Pixel Scroll 9/21/22 She Took The Midnight Train To Arcturus

(1) ANTHEM LAUNCH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur discusses the new Space Force anthem by Jamie Teachenor and Sean Nelson, and lets his father make a dad joke that the tune was written by “Buck Rogers and Hammerstein.” “New Space Force anthem aims to land the military branch on your radar”.

On Tuesday, the United States Space Force entered its anthem era, announcing the release of its own official song at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor in Maryland.

The song, “Semper Supra” (“Always Above”), joins the ranks of “The Marines’ Hymn,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and other staples of the American military anthem repertoire. It’s also … Wait. Why are you laughing?

I knew as soon as I said “Space Force” this would happen.

Because the Space Force is, for the foreseeable future, the New Guy among military branches. Because its sudden and ham-handed public rollout in 2019 was largely entrusted to the writers’ rooms of late-night shows. And, yes, because it’s called the Space Force, so there remains a lingering temptation not to take it seriously (and a tacit cultural authorization to proceed).

… I guess for a song that’s destined to orbit around this branch of military in perpetuity, I was hoping for something … I don’t know, spacier?

Over the past century, the cosmos has supplied us with such a rich musical mood board: Gustav Holst gave us his standard-bearing model of the solar system, “The Planets,” back in 1916. Stanley Kubrick’s use of Johann Strauss’s antigravity waltzes and the monolithic motif taken from the other Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” have informed our perception of deep space since “2001” arrived in 1968. John Williams has also memorably distilled his visions of the vastness of space into universal themes — think the “five tones” of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”…

(2) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Camestros Felapton supplies the answer to the question, “Could you rewrite the Lord of the Rings as a techno-thriller?” (Did you doubt it for a moment?)

…Part of the issue is that much of what makes LotR a compelling story, are not the things that make it genre distinctive. Attempts to make a clear distinction between science fiction and fantasy can founder when we consider how LotR would change if it had to conform to proposed rules about science fiction. If, as the thought experiment goes, Tolkein’s elves were aliens, would the story now be sci-fi? The role of magic in fantasy versus materialist explanations in science fiction has also been offered. However, LotR has an odd take on magic. Much of the overt magic we see is attached to made objects (the Ring obviously, but also the palantir, the doors of Moria, Sting, the vial of light gifted to Frodo by Galadriel, or delving deeper into the mythos, the Silmarils themselves). We don’t know how those things work (magic!) but of course we don’t know how phasers, tractor beams, replicators or warp drives work either. To quote the overused quote from Arthur C. Clarke “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Clarke was making a point about technology rather than genre distinctions but the insight works almost symmetrically…. 

(3) HOPKINSON ZOOM. The Feminist Futures Forum, organized by the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity at the University of Kansas, presents a conversation with Brown Girl in the Ring author Nalo Hopkinson facilitated by Anthony Boynton, a Ph.D. candidate in the KU English Department in September 22 at 6:30 p.m. Central, They will explore Black speculative fiction, Afrofuturism, and Black feminisms. Register here. This year’s Forum is planned in conjunction with the Gunn Center’s Sturgeon Symposium.

(4) FIRST STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. Speaking of which, the 1st annual Sturgeon Symposium, a hybrid in-person/online event hosted by the Gunn Center for the Study of SF, takes place next Thursday and Friday, September 29-30. 

Sessions include presentations on Fan Fiction, Indigenous Speculative Fiction, Eastern European SF, Latin American Dystopias, Gender & The Black Fantastic, Pedagogical Approaches, and much, much more.

Visit their website for the full program: Sturgeon Symposium.

(5) HOW DO YOU TURN THAT OFF? Sarah A. Hoyt explains why “Words Are Our Profession” at Mad Genius Club, though it is this paragraph that has me nodding in agreement:

…I will also straight up admit that I must be very odd in my relationship with text, because I never understand why anyone highlights or clips certain excerpts from books. When I got my latest kindle, I had the “show other people’s markings” setting on and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. This made me glare a lot, as I couldn’t figure out why people were highlighting completely mundane sentences. Of course, it’s entirely possible that all these highlights and clipping of sentences happen the way they happen to me: Kindle starts falling, grab it with my off hand, and suddenly I’ve saved a clipping of “Hi, I am looking for my cat” as though it were some kind of life altering message. (As is, I had to turn the dictionary off, otherwise, by the same process, I was continuously having the meaning of “hand” or “parasol” explained to me.)…

Hoyt’s column is mainly about when it’s a good idea to eschew surplusage, and successful tactics for so doing.

(6) STEP BY STEP TO PUBLICATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Amit Gupta sold a short story to Tor.com.  Here, he discusses how long it took and all the rejections he accumulated. “Short stories: How much do you make? How do you sell one? How long does it take to write?” And you can read his story “India World” at Tor.com.

What’d I learn looking back through all this?

  • Writing takes forever, even if it’s a just a few thousand words. Way longer than I thought.
  • Submitting takes even longer. This tracks with other areas of my life. Selling is always less fun for me than making things.
  • SO MANY people helped! I’m blown away by how many people took time to read drafts and offer their feedback.

(7) DEUTSCHER BOOK PREIS. The only longlisted genre work didn’t make the Deutscher Buch Preis shortlist. If you want to know what did, click here.

(8) IT BECKONS. Kelly McClymer encourages writers to ask “Is Your Book Cover Doing the Job or Does It Need to Be Fired?” in the “Indie Files” series at the SFWA Blog.

… For authors, the cover is a double-edged sword. We need one that calls to our readers and makes them pick our book out of a crowded line up.

I remember the first time I realized would have to change the cover for an indie book. I didn’t want to pay for another cover design, so I delayed making the obvious decision. I kept telling myself that the book was good, so the cover couldn’t make that much difference.

I should have known better. I’ve been a voracious reader since I learned to read and my personal book choice algorithm is simple: favorite author first, then intriguing title, then intriguing cover. That personal algorithm hasn’t changed in decades. As a reader, I am easily seduced by title or cover.

As an author, I hate spending money on new covers and agonizing over the design. What got me to stop pinching pennies in this critical area of marketing? Evidence, of course. My indie author friends weren’t afraid to change their covers. Multiple times. And it (usually) helped their sales significantly. Even better, some of them were able to do so on a budget by using pre-made covers that were on sale. …

(9) WHAT’S THE MESSAGE? Scifihistory.net seriously doubts 2001 deserves a reputation for greatness: “Stardate 09.21.2022.A: Warp Core Breach: Science Fiction’s Biggest Circle Jerk – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)”.

Circle jerk = a situation in which a group of people engage in self-indulgent or self-gratifying behavior, especially by enforcing or reinforcing each other’s views or attitudes.
 
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (snicker snicker) I attended a small private college in Anytown, USA.  In one of my several classes talking about film, a professor (who shall be nameless) took the occasion one day to wax on eloquently about “mankind’s claim” that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was not only the greatest Science Fiction film ever made but very well was considered the best film ever made.
 
Now, at this juncture in my cognitive development, I was a firm supporter of Citizen Kane’s rightful claim to that title.  Not one to keep silent, I spoke up, asking where it was written that 2001 was ever considered a greater accomplishment than Kane was … to which I got an earful.  Pushing back as politely as I could, I argued that I’d never heard of anyone making such an assessment, and – while I didn’t doubt the instructor had read or perhaps thought such a ranking possible – I wanted to know which experts felt that way so that I could go out and read their analysis.  Essentially what I was told was that 2001 was, clearly, the superior film because of its central message.
 
Get ready, folks.
 
I asked, “What is 2001’s central message?”…

(10) SPELLER TRIBUTES CONTINUE. Strange Horizons’ Aishwarya Subramanian and Dan Hartland mark the loss of their colleague and friend: “In Memoriam: Maureen Kincaid Speller”.

…Maureen Kincaid Speller was capable of producing among the best criticism SFF has to offer. Now she has left us, our understandings of the genre will be poorer and less complete. We will know our favourite texts less well, and we will struggle sometimes to express a reading she would have worked into prose of wit, clarity, and pith. We will miss her because, as a critic, she helped us be better readers; because, as an editor, she made us better writers; and because, as herself, she was fearless in achieving these ends. But most of all, we will miss her because she was our friend—was the friend of all readers, and all authors, and all books. She showed us this every time she attended to a text and asked not just why she liked it, but why she—or why we—might not. Friends make us better, and they often do so via the unvarnished truth….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Randall And Hopkirk Deceased (1969)

Yes, I know it had multiple premiere dating back fifty-three years ago, so I’ve picked the London Weekend Television broadcast of the pilot two days after the ATV broadcast. No reason, but that’s my choice. Well, and it’s today.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) is a somewhat comical British PI series that starred Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope respectively as the private detectives Jeff Randall and the quickly quite dead and just as rapidly ghostly Marty Hopkirk. Annette Andre as Jeannie Hopkirk, secretary at the Randall and Hopkirk private investigation office, and widow of Marty, was the only other regular cast member. 

(Note: beautiful woman here as well. The trope holds true!) 

In the United States possibly because the word deceased would be offensive, it was called My Partner the Ghost. Or because the syndicators here were utterly lacking in imagination and had to be sickeningly cute. You pick. 

It was created by Dennis Spooner who did a lot of writing for Doctor Who, a spot of writing for The Avengers and quite a bit later for the New Avengers, and was the creator of Department S

It would last one run of twenty-six episodes. In the year 2000 it was remade by the BBC starring Vic Reeves as Hopkirk (once again in a white suit) and Bob Mortimer as Randall, with Emilia Fox as Jeannie. Two series were made lasting just thirteen episodes.

A decade ago, SyFy announced that it had secured the rights to Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and were looking to develop a pilot, and in January 2011, Entertainment Weekly announced that Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg would be writing a pilot for SyFy. Given SyFy’s record for rebooting series, guess what happened to it? Well did you see a pilot? 

It does not appear to streaming anywhere for free right now.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1904 Alexander Key. American writer primarily of children’s books. His novel Escape to Witch Mountain was made into by Disney into a film three times 1975, 1995, and again in 2009. (Originality isn’t one of Disney’s stronger suits.) The sequel novel was made into another film in 1978. The Incredible Tide novel became the Seventies Future Boy Conan anime series. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  I’ve essayed him more that once here, so you know that I like him. What’s your favorite one of his? Though perhaps culturally suspect these days, I’m very fond of “Hillbilly Hare”. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. You know what role that was. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 21, 1960 Mary Mara. Best remembered as Inspector Bryn Carson on Nash Bridges but she had a number of genre appearances including Mary in K-PAX from Gene Brewer’s novel of the same name, and her best role though animated was — and don’t blame the messenger — Alice Kerchief/Geisha in Spicy City is an adult animated erotic cyberpunk television series which was created by Ralph Bkashi for HBO that ran for six episodes. It was a really fascinating role. I’d rate the series a strong R. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 21, 1964 Andy Duncan, 58.  If I were to start anywhere with him, it’d be with his very excellent short stories which fortunately were published in two World Fantasy Award-winning collections Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, and The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, and another WFA nominee, An Agent of Utopia: New & Selected Stories.  I’ve read his novels, so what you recommend?  He has garnered some very impressive Awards — not only World Fantasy Awards for the two collections, but also for the “Wakulla Springs” novelette (co-authored with Ellen Klages), and a Nebula for the novelette “Close Encounters” (2013). He has three Hugo nominations, for his “Beluthahatchie” short story (1998), the novella “The Chief Designer” (2002), and “Wakulla Springs” (2014). 
  • Born September 21, 1974 Dexter Steven, 48. He wrote interesting novels, the first being The Dream of Perpetual Motion which is based off The Tempest, with steampunk, cyborgs and airships as well; the second being Version Control, a media-saturated twenty minutes into the future America complicated by time travel that keep changing everything. He wrote these and that was it. 
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 42. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”.  She was in Camille Engelson on Stitchers which I must watch soon. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro  shows mythical beasts need therapy, too.

(14) WHO DAT? The Bookseller’s Joe Phelan knows there’s always an audience for anyone prepared to tell us, “What happened to Sad Puppies?”

The Sad Puppies era is arguably the bleakest passage in the history of the Hugo Awards. The Puppies’ campaigns gave rise to smears, vitriol, conspiracy and hostility; they can be regarded as an early skirmish in publishing’s now-pervasive “culture wars”, where suspicion, belligerence and an unwavering conviction in one’s own position routinely permeate discourse.

