Pixel Scroll 9/29/22 Suddenly, There Was A Knock On The Pixel

(1) STORY ORIGINS. Nalo Hopkinson looks back on the genesis of her Sturgeon Award-winning short story “Broad, Dutty Water” in preparation for her talk at the ceremony tonight. Thread starts here.

(2) CREATES FEELS OF UNUSUAL SIZE. In a series of tweeted video clips, actor Mandy Patinkin reminisces about making The Princess Bride. Thread starts here. Here are a few of the clips.

(3) GAILEY Q&A. “An Interview with the Dream Foundry’s Writing Contest Judge Sarah Gailey” at the Dream Foundry blog.

Writers are frequently looking for the “key” to win or be published, but there’s no singular piece of advice that can be universally applied. With that in mind, how do you find yourself navigating and evaluating submissions? What stands out to you?

 Author A. B. Guthrie Jr. once said that the secret to writing well is a constant undercurrent of the unexpected. Delight takes many forms and can come from many sources, but in the end, I find it to be the one unifying feature of the media I remember and value. For me, that delight often comes from seeing a brilliant craftsperson in their element, taking risks and delivering things I wouldn’t have known to ask for. A story that delivers the unexpected will always delight me.

(4) CON OR BUST UPDATE. Dream Foundry’s monthly newsletter has an update about Con or Bust, the program that helps creators or fans of color attend industry events with direct cash grants to assist with travel, food, registration, and other expenses.

Con or Bust has successfully been underway and we’re super pleased to announce that we’ve already made $2500 of grants to applicants looking to participate in cons. You can check out more about the program here, including ways to donate or to apply for grants. Are you interested in attending Deep South Con this year? We have memberships already on hand, so let us know in the application form that you’re interested in attending. 

(5) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 67 of the Octothorpe podcast takes us “Straight Back to Star Wars”.

John Coxon has hairspray, Alison Scott has a tiara, and Liz Batty has a necklace. We talk about Chicon 8 and Chicago a lot, and then get distracted by feelings, steampunk and lasers.

(6) SF IN CHARLOTTE. This is the outdoor dining area for Mellow Mushroom Pizza in Charlotte, NC. Steven H Silver took the photo when he was in the neighborhood.

(7) GENRE DEFINITIONS. The “sf vs. fantasy” meme has been making the rounds of social media. The difference is very easy to understand the way Lynda Carter explains it.

(8) COOLIO (1963-2022). Rapper Coolio died September 28. His interest in sff was captured by Gavin Edwards in a Details magazine interview years ago.

He also guest starred as himself on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Coolio voiced a wax figure of himself on Disney Channel’s Gravity Falls. One of his songs was used in Space Jam (1996), and “Weird Al” Yankovic did a parody of his hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” called “Amish Paradise.”  

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] Some series are just plain sweet. My Favorite Martian which premiered fifty-eight years ago this evening on CBS, starring Ray Walston as Uncle Martin aka the Martian and Bill Bixby as Tim O’Hara, was one of them. I suspect it was one of the shows that the creators of The Munsters thought they were railing against. Or not.

Unlike the latter ears of Spock, I suspect the design and actual putting of the antenna was much, much cheaper. All of the controls were remote and radio activated, so they were fairly fool proof on his end. 

The unaired pilot which was based off a slush pile proposal that that had been rejected by the William Morris Agency more times than is worth noting. It was filmed in late 1962 and bought by the network in a few months later after an agent at William Morris finally liked it.

That pilot had a scene where Tim stops his car on the way back from the crash site at the nearest phone in order to call in his story about the Martian craft passing the X-15. 

It also had another scene showing how he used a levitator device to move his spaceship from a U-Haul trailer into Tim’s garage.

Like the later Star Trek series, it was produced at Desilu though it was an independent production, and the first seven shows were filmed at Desilu’s Cahuenga Studios, with those shows featuring a portable fireplace in the middle of the living room. When filming was moved to Soundstage 10 on the Desilu Gower lot, the fireplace was transferred to the corner of the living room.

There were quite a few unused scripts which, as I noted in my previous essay on the animated My Favorite Martian series, ended up being used there.

Remember it said the series was sweet? Well the network also thought it should be, err, dumb really. The network also opposed making the series at all intellectual and blocked the use of space age terminology. Sources said that CBS took the position that “This is a comedy show, let’s keep it that way…” And no skin and gambling please. A Las Vegas show was scripted but deep sixed by the network who to the end thought of My Favorite Martian as a children’s show.

One last note: a combination of a thermin and ondes martinet was used to provide the sounds which accompanied the antennae rising or when the use of levitation powers.

The show lasted three seasons, one hundred and seven episodes. Some in black and white, some in color. It is one of my favorite SF series of all time. Well it’s sort of an SF series in the way that The Munsters are a sort of a horror show.

The chemistry between Ray Walston and Bill Bixby was perfect. Really perfect. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 29, 1873 Theodore Lorch. He’s the High Priest in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial. He also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. He also appeared in several Three Stooges comedies as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 29, 1930 Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes, she was a redhead. Unless you count her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. Though in 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 80. Setting aside Deadwood, which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods. And it turns out, although I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me which of his genre roles is your favorite? 
  • Born September 29, 1952 Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 29, 1954 Shariann Lewitt, 68. First, let me commend her for writing one of the better Trek novels in Cybersong set in the Voyager verse. Bravo, Shariann! Most of her fiction, be it Memento Mori or Rebel Sutra is definitely downbeat and usually dystopian in nature. Well written but not light reading by any means.
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 61. A Whovian among Whovians. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audioworks company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. 
  • Born September 29, 1968 Stephen Deas, 54. British writer. He is most known for his fantasy franchise, the Memory of Flames which is set in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons. Yes, more dragons! Though dragon free free, I highly recommended his Thief-Taker’s Apprentice series as well. Good fantasy doesn’t always need dragons, does it?
  • Born September 29, 1980 Zachary Levi, 42. He was Chuck Bartowski in, errr,  Chuck. I still haven’t seen it, so how is it? He’s the title character in Shazam! which is wonderful in a deliberately comical manner.

(11) 2022 HARVEY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES. Neil Gaiman, Marjorie Henderson Buell, Gilbert Shelton and Roy Thomas will be honored for their comic book work at New York Comic Con on October 7. Marjorie Henderson Buell, who died in 1993 and was the creator of Little Lulu, will be inducted posthumously.  “Harvey Awards to Induct New Hall of Fame Members” in the New York Times.The awards are named in honor of Harvey Kurtzman.

…Looking back, Gaiman shared some fond memories of his Harvey experiences. “The first time I was given a Harvey award, it was 1991, 31 years ago, I had a whole career or two ahead of me and Harvey Kurtzman was still alive. It was the award that bore his name, and was thus the most important award I had ever received,” he said in a statement. “Now, with over three decades of comics career behind me, it’s just as thrilling to hear that I get to join a Hall of Fame named for Harvey. He was one of the greats, and so many of the people who have been inducted already have been people I looked up to over the years. So this is an unalloyed delight for me.”…

(12) DANCE, DANCE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] This is certainly an audacious decision for Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle; the genre veteran filmmaker known for 28 Days Later is turning his eye to a stage adaptation of The Matrix… reimagined as interpretive dance. It’s just so bonkers an idea that I think I may have to watch it. “Danny Boyle to Direct Dance Adaptation of ‘The Matrix’” reports Variety.

Danny Boyle is set to direct a dance adaptation of 1999 sci-fi blockbuster “The Matrix.”

Titled “Free Your Mind,” the Warner Bros. Theater Ventures-licensed project is set to debut next October at Factory International, a new arts venue in Manchester, U.K. The production, described as a “large-scale immersive performance,” will serve as the venue’s inaugural show.

“Combining the hip-hop choreography of hundreds of dancers with the latest immersive design, ‘Free Your Mind’ will take audiences on a thrilling journey through ‘The Matrix’ and into a new realm of possibilities,” reads the logline….

(13) BREAKTHROUGH PRIZE. Announced in today’s Nature: “US$3-million Breakthrough Prize winners 2022”.

The researchers behind the AlphaFold artificial-intelligence (AI) system have won one of this year’s US$3-million Breakthrough prizes — the most lucrative awards in science. Demis Hassabis and John Jumper, both at DeepMind in London, were recognized for creating the tool that has predicted the 3D structures of almost every known protein on the planet.

Another life-sciences Breakthrough prize was awarded jointly to sleep scientists Masashi Yanagisawa at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and Emmanuel Mignot at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, for independently discovering that narcolepsy is caused by a deficiency of the brain chemical orexin.

A third life-sciences prize is shared by Clifford Brangwynne at Princeton University in New Jersey and Anthony Hyman at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, for discovering a mechanism by which cell contents can organize themselves by segregating into droplets.

The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics goes to Daniel Spielman, a mathematician at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Spielman was recognized for multiple advances, including the development of error-correcting codes to filter out noise in high-definition television broadcasts.

The Breakthrough prizes were founded in 2012 by Yuri Milner, a Russian-Israeli billionaire. They are now sponsored by Milner and other Internet entrepreneurs, including Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta (formerly Facebook).

(14) VOTE FOR 4433. “Brazilian Libertarian Politician Uses Anime Parodies in His Campaign Advertising”Anime News Network clues us in.

Brazilian politician Kim Kataguiri has been posting anime parody campaign ads on his YouTube channel to gear up for the upcoming general election on Sunday. On Wednesday, he posted a parody of Chika’s iconic dance from the Kaguya-sama: Love is War anime. Kataguiri himself, dressed in the Kaguya-sama’s male school uniform, is shown dancing alongside a Chika cosplayer.

…Kataguiri was elected congressman in October 2018 at the age of 22. He is one of the founders and leaders of the Free Brazil Movement, a libertarian group that opposes Brazil’s state capitalism in favor of free market policies. He is a populist figure who found his start in politics by posting popular satirical videos on YouTube. He also streams video games on Twitch.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Pitch Meeting Gets an Upgrade,” the producer says he is looking forward to the writer helping him make “unquestionably good decisions.”  But the writer says he has a letter from the inventor of YouTube, John YouTube, that says that after 300 episodes YouTube gets “a free Canadian actor upgrade.”  So Simu Liu shows up!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Gavin Edwards, Ziv Wities, Olav Rokne, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/22 One Fist Science Fiction, The Other Fantasy, If The Right One Don’t Get You, Then The Left One Will

(1) JUSTICE FOR SYLVIA ANDERSON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Last night’s BBC Radio 4 arts programme, Front Row, devoted a substantive amount of time to the airbrushing of Sylvia Anderson from Anderson productions by Gerry Anderson and then the Anderson estate. This included unlawful contracts that lost her many years of royalties. Absolutely shocking. “Richard Eyre’s The Snail House; Sylvia Anderson and women in TV; the late Jean-Luc Godard”.

The name Sylvia Anderson was recently invoked by Dr. Lisa Cameron MP, during a debate on gender equality in the media in Westminster Hall. The late Sylvia Anderson was a pioneer in the male dominated world of television, co-creating Thunderbirds in the 1960s with her then husband Gerry. But her family say her name has often been omitted from credits and merchandise in the years since then. Samira speaks to Sylvia’s daughter Dee Anderson and Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair of Time’s Up UK, who are campaigning for her legacy to be restored and to Barbara Broccoli, producer of the James Bond films, who remembers Sylvia as her mentor.

(2) PIECES OF CHICON 8. In episode 66 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Thank You, Steven”, John Coxon is in the fanzine lounge, Alison Scott is under a bison hat, and Liz Batty is good, thank you.

We chat to people in the fanzine lounge at Chicon 8. (Sorry about the background noise, and normal service resumes next week.)

Alt text. A purple square with “OCTOTHORPE 66” written at the bottom and inset, a photograph of John, Alison, and Liz. John is wearing a grey suit with a Hugo Award finalist pin and a matching purple tie and mask; Alison is wearing a black mask, a burgundy dress, and has glitter on her temple, and Liz is wearing a green dress and matching mask, a necklace by Vanessa Applegate, and a yellow shrug. They are against a backdrop which has alternating Hugo Award logos and Chicon 8 logos.

(3) ABOUT WORKSHOPS. Morgan Hazelwood shares notes about the Chicon 8 panel “Is a Writer’s Workshop Right For Me?” at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer In Progress.

Whether you’ve been writing for a while or dreaming of getting away and actually having time to write, many of us have wondered if a writer’s workshop was right for us.

At WorldCon 80, otherwise known as ChiCon8, I attended the panel: The Writing Workshop Workshop where moderator Erin Underwood led panelists Ian Muneshwar, Tegan Moor, James Patrick Kelly, and Caroline M Yoachim in a discussion aimed at answering that very question….

Hazelwood also presents the information in this YouTube video.

(4) TAKING COUNSEL OF THEIR FEARS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Atlantic has an interesting article about the backlash against casting actors of color in The Rings of Power, House of the Dragon, Sandman and all sorts of other things: “Fear of a Black Hobbit”.

Maybe you’ve heard that people are mad about Black actors being cast in Lord of the Rings. Or Game of Thrones. Or maybe it was Star Wars. Or perhaps Thor. Wait, maybe it was Titans, or SupermanThe Witcher? Or maybe you heard that people are angry that Black Panther got made in the first place, because Wakanda is fictional, unlike one of those fantasy countries authors seem to think will seem more mysterious if you add enough accents or apostrophes, like Warthéréth’rién. (I just made that up.) Maybe you’re wondering why adults care about a Disney mermaid being Black.

Earlier this month, CNN published a news story featuring an interview with Brandon Morse, an editor for the right-wing website RedState, in which he complained that Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show, The Rings of Power, is integrated: “He says ‘The Rings of Power’ producers have cast non-White actors in a story based on European culture and who look wildly different from how Tolkien originally described them,” CNN reported. “He says it’s an attempt to embed ‘social justice politics’ into Tolkien’s world.” Morse told CNN that “if you focus on introducing modern political sentiments, such as the leftist obsession with identity issues that only go skin deep, then you’re no longer focusing on building a good story.”

It’s worth noting how rapidly right-wing language about colorblind meritocracy melts away when it does not produce the desired results. Perhaps the actors cast were simply the most qualified? …

(5) RELATED WORK. Cora Buhlert’s new “Non-Fiction Spotlight” is about Story Matrices: Cultural Encoding and Cultural Baggage in Science Fiction and Fantasy a fascinating book about storytelling, writing, and worldbuilding by Gillian Polack.

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

Because I’m addicted to story, I wondered just how much of our invisible culture we carried in in the way we tell stories. I began to look at the world building we do and the paths we take when we tell stories and read them. What is the difference between story space for the reader and story space for the writer and, indeed, story space for the editor? As I addressed these questions, I discovered how very powerful genre literature is in our lives. Even those who have never read a science fiction novel have experienced the narratives we tell and the cultural material we embed into our stories.

I wanted to explain this: that genre literature is a powerful, powerful force, that culture is transmitted through story, that we can all think about story and through that thought have more control over what we accept from story. We can, in short, choose not to be bigots….

