Pixel Scroll 12/11/22 Pixels Fluttering In A Scrolling Breeze

(1) ATWOOD Q&A. In the New York Times, “Margaret Atwood Offers Her Vision of Utopia”. “The pre-eminent writer of dystopian literature would build dome homes, wear mushroom leather and compost corpses.”

Margaret Atwood is one of the world’s foremost writers of dystopian literature, having imagined such worst-case horrors as a theocracy that forces fertile women to bear children for the rich (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and a bioengineered virus capable of eradicating humankind (“Oryx and Crake”).

But she is also a profound optimist and pragmatist. Despite real-life calamities like the worsening climate crisis and social inequality, Ms. Atwood often dreams of better futures. Shortly before she turned 83 last month, she taught an eight-week course, “Practical Utopias,” on Disco, an online learning platform in Canada.

About 190 students from 40 countries imagined how to rebuild society after a cataclysmic event — say, a pandemic or rising sea levels. Proposals for “real, better living plans that could actually work” (and “not sci-fi epics or fantasies,” the syllabus stated) included amphibious houses built on stilts, high-end cuisine from food waste, and lowering the voting age to 14 to bolster democracy.

Ms. Atwood, who taught the class from her home office in Toronto, surprised students by submitting her own vision for a post-apocalyptic community, called Virgule (“after the French word for comma, indicating a pause for breath,” she said)….

(2) THEY’RE THE MOST. Amal El-Mohtar names her eleven choices for “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2022” in the New York Times.

Completing a novel is a difficult feat in the best of times, and we haven’t had any of those in a while. Because publishing moves slowly, this year brought us several novels that were drafted or revised during the upheavals of 2020, only to be released into a very different world. I want to recognize and celebrate the many, many hands laboring to make books in the face of so many challenges: not only authors but editors, agents, artists, designers, typesetters, copy editors and publicists. Of all the books I read this year, the following stood out as the most accomplished, astonishing or a heady mix of both. They’re arranged in the order I read them….

(3) LA FILM CRITICS AWARDS. The list of winners of the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards 2022 is headed by Everything Everywhere All at Once which tied with the non-genre film Tár for Best Picture. Other winners of genre interest include:

  • Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once.
  • Best Production Design: Dylan Cole and Ben Procter, Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios)
  • Best Animation: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix)

(4) DOUBLE FEATURE. Dashboard Horus brings readers “Denise Dumar’s two poems: ‘Seeing the Comet’ and ‘My Father Walks to Siberia from Nome, Alaska’”. The verses are at the link. Here’s the introduction:

 Denise Dumars’s poem, “Snails,” is currently nominated for the Rhysling Award for short science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal, was nominated for the Elgin Award. She has three short stories coming out in anthologies in 2022, including the HWA anthology Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology. A retired literary agent and college English professor, she now writes full-time and helms Rev. Dee’s Apothecary: A New Orleans-Style Botanica, at www.DyanaAset.com….

(5) CHRIS BOUCHER (1943-2022). Actor Chris Boucher died December 11 reports Kaldor City News.

All of us at Magic Bullet are very sorry to hear of the death this morning of Chris Boucher, co-creator of Kaldor City, writer of Doctor Who: The Face of EvilThe Robots of Death, and The Image of the Fendahl, script editor of Blake’s 7; and creative stalwart of many other genres of television…. 

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2012 [By Cat Eldridge.] Agatha Christie Memorial 

The idea of creating the Agatha Christie Memorial which is called The Book was the idea of Mathew Prichard, her grandson, and Stephen Waley-Cohen, producer of The Mousetrap play since 1994.  They also were responsible for it actually coming into being. 

They identified the perfect location for it at St Martin’s Cross, a major road junction which is also the major pedestrian route from Leicester Square to Covent Garden, in the heart of London’s theatre district.  Not at all surprisingly, Westminster City Council gave formal consent.  

The Book The memorial was unveiled on 25 November 2012, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of The Mousetrap play, is, no surprise, in the form of a book, and is about eight feet high, bronze of course, and appears to float above its base. It is lit from below and from within. The center of it contains a larger than life sized bust of her.

She is surrounded by images of some of her creations, and information about her life and work.  The inscription on the front simply reads “Agatha / Christie / 1890–1976”. 

On The Book appear titles of some of her most popular and famous books and plays, in English and some of the many other languages into which her work has been translated. The titles included were chosen in a competition among her fans.

The sculptor was Ben Twiston-Davies who is now working on a life sized statue of her which will be erected in her hometown of Wallingford, in Oxfordshire, which is due to be unveiled in 2023.  