There are quotes from Kevin Standlee and Neil Gaiman which Phelan presents as recently obtained, and another from this laughably “anonymous” pro-Puppy figure:

…The anonymous Sad Puppies advocate we spoke to fully disputes suggestions that the campaigns should be branded failures. They are adamant the Hugos remain just as unrepresentative and biased as they considered them to be in 2013, and they believe Sad Puppies played an important role in raising awareness of this apparent issue.

“No, it was not unsuccessful. The campaign(s) proved to any onlookers who care to look that the modern Hugos are awarded solely for reasons of political correctness. A casual perusal of the lists of candidates and winners over the past four years is a sufficient confirmation of this. The Hugo Awards, in effect, burned themselves to the ground for the sole purpose of avoiding my work being recognised. The fans had selected an author that the insiders did not prefer – despite that I myself was a Tor author at the time. Those who hoped sobriety would prevail, and the Hugos return to the dignity they once knew, had their hopes dashed.”…

If you know any ex-Tor authors who were on the Sad Puppy slates that weren’t named John C. Wright, please do refresh my memory.

(15) PURE WROUGHT. Speaking of Mr. Wright, his recent “Note on Christian Science Fiction” contains this wonderful passage scoffing at some familiar genre works:

…People would go mad at the sight of stars, Mr. Asimov? Really? Eyewitnesses to the Crucifixion would immediately convince the world without any fuss that all religion was bunk, Mr. Clarke? Say you so? One should sleep with whores out of courtesy to one’s hosts when visiting whoreland, Mr. Heinlein? Really? Adultery is lawful for persons truly in love, Mrs. Rand? Honestly? Or, my personal favorite, if Captain Kirk is split into a good and evil pair, a la Jekyll and Hyde, the bad side is filled with passion and energy rather than filled with vice, and the good side is indecisive and weak rather than virtuous? Really, Mr. Roddenberry? Honestly, is that the way good and evil works, or have you simply been reading too much Freud, and it has warped your brain?…

(16) SEEMS MORE RELEVANT NOW. [Item by Todd Mason.] A quote from an old sff magazine:

“The Ukraine had had a number of serious attacks in the previous week, which refuted the theory that the metal locusts were a Russian weapon being used in preparation for a mobilisation of forces.”

“The Locusts” by R. Whitfield Young, Science-Fantasy, April 1958.

Apparently the only published story by Young under that byline, and one might guess why from the bulk of the story.

(17) AGAIN. CBR.com decides “Kaley Cuoco & Pete Davidson’s Meet Cute Is a Clever, Affecting Sci-Fi Rom-Com”.

When Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) approaches Gary (Pete Davidson) in a New York City bar at the beginning of Meet Cute, it seems like the moment referenced in the title — the romantic-comedy staple of the main characters first encountering each other in an adorable, amusing manner. For Gary, that’s what it is. He’s won over by Sheila’s offbeat charms, including ordering the exact same drink as him and toasting in the exact same way. For Sheila, though, this isn’t her first time meeting Gary, or even the fifth time. As she tells him almost immediately, she’s a time traveler, and she’s experienced this moment multiple times already. It’s a disarmingly direct way for the movie to introduce its sci-fi concept, which is indicative of the clever, surprising, and emotionally affecting story to come….

(18) LONGER AGO THAN YESTERDAY. Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, and Denise Mina are featured in this 2009 BBC piece about graphic novels that dropped today.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage reports from the convention he holds (Silicon!) and how a fabricator he calls “evil Ted” gave him a very realistic foam space helmet.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/22 A Pixel So Great, It Can Only Be Scrolled For Good Or Evil

(1) THE REALLY FINAL FRONTIER. This is where the ashes of Nichelle Nichols, Gene Roddenberry, and Douglas Trumbull are going: “Enterprise Flight | Memorial Spaceflights” offered by Celestis. For $12,500 you can send your late loved one along. “Remaining space aboard this Voyager Flight is limited. Reservations close on: August 31, 2022.”

The Celestis Enterprise Flight ™ will launch from planet Earth and travel beyond the Earth-Moon system, beyond the James Webb telescope, and into interplanetary deep space – where it will join the other planets, moons, comets, and asteroids in our solar system on a never-ending journey through the cosmos.

Upon completion of its powered burn and coast phase, the Enterprise Flight will become Enterprise Station™ – the most distant permanent human repository outpost and a pathfinder for the continuing human exploration of space.  

The Enterprise Flight, carrying specially manufactured and inscribed individual flight capsules containing cremated remains, complete human genome individual DNA samples, and names and messages of well-wishers from around the globe will be launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Aboard Enterprise, fittingly, will be the creator and several cast members of the original Star Trek television series, as well as an Apollo-era astronaut, together with people from all walks of life, interests, and vocations.   Enterprise is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, exclusive opportunity for you or your loved ones – or both – to join an incredible mission of purpose alongside the most recognizable personas in space exploration, real or imagined.

The history-making Enterprise Flight is expected to be sold out well in advance. Contact us today to ensure your or your loved one’s participation in this mission!

(2) LABOR INTENSIVE. Kameron Hurley’s latest Get To Work Hurley podcast — a monthly rant about the hustle of making a living as a writer of All of the Things – is Episode 23, in which — 

Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher) joins us for questions from Twitter and a game of “Name of a Plant OR Name of a Britpop musician.” 

Available from Apple PodcastsStitcher, and Spotify (NOTE: Patreon subscribers get access to the video version of the podcast).

(3) IMAGINARY PAPERS DELIVERED. Issue 11 of Imaginary Papers from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination features an essay by the urban planner and futurist Lafayette Cruise on the 2002 animated film Treasure Planet, and another on the fiction and films of Colombian writer and philosopher René Rebetez, by Azucena Castro. There’s also a writeup on the new Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. If you missed previous issues, read them here.

(4) IN SCANDINAVIA. Rudy Rucker shares photos of a trip he took with his wife to Finland: “Helsinki Math & Art”.

…Sylvia is from Hungary, and the Finnish and Hungarian languages are said to be related. These Finno-Ugric languages are not at all like any of the familiar European languages which are in the Indo-European group, which include the Romance, Slavic, Germanic and other categories. Finnish and Hungarian are total outliers. And, as Sylvia’s expression testifies here, the two are not very much like each other after all. It was fun to see such incomprehensible signs….

(5) TURN UP THAT DIAL. Classical music radio host Dr. Laura Brodian returns to the air August 29 on KMOZART FM-AM in Los Angeles she announced on Facebook today. Her show will run Monday thru Friday between 12 noon and 5pm.

Doctor Laura Brodian Freas was a voiceover artist and classical music personality on radio station KMZT in Los Angeles, and was also the voice of Delta Symphony and Delta Jazz for Delta Airlines. A past President of the Southern California Early Music Society, she earned a doctoral degree in Music, but also attended art classes at Indiana University’s School of Fine Arts and at the California Art Institute. Her cover and interior artwork has been published by, among others, TSR, The Easton Press, Analog Magazine of Science Fiction/Fact, Weird Tales, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Laura was a co-recipient [with Frank Kelly Freas] of The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists [ASFA]’s Chesley Award for Best Cover of the Year. Laura has also served as ASFA’s Western Regional Director. Laura is a Judge in the L. Ron Hubbard “Illustrators of the Future Contest.”

One of her passions is costuming. She is a former Director[1]at-Large of Costumer’s Guild West and a WesterCon Masquerade winner and a WorldCon Masquerade Judge. She also founded the Collinsport Players performing troupe the when she was the MC at the first annual Dark Shadows Festival. Another of her passions is English Regency Dancing, which she also teaches. Laura founded the San Francisco Bay Area English Regency Society and the San Fernando Valley Area English Regency Society. A member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, Laura is the widow of science fiction’s favorite illustrator, Frank Kelly Freas, with whom she co-edited the fourth volume of his collected works, FRANK KELLY FREAS: AS HE SEES IT in 2000. A new comprehensive Kelly Freas artbook is in development with artist Bob Eggleton. In 2012 she married school teacher Steven Beraha.

(6) FIRST WORLDCON IN LOS ANGELES. In “What Can We Learn From the 1946 Pacificon Program Book?”, First Fandom Experience continues its exploration of fandom in 1946 with a chronicle of the fourth Worldcon, the first held in LA. How much were memberships in those days? One dollar!

(7) WHAT DO FISH, SNEETCHES, AN ELEPHANT, AND A MOUSE HAVE IN COMMON? “Licensing: Netflix Has Five Dr. Seuss Projects in the Works” according to Publishing Perspectives. Descriptions of all five shows are at the link.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Netflix are in development on five Seuss titles, planned for preschool-audience animated series and specials….

The new Dr. Seuss line-up is to anchor Netflix’s expanded focus on preschool, the estate says. “Introducing concepts of foundational learning, this new slate of programming will explore themes of diversity and respect for others,” the company says, clearly looking to counter the less felicitous impressions left when it took those six titles out of circulation.

(8) TAKE A LETTER TO ELROND. Ars Technica explains why “Lord of the Rings mechanical keyboards are perfect for people who speak Elvish”.

Middle-earth has seen more than its share of trials and challenges, but perhaps none more pressing today than a lack of mechanical keyboards that any of its various peoples can actually read. For ages, everyone from elves to dwarves had to make do with keyboards carrying legends of unknown languages. Today, keyboard and audio brand Drop released two prebuilt mechanical keyboards to rule them all—or at least speakers of Elvish and Dwarvish.

The Drop + The Lord of the Rings Dwarvish and Elvish Keyboards ($169) are the first to gain official Lord of the Rings licensing, Drop said in its announcement today. The keyboards build on Drop’s November release of The Lord of the Rings keycap sets, also written in Elvish and Dwarvish, and follow Drop’s Lord of the Rings artisan keycaps made from resin….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s us converse of Djinn, specifically, those G. Willow Wilson wrote of in two vastly different works, Cairo, a graphic novel she did with M.K. Perker for Vertigo and the later Alif the Unseen novel.

G. Willow Wilson is Islamic which she first converted to and practiced in Cairo according to The Butterfly Mosque, her autobiography. So it’s not at all surprising that she has a fascination with the djinn. 

Cairo is set in version of contemporary Cairo, and follows a number of characters, human and really not human, as they are drawn into a complex tale surrounding a stolen hookah of great importance, and a box that looks simple but actually contains something of mythical status. I like the story because the characters are drawn from myth, (Djinn; the Devil Himself; A spirit inhabiting the city’s ruins) all feel very real. See I’ve given nothing away, have I? 

The artwork by Perker is stellar. His full name is Mustafa Kutlukhan Perker and he’s from Istanbul. He would later do the absolutely impressive Air series with her.

Dealing with the djinn once was not enough, so six years after Cairo, her first novel Alif the Unseen was released in 2007. It was, I think, a much more intimate novel. It is also a very political novel that likely caused many a leader in the Middle East not to be very happy. 

SPOILERS

Alif the hacker discovers that his love interest Intisar is entering an arranged marriage with another man. That man is head of the State in a repressive government in an unnamed Middle Eastern state. Alif gets in deep crap with said Bad Person person but, this being a fantasy, is along with his neighbor rescued by two djinn: Vikram and his sister Azalel. 

(Ok, she likes djinn a lot. And she treats them as just existing within the framework of everyday life. Now she needs to do an opera with them as the central characters.)

Eventually the Very Bad Person is assassinated, and all is well. Some really odd science involving djinn coding and quantum tech ensues before that.)

END OF SPOILERS

It won a much-deserved World Fantasy Award. 

I’m going to quote but one review and you’ll see why I’m quoting that review. Salon led off its review this way: “Arthur C. Clarke famously said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which may explain why fantasy narratives have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in this age of wondrous gadgets. In G. Willow Wilson’s equally wondrous ‘Alif the Unseen,’ the connection between the two is more than just metaphor, although as far as this book is concerned, metaphor itself is a kind of technology.”

Everything I’ve read by her is stellar from these books to her run on the Vixen series — not to overlook the Ms. Marvel work. May she continue to write for a very long time. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of a series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 26, 1912 Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Harlan Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 26, 1938 Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of it? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Or were before the lawyers at Paramount and their Hell Hounds descended upon them and ate their ability to create anything. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer SpaceSpace Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 73. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received at MidAmeriCon II and Worldcon 76, Hugo Awards for Best Professional Editor — Long Form. 
  • Born August 26, 1950 Annette Badland, 72. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”. 
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 52. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she plays a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise except a lot darker.  (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders. Really we are not.)
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 42. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which won a Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit has a strange idea about the relationship between books and bookshelves.