(6) WHAT’S AHEAD IN THE DESIGN FIELD? Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s  event “Designing the Future with Applied Sci-Fi” will take place on Thursday, September 29, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern. Panelists include design fiction pioneer Julian Bleecker, speculative designer Anab Jain, narrative designer Alex McDowell, strategic foresight practitioner Radha Mistry, and futurist Brian David Johnson. The event will also feature opening remarks from the renowned science fiction (and nonfiction) author Bruce Sterling.

The event is the second in a series for the Applied Sci-Fi Project at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it, and to study the ways that sci-fi storytelling can a tool for innovation and foresight. 

 The event is free and open to everyone. Here is the registration link.

(7) TAKING ANOTHER CUT AT IT. The Hollywood Reporter declares,  “Amazon’s ‘Blade Runner’ TV Series Officially Happening”.

Amazon’s Prime Video has given the green light to Blade Runner 2099, a limited series sequel to the iconic sci-fi film franchise. The series comes from Amazon Studios and Alcon Entertainment, which holds the rights to Blade RunnerRidley Scott, who directed the classic 1982 film, will executive produce through his Scott Free Productions, while Silka Luisa (Apple TV+’s Shining Girls) will serve as showrunner….

Amazon announced it was developing Blade Runner 2099 in February. Its title implies it will be set 50 years after 2017’s film sequel Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, but story details are being kept quiet for now. The series will be the first live-action treatment of Blade Runner for TV; Adult Swim aired an anime series titled Blade Runner: Black Lotus that debuted in November 2021….

(8) A FONT OF KNOWLEDGE. Camestros Felapton is doing a highly scientific study to show that you can predict the genre of a book by the type face used on the cover. “The sans-serif genre axis part 2”. He’s not high, just his science is.

… “Science Fiction typically uses sans-serif fonts for titles” is a defensible claim — the proportion is high and the spread is relatively narrow compared with other genres….

(9) OUR MAN FLINT. The Alternate Historian does a beautiful tribute to the late author: “1632 by Eric Flint: What If Time Traveling Hillbillies Saved Europe?”.

Alternate historians love stranding people and places in the past because we want to see what happens when technology and ideas from the present are unleashed on earlier eras. And one novel would revolutionize these kind of stories and launch a new community of writers.

(10) MARGARET ANN BASTA (1951—2022). Margaret Basta who, with her twin sister Laura, published some of the earliest Star Trek fanzines, was found dead in her home on September 4. She was 69. Margaret was active in Detroit fandom in the Seventies, belonging to the Wayne Third Foundation. She and Laura were founders and officers of the Star Trek Association for Revival (S.T.A.R.). (Laura was nominated for a Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1974.) Margaret was later involved in Beauty and the Beast fandom.

Margaret died without provisions or funds for her burial and a friend has started a GoFundMe to pay for her burial expenses.

Hi, I’m Jan Feldmann; my best friend Margaret Basta died unexpectedly earlier this month. She left no provisions for a funeral or burial and her family cannot handle the expense. I loved her dearly for 50 years and want to see her ashes buried with dignity at Holy Sepulchre cemetary in Southfield MI. She was one of the first original Star Trek fans and organized several early ST fan conventions. She wrote fan fiction, collected and sold vintage jewelry, had a huge circle of friends all over the country, and made a lasting impression on countless people. Margaret was a wonderful lady and I hope you can help her on her final journey. $1500 will pay for the cremation and internment at Holy Sepulchre cemetary.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] Eerie, Indiana series

You remember Joe Dante who has served us such treats as the Gremlin films, a segment of the Twilight Zone: The Movie (“It’s A Good Life”) and, errr, Looney Tunes: Back in Action? (I’ll forgive him for that because he’s a consultant on HBO Max prequel series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.)

And Dante was the creative consultant and director on a weird little horror SF series thirty-one years ago on NBC called Eerie, Indiana. Yes, delightfully weird. It was created by José Rivera and Karl Schaefer. For both it would be their first genre undertaking, though they would have a starry future, their work including EurekaGoosebumpsThe Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and Strange Luck to name but a few genre series that they’d work on in a major capacity. 

SPOILER ALERT! REALLY I’M SERIOUS, GO AWAY

Hardly anyone there is normal. Or even possibly of this time and space. We have super intelligent canines bent on global domination, a man who might be the Ahab, and, in this reality, Elvis never died, and Bigfoot is fond of the forest around this small town. 

There’s even an actor doomed to keep playing the same role over and over and over again, that of a mummy. They break the fourth wall and get him into a much happier film. Tony Jay played this actor.

Yes, they broke the fourth wall. That would happen again in a major way that I won’t detail here. 

END SPOILER ALERT. YOU CAN COME BACK NOW. 

It lasted but nineteen episodes as ratings were very poor. 

Critics loved it. I’m quoting only one due to its length: “Scripted by Karl Schaefer and José Rivera with smart, sharp insights; slyly directed by feature film helmsman Joe Dante; and given edgy life by the show’s winning cast, Eerie, Indiana shapes up as one of the fall season’s standouts, a newcomer that has the fresh, bracing look of Edward Scissorhands and scores as a clever, wry presentation well worth watching.”

It won’t surprise you that at Rotten Tomatoes, that audience reviewers give it a rating of eighty-eight percent. 

It is streaming on Amazon Prime, Disney+ and legally on YouTube. Yes legally on the latter. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1922 Bob Anderson. He was the swordmaster who played Darth Vader in his fight scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He replaced David Prowse due to the actor’s unfortunate tendency to break lightsabers. Because of the height differences—Anderson was six one while Prowse was six inches taller, Anderson’s scenes were filmed from a lower angle to make him seem taller, or he stood on some small stilts or wore platform shoes. Anderson later did swordfighting choreography and training for films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy (with Christopher Lee), the Zorro movies with Antonio Banderas and Die Another Day with stunt performer Jim Dowdall. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 15, 1924 Henry Silva, 98. Here for his genre work —  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Kane, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold as Argon, Amazon Women on the Moon as Himself (the “Bullshit or Not” segment, Cyborg – Il guerriero d’acciaio as ‘Hammer’, and Dick Tracy as ‘Influence’.
  • Born September 15, 1925 Carlos Rambaldi. Wnner of three Oscars: one Special Achievement Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in Seventies version of King Kong, and two Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects of Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He is best remembered for his work in those two last mentioned films, that is for the mechanical head-effects for the creature in Alien and the design of the title character of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He designed the Worms in Dune. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 82. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is it that he’s never won a Hugo? 
  • Born September 15, 1943 John M. Faucette. Published five novels and one short story. He left seven unpublished novels in various states of completion at his death. Two of his novels; Crown of Infinity and Age of Ruin, were published in the Ace Doubles series. None of his works are in print in digital or paper format currently including his Black Science Fiction anthology which he as an African-American SF writer was very proud of. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 15, 1956 Elton T. Elliott, 66. Editor, publisher, reviewer. His solo fiction debut was “Lighting Candles on the River Styx” in Amazing (March 1991). His early novel-length work appeared in the 1980s in collaboration with Richard E.Geis under the pseudonym Richard Elliott. He edited Science Fiction Review from 1990 to 1992 which, yes, I remember reading at the time. 
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kevin Roche, 62. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also was editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 60. My first encounter with her was through the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much is Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Agnes has some pecadillos as a author that make me wonder if she’s a relative of Writer X. It seems even more possible after reading this later strip.
  • Lio shows that sometimes nature calls from very faraway places.
  • The Far Side offers wordplay of mythic proportions.  

(14) STUMPERS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randall Munroe on how he went from being a NASA roboticist to an answerer of weird questions. “The world’s funniest former NASA roboticist will take your questions”.

…Other “What If? 2” situations ring of the perilous: What are your chances of death-by-geyser at Yellowstone Park? What would the daily caloric human-intake needs be for a modern T. rex gone rogue in the boroughs of New York? And how catastrophic would it be if, as the children’s tune goes, all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops?…

(15) CURRENT EVENTS. “Colonizing the Cosmos: Astor’s Electrical Future” at The Public Domain Review. “During America’s Gilded Age, the future seemed to pulse with electrical possibility. Iwan Rhys Morus follows the interplanetary safari that is John Jacob Astor’s A Journey in Other Worlds, a high-voltage scientific romance in which visions of imperialism haunt a supposedly ‘perfect’ future.”

…Luckily, one of them told us exactly how he imagined the century to come. In 1894, New York publishers D. Appleton and Company released A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future, written by John Jacob Astor IV, one of America’s wealthiest men. The Astor clan had originally made their fortune in the fur trade, and had added to their millions through investment in land and property. In 1897, John Jacob would build the Astoria Hotel in New York, next door to the Waldorf, owned by his cousin William. The hotel was both a symbol of the Astor family’s wealth and a honeypot for New York’s fashionables (Tesla himself lived there until he was turfed out for failing to pay his bills). It’s Astor’s authorship that makes the book such a fascinating insight into the Gilded Age’s fantasies about its prosperous tomorrows….

(16) TURN OF THE SEASON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s autumnal edition is now up.

Fiction Reviews

Non-fiction SF/F & Popular Science

(17) SAY CHEESE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  “Webb telescope wows with first image of an exoplanet” in Nature.

The James Webb Space Telescope has taken its first picture of a planet beyond the Solar System — opening a window to understanding other worlds and underscoring the telescope’s immense capabilities.

The image (shown) is of a planet called HIP 65426 b, an object similar to Jupiter, but younger and hotter, that lies 107 parsecs from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. Although it looks like a pixelated light bulb, it is the first exoplanet image ever taken at deep infrared wavelengths, which allow astronomers to study the full range of a planet’s brightness and what it is made of (the star symbol marks HIP 65426 b’s star, whose light the telescope blocked).

“It gives us wavelengths we’ve never seen planets at before,” says Beth Biller, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and a member of the discovery team. The image was reported in a paper on a preprint server on 31 August (A. L. Carter et al. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2208.14990; 2022); the study has not been peer reviewed.

Astronomers know of more than 5,000 exoplanets, but they have taken pictures of only around 20. Imaging exoplanets directly is difficult, because they are often lost in the glare of the star around which they orbit.

But observing them at infrared wavelengths, as Webb does, helps to boost the contrast between star and planet. “You’re in the regime where planets are brightest and stars are dimmest,” says Aarynn Carter, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the preprint.

(18) SICK IN UTAH. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Someone had too good a room party…. “The Jurassic vomit that stood the test of time” at Nature.

Some 150 million years ago, towards the end of the Jurassic period, an unknown but probably small creature threw up a recent meal inside a pond in what is now Utah1.

Over the ages, the puke’s contents were fossilized and remained untouched. That is, until they reached the hands of John Foster at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal and his colleagues.

The researchers found the fossil at the ‘Jurassic Salad Bar’, a site where they’ve unearthed more than 300 fossilized plants. The specimen is small, not much larger than 1 square centimetre in area. But it’s densely packed with more than 20 undigested bones and some puzzling items that might well be soft tissues or part of the vomit material.

Some of the bones, including some vertebrae, possibly belonged to a tadpole. Others were once part of frogs. And a tiny femur might have come from a salamander. Given the contents and the setting they were found in, researchers strongly suspect that a fish might have been the one to throw them up.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: 300th Episode,” the Screen Junkies’s EPIC Voice Guy salutes Ryan George for his 300th episode of “Pitch Meeting” by saying Ryan George is “the Canadian Ryan who doesn’t have six-pack abs.”  George gets to repeat all the catchphrases from every episode (including “super easy, barely an inconvience”) and says that after 300 episodes the producer and the writer have turned from “poorly developed characters” into “psychopaths.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/1/22 It’s Not A Pixel Scroll, It’s A Flamin’ Platypus

(1) PHOTO FROM THURSDAY’S FILE 770 MEETUP AT CHICON 8. The first File 770 meetup organized by Hampus Eckerman happened this morning – here’s a photo of some of the fans who made it. From left to right, Nicole, Martin and Kendall.

Meanwhile, Hampus has shifted the location for the Friday meetup to get away from the Jazz Festival happening in the area he planned before. Check the details here: Update Filers Meetup for Worldcon.

(2) PASSED MASTER. It’s a big advantage if you can skip taking a plane. “I will astral project myself to Worldcon” says Camestros Felapton. Expect to smell, er, see him there!

(3) MAGICAL THINKING. Xiran Jay Zhao, author of Iron Widow, cut loose with this video a few days ago:  

They have since traveled to Chicago. Where someone turned on the TV.

(4) CHICON 8 HITS A COUPLE OF BUMPS. The 2022 Worldcon began today, and a few problems with the con’s virtual edition prompted Chair Helen Montgomery to issue this “Virtual Access Apology”.

We apologize for the impact that accessibility issues within Airmeet, our platform for Virtual Chicon 8, have had on our members.

Thank you to people who have reached out to us about these issues as we launched this week.

The short version of our reply is that you are correct. There are definitely accessibility issues within Airmeet. Some issues we knew about and planned for, some issues are things we recently discovered, and some are things we simply didn’t think through all the way.

We knew that whatever platform we chose would have problems. We chose a platform that several of our staff have used before. We had a broad team working on Virtual C8, representing multiple divisions and areas, including our Accessibility Services team. Nonetheless, despite our best efforts, we still missed some pieces.

We are continuing to work on various workarounds for known issues. You can see our updated Accessibility Guide here (under the Virtual C8 menu tab) which is everything we know about Accessibility at this moment. We will continue to update it as we learn more.

If you need help, we have our live text chat service located at the bottom of the Virtual C8 page. You can also email us at virtual@chicon.org for assistance.

Hugo Administrator Kat Jones also apologized for some errors in the Souvenir Book: “Astounding Award Finalists: An Apology”.

We apologize for errors that have appeared in the official Chicon 8 Souvenir Book on page 98, in the listing of previous Astounding Award winners. 

When constructing the list of previous winners, the team mistakenly took the first name (ordered alphabetically) from this year’s Astounding Award ballot and listed it for the 2022 Astounding Award. We will correct this in the electronic version of the Souvenir Book. The team working on the Souvenir Book does not have visibility into the results of this year’s voting, and this error does not reflect anything other than the alphabetical ordering of the ballot.

We also apologize for the misspelling of Emily Tesh’s name as the 2021 Astounding Award winner, and the misspelling of Jeannette Ng’s name as the 2019 Astounding Award winner. These will also be corrected in the electronic version of the Souvenir Book.

We are very sorry for these mistakes.

(5) THE LINEAGE OF BATMAN. SF2 Concatenation has tweeted an advance post ahead of its autumnal edition: “Batman – Cinematic portrayals, or how The Dark Knight has maintained his comic book hero franchise”.

With the latest film in the collection just been to the cinema (eventually!) and now available on DVD, Bluray and on the usual platforms as The Batman, Mark Yon thought he would look at the rather long and complicated past of Batman in the cinema (with a couple of nods to comics and television as well!)…

(6) FENCON COPES WITH HOTEL OVERBOOKING MISTAKE. FenCon XVIII, which will be held in Irving, Texas from September 16-18, was handed the short end of the stick when their hotel “had a glitch” and got oversold by 150 rooms. The problem is being solved by switching a number of fans to nearby hotel, setting up continuous shuttles, and giving the displaced fans a $20 a day voucher. The committee told Facebook readers that anyone with an assisted reservation was kept on the property. Here is the statement from the convention’s website:

From the FenCon Staff to all of our members and guests: 

In mid-August, the Sheraton DFW hotel notified us that, due to a major computer glitch, they have oversold by over 150 rooms on FenCon weekend. The only way to manage their room inventory is to relocate many of our attendees to their sister property across the street, the DoubleTree DFW North. 