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing FriendsSpider-WomanThundarr the BarbarianFantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1937 Marshal Tymn. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. He wrote two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid-Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 11, 1944 Teri Garr, 78. A long history of genre film roles starting in Young Frankenstein as Inga before next appearing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as Ronnie Neary. Next is the horror film Witches’ Brew where she was Margaret Lightman. She voices Mary McGinnis in Batman Beyond: The Movie, a role she has does on a recurring basis in the series. Series wise, shows up uncredited in the Batman series in the “Instant Freeze” as the Girl Outside the Rink. And of course, she’s Roberta Lincoln in Star Trek’s “Assignment Earth” episode. She has a number of other genre roles, none as interesting as that one. 
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 65. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 63. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got stellar three collections to date, Map of DreamsHoliday and You Have Never Been Here, and two novels. I’ve not read her latest novel, The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie which follows her first novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it.
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 60. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode.  He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”, a Weird Western of sorts. I just discovered Farscape is streaming on Peacock. It appears they picked all of the Scifi channel offerings.
  • Born December 11, 1965 Sherrilyn Kenyon, 57. Best known for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now. I realize in updating this birthday note that I indeed have read several of these and they were damn good. She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor. She has won two World Fantasy Awards, one for her short story, “Journey Into the Kingdom”, and one for her short story collection, Map of Dreams

(8) CLOSE BUT NO ENCOUNTER FOR THIS EFFECT. “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’s Script Featured A Scene Even Steven Spielberg Couldn’t Pull Off”Slashfilm chronicles the many problems with the errant effect.

…The scene in question involved “cuboids,” which are described in Michael Klastorin’s “Close Encounters: The Ultimate Visual History” as “dozens and dozens of illuminated cubes that were dispersed by the three scout ships at the landing strip.” They’re basically puckish entities that buzz around the technicians at Devil’s Tower, seeking out cameras and posing for pictures. Eventually, according to Spielberg’s screenplay, they would “burst into ‘galactic golden dust that races in all directions’ and envelop the assembled spectators. One of these particles bores painlessly into Neary’s hand, coursing brightly around his veins until it burns out.

What went wrong? Just about everything….

(9) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. Looper offers this list of “Sci-Fi Movies That Made Audiences Get Up And Leave”. They may be right, however, I was waiting for one that never showed up – A Clockwork Orange – which I saw at the Chinese Theater when it opened, and the people in the row ahead of me all got up and left when the ultraviolence started.

When you purchase a ticket to see a movie, you’re always hoping to have a good time. Maybe you’ll be dazzled by some incredible action, given some good jokes to laugh at, or a few emotional moments of drama to entertain for a couple of hours. Every once in a while, you sit down in the cinema only to be treated to a horrific experience for one reason or another and wish you’d never bought that cursed ticket….

(10) SOFTWARE FOR WARFARE. “Killer robots have arrived to Ukrainian battlefields” according to Coda Story.

…Meanwhile, NATO allies like the Netherlands are already testing AI-powered robotics. Lieutenant Colonel Sjoerd Mevissen, commander of the Royal Netherlands Army’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems unit, said every war is a technology test. 

“We see a big advantage in the future, having these types of systems,” he said, referring to the THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle. “It will also lower the cognitive and physical burden for soldiers when they are able to deploy more of these vehicles.”

Colonel Mevissen said pricing — each unit costs approximately $350,000 — remains a significant barrier to having these types of robots fighting side by side with soldiers in the short term. 

Russia’s war of aggression has spurred Ukrainian homegrown military tech innovation. Ukrainian soldiers have modified commercial drones for the frontlines, and a whole suite of tech ingenuity has come together in groups. Ukrainians call it hromada, a self-organized community.

In late October, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov told a NATO conference that Ukraine was developing “Delta,” a situational awareness platform that helps soldiers locate enemy troops and advises on the best coordinated responses. Delta was instrumental in helping Ukrainian troops retake Kherson from Russia, in what Fedorov described as “World Cyber War I.”…

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. We revisit astronaut Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity” from 2013.

A revised version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/5/22 I Am Not The Rest Of The Robots

(1) NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR 58TH NEBULA AWARDS. Full, Associate, and Senior members of SFWA are eligible to submit a nomination ballot for the Nebula Awards. Nominations may be cast online or by post. Ballots must be received by February 28, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific.

(2) CHECKING ON WOOSTER CASE. File 770 followed up with Virginia authorities about the WAVY report on the death of Martin Morse Wooster, “State Police ID suspect in York County hit-and-run”.  

Sergeant Michelle Anaya of the Virginia State Police replied, “In reference to your email…. An arrest has not been made, still under investigation.”

(3) ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER. “Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and dozens of other famous authors shared stories of their worst book signing disasters to comfort an up-and-coming author” at Yahoo!

For debut author Chelsea Banning, an ill-attended book signing may have turned out to be a big break.

Banning, whose debut book is titled “Of Crowns and Legends” – a fantasy novel following two of King Arthur’s twins as war looms – vented on Twitter yesterday about her first-ever signing event. She shared that while 37 people had RSVP’d, only two showed up. “Kind of upset, honestly,” the Ohio-based librarian tweeted, “and a little embarrassed.”

It was a sentiment that resonated with writers of all sizes and genres, inspiring some of literature’s most prominent names – including Neil Gaiman, Jodi Picoult, Cheryl Strayed, and Margaret Atwood – to share their own humbling experiences of book signings gone awry.

“Terry Pratchett and I did a signing in Manhattan for ‘Good Omens’ that nobody came to at all,” wrote Gaiman. “So you are two up on us.”

“I have sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach…and ask me where the bathroom is,” added Picoult.

