the highest-grossing of all time….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2003 [By Cat Eldridge.] Some amazingly strange series come out of Canada. So it is with the Alienated series that debuted nineteen years ago this day on the Space network in Canada. It lasted for two seasons and a mere twenty-two episodes.

I’ve no idea who created it since, in true Heinleinian fashion, the serial numbers seem to have been completely filed off. 

It was a comedy centered on a stereotypical suburban family living in Victoria, British Columbia who undergo strange and often overtly sexual changes (all nudity was pixillated) after being abducted by aliens. The mother was played by Sarah-Jane Redmond best remembered  as Lucy Butler on the Millennium series and the father was played by Johnathan Whittaker who later shows on up The Expanse as Sec-Gen Gillis.

I think it was, to say the least, not aimed at all at being tasteful based on episode titles of the likes of “Where’s the Vagina?”, “Hard to Keep a Good Man Down” and “Where’s the Saltpeter?”. I have no idea what time of the evening it was broadcast in but I’m betting it was later on.

Critics, the few who actually bothered with reviewing it, found it entertaining. It never got a proper wrap-up as it was cancelled in the way so many of these low rated series are — in the middle of the night when no one is looking.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1933 — Michael Barrier, 89. One of the few actors not a regular crew member on the original Trek who shows in multiple episodes under the same name. He was DeSalle in “The Squire of Gothos”, “This Side of Paradise” and “Catspaw”. While he has the same name each time, he does not have the same shipboard job as he serves as a navigator in the first episode, a biologist in “This Side of Paradise” and assistant chief engineer in “Catspaw”. 
  • Born July 8, 1942 — Otto Penzler, 80. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it. Back in the Seventies, with Chris Steinbrunner, he co-wrote the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection for which they won an Edgar Award.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 71. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 67. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 64. The role I best remember him for is Valentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man

(15) TUTTLE’S PICKS. “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup” by Lisa Tuttle in the Guardian. Covers The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch; The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings; Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata and Old Country by Matt and Harrison Query

(16) SUPER-PETS CASTING. “The Good Place star confirmed as Wonder Woman in new DC movie”Digital Spy knows her name.

DC has got itself a new Wonder Woman, with The Good Place‘s Jameela Jamil confirmed as the voice of Diana Prince’s super alter-ego in DC’s League of Super-Pets.

(17) BIG NUMBERS. “Six Flags Magic Mountain to debut record-breaking Wonder Woman coaster”KTLA has details.

WONDER WOMAN Flight of Courage will take riders on a thrilling adventure for the very first time next Saturday, July 16.

Riders will reach speeds of up to 58 mph and can expect a steep climb up a 131-foot hill, an intense 87-degree drop and three inversions (like a loop) along the coaster’s 3,300-foot track.

Before boarding, those waiting in the Greek-inspired ride queue will be treated to immersive storytelling and a deep dive of the comic book heroine’s history and greatest accomplishments…

(18) IT WILL TAKE YOU THERE. “‘Portals will be as important as the car’: the architects exploring gateways to new dimensions” at the Guardian.

…The examples range from the rabbit-hole in Alice in Wonderland and the wardrobe in the Narnia books, to Dr Who’s Tardis, Back to the Future’s DeLorean and Platform 9¾ in Harry Potter, via all manner of holes, mirrors, cracks, bridges and “energy frames” found in sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Their timeline tells an eye-opening story, charting the explosion of portals after the second world war, marked by the likes of The Sentinel by Arthur C Clarke (which formed the basis of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey), the Wayback Machine in Peabody’s Improbable History, and the tollbooth from the 1961 book The Phantom Tollbooth, written by architect Norton Juster.

The following period, leading up to the cold war and the space race, saw portals take the form of massive energy-intensive machines and weapons built in the battle for world domination. They highlight the 1960s TV series The Time Tunnel, where thousands of people work under the desert surface on a secret megastructure, which would allow the US military to travel in time, noting how its iconic spiral design went on to inspire countless portals in future stories. The period after the cold war, meanwhile, saw portals serve more satirical and comical roles in lowbrow sci-fi and family movies – such as the phone booth in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, or the people-eating television in the 1980s body horror film Videodrome.

They found one of the most recurring types of portal to be the “portable hole”, first featured in the Looney Toons cartoon The Hole Idea in 1955, in which a scientist demonstrates his device for rescuing a baby from a safe, cheating at golf and escaping from housework. It later appears in the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine, in the form of the Sea of Holes, as well as in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, reaching a hole-studded peak in the 1985 Marvel cartoon character, Spot – whose body is covered in portals…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Stranger Things Season 4 Pitch Meeting”, Ryan Geroge, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the villain this season is a guy who is bald, strong, doesn’t have a nose, and is clearly not Voldemort,  Also several characters manage to remain alive by not explicitly dying in front of the camera during their death scenes.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/11/22 In The Beginning There Was Nothing But Rocks. And Then Somebody Scrolled A Pixel

(1) THE FUR IS FLYING. Flayrah’s Tantroo McNally suspects the number of furry fandom’s Ursa Major awards voters who make a dispassionate assessment of quality is being overwhelmed by devoted fans of specific popular franchises and creators that campaign for the award. McNally regards this as a problem, therefore is in search of a solution: “Ursa’s Major Issue – Confident self-promotion vs humble passionate skill, and a voting system’s favoritism”.

Ursa, we may have a problem. Or at least so it may seem. Over the past few years the number of people voting in the furry fandom’s popular choice awards appears to be dwindling once again, despite continual growth and booming attendance at our conventions – COVID aside – revealing the growing audience and community beneath this stagnation.

But if less people in proportion are voting, is there a reason for this? One option may be that the system may be lead to some strange victors based on popularity of a franchise or personality rather than other considerations. But is this just a coincidence or could it be how the system was inadvertently crafted?

This article’s goal is to highlight why the current system is so sensitive to favoring artists who self-promote or whose fans rally on their behalf, at the expense of voters that weigh more toward judging the quality of the pieces nominated without authorship considerations. It will then propose a small change to make it more fair to both types of voters and creators, without stifling out those who show up with a passion for their artist.

Flayrah’s awards coverage post by GreenReaper (Laurence Parry) also criticized those in hot pursuit of awards: “’Shine’, ‘Awoo!’ take 2021 Ursa Major Awards by landslides; K. Garrison wins three”.

…Prior to voting’s close, anonymous commenters disparaged Nightstar’s promotional endeavours, which included visibility hacks such as posting comics as stories. But nobody could fault her for effort, with not only a nominations plug or two… or three, but numerous comic strips ‘desperately’ seeking readers’ votes. Likewise, Shine‘s artist Star sought nomination and invited fans to vote, as did Rocket’s builder Akela Taka. Of course, this approach was not always successful — but to some, even a nomination felt like a victory….

(2) OUSTED FROM THE MOUSE. Kenan Thompson was today’s guest on Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me and one of his questions was about how Harlan Ellison got fired from Disney. And Kenan blew the question, spectacularly! “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! — Kenan Thompson”.

Kenan Thompson, the longest-tenured cast member of Saturday Night Live, plays our game about people who only lasted one day on the job. He is joined by panelists Luke Burbank, Negin Farsad and Hari Kondabolu.

(3) SPOCK TO BE REMOVED FROM CANADIAN FIVE DOLLAR BILL. Well, technically he’s never been on it, however quite a few years ago, Lloyd Penney was the first person to show me how easy it is to turn the fellow on Canada’s $5 bill into a likeness of Spock.

Now the time is fast approaching when Wilfrid Laurier will be put out to pasture in favor of one of the shortlisted candidates for the next $5 bank note.

It won’t be William Shatner. He’s Canadian, but he fails the requirement of having been dead for 25 years – fortunately for us.

(4) UP ALL NIGHT. MSN.com sums up “Everything we know about Marvel’s Midnight Suns”.

…As of now, the reveal trailer is all that we have as far as footage for Marvel’s Midnight Suns, and while it has next to nothing in terms of gameplay, we can still learn a lot about what this game will be.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns will be a more supernatural-focused take on the superhero genre and is something like a more magical-focused version of the Avengers, although we obviously see some of the big names from that team here as well, including Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and Captain America. The plotline will be notably darker than other Marvel media, with the main antagonistic force being the spawn of the underworld. Hydra has awoken the Mother of Demons, Lilith, from her long slumber, and she has begun her own quest to summon an even greater evil known as Chthon.

The Avengers turn to the titular team known as the Midnight Suns, made up of heroes with their own supernatural talents, to combat this occult threat. Their first act is to bring out a secret weapon of their own, Lilith’s own child, known as the Hunter, who is the only one to have ever managed to defeat Lilith in the past. It looks, at least from the small bits we’ve seen, to be a fresh perspective for this franchise, and we’re excited to see if it can stick the landing….

(5) ATTENTION, PLEASE. Lisa Tuttle’s latest book recommendations came out in yesterday’s Guardian: “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup”. Reviews of Ordinary Monsters by JM Miro; In the Heart of Hidden Things by Kit Whitfield; The Sanctuary by Andrew Hunter Murray; The Splendid City by Karen Heuler; and Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada.

(6) GUSHING. USA Today reviewer Kelly Lawler seriously, seriously loves For All Mankind, now starting season 3 on Apple TV+. “’For All Mankind’ review: Why Apple TV+ space drama is TV’s best show”.

It’s 1992, and the solar system’s first space hotel is about to open. A woman is running for president. The United States, the Soviet Union and a private corporation are in a three-way race to land astronauts on Mars. 

At least, that’s what’s happening in the 1992 of Apple TV+’s stunning “For All Mankind” (returning Friday, streaming weekly streaming Fridays; ★★★★ out of four) an alternate history drama that imagines the 1960s space race between the U.S. and the USSR never ended. Now in its third season, the series rockets to a Mars-centric version of the 1990s where the timeline is different but still feels a bit like the ’90s we know. 

“Mankind” is the rare series that’s exciting, emotional, tense, dramatic, heartbreaking, elating and infuriating all at once. Some TV shows are good, some are great, and still others remind me why I became a critic in the first place. And in the endless barrage of mediocre series pushed out weekly, “Mankind” stands out, a shining star (or moon or planet) among the replaceable rest….

(7) BEGIN HERE. The Best of Edward M. Lerner was released in May. “A physicist and computer engineer, Edward M. Lerner toiled in the vineyards of high tech for thirty years, as everything from engineer to senior vice president. Then, suitably intoxicated, he began writing full time.”

While you probably know Ed from his SF novels, including the InterstellarNet series and the epic Fleet of Worlds series with Larry Niven, Ed is also a prolific author of acclaimed short fiction. This collection showcases his finest and favorite shorter works.

Faced with the common question of which of his books should someone read first, he has carefully selected these stories to cover his wide range. Now he can answer, “This one!”

Alternate history. Parallel worlds. Future crime. Alien invasion. Alien castaways. Time travel. Quantum intelligence (just don’t call him artificial). A sort-of haunted robot. Deco punk. In this book, you’ll find these—and more—together with Ed’s reminiscences about each selection and its relationship to other stories, novels, and even series that span his writing career.

These are the best, as determined by awards, award nominations, and the selective tastes of eight top editors and choosy Analog readers.

Each excellent story stands alone—you won’t need to have read anything prior—but you’ll surely want to read more of Ed’s books afterwards.

Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago on this day saw Spielberg taking on Nazis, errr, wrong film. No, this time it was Really Big Reptiles. Jurassic Park premiered launching the beginning of a very, very lucrative franchise. It would indeed be honored with a Hugo at ConAdian the next year suggesting that it a very popular film among y’all.

It’s based on a screenplay by Michael Crichton as co-written by David Koepp off his novel of the same name. It was produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen, both of which had long histories with Spielberg. The human cast was extended, so I’ll just single out Richard Attenborough, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Neill and BD Wong here.

Now about those Really Big Reptiles. They were created with a combination of imagery from Industrial Light & Magic and with life-sized animatronic dinosaurs built by Stan Winston’s team. Yes they were life-size! These were Really Big Reptiles. I thought they looked lifelike when I watched it in the theater and I know why they were! Scary looking bastards they were. 

Despite the impressive look of the film, it was actually cheap to produce costing around sixty million dollars. Crichton was smart as he only took a one point five million fee and instead got a guaranteed percentage of the gross, a gross which was over a billion in the end. 

Did the critics like it? Yes for the most part though I thought they rightfully note almost all of them that the human characters came off as, errr, lacking in being real. Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone said that it was a “colossal entertainment—the eye-popping, mind-bending, kick-out-the-jams thrill ride of summer and probably the year” and Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review noted that though it’s a great SF film: “the movie is lacking other qualities that it needs even more, such as a sense of awe and wonderment, and strong human story values.” 

May I ask do we really need strong human characters when you’ve got Really Big Reptiles? I think not. 

It went to create quite a franchise. The Lost World: Jurassic Park was next followed by Jurassic Park IIIJurassic WorldJurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and A sixth film, Jurassic World Dominion, came out this month. Films four and five each grossed over a billion dollars with the other sequels doing well over a half billion. 