(12) CREATING TOGETHER. Tim Griffin shared a photo on Facebook of Steven Barnes, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle from the Seventies demonstrating their collaborative writing process. Guess which one is wielding the ax?

(13) KOREAN SF MOVIE. “‘Alienoid’ Review: Sorcerers, Alien Prisoners and Much, Much More” says the New York Times.

This Korean film starts in the 14th century with an alien creature trying to escape from the human body inside which it has been imprisoned. Thankfully, a hole in the sky opens and an SUV materializes, carrying the interstellar lawman Guard (Kim Woo-bin) and his robot sidekick.

And that’s just the first five minutes: The rest of Choi Dong-hoon’s movie then escalates into even more bananas territory.

Hopscotching between the present day and 1391, “Alienoid” somehow works a crystal thingumajig called the Divine Blade into its narrative, as well as car chases, aerial wire-aided fights, medieval gunslinging, time travel, magic battles and Transformers-like mayhem, with dashes of comedy and romance for good measure. 

(14) CRICKETS. A trailer for the Walt Disney Studios version of Pinocchio coming to Disney+ on September 8.

Academy Award® winner Robert Zemeckis directs this live action retelling of the beloved tale of a wooden puppet who embarks on a thrilling adventure to become a real boy. Tom Hanks stars as Geppetto, the wood carver who builds and treats Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) as if he were his own son.

(15) SPLISH-SPLASH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Paging Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Paging Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Please report to TOI-1452 b. Bring your bathing suits. “Scientists discovered a beautiful ocean world 100 light-years from Earth” at BGR.

Scientists have discovered a beautiful ocean world that looks like it was ripped out of the Star Wars prequels. The exoplanet TOI-1452 b was discovered just 100 light-years from Earth. A new paper on the discovery says that the entire planet is covered by a thick layer of water and that it’s located far enough from its star to possibly support life.

The ocean world was discovered by a team of researchers at the Université de Montréal. Charles Cadieux, the team leader, announced the discovery this week. Cadieux is also a member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx)….

(16) JWST SCOPES OUT JUPITER. “’Never seen Jupiter like this’: James Webb telescope shows incredible view of planet” in the Guardian. Photos at the link.

The world’s newest and biggest space telescope is showing Jupiter as never before, auroras and all.

Scientists released the shots on Monday of the solar system’s biggest planet.

The James Webb space telescope took the photos in July, capturing unprecedented views of Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, and swirling polar haze.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm big enough to swallow Earth, stands out brightly alongside countless smaller storms. One wide-field picture is particularly dramatic, showing the faint rings around the planet, as well as two tiny moons against a glittering background of galaxies….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Mortuary Assistant,” Fandom Games says you shouldn’t be hired by this mortuary because “You come in for an interview–and come out a demon” and the game is the fictional equivalent of “having a mindless job so you can keep your crappy apartment.”  No matter how bad your job is, it has to be better than purging demons form corpses with “demon Drano.” Content warning for suicide or self-harm. Click the link to view on YouTube.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Jeffrey Smith, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/22 And The Pixel That Was Planted In My Brain Still Remains, Within The Scrolls Of Filers

(1) BOT AND PAID FOR. In “Fandoms Can Do Bad All by Themselves”, Vice looks at reports about what percentage of social media support for the release of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League came from bots, but concludes most of it was probably genuine.

According to a report in Rolling Stone, the very online campaign for the release of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League was a battle waged in no small part by bots. The report is gossipy fun and well worth reading in full—multiple sources tell reporter Tatiana Siegel that Snyder, discoursing on his enemies to a studio executive, said, “I will destroy them on social media,” and it gets more absurd from there—but the main impression the reader is left with is that the pro-Snyder movement was perhaps not quite as organic as it seemed. One interesting thing is that it’s not clear how much that would matter—the behavior of most fandoms when they’re incensed, after all, is not all that different from bots to begin with.

… The outlet commissioned reports from three different cybersecurity and social-media firms, and also quotes from reports that were commissioned by Warner Bros. According to reports commissioned by Rolling Stone, at least 13% of the accounts using the hashtags related to the Snyder fandom were deemed fake—much higher than the average of around 5%. Because people and bots using this hashtag would often target specific Warner Bros. executives with implied death threats, Rolling Stone reports, the studio hired cybersecurity firms to analyze its contents. While all acknowledge that any popular hashtag will have bot activity, at a few points in the article different people argue that if Snyder was scheming behind the scenes at the Warner Bros. studios, then these bots must have been under his control as well. (One site, forsnydercut.com, was at one point registered by an ad agency, but Rolling Stone was unable to establish a connection between Snyder and a person apparently behind the site, whom he denied knowing or hiring.)

While this report is full of juicy gossip surrounding Snyder’s behavior towards the people he felt had wronged him, it probably somewhat overstates the power of robot armies; whatever else Snyder was or wasn’t in control of, he certainly knew how to present himself to a fandom in order to garner its sympathy….

(2) LOVE NEVER FAILS. “Sarah Gailey On Loving Monsters” at CrimeReads.

Just Like Home is dedicated “to everyone who ever loved a monster.”

It is the easiest thing in the world to love a monster. It’s easy to love a monster because love isn’t a decision. It’s no one’s fault that love happens. Emotions, urges, and impulses are themselves beyond our ability to control. Love in its many forms wells up out of the human spirit irrepressibly. Like anger or sadness or the desire to kill, it arrives without invitation or intention. Action might spring from emotion—love might lead to an expression of affection, anger might lead to violence, a powerful impulse might lead to a monstrous act. But on its own, love is no different from any other feeling. To love a monster is easy, when the monster seems loveable.

It’s easy for a monster to seem loveable. All monsters partition other people into two categories—those who witness their monstrosity, and those who don’t. Maybe this is because the monster sees the world as divided into unequal parts, where some deserve to flourish while others deserve to be the targets of ungoverned impulse. Or maybe it’s because monsters want to be loved just as much as anyone else, and they understand that those who experience their ungoverned impulses aren’t likely to give them support, affection, admiration. Maybe it’s just another reflex, as unconscious as the way my voice slips into a slightly different register when I’m around trusted friends….

(3) AFROFUTURISM NEWS. In the Guardian’s interview with artist and filmmaker Edward George, he talks about Black cultural history, Tupac Shakur, the evolution of dub and his remarkable cinema essays with the Black Audio Film Collective: “Edward George: ‘You can’t have Afrofuturism without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in’”.

…Last Angel is not only a film about science fiction but, partly influenced by Chris Marker’s 1962 film La Jetée, it features a character called the “data thief” who travels back from the year 2195 to probe the failure of the Ghanaian revolution. If this all sounds hugely ambitious, Icarean even, that’s part of its appeal. It played a crucial role in popularising Afrofuturism – a term first coined by white theorist Mark Dery, and now used to describe countless exhibitions, film series and even films (such as the feudalism-romanticising Black Panther) in which the term is used breezily, a floating signifier for something to do with technophilia, empowerment, a vague and breezy form of utopianism. “Because of the ways it uses the archive, its montage, its commentary – the film has become a codex of futurity,” says George.

“If you want to fetishise futurity less, you have to go back to the plantations and to the slaves themselves: a lot of the songs that they were singing were literally about a tomorrow. These were cast in the metaphysical language of the day – that of the Bible – which was an act of mastery in itself. More than that, look at Italian futurism in the early 20th century: it opened out on to all kinds of fascism. You can’t have futurity, or futurism, or Afrofuturism, without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in.”…

(4) FLINT FUNDRAISER ACHIEVES GOAL. The “Eric Flint” GoFundMe created to help pay the costs of memorial services raised $12,540. The organizer announced, “The family wants to thank you for your generosity. We have reached the goal and will be closing the campaign. Hug your loved ones today.”

(5) SFWA SPOTLIGHTS ROMANCE STEERING COMMITTEE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) announced that a SFWA Romance Steering Committee (RSC) was formed in Fall 2021.

The RSC will offer meaningful input and assistance in cultivating a positive trajectory for authors of stories that combine fantasy, science fiction, and romance in a way that encourages diversity, engagement, and quality, while also providing outreach and support resources for romance writers struggling with inclusion in the SFF community at large.

RSC resources that are already available, or will be soon, include:

  • The SFWA Discord channel #romantic-sff
  • Monthly posts in the Romancing SFF series on the SFWA Blog searchable here.
  • A Romancing SFF Meetup to be held in the fall.

The members of the Romance Steering Committee are Alexia Chantel, Claire Davon, Miranda Honfleur (co-chair), Victoria Janssen, Chelsea Mueller (co-chair), Abigail Reynolds, Katherine Ley, and R.K. Thorne.

(6) HOT ITEM. From AbeBooks “Most expensive sales from April to June 2022”, see the asbestos-bound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The third-biggest sale of the quarter, it went for $22,500.

This is the famous asbestos-bound edition of Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel about the power of books. #83 of 200 signed and numbered copies. A regular signed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 sold for $12,000 via AbeBooks earlier in the year.

Sixth on the list was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali sold for $21,375.

(7) CYBER-GROUNDHOG DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Sure, sounds useful, but also “Yet another ‘what could possibly go wrong,’ e.g., heists/capers, foreign invaders, alien invaders, and AI/cyber takeovers. E.g, Niven/Pournelle Oath of Fealty, probably also at least one PK Dick story. “Earthgrid Aims To Rewire the USA Using Super-Cheap Tunnel Tech” at Slashdot.

Bay Area startup Earthgrid says it’s developing a plasma boring robot that can dig underground tunnels 100x faster and up to 98% cheaper than existing tech, and it plans to use it to start re-wiring America’s energy, internet and utilities grids….

(8) SHATNER LENDING VOICE TO MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Yahoo! was a witness as “William Shatner crashes Comic-Con—and soon, Masters Of The Universe”.

He-Man and his friends will welcome a new addition to the follow-up to Netflix’s Masters Of The Universe: Revelation—an animated series set in outer space that, up until now, has been sorely lacking anyone who’s actually been in outer space. William Shatner made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s San Diego Comic-Con panel celebrating 40 years of Masters Of The Universe toys, films, and series, at which series creator Kevin Smith confirmed that Shatner will voice a mystery character in the upcoming Masters Of The Universe: Revolution.

The legendary Star Trek actor and actual astronaut arrived to deliver the news of his casting in the most conceivably Comic-Con way possible: his booming voice startling and delighting Hall H audience members before he emerged to join the panel. The 2022 edition of the convention is a busy one for Shatner, who was also on hand to preview a forthcoming documentary about his life produced by Legion M, the production company created and led entirely by fans. “San Diego Comic-Con has grown,” he quipped. “There’s something in the water. It used to be a little sleepy town!”…

There are more details about the panel in CBR.com’s article “SDCC: He-Man & the Masters of the Universe 40th Anniversary Panel”.

Cora Buhlert is keeping a sharp eye on these developments. She notes there will be another Masters of the Universe panel on Friday focused on the toys. Plus, says Cora, “Mattel has a huge toy display at the con, including a diorama featuring the massive Eternia playset, of which only a handful were produced in the 1980s. Apparently, the Eternia set will be crowdfunded, e.g. Mattel will be collecting preorders and only then go into production. There are a couple of videos about the Mattel display online. This one is pretty detailed and offers a good look at the Eternia diorama and the other toys announced.”

(9) BUHLERT’S NEW TOY PHOTO STORY. The previous item would have been the perfect lead-in to a new Masters of the Universe figure photo story, but that’s not the source of her latest, which is “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, an adaptation of a story by Robert E. Howard.

…For those who don’t know, “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is the second story about Conan of Cimmeria that Robert E. Howard ever wrote, ninety years ago now. It was rejected by Weird Tales and only published in altered form (with Conan renamed Amra) in the fanzine The Fantasy Fan during Howard’s lifetime. The original version did not appear until way after Howard’s death. You can read the Amra version here.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is set early during Conan’s career. Many believe it is the earliest of Conan’s chronicles adventures. I’m not entirely convinced by this, but Conan is definitely young in this story.

My adaptation differs from the original story in two aspects. For starters, I made it less rapey. Secondly, instead of the male pseudo-Viking companions from the original story, the companion I gave Conan is Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, pirate, mercenary, swordswoman and all around awesome character, whom Conan meets in the later story “Red Nails”.