“Join the club,” said Atwood. “I did a signing to which nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help.”…

(4) THEY’RE HISTORY. James Davis Nicoll extols “Five Cold War Classics in Which the U.S. Has Been Toppled” at Tor.com.

Some of you might find the concept of hostility between different modes of government (such as those of, say, the US and Russia) as outdated as Ottoman and Hapsburg rivalries. But back in the day, the Cold War was a source of inspiration to many SF authors. A number of authors speculated as to what would happen if the US government were subverted or overturned by conquest. Too bizarre to contemplate? Not so, as these five Cold War classics show.

First on his list is this most ingenious choice –

The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

The Grand Duchy of Fenwick is an unlikely world power, being as it is a low-population, land-locked pocket kingdom whose meagre economy is dependent on the export of a single luxury product, Pinot Grand Fenwick. The Grand Duchy’s bold scheme depends on their weakness….

(5) RELEASE PARTY FOR APEX 2021. Space Cowboy Books will host an online interview with Apex Magazine editors Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner on Tuesday, December 6, 2022, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

With stories by Alix E. Harrow, Sam J. Miller, Sheree Renée Thomas, Cassandra Khaw, and many more, Apex Magazine 2021 is a collection of darkly beautiful tales appearing originally in Apex Magazine January-December 2021. From a spaceship in the far-flung reaches of space to a cozy living room where a detective interviews a killer, this anthology explores the good and the ugly. It dissects what makes us human versus what makes us monsters.

Within these pages, you will meet a golem that doesn’t know how to save its family, a group of robots debating whether they are alive, and a woman striving for that social media-perfect life. From parasitic twins to a hospital dreamscape, to a town full of people wearing masks, this anthology will take you on journeys you never could have expected.

Come with us and discover the 48 surreal, strange, shocking, and beautiful stories in Apex Magazine 2021.

(6) YOUR AI CO-CREATOR. Andrew Mayne discusses the broader implications of “Collaborative Creative Writing with OpenAI’s ChatGPT”. Daniel Dern pundits, “This is what happens when ChatBots spend too much time playing Colossal Cave (aka ‘Adventure’).”

tl;dr: You can use OpenAI’s ChatGPT to bounce ideas around and write story outlines

Since I got into the field of AI and started working at OpenAI, it’s been interesting to see how things have accelerated. As an author, I’m frequently asked if AI will replace writers altogether. My personal take is that while AI may begin to do more creative writing and produce content on par with humans, it can never replace the fact that we often like what we like, not because of some objective measure, but because of the story of the person who wrote it. A lot of the things we like are because the person who created them is interesting. I like reading Stephen King books because they’re quite good and I find Stephen King fascinating. While an AI might be able to produce a song on the same level as Billie Eillish, it won’t have the same compelling personal journey as she does.

The future looks like it’s going to be a mixture of human and AI content. Some of it will be created by AI and where we care only about its objective value, some by humans where their personal narrative adds meaning and then content that’s collaboratively produced by creative humans and clever AI – which will mix together the best of both worlds….

(7) QUARK AND THE BARD. The Antaeus Theatre Company offers “Masterclass: Shakespeare’s Rhetoric with Armin Shimerman” on January 21 from 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Pacific. Are you not intrigued?

Join Armin Shimerman on January 21, 2023, as he delves into Shakespeare’s style and the different literary devices and strategies used in Shakespeare’s plays. Students will leave the two and a half hour Masterclass with a better understanding of England as Shakespeare knew it. This Masterclass is intended for actors, directors, students, theater-lovers, and anyone who has ever wanted to learn more about Shakespeare!

Armin Shimerman is a highly regarded actor and is best known to television audiences as Quark, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Plus 80 different Guest Star roles, including Antaeus the Nox on Stargate, Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Judge Hooper on Boston Legal. On Broadway: Threepenny Opera; St. Joan; I Remember Mama, and Broadway. Selected Regional Theater: King Lear (Fool), Road to Mecca (Marius),The Seafarer (Blind Irishman -San Diego Critics Circle Award for Best Actor: San Diego Repertory); Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Merry Wives of Windsor (San Diego Old Globe);Henry V (American Shakespeare Festival) and recently Polonius (Hamlet) and the Porter ( Macbeth) at the Utah Shakespeare festival. For Antaeus, he has taught, acted, and co-directed both the “Crucible” and last year’s production of “Measure for Measure. ”He is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California (USC) where he teaches Shakespeare to Theater BFAs. In addition, he has two novels about the early days of William Shakespeare entitled “Illyria” published and currently on sale with a third due next year. He has given lectures on Shakespeare to thousands of people.

(8) STUFF AND BOOKS. Paul Wells wonders if he’s ready for “The Rideau Centre Indigo Store” which has superseded his familiar local bookstore.

…But how far does Ruis, who’s also said “the days of just browsing bookshelves are behind us,” plan to go? I realized my city would soon get a test case when this sign appeared, at the end of September, in a window of the old Chapters downtown Ottawa flagship store at Rideau and Sussex, now shuttered:

…This sign inspired the excited/doomed feel I’ve come to associate with life in the 21st century. Who wouldn’t want “a brand-new state of the art Indigo store” a stone’s throw from the office? I’m definitely in favour of “everything you love and more,” and I’m not, per se, against “lifestyle products and inspiring displays.” I’ve been spotted inside the odd Williams-Sonoma too, you know. The reference to “a curated assortment of books” did made me wonder. Did that mean, like, six books?