As a part of the concessions which the hotel is making to our convention, they will: 

* run a continuous shuttle between the two hotels during convention hours

* provide a $20 food voucher per day for each relocated guestroom for the DoubleTree restaurant

* the Hotel will be contacting attendees individually if their room is one of those being moved

The hotel has assured us that everyone who booked an accessible room will stay at the Sheraton.

Obviously this situation will be inconvenient, but Fencon was faced with the choice of working with the hotel to manage the situation, or canceling the convention, which we certainly did not want!

We hope the meal vouchers will help, and the shuttle should be a convenient way to move between the hotels. We do ask that you please not drive between hotels, as the parking spaces at the Sheraton will be nearly at capacity already.

We appreciate your understanding about the issue, and ask that you respect the staff at the various hotels – it isn’t their fault, and they are working hard to accommodate our needs. 

(7) SANFORD’S GRAPEVINE.  Jason Sanford posted a free issue of his “Genre Grapevine” sff news column on Patreon. It features many strong segments, such as “Twitter and the Normalization of Online Harassment and Attacks” which concludes:

…Sadly, I think it’s too late for Twitter and many of the original social media platforms, which enabled and profited off the worst aspects of humanity. As Annalee Newitz explained in this must-read post, Twitter is rapidly becoming a lost city. The result of all this will likely accelerate people moving to new platforms that don’t support and enable this hate and harassment, including siloed systems like personal newsletters. (For more on why authors should consider starting their own newsletter, see this excellent thread from K Tempest Bradford.)

All of this is a shame, because as Premee Mohamed explained, there are benefits and connections you can only find on a public platform like Twitter.

(8) EISNER TUNING UP FOR BROADWAY. Will Eisner’s “’A Contract With God’ Being Adapted Into Broadway Musical With TEG+” reports Variety.

TEG+ has acquired the stage rights to Will Eisner’s graphic novel “A Contract With God” and is adapting it into a Broadway musical, with new and original songs written by Sam Hollander, Lisa Loeb, Matisyahu, Ryan Miller and Jill Sobule.

“A Contract With God,” first published in 1978, is commonly recognized as the very first graphic novel in history. The novel consists of four interweaving stories revolving around the lives of a group of New Yorkers who live in a fictional tenement house, many of whom are Jewish and/or immigrants. For the musical, all of the members of the songwriting team are Jewish musicians and composers. Writing and recording sessions on the musical will commence soon, with Hollander serving as music producer.

(9) WHAT, AND LEAVE THAT MONEY ON THE TABLE? Dr. Michael D.C. Drout, a professor of English at Wheaton College in Massachusetts and co-editor of the journal Tolkien Studies, says in an opinion piece for the New York Times, “Please Don’t Make a Tolkien Cinematic Universe”.

…“The Rings of Power,” which will come out weekly after its two-episode premiere, is based primarily on only a few dozen pages in one of the historical appendices to “The Lord of the Rings,” meaning that almost the entire plot of the show has been created by Amazon Studios’ writers and showrunners. And there’s a huge gulf between Tolkien’s originality, moral sophistication and narrative subtlety and the culture of Hollywood in 2022 — the groupthink produced by the contemporary ecosystem of writers’ rooms, Twitter threads and focus groups. The writing that this dynamic is particularly good at producing — witty banter, arch references to contemporary issues, graphic and often sexualized violence, self-righteousness — is poorly suited to Middle-earth, a world with a multilayered history that eschews both tidy morality plays and blockbuster gore.

Is it fair to the legacies of writers like Tolkien to build franchises from their works without their knowledge or permission? Tolkien, who died in 1973, was fiercely protective of the world he created in his novels. He harshly rejected the spec screenplays of “The Lord of the Rings” he read and once asserted that the work was not appropriate for film. (He sold the film rights in 1969 only in order to help pay a tax bill; the television rights were sold to Amazon by his heirs.)…

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1955 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-seven years ago, the Hugo Awards returned as an official part of Worldcon. They had been skipped by the SFCon (1954) committee after being created by the Philcon II (1953) committee. They have been presented every year since.

The thirteenth Worldcon was held from the September 1-5, 1955. Nick Falasca and Noreen Falasca (Shaw) were the Chairs with the guests being Isaac Asimov (pro) and Sam Moskowitz (mystery GoH). The identity of the Special Mystery Guest was not revealed (even to the honoree) until the first night of the convention. The Program book noted that “Mr. Boucher [the Toastmaster] will make the presentation of the Achievement Awards and identify the Mystery Guest.” Anthony Boucher was Toastmaster. It was held at the Manger Hotel in Cleveland.  They would be known as Clevention. 

The Hugos were short enough that I feel comfortable listing them here.

  • Best Novel: They’d Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley [Astounding Aug,Sep,Oct,Nov 1954]
  • Best Novelette: “The Darfsteller” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. [Astounding Jan 1955] 
  • Best Short Story: “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell [Astounding May 1955]
  • Best Professional Magazine: Astounding Science Fiction ed. by John W. Campbell, Jr. 
  • Best Professional Artist: Frank Kelly Freas 
  • Best Fanzine: Fantasy Times ed. by James V. Taurasi, Sr. and Ray Van Houten

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Ray Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Not that I’d necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. A statement some of you will argue with strongly. (Died 1950.)
  • Born September 1, 1926 Gene Colan. He co-created with Stan Lee the Falcon, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics. He created Carol Danvers, who would become Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, and was featured in Captain Marvel. With Marv Wolfman, he created Blade. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 80. I certainly think the Hugo Award winning Downbelow Station at Chicon IV and Cyteen at Noreascon 3 are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners.
  • Born September 1, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 79. A noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician who born in Washington, D.C. He frequently is known by the nickname Filthy Pierre. He’s the creator of the Voodoo message board system once used at cons such as Worldcon, WisCon and Arisia. 
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 71.  He co-edited The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman which I highly recommend. He is a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and he’s member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 58. She’s has won two Nebulas, four Locus Awards, and four Hugo Awards. Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Dairies are amazing.
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 55. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in Gormenghast and Harmony in Good Omens.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! reveals another victim of a digital currency surprise.
  • The Duplex tells why they think Marvel is running out of ideas.

(13) FIFTY YEARS OF LUKE CAGE. Throughout the last year, superstar artist J. Scott Campbell has helped Marvel Comics honor the milestone anniversaries of some of comic book’s greatest icons including Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, and Ant-Man. Up next will be a cover for October’s Daredevil #4 featuring Luke Cage who’s celebrating 50 years of defending the streets of the Marvel Universe as a solo fighter, a Hero for Hire, and an Avenger. The artwork depicts Luke in his iconic Power Man costume

(14) CHENGDU LOCKDOWN. “China Locks Down Major Southern City of Chengdu” – the New York Times reports what’s happening this weekend in the city that will host next year’s Worldcon.  

China has locked down Chengdu, one of its biggest and economically important cities, as it turns once again to its Covid strategy of restricting people’s movements to stop outbreaks.

Starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, residents in the city of more than 21 million were no longer allowed to leave their homes without special permission, in the most drastic move to stop an outbreak since Shanghai went into a damaging two-month lockdown in April. Authorities also began citywide mass testing that they said would continue through the weekend. Chengdu reported 157 cases on Wednesday and more than 700 cases since Aug. 25.

China is the last major country in the world to pursue a policy of eradicating the virus, and it uses citywide lockdowns and mass testing to root out pockets of outbreaks. But the approach is adding to the pressures facing the local authorities in Sichuan, the southern province whose capital is Chengdu. A record-setting drought and a punishing heat wave have devastated the region’s power supply, and emergency responders battled quick-moving wildfires around the city of Chongqing until late last week.

Officials in Chengdu gave no indication of how long the lockdown might last, but it is expected to deal another economic blow to China at a challenging moment. The city is home to the manufacturing and assembly plants of several multinational automakers and technology firms including Intel, VW and Toyota, and its economic growth in 2021 accounted for 1.7 percent of China’s overall gross domestic product.

Chengdu and other cities across China have ordered measures like postponing the start of school and shutting down businesses to try to stamp out stubborn outbreaks in recent days….

(15) BIG MESS HALL. “H.P. Lovecraft Writes Olive Garden’s Dinner Menu” at McSweeney’s. A 2021 article – did we link last year? Well, it will still be news to someone.

Fried Calamari

Tendrils crusted in grit assail my palate. Begotten of the sea, yet containing the essence of a carnival. Fried and without end. At once I feel refined and base, but melancholy grips me when I spy the dressings within which this dismembered cephalopod is to dip. …

(16) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon is a computer and Alison Scott and Liz Batty are talking to him very slowly in episode 65 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Action Castle 2”.

John, Alison, and Liz play a game because they’re all away at Chicon 8 this week. Normal service will resume shortly. Listen here!

(17) JUSTWATCH. Here are JustWatch’s Top 10 viewing lists for August 2022.

(18) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “A massive planet circles a huge star doomed to explode” reports today’s Nature.

Confirmation of a second planet around the star μ2 Scorpii would indicate the first planetary system at a supernova-in-waiting.

A planet, and an object likely to be a planet, orbit a heavyweight star so massive that it will end its life in a spectacular explosion. The pair could comprise the first planetary system yet to be discovered around a star destined to form a supernova1.

Most of the 5,000-plus known planets beyond the Solar System circle relatively lightweight stars, no more than roughly twice the mass of the Sun. Whether planets can form and survive around stars big enough to go supernova remains relatively unexplored.

A team led by Vito Squicciarini at the University of Padua in Italy has been using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to search for planets around 85 young, massive stars. Around the star μ2 Scorpii, which is about 9 times the mass of the Sun, the astronomers spotted a planet that’s roughly 14 times the mass of Jupiter.

There are also hints of a second object, roughly 18 times the mass of Jupiter and closer to the star than the first one. The presence of two planets around such a massive star suggests that large stars circled by large planets might be more common than expected.

Original primary research article (open access) here.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Not sff, just amazing. Watch artist Devon Rodriguez at work in the NYC subways on Facebook.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/18/22 I’ve Been Scrolling On The Fileroad, All The Pixelled Day

(1) TOLKIEN MANUSCRIPT EXHIBIT. [Item by Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey.] “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” opens August 19 in Milwaukee, with material not just from Marquette University’s collection but items on loan from England which will probably not be seen again in North America in our lifetimes. The exhibit runs through December 23. Ticket information here.

Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries and the Haggerty Museum of Art collaboratively present this exhibition focused on the work of celebrated author and artist J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), best known for his literary classics The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The exhibition considers Tolkien’s work through the lens of manuscripts, in terms of both the materials that Tolkien studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts that he created while developing his collected writings on Middle-earth. Professor Tolkien was deeply immersed in the complexities of manuscripts, and this exhibition will illustrate how different aspects of the manuscript tradition found expression within Tolkien’s scholarly life and in his creative writing. Founded on Marquette’s J.R.R. Tolkien Collection, the exhibition also includes items borrowed from other repositories, including a significant number of Tolkien manuscripts and artwork from the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. Many of the 147 items in the exhibition have not previously been exhibited or published. 

(2) CROWDFUNDING FOR DE LINT AND HARRIS. Charles de Lint had to step down as Chicon 8 GoH last fall after his wife contracted a severe illness. And for reasons explained below, a family friend now has launched a “Fundraiser for Charles de Lint” on Gofundme. (De Lint has also opened a Patreon: “Charles de Lint is creating stories, music, art”.)

MaryAnn Harris has been in the hospital since September 6, 2021. She is recovering from Powassan virus, an extremely rare tick-bourne illness, but is still dependent on a ventilator to breathe, and paralyzed except for a toe. In order to make a full recovery and go home (which her doctor believes is possible), she needs significantly more therapy than the Canadian healthcare system can provide. In addition, due to the severity and long term nature of her condition, Charles & MaryAnn will start being assessed a co-pay for MaryAnn’s room and board that could be as high as $4k per month, an impossible figure at this time. Charles & MaryAnn have spent their lives reaching out to all of us through words and music and conversation and acts of kindness, through their creativity and heart, their generous spirits, and their dedication to putting light out into the world. Together we can help build the resources needed to help MaryAnn make a full recovery and to bring her home. Thank you.

(3) DREAM INTERRUPTED. Suffering a heartbreaking disappointment, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki was denied a visa to attend Chicon 8. His appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Lagos was this morning, and he now has distilled his Twitter thread about what happened into a Facebook post. (See also File 770’s post and the comments: “US Embassy in Nigeria Denies Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Visa Application; Won’t Get to Attend Worldcon”.)

… If I had been considered & denied I wouldn’t even have worried as much. But I don’t feel I was even considered at all. It didn’t look like. Despite all I did (seperate from being ultra excellent at what I do.

After I undertook to attend the Hugo, I did a GoFundMe drive ran for me by Jason Sanford l. We raised over $7000 in a day. I started trying to get a visa interview appointment. Nigerians reading this know how nerve wracking that is.

This was in June. Btw then and August, like 2 months, I got an interview date. I battered my soul to pieces for that. Nigerians understand. Immigration firm I went to refused to talk to me. Said no one was going to US from Nigeria now cuz no dates. Everyone said it was impossible. But I got it.

That’s how many layers of impossible I have had to beat. How many miracles. But this is Nigeria. Everything needs a miracle. The most basic ish. Miracle after miracle till you are one short….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 64 of the Octothorpe podcast, “John Coxon is crying, Alison Scott is lounging, and Liz Batty is crocheting. We go through our entire Hugo Award ballots in 30% the time it took us to go through one category, before talking about our schedules for Chicon 8 and then doing some picks.”

Listen here — “Best Commemorative Plate”.

(5) OCTOPUS. Nautilus takes readers down “Another Path to Intelligence”, with help along the way from Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of Children of Time.

It turns out there are many ways of “doing” intelligence, and this is evident even in the apes and monkeys who perch close to us on the evolutionary tree. This awareness takes on a whole new character when we think about those non-human intelligences which are very different to us. Because there are other highly evolved, intelligent, and boisterous creatures on this planet that are so distant and so different from us that researchers consider them to be the closest things to aliens we have ever encountered: cephalopods.

Cephalopods—the family of creatures which contains octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish—are one of nature’s most intriguing creations. They are all soft-­bodied, containing no skeleton, only a hardened beak. They are aquatic, although they can survive for some time in the air; some are even capable of short flight, propelled by the same jets of water that move them through the ocean. They do strange things with their limbs. And they are highly intelligent, easily the most intel­ligent of the invertebrates, by any measure.