So I present you: “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” by Robert E. Howard, starring Conan of Cimmeria and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood…

(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dig into dumplings with Patrick O’Leary in episode 176 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Patrick O’Leary

We discussed the way his new novel 51 is similar to The Great Gatsby, why he believes his books will crumble if he attempts to describe them, the perils and pleasures of pantsing (and how his stories often don’t get any good until the 15th draft), the tragedy of being an invisible creature, our mutual fears of what aging might bring, his love for Marvel Comics (and especially the Silver Surfer), how Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced him to literature, the way reading Kurt Vonnegut taught him there were no rules, the two science fiction greats who literally left him speechless, and much more.

(11) ALAN GRANT (1949-2022). Comic writer Alan Grant, best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Batman, died July 20 at the age of 73. 2000AD has a full profile of his career here.

…Grant was one of his generation’s finest writers, combining a sharp eye for dialogue and political satire with a deep empathy that made his characters seem incredibly human and rounded. Through his work he had a profound and enduring influence on 2000 AD and on the comics industry….

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1922 [By Cat Eldridge.] One hundred years ago, Agatha Christie’s Secret Adversary was released in the United Kingdom by The Bodley Head. The novelintroduces Tommy and Tuppence who will be featured in three more novels and a collection of short stories. The five Tommy and Tuppence books would span Christie’s writing career.

The story here is that the Great War is over, and jobs are almost impossible to find, so childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley decide to start their own business as The Young Adventurers. In this novel, they are hired for a job that leads them into many dangerous situations, and meeting allies as well, including an American millionaire in search of his cousin.

The critics liked it. The Times Literary Supplement said it was “a whirl of thrilling adventures” and the Daily Chronicle was very happy with it: “It’s an excellent yarn and the reader will find it as impossible as we did to put it aside until the mystery has been fathomed.” 

It would be the second Christie work to be turned into a film as it would be made in Germany by the Orplid Film company in 1929 as a silent movie which ran for 76 minutes. Thought to be lost, it wasn’t and was shown at the National Film Theatre in 2001. 

The novel was adapted twice for television, in 1983 and in 2014. Significant changes were made to story. A graphic novel was done.  Several theatre productions were staged. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1882 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 90. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them on this occasion at least? Well I will. Now Jitterbug Perfumethat’s definitely genre! Cowgirls Get the Blues got made into a rather excellent film by Gus Van Sant and stars Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, and Keanu Reeves. Interesting note: Still Life with Woodpecker made the long list at one point for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. 
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 78. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really like be it genre adjacent or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 50. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. Damn I miss that series which amazingly won no Hugos. (I just discovered the series is on the Peacock streaming service which I subscribe to so I’m going to watch it again!) He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the DarkThe HungerThe X-FilesThe Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries. Oh and he made a series of commercials for Maytag.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Last Kiss has genre-related advice for a foundering romance.

(15) COLBERT AT COMIC-CON. “SDCC: Stephen Colbert hosts Lord Of The Rings extravaganza”A.V. Club has the story.

Amazon spent nearly half a billion dollars on their new Lord Of The Rings series, and at least half of that must’ve gone into their Comic-Con panel. Led by a string accompaniment featuring series composer Bear McCreary, the panel kicked off with the music of Middle Earth to set the stage, and Late Show host Stephen Colbert on hand to speak elvish and keep things moving.

Prime Video played a room-wrapping trailer on screens all around Hall H, showing off the various peoples of Middle Earth. And all that’s before showrunner J.D. Payne taught us to say “Oh, shit” in Elvish—only to be challenged by Colbert. “Tolkien speaks the language of the soul,” said Payne. And he also speaks the language of debate.

… And finally, Colbert asked question that was on everyone’s lips: “Will there be Entwives?”

“Maybe you’ve seen them already,” McKay teased.

(16) RINGS TRAILER. Here’s the “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” trailer shown at San Diego Comic-Con. Begins streaming September 2 on Prime Video.

Discover the legend that forged the rings. #TheRingsOfPower Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(17) FREE READ. Cora Buhlert has a new flash story online at Wyngraf Magazine. This one is called “Demon Child” which she says “is a changeling story in reverse.” The first line is —

“I swear to you, this baby is a monster,” Sansavi said as she pushed the pram back and forth across the black bridge of Zairahm….

(18) A COMIC ABOUT MARTIANS IN PASADENA. NPR presents “NASA engineer Nagin Cox on Mars rover time”. “This comic, illustrated by Anuj Shrestha, is inspired by an interview with NASA engineer Nagin Cox from TED Radio Hour’s episode It Takes Time.

(19) ALTERNATE RACE TO MARS CONTINUES. “’For All Mankind’ Renewed for Season 4 at Apple”Variety reports from Comic-Con.

For All Mankind” has been renewed for Season 4 at Apple.

The announcement was made Friday as part of the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Production on the new season is scheduled to begin in August. Season 3 of the series debuted on the streamer on June 10.

“For All Mankind” is an alternative history series that explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. The series presents an world where NASA astronauts, engineers and their families find themselves in the center of extraordinary events seen through the prism of an alternate history timeline — a world in which the USSR beats the US to the moon.

In Season 3, the series moved into the early ‘90s with a race to a new planetary frontier: Mars. The Red Planet becomes the new front in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. The characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion….

(20) STRANGER CHICKEN. Adweek is fascinated when “KFC Releases ’80s-Style Horror Film With Killer Pizza”.

The phenomenon of Netflix series Stranger Things has produced a resurgence of interest in ’80s horror movies. Now chicken restaurant chain KFC is looking to tap into that interest from younger consumers by producing its own short film in Spain, featuring killer pizza.

The fast-food chain has released La Massacre—a 14-minute short film, which tells the often-told story of five teenagers who travel to a remote cabin in the woods to enjoy a weekend away. However, once they reach it, they are stalked and killed by a terrifying entity shaped like a pizza.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George notes the sixth Harry Potter movie begins with Harry Potter breaking Hogwarts security by reading a magic newspaper in a Muggle coffee shop.  But Dumbledore drags him back to Hogwarts so that he can begin his yearly ritual of “placing children in mortal danger.” The producer notes that at Hogwarts “they really don’t teach anything except how to die a horrible death,” so Harry and the gang “spend way too much time on teenage romance.”  But things are so lax at Hogwarts that Harry nearly kills Draco Malfoy until Snape saves him but Harry isn’t punished for this.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/14/22 You’ve Got To — Accentuate The Positronic

(1) SMACK IN THE MIDDLE (EARTH) WITH YOU. Amazon Prime put out “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” main teaser today.

Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(2) WESTERCON COVID TALLY. Westercon 74, held in Tonopah, asked that any person who contracted COVID-19 during the con or for one week following send them an email so they could track any outbreak.  Kevin Standlee reports that at the end of the week 11 members reported positive COVID-19 tests. That represents 7% of the members who picked up their badges and attended the convention. The contact reports by those who gave permission to have their information published are at http://westercon74.org/covid/.

(3) STOKING THE FLAMES. LitReactor interviewed Bram Stoker Awards administrator James Chambers to find out “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Bram Stoker Awards® | LitReactor

Each year there’s an official Stoker reading list. I have used this list a lot both to make recommendations and to read recommended works. A few questions about the list: Is it open for public viewing?

Yes, a public version of the list for works published in 2022 is available here. Members recommend works they think merit consideration for a Bram Stoker Award, and we share their selections with the public. It’s a great resource for anyone looking for reading suggestions or wondering what’s new that year. Libraries sometimes refer to this list to make book selections for their patrons. Anyone, HWA member or not, can view this record of horror publishing from year to year. Last year’s list is available here.

Who is allowed to recommend books to the list?

Any member of the HWA in good standing may recommend books….

(4) GETTING TO KNOW YOU. Kelley Armstrong discusses the historical research she did for her time travel mystery A Rip Through Time in “Adventures in Writing Time Travel” at CrimeReads.

…I decided to try a time-travel mystery… with a modern detective, transported into the body of a housemaid working for an undertaker-turned-early-forensic-scientist in 1869 Edinburgh. That meant researching domestic service, undertaking, law enforcement, medicine, forensics and so much more, all of it in Scotland while most of the resources are English.

I quickly learned that secondary resources aren’t necessarily reliable. I spent the first quarter of the book referring to my local police detective as Inspector McCreadie, based on secondary sources that insisted that was the proper title in both England and Scotland. Then I started poring over firsthand police accounts and contemporary newspapers, only to discover the correct title was Detective….

(5) PUPPY PUPPETRY [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming discusses a new musical version of 101 Dalmatians, which is playing at the Open Air Theatre (openairtheatre.com) in Regent’s Park through August 28.  She interviews the theatre’s artistic director, Timothy Sheader.

“There is the matter of 101 spotty dogs. And that’s before you get to the canine alliance that springs into action to rescue the stolen pups.  A pack of hounds on stage, park or no park, seems inadvisable, so while there might be a fleeting glimpse of a real puppy–‘things may get changed in previews,’ says Sheader — the vast majority of dog action will be down to puppets and children — ‘We have 96 puppets, four children, and a dog.’

For Sheader, puppets are not just a practical solution:  they also invite you to identify with the dogs.  ‘What the cartoon does brilliantly is what the novel does:  it manages to be from the perspective of the dogs,’ he says. ‘And when you go to (actual) dogs that can’t talk, they get sidelined.  We have managed to control the dogs like the cartoon. What I like about puppetry is the invitation to an audience to use their imaginations.'”

(6) A FAMILY TRADITION. “Long before Frank Oz brought many Muppets to life, his father, an amateur Dutch puppeteer, made a Hitler marionette as an act of defiance. He buried it during the war.” “The Saga of a World War II Ancestor of Miss Piggy, Bert and Yoda” in the New York Times.

A marionette of Hitler that was created in the 1930s as an instrument of parody by Frank Oz’s father, Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz, will be displayed at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.via Frank Oznowicz, Jenny Oznowicz and Ronald Oznowicz; Jason Madella

The puppet stands 20 inches tall, hand-painted and carved out of wood, its uniform tattered and torn. But for all it has endured over more than 80 years — buried in a backyard in Belgium at the outset of World War II, dug up after the war and taken on a nine-day cross-Atlantic journey, stored and almost forgotten in an attic in Oakland, Calif. — it remains, with its black toothbrush mustache and right arm raised in a Nazi salute, immediately and chillingly recognizable.

It is a depiction of Hitler, hand-carved and painted in the late 1930s by an amateur Dutch puppeteer, Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz, and clothed by his Flemish wife, Frances, as they lived in prewar Belgium.

The Hitler marionette, an instrument of parody and defiance, offers an intriguing glimpse into the strong puppetry tradition in the family of the man who retrieved it from that attic: Frank Oz, one of its creators’ sons, who went on to become one of the 20th century’s best-known puppeteers, bringing Cookie Monster, Bert, Miss Piggy and others to life through his collaborations with Jim Henson, and later becoming a force in the Star Wars movies, giving voice to Yoda. The marionette will be shown publicly for the first time later this month at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco….

(7) CHECKED OUT FOR GOOD. A local library is a casualty of the culture wars. “What’s Happening With The Vinton Public Library” asks the Iowa Starting Line.

Residents of a small Iowa town criticized their library’s LGBTQ staff and their displaying of LGBTQ-related books until most of the staff quit. Now, the town’s library is closed for the foreseeable future.

After having the same library director for 32 years, the Vinton Public Library can’t seem to keep the position filled anymore. Since summer 2021, the Vinton Public Library has gone through two permanent directors and an interim director who has served in that role twice. 

Located about 40 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, the doors of the Vinton Public Library—housed in a brick and stone Carnegie—have been open to the public since 1904, but were shuttered on Friday, July 8, while the Vinton Library Board tries to sort out staffing issues seemingly brought on by local dalliances with the national culture wars….  

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Muppets in Space which premiered on this day was the first film released after the death of Jim Henson. As such, it came with great hope and quite a few individuals expected it to, well, fail as it didn’t have the magic of Jim Henson in it. 

It was written by written by Jerry Juhl, Joseph Mazzarino, and Ken Kaufman. Juhl wrote every Muppets films that had been done as well as the chief writer on The Muppets, Mazzarino was the chief writer on Head Writer and Director on Sesame Street.  So serious writing creds here. Well excepting Kaufman who had none.

SPOILERS HERE! 

The plot is an SF one with Gonzo being told by a pair of cosmic knowledge fish, that he is an alien from outer space. Yes, I’m serious as he really as we will see an entire ship full of gonzo beings. Now having said that very weird tidbit, I’m not going to say another word about the story.

SPOILERS END!