Last night I saw that the brand-new state of the art Indigo store at the Rideau Centre shopping mall, across from the old Chapters, is open. I popped in. Here’s what I found.

… Whew. I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit winded after seeing two displays of books in a bookstore. Fortunately, I came upon this oasis, the section where there’s paper without anything written on it….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2002 [By Cat Eldridge.] Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden 

Today we are going Seussian. The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden is a sculpture garden in Springfield, Massachusetts that honors Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. Located at the Quadrangle, a group of cultural buildings in that city.

The Spring Seuss Organisation notes, “Opened in 2002, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden was first envisioned when Ted Geisel visited Springfield in 1986. After his death in 1991, his wife Audrey authorized the creation of the memorial and provided major support for the project. In 1996, Ted’s stepdaughter, noted sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, was selected to make over 30 bronze statues for the Museums’ grounds.”

I of course am going, with the indulgence of Mike, to show you all of them, as they are quite, well, Seussian. We have life-sized bronze statues of the Horton, Grinch and Max, Cat in the Hat, Yertle the Turtle, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and the Lorax—and the author himself. 

The first is Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat, titled Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat: The title character of The Cat in the Hat standing alongside Dr. Seuss at his desk.

The Storyteller: A chair placed in front of a 10-foot-tall book with the text of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, the title character from Gertrude McFuzz, and beside it, the Grinch and his dog, Max.

This one is called Horton Court with Horton the Elephant from Horton Hears a Who! steps out of an open book accompanied by various ancillary characters from other Dr. Seuss stories, including Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat.

The Lorax: The title character from The Lorax stands on a tree stump with the book’s refrain: Unless… Unlike the rest of these, this statue is located in front of the Springfield Science Museum. 

And finally, Yertle the Turtle: a 10-foot-tall tower of turtles, from Yertle the Turtle, which introduces visitors to the Quadrangle from the arch on Chestnut Street. The troll from my previous post would be proud of these I think as I think they look like troll companions. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 — Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 — Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).  I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 — Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 — Susan Palermo-PiscatelloSF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 — Betsy Wollheim, 71. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  at Chicon 7 for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction.
  • Born December 5, 1961 — Nicholas Jainschigg, 61. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 — Christine Stephen-Daly, 49. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(11) LANGUAGE TRUE OR FALSE. Would you say these verb choices are consistent American English idioms? When telling about a movie — “I saw The Fabelmans”. But about a TV show – “I watched Saturday Night Live”.  Saw a movie versus watched something on TV.

(12) COLD AS MICE. Are we getting close to the point where something like human hibernation could make space travel easier? WIRED presents “The Hibernator’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

One day in 1992, near the northern pole of a planet hurtling around the Milky Way at roughly 500,000 miles per hour, Kelly Drew was busy examining some salmon brains in a lab. Her concentration was broken when Brian Barnes, a zoophysiology professor from down the hall at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, popped by her bench for a visit. With a mischievous grin, he asked Drew—a neuropharmacologist early in her career—to hold out her hands and prepare for a surprise. A moment later, she felt a hard, furry lump deposited in her palms. It was some sort of brown rodent with dagger-like claws, curled up into a tight ball and so cold to the touch that Drew assumed it was dead. To her astonishment, Barnes gleefully explained that it was actually in perfect health.

An Arctic ground squirrel—the most extreme hibernator on the planet—can spend up to eight months a year in a torpid state.

The creature, an Arctic ground squirrel, was just hibernating, as it does for up to eight months of the year. During that span, the animal’s internal temperature falls to below 27 degrees Fahrenheit, literally as cold as ice. Its brain waves become so faint that they’re nearly impossible to detect, and its heart beats as little as once per minute. Yet the squirrel remains very much alive. And when spring comes, it can elevate its temperature back to 98.6 degrees in a couple of hours.

Drew cradled the unresponsive critter in her hands, unable to detect even the faintest signs of life. What’s going on inside this animal’s brain that allows it to survive like this? she wondered. And with that question, she began to burrow into a mystery that would carry her decades into the future….

(13) SFWA INDIE AUTHOR TOWN HALL. SFWA’s Independent Authors Committee held a town hall on November 10. Video of the event is now online.

Kelly McClymer and John Wilker, members of the SFWA Independent Authors Committee, were joined by Emily Mah, SFWA Editorial Director, to take the temperature of the attending indie author community on hurdles they deal with regarding online retailers. The feedback provided during this town hall will be used by the committee to help direct future advocacy work for SFF independent authors.

(14) PRESENT SHORTLY AFTER THE CREATION. From Library of America, “Story of the Week: Eve’s Diary” by Mark Twain, first published in 1905.

…For I do love moons, they are so pretty and so romantic. I wish we had five or six; I would never go to bed; I should never get tired lying on the moss-bank and looking up at them.