… Perhaps one of the fullest expressions of this difference is to be found, not in the work of scientists, but in a novel. In his book Children of Time, science-fiction writer Adrien Tchaikovsky conceptualizes octopus intelligence as a kind of multi­threaded processing system. For the space­faring octopuses in Children of Time, their awareness—their consciousness—is tripartite. Their higher functions, which Tchaikovsky calls the “crown,” are embedded in their head-­brain, but their “reach,” the “arm­-driven undermind,” is capable of solving prob­lems independently—sourcing food, opening locks, fighting, or fleeing from danger. Meanwhile, a third mode of thinking and communicat­ing, the “guise,” controls the strobing and spotting of the octopuses’ “skin, ‘the chalkboard of the brain,’” where it doodles its thoughts from moment to moment. In this way, the octopuses freewheel through space, constructing ships, habitats, and whole societies which owe as much to bursts of emotion, flights of fancy, acts of curiosity and bore­dom, as they do to conscious intent. Tchaikovsky’s octopuses are lively, frantic, bored, creative, distracted, and poetic—all at the same time: a product of the constant dialogue and conflict within their own nervous systems. As Tchaikovsky tells it, octopuses are multiple intel­ligences in singular bodies….

(6) AND THEN THERE ARE VIRTUAL TENTACLES. Steve Davidson contemplates “The Coming Death of Commercialized Art” at the hands (figuratively speaking) of artificial intelligence in a post for Amazing Stories.

…Eventually, things will sort themselves out (if global warming doesn’t get us first) and commercial art will become the province of AI programs:  Need some paintings for your hotel lobby?  An AI will no doubt already have tens of thousands of possibilities available at relatively low cost (maybe large corporations will simply buy an art-enabled AI outright, for ALL of their commercial art needs – report covers, company retreat t-shirt designs, product illustrations, etc.).  Amazon will no doubt be the first to offer “get the story you want to read” services…completely custom fiction (written in the style of – and boy, won’t that “style copyfight” be an interesting one);  franchises will become perpetual, versions can be offered for different reading ages, the saga need never end….

Human beings will NOT be able to compete effectively in those environments.  They need food and water and shelter, sleep, physical exercise and can’t memorize the writing styles or painting styles of any artist or author who ever produced something.

We’re not talking about the “death of artistic expression”, but we are almost certainly talking about the death of the midlist author and the commercial graphic artist….

(7) CALL IT A FANACALENDAR. First Fandom Experience’s latest post in support of Project 1946 at Chicon 8 tracks “A Year in Fandom: 1946” practically day-by-day.

What was it like to be a science fiction fan in 1946?

There was a lot of new material to read. With the end of the war, Science fiction and fantasy pulps had proliferated. Classics genre novels from pulps of prior years were issued in book form. Just keeping up was a challenge.

Fan activity was also resurgent. The club scene remained most active in Los Angeles and New York, but fans from other corners also made their voices heard. Several clubs formed prior to the war resumed meeting in 1946, often attracting a mix of old and new members.

The timeline presented here is drawn from a variety of sources. Primary among them is Joe Kennedy’s 1946-1947 Fantasy Review, the second in his series of yearbooks covering the field. Eleven pages were dedicated to the doings of fans….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1950 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy-two years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal and an uncredited Walter Lantz premiered in the United Kingdom. 

It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. 

It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson, Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. 

Mainstream critics were mixed with a Bob Thomas of the Associated Press saying, “Destination Moon is good hocus-pocus stuff about interplanetary travel.” Asimov meanwhile not surprisingly said in In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating. It however did rather well at the box office returning ten times its half million-dollar production budget. 

It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. 

It is not in the public domain, but the trailers are and here is one for you.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 18, 1925 Brian Aldiss. I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out, but I’m sure that the collective wisdom here can make recommendations. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 18, 1932 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he will have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course, he shows in Outer Limits, he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence by writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement. And while you’re at it, explain what the New Weird movement was as I never quite did figure that out. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 18, 1954 Russell Blackford, 68. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction. And he wrote Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics.
  • Born August 18, 1958 Madeleine Stowe, 64. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which was scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story.
  • Born August 18, 1966 Alison Goodman, 56. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar BluesThe Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days PactThe Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award. 
  • Born August 18, 1967 Brian Michael Bendis, 55. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app. 

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Ordinarily, I wouldn’t expect to hear a character in Funky Winkerbean holding forth about psychohistory.

(11) PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE. N. K. Jemisin tweeted a reminder.

(12) SOYLENT GREEN IS BALONEY! This being the year in which the movie is hypothetically set, Slate’s Andrew Maynard could not resist pointing out “Why Soylent Green got 2022 so wrong”.

All of this may have remained as a footnote in the annals of dystopian 1970’s sci-fi movies, were it not for the fact that Soylent Green was set in a year we’re all very familiar with: 2022. Predictably, there’s been a flurry of journalistic interest this year in what was predicted back in 1973, and how it compares to where we are now. The good news is that we haven’t yet resorted to eating people (although based on recent trends in fiction we may be closer than we think!). But this isn’t the only thing that the film gets wrong.

Despite being underpinned by very real issues, the extrapolated future that Soylent Green portrays is deeply out of step with present-day reality. Overpopulation is not the issue it was perceived to be in the 1970s—rather, the prospect of static and declining populations is now raising concerns. The productivity of agricultural systems has been vastly extended through technologies ranging from high yield crops and advances in irrigation techniques, to innovations in agrochemicals and genetic engineering. And rather than the dystopic single-noted social, political, and culinary narratives portrayed in the film, many—including me—would argue that the world we live in has never been more diverse and full of potential (even if some of us do have a tendency to reject this in favor of our own manufactured monotoned bubbles)….

(13) DOES THIS RING TRUE FOR YOU? Here’s a compilation of anecdotes in support of Tolkien’s reputation as a funny guy: “JRR Tolkien: academic, philologist – and prankster extraordinaire”.

…Humphrey Carpenter put it well in his authorised biography of Tolkien: “He could laugh at anybody, but most of all at himself, and his complete lack of any sense of dignity could and often did make him behave like a riotous schoolboy.” He catalogues incidents where Tolkien dressed up as a polar bear in sheepskin rug, as an Anglo-Saxon axeman (he chased a neighbour down the street), and gave shopkeepers his false teeth in a handful of change.

But it was the late Hugh Brogan, eminent professor of history at the University of East Anglia, who showed me the lengths Tolkien would go to in his quest for a laugh. As a child, Brogan lived in a late Regency house with a tall, elegant, winding staircase. Tolkien, visiting the family, “went up to the first-floor landing and fell all the way down quite spectacularly – about a dozen steps, I guess – arms and legs splaying about in all directions, and an immense clatter. We were literally breathtaken.” The elderly Brogan regretted that he couldn’t remember for sure whether Tolkien gave an encore….

(14) HEAVY METAL NEWS. [Item by Dann.] Heavy Metal Entertainment is taking another plunge into the video market. Its studio division, Heavy Metal Studios, will produce live-action video content from Heavy Metal’s library of properties. (TaarnaCold Dead War, Dark Wing, Arena Mode, etc.)

A sizzle reel accompanied the announcement at this year’s San Diego Comic-Contm. Curiously, the sizzle reel includes snippets from movies that have already been released. (I swore that the rhinos came from Jumanji. There were others.)

“Just as Heavy Metal Magazine changed the way the world looked at comic books, and how the ‘81 animated film Heavy Metal changed animation forever, Heavy Metal Studios is about to take the reins on live action content and push it far past its current stagnation and into new heights. Things will never be the same again, again,” said Tommy Coriale, Heavy Metal’s President and Head of Studio.

(15) JUMP ABOARD. Marc Scott Zicree is “Riding Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Carousel!”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Games Trailers:  Madison,” Fandom Games says “Madison,” even though it appears to be named after a really annoying Valley Girl, delivers an oldschool horror experience:  so old-school messages come on cassette tapes and clues come from snapping Polaroids. But can you take enough Polaroids to find the ghosts?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Bonnie McDaniel, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John Coxon, Dann, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bonnie McDaniel.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/22 Engine Summertime, And The Scrolling Is Easy

(1) BIDDING WILF FAREWELL. Radio Times profiles the late actor in “Bernard Cribbins: How he brought magic to Doctor Who”.

…It was when Howard Attfield, who’d played Donna’s dad in The Runaway Bride, passed away before his scenes could be completed on 2008 episode Partners in Crime that Russell T Davies hit upon the idea of bringing in Cribbins as Donna’s gramps (Cribbins re-filmed the scenes that Attfield had already completed).

With any other actor it would have taken fans time to fall in love, but RTD was clearly banking on 40-plus years’ worth of affection for Cribbins. And it’s testament to how scene-stealing the actor was in that episode that Wilf pops up more and more as the 2008 series goes on. He’s heartbreaking in alternate reality episode Turn Left, as he watches immigrants being forcefully taken away by the army. “Labour camps, that’s what they called them last time,” he says, tearfully. “It’s happening again.”…

(2) SIT ON IT. The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum will be exhibiting “House of the Dragon:The Targaryen Dynasty” from August 5-September 7.

The Natural History Museum and HBO Max present a new, one-of-a-kind experience exploring the lives and legends of the HBO original series House of the Dragon. Visit the mythical world of Westeros, the Targaryen Dynasty, and the dragons that ruled beside them. Attendees will be the first to see new costumes and props from the series and have the chance to sit on a replica of the new Iron Throne.

Through related digital and public programming, we will also explore the relationship between dragons and the real-life creatures that may have inspired them.

(3) A NOVEL INTERPRETATION. If the government’s suit to keep Penguin Random House from buying a competitor, Simon & Schuster, is successful, does that actually help Amazon? “The Books Merger That’s About Amazon” (limited to New York Times subscribers).  

…This case, which is about much more than books and the earnings of big-name authors, is another example of the debate over how to handle large companies — including the biggest digital powers — that shape our world.

The elephant in the room is Amazon. Book publishers want to become bigger and stronger partly to have more leverage over Amazon, by far the largest seller of books in the United States. One version of Penguin Random House’s strategy boils down to this: Our book publishing monopoly is the best defense against Amazon’s book selling monopoly.

As the dominant way Americans find and buy books, Amazon can, in theory, steer people to titles that generate more income for the company. If authors or publishers don’t want their books sold on Amazon, they may disappear into obscurity, or counterfeits may proliferate. But if the publisher is big enough, the theory goes, then it has leverage over Amazon to stock books on the prices and terms the publisher prefers.

“Their argument is in order to protect the market from monopolization by Amazon, we’re going to monopolize the market,” said Barry Lynn, the executive director of the Open Markets Institute, an organization that wants tougher antitrust laws and enforcement….

(4) WHO PAINTED THOSE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH? In the Saturday Evening Post: “The Art of the Post: Illustrator Fred Ludekens — The Post’s ‘Problem Child’”. “Falling horse? Man on Mars? Thirteenth century Mongolian warriors? When the Post needed someone to illustrate the unusual, they called Fred Ludekens.”

…For example, in 1947 the Post needed an illustration for a story by Robert Heinlein that takes place in “interplanetary space.” According to How I Make a Picture, the art editor recalled that he scratched his head and wondered, “What the hell does interplanetary space look like?” Next, he called Fred Ludekens.

The story, The Green Hills of Earth, was about a blind accordion player living in the Martian city of Marsopolis. Ludekens first thought he might avoid a lot of homework by proposing a flat, “decorative” design as an illustration. Here is his preliminary draft that he submitted to the Post:

But the Post said no. Then he thought he might get off easily by adopting a “fantasy” approach:

But again the Post said no. Any illustrator could do that kind of painting. The Post wanted a “realistic” illustration. The magazine had housewives and truck drivers amongst its readers, but it also had astronomers and university professors itching to criticize any technical error they might find. The Post needed an artist who could please a general audience but at the same time satisfy the experts….

Heinlein must have liked the painting – he ended up with it. (And it was displayed as part of the 2011 Worldcon’s history sf art exhibit.)

(5) FANDOM’S JOE KENNEDY. First Fandom Experience has another entry in anticipation of Chicon 8’s “Project 1946”, which the Worldcon is doing in lieu of Retro Hugos: “Science Fiction and Fantasy in Books: 1946”

Continuing our series of posts in preparation for the 1946 Project at Chicon 8.

In the aftermath of the war, an explosion of genre book publishing brought science fiction and fantasy closer to the mainstream. However, new novel-length fiction was scarce, so the vast majority of titles issued in 1946 looked back, republishing material from prior years.

Thanks to one prolific fan, we have a contemporaneous view of fandom’s favorites from this period. In January 1947, New Jersey’s Joseph Charles (“Joe”) Kennedy published the 1946-1947 Fantasy Review, the second in his series of yearbooks covering the field. Along with his own perspective, Kennedy presented the results of a survey that captured the opinions of 78 fans of the day. Caveats apply; e.g. the sample appears to be entirely from the United States and Canada — but the poll offers at least one window into sentiments at the time….

(6) HOLLYWOOD LOGS. Rick Wilber discusses the setting and inspiration for his story “The Goose” in his Asimov’s post “The Spruce Goose, the Hollywood Stars, and America’s Nazis” in the “From the Earth to the Stars” section.

…Hollywood was in its Golden Age in 1941 and so was baseball. As I wrote this novella, setting scenes at Gilmore Field and the Brown Derby and Long Beach Harbor for the first flight of the Spruce Goose was great fun, made all the more enjoyable for my fictional version being not so far from the truth.   

But there’s another part of this story that’s also not far from the truth. Underneath all the glamour and magic of Hollywood in those years there was a dark upwelling of fascism. There were plenty of people in America, and particularly in Southern California, who admired Hitler and the way he’d made Germany a world power again. Many, perhaps most, of these people also liked what he was doing to the Jews in Germany and thought that was something they should do to the Jews of Hollywood, especially  the Jewish studio heads and their many directors and producers and actors, who, in the fevered minds of these home-grown fascists, were destroying America with their evil money-making success trying to make propaganda films that warned of the Nazi menace and praised resistance to it. Good thing the German consul to Los Angeles, Georg Gyssling, made sure those films were changed to be less troublesome before they were released, else he’d ban them from distribution in Germany, Europe’s biggest market for films….

(7) OCTOTHORPE. “Nonsense Divide” is the title of Octothorpe podcast episode 63.

We have some locs, and then we dive into discussing the recent travails of FantasyCon, the recent books of The Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the recent venues of Conversation 2023. Art by Alison Scott.

(8) HIS FRIEND FLINT. Kevin J. Anderson paid tribute to the late Eric Flint on Facebook.

Took me a long time to do this.

It was all an act, as any of Eric’s closest friends knew: his gruff demeanor, his curmudgeonly comments, but it was nothing more than a thin disguise for the engaged, caring, and mentoring personality that was Mr. Eric Flint. This guy knew what he was talking about.

When I met Eric for the first time (or so I thought), he was already a legend. I sought him out at a Chicago Worldcon and introduced myself. He just smiled and said that we had already met—I was one of his instructors when he’d won the Writers of the Future Contest in 1993. He was one of those wide-eyed students sitting around the table (along with Sean Williams and Stoney Compton), as Rebecca Moesta and I lectured them on professionalism and productivity….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1952 [By Cat Eldridge.] No, this is definitely not genre or genre related in any way what-so-ever, but it’s a fascinating story none-the-less. So let’s look at the story of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap play. 

The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952 and ran continuously until 16 March 2020, when the stage performances had to be temporarily discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic. It then re-opened on 17 May 2021. The longest-running ever West End show, it has by far the longest run of any play in the world, with its 27,500th performance taking place on the 18th September of 2018.