It currently holds a ninety-two rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 11, 1927 — Kit Pedler. In the Sixties, he became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. One of his creations was the Cybermen. He also wrote three scripts — “The Tenth Planet” (co-written with Gerry Davis), “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen“.  Pedler and Davis went on to create and co-write the Doomwatch series. He wrote a number of genre novel including Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters (co-written with Gerry Davis) and Doomwatch: The World in Danger. Another one who died much too young, by heart attack. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 11, 1929 — Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films such as Burn, Witch, Burn which was nominated for a Hugo at Discon I (no Award was given that year), 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 11, 1933 — Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course he has more genre roles than that starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by the already noted Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein which won a Hugo at the first AussieCon. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast also included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.)
  • Born June 11, 1945 — Adrienne Barbeau, 77. Swamp Thing with her is quite pulpy. She’s also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair that never got wrapped up properly. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. Anyone here read these? 
  • Born June 11, 1959 — Hugh Laurie, 63. Best known as House to most folks whose series is streaming on Peacock right now and I really should rewatch it. His most recent genre role was as Mycroft Holmes in that wretched Holmes and Watson film. He’s had past genre roles in The Borrowers, the Stuart Little franchise, TomorrowlandBlackadder: Back & Forth and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)
  • Born June 11, 1968 — Justina Robson, 54. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. I was surprised that she hasn’t picked up any Hugo nominations so far, although her work has been up for other awards 18 times.
  • Born June 11, 1971 — P. Djèlí Clark, 51. I’m very much enjoying A Master of Djinn which made my Hugo nominations list this year. It follows his “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” novella and “The Angel of Khan el-Khalili” and “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”, short stories, all set in his Dead Djinn universe. I’ve not read his “Black Drums” novella which garnered a Hugo nomination at Dublin 2019, nor the “Ring Shout” novella which got a Hugo nomination at DisCon III, so I welcome opinions on them. And I see his “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” short story also got a 2019 Hugo nomination.  CoNZealand saw “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” pick up a nomination.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Crankshaft gets another superpet joke out of the setup we linked to the other day.

(11) STRETCH GOAL. “More ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’: Sony to Release Extended Cut In Theaters” reports Variety.

Are your spidey senses tingling?

Sony Pictures announced that “Spider-Man: No Way Home — The More Fun Stuff Version,” a cut of the December 2021 Marvel film with added and extended scenes, will hit theaters over Labor Day Weekend.

The news came Friday evening in celebration of 60 years of the Spider-Man comic book character and 20 years of Spider-Man films, along with a teaser featuring a clip from the movie where Tom Holland and previous “Spider-Man” actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield unite.

“This is so cool. We should do this again,” says Garfield’s Peter Parker.

“You got it,” Maguire’s Peter replies….

(12) PEDAL TO THE METAL. On the 40th anniversary of E.T., Henry Thomas chats with Ethan Alter of Yahoo! Entertainment on how he filmed that bicycle scene. “’E.T.’ at 40: Henry Thomas explains the movie magic behind the beloved film’s famous flying bike scene”.

It’s a scene that every child of the ’80s knows by heart: Riding through the California wilderness with his extra-terrestrial pal, E.T., riding shotgun — or, more accurately, riding shot-basket — young Elliott’s bicycle lifts off from the forest floor and ascends into the sky until the two are silhouetted against the full moon. That image didn’t just define Steven Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster — it also became the signature logo for his production company, Amblin Entertainment, gracing hundreds of beloved films and TV series. While that scene defines movie magic for audiences in the theater, for the film’s young star, Henry Thomas, it was just another day on the job….

(13) FOZ DIDN’T DIG IT.  This title tells you what Foz Meadows thinks of the new movie: “I Saw Jurassic World: Dominion So That You Don’t Have To”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Jurassic World: Dominion is not a good movie. Let’s get that out of the way up top. Given how terrible the first two Jurassic World movies were, I wasn’t expecting it to be, and yet I felt the need to see it anyway, just to make sure. Possibly this coloured my perception of it from the outset, but generally speaking, I’m not a person who purposefully sets out to hatewatch things, as I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised by an okayish film than proven right by a dud. I will, however, spitefinish an aggravating film in order to justify writing about it afterwards, and having sat through all 146 minutes of Dominion – unlike my mother, who walked out of our session and went home after the first five minutes because it was so goddamn loud – I feel the need to save others the time and money of doing likewise….

(14) IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL GET DRUNK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I do not want Shoeless Joe crushing the grapes for me. Especially after a full nine innings. “The baseball field in a wine vineyard” at MLB.com.

…It’s there because, well, a guy and his team needed a place to play baseball.

“The field was built in 2002,” Green said. “It was proposed by our vineyard operations manager, Manuel Vallejo, who’s worked for the Ballettos for more than 30 years. Manuel asked [founder] John [Balletto] if they could plow about four acres for a baseball field. He was playing in a community league and his team was having a really hard time finding places to practice.”

During that time, the Balletto family was in the middle of transitioning from a vegetable farm to a winery — so they were already razing old fields and planting new ones. John also thought it would be a good idea, a perk for employees and a fun addition to the property. So, the founder bought his baseball-loving employees the materials needed for construction and then Vallejo and his coworkers began building their vision. It took about a year to finish, and they proudly maintain it to this day. Vallejos’ team is fittingly called Los Uveros or, The Grapers, and they play other community teams on Sundays with practices a couple times per week. Their jerseys are also as cool as you’d imagine….

…”Yeah, all of the sections are marked. Left into center field, we’re growing Pinot Gris,” Green told me. “Right field is Chardonnay. Left field, like foul ground, is mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and there is a little bit of Pinot Noir out there.”…

(15) NORWEGIAN WOOD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If they do three Troll movies, will that be a Trollogy?

Deep inside the mountain of Dovre, something gigantic awakens after being trapped for a thousand years. Destroying everything in its path, the creature is fast approaching the capital of Norway. But how do you stop something you thought only existed in Norwegian folklore?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, N., Bonnie McDaniel, Jennifer Hawthorne, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/22 Now That’s A Pixel I’ve Not Scrolled In A Long Time. A Long Time

(1) BEARING IT ALL. John Scalzi gives his fans a gift in “A New Story For You: Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager” at Whatever.

Whenever I go on book tour, I like to write up a short story to read at the events; a thank you, as it were, to the people who show up, who get to hear me read something no one else has gotten to yet. …

… This year, the short story I wrote (which I performed first on the 2022 edition of the JoCo Cruise) is called “Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager,” and it comes with a backstory, which is, there’s an actual job with the US National Park Service called a Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager. This job was pointed out to me by a friend who works with the park service; they were going to go into detail about the job actually entailed, but I stopped them before they could do so. “No, no,” I said. “I want to write a story about this job, and I do not want it sullied by mere facts.”

Thus, this story is a fanciful interpretation of what I imagine a Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager does, which I am almost entirely certain has nothing to do with what someone with this job actually does…

(2) PRECIOUS MOMENTS. Andy Serkis returns as Gollum in the new audiobook of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Award-winning actor Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) returns to Middle-earth this September in the brand new unabridged audiobook of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. In this scene, he reprises his role as Gollum.

 (3) DO KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY. Scott Oden talks about “The Landscape of Historical Fiction, Circa Now”.

…Certain topics are perennial. The Tudors, for example, seem always in fashion. So, too, the Romans. The latter are split into two camps: the pulpier sword-and-sandal novels of war and great deeds, emperors and kings, and the “quieter” histories that also bear some resemblance to romance novels. Scottish books are still holding steady, with their shirtless Highlanders and fiery gingers. Civil War novels have all but vanished, and there are a few Revolutionary era out there. I’ve seen more set in medieval India that I’d previously noticed.

Discordant to me, the Sixties have edged into historical fiction. The 1960s. The decade of my birth. This reminds me I’m slowly fossilizing ….

(4) WRAP ARTIST. At CrimeReads, Lisa Tuttle says “Forget Frankenstein. It’s Time To Read The Mummy!”, about a little known early science fiction novel from 1827.

FRANKENSTEIN, published in 1818, established Mary Shelley’s monster as a permanent icon of horror, and is considered by many to be the first true science fiction novel. Yet The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century, published nine years later, has a much stronger claim to that position. It was also the first work of fiction to feature an Egyptian mummy restored to life, but it was too far ahead of its time to become the foundational text for the later wave of horror featuring vengeful mummies.

Despite some Gothic flourishes, The Mummy! is not strictly a tale of horror. It does not deal in ancient curses or dark magic, and if at first the mummy of Cheops appears as a grim, imposing figure with flashing eyes and an eerie laugh, striking terror into the hearts of all who see him, he turns out to be a strangely helpful Machiavellian operator as he swiftly involves himself in political machinations following the death of Queen Claudia in twenty-second century London….

(5) IF YOU WANT OGRES. The Hugo Book Club Blog reviews Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Ogres in “Monstrously Wealthy”. Maybe you’d like to read it, too? They have three copies to give away. Here’s what you need to do.

(6) Q&A WITH NOMMO NOMINEES. The BSFA interviews past nominees for the Nommo Awards: Innocent Chizaram Ilo; Tlotlo Tsamaase; Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki; Tochi Onyebuchi; NIkhil Singh; Stephen Embleton.

(7) THAT OLD GANG OF MINE. “Star Trek: Picard to Reunite Next Generation Cast for Season 3”Variety tells who’ll be aboard.

Star Trek: The Next Generation” stars LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner will join Patrick Stewart for the third and final season of the Paramount Plus series “Star Trek: Picard.”

Spiner has played several characters on “Picard” in Season 1 and 2 (which is currently streaming), including his original role of the android Data; Frakes and Sirtis appeared in one memorable episode of “Picard” in Season 1 as William T. Riker and Deanna Troi. And Whoopi Goldberg reprised her role as Guinan in the Season 2 premiere. But this will be the first time the main “TNG” cast — including Burton as Geordi La Forge, Dorn as Worf, and McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher — has performed on screen together since the 2002 feature film “Star Trek: Nemesis.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-six years ago, the Golden Voyage of Sinbad premiered in the United States on this day. It was based as these things are somewhat loosely upon on Sinbad the Sailor from One Thousand and One Nights, better known as the Arabian Nights

It was directed by Gordon Hessler, previously known for his long association with the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. It was scripted by him from a story by himself and Ray Harryhausen who of course did the special effects here. Harryhausen and Charles Schneer, whose career was spent mostly working with Hartyhausen, produced it. 

It has a cast of John Phillip Law, Tom Baker, Takis Emmanuel, Caroline Munro, Douglas Wilmer and Martin Shaw. Munro was given the female lead, though they had to hew to a G rating here. And it is said that Baker’s performance in this film was what landed him the role of the Fourth Doctor, because the show’s producer, Barry Letts, was impressed with his performance here.

So how was the reception at the time for it? 

Well, Time magazine (remember them?) rather liked it though Baker they did not: “The movie is short on talk, except for the windbag wizard (Tom Baker) who plays the villain, and long on action, quite the proper proportion for entertainments like this. Sinbad is light, silly fun, and kids will probably appreciate both the skillful technique of the fantasy and the fact that the film makers have had the good sense not to include a single—yecchh!—kissing scene.” 

And Variety was likewise impressed: “As with producer Charles H. Schneer’s Jason and the Argonauts, Ray Harryhausen encores as coproducer and special effects collaborator. Among his creations: an animated ship’s figurehead, a grotesque centaur, a many-armed religious idol and swordplay adversary, and a couple of small bat-like creatures performing intelligence duty for the black artsy heavy of the piece. Good enough conjuring tricks to impress the kids.  Neither story nor running time are belabored under Gordon Hessler’s capable direction. And the play-acting is up to snuff for this kind of throwback, in which John Phillip Law impersonates Sinbad with appealing understatement.”

Currently it holds decent though not outstanding sixty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can purchase or rent it pretty much anywhere.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 5, 1909 Albert Broccoli. American film producer responsible for all the Bond films up to Licence to Kill, either by himself or in conjunction with others. He also was the producer of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and executive produced The Gamma People which is in the public domain, so you can see it here. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 5, 1916 Bernard Baily. A comics writer, editor and publisher. Best remembered as co-creator of The Spectre and Hourman. For DC Comics precursor National Comics, Baily co-created and drew the adventure feature “Tex Thomson” in Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the landmark comic book that introduced Superman. In 1943, he founded his own studio. Among the artists who started out in the industry there were Frank Frazetta, Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode, one of three Trek episodes he did. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended. And I know “That Hellbound Train” which won him first Hugo at Detention is the piece by him that I’ve read the most. He received a special committee award at L.A. Con II, where they were honored him for fifty years as SF professional. Impressive indeed. And yes, he’s a member of First Fandom as he should be. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 96. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for what I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Death Race: Beyond Anarchy was his final film just a few years back. He’s a man who even produced a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996. A very, very long career. 
  • Born April 5, 1933 Frank Gorshin. To my amazement, I’ve not written him up before! He of course played The Riddler eleven times on The Batman counting the film. And he appeared on Star Trek  playing Bele in “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, though I’ll be damn if I remember which of the two he was. He had one-offs on The MunstersWonder WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th Century (well a two-parter there), MonstersAre You Afraid of the DarkThe Ren & Stimpy Show (voice role), Black Scorpion and coming full circle finally voicing Professor Hugo Strange on The Batman. One of the figure companies is doing a one-sixth scale figure of his Riddler this Autumn. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 5, 1950 Anthony Horowitz, 72. He wrote five episodes of Robin of Sherwood, and he was both creator and writer of Crime Traveller. He’s also written both Bond and Holmes novels. If you can find a copy, Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood: The Hooded Man is a very nice fleshing out of that series in literary form.
  • Born April 5, 1950 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 57. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here with lots of Library-related material. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels.