Stars are good, too. I wish I could get some to put in my hair. But I suppose I never can. You would be surprised to find how far off they are, for they do not look it. When they first showed, last night, I tried to knock some down with a pole, but it didn’t reach, which astonished me; then I tried clods till I was all tired out, but I never got one. It was because I am left-handed and cannot throw good. Even when I aimed at the one I wasn’t after I couldn’t hit the other one, though I did make some close shots, for I saw the black blot of the clod sail right into the midst of the golden clusters forty or fifty times, just barely missing them, and if I could have held out a little longer maybe I could have got one….

(15) HAILING FREQUENCY. “’Are we alone in the universe?’: work begins in Western Australia on world’s most powerful radio telescopes” reports the Guardian.

Construction of the world’s largest radio astronomy observatory, the Square Kilometre Array, has officially begun in Australia after three decades in development.

A huge intergovernmental effort, the SKA has been hailed as one of the biggest scientific projects of this century. It will enable scientists to look back to early in the history of the universe when the first stars and galaxies were formed. It will also be used to investigate dark energy and why the universe is expanding, and to potentially search for extraterrestrial life.

The SKA will initially involve two telescope arrays – one on Wajarri country in remote Western Australia, called SKA-Low, comprising 131,072 tree-like antennas.

SKA-Low is so named for its sensitivity to low-frequency radio signals. It will be eight times as sensitive than existing comparable telescopes and will map the sky 135 times faster.

A second array of 197 traditional dishes, SKA-Mid, will be built in South Africa’s Karoo region….

(16) VERTICAL TAKEOFF. Has somebody been watching too many Marvel movies? “Flying Aircraft Carrier: The U.S. Navy’s Next Game Changer?” at MSN.com. Perhaps not. As you’ll discover when you read the article, the author doesn’t really think they’re feasible at all. Still, it’s an entertaining thought experiment with lots of lovely photos of aircraft carriers if that kind of thing floats your boat.

…. Let’s simply assume a flying aircraft carrier could be built. Would such a platform actually serve any purpose? First, it would be extremely dangerous. Even if it weren’t nuclear-powered, it is doubtful most nations would want it to fly overhead. A vessel the size of even a light carrier crashing down on a population center would result in the deaths of tens and even hundreds of thousands of people. Moreover, it would require not only the aforementioned purpose-built construction facility but specialized bases able to accommodate it. It is doubtful even if it were nuclear powered that it could remain aloft indefinitely so there would need to be special landing strips and the ground infrastructure to support/reequip it….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games brutally begins “Honest Game Trailers: Marvel Snap” — “If you’re too dumb for Magic the Gathering too good for Hearthstone and not insane enough for Yu-Gi-Oh now there’s a collectible card game for you.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/27/22 You’re Telling Me A Pixel Filed This Scroll?

(1) UP ALL NIGHT. Sarah Gailey hosts an “Exclusive Interview with Victor Manibo” about his novel, The Sleepless.

…One aspect of The Sleepless that fascinates me is the way society in the book reacts to what some call a superpower, and what could also be framed as a hypercapitalist disability. Sleeplessness offers a fundamental change to human form and function as it’s typically understood, but it’s a change that allows people to engage more with capitalist productivity culture, consumption, and work. What made you want to explore this particular tension?

This story grew out of a what-if question I asked myself during a particularly busy time in my life. What if I didn’t need to sleep? Would I get more stuff done? How would such a change impact me, personally? The thought experiment was hard to contain to the individual level, and when I expanded the what-if to the world at large, it really raised some interesting questions. That’s when I felt like I needed to write it all out.

We’re living in an interesting time where more and more people are taking more control regarding their place in our capitalistic society. People are “quiet quitting”; it’s the age of “The Great Resignation”; there’s an increasing frequency of success stories in labor organizing, and there’s a record number of socialists in Congress. I wanted this story to be in conversation with what’s going on in the world, to interrogate why and how we participate in capitalism….

(2) A LITTLE SURPRISE. Google Double Asteroid Redirection Test, then wait a moment. [Via Tom Galloway.]

(3) HE’S GOT NOTHING. BUT SOMEBODY ELSE HAS SOMETHING. This teaser for Deadpool 3 dropped today. Ryan Reynolds apologizes for missing D23. Oh, and there’s a little casting surprised revealed at the end. “Deadpool Update”.

Or if you want to skip the video and go straight to the surprise, read this article in The Hollywood Reporter.

(4) MAKING CONTACT. Vulture has assembled an oral history of the movie Contact. “‘No Aliens, No Spaceships, No Invasion of Earth’”.

Ahead of Contact’s 25th anniversary, we spoke to nearly two dozen people involved in its making, including Zemeckis, Foster, McConaughey, Druyan, Sasha Sagan, and veteran producer Lynda Obst. They disagreed on several aspects of Contact’s development saga, but settled on some consensus: Contact was a lightning-in-a-bottle project, the kind of thing big movie studios barely made before and would probably never make again — intellectually challenging, emotionally messy, heavy with metaphor, wherein nobody shoots an alien in the face in front of an American flag. “We used to do that,” said Foster. “We used to make movies that were resonant and were entertaining.”…

Ann Druyan: This is 1978. Carl and I are still working on Cosmos. At the time, it was popular to say things like, “Well, if men are as smart as women, then how come there are no female Leonardos? No female Einsteins?” This made both of us furious. I had just co-written the part of Cosmos about the Great Library of Alexandria and the fact that Hypatia, who was the leader of the library, was a mathematician focusing on the Diophantine equations that Newton would later become interested in. Her reward for being the great intellectual light of the library in 415 AD was to be ripped from her chariot that she was driving herself and carved to bits with abalone shells.