It is set in a guest house, Monkswell Manor, in the winter in the present day so the settings and costuming are always contemporary. it is a whodunit and the the play has a surprise ending, which the audience are asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre. Not that actually helps as many of course do discuss it.

Critics in general just plain didn’t like saying it was way too cliched and the characters were “too obvious by half”. 

Some four hundred actors have played the various roles down the decades. Most are relatively unknown.  sir Richard Attenborough was the original Detective Sergeant Trotter, and his wife, Sheila Sim, the first Mollie Ralston, owner of the Monkswell Manor guesthouse. 

The play began life as a short radio play written as a birthday present for Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. It was broadcast on 30 May 1947 as “Three Blind Mice”. 

The play is based on a short story which was Christie based off the radio play. Christie ordered that the story not be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London. The short story has still not been published within the U.K. but it was published in the States in the 1950 Three Blind Mice and Other Stories collection.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1923 Paul Schneider. He wrote scripts for the original Star TrekStar Trek: The Animated SeriesThe StarlostThe Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He’s best remembered for two episodes of the original Trek series: “Balance of Terror” and “The Squire of Gothos”. “Balance of Terror”, of course, introduced the Romulans. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 4, 1942 Don S. Davis. He’s best-known for playing General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. He had a small part in Beyond the Stars as Phil Clawson, and was in Hook as Dr. Fields. Neat factiod: on MacGyver for five years, he was the stunt double for Dana Elcar. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1944 Richard Belzer, 78. The Third Rock from The Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and a truly awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-FilesThe InvadersHuman Target, and a recurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 72. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space FungusSpacebread is available at the usual suspects for a mere ninety cents as is Born of Flame: A Space Story for the same price!
  • Born August 4, 1968 Daniel Dae Kim, 54. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World TV film, the second Fantasy Island of three series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 53. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. (See my essay on “The Unicorn and the Wasp” in item #9 here.)

(11) AMONG THE MISSING. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt explores who would have been in Batgirl if it had been finished, including J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and the return of Michael Keaton as Batman. “’Batgirl’ has been canceled. Here’s what’s lost”.

…One of the most dramatic aspects of the Batgirl mythos is that she is the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner Jim Gordon, who in many comic iterations is not aware his daughter is a crime-fighting vigilante. “Batgirl” starred J.K. Simmons as Gordon, continuing a role he began in Zack Snyder’s polarizing Justice League movies. Simmons is best known for giving one of the all-time great superhero movie performances in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy as Daily Bugle editor in chief J. Jonah Jameson. If Simmons is in your superhero movie, it’s a big deal.

Brendan Fraser, having already done stellar work for WB/DC in the HBO Max series “Doom Patrol,” was “Batgirl’s” villain, the pyromaniac Firefly. His attempt to add to an impressive array of DC movie villains over the years, from Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger, now goes up in smoke.

But the biggest holy cow moment of all from “Batgirl” was going to bethe return of Keaton as Batman. There are few bigger deals in comic book culture than his answering a Bat-signal’scall in the 21st century. He is also set to resume the role in the upcoming “The Flash” movie starring Ezra Miller, scheduled for release in 2023,but given the recent controversies surrounding Miller, one must wonder whether we’ll ever see Keaton’s bat-comeback at all….

(12) RAISE YOUR BANNERS. Creation Entertainment and Warner Bros. will run the first Game of Thrones Official Fan Convention from December 9-11, 2022 at Los Angeles Convention Center. See guest list and other details at the link.

(13) COMPELLING COMMENTS. Joe Stech read and ranked all the Hugo Best Novel finalists at the Compelling Science Fiction Newsletter. Here is an excerpt from his praise for A Desolation Called Peace.

…I also thought Martine did a great job of conveying how military officers are required to make significant decisions without enough data, and how that results in a drastically different worldview than that of an academic.

And finally, the prose was wonderful. Little things like “You think these aliens are offensive; your word for offensive is ‘wasteful'”. Just so good. I highly, highly recommend this novel….

Stech also delivers many frank observations about some of the other finalists that don’t work so well for him.

(14) DEATH’S INTERN. Plague Unleashed by D. C. Gomez (published in 2018) is book two in the action-packed and humorous Urban Fantasy series The Intern Diaries. Isis Black has survived eight months as Death’s Intern. But not even all her training could have prepared her for the madness of zombies running loose in Texarkana.

A disgruntled employee, sibling rivalry, and zombie attacks. Who said Texarkana was boring?

I swear, I didn’t do it.

It wasn’t me.

I did not start the zombie-apocalypse in Texarkana.

But I’m planning to find out who did it, before the whole city is taken over by those mindless souls.

Too bad the one person that might have the answer is the one being Constantine despises above all else, Death’s Sister, Pestilence. How can one person be so absolutely despicable? Why does she need ten interns all calling her Mistress? She is evil.

Pestilence swears she didn’t cause the Plague. I’m blaming her anyway. Now all I need is more time and less five-year-olds trying to eat their teachers’ faces. Scratch that, what I really need is a new job.

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

D. C. Gomez is an award-winning USA Today Bestselling Author, podcaster, motivational speaker, and coach. Born in the Dominican Republic, she grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. D. C. studied film and television at New York University. After college she joined the US Army, and proudly served for four years.  You can find out more about her at www.dcgomez-author.com.

(15) DOUBLE DUTCH BUS IN ANTIQUITY. “Footprints Discovery Suggests Ancient ‘Ghost Tracks’ May Cover the West” according to the New York Times.

Scientists have discovered ancient human footprints in Utah, traces, they say, of adults and children who walked barefoot along a shallow riverbed more than 12,000 years ago….

The 88 footprints are in several short trackways, some of which indicate that people may have simply been congregating in one area. “It doesn’t look like we just happened to find someone walking from point A to point B,” Dr. Duke said. They believe these footprints are of people who lived nearby. “Maybe collecting things. Maybe just enjoying themselves” in the shallow water, he added….

Dr. Urban compared the Utah footprints to the “ghost tracks” in White Sands, a term used for tracks that appear only under certain conditions, then disappear just as quickly. The fossil tracks in New Mexico, as much as 23,000 years old, were uncovered using ground-penetrating radar technology and contained a treasure trove of revelations: tracks of ancient humans and megafauna intersecting and interacting with each other. They showed proof that ancient humans walked in the footprints of enormous proboscideans and vice versa; that one human raced across the mud holding a child, put that child down at one point, picked that child back up and then rushed off to an unknown destination; that at least one giant ground sloth was followed by ancient humans, rose up on its hind legs and twirled as the humans surrounded it; that children played in puddles.

(16) WHO’S WATCHING WHAT. JustWatch says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in July.

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceStranger Things
2Spider-Man: No Way HomeMoonhaven
3Jurassic World DominionSeverance
4Independence DayResident Evil
5Jurassic WorldFor All Mankind
6The ThingWestworld
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Orville
8Crimes of the FutureThe Twilight Zone
9InterstellarPaper Girls
10Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessDoctor Who

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(17) CATS WHO LOVE TURKEY. Kedi, a cat documentary filmed in Istanbul, was released in 2017. But maybe these clips are news to you, too!

A profile of an ancient city and its unique people, seen through the eyes of the most mysterious and beloved animal humans have ever known, the Cat.

(18) TESTED AGAIN. Adam Savage discusses why he loves The Matrix in this video which dropped this week. “Ask Adam Savage: What IS It About The Matrix?”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/20/22 The Whoopee Cushions Of Isher

Today I drove to Ventura to play Risk with my brother, one of his sons, and his grandson. (The son won, I finished third.) There are Scrolls that have been published even later than this one, if you can believe that!

(1) DON’T CALL IT QUIDDITCH ANYMORE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jo Yurcaba, in the NBC News story  “Quidditch Changes Its Name To Distance Itself From Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling” says that the International Quidditch Association is officially changing its name to “quadball” because they don’t like J.K. Rowling and because of IP issues with Warner Bros. over the name “quidditch.”

(2) TONOPAH WESTERCON MAKES THE NEWS. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Westercon 74 got a nice write-up that will appear in this week’s edition of the Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News, the town’s weekly newspaper: “How tiny Tonopah beat out Phoenix to host the Westercon sci-fi convention”. I had a nice conversation with a stringer for the newspaper during Westercon 74 and I showed her around the convention and explained what our convention was about and how we ended up holding it in such an unlikely place as Tonopah. It appears that “punching above our weight” and being selected over a more traditional bid and site like Phoenix impressed them.

The initial version published online had some misspellings and misidentified where next year’s Westercon will be, but we wrote to them pointing them out, and the editor made the corrections online right away and told us that the print edition going out tomorrow will have the correct version.

(3) RECORDED ON AN EARLIER THRONE. House of the Dragon’s official trailer dropped today. It’s based on George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood,

(4) MEDIEVAL FANTASY. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles invites you to acquire a book that will let you “Take a Journey Through Imaginary Medieval Worlds with Fantasy of the Middle Ages”. It’s being published to accompany an exhibit that is running through September 11.

This abundantly illustrated book is an illuminating exploration of the impact of medieval imagery on three hundred years of visual culture. From the soaring castles of Sleeping Beauty to the bloody battles of Game of Thrones, from Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings to mythical beasts in Dungeons & Dragons, and from Medieval Times to the Renaissance Faire, the Middle Ages have inspired artists, playwrights, filmmakers, gamers, and writers for centuries. Indeed, no other historical era has captured the imaginations of so many creators. This volume aims to uncover the many reasons why the Middle Ages have proven so applicable to a variety of modern moments from the eighteenth through the twenty-first century. These “medieval” worlds are often the perfect ground for exploring contemporary cultural concerns and anxieties, saying much more about the time and place in which they were created than they do about the actual conditions of the medieval period. With over 140 color illustrations, from sources ranging from thirteenth-century illuminated manuscripts to contemporary films and video games, and a preface by Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton, The Fantasy of the Middle Ages will surprise and delight both enthusiasts and scholars. This title is published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center from June 21 to September 11, 2022.

(5) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe episode 62 is available to listeners: “Do You Want to Talk About Lesbians?”

John has superpowers, Alison is an alien in a human suit, and Liz likes cats. We’ve read all six Hugo Award finalists for Best Novel, and we chat about each of them before we discuss our consensus picks. Art by Sue Mason. Listen here!

(6) MEMORY LANE.  

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] No, it didn’t premiere on this day, this is just a fan letter to one of my favorite series. Nightmare Cafe, all six episodes of it, ran from January to April 1992. I caught it on NBC and loved the premise of waterfront cafe that gives its staff missions.  The premise is Frank Nolan and Fay Peronivic find themselves in an all-night diner following a brush with death which was actually fatal and have been brought back to life by the diner. Frank and Fay are given the opportunity to fix what went wrong the first time, and after that works, they will stay on as the diner’s new staff.

So have the mysterious proprietor Blackie played by Robert Englund which we all know from Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise. Is Blackie generated by the Cafe? Possibly. 

The other two characters are as Frank Nolan as played by Jack Coleman and Fay Peronivic as played by Lindsay Frost. They weren’t really as well fleshed out as Blackie, but that’s not surprising.

The setting is great as it’s a diner on the waterfront. The cafe is sentient and has a sense of humor, at one point locking Blackie out until he apologies to the Cafe. And the Cafe picks their missions as I noted above. 

I thought it looked like a real diner and indeed it was built with a ceiling, unusual for television at the time where filming often was done from above, and each of the booths was given an authentic feel with its own table jukebox which had been rented from a private collector.

It only lasted six wonderful episodes. The network claims it was cancelled because of poor ratings but really is six episodes enough to say how any series is going to do? I think not. 

Nightmare Cafe is not available for streaming, nor is it available for purchase.

Usual caveat: please don’t link to online copies of the episodes as they are pirated. We will just remove your post. Really we will. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 20, 1924 Lola Albright. Though she’s best remembered best known for playing the sultry singer Edie Hart, the girlfriend of private eye Peter Gunn, she did do some genre performances. She’s Cathy Barrett, one of the leads in the Fifties film The Monolith Monsters, and television was her home in the Fifties and Sixties. She was on Tales of Tomorrow as Carol Williams in the “The Miraculous Serum” episode, Nancy Metcalfe on Rocket Squad in “The System” episode, repeated appearances on the various Alfred Hitchcock series, and even on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes released as the feature length film The Helicopter Spies. She was Azalea. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 20, 1930 Sally Ann Howes. Best remembered as being Truly Scrumptious on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance in Brigadoon. And I’ll note her playing Anna Leonowens In The King & I as Ricardo Montalbán played the lead role as that’s genre as well. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 20, 1931 Donald Moffitt. Author under the pseudonym of Paul Kenyon of the Baroness thriller series with such pulp titles as Sonic Slave, somewhat akin to Bond and Blaise. Great popcorn literature. Some SF, two in his Mechanical Skyseries, Crescent in the Sky and A Gathering of Stars, another two in his Genesis Quest series, Genesis Quest and Second Genesis, plus several one-offs. The usual suspects have pretty much have everything he did. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 20, 1938 Diana Rigg, née Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg. Emma Peel of course in The Avengers beside Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Best pairing ever. Played Sonya Winter in The Assassination Bureau followed by being Contessa Teresa “Tracy” Draco di Vicenzo Bond on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. By the Eighties, she’s doing lighter fare such as being Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper and Miss Hardbroom in The Worst Witch, not to mention The Evil Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother in Snow White. Next she would get a meaty role in Game of Thrones when she was Olenna Tyrell. Oh, and she showed up in Dr. Who during the Era of the Eleventh Doctor as as Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower in the “The Crimson Horror” episode. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 20, 1949 Guy H. Lillian III, 73. Fanzine publisher notable for having been twice nominated for a Hugo Award as best fan writer and having been nominated twelve straight times without winning for the Hugo for best fanzine for his Challenger zine. As a well-known fan of Green Lantern, Lillian’s name was tuckerized for the title’s 1968 debut character Guy Gardner.
  • Born July 20, 1959 Martha Soukup, 63. The 1994 short film Override, directed by Danny Glover, was based on her short story “Over the Long Haul”. It was his directorial debut. She has two collections, Collections Rosemary’s Brain: And Other Tales of Wonder and The Arbitrary Placement of Walls, both published in the Nineties. She won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “A Defense of the Social Contracts”. “The Story So Far” by her is available as the download sample at the usual suspects  in Schimel’s Things Invisible to See anthology if you’d liked to see how she is as a writer. 
  • Born July 20, 1977 Penny Vital, 45. Uncredited role as Old Town Girl in Sin City, Sox in Zombie Strippers (which also stars Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson), Astrid in the very short lived Star Chicks series, Sabula in Monarch of the Moon and Annette DeFour in the Dreamkiller shooterwhich I think is genre.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Six Chix brings radical monster diet news.