(10) SPOT ON. Cora Buhlert has posted another Fanzine Spotlight for “Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations” by Joachim Boaz.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations maps the varied landscape of SF produced during the turbulence of the post-WWII to the mid-1980s world. I am fascinated by the ways authors responded to the advent of nuclear weapons, the rise of 50s suburbia and commercialism, the Civil Rights movement, the Counterculture and radical student politics, the Vietnam War, and the 1970s political backlash. I chart what’s produced in a specific time and territory to understand the people who dwelled at that moment—their dreams for the future, their fears of the present, and all the manifestations of estrangement and elation generated by a rapidly transforming world. Science fiction is a fantastic way to get at the zeitgeist of an era.

I am particularly receptive to New Wave science fiction of the late 60s and early 70s that attempted to tackle our oblique interiors via radical structure/politics, non-standard characters and perspectives, and experimental prose. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But it’s all fascinating.

(11) 2021 HUGO SWAG. Also, congratulations to Cora Buhlert who is celebrating the arrival of her DisCon III Hugo finalist goodies.

(12) UP YOUR LIBRARY I WILL PROP. The “Yoda Illusion Bookend” seems like an entertaining idea.

(13) CUT-AND-PAST. The 2014 trailer for graduate film student Ricky Kennedy’s feature length film “The History of Time Travel” is news to me!

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Ghost Rider 1 and 2,” the Screen Junkies say the two Ghost Rider movies “Feel like going on a 48-hour Coke bender with Nick Cage. They’re a bad idea, but still pretty fun.”  The two films are “loud, fun, and barely make sense. They’re dumb, but comic books are dumb.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/16/21 The Scroll Of Elfland’s Pixel

(1) BLACK STARS. There are six short tales of speculative fiction in the Black Stars series of Amazon Original Stories which will be released on August 31.

  • “2043…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” by Nisi Shawl
  • “The Black Pages” by Nnedi Okorafor
  • “The Visit” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
  • “These Alien Skies” by C. T. Rwizi 
  • “Clap Back” by Nalo Hopkinson
  • “We Travel the Spaceways” by Victor LaValle 

(2) NICHELLE NICHOLS CONSERVATORSHIP NEWS. The article excerpted here the other day when it was behind an LA Times paywall is now available in full online at AL.com: “Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, faces heartbreaking conservatorship fight”.

… Questions around the fate of Nichols’ home — who lives in it and what happens to it — have been central to an ongoing, years-long legal battle over the finances and care of the beloved TV star, who friends and family say is financially drained and struggling with dementia.

A three-way fight over Nichols’ fate involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette….

(3) WEST SCHOOL HO! Deadline reports a Seanan McGuire series is being developed by Paramount: ”’Wayward Children’ Movie Franchise In Works After Paramount Lands Rights”.

After aggressively pursuing rights, Paramount Pictures has preemptively acquired the Wayward Children fantasy book series by Seanan McGuire. With six books already published and a seventh installment coming in early 2022, the studio plans to build a franchise around this universe of characters and stories.

Sources say Paramount’s Motion Picture Group president Emma Watts has had her eye on the series for some time and was  hands on in making sure the studio landed the rights. Insiders say the studio views the series as a possible franchise given the huge fanbase that is behind it, and add it has already drawn interest from top talent to be a part of it.

The series adaptations will be produced by Pouya Shahbazian. The series takes place in Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, a boarding school for people who have returned home from magical fantasy worlds and have trouble readjusting to their old lives. For as long as time, children have always found doorways into different worlds, whether down rabbit holes and wishing wells or through wardrobes and magic mirrors, but this series explores what happens to the ones who come back — and want nothing more than to return to those other worlds.

This surreal and subversive take on portal fantasy stories is centered around a culturally diverse group of teenagers across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, as they work to make sense of the fantastical realms they came from and the shared world they find themselves back in….

(4) MAKERS AND SHAKERS. “From Mary Shelley to Carmen Maria Machado, women have profoundly shaped horror” in the Guardian.

You probably know the story of Lord Byron’s house party at Villa Diodati – the one in which he challenged his guests to see who could write the scariest ghost story. Teenage Mary Shelley won his challenge on infamy, if not technicality, when she wrote Frankenstein. Thus the horror genre was invented by a disenfranchised teenage girl.

While it might be more precise to say that Shelley invented science fiction in this moment, her story, a non-religious creationist myth, would upend the rules of literature. Frankenstein has become such an influential examination of the distortion of nature and hubris of man, that it looms larger in the gothic horror genre than any other work of literature.

If you want to acknowledge just how much women have contributed to the horror genre, and how much the genre continues to reflect women and women’s realities back to themselves, Frankenstein is also a useful place to start.

Horror is one of the only genres that allows for a constantly evolving interplay of the factual and fantastical. “When you enter into horror, you’re entering into your own mind, your own anxiety, your own fear, your own darkest spaces,” said American author Carmen Maria Machado, speaking to the Paris Review in 2017. Having won the Shirley Jackson award for her short story collection Her Body and Other Parties, Machado went on to use a horror framework to tell her personal story of queer domestic violence in her 2019 memoir, In the Dream House. With gothic tropes and style, Machado replayed physical and emotional abuse within the walls of her mind and the memories of the old house she shared with her partner – now haunted by the past and their relationship. “Horror is an intimate, eerie, terrifying thing, and when it’s done well it can unmake you, the viewer, the reader,” she said….

(5) ANDERS AND YU. A Room of One’s Own in Madison, WI will host A Virtual Conversation With Charlie Jane Anders, author of Never Say You Can’t Survive, and Charles Yu on August 18 at 6:00 p.m. Central

Full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish during the present emergency, Never Say You Can’t Survive is the perfect manual for creativity in unprecedented times. Things are scary right now. We’re all being swept along by a tidal wave of history, and it’s easy to feel helpless. But we’re not helpless: we have minds, and imaginations, and the ability to visualize other worlds and valiant struggles. And writing can be an act of resistance that reminds us that other futures and other ways of living are possible. 

(6) BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THESE. Lisa Tuttle’s latest Guardian column is up: “The best recent fantasy, horror and science fiction – review roundup”. Includes —

…P Djèlí Clark’s debut novel A Master of Djinn (Orbit, £8.99) is set in an alternative-history version of Egypt. In 1912, half a century after the mystic al-Jahiz made an opening into the realm of spirits, Cairo is a modern, multicultural city running on a combination of magical, alchemical and steam-powered technology. Muslims and Copts co-exist with devotees of Hathor; djinn and humans work together; even women have won the right to vote, and are employed in jobs formerly given only to men. Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities has already saved the universe from destruction once and is sure she can handle the little problem of an imposter in a gold mask, claiming to be al-Jahiz and stirring unrest in the rougher neighbourhoods. This fantasy is refreshingly different; a well-plotted mystery filled with engaging characters, presented with a lightly humorous touch….

(7) CLI-FI. Future Tense, a partnership of Arizona State University, Slate, and New America presents the first public event connected with their Climate Imagination Fellowship.

“Unlocking Our Climate Imagination” is on August 31 at 12 p.m. Eastern. Speakers include Kim Stanley Robinson, the three Climate Imagination Fellows, Vandana Singh, Hannah Onoguwe, and Libia Brenda, plus Nigel Topping, the UN High-Level Climate Champion for the UK, and Bina Venkataraman, Boston Globe editorial page editor and former White House climate advisor.

 The event is free and open to everyone. Register here.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1967 – Fifty-four year ago at NyCon 3 where Harlan Ellison was Toastmaster, Robert Heinlein would win the Hugo for Best Novel for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It had been serialized in If the previous year and published by Putnam that year. Other nominated works were Samuel R. Delany‘s Babel-17, Randall Garrett‘s Too Many Magicians, Daniel Keyes‘ Flowers for Algernon, James H. Schmitz‘s The Witches of Karres and Thomas Burnett Swann’s Day of the Minotaur.  It would also be nominated for a Nebula and it would be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926. He also helped create fandom through the Science Fiction League. Pittcon voted him a Hugo titled Father of Magazine Science Fiction, and he was voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s the writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers an “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” There’s at least nine versions of it available at the usual suspects which is sort of odd. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in Outer Limits’ “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode? I’ve not seen it. Do we consider I Spy genre? (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 88. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eleen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. His only award was a Phoenix Award which is lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who had done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 16, 1954 James Cameron, 67. Let’s see… Terminator… Aliens… Terminator 2… True Lies… Strange Days… And The Abyss as well. Did you know he was interested in doing a Spider-man film? It never happened but the Dark Angel series with Jessica Alba did. And then there’s his Avatar franchise.
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 63. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven,” along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls.” She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. Her latest genre undertaking is A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting.
  • Born August 16, 1960 Timothy Hutton, 61. Best known of late as Nathan Ford  on the Leverage series which is almost genre. His first genre was in Iceman as Dr. Stanley Shephard, and he was in The Dark Half in the dual roles of Beaumont and George Stark. He’s David Wildee in The Last Mizo, based off “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (husband-and-wife team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). He was Hugh Crain in The Haunting of Hill House series. I’m going to finish off this Birthday note by singling out his role as Archie Goodwin on the Nero Wolfe series. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows what happens when Uber goes Unter.  

(11) AVENGERS 750. When Marvel Comics presents the 750th issue of Avengers in November, it will include Christopher Ruocchio making his Marvel Comics debut alongside artist Steve McNiven in a bonus story starring Thor.

 “I’m honored to play a small part in this moment of Avengers history and thrilled to get to work with Steve McNiven to bring you all a little classic Thor,” Ruocchio said. “It’s a bit surreal to get to work with a character I grew up with, and I hope I’ve told a tale worthy of the God of Thunder.”

The rest of the supersized issue will include the introduction of The Multiversal Masters Of Evil, the deadly new group of villains fans met in this year’s Free Comic Book Day: Avengers/Hulk #1. Fans will also witness the conclusion of “World War She-Hulk”, finally learn the true purpose of the prehistoric Avengers, uncover the secret of the Iron Inquisitor, watch the Avengers recruit some surprising new members, and follow the Ghost Rider on a quest for vengeance across the Multiverse that will spark an all-new era in Avengers history.

(12) UK REVIEWERS NEEDED. Jonathan Cowie sends a head’s-up to UK based Filers: “SF2 Concatenation is on the hunt for SF/F book reviewers (especially fantasy and especially female reviewers to more even our gender balance). Sadly UK reviewers only as we have to snail-mail post books.” Full details here: “SF & Fantasy book reviewers wanted”

(13) SHINY. James Davis Nicoll knows the addresses of “Five Fictional Space Colonies From the Post-Disco Era”, and they’re definitely not orbiting mirror balls.

As previously discussed, Gerard K. O’Neill’s vision of space colonies was particularly comforting to 1970s anxieties.  Soaring population? The asteroid belt has enough material to build habitats promising many times the surface area of Earth! Energy crisis? Have said habitats pay for themselves by building solar power arrays IN SPAAACE!  Indigenous populations weirdly ungrateful for genocidal displacement by Europeans? Colonization do-over in space where there are no natives to displace or complain!…

A Plague of Angels by Toren Smith and Adam Warren (1990–1991)

When member worlds are overwhelmed by crisis, the United Galactica’s World Welfare Work Association dispatches field agents to resolve the problem. A very unlucky minority of worlds find themselves being assisted by Trouble Consultants Kei and Yuri, who are as inadvertently destructive as they are inexplicably scantily-clad. Code-named “the Lovely Angels,” the apocalyptic pair are infamous as the Dirty Pair.

Habitats are by their nature fragile. Kei and Yuri are harbingers of doom. Logic would dictate sending someone else—anyone else—to Kalevala O’Neill Colony. The 3WA sends the Dirty Pair. Kalevala is struggling to deal with smugglers. Soon, smugglers will be the least of Kalevala’s problems.

(14) PLANETARY EXPLORATION. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on Planet Word: “Word play: A visit to D.C.’s Planet Word”. (Martin Morse Wooster recently wrote about his own visit here.)

(15) TINY WORLDS. Jeffrey Smith sent the link with a comment: “These are amazing! Not really skiffy, but what an imagination!” — “Japanese Artist Creates Amazing Miniature Dioramas Every Day For 10 Years” at Digital Synopsis. (The entire collection by Japanese artist Tatsuya Tanaka is at Miniature Calendar.) I think this first one actually does reference a well-known genre movie. The second is more typical of Tanaka’s series of inventive scenes.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/11/21 The Scrolled Grimoire, It Ain’t What It Used To Be

(1) YOUR VIRTUAL VACAY. Paul Weimer has transplanted the famous Mind Meld feature, a roundtable discussion of the tropes, themes, politics, and future of genre fiction that solicits answers from writers, editors, readers and fans, to its new home at Nerds of a Feather. The topic of“Mind Meld : One Spot Holodeck” is —

Congratulations. You have been given a Star Trek style holodeck, fully capable otherwise, you can bring in anyone you want, hold a roomful of people but not an entire Worldcon in it,  but you can only program it to be fixed to one time and place or the verse of one fictional work or series. 