One of the co-writers, Mazzarino. has repeatedly said that he left the film before shooting started, due to changes made to his draft of the screenplay. He said that his draft included parodies of AlienContact and  Men in Black but most of that got removed on the request of the studio. 

Reception was decidedly mixed. Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune said, “Muppets from Space is just not very good.” However, Robin Rauzi of the Los Angeles Times exclaimed “The magic is back.” Frank Oz, who was not there for the filming, kvetched that it was “not the movie that we wanted it to be.”   

Indeed, it lost money, not much, as it made just about two million less than the twenty-four that it cost to make.   

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent sixty-three percent rating.   

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 14, 1906 Abner J. Gelula. One of the many authors* of Cosmos, a serialized novel that appeared first in Science Fiction Digest in July 1933 and then has a really complicated publication that I won’t detail here. It was critiqued as “the world’s most fabulous serial,” “one of the unique stunts of early science fiction,” and conversely “a failure, miserable and near-complete.” The entire text, chapter by chapter, can be read here. [*To be precise, Earl Binder, Otto Binder. Arthur J. Burks, John W. Campbell, Jr., Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Ralph Milne Farley, Francis Flagg, J. Harvey Haggard, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller, M.D., Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, P. Schuyler Miller, Bob Olsen, Raymond A. Palmer, E. Hoffmann Price and Edward E. Smith. Gulp!] (Died 1985) 
  • Born July 14, 1910 William Hanna. American animator, voice actor, cartoonist, and who was the co-creator with Joseph Barbera of Tom and Jerry as well as the creator of the animation studio and production company Hanna-Barbera. He’s also responsible for The Flintstones and Jetsons. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 14, 1926 Harry Dean Stanton. My favorite genre role for him? The tarot card player in them video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding.  He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 14, 1943 Christopher Priest, 79. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders (both of which won BSFAs) and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound?  What would you add in? 
  • Born July 14, 1964 Jane Espenson, 58. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 (2003) for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 (2012) for Game of Thrones, season one. She was on the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica.
  • Born July 14, 1966 Brian Selznick, 56. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a traveling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre. His next work, Kaleidoscopic, due out this autumn looks to just as fantastic. 
  • Born July 14, 1987 Sara Canning, 35. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events, Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, she also appeared in Once Upon a TimeWar for the Planet Of The ApesAndroid EmployedSupernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Some JWST humor from Shane Bevin.

(11) NARRATIVE HOOK. Molly Odintz interviews Liz Michalski “Liz Michalski On Peter Pan, Motherhood, and the Meaning of Perpetual Youth” at CrimeReads.

In Darling Girl, Wendy Darling was merely the first of many generations of women to be visited by the perpetually youthful Pan. Is this a stand-in for generational trauma?

I was thinking more along the lines of the Me Too movement and what a struggle it has been for women to be heard. Peter Pan’s story has been told for years — now it’s the turn of the Darling women.

(12) USUAL THINGS. Once again – don’t let people work con security who want to work con security: “’Stranger Things’ Fans Brought Joseph Quinn to Tears After Security Yelled at Him for Speaking to Them”Yahoo! relays the latest example why.

Stranger Things” breakout Joseph Quinn broke down in tears during a recent appearance at London Film and Comic Con. The actor, who became an instant fan favorite thanks to his performance as Hellfire Club leader Eddie on the fourth season of the Netflix series, couldn’t hold tears back after a fan stood up to thank him for sharing his time with fans.

Reports surfaced on social media during London Film and Comic Con that security hounded Quinn for interacting with fans for too long while signing memorabilia (via BuzzFeed). The event reportedly oversold tickets to Quinn’s meet-and-greet, and thus wanted to filter guests in and out quickly. Quinn apparently was chatting with his fans for longer than security would have liked.

“The way Joseph Quinn was treated at LFCC is fucking disgusting,” one attendee wrote on social media “Staff fully yelled at him to shut the fuck up and to just sign and not to interact with fans [because] they over sold and couldn’t get all people seen.”

During a larger Q&A session with Quinn, one fan stood up and said, “Mine’s not really a question, it’s just more an extension of gratitude. A lot of us have heard of what happened yesterday, whether it’s true or not, about how you were treated. I really want to say, we’re really grateful that you’re sharing your time. Thank you for signing our things, for spending time with us and making our summer.”

(13) OVERDRAWN AT THE BLADE BANK. “House of the Dragon Iron Throne prop had to borrow swords” says SYFY Wire.

We regret to inform you that the supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 health crisis have finally reached Westeros. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly for a lengthy feature about the upcoming House of the Dragon (premiering on HBO and HBO Max late next month), co-showrunner, executive producer, and series director Miguel Sapochnik estimated that around 2,500 swords were used to build the show’s interpretation of the coveted Iron Throne.

Construction on this prop required so many blades, in fact, that the Game of Thrones prequel was forced to borrow a few sabres from other fantasy projects like Netflix’s The Witcher and Duncan Jones’ Warcraft movie.

The resultant amalgamation of steel representing the epicenter of Targaryen power isn’t just a harmless bit of set dressing — it could actually take an eye out. “Literally we had to put [up] fences when we first built it,” Sapochnik revealed. “Some of them are real swords. It is as dangerous as it is [described] in the books.” While the crew could have gotten away with recycling the Iron Throne created for GoT, they decided to build something that felt more accurate to the one described in the books penned by George R.R. Martin.

(14) ALTERNATIVE TO RUSSIAN LAUNCHER. “Successful debut flight for Europe’s Vega-C rocket” reports BBC News.

The medium-lift vehicle was sent up from French Guiana to deliver seven satellites to orbit, the largest of which will test Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Vega-C has enormous importance for Europe’s continued access to space.

It’s needed to fill a big gap in capability now that Russian rockets are no longer available because of the war in Ukraine.

The withdrawal from the market of Moscow’s Soyuz launchers earlier this year left European institutional and commercial satellites scrambling for alternative rides.

Vega-C will be the obvious option for many, although even before Wednesday’s successful maiden flight, the new Italian-led rocket system was fully booked through 2023, 2024 and 2025.

And there’s a further reason why Vega-C’s entry into the launcher business is critical. Its first stage, the segment of the vehicle that gets it up off the ground, is also going to be used on Europe’s forthcoming heavy-lift rocket, the Ariane-6.

Sharing the stage technology across both launcher systems is expected to lead to significant cost savings…

(15) THIRD FIFTH. The Season 5 teaser for The Handmaid’s Tale dropped today.

In Season 5, June faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford while struggling to redefine her identity and purpose. The widowed Serena attempts to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada. Commander Lawrence works with Aunt Lydia as he tries to reform Gilead and rise in power. June, Luke, and Moira fight Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah.

(16) SPLISH SPLASH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It could be Waterworld Part II  if Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, et al. were anime characters. (Well, I hope I’m mistaken.): “Netflix’s ‘Drifting Home’ trailer introduces a mysterious, water-filled anime world”. Available to stream on September 16.

…The film follows two childhood friends who go to play in the now-abandoned apartment building where they grew up, only to suddenly find themselves floating through a watery world with their old neighbourhood no longer in sight.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Stranger Things (Season 4),” the Screen Junkies say that Stranger Things has run out of Stephen King material to copy, so they’re riffing off of heavy metal album covers and ’90s movies.  The character David Harbour plays “should be dead.  But someone wanted David Harbour tortured–a lot.”  And what rocker in the ’80s preferred Kate Bush to Lynyrd Skynyrd?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEMORY LANE

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

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

BEWARE! SPOILERS! I MEAN IT! 

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

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

END SPOILERS

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/15/22 Is That A Real Pixel, Or Is That A Sears Pixel

(1) WISCON NEWS. Today’s “#SaveWisCon Update” has its ups and downs:

We are making AMAZING progress on our work to #SaveWisCon, thanks to your help!

      • We have now raised just over $32,000 in donations of which $30,000 will be matched, for a total of $62,000 raised to support WisCon! This is absolutely incredible, and we are so grateful for everyone who contributed and helped spread the word.
      • 70 people have completed our Volunteer Interest Form to help out with pre-con volunteering. Thank you all!
      • We’ve gained 252 new email newsletter subscribers since November, which is helping us make sure everyone gets the latest con news and updates. Not getting the newsletter? You can sign up here.
      • We have a total of 418 registrations (in-person and online). Our goal is 1,000! Please registerand tell your friends about WisCon, too.

PLUS we are receiving a total of $5,500 in grants from:

We deeply appreciate their support and encourage everyone to learn more about these excellent organizations.

Thanks to your donations and these grants, we’re at roughly $67,000 in total funds raised!

Is this the end of #SaveWisCon fundraising? Are we just done now, forever?

Well…probably not, y’all, for a couple of reasons…

The two main reasons are: (1) It’s “basically impossible” for them to book enough rooms to meet their contract so they will owe a big penalty. That’s an effect of the pandemic and people’s assessment of the risk of in-person events. (2) They have sold only a fraction of the 500 online memberships that are an expected revenue source.

(2) NOT A SWEET SOUND IN THEIR EARS. Appropriate to April 15, the usual income tax filing day in the U.S. (although not in 2022, when it’s April 18), the SFWA Blog posted this: “SFWA Alert: Tax Guidance for Audible/ACX Royalties Reporting”.

…Audible/ACX’s New Tax Reporting Policy: What Authors Should Know

As of January 1, 2021, authors who publish their own audiobooks on ACX and use ACX producers must now declare the producers’ portion of the royalties as income and then deduct those payments as business expenses when they file their taxes.  This is because Audible/ACX now reports all of the net earnings from ACX audiobooks on the authors’ 1099-MISC forms, including the earnings it paid over to producers, as the authors’ royalty earning. It has also stopped issuing 1099-MISCs to producers and instead now issues 1099-Ks to producers that meet the income threshold.

With these new accounting practices, Audible/ACX is treating the payments it makes to voice actors, audiobook producers, and studio pros (collectively referred to as Producers in the agreements) as part of the royalties payable to the authors (referred to as Rights Holders in the agreements)—on the notion that it is the authors, not Audible/ACX, who hire the Producers and owe the Producers a share of their own royalties as compensation for recording the book. The new structure makes clear that Audible/ACX is limiting its role to that of a third-party payment settlement service, even though it makes the Producers’ services available to their authors, sets the terms of that engagement (a 50/50 royalty split), and is the one to send payment to the Producers….

(3) MOURNING STAR. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Last night’s episode of Young Sheldon starts with the momentous news, related by the young version of Sheldon Cooper, that Isaac Asimov has died. (Which happened in 1992.) His parents are monumentally dismissive, but others not as much. I can honestly state that more Asimov works are mentioned there than on any other TV show, ever.

All I can say is, hilarity ensues!

It’s Series 5, Episode 18, “Babies, Lies and a resplendent Cannoli,” with the description on my TV, “Sheldon copes with the death of a hero; Missy wants to babysit; Georgie struggles with a big secret.”

Likely available On Demand.

(4) THE ANSWER IS 47. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews The 47th, a Shakespearean pastiche by Mike Bartlett about the 2024 presidential election which is playing at the Old Vic Theatre (oldvictheatre.com) through May 28. (I reviewed Bartlett’s previous near-future Shakespearean pastiche, King Charles III, here in 2017 “King Charles III”: A Review”.)

(5) RINGO AWARDS 2022 NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards return for their sixth year on Saturday, October 29, 2022 as part of The Baltimore Comic-Con. The Ringo Awards include fan participation in the nomination process along with a jury of comics professionals. Fans are welcome to nominate until June 30 at the website here.

Fan and Pro Nominations: Fan and pro-jury voting are tallied independently, and the combined nomination ballot is compiled by the Ringo Awards Committee. The top two fan choices become nominees, and the jury’s selections fill the remaining three slots for five total nominees per category. Ties may result in more than five nominees in a single category. Nominees will be listed on the ballot alphabetically. Nomination ballot voting is open to the public (fans and pros) between April 15, 2022 and June 30, 2022.

Final Ballot Voting: After processing by the Ringo Awards Committee and Jury, the Final Ballots are targeted to be available to comic creative professionals for voting on August 31, 2022 and will be due by September 28, 2022 for final tallying. Presentation of the winners will occur at the Baltimore Comic-Con on the evening of Saturday, October 29, 2022.

(6) NO VIVIAN IN 2022. The Romance Writers of America have postponed the next Vivian Award to 2023. The announcement was made last October – but it was news to me. The decision came in the aftermath of RWA rebranding its annual award (formerly the Rita), and the organization’s decision to rescind one of the inaugural Vivian Awards.