(9) MARVEL’S SHADY MATH. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If you ever wondered if the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a faithful adaptation of the source material, they’re even going so far as to copy some of the comic book company’s shady underpayment of comic book creators. As documented in the Hollywood Reporter, they’re using disingenuous logic and weird math to weasel out of contracts just like iconic Marvel editor Stan Lee was famous for doing. “Marvel Movie Math: Comic Creators Claim It’s ‘Bait and Switch’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

In July 2021, Scarlett Johansson stunned Hollywood with a lawsuit accusing Disney of breach of contract for sending Black Widow day-and-date to Disney+, a move her lawyers said diminished its box office (and the star’s backend compensation). As that legal battle stretched into the summer, two other Black Widow stakeholders were quietly seeking what they believed they were owed. The comic book creators behind Yelena Belova, the character played by Florence Pugh, spent months in a back-and-forth with Marvel to receive payment for her appearance in the film.

Writer Devin Grayson and artist J.G. Jones believed they would take home $25,000 each for her appearance in Black Widow thanks to paperwork they signed outlining how much they would receive for films, TV shows, video games and action figures featuring Yelena. But when Grayson and Jones, who created Yelena in 1999, eventually received payment in November, that $25,000 dwindled to about $5,000 without explanation.

(10) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss, in episode 77 of Two Chairs Talking, wander through “A Forest Of Hugo Awards”.

David and Perry complete their review of all of the fiction nominated for this year’s Hugo Awards by discussing the Best Novel category. Then Perry and Lucy Sussex investigate the controversy around the novel which was withdrawn from this year’s Miles Franklin Award.

(11) THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. “Disney is set to rescue another Neil Gaiman project from development hell” reports MSN.com.

Released in the autumn of 2008, The Graveyard Book has been a huge success for Gaiman. It won both the British Carnegie Medal and the American Newbery Medal – both of which recognized the year’s best children’s books – as well as the annual Hugo Award for Best Novel from the World Science Fiction Convention….

(12) PUPPETS BEHAVING BADLY? Puppet Up! – Uncensored will be doing shows in LA in August. More videos at this link.

Puppet Up! – Uncensored is a night of outrageous, off-the-cuff comedy…

…featuring 80 of the Miskreant puppets brought to life by a cast of world-class comedian puppeteers from The Jim Henson Company. Created by legendary puppeteer and award-winning director Brian Henson and directed by Patrick Bristow (Ellen, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Whose Line Is It Anyway?), Puppet Up! – Uncensored is never the same show twice.

Based on suggestions from the audience, Patrick and his team of expert puppeteers create a hilarious two-shows-in-one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, with the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim and Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage’s Tested sends a reporter (not Adam Savage) to San Francisco’s Bricks By The Bay convention to interview someone who has made an Airbus A380 (the world’s largest airplane) out of Legos.)

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/22 Last And First Scrolls

(1) CHARLIE JANE ANDERS KEYNOTE OPENS EVERY DOOR. In “Children’s Institute 10: Charlie Jane Anders Says ‘Magical Portals Exist, and Adults Aren’t Real’”, Publishers Weekly has extensive details of the author’s talk.

Science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders (Victories Greater Than Death) brought abundant charisma to the stage for her Ci10 keynote. Her hot-pink bob, matching Doc Martens, and neon-confetti-dotted black dress reinforced her energy. She delivered her talk, “Magical Portals Are Real, and I Can Prove It!,” in a conversational and confiding tone, to booksellers who know and recommend her LGBTQ+ fiction.

Alluding to Frank Herbert’s Dune dictum that “the universe is full of doors,” Anders said that we encounter portals in our lives. “I’ve jumped universes three or four times,” she said, acknowledging how she came to recognize her authorial persona and trans identity. “This is definitely not the universe I was born in.”…

(2) FINAL SCORE? Indiana Jones 5 might be it: “John Williams, 90, steps away from film, but not music” – reports the Associated Press.

After more than six decades of making bicycles soar, sending panicked swimmers to the shore and other spellbinding close encounters, John Williams is putting the final notes on what may be his last film score.

“At the moment I’m working on ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ which Harrison Ford — who’s quite a bit younger than I am — I think has announced will be his last film,” Williams says. “So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also.”

Ford, for the record, hasn’t said that publicly. And Williams, who turned 90 in February, isn’t absolutely certain he’s ready to, either.

“I don’t want to be seen as categorically eliminating any activity,” Williams says with a chuckle, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I can’t play tennis, but I like to be able to believe that maybe one day I will.”

Right now, though, there are other ways Williams wants to be spending his time. A “Star Wars” film demands six months of work, which he notes, “at this point in life is a long commitment to me.” Instead, Williams is devoting himself to composing concert music, including a piano concerto he’s writing for Emanuel Ax….

(3) THE DNA OF SFF. Camestros Felapton works out the difference between bounty hunters and Our Heroes in “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew versus bounty hunters”.

…But why, in reality, are bounty hunters so distinctly American? Like many things, once you dig beyond the fiction you run straight into the depressing inevitabilities of US history. There is a complex history behind bounty hunters in the US but looming large in that history are slave catchers. People employed to catch fugitive slaves were not a US invention but the size of the US slave economy (until the Civil War and emancipation) meant that “slave catcher” was both casual work and a profession for some. The powers of slave catchers was further enhanced prior to the Civil War with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Act_of_1850) which codified the ability of slave catchers to act beyond the borders of slave states. Slavery is not the only defining element in the US bounty hunting history but it is such a substantial example in the formative years of the nation that it is hard to imagine that it isn’t key to the lasting influence of the idea in the US.

The attraction of the bounty hunter concept to quasi-libertarian SFF is apparent. The bounty hunter as a character can be simultaneously running a private business and be an arm of law enforcement. As a legitimised vigilante, the bounty hunter as a character can sit in a kind of Lagrange point between the pull of the heroic individualist and the pull of authoritarian imposition of order…. 

(4) SPACEHOUNDS OF THE WSFS, And when Camestros Felapton is finished with the topic above, he chronicles the work of another set of adventurers who are hard at work to disarm “The Hugo Kill Switch”.

The people at The Hugo Book Club Blog (Olav Rokne & Amanda Wakaruk) are on a high-stakes mission to defuse a time bomb. Deep within the WSFS constitution is a hidden switch that is creeping ever closer to hitting some beloved Hugo Award categories. Can a rag-tag team save the Fan categories before the timer reaches zero?!

(5) TO THE EGRESS, AND BEYOND. Arturo Serrano analyzes the special challenges inherent in the audience’s complicated history with the Toy Story franchise and the Buzz Lightyear character and tells why Lightyear doesn’t fly, but it falls with style” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The quest for continued relevance is a preoccupation that the movie assigns to both Buzz and itself. It tries to evoke the feel of the Flash Gordon serials and, of course, both of the big Star franchises. But instead of the now-common practice of attempting to recapture an old moment of wonder via repetition and allusion, this movie gave itself the harder task of pretending to be that first experience. Although the villain’s big plan involves the return to an idealized past, Lightyear is not a case of nostalgia (because anything it could try to revisit is supposed to be provided by this story for the first time), but of pastiche. It may be unfair to cast Pixar as a victim of its own spectacular successes, but Lightyear is certainly not the best that the studio is capable of, and at times it’s a stretch to imagine small Andy being blown away by it….

(6) YES, THE END IS NEAR! The inaugural winner of the first Self-Published Science Fiction Competition will be announced in three weeks.

(7) WHO IN THE MOVIES. Radio Times covers the revelation that a “Doctor Who unmade film script featured two Doctors”.

…However, Subotsky revealed that a second deal was negotiated following production of 1965’s Dr. Who and the Daleks which would indeed have allowed for a third film. “There was a further agreement that was entered into, to give the rights to make a third movie, which of course was never done,” he explained. “It was on the same terms as the original films, so my feeling is… the option lapsed.”

Though a third movie never materialised, Subotsky further revealed that his father did in fact produce a screenplay for the proposed sequel that remains in his family’s possession and was also displayed at the BFI event – this script, however, was not an adaptation of any existing Doctor Who television serial.

“Many years later, maybe 15 years later, it was clearly still on his mind, because he had prepared a script called ‘Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure’ which actually was a repurposed script of a horror film entitled ‘King Crab’… the original title was even worse, it was ‘Night of the Crabs’!

“It was with two Doctors – a young Doctor and an old Doctor – which is an idea that has been returned to.”…

(8) PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE. Polygon’s Joshua Rivera drops a few SPOILERS along the way: “Obi-Wan Kenobi finale review: a Star Wars show as broken as its hero”.

… Across its brief six-episode run, Obi-Wan stopped the spectacle to focus on people — and it mostly resonates as a contrast to how much I’ve missed them in other Star Wars stories.

At the heart of this are Obi-Wan’s two central performances. As Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor plays a broken man in exile, a soldier who knows he lost the war but is still being asked to fight it, keeping constant vigil from afar over the young Luke Skywalker. As befits the character that shares the series’ name, every note of Obi-Wan’s journey rings true, largely thanks to McGregor’s performance….

(9) PHYSICS AIN’T MISBEHAVING. Matt O’Dowd of PBS Space Time whittles away at the question, “Is Interstellar Travel Impossible?”.

Space is pretty deadly. But is it so deadly that we’re effectively imprisoned in our solar system forever? Many have said so, but a few have actually figured it out.

(10) MEMORY LANE

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, the follow-up film to the Twilight Zone series premiered this week. Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis, Twilight Zone: The Movie certainly carried high expectations. This film features four stories directed by Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller. 

Landis’ segment is the only original story created for the film, while the segments by Spielberg, Dante, and Miller are remakes or more precisely reworkings of episodes from the original series.

The screenplay is not surprisingly jointly done by a committee of John Landis, George Clayton, Johnson Richard Matheson and Melissa Mathison as is the story which is by Landis, Matheson, Johnson and Jerome Bixby. 

The principal cast was surprisingly small given that there were four stories, just Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow and Kathleen Quinlan. 

It did quite well at the box office, making over forty million against a budget of under ten million. Some critics like Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Tribune like some of it though he noted that, “the surprising thing is, the two superstar directors are thoroughly routed by two less-known directors” while others such as Vincent Canby at the New York Times hated all of it calling the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth”. 

It was enough of a financial success that the suits at CBS gave the approval to the Twilight Zone series.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great fifty-five percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1908 — Sloan Nibley. Writer who worked on a number of genre series including Science Fiction TheaterAddams FamilyThe Famous Adventures of Mr. MagooShazan, and the New Addams Family. (Died 1990.)
  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 77. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. Her ”Stable Strategies for Middle Management” story picked up a nomination at Noreascon 3 (1989), and “Computer Friendly” garnered a nomination the next year in the same category at ConFiction (1990). She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 65. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon Prime y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 – Liu Cixin, 59. He won the Best Novel Hugo at Saquan (2015) for his Three Body Problem novel, translated into English by Ken Liu. It was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Nebula, Canopus and Prometheus Awards as well. He picked up a Hugo novel nomination at Worldcon 75 (2017) for Death’s End also translated by Liu. 
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 50. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and  Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also  voiced the character in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well which are quite excellent. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 — Melissa Rauch, 42. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. Having watched a few episodes on HBO when I was subscribed to that streaming service, I vehemently disagree. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 22. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The God Complex”. She had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond.  I can’t find anything online that talks about how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY DESIGNS. Paul Weimer will make you want to read the second City Siege novel of KJ Parker: “Book Review: How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with it” at Nerds of a Feather.

…While the first volume had Orban explicitly say that he was not telling the whole truth in the end, here from the beginning we have a professional telling us right from the get go about the power of stories, lies, shading the truth and more in order to tell his story. The first novel was Parker geeking out about engineering and siegecraft and how a determined engineer could frustrate the greatest army the world has assembled. By contrast, this second novel does have concerns regarding the siege and defending it, because Parker does really like to go down his rabbit holes and show it off. (In some ways, I think of him very much like Herman Melville, just enjoying sharing what he has learned and shown off about all sorts of abstruse subjects, interwoven masterfully into the story)….

(14) OCTOTHORPE. With a cover courtesy of DALL-E, Octothorpe 60 is now up! Listen here: “Different Types of Tedium”.

John Coxon is going to brunch, Alison Scott watched a film, and Liz Batty is critical. We discuss what we’d do if we were king of The Hugo Awards for the day, and then we talk about ABBA and other science fiction. And Monster Munch – you love to hear it.

Cover by DALL-E

(15) LIGHT FINGERS. Yahoo! listens as “Taika Waititi admits to stealing equipment from ‘The Hobbit’ set”.

New Zealand filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi appeared Wednesday on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, where he shared a Hobbit-sized secret regarding the second film in the popular franchise directed by fellow Kiwi Oscar winner Peter Jackson.

Waititi shared, “When I did What We Do in the Shadows, when Jemaine [Clement, the film’s co-writer and star] and I were shooting that, we didn’t have much money to do that film, and The Hobbit had just wrapped. And, so, our production designer — man, I don’t know if I should tell this. OK, but I will. Our production designer, in the dead of night, took his crew to The Hobbit studios and stole all of the dismantled, broken-down green screens and took all of the timber, and we built a house.”…

(16) THEY CROSSED THE STREAMS. “The Mandalorian gets mashed up with The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Star Wars/Ghostbusters crossover cosplay” at Ghostbusters News. They draw our attention not only to the clever cosplay, but “the adorable replacement for Grogu, consisting of a miniature version of Stay Puft being seen nestled inside his pram pod.”

(17) IT IS HIS FETA. Gizmodo takes a pretty funny look at “The Weirdest, Goat-iest Thor: Love and Thunder Merchandise”.

Marvel’s latest movie is bringing with it an Asgard Tours boat-load of weird and wonderful merchandise.

(18) REVISITING FILMATION. [Item by Bill.] The 1973-1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series was produced by Filmation.  Recently, Gazelle Animations has done some clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager in the Filmation style:

The animator gives background. And note the Most Important Device in the Universe!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Lightyear Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, the producer learns that the premise of Lightyear–that it’s an action movie Andy saw in 1995 that made him want to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy–he gets excited because that means a producer in the Toy Story universe made money on the film.  But even though it’s supposed to be “a 1990s movie,” fans of 1990s movies that featured “a lot of over the top action and cheese” will be cruelly disappointed.  Toy Story fans who remember that the villain Zurg is Buzz Lightyear’s father will also be very disappointed.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, N., Bill, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 6/9/22 I Scrolled This Pixel Five Times And All I Got Was This Lousy Scroll Title

(1) MONSTROUS WORD STUDY. At CrimeReads, Ellen Datlow discusses the nature of monsters from the introduction to her anthology Screams From The Dark. “Monstrosity Is in the Eye of the Beholder”.

…In Old English, the monster Grendel was an “aglæca,” a word related to “aglæc”: “calamity, terror, distress, oppression.” A few centuries later, the Middle English word “monstre”—used as a noun and derived from Anglo-French, and the Latin “monstrum”—came into use, referring to an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order. So abnormal animals or humans were regarded as signs or omens of impending evil. Then, in the 1550s, the definition began to include a “person of inhuman cruelty or wickedness, person regarded with horror because of moral deformity.” At the same time, the term began to be used as an adjective to describe something of vast size.

The usage has evolved over time and the concept has become less subtle and more extreme, so that today most people consider a monster something inhuman, ugly and repulsive and intent on the destruction of everything around it. Or a human who commits atrocities. The word also usually connotes something wrong or evil; a monster is generally morally objectionable, in addition to being physically or psychologically hideous, and/or a freak of nature, and sometimes the term is applied figuratively to a person with an overwhelming appetite (sexual in addition to culinary) or a person who does horrible things….