People were throwing everything at Carl then. He was such a phenomenon in the culture, and everybody wanted to do something with him. So we knew we could get a book and a movie contract. We agreed one night, sitting in the pool at our little rented house in West Hollywood, that we were going to tell a story in which not only would a woman be the intellectual hero but, in the great tradition of Gilgamesh, she was going to go on the voyage and the guys would stay home.

(5) UNIONIZING PUBLISHING. UAW Local 2110 (2110uaw.org) – HarperCollins is the only unionized Big 4 publisher. HarperCollins workers are pushing for better compensation, diversity protections, and union security.

(6) KSR TO SPEAK IN MARYLAND.  At the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Festival, with the theme “Stories and the More-Than-Human”, will be held over several dates. The main date events are on October 15, 2022 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, MD.  The keynote speaker Kim Stanley Robinson will participate in the “Tribute to Richard Powers” at the Writer’s Center on Friday evening, October 14, and will engage with Richard Powers in a “Conversation about the Art of Fiction” and introduce Richard Powers for the Fitzgerald Award on Saturday, October 15. Festival registration is here.

(7) CRAFTING WITCHES. Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Janes admire “The Unstoppable, Fearsome, Delicious Allure of the Witch” at CrimeReads.

Witches are powerful women. Like all powerful women, they have been maligned, persecuted, hated, desired, feared. They are eternal, mythical subjects, a source of endless fascination. In American history, they occupy a unique place where folklore blurs the lines of reality; we remember the “witches” of Salem, Massachusetts, who were not actually witches. They have become totemic figures in television, movies, books, and pop culture, and their appeal shows no signs of waning: as of this writing, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is devoting a full-scale exhibit to the power and imagery of the witch…

(8) INVESTING TIME. Camestros Felapton is inspired to think about “Time travel and energy” after reading Sheila Jenne’s “Theories of time travel”. (His post was published on September 28, which is only appropriate, too…)

I was reading this neat summary of time travel rules in fiction and thinking about a couple of things basically angles and effort. The idea that a small change at one point leads to a big change in the future (aka two different kinds of things both known as a butterfly effect) predates modern science fiction. The proverb of consequences that typically starts with “for want of a nail” dates back to at least the 13th century and describes a causal chain of circumstances where a small issue (the nail in a horseshoe) leads to a major outcome.

Put another way: a small amount of effort in the past can lead to a result that would require a huge amount of effort if you were to attempt the same outcome in the present. I think that gives a neat rationale for fiction where you want time travel that allows changes to the future but where you don’t want an oops-I-stepped-on-a-butterfly-now-Donald-Trump-is-president situation….

(9) HOLDING HANDS WITH DEATH. “Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins review – anecdotes, elephants and ‘an embuggerance’” – the Guardian’s Frank Cottrell-Boyce comes away wondering why Pratchett was “so underestimated”.

…Caring for someone who has dementia is an overwhelmingly vivid experience, full of pain and comedy. There are heartbreaking and funny stories in A Life With Footnotes – started by Pratchett himself but written and completed by his longtime assistant Rob Wilkins – about the things that Pratchett’s shrinking brain made him do. He once accidentally donated £50,000 to Bath Postal Museum, for instance. Moments like that can supplant your memories of what a person was like before; here, Wilkins, who started working for the author in 2000, attempts to recover Pratchett pre-dementia. His closeness to the subject means that the book is sometimes joyfully, sometimes painfully, intimate. The description of the day Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna, was born, for example, is so animated by love, it’s as if this treasured moment was a jewel that Pratchett placed in Wilkins’s care, to ensure it would not be stolen away by the embuggerance….

(10) CHAN DAVIS (1926-2022). Author Chandler Davis died September 24 reports Olav Rokne, who tweeted an extensive tribute that begins here.

SIDE NOTE: (I became aware of Chandler Davis as a science fiction author only a couple of years ago because of @gautambhatia88. But by an odd coincidence it turns out I met him several times in the 1980s as he worked on some math papers with my godfather Dr. Peter Lancaster)

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1968 [By Cat Eldridge.] This, I believe, was truly one of the the classic episodes of the original Star Trek series. Airing fifty-four years ago on NBC, it scripted by D.C. Fontana, one of eleven episodes that she would write including “Catspaw” that I dearly love, and directed by John Meredyth Lucas as the second episode of the final season.

If you’ve forgotten, the story is Kirk violated the neutral zone. The Romulans have a new bit of technology called a “cloaking device” (just go with the idea please). Kirk pretends to be crazy, then pretends to be a Romulan to get to it. Meanwhile, Spock pretends to be in love. But is he pretending? Who knows. 