Where/what do you program your holodeck for? (Star Wars and Star Trek are off the table!)

Playing in the virtual sandbox are Fonda Lee, Beverly Bambury, Cora Buhlert, Arturo Serrano, Mikaela Lind, Hannah (H. M.) Long, Claire O’Dell, Catherine Lundoff, Maurice Broaddus, K.B. Wagers, Elizabeth Bear, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Hiller, K. B. Spengler, Nancy Jane Moore, and Shelly Parker-Chan.

(2) THE OTHER SON. Melinda Snodgrass watched the first episode of the new Disney+ series and was inspired to discuss “Loki : Or What Makes A Fascinating Villain”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… I love the Thor movie because it felt so magnificently Shakespearian in its feel and tone. I often use it when I teach to illustrate theme versus plot. Because really at its base the film Thor is about an abusive father, Odin, who destroys his children and ultimately his entire family by pitting his two sons against each other. Odin’s line in the opening scene to his two young sons sums it all up. “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings.”

(3) TUTTLE RECOMMENDS. [Item by Meredith.] The Guardian has an article today that people might enjoy agreeing/disagreeing with: Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”.

Tuttle covers Widowland by CJ Carey; Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir; This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise; Rabbits by Terry Miles; This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin; and The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques.

(4) OTTONE Q&A. In “A Point of Pride: Interview with Robert P. Ottone”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its Pride Month series.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I feel that horror is such an expansive sandbox to play in. I like to say that reading a well-written family drama is fascinating and certainly draws you in, but imagine that same family drama, just with a haunted house thrown in. That’s even better. Horror allows the writer to indulge in the ugliness of the world while doing so in a therapeutic, relatively safe way.

(5) ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian witnessed contestant stumble over these science fictional answers on last night’s Jeopardy! – both in the category of “Book-borne words & phrases.”

Answer: William Gibson coined this term that now refers to the internet in his short story “Burning Chrome.”

Wrong questions: “What is the information superhighway?”; “What is the world-wide web?”

Correct question: What is cyber-space?

Mayim Bialik is this week’s guest host. Her website is called Grok Nation. That wasn’t enough of a clue for last night’s contestants when they saw this answer.

Wrong question: “Who is Huxley?”

Right question: Who is Robert A. Heinlein?

And there was another gap in their knowledge tonight —

Category: 1930s Literature

Answer: After a plane crash in the Himalayas, 4 people end up in Shangri-La in this 1933 novel.

Wrong question: “What is Paradise Regained?”

Right question: What is “Lost Horizon?”

(6) BARRETT OBIT. Actress Claudia Barrett, remembered for her work in Fifties sci-fi movie Monster Robot, died April 30 at the age of 91.   

… In an image remembered on countless “Worst Movies” lists and in the minds of 1950s drive-in theatergoers, a screaming Barrett is carried off, Fay Wray-style, by the title creature of Robot Monster, a big, hairy alien that looks like a stuntman in a cheap gorilla suit with a diving helmet on its head. Which is, more or less, exactly what it was. As portrayed by stuntman George Barrows, the creature was named Ro-Man, and is generally regarded as the ultimate in 1950s low-budget monsterdom.

…Sci-fi immortality came in 1953, when she was cast as Alice, daughter in the last surviving family in 25-year-old producer-director Phil Tucker’s post-apocalyptic Robot Monster. Costarring George Nader and shot in black and white 3-D, Robot Monster was shot mostly in L.A.’s Bronson Canyon over four days with a reported budget of $16,000.

(7) RILEY OBIT. Not genre but still noteworthy: Irish women’s fiction author Lucinda Riley has died of cancer aged only 55. Her historical women’s fiction novels were hugely popular, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Scandinavia: “Lucinda Riley’s family announce that she has died after a four year battle with cancer” at Pan Macmillan.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982 — On this day in 1982, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credits were shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was written by Melissa Mathison. It starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-four percent rating. It would finish third to Blade Runner for Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at ConStellation. 
  • June 11, 1993 — In 1993, eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. Its  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel R. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a ninety-one percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  For us at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1929 — Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films such as Burn, Witch, Burn which was nominated for a Hugo at Discon I (no award was given that year), 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 — Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by the already noted Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast also included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann, age 87.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 — Adrienne Barbeau, 76. She’s in the Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair that never got wrapped up properly. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. Anyone here read these? (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp, age 62.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet; given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award; moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he is BASFA (Bay Area Science Fiction Ass’n) sergeant-at-arms, a position BASFA takes about as seriously as LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 — Justina Robson, 53. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. I was surprised that she hasn’t picked up any Hugo nominations so far. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1970 — Jane Goldman, 51. She’s a English screenwriter, author and producer who’s done a lot of work but I’m going to list but a few of her works including the screenplay for the Hugo winning Stardust, the same for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, based on the Ransom Riggs novel, The Limehouse Golem screenplay off Peter Ackroyd’s novel and a screenplay on spec off Bill Willingham’s Fables series that never got financed. She was also a fan of the X-Files as she wrote two volumes of The X-Files Book of the Unexplained. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1971 — P. Djèlí Clark, 50. I’m very much enjoying A Master of Djinn which will make my Hugo nominations list next year. It follows his “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” novella and “The Angel of Khan el-Khalili” and “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”, short stories, all set in his Dead Djinn universe. I’ve not read his “Black Drums” novella, nor the “Ring Shout” novella, so welcome opinions on them. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann, age 28.  Digital illustrator, once in San Francisco, now in Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her cover for the May 2018 Apex.  This interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full shows the moment Superman’s job interview went off the rails.

(11) FREE DOWNLOAD. Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery Issue dropped today on the 85th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Howard. Download the issue free at the link — 16 tales of modern sword and sorcery, including Cora Buhlert’s story “The Gate of Mist” (page 103). The intro reads –

Buhlert’s uplifting tale of an ancient order of warrior-monks fighting to keep a tenacious evil at bay deploys an uncommon element in sword and sorcery today: a budding romance between two men becoming warriors together. The contemplative mountain setting provides a unique and memorable foe: monstrous forms of living mist.

(12) BUSIEK FAN. Christos Gage, whose writing credits include Daredevil Season 1 and such comics as Buffy and Spider-Man, ranks a familiar name high on this list:

(13) THE CAT WHO CAME BACK FROM NOTHING AT ALL. Caldecott Medal winner Sophie Blackall makes Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s new book sound irresistible in a review for the New York Times: “The Cat Came Back — All the Way From 16th-Century Rome”.

On any normal pre-Covid summer day, as many as 30,000 visitors craned their necks to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest achievements of Western art. I was not among them when I visited Rome a few years ago with my parents, who had already seen the ceiling and were not enthusiastic about waiting hours in line. I wasn’t among them the time before, with my toddlers, who were even less enthusiastic about lines. Nor did I see it as a backpacker in the late 1980s, when restorers were injecting polyvinylacetate resin into its cracks. From 1710 to 1713 the frescoes were cleaned with sponges dipped in Greek wine. In 1625 a dark patina was removed with damp bread. In 1511 the plaster was still wet and Michelangelo was standing on his scaffolding, painting, which is when “Da Vinci’s Cat,” by the Newbery honoree Catherine Gilbert Murdock (“The Book of Boy”), begins….

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. In Octothorpe episode 33, “Jigsaw Psychoanalysis” “John Coxon can’t cope with any, Alison Scott can cope with one, and Liz Batty has excellent mental health. We have lots of lovely locs, before we discuss fanzines and various conventions’ latest news.”

(15) AVOIDING TOXICITY. Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Addams Family 2 screenwriter Dan Hernandez made an interesting social media decision. Thread starts here.

(16) WEAK SHOWING. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri hosts an op-ed from one of the X-Men: “Magneto: These new ‘magnetic’ vaccine mutants are extremely disappointing”.

… I met the people who were saying that metal objects now stuck to them because of their vaccines and gave them a whole recruitment speech about how they were the next stage in evolution, but once I said the word “evolution,” they looked at me doubtfully. Then I asked them to show off their abilities, and — I hate to say this but, have you ever been at a friend’s amateur magic show, where the magic show is not going quite as was hoped, and there’s a lot of saying “hold on” and “wait, hang on” and “sorry” as they fail several times running to identify your card, and then a dead bird falls unprompted out of someone’s hat? Frankly, that would have been an improvement….

(17) ANCIENT POO REVEALS MODERN GUT BACTERIA CHANGE AND IS SUGGESTIVE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  We humans have changed over thousands of years, and our way of life has altered dramatically the past thousand years.  This is reflected in a number of ways, one of which is the type of bacteria we have in our intestine. 

It is known that the gut microbes in humans today living in industrial countries differs greatly to those living in non-industrial nations. For example, the guts of those living in industrial nations harbour microbes that tend to be more resistant to antibiotics.  The latest news is that a research collaboration has now compared the gut microbial community from modern humans with those that lived between a thousand and two thousand years ago. They managed to extract reasonable microbial genomes from 498 samples of ancient shite and poo found in the US and Mexico. 181 of these the researchers are confident of being of human gut origin. They then compared these with the genome of modern human gut microbial genomes. 

They found that all the ancient human gut microbes differed from those in modern humans living in industrialised countries. Instead, they were all similar to those in the present-day living in non-industrial nations. Further, in looking at the genetic variation in a specific bacterial species, Methanobrevibacter smithii, they were able to back-track and estimate its past evolution. Their limited analysis that it changed markedly between 75,000 years ago and 25,000 years ago. This was during the last glacial (the cold part of our current ice age) during which there was considerable diversity in small populations of our Homo species. This work lays open great potential in a new area of ancient poo science. This is not to be sniffed at.

(See Wibowo, M. C. et al (2021) Reconstruction of ancient microbial genomes from the human gut. Naturevol.594, p234-9 and a review paper Sonnenburg, J. L. & Olm, M. R. (2021) Ancient human faeces and gut microbes of the past. Naturevol.594, p182-3.)

Review article here. Primary research paper here.

(18) SOLAR FLYBY. From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive for June 11:

Image Credit & Copyright: Zev Hoover, Christian A. Lockwood, and Zoe Chakoian. Explanation: On June 10 a New Moon passed in front of the Sun. In silhouette only two days after reaching apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit, the Moon’s small apparent size helped create an annular solar eclipse. The brief but spectacular annular phase of the eclipse shows a bright solar disk as a ring of fire when viewed along its narrow, northerly shadow track across planet Earth. Cloudy early morning skies along the US east coast held gorgeous views of a partially eclipsed Sun though. Rising together Moon and Sun are captured in a sequence of consecutive frames near maximum eclipse in this digital composite, seen from Quincy Beach south of Boston, Massachusetts. The serendipitous sequence follows the undulating path of a bird in flight joining the Moon in silhouette with the rising Sun.

(19) TWO TO BEAM UP. A Despicable Me cast member helps NBC Sports advertise the upcoming Olympics with its own work on the balance beam: “The Minions interrupt Simone Biles’ Olympic Training”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, John Coxon, Meredith, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/21 All Unshielded Surfaces

(1) 2021 FAAN VOTING DEADLINE. FAAn Awards Administrator Nic Farey reminds everyone that today is the last day of voting – it closes tonight — March 12 — at midnight Pacific time. Guidelines and the ballot are available in The Incompleat Register 2020 [PDF file]

(2) SOLVING FOR PIE. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Grab a slice of pie with Gil Roth” on Episode 140 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gil Roth

I’ve been wanting to bring Gil to you for awhile, and had been hoping we’d be able to sneak away for a meal during either Readercon or the Small Press Expo, but neither occurred last year, at least not outside of a virtual space, and both will be virtual again this year. So as you listen, I’d like you to think of yourself as being with us at one of those cons, and tagging along as we head off to chat and chew.

We discussed his surprising (and my unsurprising ) guest with the greatest number of downloads, the advice John Crowley gave him about his potential writing career, how a guy who used to memorize X-Men comics got turned on to Love & Rockets, the way we process the deaths of former guests, the song he wants played at his memorial service, how to get often-interviewed guests not to regurgitate their favorite soundbites, why no comic book movie beats the first Superman, how he became the publisher of every letter Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984, why during his days reviewing for The Comics Journal readers thought he was the secret identity of another writer, the Italo Calvino quote which has kept him going through the pandemic, and much more.

(3) YOUR IMAGINARY FRIENDS WHO WANT A PERCENTAGE. Victoria Strauss posted another Scam Alert at Writer Beware: “Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and its Stable of Imaginary Agents”.