(2) PAYDAY. Rachel Swirsky’s novella January Fifteenth will be released by Tordotcom Publishing on June 14. January Fifteenth tracks four points of view, each in a different part of the United States of America, on the day when the government disburses Universal Basic Income. 

January Fifteenth—the day all Americans receive their annual Universal Basic Income payment.

For Hannah, a middle-aged mother, today is the anniversary of the day she took her two children and fled her abusive ex-wife.

For Janelle, a young, broke journalist, today is another mind-numbing day interviewing passersby about the very policy she once opposed.

For Olivia, a wealthy college freshman, today is “Waste Day”, when rich kids across the country compete to see who can most obscenely squander the government’s money.

For Sarah, a pregnant teen, today is the day she’ll journey alongside her sister-wives to pick up the payment­­s that undergird their community—and perhaps embark on a new journey altogether.

In this near-future science fiction novella by Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky, the fifteenth of January is another day of the status quo, and another chance at making lasting change. 

The Tordotcom Publishing 2022 Debut Sampler includes a preview of Swirsky’s upcoming novella. (The writers represented in the Sampler are Scotto MooreMarion DeedsMalcolm DevlinRachel SwirskyJoma WestHiron EnnesAimee Pokwatka.)

(3) DO HUGO WINNERS LOSE THEIR FLAVOR ON THE BEDPOST OVERNIGHT? James Davis Nicoll asked the Young People Read Old SFF panel what they think of “Eyes of Amber” by Joan D. Vinge.

This month’s Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists focuses on Joan D. Vinge’s 1977 Hugo-winning Eyes of Amber. Initially giving the impression of high fantasy1, the story is in fact primarily set on a pre-Voyager Titan, imaged as a life bearing world whose intelligent inhabitants while inhuman in form struggle with issues familiar to humans. Interaction is limited to messages relayed via robot probe, but this is sufficient to raise intriguing moral issues for the humans monitoring the probe. 

Readers of a certain vintage may have first encountered the story in 1979’s Eyes of Amber and Other StoriesReaders of a slightly older vintage — readers like me, for example — might have encountered it in Analog’s remarkable Women’s Issue. Younger readers might never have encountered the story at all because in the grand tradition of Hugo finalists by women Eyes of Amber appears to have been out of print in English since 1987. The Young Readers therefore are likely to be engaging Vinge’s Novelette with fresh eyes: will they like it as much as readers did 45 years ago?… 

(4) GAME MAKING EMPLOYEES GROUND DOWN. Kotaku reports “Fallout 76 Developers Crunched Under ZeniMax’s Mismanagement”.

No one wanted to be on that project because it ate people. It destroyed people,” one former developer on Fallout 76 told Kotaku. “The amount of people who would go to that project, and then they would quit [Bethesda] was quite high.”

Kotaku spoke to 10 former employees of Bethesda and its parent company ZeniMax Media who were familiar with Fallout 76’s development, all of whom shared their accounts only under the condition of anonymity. Some sources said that they signed non-disparagement agreements upon leaving the company, and feared that ZeniMax’s influence in the industry would prevent them from being hired elsewhere.

Testers who worked during the months leading up to the original launch said that they crunched 10-hour days for six days a week as the game trudged toward the beta’s optimistic launch date of November 14, 2018.

Some testers would only find reprieve when they finally left the Fallout 76 team. Two former testers recounted that one of their colleagues said in a QA group chat after leaving the project: “I didn’t cry last night when I was taking a shower.” Another said in the same chat: “I pulled into work today, and I sat in my car for a second, and my chest didn’t feel heavy like it normally does.”…

(5) TITLE SEARCH. At Black Gate, Gregory Feeley finds that “The Fantastic Novels of Harlan Ellison” were more honored in the breach than the observance.

…In 1972, at the Los Angeles World Science Fiction Convention, Ellison told a large audience that his 1970 novella “The Region Between” would form the middle third of a novel, The Prince of Sleep. Ellison made the story sound exciting (the published novella ends with the destruction of the universe), which somewhat made up for his other announcement: that he had broken with Doubleday and The Last Dangerous Visions would soon be with another publisher. Not long after this, Locus announced the sale of the novel to Ballantine. The novel, which was never completed, would in time be sold to at least two subsequent publishers….

(6) AT THE OFFICE IN SPACE. According to WIRED, “’For All Mankind’ Is the Best Sci-Fi of Its Era”.

…Now in its third season, For All Mankind started with a simple question: What if the Americans weren’t first to put a man on the moon? From that premise, though, it has built something far more complex: a show that combines political intrigue, military brinkmanship (aka a lunar standoff between American and Russian forces), and a space race that eventually lands on the surface of Mars.

But as much as the show, unsurprisingly cocreated by Battlestar Galactica and Trek producer Ronald D. Moore, can get wonky and gleefully trope-y, its success doesn’t lie in the verisimilitude of the faux NASA hardware or brilliance of its space scenes. Instead, it’s the fact that Moore and his cohort opted to treat the entire show like a grand workplace drama; Mad Men, but for NASA….

(7) ARE THEY FRIENDLY? JUST LISTEN. SYFY Wire lists “E.T. and 9 other great friendly aliens who really do come in peace”.

In science-fiction, aliens don’t typically “come in peace.” Instead, they tend to be invaders or monsters — think War of the Worlds, Independence Day, Alien, or countless other examples of threats from Mars or beyond. However, there are some pop culture aliens who mean well, the most famous of which is undoubtedly E.T….

5. “THEODORE ARROWAY,” CONTACT (1997)

No, Jodi Foster’s dad is not an alien — that’s just the form the actual alien takes to make Dr. “Ellie” Ann Arroway comfortable when she (and by extension, humanity) encounters a being from another world for the first time. The aliens in Contact are extremely friendly, wanting nothing more than to welcome a new space-faring race… in due time, of course. They are patient, thoughtful, and kind — and they believe in humanity enough to trust that we’ll be able to figure out how to contact them and join them in the stars. They will be happy to have us there when we’re ready. Extremely friendly of them, especially seeing as their first encounter with our species was a video of, uh, Adolf Hitler….

(8) OF COURSE. A skeptical Jessie Gaynor asks “Did Dr. Seuss know what horses looked like? (An investigation.)” at Literary Hub.

One of my toddler’s favorite books is Dr. Seuss’s ABC. I like the narcotic effect of the sing-song rhymes, she likes getting praised whenever she correctly screams a letter, and we both like the goofy little drawings. Every time I get to H, though—”Hungry Horse. Hen in hat. H…h…H”—I ask myself the same question. Not “What begins with H?” but: did Dr. Seuss go his entire life without seeing a horse? Or a photograph of a horse? Or an oil painting of a horse, standing next to Napoleon or Tony Soprano? Because, according to his rendering in Dr. Seuss’s ABC, this is what Dr. Seuss thought a horse looked like…

(9) THE KINDLING EDITION. “A fireproof copy of ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ auctioned for $130,000 to help fight book bans”NPR has the figures.

Bidding on a special, fireproof copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale ended on Tuesday afternoon, when the book was auctioned by Sotheby’s for $130,000. Proceeds from the auction will go to PEN America’s efforts to fight book banning.

In a promotional video for the auction, the 82-year-old Atwood tries, unsuccessfully, to burn the book with a flamethrower.

The Handmaid’s Tale seems to be a favorite among those who fear the written word. The dystopian novel about misogyny and other dangers of oppression became a bestselling novel, an Emmy-winning TV show and a regular on banned book lists.

“I never thought I’d be trying to burn one of my own books… and failing,” says Margaret Atwood in a statement. “The Handmaid’s Tale has been banned many times—sometimes by whole countries, such as Portugal and Spain in the days of Salazar and the Francoists, sometimes by school boards, sometimes by libraries.”…

(10) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 59 of Octothorpe is up: “Chickens”. Art by Alison Scott.

John Coxon is roast beef, Alison Scott is pickled onion, and Liz Batty is flamin’ hot. We get excited about the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon 8 before talking Hugo Voter Packets and discussing Kevin Standlee’s wisdom on NASFiC voting. Listen here!

(11) A FAN’S APPRECIATION: CLIFFORD D. SIMAK’S WAY STATION

1963 [By Cat Eldridge.]

Not an anniversary, though June was cover date on the magazine that published Clifford D. Simak’s Way Station, this is intended as my appreciation of that stellar novel.  It was originally published as Here Gather the Stars in the June and August 1963 issues of Galaxy Magazine, with the book publication coming in November of that year from Doubleday. 

I don’t think that there’s a lot of outstanding fiction by this writer. This is along with CityA Choice Of Gods and All Flesh is Grass are great but a lot of his writing is just OK. This and City are stellar. 

I like the novel because Enoch isn’t perfect nor are the aliens who pass through it perfect but both are fully realized so that they feel quite real. The setting is interesting too — an interstellar way station that hadn’t changed in a century manned by a Civil War veteran, and I don’t think it says which side of the War he fought on, not allowed to live in his own house. 

Having read it more times than I remember, I’m not surprised that it won the Hugo Award at Pacificon II. I should listen to it to see how it works that way. Simak is blessed as having a lot of his works done as audio narratives including City.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 9, 1925 — Keith Laumer. I remember his Bolo series fondly and read quite a bit of it. Can’t say which novels at this point though Bolo definitely and Last Command almost certainly. The Imperium and Retief series were also very enjoyable though the latter is the only one I’d re-read at this point. He has two Hugo nominations, first at Noreascon for his “In the Queue” short story and then at IguanaCon II for his “The Wonderful Secret”. The usual suspects have decent though not complete ebooks listings for him, heavy on the Imperium and Retief series and they’ve just added a decent though not complete Bolo collection too. (Died 1993.)
  • Born June 9, 1930 — Lin Carter. He is best known for his work in the 1970s as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. As a writer, His first professional publication was the short story “Masters of the Metropolis”, co-written with Randall Garrett, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1957. He would be a prolific writer, average as much as six novels a year. In addition, he was influential as a critic of the fantasy genre and an early historian of the genre. He wrote far too much to me to say I’ve sampled everything he did but I’m fond of his CastilloGreat Imperium and Zarkon series. All great popcorn literature! (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 9, 1943 — Joe Haldeman, 79. Whether or not, it was written as a response to Starship Troopers as some critics thought at time, The Forever War is a damn great novel which I’ve read at least a half dozen times. No surprise that it won the Hugo at MidAmeriCon and the Nebula Award.
  • Born June 9, 1954 — Gregory Maguire, 68. He is the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West based off of course the Oz Mythos, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister retelling the tale of Cinderella and Mirror, Mirror, a revisionist retelling of the Snow White tale which is really excellent. Well you get the idea. He’s damn good at this revisionist storytelling.
  • Born June 9, 1956 — Patricia Cornwell, 66. You’ll know her better as the author of the medical examiner Kay Scarpetta mystery series, now some twenty-six novels deep and soon to be a series with Jamie Lee Curtis as the producer. She is here, well in part as I do like that series a lot, because she wrote two SF novels in the Captain Chase series, Quantum and Spin.
  • Born June 9, 1961 — Michael J. Fox, 61. The Back to The Future trilogy stands as one of the best SF series ever done and his acting was brilliant. Since 1999 due to his Parkinson’s Disease, he’s has mainly worked as a voice-over actor in films such as Stuart Little and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Prior to his diagnosis, he performed on Tales from the Crypt and directed “The Trap” episode. He would return to live action performing in 2014, bless him, with The Michael J. Fox Show series. 
  • Born June 9, 1981 — Natalie Portman, 41. Surprisingly her first genre role was as Taffy Dale in Mars Attacks!, not as Padme in The Phantom Menace for which the fanboys gave her far too much hatred which is what they do when they do not have a real life. She’d repeat that role in Attack of The Clones and Revenge of The Sith and of course get fresh grief from them. She’d next play Evey in V for Vendetta. And she played Jane Foster, a role she played oh magnificently — and got more grief for — first in Thor, then in Thor: The Dark World and then in Avengers: Endgame. She’ll reprise the role in Thor: Love and Thunder in which she’ll play both Jane Foster and Thor. That I’ve got to see. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows superhero roommates have their own way of sharing housework.
  • The Far Side shows who wishes the Creator had rested even earlier.
  • Calvin and Hobbes illustrates why you can’t fool all of the people all the time.  

(14) JURASSIC Q&A. The New York Times interviews “Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill on Their ‘Jurassic’ Reunion”.

…On their late-April Zoom call, Neil, Dern and Goldblum were eager to catch up, engage in some light teasing and ponder how their lasting chemistry as a trio has proved as potent a selling point as all those special effects. “These ‘Jurassic’ films, they’re often known as dinosaur films, but if you’re not interested in the people, the films don’t work,” Neill said. “Dinosaurs are the bit players, albeit awesome ones.”

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

How long has it been since you’ve seen the original “Jurassic Park”?

SAM NEILL The last time I watched it in its totality was sitting beside Princess Di at Leicester Square at the London opening. On the other side of me was my son Tim — he was 11 and completely swept away by it, but about the time the T-Rex turns up, Tim started to fart. And the draft was drifting across me to royalty! I spent the whole film in a muck sweat, thinking, “Princess Di is being exposed to the horrors of a little boy’s fart, but she’s going to think it’s me. I am going to be subliminally blamed for my son’s crimes, and I don’t think she’ll talk to me afterwards.” But she was well brought up and never mentioned it.

JEFF GOLDBLUM I love that story, Sam. I’ve heard him tell that a couple of times, and it’s just amazing the lengths that he will go to still blame the boy.

LAURA DERN And Tim’s a grown man now!

(15) NO LOOMPA LOOMPAS WERE HARMED. MSN.com reports “Two people rescued from chocolate tank at Mars factory in Pennsylvania”. What is this, a Smothers Brothers tribute?

Two people were rescued from a tank full of chocolate at a Mars plant in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, according to emergency dispatchers.

Crews were called around 2 p.m. to Mars Wrigley Confectionery in Elizabethtown after two workers became trapped in the tank and couldn’t get out on their own.

“Fire crews have eliminated pulling them straight out of a tank,” Brad Wolfe, communications supervisor for Lancaster County 911 dispatch, told CNN. “They have to cut a hole in the side of the tank to get them out,” he said.

Wolfe said that it’s unclear how the people fell into the chocolate tank.

(16) ON PARADE. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sent an even better photo of a Dalek in Queen’s Jubilee regalia.

(17) YOU’LL BE AN OLD ONE BY THE TIME THEY ARRIVE. Steve Jackson Games would love to sell you a Cthulhu D6 Dice Set. Pre-order for shipping in September. I hope your luck holds out til then!

(18) DARKNESS FALLS. Hell’s army just got stronger. We’re gonna need some backup. Marvel’s Midnight Suns, a tactical RPG from Firaxis Games and 2K, launches worldwide October 7, 2022.

(19) SPOILERIFFIC. “Jordan Peele’s Final ‘Nope’ Trailer Reveals Its Mysterious Plot, Which Is All About [Spoilers]” warns Variety.