D. C. Fontana says she based her script very loosely upon the Pueblo incident but I’ll be damned I can see this. It’s a Cold War espionage thriller at heart and most excellently played out. You did note the Romulnan commander never gets named? Later novels including Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz gave her the name of Liviana Charvanek. 

Speaking of Vulcans, Fontana deliberately kept the romance between her and Spock low key to the finger games they did. And then there’s Roddenberry’s idea, never done, Spock “raining kisses” on the bare shoulders of the Romulan commander. Oh awful.

Season three had no budget, I repeat, no budget for frills, so this episode suffered several times from that. Kirk was supposed to have surgery done on him after dying but that got deep sixed, and McCoy was supposed to accompany him back to the Romulan ship but my, oh my ears are expensive, aren’t they? 

Fontana would co-write with Derek Chester a sequel: Star Trek: Year Four—The Enterprise Experiment, a graphic novel published by IDW Publishing in 2008.

Critics then and now love it.

It’s airing on Paramount + as is everything else in the Trek universe. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1927 Roberta Gellis. Though she wrote nearly a dozen novels of her own, you most likely know her writing within the Elves on the Road Universe created by Mercedes Lackey. She co-wrote Serrated Edge Prequels with Lackey, two of which were full novels — Ill Met by Moonlight and And Less Than Kind. (Died 2016.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd who appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion”. I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd. He also had one-offs on I-SpyMunstersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but at all not confirmed he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 Wilford Brimley. His first genre role was as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cacoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. (Died 2020.)
  • Born September 27, 1947 Meat Loaf. He has a tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And I’d argue some of his music videos are genre stories in their own right including “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”. He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes, more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the Crypt, The Outer LimitsMonsters, Masters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 27, 1950 Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 72. He’d be on the Birthday Honors list if he’d only been Zylyn in Space Rangers which lasted just six episodes. Damn. But he’s also shown up on Babylon 5, the premier of Star Trek: The Next GenerationSuperboyAlien Nation, the Australian version of Mission: ImpossibleSabrina the Teenage WitchStargate SG-1Poltergeist: The LegacyThe Librarians, voicing characters on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels. More recently he played Nobusuke Tagomi in The Man in The High Castle (2015-2018), and Hiroki Watanabe in Lost in Space 2018-2021). 
  • Born September 27, 1956 Sheila Williams, 66. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction the last fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor at Renovation and Chicon 7. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. 
  • Born September 27, 1972 Gwyneth Paltrow, 50. Yes, she is Pepper Potts in the Marvel Universe film franchise but her first genre role was as a young Wendy Darling in Hook. And she shows up in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow as Polly Perkins, a reporter for The Chronicle. And let’s not forget she was in Shakespeare in Love as Viola de Lesseps. Yes, it’s most decidedly and deliciously genre, isn’t it? 
  • Born September 27, 1972 Andy Briggs, 50. He started out as an uncredited writer working on story developer on the Highlander Series. I’m going to single out his writing of The Tarzan Trilogy which consists of Tarzan: The Greystoke LegacyTarzan the Jungle Warrior and Tarzan: The Savage Lands. Most excellent pulp. He’s written eleven scripts including a remake of The Philadelphia Experiment

(13) COMICS SECTION.

Lio is rejected for UFO abduction – find out why.

(14) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood will be staged at City Garage Theatre in Santa Monica, CA from November 11 – December 18, 2022. Get tickets here.

City Garage presents the “The Penelopiad” by feminist icon Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In this remarkable retelling of “The Odyssey,” Atwood transforms both the power and the politics of the classic tale by shifting the point of view to Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, and of her twelve faithful maids unjustly hanged by the returning “hero.” It takes place in Hades, where these thirteen spirits are trapped for all eternity, telling and retelling their story like angry furies, unable to find redress for what they suffered at male hands.

While her husband Odysseus is off fighting pointless wars—for the sake of her beautiful, shameless, aggravating cousin Helen—dallying with nymphs and sirens, and playing the hero, Penelope is holding the kingdom together. All alone, with nothing but her wits, toughness, and strength to rely on, she has to raise her rebellious son, face down dangerous rumors, and keep more than a hundred lustful, brutal suitors at bay. When twenty years later the “hero” finally returns there is indeed hell to pay—but it is Penelope and her twelve faithful maids who pay the tragic price.

Atwood gives Penelope a modern voice, witty, pragmatic, yet still filled with pain as she gets to tell her own story at last, and set the record straight. 

(15) I NEVER DRINK…WELL, ON SECOND THOUGHT. Vampire Vineyards in Ventura, CA has all kinds of amusing marketing ideas. How about wine bottles with Dracula capes? Or Vampire Gummies?

(16) LAURIE STRODE RIDES AGAIN. “Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘Halloween Ends’ final trailer”SYFY Wire cues it up:

…Universal Pictures dropped the final trailer for Halloween Ends Tuesday, giving us one last look at the concluding chapter of this legacy sequel saga ahead of its October 14 premiere, and the stakes of the film are now clearer than ever. It’s been four years since the events of Halloween Kills, which left the town of Haddonfield deeply scarred and left Laurie’s own daughter (Judy Greer) dead at Michael’s hands. After that night, Michael Myers vanished, but of course Laurie’s not convinced he’s gone for good. The boogeyman is coming back for one last night of terror, and this time, Laurie thinks she finally knows how to kill him. The catch, of course, is that she might have to die too…. 