…To go with its brand-new name, Paper Bytes has initiated a brand new scam: a stable of imaginary literary agents. It’s an unusually detailed endeavor, with actual websites for each agent (albeit not very good ones) that include photos–some stock, some stolen–as well as made-up bios and false claims about who/what they represent. All share the email address @bookliteraryagent.com, which no doubt is convenient for the interchangeable roster of Paper Bytes marketers who inhabit these agent personas, but also makes them easier to track and expose.

I’ll list them all below. But first, How It All Works!…

…How to protect yourself?

1. Know how things work in the publishing world. Real literary agents don’t sell services to potential clients, or refer them to companies that do. Real agents don’t commonly contact writers out of the blue. The warnings at the Writer Beware website can help you recognize non-standard or predatory practices.

(4) ZIGGY STARDUST’S BROTHER BIGGY? Mental Floss recalls when “David Bowie Tried to Turn George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Into a Musical”.

The track list for David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs offers a couple obvious clues about one source of inspiration: song titles include both “1984” and “Big Brother.” But Bowie didn’t just want to use themes from George Orwell’s 1984 on the record. As Open Culture reports, he initially hoped to turn the 1949 dystopian classic into a full-fledged musical of its own.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/x2xfpMMQIJ8 What form that musical was ultimately meant to take isn’t totally clear. According to Christopher Sandford’s biography Bowie: Loving the Alien, the adaptation would’ve been “a West End musical, with an accompanying album and film.” But in a Rolling Stone interview with William S. Burroughs from February 1974—just months before the release of Diamond Dogs—Bowie himself mentioned he was “doing Orwell’s 1984 on television.” It’s possible the project went through several iterations when the “Space Oddity” singer was still brainstorming it. But thanks to Orwell’s widow, Sonia (believed to be the basis for 1984‘s Julia), the musical never progressed past the incubation stage.

“My office approached Mrs. Orwell, because I said, ‘Office, I want to do 1984 as a musical, go get me the rights,’” Bowie explained in 1993, according to David Buckley’s Strange Fascination: David Bowie, the Definitive Story. “And they duly trooped off to see Mrs. Orwell, who in so many words said, ‘You’ve got to be out of your gourd, do you think I’m turning this over to that as a musical?’ So, they came back and said, ‘Sorry, David, you can’t write it.’” Since Bowie had already started “putting bits of it down” in the studio, the surprise rejection forced him to pivot quickly. His ill-fated musical became a concept album with Orwellian overtones.

(5) IT’S NEWS TO SOMEBODY. The publication of Matthew Yglesias’ article “Oh, the intellectual property rights you’ll extend” at Slow Boring has caught up with the already-played-out week-old Twitterstorm. Nevertheless, at the link you can read him make a case about copyright law, triggered by the Dr. Seuss controversy. 

…Regardless, under U.S. law, the copyrights last for the duration of their creator’s life plus 70 years — i.e., until 2061.

That’s a big change from how we did things in the Founders’ era, when copyrights lasted 14 years with an option to renew the copyright for an additional 14 years.

Since then, not only has Congress repeatedly extended the duration of copyright terms, they’ve even extended them retroactively, basically preventing Mickey Mouse (created in 1928) or Superman (created in 1938) from ever entering the public domain the way that 19th century characters like Frankenstein1 or Sherlock Holmes have.

I bring this all up because I think it’s relevant policy context for the recent controversy over Seuss Enterprises withdrawing six books from publication that were deemed problematic. Right-wing agitators have responded to this as if it’s the government censoring Dr. Seuss, and so out of solidarity with Dr. Seuss, they are buying non-canceled classics like “Green Eggs and Ham” in droves. But this is just not factual. Dr. Seuss has been dead for nearly 30 years. His heirs — likely these two stepdaughters, though that’s not entirely clear — canceled the books, and now are the ones reaping the financial rewards from the backlash to their own actions….

(6) BEHIND WANDAVISION. Marvel Entertainment dropped a trailer for “Marvel Studios’ Assembled: The Making of WandaVision”, a behind the scenes look at the series.

(7) MORE BINDING. The Verge reports on a trend toward “Making fanfiction beautiful enough for a bookshelf”.

… Lesure spends hours making sure each book looks unique and regal, but she has to be careful not to use any specific imagery that could land her in trouble.

That’s because the books Lesure crafts contain works of fanfiction, and she’s found an entire community of avid readers looking to turn their unauthorized digital favorites into physical treats.

Nothing about the process is simple. There are “literally hundreds of moments where I could do something wrong and everything falls to shambles,” Lesure, a student who started bookbinding during a gap year in 2019, told The Verge. Her process includes typesetting, redoing the typesetting, doing that again and again until it’s right, printing, folding, sewing, making the cover, and finally putting it all together.

Fanfiction has traditionally been confined to online sites like Archive of Our Own (AO3) and FanFiction.Net, but some of the most prolific artists within the space have found a way to help people enjoy their favorite titles in new ways: binding the stories into physical novels designed to read better and stand out on bookshelves. The crafts have helped bring some of the most popular unofficial stories set in Harry PotterStar Wars, and other universes onto shelves where they can sit right alongside their authorized counterparts.

(8) OUR BRIGHT FUTURE. The New York Times takes stock of the city’s inescapable barrage of LED sign advertising: “Am I in Manhattan? Or Another Sequel to ‘Blade Runner’?”

…Adrian Benepe, the former New York City Parks Commissioner and current head of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, sees “creeping Blade Runner syndrome” everywhere, from the clogged skies over Manhattan to the subways, which he rides to work every day from his home on the Upper West Side.

“They’re empty,” Mr. Benepe said. “I’ve been alone many times at rush hour. It’s eerie as hell.” He also finds the movie prescient in its depiction of a world saturated by intrusive, omnipresent advertising.

“Places in New York that used to not have advertising now have ads,” he said. “You can’t get away from it. It’s in the subways, it’s on the streets, it’s on barges. You never stop being assailed.”

Giant screens are nothing new, of course. But New York’s streetscape had been permeated as never before with twitchy, adhesively catchy LEDs, a trend that has only accelerated during the pandemic, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announcing last summer the addition of 9,000 screens broadcasting “Covid-relevant safety information.”

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 12, 1927 –On this day in 1927, Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It  stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough for years I studied it to see how much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.) (CE) 
  • March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. Though he’s best known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia and The Little Mermaid be it thirty years after his death, I’d be remiss not to note his early work illustrating such works as East of the Sun and West of the MoonHansel and Gretel and Andersen’s Fairy Tales. (Died 1957.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1911 – Edmund North.  Major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II.  Served a term as President of the screen branch of the Writers Guild of America.  A score of movies; co-winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar for Patton; for us, screenplay for The Day the Earth Stood Still – which, despite its staggering difference from Bates’ “Farewell to the Master”, I think a classic.  Coined Klaatu barada nikto.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty year period starting in the Fifties: The Great BeastThe Magic of Aleister CrowleyThe King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats  with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1916 – Richard Dorson, Ph.D.  Pioneering and possibly great folklorist – thus our neighbor; pioneering because, in his day, commercial and even arguably artistic success of retellings like Davy Crockett and inventions like Paul Bunyan were clouding the mind.  Coined urban legend and fakelore.  General editor, Folktales of the World.  Two dozen books, including a 1939 one on Crockett; Folk Legends of JapanAfrican Folklore.  “Suspicious of attempts by other disciplines –anthropology, sociology, and psychology, among others – to co-opt folk culture for their own … purposes…. emphasized the necessity for the accurate collection and documentation of folk materials” (quoted from this).  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? See OGH’s post on the Alex Cox animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero here. (Died 2012.) (CE)  
  • March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 88. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career though she did show up in the pilot of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1936 – Virginia Hamilton.  National Book Award, Newbery Medal (first black to win it), Hans Andersen Award, Wilder Award.  Amer. Lib’y Ass’n King-Hamilton Award named for her (and Coretta Scott King).  Eight novels (including Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed), thirty shorter stories, four collections for us; twoscore books all told.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. – oh, but what a role it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1955 – Jim Mann, F.N., age 66.  Living in Pittsburgh, hard-working member of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) for whose NESFA Press he has edited a dozen books including The Compleat Boucher and The Rediscovery of Man (Cordwainer Smith).  Chaired Boskone 25 (with wife Laurie Mann) and 47.  Fan Guest of Honor (with LM), ArmadilloCon 27.  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born March 12, 1963 – David B. Coe, Ph.D., age 58.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories (some under another name). Crawford Award for LobTyn Chronicle (trilogy).  Reviews and Robots called Time’s Children Best Fantasy Novel of 2018.  Interviewed in Strange HorizonsTeleport.  “We … construct our worlds twice…. for ourselves [and] again … digestible and entertaining and unobtrusive, not to mention elegant, poetic, even exciting….  all the necessary material – and not an ounce more….  [after we] have unraveled their mysteries … decided which elements … are most important to our stories.”  [JH]
  • Born March 12, 1971 – Rob St. Martin, age 50.  Six novels, one novelette, anthology Ages of Wonder (with Julie Cznerneda).   Has read Pride and PrejudiceThe Phantom TollboothA Tale of Two CitiesMoby-DickRomeo and JulietCurious George.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GUARDIAN ANGLE. Lisa Tuttle has a new installment of “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup” at The Guardian in which she reviews Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley; Birds of Paradise by Oliver K Langmead; The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey; A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel; and A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine.

(13) GEARING UP. I’m always ready to read more about the Antikythera mechanism: “Scientists may have solved ancient mystery of ‘first computer’” in The Guardian.

…The battered fragments of corroded brass were barely noticed at first, but decades of scholarly work have revealed the object to be a masterpiece of mechanical engineering. Originally encased in a wooden box one foot tall, the mechanism was covered in inscriptions – a built-in user’s manual – and contained more than 30 bronze gearwheels connected to dials and pointers. Turn the handle and the heavens, as known to the Greeks, swung into motion.

Michael Wright, a former curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum in London, pieced together much of how the mechanism operated and built a working replica, but researchers have never had a complete understanding of how the device functioned. Their efforts have not been helped by the remnants surviving in 82 separate fragments, making the task of rebuilding it equivalent to solving a battered 3D puzzle that has most of its pieces missing.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the UCL team describe how they drew on the work of Wright and others, and used inscriptions on the mechanism and a mathematical method described by the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides, to work out new gear arrangements that would move the planets and other bodies in the correct way. The solution allows nearly all of the mechanism’s gearwheels to fit within a space only 25mm deep….

(14) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. “Green Run Update: NASA Targets March 18 for SLS Hot Fire Test – Artemis”.

NASA is targeting Thursday, March 18 for the second hot fire of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

After performing tests to demonstrate that a recently repaired liquid oxygen pre-valve was working, the team has continued to prepare the core stage, its four RS-25 engines, and the B-2 test stand for the second hot fire at Stennis. Later this week, the team will power up the core stage again and do a final check of all its systems. Then, on March 16, two days before the test, they will power up the stage, starting the clock for the second hot fire….

(15) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Paul Weimer meets the challenge of reviewing the sixth book in a series: “Microreview [book]: Out Past the Stars by KB Wagers” at Nerds of a Feather.

… This is in many ways a very different book than the previous book, Down Among the Dead. Reading it in quick succession after the second book might give some emotional whiplash, it certainly is a gear shift. It’s much more like the first book of the Farian War trilogy, There Before the Chaos, in the sense that it builds up to a big set piece finale of a conflict. Unlike that first book, though, this book is much more about the action beats. 

This shows the range and power of the author across the three books, and sets them apart from the first trilogy as well, which is more adrenaline filled….

(16) TIGER TIGER. Elsewhere at Nerds of a Feather, Sean D assesses a novella by Aliette de Bodard: “Microreview [Book]: Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard”.

…This novella constantly shifts from plot point to plot point, that kept me on my toes without unmooring me into confusion. The craft involved with implementing poetic language that benefits the atmosphere, pacey scenes that never lose focus, and characters that I felt like I knew inside out by the story’s conclusion, deserves kudos. Mostly because the novella juggles a small, insulated cast of characters with subterfuges and violence that impact other kingdoms. Fireheart Tiger is like an expansive web that leaves the reader in the center of it, while also skillfully and pithily letting them know of all its disparate parts.

(17) ELDRITCH SCIENCE. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert couples an alarming report with a Cthulhu reference. “Quarantinewhile… Please Stop Reviving Ancient Pathogens From The Sea Floor”.

Quarantinewhile… In “Hey, maybe don’t do that” news, Japanese scientists are experimenting on 100-million-year-old bacteria that wake up from their slumber when brought to the surface and provided with food.

(18) PIPING AT THE GATES OF DAWN. And speaking of Lovecraft –

[Thanks To John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Nic Farey, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michel Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/12/21 A Series Of Unfortunate Event Horizons

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to “Nibble hors d’oeuvres with Mary Robinette Kowal” in Episode 138 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut series — which so far includes the novels The Calculating StarsThe Fated Sky, and The Relentless Moon — as well as the historical fantasy novels in The Glamourist Histories series plus Ghost Talkers. Her short stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsAsimov’s, and other magazines and anthologies, and her collections include Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.

She’s currently the President of SFWA, a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Her novel The Calculating Stars is one of only 18 novels to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in a single year. She’s also a professional puppeteer and voice actor, and has won two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.