In an effort to provide the VIVIAN Task Force the time needed to thoroughly examine the 2021 VIVIAN contest, the RWA Board has approved the task force’s recommendation to postpone the 2022 VIVIAN Contest. This postponement will give the task force time to conduct a thorough analysis of the inaugural contest and make recommendations for changes to be implemented for the 2023 contest period. Under normal circumstances, our contest period begins in October with marketing and advertising campaigns followed by the recruitment and training of judges and accepting contest entries. However, the Board recognizes that the VIVIAN Task Force needs more than a couple of weeks to break down all aspects of the contest to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses outside of those revealed this year.

(7) LANGELLA OUT OF USHER. Yahoo! reports“Frank Langella Fired From ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ After Netflix Investigation”.

Veteran actor Frank Langella has been fired from Mike Flanagan’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” following a Netflix investigation that found Langella acted inappropriately on set, a source close to the production confirmed to TheWrap on Wednesday evening.

Netflix had no comment on the situation and a rep for Flanagan did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

TMZ reported on Tuesday that Netflix was looking into allegations that the 84-year-old had been accused of sexual harassment, including making inappropriate comments to a female co-star on the set of the limited series….

(8) OH GIVE ME A HOME, WHERE THE PORTAL HAS COME. A new sf western begins today on Amazon Prime: Outer Range.

Outer Range centers on Royal Abbott (Josh Brolin), a rancher fighting for his land and family, who discovers an unfathomable mystery at the edge of Wyoming’s wilderness. A thrilling fable with hints of wry humor and supernatural mystery, Outer Range examines how we grapple with the unknown. At the onset of the series, the Abbotts are coping with the disappearance of daughter-in-law Rebecca. They are pushed further to the brink when the Tillersons (the gaudy owners of the neighboring profit-driven ranch) make a play for their land. An untimely death in the community sets off a chain of tension-filled events, and seemingly small-town, soil-bound troubles come to a head with the arrival of a mysterious black void in the Abbotts’ west pasture. Wild revelations unfold as Royal fights to protect his family; through his eyes, we begin to see how time contains secrets held in the past and unsettling mysteries foreshadowed.

(9) CHRISTINE ASHBY OBIT. Australian fan Christine Ashby, the 1976 Down Under Fan Fund delegate, died at her home on March 29. She was 70 years of age. In 1976 DUFF she attended that year’s Worldcon, MidAmeriCon. Her trip report, The Flight of the Kangaroo, was published about a decade later.

(10) ESSAY: JO WALTON’S SMALL CHANGE TRILOGY. [By Cat Eldridge,] Doing alternate history right is always hard work, but Jo Walton’s  the Small Change books consisting of  Farthing, Ha’penny and Half a Crown get it perfectly spot on. Set as you know in Britain that settled for an uneasy peace with Hitler’s Germany, they are mysteries, one of my favorite genres. And these are among my all-time favorite mysteries of this sort. 

The audiobooks are fascinating as befitting that there being shifting narrators with Peter Carmichael whose presence in all three novels is voiced by John Keating, and Bianco Amato voicing David Kahn’s wife in Farthing, but Viola Lark being played by Heather O’Neil in Ha’penny and yet a third female narrator, Elvira, is brought to life by Terry Donnelly in Half a Crown

Now I’m fascinated by what awards they won (and didn’t) and what they got nominated for. It would win but one award, the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel for Ha’Penny which is I find a bit odd indeed given there’s nothing libertarian about that novel. 

Now Half a Crown wracked an impressive number of nominations: the Sidewise Award for Best Long Form Alternate History, Locus for Best SF Novel, Sunburst award for a Canadian novel, and this time deservedly so given the themes of the final novel a Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel.

Farthing had picked up nominations for a Sidewise, a Nebula, Campbell Memorial, Quill where Ha’Penny only picked a Sidewise and Lambda.

Not a single Hugo nomination which really, really surprised me. 

There is one short story set in this series, “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” which you can read in her Starlings colllection that Tachyon published. It is is a fantastic collection of her stories, poems and cool stuff! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1918 Denis McLoughlin. No, he didn’t do any genre work that you’d know of. (And I’m not interested in it anyways. This is not about a genre artist.) His greatest fame came from work doing hard-boiled detective book covers produced for the London publishing house of Boardman Books spanning a career that lasted nearly eight decades with other work as well. And oh what covers they were!  Here’s is his cover for Adam Knight’s Stone Cold Blonde, and this is Henry Kanes’…Until You’re Dead. Finally let’s look at his cover for Fredric Brown’s We All Killed Grandma.  He was in perfect health when he took a revolver from his extensive collection of weapons and committed suicide. No note was left behind. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 15, 1922 Michael Ansara. Commander Kang  in Trek’s “The Day of The Dove” as well as a lot of other genre work including a recurring role as Kane on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, multiple roles on I Dream of Jeannie andmyriad voicings of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in the Batman series. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 15, 1926 Jerry Grandenetti. In my opinion, his greatest work was as the illustrator who helped defined the look of The Spirit that Will Eisner created. He also worked at DC, mostly on war comics of which there apparently way more than I knew (All-American Men of WarG.I. CombatOur Army at War, Our Fighting Forces and Star Spangled War Stories) though he did work on the House of Mystery and Strange Adventures series as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 15, 1959 Emma Thompson, 63. Professor Sybill Trelawney, Harry Potter franchise. Men in Black 3 and Men in Black: International as Agent O, I am LegendNanny McPhee and the Big BangThe Voyage of Doctor Dolittle as Polynesia, the extraordinary Tony Kushner derived HBO series Angels in AmericaBeauty and the Beast as Mrs. Potts, the castle’s motherly head housekeeper who has been transformed into a teapot, BraveBeautiful Creatures and Treasure Planet voicing Captain Amelia. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 48. [Item by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He has two novels in his Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Chicon 7.
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 25. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, an immortal Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, “The Woman Who Lived”, “Face the Raven” and “Hell Bent” during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She was also Lucy in the Netflix SF iBoy. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants, due for release sometime, well who knows, as it keeps getting delayed. 

(12) HEROS AND STINKERS. Here’s a research project that will amuse (or bemuse) you: “All The Hobbits From Lord Of The Rings Ranked Worst To Best”. Looper ranks 18 of them.

… There are a lot of hobbits in “Lord of the Rings.” So many, in fact, that we’ve decided to round them all up into a good ol’ worst-to-best ranking. After all, what good is this iconic race of hole-dwellers if we can’t subjectively compare them to each other? Here are all of the hobbits who play at least a minor role in the story, ranked by a general conglomeration of heroics, accomplishments, humor, toughness, and overall importance to Tolkien’s world….

16. Ted Sandyman is a pathetic excuse for a Hobbit

…While he plays a similar part in the book, Sandyman’s role is a bit bigger on-page. He’s in a lengthy scene in “The Fellowship of the Ring” where he verbally spars with Sam, rebutting his romantic notions of the world. Then he reappears at the end of “The Return of the King,” where it’s revealed that he’s gone over to the dark side, helping Saruman’s minions overrun the Shire and turn it into an industrialized police state….

Ted Sandyman is eventually put in his place, but during his time in the story he proves to be nothing more than a troublemaking bully who runs at the first site of trouble. To the bottom of the list he goes…

(13) WE’RE DOOMED, DOOMED! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An analysis announced by Nature this week reveals that even if all the agreed actions from last November’s COP26 UN climate change summit were implemented global temperatures could not be kept below the target 1.5°C warming.

The researchers say that to meet this target we are going to have to actively remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Personally, having studied climate change for some decades now, I am all too aware of the difficulties. Indeed, back in 2009 I posted an online essay that concluded it would be difficult to keep warming below 2°C.

Since 2009, there has been a growing body of research pointing in the same direction, of which this Nature paper is but the latest.

Quantifications of the pledges before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) suggested a less than 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius…

Limiting warming not only to ‘just below’ but to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius urgently requires policies and actions to bring about steep emission reductions this decade, aligned with mid-century global net-zero CO2 emissions.

(14) REPEAT AFTER ME. If you have eight minutes to spare you can watch a “Giant ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Supercut” with every appearance of the Vulcan phrase in every Star Trek series. Nerdist gives a rundown —

…This montage (which we first saw at Laughing Squid) includes all the times someone said that phrase, from the franchise’s first days to right now. Characters first told others to “live long and prosper” on the original cast’s show, animated series, and movies. Since then Star Trek characters in The Next Generation, First Contact, Voyager, Enterprise, Lower Decks, and Prodigy have said the phrase, too.

(Uh, can we go back and edit one into Deep Space Nine? Now that we know zero characters ever said the Vulcan salute, it seems weird, right?)

(15) MIXED MEDIA. Daniel Greene’s “Best of the Year 2021” rankings are unusual in that he includes written as well as filmed media, so there’s some nice shout-outs for several notable SF/Fantasy printed works in here.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on the Snyder cut in this video, which dropped Thursday. “How The Snyder Cut Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Irwin Hirsh, Joyce Scrivner, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/22 Earth, Be Glad! An April Scroll Is Born

(1) GAIMAN AND DORAN. The Guardian has made the full video of the livestream event with Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran available online now, introducing their new graphic novel Chivalry from Dark Horse Comics. In comic shops now, in bookstores next week.

(2) AS TIME GOES BY. Rachel Birenbaum, author of a time travel novel, discusses why time travel stories remain an important part of sf. “On Time Travel and Metafiction” at CrimeReads.

…Every iteration begins with rules. The author has to create their universe and dictate how long time travel lasts, how it’s done, how it might affect the protagonist physically, and more. Most tales send people hurtling forwards or backwards with orders not to affect anything but their target. While all the rules are different, the reason behind time travel is almost always the same: regret….

(3) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY. “LOTR Fitness Challenge Asks You To Walk From The Shire To Mordor To Rid Evil From The World”GameSpot has the details.

Looking to get in shape but need some extra motivation? A new gamified exercise program challenges players to log workouts in the real world as they virtually follow The Lord of the Rings characters Frodo and Sam from The Shire to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.

The Conqueror Virtual Challenges has teamed up with Warner Bros. for a new series of five virtual challenges based on The Lord of the Rings movies. Anyone can take part in exercises of varying lengths, with the ultimate goal of making it all the way to Mordor to destroy the ring.

The Conqueror Challenges app has been updated with a Middle-earth map that has five challenges to unlock: The Shire, The Fellowship, Mines of Moria, The Eye of Sauron, and the Mordor. Participants can run, cycle, swim, or walk to reach the set distance, and each stop has stories and postcards detailing Frodo and Sam’s journey. The distances are listed below….

(4) COUNT HIM OUT. “Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat ‘can confidently say’ he’s done showrunning”. Radio Times has quotes.

“I think I can confidently say I’m done showrunning Doctor Who,” Steven Moffat (who was in charge of Doctor Who from 2010 to 2017) told RadioTimes.com at the Radio Times Covers Party.

“Everyone can stop worrying. I did it for six seasons on the trot. And I cannot imagine going back into doing that. I cannot. I simply cannot picture it.”

He added: “I loved the show. I don’t want anyone to think I didn’t love the show. And I loved every second I spent on it, although some of them were hellish. But I’ve done that. I have done it and I did it a lot.

“So no offence and no disrespect and certainly no disdaining of wonderful memories. But no, I will not be showrunning Doctor Who again.”

(5) AN APPEAL TO AUTHORS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Russia has been using SF/F fiction for a few years now to promote propaganda against Ukraine.

Even back in 2006 at the Eurocon in Ukraine it was possible to see how Russian publishing dominated over Ukrainian in that country. However, since then Russian propaganda against Ukraine has appeared in fiction including fantasy.

For example Eduard Limonov in Kyiv Kaput has written an alternate universe history of Ukraine that ends up predicting events in the future.

Mockups Design

Chytomo – the Ukrainian publishing news site – has created a pie chart of Russian publishers and the number of such propaganda books they publish.

Western writers may wish to note — once all this ghastly business is over — who these publishers are and avoid them translating western works. The chart is here.

Ukranian fan Borys Sydiuk also commented, “This is an important article, it explains why we ask authors not to provide foreign rights to Russian publishers.” “50 propaganda books against Ukraine and incitement to hatred against Ukrainians from Russian publishers” at Chytomo.

…Another problem was propaganda.