…Universal Pictures released the final trailer for “Nope,” Jordan Peele’s third feature film. It teases much of the movie’s previously-unknown plot, in which Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya star as the duo behind a horse training ranch for Hollywood productions, who, thanks to the aliens hovering over their property, hatch a scheme to capture and sell the first authentic footage of UFOs…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/26/22 Do Not Meddle In The Affairs Of Pixels, For They Are Subtle And Quick To Scroll

(1) TICKET TO RIDE. NASA invites you to add your name and have it included on a flash drive that will fly aboard Artemis I. “Send Your Name to Space”.

Artemis I will be the first uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. The flight paves the way toward landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon!

(2) SHUFFLE OFF TO NASFIC. A Buffalo in 2024 NASFiC bid is launching this weekend at Balticon reports Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.

…With the only bid for the 2024 World Science Fiction Convention being for Glasgow, Scotland, there is expected to be a 2024 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC being held only in years when Worldcon is outside North America)….

The bid has a website and social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

The members of the bid committee are not named on the website, but is said to “include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across Western New York and Southern Ontario.”

(3) REASONS TO READ. Juliette Wade pitches The Broken Trust series in an appealing thread that starts here. (The series’ fandom is so broad that this thread was retweeted by Analog!)

(4) OH NOES! “Older Kindle e-readers will lose Store Access to buy ebooks in August” warns Good E-Reader.

Amazon has just sent an email to a number of Kindle users who have older e-readers on their account. The company has stated that the Kindle (2nd Gen) International, Kindle DX International, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle (4th Gen), and Kindle (5th Gen) will no longer be able to browse, buy, or borrow books directly from these Kindle e-readers. The only way you can have books delivered to these devices to buy them from your local Amazon website and have them delivered to the Kindle. Existing books that are on these models will still be accessible.

This is the first time that Amazon has ever totally cut off store access on a series of Kindle e-readers. Amazon has not disclosed the reason why these particular models are going to lose store access. I believe this likely due to a TLS issue, since the oldest Kindle models have an older version and likely can’t be upgraded. This is partly due to them only supporting TLS 1.0 and 1.1 and due to older hardware, won’t have the necessary permissions to make store purchases. This is why they Amazon can’t simply issue a firmware update to fix the issue.

(5) INDIANA HOME. “Indiana Jones 5: Harrison Ford Teases Film at Star Wars Celebration” and The Hollywood Reporter took notes.

…“It’s a great pleasure to be here,” Ford told the enormous crowd gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center, adding that he is “really proud of the movie that we made.”

The iconic actor came out onstage after John Williams’ famous Indy theme played. The composer was on-site and conducting a full orchestra.

“It’s a special honor for me to be able to congratulate John on his 90th birthday,” Ford said, acknowledging the composer turning 90 in February. “I told John on another occasion that we had the chance to be together, and that music follows me everywhere I go. And you know what, I’m happy about it.”…

(6) REBEL GENESIS. Disney+ released the teaser trailer for its next Star Wars entry “Andor”.

The “Andor” series will explore a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

Variety amplifies: “Andor Trailer: Diego Luna Returns, Premiere Set for Star Wars Show”.

…“Andor,” a prequel series to “Rogue One,” will premiere on Disney+ on August 31 with a two-episode launch. It will have 12 episodes total, but 12 more episodes, making up a Part 2 to the series, will begin filming in November. The Part 2 will lead up directly to the events of “Rogue One,” it was announced at the 2022 Star Wars Celebration.

… “Andor” is set five years before the events of “Rogue One,” and it tracks how and why Cassian joined the rebellion as the Empire aggressively expands its reach across the galaxy. Forest Whitaker is reprising his performance from “Rogue One” as Clone Wars veteran and radical insurgent Saw Gerrera, and O’Reilly is returning as Mon Mothma, one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join his brunch with writer Steven R. Southard on episode 172 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steven R. Southard

This episode of Eating the Fantastic is a serendipitous one, brought to your ears because writer Stephen R. Southard happened to stop by my neck of the woods for brunch while on a drive from Maryland to Texas. That resulted in us meeting on a sunny May morning at Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery in Winchester, Virginia, which has been serving food in what was previously an Esso Station since 2012. They have excellent fried chicken, biscuits, waffles, pastries and a lot more, so I recommend you drop by if you’re ever in the area.

Steven R. Southard is particularly fascinated by alternate and secret histories, and has written more than a dozen installments in his What Man Hath Wrought story series, starting in 2010 with The Wind-Sphere Ship, and most recently with After the Martians in 2020. His short stories have also appeared in magazines such as Curiosities and Steampunk Tales, and anthologies like Avast, Ye AirshipsQuoth the Raven and Not Far From Roswell. With Kelly A. Harman, he edited the anthology 20,000 Leagues Remembered, published in 2020. He and I have frequently appeared as co-panelists discussing the craft of writing at Balticon, ChessieCon, and elsewhere.

We discussed how an early meeting with Isaac Asimov had him hoping he could be just as talented and prolific, why it took him 15 years of working on a novel before he realized he was meant to be a writer of short stories, how Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea changed his life, why alternate and secret histories attract him so (as well as the stories in that genre I never got around to writing), his “snowflake” method for plotting short stories, the secrets to coming up with good ideas for theme anthologies, what movie and TV depictions of submarines get wrong (and which ones get it right), and much more.

(8) DON’T LOSE THIS NUMBER. Jon Mann says, “I was at the LA Times Festival of Books and ran across 770 PUBLISHING. Interesting coincidence and they never heard of File 770 or the famous room party!” “770 Publishing”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok, I’m assuming that most of you have read the Nebula-nominated story that the film Johnny Mnemonic was based off of? It was originally published in the May 1981 issue of Omni magazine but it has been reprinted quite a few times in the forty years since then. 

The screenplay was by William Gibson so one can’t fault the script here, can one? Well the critics were divided on that. Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review said “Johnny Mnemonic is one of the great goofy gestures of recent cinema, a movie that doesn’t deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis but has a kind of idiotic grandeur that makes you almost forgive it.” 

But Owen Glieberman in his Entertainment Weekly review was far less kind: “Johnny Mnemonic, a slack and derivative future-shock thriller (it’s basically Blade Runner with tackier sets), offers the embarrassing spectacle of Keanu Reeves working overtime to convince you that he has too much on his mind. He doesn’t, and neither does the movie.” 

I’ll let have Caryn James of the New York Times have the last word: “Though the film was written by the cyberpunk master William Gibson from his own story and was directed by the artist Robert Longo, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ looks and feels like a shabby imitation of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Total Recall.’ It is a disaster in every way. There is little tension in the story despite the ever-present threat of an exploding brain. The special effects that take us on a tour of the information superhighway — traveling inside the circuits of Johnny’s brain, or viewing his search for information while wearing virtual reality headgear — look no better than a CD-ROM. Visually, the rest of the film looks murky, as if the future were one big brown-toned mud puddle.”

Now let’s talk about numbers. It’s generally accepted that a film needs to make at least three times what it cost to produce to just break even in the Hollyworld accounting system.  Johnny Mnemonic didn’t even come close to that. It cost at least thirty million to produce (the numbers are still are in dispute even to this day) and made just double that. 

There were two versions of this film. The film had actually premiered in Japan on April 15, in a longer version, well six minutes longer, that was closer to the director’s cut that came out later (oh there was a director’s cut — there’s always a director’s cut, isn’t there?), featuring a score by Mychael Danna and different editing. I doubt any version makes it a better film.

I haven’t discussed the film or the cast, so NO SPOILERS here. It’s possible, just possible , that someone here hasn’t seen it yet. I have. Someday I’m hope for a better interpretation of a Gibson film.  

It really isn’t liked by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who give it a rating of just thirty-one percent. 

One sec… I see checking IMDb that The Peripheral is forthcoming from Amazon this year as a series, and Pattern Recognition has been announced as a forthcoming film. So there’s hope that Gibson will get treated decently yet. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert W. Chambers. He’s best known for his book of short stories titled The King in Yellow, published in 1895. I see that it has been described by such luminaries as Joshi and Klein as a classic in the field of the supernatural. I have not read it, so would someone who has please tell me why they consider it such. And do tell me if I missed anything by not reading it. (Died 1933.)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. Having not seen Rogue One, I can’t say just how accurate it is. What’s your opinion? Come on, I know you have one. (Died 1994.)
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. He’s best known for Level 7. (Read the expanded 2004 edition as it has his SF framing narrative which has such fascinating essays as “Preface by The Martian Institute for Archaeological Excavations in the Solar System”.) He is also the author of A Small Arrmageddon noveland his nonfiction work, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the Thrones audiobooks. No, you don’t want my opinion on those. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 26, 1925 Howard DeVore. He was according to all sources, an expert on pulp magazines who dealt in them and collected them, an APA writer, con-runner and otherwise all-around volunteer in First Fandom. He wrote a fascinating-sounding publication with Donald Franson, A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 (which also had an updated edition). Not surprisingly, he’s in the First Fandom Hall of Fame. He also has a Neffy for the Fan the Year which I think he got just before he died. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 26, 1964 Caitlín R. Kiernan, 58. They’re an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards.  As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir which got a well-deserved Otherwise Award as being particularly worth reading. They also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Gaiman’s character, Delirium. You can find out more here on this band and their other delightful music projects. Well maybe delightful isn’t the right word…  Did I mention they’re well known in blood drenched horror circles?  Well if I didn’t I should as they’ve won an amazing three, yes three, International Horror Guild Awards as well as the two Stokers noted above. 
  • Born May 26, 1970 Alex Garland, 52. Writer of DreddEx Machina and Annihilation (which I still haven’t seen — opinions please on it — the books for the latter were excellent and usually don’t see films based on fiction I like). Ex Machina was nominated for a Hugo at MidAmeriCon II, Annihilation likewise was at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. Dredd alas wasn’t nominated. He also wrote 28 Days Later but I’m really not into Pandemic films right now.

(11) ON THE AIR IS WHERE. Octothorpe 58 is out! Listen here: “Oh No! Really? Pancakes”

John Coxon has a paper cut, Alison Scott feels seen, and Liz Batty is cheating on her homework. We discuss Chinese translation before a deep dive into the Chicon 8 programme and collecting data for conrunning. Art by Brad W Foster.

Below: Illustration by Brad W Foster. Three aliens cluster around an old-style radio microphone in turquoise with a red speaker grille and green text saying “ON AIR”. The aliens from left to right are green, pink, and blue and look suspiciously like the hosts of Octothorpe. The title of the podcast is atop the artwork in orange.

(12) A PILE OF POOH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 100 acres of abject desolation. Perhaps the best argument ever that the Public Domain leads to the Tragedy of the Commons. A horrific assault on what’s left of my soul. The public disembowelment of a fallen hero. A knife slashing through our collective heart. Pick your own analogy. “See The Winnie The Pooh Horror Movie That Is Actually Happening” at Giant Freakin Robot.

So… did you know Winnie the Pooh is now in the public domain? Yeah. It is. And someone who has apparently stayed under all of our radars for a while now has taken advantage of that and made a horror movie based on the icon. We’re not joking, we’re not lying, and we have the photos to prove it. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a horror film and what looks to be a slasher flick, is a real thing and it’s on the way….

(13) TOP APOCALYPSE. David Yoon’s list of the ten best apocalyptic novels includes Ray Bradbury: “The 10 Most Captivating Apocalypse Novels” at CrimeReads.

The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters

Okay, the world hasn’t quite ended yet in these books, but we know it will. Winters plays with the importance (or pointlessness) of morality here, in the form of a cop who’s trying to solve a murder just weeks before kingdom come. The hardboiled prose perfectly matches the poor officer’s struggle. Because really, what’s the point in the doing the right thing when we vanish in the end, whether by errant meteor or natural death?

(14) “TODAY MY JURISIDICTION ENDS HERE.” [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The patent system assumes that inventors are human. Inventions devised by machines require their own intellectual property law and an international treaty. “Artificial intelligence is breaking patent law”   In today’s Nature.

In 2020, a machine-learning algorithm helped researchers to develop a potent antibiotic that works against many pathogens (see Nature https://doi.org/ggm2p4; 2020). Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being used to aid vaccine development, drug design, materials discovery, space technology and ship design. Within a few years, numerous inventions could involve AI. This is creating one of the biggest threats patent systems have faced.

Patent law is based on the assumption that inventors are human; it currently struggles to deal with an inventor that is a machine. Courts around the world are wrestling with this problem now as patent applications naming an AI system as the inventor have been lodged in more than 100 countries1. Several groups are conducting public consultations on AI and intellectual property (IP) law, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge….

(15) SPACE CHOW. “Apollo Era Astronaut Meal — Meal B for Day 9 of an Apollo 7-10 Mission, Intended for the Command Module Pilot” was part of a lot offered by Nate Sanders Auction. The auction ended today without a bid. Might be past its sell date in more ways than one!

Complete meal for the Command Module Pilot for an Apollo mission. It’s unknown whether the meal was flown, but the white velcro stickers and menu indicates it was made for the Command Module Pilot on one of the Apollo 7-10 missions. Visible labels show a Corn Chowder packet as well as Coconut Cubes. Additional food is inside the vacuum packed meal, but labels aren’t visible. Label on front reads ”8027 / Day – 9 / Meal – B” with the WSD (Whirlpool Space Division) stamp of 14. Label on other side reads ”FAC185”. Entire meal measures approximately 5.25” x 3.75” x 2”. Very good condition. Rare.

(16) A VIEW OF THE FUTURE FROM 1976. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke foresees telework and smartphones and almost foresees the World Wide Web in this interview with AT&T corporate communications from 1976. “Interview with author/futurist Arthur C. Clarke, from an AT&T-MIT Conference, 1976”.

Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author and futurist, crossed paths with the scientists of the Bell System on numerous occasions. In 1945, he concurrently, but independently, conceived of the first concept for a communications satellite at the same time as Bell Labs scientist, John Robinson Pierce. Pierce too, was a science fiction writer. To avoid any conflict with his day job at Bell Labs, Pierce published his stories under the pseudonym J.J. Coupling. In the early 1960s, Clarke visited Pierce at Bell Labs. During his visit, Clarke saw and heard the voice synthesis experiments going on at the labs by John L. Kelly and Max Mathews, including Mathews’ computer vocal version of “Bicycle Built for Two”. Clarke later incorporated this singing computer into the climactic scene in the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the computer HAL9000 sings the same song. According to Bob Lucky, another Bell Labs scientist, on the same visit, Clarke also saw an early Picturephone, and incorporated that into 2001 as well. In 1976, AT&T and MIT held a conference on futurism and technology, attended by scientists, theorists, academics and futurists. This interview with Clarke during this conference is remarkably prescient—especially about the evolution of communications systems for the next 30+ years. The interview was conducted for an episode of a Bell System newsmagazine, but this is the raw interview footage.

(17) FEED ME. How bizarre! A Little Shop of Horrors slot machine based on the movie musical. Watch it in action on YouTube.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Moon Knight Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer is excited by the possibility of characters mooning Sir Patrick Stewart and other titled thespians.  But he’s less excited when we learn how little we see of Moon Knight and how many times the character blacks out. But he’s relieved when he learns that several characters seem to have died on the show, because “this is the MUU.  Death is only a plot point.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(15) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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