We discussed the temporal differences between puppetry and science fiction conventions, how she transitioned from writing magical Regency novels to the Lady Astronaut series, why unlike many writers, she reads her reviews (albeit selectively), the reason she’s able to write relationships between reasonable people so well, how she constructs a science fiction mystery, why it’s so important she likes her characters’ clothing when she picks a project, the meaning of science fiction itself within her science fiction universe, the way she uses sensitivity readers to make her work better, how a novel is like a clear glass pitcher, and much more.

(2) TUTTLE BEGINS. Lisa Tuttle’s inaugural column for The Guardian has posted: “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup”.

… Adam Roberts is one of the most intellectually daring British science fiction writers, trying something different in every book. Purgatory Mount (Gollancz, £16.99) starts off like classic space opera, on board a spaceship crewed by five quasi-immortal superhumans. On an empty planet they discover an enormous tower-like structure, possibly the remains of a space elevator, in which they perceive a resemblance to Dante’s mountain of Purgatory. However, this is not the real story….

(3) STURGEON AWARD CONSIDERATION. Nominations are open for the 2021 Sturgeon Award through March 15. Eligible works are science fiction short stories, novelettes, or novellas originally published in English during 2020, in a magazine, anthology, website, or other format.

If you are a reader/reviewer/critic:

If you are interested in participating, please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) your list of up to ten (10) nominations for what you consider to be the top science-fiction short works of the year, ranked from 1 to 10, with 1 being your top pick. If possible, please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON NOMINATIONS LIST.  

If you are an editor:

Please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) a list of the three (3) best science fiction stories from your year’s editorial work. You do not need to rank these. Please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON EDITORIAL NOMINATIONS.  

This year’s Sturgeon Award Jury members are Sarah Pinsker, Elizabeth Bear, Taryne Taylor, and Kij Johnson, and they will also involve Noel Sturgeon in the selection process. Noel is Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust and one of Theodore Sturgeon’s children. 

(4) SF POETRY PODCAST. Outskirts Poetry has launched The Outskirts Poetry Podcast, a “bi-weekly podcast beaming straight out of an underground bunker that perfectly marries SF Poetry/Fiction and the counterculture.”

The podcast is geared toward writers and readers of speculative genre poetry and fiction “who enjoy art that thrives at the fringes of society.” Season 1 guests include interviews with Catherynne M. Valente, space poet; Josh Pearce, Afrosurrealist; D. Scot Miller; and Augur Magazine Editor, Terese Mason Pierre. Outskirts Poetry is a creative media collaboration between Post-apocalyptic poet, Jake Tringali, who hosts the podcast, and fellow SFPA spec-fic writer and media specialist, Melanie Stormm.

Go to the link above to listen, or access the podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Outskirts Poetry Podcast covers the margins: science fiction, fantasy, weird, the things listeners should be in on, but might not be yet. Our main exports are badly behaved.

(5) FINANCIAL HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe has been started to “Help Alma Alexander With The Loss of her Husband”. The reason for the appeal —  

Alma Alexander, fantasy writer and all-around good egg, is facing the devastating loss of her husband, coupled with medical and funeral expenses, and the possible loss of her home.

We are trying to raise some funds to give her husband, Deck, a proper send-off, and ease the burden on Alma.  The campaign is being organized by Tim Dunn of Nerdy Origami, and all monies raised will go directly to Alma.

Alexander was interviewed by File 770’s Carl Slaughter in 2017.

(6) GRRM APPEARS FOR CHARITY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Saturday night: “Food for Love – Join us Valentine’s Eve for a STAR-STUDDED VIRTUAL CONCERT to end hunger in New Mexico”. There’s some serious talent on the bill, and between George R.R. Martin and David Byrne, its genre-relevance hops the bar, in my opinion.

(7) NIVEN’S WORLDBUILDING. Dominic Noble devotes a video to “The Absolutely Crazy Worlds And Aliens Of Known Space”.

…Pearson’s Puppeteers — the name makes sense in the book — are a fascinating non-humanoid race known for several unusual physical and psychological characteristics. For starters they have three legs and two heads, neither of which contain their brain, which is located in their torso. Their heads serve as multi-function limbs encompassing all the usual activities of seeing, eating, breathing, and speaking, while also being their primary manipulators. They’re also known for being incredibly intelligent and almost comically cowardly — everything scares the heck out of these creatures no matter how unlikely the threats. So their entire culture is based around making things as safe as possible for themselves. It’s such a part of their core being that any Puppeteer who shows even a little courage is considered certifiably insane. The absolute best example of this is the reason that no human has seen a Puppeteer for centuries at the start of the story. “We need to evacuate this entire section of the galaxy! The galactic core has exploded!” “What? When?” “10 000 years ago.” “Um, okay, and when is the blast wave going to reach us?” “20 000 years. We’re wasting time talking. Run!”

Yeah, they evacuated their entire species and started a mass exodus out of the galaxy 20 000 years in advance just to be safe. This conveniently leads up to the setup for the plot of this book…

(8) DATLOW ON EDITING. Tor Nightfire’s Tonia Ransom supplies the questions in “Interviewing Ellen Datlow, the Doyenne of Short Horror Fiction”.

TR: What advice would you give aspiring editors?

ED: The key to good editing is asking questions and not imposing your own bias/style (if you’re also a writer) on someone else’s story. If you like a story and think you might want to acquire and edit it but believe it needs work, don’t be afraid to make suggestions, and if something isn’t clear, you might ask the writer to tell you what they think is going on––and if their vision is not coming through on the page, tell them that. But always remember: it’s not your story. It’s the writer’s. If you can’t agree on revisions, let it go. Learn to say “no.” Never feel obliged to buy stories by friends or big names if you don’t like the story or don’t think it works for the venue for which you’re editing.

(9) GET THE POINT? James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where to find “Blades for Hire: Five Fictional Duellists”. This first one should be familiar —

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)

Inigo Montoya trained to become a master swordsman for one driving purpose: to slay the six-fingered man who murdered Inigo’s father. Once he had become a master swordsman, Inigo discovered that his plan was flawed: Inigo had no idea who the six-fingered man might be or where he might be found. Years of searching turned into decades. A penniless Inigo had no choice but to hire himself out as a duellist. Alas, this meant he must work for evil men like master criminal Vizinni. Will he ever find the six-fingered man?

(10) INA SHORROCK OBIT. Liverpool fan Ina Shorrock (1928-2021) has died of a heart attack at the age of 92. She discovered fandom in 1950, was a member of the Liverpool Group, and generally acted as a social director for Liverpool fandom. Eric Bentcliffe in 1959 called her “British fandom’s ‘Hostess with the mostess’. Ina has superabundant energy, and a gift for making people both ‘at home’ and happy.” She belonged to the BSFA (which she chaired). She was married to fellow fan Norman Shorrock.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, The Adventures Of Superman radio program began with the airing on New York City’s WOR of its first episode, “The Baby from Krypton”. The story is what you expect it to be. It would air until March 1951 with 2,088 original episodes of the program airing. It starred Bud Collyer as Clark Kent / Superman and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 – Russell Chauvenet.  Had he only coined the word fanzine (in his zine Detours; also generally credited with prozine) it would have been enough for us.  He co-founded the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; with Damon Knight and Art Widner) and served a term as President.  Another zine Sardonyx was originally mimeographed but I feel sure I had in my hand a later multi-color issue, produced by spirit duplicator, in the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  Next door to us he was rated Expert at chess; also built his own Windmill-class sailboat, and was a medal-winning runner.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1929 Donald Kingsbury, 92. He’s written three novels (Courtship RiteThe Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1933 – Juanita Coulson, age 88.  Co-edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Yandro with husband Buck Coulson; you can see a lot of issues here; you can go directly to her cover for Y92 here.  First-rate filker; won a Pegasus; Filk Hall of Fame.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  She and Buck were Fan Guests of Honor at L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle fan fund sent them to Seacon ’79, the 37th; after Buck left, she was Fan Guest of Honor at Reconstruction the 10th NASFiC (North America SF Con; since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 79. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire”, which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His  genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of  Galaxy Quest into novel form. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The AvengersStar MaidensHammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock HolmesTales of the UnexpectedRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Maud Adams, 76. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 – David Friedman, Ph.D., age 76.  Two novels from this man schooled as a physicist who taught law a dozen years at Santa Clara Univ. (now emeritus) and earned the rank of Duke in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism); it is said he while king of the Middle Kingdom challenged the East, later as king of the East accepted the challenge and lost (to himself).  He is an incrementalist consequentialist anarcho-capitalist, and yes, I think all those terms are needed.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 71. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The SeriesseaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson which I really liked, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1954 – Stu Shiffman.  Long-time fanartist; won a Hugo; was given the Rotsler Award.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at WisCon 12, Minicon 20, Lunacon 43.  Four stories.  Here are covers for Chunga 1 and 19.  Here is Taral Wayne’s tributezine The Slan of Baker Street (alluding to Van Vogt’s novel Slan and SS’ Sherlock Holmes hobby).  One of my favorite photos of him is here.  Randy Byers’ appreciation is here.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1962 – Katherine Roberts, age 59.  Welsh and Spanish.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories.  First class degree in mathematics.  Boase Award.  Correspondent of Vector.  Contributed a “Top 10 SF Novels” to The Zone and Premonitions 6.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1981 – Lucy Christopher, age 40.  Australian now in England.  Five novels, one shorter story.  Boase Award.  Gold Inky.  Teacher, horsewoman.  “We are all storytellers….  Thinking about this is my life’s work.”  [JH]

(13) TOMORROW’S MEREDITH MOMENT. The ebook edition of Return to Nevèrÿon, a four-volume “postmodern sword-and-sorcery” epic from Samuel R. Delany will be downpriced to $1.99 across all US and Canadian retailers on February 13 the author announced on Facebook. He provided this Amazon link.

(14) EBOOK$. Protocol investigates how an app that assists libraries also poses financial challenges: “Libby is stuck between libraries and e-book publishers”.

On the surface, there couldn’t be a more wholesome story than the meteoric rise of the Libby app. A user-friendly reading app becomes popular during the pandemic, making books cool again for young readers, multiplying e-book circulation and saving public libraries from sudden obsolescence.

But the Libby story is also a parable for how the best-intentioned people can build a beloved technological tool and accidentally create a financial crisis for those who need the tech most. Public librarians depend on Libby, but they also worry that its newfound popularity could seriously strain their budgets.

… Libby downloads increased three times their usual amount beginning in late March. E-book checkout growth and new users on Overdrive both increased more than 50%.

Libby had helped to save libraries.

It had also accelerated a funding crisis. Public library budgets have never been luxe, and book acquisition budgets in particular have always been tight. Though it may seem counterintuitive to readers, e-books cost far more than physical books for libraries, meaning that increased demand for digital editions put libraries in a financial bind….

(15) NO MOSS WAS GATHERED. “Stonehenge may be a rebuilt Welsh stone circle, new research shows”Yahoo! has the story.

…Scholars have known for decades that most of Stonehenge’s bluestones were carried, dragged or rolled to Salisbury Plain from the Preseli Hills. In 2019, Parker Pearson and his team provided evidence of the exact locations of two of the bluestone quarries. And last year, another team of researchers led by David Nash of the University of Brighton revealed that most of Stonehenge’s sarsens hail from a woodland area in Wiltshire, some 15 miles from where they stand on Salisbury Plain.

The bluestones are thought to have been the first to be erected at Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago, centuries before the larger sarsen stones were brought there. The discovery by Parker Pearson and his team that the bluestones had been extracted from two quarries in the Preseli Hills before the first stage of Stonehenge was built in 3000 BC prompted them to reinvestigate the nearby Waun Mawn site to determine whether those monoliths were the remains of a stone circle supplied by the quarries that was then dismantled to build Stonehenge….

(16) THE WEB, ER, WEED OF CRIME BEARS BITTER FRUIT. Talk about “going bad.” Let the Wikipedia tell you the fate of “Saturn (magazine)”.

Saturn was an American magazine published from 1957 to 1965. It was launched as a science fiction magazine, but sales were weak, and after five issues the publisher, Robert C. Sproul, switched the magazine to hardboiled detective fiction that emphasized sex and sadism. Sproul retitled the magazine Saturn Web Detective Story Magazine to support the change, and shortened the title to Web Detective Stories the following year. In 1962, the title was changed yet again, this time to Web Terror Stories, and the contents became mostly weird menace tales—a genre in which apparently supernatural powers are revealed to have a logical explanation at the end of the story.

Donald A. Wollheim was the editor for the first five issues; he published material by several well-known authors, including Robert A. HeinleinH. P. Lovecraft, and Harlan Ellison, but was given a low budget and could not always find good-quality stories. It is not known who edited the magazine after the science fiction issues…

(17) SPAIN RODRIGUEZ DOCUMENTARY. In “A New Film Plumbs the Depths of Spain’s Underground Comix”, Print Magazine interviews documentary filmmaker Susan Stern.

I met Spain and followed “Trashman,” his signature comic, at The East Village Other. He was a groundbreaker. What inspired you to make this film?