 Since 2009, Russia has been actively publishing books on the war between Russia and Ukraine in the «fantasy» genre, as well as «historical» and nonfiction literature about the «collapse of the Ukraine project» and mocking the independence of the «non-existent» Ukrainian people, «artificial» Ukrainian language.

These books can be easily found on the Internet for purchase and in services for open access books. In addition, children’s books began to offer more and more poems about the «great Russian army» that was coming to free everyone. 

The import of books from Russia was limited in 2017 due to their aggressive content. Only books with anti-Ukrainian printed materials were restricted, such as publications aimed at eliminating Ukraine’s independence, promoting violence, inciting ethnic, racial, religious animosity, carrying out terrorist attacks, and violating human rights and freedoms. The State Committee of television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine was entrusted with the functions of examination and issuance of permits.

The State Committee of television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine processed more than 45,000 applications during this period: issued 39,416 permits to import  publishing products, 5,275 refusals and revoked  2,227 previously issued permits.

Among the publications not allowed on the territory of Ukraine, many publications belong to authors who have been included in the lists of persons who pose a threat to national security — in particular, Zakhar Prilepin, Alexander Dugin and Alexander Tamonikov. The latter is «famous» because the list of anti-Ukrainian publications includes 20 of his works at once, not just with propaganda elements, but those whose sole purpose is to incite hatred against Ukraine and Ukrainians.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1978 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Much to my surprise, forty-four years ago a series called Quark aired as mid-season replacement on NBC. Why surprises me is that it only lasted eight episodes. I swear I remember it lasting longer than that. 

It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. It was co-produced by David Gerber who had been responsible for the series version of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (try not to hold that against him) and Mace Neufield who after being a talent agent for such acts as The Captain and Tennille became responsible for The Omen as the producer. 

The cast was Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson Richard Kelton Tricia Barnstable, Cyb Barnstable, Conrad Janis, Alan Caillou and Bobby Porter. The Barnstable twins got a lot of press, mostly for the fact that they didn’t wear much and really, really could not act. They previously appeared as the Doublemint Twins often with identical canines. I kid you not. 

Ok, so how is the reception? Oh you have to ask? Seriously? One reviewer summed it up this way: “Only lasting eight episodes, it is eight episodes too many. The idea of spoofing science fiction is a given and there are only a handful that get it right, but this is a spectacularly awful show.” And another said succinctly that “A viewer seeking something a little different may find the series entertaining, but low expectations are a must.” 

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It might be streaming on Crackle and Philo, two services that I’ve never heard of. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula like figure here, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull-faced Bombers here, and finally, the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship here. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of they would publish was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. He’s won two Retro Hugos, the first at Worldcon 76 (2018) for “The Twonky” short story, the second at Dublin 2019 for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve books and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many or even which ones that I read but I’m certain that it was quite a few as I really, really loved this series. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m equally sure there were other novels down the years. He was a 1996 Worldcon guest of honor at L.A.con III. It appears that only a handful of his novels are available from the usual suspects. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 83. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a redhead who was seriously into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of his include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that I’m betting almost no one here has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Another who died far, far too young. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award at Denvention Two. The Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. (He also did the Inspector Gadget film which I still haven’t seem.) He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that his four Oscars include a pair he won for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 71. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single “Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’s A Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000. (CE) 

(8) WORLD BUILDER. “How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (a review)” by Brenton Dickieson at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

…Thus, while Jemisin has become a leading figure, her influence and prestige have come through two decades of unrelenting commitment to sophisticated world-building, culturally rich, character-driven literary prose, and a remarkable capacity for experimental writing. This concentration of character-voice combined with a disciplined approach to speculative world-building appears in some of Jemisin’s best writing in How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?

The true Jemisin fan is going to be particularly thrilled to participate in some of her short story experiments that later become novels or full series. “The Narcomancer” has a tinge of a melancholy sweetness, a story of conscience and vocational risk that becomes part of the Dreamblood series (which I haven’t read yet). “Stone Hunger” was exciting for me to read, for I was privileged to see how Jemisin began to conceptualize the extremely complex character make-up of The Broken Earth Trilogy–and how deeply implicated the characters are in that universe with the speculative world itself. And “The City Born Great” has all the terrifying brilliance and bracing goodness of The City We Became–an experiment in allegorical fiction that I have argued (here and here) is more successful in this short story than in the full novel….

(9) THIS JUST IN. From the authors themselves: “Getcher new Lee & Miller news right here!”

Three Liaden Universe® titles to be released by Baen in 2023
Scout’s Progress will be reissued in a new mass market/ebook edition March 2023
Salvage Right* will be published in Summer 2023
Trade Lanes** will be published in Fall 2023

Liaden Universe® Constellations audiobook editions
Tantor Media will be releasing the first four Liaden Universe® Constellations, starting in June.  Go to this link, and click on the individual titles to preorder.

Trade Lanes audiobook edition
We are in contact with our publisher and hope to have news regarding the Trade Lanes audiobook edition soon.  As soon as we have it, you’ll have it.  Promise

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*Salvage Right is set on Tinsori Light after the events described in Neogenesis. The cast of characters includes, but is not limited to: Jen Sin yos’Phelium, Seignur Veeoni, Tocohl Lorlin, Lorith, Tolly Jones, Hazenthull nor’Phelium, Theo Waitley

**Fair Trade is the third book following the adventures of Jethri Gobelyn ven’Deelin, who made his first, admittedly awkward, bow in Balance of Trade; his second, somewhat more nuanced, in Trade Secret.

(10) ON STAGE AT CALTECH. A musical adaptation of Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon will be performed by Theater Arts at Caltech (TACIT) in Pasadena’s Ramo Auditorium on six times next week – see full details at the link.

From the Earth to the Moon

From the writers of the record-breaking Caltech musical Boldly Go! comes a fresh new science fiction musical based on the Jules Verne classic written in 1865. Gauntlets are thrown, headlines made, duels waged, and alliances put to the test in this dynamic imagining of spaceflight in the late nineteenth century directed by Brian Brophy.

…TACIT, as Theater Arts at Caltech is familiarly known, typically prepares and performs two or three plays each academic year. Recent productions include She Kills Monsters, Avenue Q, Rent, Company and many original projects.

Members of the Caltech community have the opportunity to learn all aspects of the theatrical craft—acting, stage crew, set construction, wardrobe, light and sound operation, properties, house management, and publicity—and to work with professionals in areas of theater design: set, light, sound, costume, and music. This is a hands-on approach, not classroom theory. It also provides an appreciation of the theatrical literature and exposure to the literature of many languages (in translation). 

(11) HOLY GUACAMOLE. The New York Times invites you to “Meet DALL-E, the A.I. That Draws Anything at Your Command”.

At OpenAI, one of the world’s most ambitious artificial intelligence labs, researchers are building technology that lets you create digital images simply by describing what you want to see.

They call it DALL-E in a nod to both “WALL-E,” the 2008 animated movie about an autonomous robot, and Salvador Dalí, the surrealist painter.

OpenAI, backed by a billion dollars in funding from Microsoft, is not yet sharing the technology with the general public. But on a recent afternoon, Alex Nichol, one of the researchers behind the system, demonstrated how it works.

When he asked for “a teapot in the shape of an avocado,” typing those words into a largely empty computer screen, the system created 10 distinct images of a dark green avocado teapot, some with pits and some without. “DALL-E is good at avocados,” Mr. Nichol said….

(12) HE’S NOT HEAVY, HE’S MY BOSON. The W boson is not bigger on the inside, but it’s bigger than anticipated: “’Huh, That’s Funny’: Physicists Delighted by New Measurement for the W Boson” reports Gizmodo.

A collaboration of hundreds of scientists have precisely measured the mass of the W boson, an elementary particle responsible for the weak nuclear force. The researchers found, to their surprise, that the boson is more massive than predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, the working theory that describes several of the fundamental forces in the universe….

(13) A BAD DAY IN NORTH DAKOTA A LONG TIME AGO. “Tanis: Fossil of dinosaur killed in asteroid strike found, scientists claim”. BBC News says the artifact will be seen in a Sir David Attenborough production to be broadcast April 15.

Scientists have presented a stunningly preserved leg of a dinosaur.

The limb, complete with skin, is just one of a series of remarkable finds emerging from the Tanis fossil site in the US State of North Dakota.

But it’s not just their exquisite condition that’s turning heads – it’s what these ancient specimens are purported to represent.

The claim is the Tanis creatures were killed and entombed on the actual day a giant asteroid struck Earth.

The day 66 million years ago when the reign of the dinosaurs ended and the rise of mammals began.

Very few dinosaur remains have been found in the rocks that record even the final few thousand years before the impact. To have a specimen from the cataclysm itself would be extraordinary.

The BBC has spent three years filming at Tanis for a show to be broadcast on 15 April, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Sir David will review the discoveries, many that will be getting their first public viewing.

Along with that leg, there are fish that breathed in impact debris as it rained down from the sky.

We see a fossil turtle that was skewered by a wooden stake; the remains of small mammals and the burrows they made; skin from a horned triceratops; the embryo of a flying pterosaur inside its egg; and what appears to be a fragment from the asteroid impactor itself….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George, in “Morbius Pitch Meeting,” a spoiler-filled episode, says that Dr. Michael Morbius drinks vampire bat blood which causes him to bulk up “like a Calvin Klein underwear model.” But the producer tells the screenwriter to add many more references to Spider-Man, Vulture, and other Marvel characters because “we’re in the MCU now” at Sony.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cleo Campion, Daniel Dern, Borys Sydiuk, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

So how was the reception at the time for it? 

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

Tell us about your site or zine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/22 Objects In The Scroll Are More Pixelated Than They Appear

(1) THE MASTER’S VOICE. “Hoard of the rings: ‘lost’ scripts for BBC Tolkien drama discoveredreports the Guardian. These artifacts of previously lost radio history include notes in Tolkien’s hand.

Decades before Peter Jackson directed his epic adaptations of The Lord of the RingsJRR Tolkien was involved with the first ever dramatisation of his trilogy, but its significance was not realised in the 1950s and the BBC’s audio recordings are believed to have been destroyed.

Now an Oxford academic has delved into the BBC archives and discovered the original scripts for the two series of 12 radio episodes broadcast in 1955 and 1956, to the excitement of fellow scholars.

Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece was dramatised by producer Terence Tiller, whose scribbled markings on the manuscript no doubt reflect his detailed discussions with the author in correspondence and meetings. Among the typed pages is a sheet in Tolkien’s hand, with red crossings-out, showing his own reworking of a scene….

(2) RED DOG AT MOURNING. Vanity Fair takes readers “Inside the Succession Drama at Scholastic, Where ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Clifford’ Hang in the Balance”, where the infighting continues over control of Scholastic after the death of longtime CEO Dick Robinson, which is now led by an executive who refuses to speak to the press.

The bleak grind of the pandemic had been wearing Dick Robinson down, just like everybody else. He’d been working long days in the near-empty SoHo Headquarters of Scholastic, the $1.2 billion corporation he ran, which his father founded more than 100 years ago. He was trying to keep the business powering on as schools shut down across the country, taking with them Scholastic’s legendary in-person bookfairs. He began spending weekends and holidays on Martha’s Vineyard, where he and his ex-wife Helen Benham had bought a place in the ’90s. The house in bucolic Chilmark still served as a retreat for Benham and their adult sons, Ben and Reece. One Friday last June, the exes talked late into the night about their plans for the family’s future together as well as for the company. The next day, during a ramble on the island’s Peaked Hill trails with Helen, Reece, and the family dog, Darla, Robinson collapsed from a stroke.

His sudden death was shocking, but then came another seismic surprise: Robinson had left controlling shares of the family company to a Canadian executive named Iole Lucchese, the company’s chief strategy officer and head of Scholastic Entertainment—and now, in the wake of his death, the chair of the board. With Peter Warwick as newly minted CEO, Lucchese would oversee a children’s media empire crammed with beloved (and lucrative) franchises like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Animorphs, and The Magic School Bus in an era when Hollywood eagerly devours literary properties to feed the ever-flowing streamers. A Wall Street Journal story aired plenty of dirty laundry about Scholastic’s “messy succession” and the ascendance of Lucchese, Robinson’s “former girlfriend,” who had also inherited all of Robinson’s personal possessions. Robinson’s two sons began to consider contesting the will.

While Scholastic publicly closed ranks around Lucchese, a protective corporate force field, current and veteran employees privately traded bewildered gossip. The executive suites had already been gladiatorial, people said, with shifting alliances and backstabbing betrayals more suited to Game of Thrones than a wholesome children’s media company. Now, they argued over whether Lucchese was suited to the job, whether she could keep the place from being chopped up or sold off. And they pondered the shadow Robinson’s personal life had cast over the innovative, far-reaching business he had built around his deeply felt mission to get children to read books.

“It’s worse than a normal death because of the sense of betrayal that everybody’s feeling,” says a longtime former employee. “A big mistake is what it was.”…

(3) NO SAINT. A new critical biography of Stephen Hawking is rebutted by a former student and friend, Bernard Carr, in “Underselling Hawking” at Inference.

STEPHEN HAWKING WAS an icon of twentieth-century science, renowned for both his contributions to physics and his inspiring battle against motor neuron disease. But four years after his death, Charles Seife’s Hawking Hawking paints a different picture. As indicated by its provocative title, this book is no hagiography. Seife disparages Hawking on three levels, arguing that his status as a great physicist has been exaggerated, cataloging his various personal failings, and suggesting that he was a genius at self-promotion, his iconic status being attributable to media manipulation.

As one of Hawking’s first PhD students and his friend for forty years, I do not share Seife’s views.

Although his status as a physicist was sometimes exaggerated by the media, Hawking was undoubtedly one of the brightest stars within the relativistic community. Indeed, his discovery of black-hole quantum radiation was one of the key insights of twentieth-century physics. Hawking certainly had his failings, as acknowledged by the people who loved and admired him the most, but it is misleading to elevate these above his strengths: his courage, sense of humor, and determination to live life to the full, despite the relentless progress of his illness….

(4) TWO MORE JOHN CARTER RETROSPECTIVES. “On its 10th anniversary, TheWrap goes inside the birth, death and rebirth of the sci-fi blockbuster” — “The Untold Story of Disney’s $307 Million Bomb ‘John Carter’: ‘It’s a Disaster’”.

…[Andrew] Stanton had been following the various iterations of “John Carter” for years. “That’s something I have spent my whole life wishing somebody would make, and when I was in the industry from maybe the ’90s on, if I ever heard even the slightest rumor it might get made, I would get all excited like a fanboy and go, I’ll be the first in line to go and see it,” Stanton said. “I never had the hubris to think that’s something I would want to do or could do.” But when the Favreau iteration fell apart, something stirred inside him. “It was one of those kismet moments where I’m like, It’s so crazy, it just might work, you know?”

Disney didn’t own the rights yet. But Stanton went to the top brass and made, as he says, “an impassioned plea.”

“I had nothing to lose because it wasn’t like I had to do this in the sense of I have no career or that I needed the next paycheck or something like that,” Stanton said. Instead, he told the execs, “I think these things are about to fall into public domain and I think you could reinterpret them to be something that could be digested today.” Stanton was envisioning a classic tale for modern audiences. “I remember saying, ‘Fine if I don’t make it, but you should be the ones making it,’” Stanton said. “And I meant it. I thought it had the potential to just be a big franchise.”…

“John Carter director Andrew Stanton reveals for the first time his plans for the opening scenes of the abandoned sequel, titled Gods of Mars” – “Cancelled John Carter 2 Story Revealed By Director” at Screen Rant.

…Stanton goes on to reveal that Carter arriving on Mars is actually later than the prologue would have audiences believe, and Deja has gone missing. He also compares the film’s plot to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, showing how the Therns control the whole planet. The opening description does align with the second novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs series, The Gods of Mars. Stanton has previously revealed the title of the second film would be Gods of Mars, and the third film would have been titled Warlord of Mars, yet this is the first time the writer and director has shared any major details about the sequel films….

(5) IN THEIR OWN WORDS. “An Urgent Mission for Literary Translators: Bringing Ukrainian Voices to the West” – the New York Times tells how it’s being accomplished.

As Russian forces breached the border with Ukraine late last month, Kate Tsurkan issued an urgent call for help on social media.

Tsurkan, a translator who lives in Chernivtsi, a city in western Ukraine, wanted to give international readers a glimpse of what ordinary Ukrainians are experiencing — and to counter President Vladimir V. Putin’s claim that Ukraine and Russia “are one people” by highlighting Ukraine’s distinct literary and linguistic heritage.

What she needed, she said, was to get Ukrainian writers published in English. She needed translators.

The response was swift and overwhelming: Messages poured in from translators and writers like Jennifer Croft, Uilleam Blacker and Tetyana Denford, and from editors who wanted to polish and publish their work. As the war escalated, so did their effort. Soon, they had a dedicated group of literary translators — who often spend years working on books for small academic presses — speed translating essays, poems and wartime dispatches.

“We need to elevate Ukrainian voices right now,” said Tsurkan, an associate director at the Tompkins Agency for Ukrainian Literature in Translation, or Tault.

 (6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-one years ago today, The Andromeda Strain premiered. It was based off the novel by Michael Crichton. This novel had appeared in the New York Times Best Seller list, establishing Crichton as a genre writer. The screenplay was written by Nelson Gidding, whose previous genre work was his screenplay for The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Robert Wise directed, who you’ll no doubt recognize for his earlier work on West Side Story and The Sound of Music.

The primary cast was Arthur Hill as Dr. Jeremy Stone, James Olson as Dr. Mark Hall, David Wayne as Dr. Charles Dutton and Kate Reid as Dr. Ruth Leavitt. 

Produced on what was considered a high budget of six point five million, with special effects designed by Douglas Trumbull, it made a profit of six million in the States. 

So how did it fare among critics? Roger Ebert in his syndicated column at the time said of it that, “On the level of fiction, ‘The Andromeda Strain’ is a splendid entertainment that will get you worried about whether they’ll be able to contain that strange blob of alien green crystal.” And Kevin Maher of The Times was equally enthusiastic: “The Sound of Music director Robert Wise executed a spectacular volte-face with this sombre and painstakingly realistic scientific procedural about an alien micro-organism that threatens all life on Earth.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a seventy two rating. 

It was nominated for a Hugo at the first L.A. Con, the year A Clockwork Orange won.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough forty years after I studied it to see that much of his work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.)
  • Born March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. Though he’s best known for his work with Disney, for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not the least for Fantasia, and The Little Mermaid be it thirty years after his death, I’d be remiss not to note his early work illustrating such works as East of the Sun and West of the MoonHansel and Gretel and Andersen’s Fairy TalesEast of the Sun and West of the Moon Is my favorite work by him. (Died 1957.)
  • Born March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty-year period: The Great BeastThe Magic of Aleister CrowleyThe King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that is his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room!, the genesis of Soylent Green (a film which won a Hugo at DisCon II). It garnered a Nebula as well.  He was nominated for Hugos at Seacon for Deathworld, then at Chicon III for Sense Obligation, also known as Planet of the Damned.  I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? See our anniversary post on the Alex Cox animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero here. And he was named a SFWA Grand Master in 2009 — a outstanding honor indeed! (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Myrna Fahey. Though best known for her recurring role as Maria Crespo in Walt Disney’s Zorro, which I’ll admit is at best genre adjacent, she did have some genre roles in her brief life including playing Blaze in the Batman episodes of “True or False-Face” and “Holy Rat Race”. Her other genre appearances were on The Time Tunnel and Adventures of Superman. Cancer took her at just forty years. Damn it. (Died 1973.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 89. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series, who reprised her character in the TV movie Get Smart Again! (1989), and in a short-lived series in 1995 later also called Get Smart. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. She didn’t have that much of an acting career though she was in the pilot of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. It amazing how many performers guested on that show. 
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what a role it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs. (Died 2008.) 
  • Born March 12, 1960 Courtney B. Vance, 62. I know him best from Law & Order: Criminal Intent, in which he played A.D.A. Ron Carver, but he has some interesting genre roles including being Sanford Wedeck, the Los Angeles bureau chief of the FBI in the pilot of FlashForward, Miles Dyson: Cyberdyne Systems’ CEO who funds the Genisys project in Terminator Genisys, and The Narrator in Isle of Dogs. He had a recurring role in Lovecraft Country as George Freeman. He earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series nomination for that role.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) RED’S MOM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Domee Shi, director of Turning Red, which “is not only the first Pixar film to be solo-directed by a woman.  It also continues Pixar’s growth with personal stories along matrilineal lines.” “’Turning Red’ shows how Disney and Pixar movies are embracing mother-daughter relationships”.

…For “Turning Red,” Shi mined her own life for a story set in early-aughts Toronto, as 13-year-old Meilin “Mei” Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) rebels against the hovering control of her mother, Ming (Sandra Oh). The supernatural secret in this Chinese-Canadian family, though, is that Mei suddenly begins turning into a giant red panda when her emotions are inflamed.

“I was her,” says Shi, who is in her early 30s. “I was Mei when I was 13 — I was this dorky, confident, obsessive girl who thought she had her life under control. I was her mom’s little perfect daughter and then one day woke up, and everything changed: my body, my emotions, my relationship with my mom — I was fighting with her every day.”…

(10) PULP WARS. Lots of inside stuff the actor’s Star Wars career in this article based on his TV interviews: “Samuel L. Jackson says he didn’t ask for a ‘Pulp Fiction’ engraving on his ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber: ‘They did that because they loved me’” at Yahoo!

…During the interview on “The Graham Norton Show,” Jackson said he asked George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” for his fictional weapon to be purple so that he would be able to find himself in the battle scene in the second prequel movie, “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.”

“I said to George, ‘You think maybe I can get a purple lightsaber?'” Jackson said. “He’s like, ‘Lightsabers are green, or lightsabers are red.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I want a purple one. I’m like the second-baddest Jedi in the universe next to Yoda.’ He’s like, ‘Let me think about it.'”

The “Shaft” actor added: “And when I came back to do reshoots, he said, ‘I’m going to show you something. It’s already caused a shitstorm online.’ And he had the purple lightsaber, and I was like, ‘Yeah!'”

(11) HE’S EVEN STRANGER. Marvel explains Baron Mordo, nemesis of Doctor Strange in the comics.

Langston Belton explains how Baron Mordo becomes a villain and primary enemy of Doctor Strange by aligning himself with monsters of the multiverse like Dormammu, Mephisto, and more!

(12) A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] After initial calculations that showed a newly-discovered 230-foot asteroid will hit the Earth next year, we’ve been given a reprieve. The initial data looked bad, then the asteroid disappeared from view because its line of site was close to that of the bright Moon.

After a little while on pins and needles, additional data showed that it will miss in 2023 by over 5 million miles. That’s good, since it could’ve caused an explosion the size of the atomic bomb leveled Hiroshima. “230-foot wide asteroid initially expected to hit Earth in 2023 was false alarm” at USA Today.

… Astronomers had been concerned that there wasn’t enough time to prepare a defense system against the asteroid had it been on track to strike Earth. In November, NASA launched the DART system, which will seek to determine whether crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid could change its course. The spacecraft is expected to hit the asteroid moon of Didymos in September. 

(13) CATCH ‘EM ALL. If he didn’t feel sick before, he does now. “Georgia man gets 3 years in prison for spending nearly $60,000 in COVID-19 relief money on a Pokémon card” at Yahoo!

… 31-year-old Vinath Oudomsine has been sentenced to 36 months in prison after admitting he used nearly $60,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to buy a Pokémon card, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Oudomsine applied for a COVID-19 relief loan from the Small Business Administration, supposedly for an “entertainment services” business, and he received $85,000, prosecutors said. But he allegedly lied on the application and spent $57,789 of the relief money he received to buy a Charizard card.

Oudomsine was ordered to pay restitution of $85,000, and he was fined $10,000 and given three years of supervised release after his prison sentence is completed. He also agreed to forfeit the card….

(14) A TICK AWAY. J.G. Ballard discusses his fictions set “five minutes into the future” in the 2003 BBC profile hosted by Tom Sutcliffe.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Batman Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, says that The Batman is dark–so dark “They have one lightbulb per household” in Gotham City.  The next Batman movie, says the writer, will be so dark “we can show a completely black screen” and have the characters read a Batman audiobook to save money.  Also, in The Batman, while Batman is “dark and brooding” Bruce Wayne is “brooding and dark.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Jeffrey Smith, Alan Baumler, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, in creative conversation with Soon Lee.]

Lord of the Rings Super Bowl Commercial

Amazon Prime debuted its “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” teaser trailer during the Super Bowl which, if you were studiously avoiding the game as so many sf fans were proudly announcing in my feed, you may have missed. The series arrives on Prime Video on September 2.

Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness.

Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.