I made Bad Attitude because I wanted more people to see Spain’s bold, original pen-and-ink art. Just as the 1960s have a soundtrack, I’ve always thought Spain’s art helped design the “look” of the ’60s. When I began the film in 2012, it was a time of relative political complacency. I also wanted to rouse people with Spain’s fiery—yet self-satirizing—left-wing radicalism. As it turned out, Bad Attitude is perfect for the political ferment of 2021. Spain’s “anti-racist” work with the white working-class bikers of Buffalo in the early 1960s is a revealing part of the film….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Melanie Stormm, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/11/21 The Englishfan Who Filed Up To-Be-Read Hill But Scrolled Down Mount Tsundoku

(1) CHANGING OF THE GUARDIAN. Lisa Tuttle has taken the handoff from The Guardian’s SF/Fantasy reviewer Eric Brown who ended his fifteen-year run in January. Tuttle’s first genre round-up will appear in The Guardian’s books section on Saturday, February 13.

(2) MANDALORIAN ACTRESS OUT. Deadline reports “Gina Carano Off ‘The Mandalorian’ After Social Media Comments”. Their article quotes from the posts she made immediately following this excerpt:

In the wake of Gina Carano’s controversial social media posts, Lucasfilm has released a statement Wednesday night, with a spokesperson saying “Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Carano played bounty hunter Cara Dune on the first two seasons Lucasfilm and Disney+’s The Mandalorianand it looked like we’d be seeing more of her. It appears not….

(3) ROBORIGHTS. A film based on the short story “Dolly” by Elizabeth Bear is in development: “Apple TV+ Lands Hot Package ‘Dolly’ With Florence Pugh On Board To Star” at Deadline.

Following competitive bidding war, Apple Studios has landed Dolly, a new feature film with Academy Award-nominee Florence Pugh attached to star with Vanessa Taylor and Drew Pearce Penning the script. Insiders close to the project stress the project is not greenlit at this time as the script still needs to penned and a director still needs to be attached. Insiders go on to add that the package caught the interest of a total of four bidders that included multiple studios and another streamer with Apple TV+ emerging as the winner earlier this week.

The film is a sci-fi courtroom drama in which a robotic “companion doll” kills its owner and then shocks the world by claiming that she is not guilty and asking for a lawyer. The film, which is inspired by Elizabeth Bear’s short story of the same name, has elements of both classic courtroom drama and sci-fi….

(4) FOURTH COMING. In “The Four Types of Time Travel (And What They Say About Ourselves and the World Around Us)” at CrimeReads, Dan Frey looks at whether time travel novels have characters going forwards or backwards in time and whether they retrieve objects.

Time travel is a genre unto itself, one that spans sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, history and more. But there are distinct categories of time travel narratives, each with its own set of rules—and each with a different baked-in outlook.

Getting to a taxonomy of time travel stories, the first question is—who or what is actually time-traveling? Because while the first stories we think of involve spaceships and Deloreans, the oldest time travel stories are stories about…

1. SEEING THE FUTURE

In these stories, it is actually INFORMATION that travels through time. And this might be the most scientifically plausible form of time travel, one that is already happening all the time on the quantum level….

(5) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Robert J. Sawyer tells Facebook readers that 26 years ago Ace Science Fiction thought they were going to land a contract with Lucasfilm to produce a trilogy of novels outlining the origins of the alien races from the Star Wars universe:

Ace editor Ginjer Buchanan approached me to write those books, and before the license was finalized I produced an 11,000-word outline and also the first 11,000 words of the manuscript of volume one. But the deal fell apart — yes, they’d get a Lucasfilm license, but, no, I couldn’t use any of the actual STAR WARS races, and so I walked away. Since I was never paid for the work, I posted the material on my website as fan fiction.

Sawyer mentioned this because the Yub Nub podcast episode “Hollywood Dinners and Alien Exodus”, which dropped today, discusses that project beginning at the 36:30 mark.

Sawyer reminds fans that the outline for the whole book is here: “Alien Exodus Outline”. And his opening chapters are here: “Alien Exodus Chapters”.

(6) THE WORDS OF SFF. In the February 6 Financial Times, book columnist Nilanjana Roy discusses the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction website.

Skipping from ‘ecotopia’ (first used back in 1975) to ‘Frankenstein complex ‘(coined by Isaac Asimov in 1947 to describe the anxiety and distrust held by humans towards robots), a living history of science fiction began to take shape in my mind.  The HDSF records language coined by eminent figures from the realms of literature and science, but also long-forgotten hacks who wrote stories for the pulps…

…The HDSF is full of surprises, even to an unabashed sf fan.  Many entries are older than I imagined:  ‘teleport’ might seem like a word dreamt up in the 1950s, for instance, but the first recorded instance comes from an 1878 mention in the Times Of India:  ‘The teleport,.an apparatus by which men can be reduced to infinitessimal (sic) atoms, transmitted through the wire, and reproduced safe and sound on the other end!’ While “infodump” was first used in a 1978 conference on science.

(7) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. Someone who dismissed the Locus Recommended Reading List as “useless” was pointed at the Tangent Online 2020 Recommended Reading List” which contains these introductory remarks by Dave Truesdale:

Looking at short fiction over at least the past 10 years, a general observation can be made. It would appear that Woke Culture is as pervasive and cancerous as it has ever been for at least the past 10 years. The dearth of true originality when it comes to political or socially themed short fiction is becoming more and more apparent to those of us who have observed and studied the field for decades. Political Correctness has now infiltrated the field like a metastazing cancer, to the point where long time readers are beginning to voice complaints. The complaints arise not from what is published in the magazines or some of the original anthologies, but what is not being published. Identity Politics and the Cancel Culture have inserted themselves into the field to the extent that not only magazine fiction editors, but other areas of the SF field are bowing to intimidation and peer pressure to conform to the total obeisance the Woke doctrine demands….

(8) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. The documentary Marvel’s Behind the Mask premieres tomorrow on Disney+. Variety has an exclusive clip, and homes in on one topic — how the “Black Panther’s ‘Perfect’ Marvel Comic Book Launch Had One Major Flaw”.

When Marvel Comics first launched the character of Black Panther, it was in the July 1966 issue of “Fantastic Four.” As explained in this exclusive clip from the upcoming Disney Plus documentary “Marvel’s Behind the Mask,” premiering Feb. 12, the character of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, was presented just like any other Marvel superhero — attention wasn’t paid to the color of his skin, but rather to the supreme quality of his abilities.

“The first Black superhero, Black Panther, comes out perfect,” says writer-director Reginald Hudlin, who wrote a run of Black Panther comics in the 2000s. “He’s this cool, elegant, handsome guy who’s just got it on lock.”

But as the clip also demonstrates, there’s one essential element of Black Panther that was glaringly incorrect: His skin is grey, not brown.

…Rather than shy away from its less than admirable history, the “Behind the Mask” filmmakers say Marvel’s executives were on board with a warts-and-all look at the company’s efforts with representation. “They were complete partners,” says Gary. “They accepted the fact that we were going to make some things uncomfortable.” The company even opened up its vault so the filmmakers could access the full range of its history.

“There were certain things that we needed to scan that weren’t part of the digital history, that were important to the storytelling,” says Simon. “We needed to get that older imagery out of the vault.”…

(9) NYT JAMES GUNN OBITUARY. The New York Times paid their respects today: “James Gunn, Prizewinning Science Fiction Author, Dies at 97”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon I, Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella with “Ill Met in Lankhmar”, one of his Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser tales. It was originally published in the April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The other nominees were “The Thing in the Stone” by Clifford D. Simak,  “The Region Between” by Harlan Ellison.  “The World Outside” by Robert Silverberg and “Beastchild” by Dean R. Koontz.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 11, 1898 – Leo Szilard.  Vital in the Manhattan Project; first to connect thermodynamics and information theory; filed earliest known patent applications for the electron microscope, the linear accelerator, and the cyclotron (but did not build all these, nor publish in scientific journals, so credit went to others; Lawrence had the Nobel Prize for the cyclotron, Ruska for the electron microscope).  Present when the first man-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved in the first nuclear reactor; shook Fermi’s hand.  Credited with coining the term “breeder reactor”.  Half a dozen short stories for us.  To him is attributed “We are among you.  We call ourselves Hungarians.”  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.)  Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More isavailable from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.) (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1915 – Mabel Allan.  Four novels, one shorter story for us; a hundred seventy books all told, some under other names; some in series e.g. a dozen about Drina Adams who at age 10 wants to be a ballerina and finally is.  Here is the Mabel Project for reading MA’s books in chronological order.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1920 – Daniel Galouye.  (“Ga-lou-ey”)  Navy pilot during World War II; journalist; New Orleans fan who developed a pro career.  Half a dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Guest of Honor at Consolacon, DeepSouthCon 6.  Interviewed in Speculation.  Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 82. She loves dark chocolate so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signing a copy for me now, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are most popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for  “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott). (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 68. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. (CE)
  • Born February 11, 1965 – John Zeleznik, age 56.  A dozen covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Find Your Own Truth.  Here is The Heart of Sparrill.  Here is his Rifts Coloring Book.  Here is a Magic: the Gathering card.  Ten years in Spectrum anthologies.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1970 – Reinhard Kleist, age 51.  Half a dozen covers, as many interiors.  Here is Asimov’s collection Azazel.  Here is Das Böse kommt auf leisen Sohlen (German, “Evil comes on quiet feet” – more literally Sohlen are soles – tr. Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes).  [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1975 – Kathy McMillan, age 46.  Two novels for us, four others (one got an Indies Award); eight resource books for educators, librarians, parents. ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreter.  Website says Author & Language Geek.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNFORGOTTEN LORE. Gene Luen Yang fills readers in  “On the Connection Between Chinese Folktales and American Comic Book Heroes” at Literary Hub.

I first heard about the monkey king from my mom.

When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me Chinese folktales before bedtime. My mother is an immigrant. She was born in mainland China and eventually made her way to the United States for graduate school.

She told me those stories so that I wouldn’t forget the culture that she had left. Even though I hadn’t ever experienced that culture firsthand, she wanted me to remember it.

Of all her stories, my favorites by far were about Sun Wukong, the monkey king. Here was a monkey who was so good at kung fu that his fighting skills leveled up to superpowers. He could call a cloud down from the sky and ride it like a surfboard. He could change his shape into anything he wanted. He could grow and shrink with the slightest thought. And he could clone himself by plucking hairs from his head and then breathing on them. How cool was that?…

…Turns out, my mother was pretty faithful. As I read it, I realized that American superheroes hadn’t replaced Sun Wukong in my heart after all. Superman, Spider?Man, and Captain America were simply Western expressions of everything I loved about the monkey king….

(14) THE MILLENNIUM HAS ARRIVED. The thousandth book by a woman reviewed on James Nicoll Reviews: “Just Keep Listening”.

K.B. Spangler’s 2021 coming-of-age space opera The Blackwing War is the first book in her Deep Witches Trilogy. It is set in the same universe as Spangler’s 2017 Stoneskin .

Tembi Stoneskin was rescued from abject poverty when the Deep, the vast, enigmatic entity that facilitates transgalactic teleportation, took a shine to her. As long as the Deep retains its affection for Tembi, she will be an ageless Witch, stepping from world to world as it pleases her. There is little chance Tembi will alienate the Deep. 

There is, however, every chance she will alienate her superiors in the Witch hierarchy. Youthful Tembi is that most dreaded of beings, an idealist…. 

(15) YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIAL M ANYMORE. In “The Rise of the Digital Gothic” on CrimeReads, Katie Lowe says many of today’s Gothic novelists are coming up with plots that involve apparitions or other supernatural phenomena coming out of characters’ smartphones.

…But for all that this new technology gives, there’s also the sense of our personal spaces—the physical homes we inhabit—seeming always invaded by others, both strangers and not. They wander through, startling us with questions as we brew our morning coffee; scanning our living rooms while we’re on Zoom; liking our family photos as we crawl into bed. Our daily lives are interrupted constantly by apparitions: by the voices and figures of people who simply are not there.

This is not, however, a state of being sprung entirely from the pandemic—nor is it unique to fiction. In her 2014 essay “Return of the Gothic: Digital Anxiety in the Domestic Sphere,” critic Melissa Gronlund observed similarities between recent work in the visual arts. She suggests that artists using “the Gothic tropes of the uncanny, the undead, and intrusions into the home” in their work are searching for “a way to wrestle with daunting, ongoing questions prompted by current technological shifts: How has the internet affected our sense of self? Our interaction with others? The structures of family and kinship?”

(16) MARS MERCH. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum told people on its mailing list that the limited edition Mars Perseverance merchandise collection will only be available until February 21. (Click for larger images.)

(17) MR. SCOTT’S SECRET STUFF. Say, we just mentioned this substance the other day: “The Science Behind Transparent Aluminum on ‘Star Trek’” at Heavy.

Forbes reports that there are two methods of creating transparent aluminum in common use today. The first method involves taking a powdered aluminum-magnesium compound that is subjected to high pressure and heated, a method used by the US Military, specifically the US Naval Laboratory. This method produces a somewhat cloudy material that needs to be polished prior to use. An alternative method, which creates a slightly stronger and much clearer material, also exists. This end-product is called aluminium oxynitride, sold under the name ALON.

(18) UNBELIEVABLE TAZ. MeTV remembers how “Taz was so crazy, he convinced the world that Tasmanian devils didn’t exist”. And the iconic character has been used to help the real ones avoid extinction.

People accept that fantasy creatures like unicorns and dragons do not really exist, and it was that kind of categorical thinking that led many Looney Tunes fans around the world to assume that a Tasmanian devil is not a real animal.

They’d never seen one before. They’d never heard of one before. It must be a made-up animal!

When the cartoon devil called “Taz” was introduced in cartoons in the 1950s, creator Robert McKinson had no idea he would be creating so much confusion with his brand-new character, which he never foresaw becoming such an icon….

(19) THAT’S CAT. They’re everywhere – on these altered versions of book covers – like the ferocious feline on the front of Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mask Up America” on YouTube is a PSA from WarnerMedia in which Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, and Humphrey Bogart urge you to wear masks.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Iphinome, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/23/19 But That Was Very Long Ago, And Oh, So Far Away

(1) A MATTER OF RESPECT. Edmund Schluessel has returned from Fantasticon 2019, in Copenhagen, Denmark with a burden: “I attended as a Special Guest this weekend in Copenhagen. There has been discussion within the Nordic countries’ fan community about the event’s poster and some other issues of insensitivity and I discuss those here.” — “Saints and people who do not think like us (Fantasticon 2019)”.

…Nisi [Shawl] was talking about altruism. They talked about being a saint. They talked about sacrifice, even putting yourself in harm’s way to protect someone who would do harm to you. 

The Chair gave an impromptu speech just afterward. The poster was excellent, he told us all, and complaints about it all came from “people who do not think like us.”

Then started the filk sing-a-long. Only quick action by an observant program participant kept the projector screen from telling the whole banquet room that we’d be singing along to the tune of “The Darkies’ Sunday School.” That quick action did not prevent the flippant reference to rape in the lyrics. “It was like something from the ’70s,” that quick intervenor said later.

Why am I amped up to 11 about all this? At a fundamental level, fandom is about storytelling. And something I’ve seen in every single fan community I’ve interacted with, going back something like 25 years now, is that the story fandom always tells best is when it’s telling itself “we are tolerant, we are open, we accept everyone.” Too often that story is a myth.

The Afrofuturist authors whose work and ideas this convention we’re supposed to be celebrating — if we won’t listen to their message, are they “people who do not think like us”? The convention members who saw something wrong with the poster, whether or not they could clearly articulate it — are they not part of “us”? Am I not part of “us”? You put my name on the damned poster!

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Where do you go for a Javanese dinner? For Lisa Tuttle and interviewer Scott Edelman the answer was: Dublin. Join them in Episode 105 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lisa Tuttle

My guest this time around is the award-winning writer Lisa Tuttle, who I caught up with one night after she was done with a 7:30 p.m. reading, which meant that by the time we began our meal it was a later than usual dinner (for me, at least). We hopped in a cab and took off for at Chameleon, an Indonesian restaurant I’d found via Eater’s list of 38 essential Dublin restaurants. The restaurant offers set menus from various regions, including Sumatra and Bali. We decided to go with Java, but added to that some pork bell bao, and the 10-hour Javanese anise short rib of beef, a signature dish of theirs which turned out to be my favorite thing eaten all weekend.

Lisa and I both had wonderful experiences 45 years ago at the 1974 Worldcon in Washington, D.C., me because it was my first Worldcon, she because of winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She’s accomplished a lot in the 4-1/2 decades since, including being awarded the 1982 Nebula for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute.” She’s published seven short story collections, starting with A Nest of Nightmares in 1986 and most recently Objects in Dream in 2012, plus more than a dozen novels, the first of which was Windhaven (1981), written in collaboration with George R. R. Martin, who was my guest back in Episode 43. She was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke award for her novel Lost Futures. She edited the pivotal anthology Skin of the Soul: New Horror Stories by Women (1990) as well as Crossing the Border: Tales of Erotic Ambiguity (1998).

We discussed the amusing series of mishaps which prevented her from learning she’d won the 1974 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer as early as she should have, the first thing Harlan Ellison ever said to her, how the all-male table of contents for a major horror anthology inspired her to edit her classic female horror anthology Skin of the Soul, the way emigrating from the U.S. to the UK affected her writing, why an editor said of one of her submitted novels, “I love this book, but I could no more publish it than I could jump out the window and fly,” how she and George R. R. Martin were able to collaborate early in their careers without killing each other, what she’d do if she were just starting out now as a writer, the reasons contemporary acknowledgements sections of novels should be shortened — and so much more.

(3) SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE. He likes to get paid, too — “Chuck Yeager sues Airbus for writing ‘Yeager broke the sound barrier’” at Ars Technica.

In 2017, Airbus published a promotional article promoting an Airbus helicopter.

“Seventy years ago, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “We’re trying to break the cost barrier. It cannot be ‘speed at any cost.'”

The 96-year-old Yeager wasn’t happy. Last week, he filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that Airbus had infringed his rights by using his name without permission.

“By using Yeager’s name, identity, and likeness and federal registered trademarks in the infringing material, Airbus impaired the ability of General Yeager to receive his established earning potential,” Yeager’s lawyers wrote.

Yeager says that he visited Airbus in 2008 and told Airbus it would cost at least $1 million to use his name and likeness in promotional materials. Airbus refused his offer.

(4) VISUAL CONREPORT. Roberto Quaglia shares some great views in his video “Glimpses of an Irish Worldcon – Dublin 2019.”

(5) HARD SF. Here’s Rocket Stack Rank’s annual “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction of 2018” with 27 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(6) NOT ALL TROLLS. “Neil Gaiman On The Good Kind of Trolls”  at Literary Hub is his introduction to The Complete and Original Norwegian Folk Tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe in which Gaiman discusses his love of Norway and Norwegian folklore.

You will meet youngest sons and foolish farmers, clever women and lost princesses, adventurers and fools, just as in any collection of folk stories from anywhere in Northern Europe. But the Norwegian Folktales come with trolls, and if Asbjørnsen and Moe did not see them, as Kittelsen did, then they got their stories from people who had, people who had seen the trolls walking in the mist at dawn.

(7) EMMY REMEMBRANCES. The 2019 Primetime Emmys included an Memoriam segment. Some of the names of genre interest: Jan-Michael Vincent, James Frawley, Ron Miller, Cameron Boyce, Rutger Hauer, Stan Lee, and Rip Torn.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 23, 1846 — Planet Neptune was discovered.
  • September 23, 1962 The Jetsons debuted its very first episode, “Rosey the Robot”. The series which was produced by Hanna-Barbera would run for three seasons.
  • September 23, 1968 Charly was released, starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. Based on “Flowers for Algernon” which is a sf short story and a novel by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year’s Nebula Award for Best Novel with Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 23, 1897 Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for his role in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.)
  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar House Shiras. Her story “In Hiding” was submitted in 1948 to Astounding Science Fiction, where it was published. She published two sequels in the magazine: “Opening Doors”, and “New Foundations”. The three stories would become the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom. Other than a handful of short fiction, I think it’s her only work. Neither iBooks or Kindle carry anything by her. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 23, 1920 Richard Wilson. Not a writer of much genre fiction at all. His really major contribution to fandom and to Syracuse University where he worked as the director of the Syracuse University News Bureau was in successfully recruiting the donation of papers from many prominent science fiction writers to the Syracuse University’s George Arents Research Library.  The list of those writers includes Piers Anthony, Hal Clement, Keith Laumer, Larry Niven and Frederik Pohl. And, of course, himself. It has been called the “most important collection of science fiction manuscripts and papers in the world.” (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 23, 1944 Anne Randall, 75. She was Daphne, a servant girl in the original Westworld which if memory serves me correctly also had Yul Brynner in it. She’ll show also in Night Gallery  in the “Tell David” episode as Julie. 
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 63. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1—The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice.
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce, 60. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Doctor Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek
  • Born September 23, 1963 Alexander Proyas, 56. Australian director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known for directing The Crow (which is superb), Dark City, I, Robot  (nor so superb) and Gods of Egypt. His first, shot in Australia of course, was Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds. It’s genre. Has anyone seen it? 
  • Born September 23, 1957 Rosalind Chao, 61. She was the recurring character of Keiko O’Brien with a total of twenty-seven appearances on Next Generation and  Deep Space Nine. In 2010, a preliminary casting memo for Next Gen from 1987 was published, revealing that Chao was originally considered for the part of Enterprise security chief Tasha Yar.

(10) BURNING COLD. The second official trailer for Frozen 2 dropped today.

(11) FLASH GORDON. Film School Rejects thinks this movie has lessons to teach today’s creators despite its reputation: “What Today’s Sci-Fi Should Learn from ‘Flash Gordon'”.

Take, for example, the 2017 flop Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Luc Besson’s film, which is itself based on comics originating in the 1960s, spends way too much time explaining stuff that never becomes relevant. The eponymous City of a Thousand Planets is a space station broken down into multiple districts, as the exposition explains, but the action of the film barely takes place in any of them.

Flash Gordon, meanwhile, understands that drama is built between characters and then focuses on them. Everyone in the movie, from Flash to Ming to Flash’s larger-than-life ally Prince Vultan, has their own distinct wants, and the story emerges from these characters interacting and trying to reconcile these wants. This movie gets at the humanity behind these characters, even if they happen to be aliens

(12) ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Pursuing a thought experiment inspired by a list of 21st Century books, Peace Is My Middle Name started a hypothetical list of “100 best books of the Twentieth Century” as if it had been compiled in 1919. Their titles are in a comment and ought to have been mentioned yesterday, except the comment landed in the spam and wasn’t spotted for hours. Well worth your time.

(13) FOR YOUR EARS. Several episodes of a reading of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments are available for listening at the BBC.

In this brilliant and long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalised readers for decades. In The Testaments, set fifteen years after the events of her dystopian masterpiece, the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. Now the testimonies of three different women bring the story to a dramatic conclusion. Today we hear from the infamous Aunt Lydia, and Agnes, a young girl who has only known life in Gilead.

(14) NOT ARISTOTLE. “Euclid space telescope to study ‘dark Universe’ makes progress” – BBC has the story.

Europe’s space mission to uncover the secrets of the “dark Universe” has reached a key milestone.

The test model of the Euclid telescope has just emerged from a chamber where it was subjected to the kind of conditions experienced in orbit.

It was a critical moment for engineers because the successful trial confirms the observatory’s design is on track.

Euclid, due for launch in 2022, will map the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

These phenomena appear to control the shape and expansion of the Universe but virtually nothing is known about them.

The €800m venture, led by the European Space Agency (Esa), will be one of a group of new experiments to come online in the next few years.

Scientists are hopeful these next-generation technologies will provide the insights that have so far eluded them.

(15) ATARI 2600. BBC fathoms “The mysterious origins of an uncrackable video game”.

With the digital equivalent of trowels and shovels, archaeologists are digging into the code of early video games to uncover long forgotten secrets that could have relevance today.

“You and your team of archaeologists have fallen into the ‘catacombs of the zombies’.” A miserable situation, to be sure. But this was the chilling trial that faced players of Entombed, an Atari 2600 game, according to the instruction manual.

The catacombs were an unforgiving place. A downward-scrolling, two-dimensional maze that players had to navigate expertly in order to evade the “clammy, deadly grip” of their zombie foes. An archaeologist’s nightmare.

Released in 1982, Entombed was far from a best-seller and today it’s largely forgotten. But recently, a computer scientist and a digital archaeologist decided to pull apart the game’s source code to investigate how it was made.

…Like intrepid explorers of catacombs, Aycock and Copplestone sought curious relics inside Entombed. But they got more than they bargained for: they found a mystery bit of code they couldn’t explain. It seems the logic behind it has been lost forever.

Into the labyrinth

Maze-navigating games were very common back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the method used to generate a maze varied, depending on the programmer. In the age of Atari, games had to be designed with incredible skill because the computer systems that ran them were so limited. (Read more about the mind of a maze-builder.)

Although the blocky, two dimensional mazes from entombed might look simple by the standards of today’s computer graphics, in 1982 you couldn’t just design a set of mazes, store them in the game and later display them on-screen – there wasn’t enough memory on the game cartridges for something like that. In many cases, mazes were generated “procedurally” – in other words, the game created them randomly on the fly, so players never actually traversed the same maze twice.

But how do you do get a computer program to avoid churning out a useless maze with too many walls, or an otherwise impenetrable floorplan?

(16) SNOWPIERCER BACKSTORY. On September 24, Titan Comics will release Snowpiercer The Prequel: Part 1: Extinction, a brand-new prequel graphic novel set before the extinction incident that led to the events of the original Snowpiercer graphic novel trilogy. It’s written by Matz (Triggerman, The Assignment), with art by the original Snowpiercer graphic novel artist Jean-Marc Rochette, shown in this promotional video creating an iconic scene from the book.

[Thanks to bill, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Edmund Schluessel , Eric Wong, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]