(17) RED GULCH. “China’s Mars rover finds new evidence of an ancient waterway on the Red Planet” Inverse covers a study published in Nature.

CHINA landed its first rover on the surface of Mars, called Zhurong, on May 15, 2021. Just ten days later, it began a series of observations that ancient flows of water on the Red Planet could explain.

new study published Monday in the journal Nature details how Zhurong collected data on Mars’ subterranean sediments with an instrument called the Rover Penetrating Radar (RoPeR). Chinese scientists looked at the radar results Zhurong obtained as it traveled across more than 1,100 meters of flat landscape in a place called Utopia Planitia from May 25 to September 6, 2021. That’s about 102 Mars days, or sols. In the new work, Chinese researchers announced that Mars’ subsurface sediments were organized in a way that could be explained by ancient water flow on Mars….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Sandman,” the Screen Junkies say that Neil Gaiman may “look like a hobbit,” but The Sandman was “one of the greatest comics ever” and the high quality of this $160 million production shows the merits of “creators owning the rights to their creations.”  The show is about the power of dreams, “but the concrete linear kind, not the ones where you’re mowing the lawn with your naked dad.” And does Patton Oswalt’s casting mean he “sounds like a talking bird?”

[Thanks to  JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Justin E. A. Busch, Rich Lynch, 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 Jake.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/22 You Read 16 Scrolls, What Do You Get?

(1) SURVIVAL THROUGH STORIES. John Wiswell’s Locus Award acceptance speech is well worth a moment to read: “’That Story Isn’t The Story’ wins the Locus Award for Best Novelette! Plus, my acceptance speech.” at Patreon.

…“That Story Isn’t The Story” is about growing while our trauma lives on inside of us, and while the sources of our trauma continue to live on around us, and often pursue us and belittle us. It’s about surviving by controlling our own stories, and the breath of life that comes from someone believing in you.

I’m certainly sitting here in part because of such believers….

(2) NOT SOMETHING SHE CONSIDERED A PREDICTION. In “Margaret Atwood: The Court Is Making Gilead Real “ the author comments on the draft decision of the ruling that was released this week.

…In the early years of the 1980s, I was fooling around with a novel that explored a future in which the United States had become disunited. Part of it had turned into a theocratic dictatorship based on 17th-century New England Puritan religious tenets and jurisprudence. I set this novel in and around Harvard University—an institution that in the 1980s was renowned for its liberalism, but that had begun three centuries earlier chiefly as a training college for Puritan clergy.

In the fictional theocracy of Gilead, women had very few rights, as in 17th-century New England. The Bible was cherry-picked, with the cherries being interpreted literally. Based on the reproductive arrangements in Genesis—specifically, those of the family of Jacob—the wives of high-ranking patriarchs could have female slaves, or “handmaids,” and those wives could tell their husbands to have children by the handmaids and then claim the children as theirs.

Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid’s Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?

For instance: It is now the middle of 2022, and we have just been shown a leaked opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States that would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not “deeply rooted” in our “history and tradition.” True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all….

(3) STAKING A CLAIM. Emily Temple offers “A Close Reading of the Best Opening Paragraph of All Time” at Literary Hub. Surprise: it isn’t the first paragraph of Pride and Prejudice.

One hundred and one years ago today, Shirley Jackson was born. During her lifetime, she wrote “The Lottery,” and The Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the latter of which features what I consider to be the best first paragraph of all time, or at least of any novel that I have ever read. Here it is:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.”

It almost seems like overkill to explain why this paragraph is so wonderful…. 

(4) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. Here’s Rich Horton’s latest look at potential Hugo winners and nominees from the 1950s — this time, stories published in 1952 (first eligibility year of the Hugos): “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1953” from Strange at Ectbatan.

Continuing my project of suggesting potential Hugo nominees (and winners) for the early years of the Hugo — basically, pre-1958. Here’s a look at 1952. This is the year covered by the very first Hugos, from the 11th Worldcon, Philcon II, in Philadelphia, in September 1953. The only Fiction Hugo actually awarded went to Alfred Bester’s novel The Demolished Man. Apparently there were plans to name a Short Fiction winner, but there were insufficient votes….

(5) FANZINES ARCHIVED AT HARVARD. The article doesn’t have that much to say, but that it appears in Harvard Magazine might interest you: “The Geeky Underground”.

BEFORE HE WAS the acclaimed author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury was just another teenage boy with a science-fiction zine. Pronounced “zeen,” these self-published, often-low-budget magazines are staples in subcultures and underground movements—including punk-rock devotees, palindrome-writers, and the riot grrrl feminists of the 1990s—but the medium first got its start in the 1930s, in the bedrooms and basements of devout sci-fi fans. Their zines, which helped launch genre legends like Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein, were handmade, wacky, and delightful. A single issue might house a hand-drawn comic titled “The Return of the Space Boggle,” a poem about a ghost with dry skin, and an epistle from a teenaged sci-fi author on “the various problems connected with space travel that make it difficult to write up sex properly.”…

(6) SFF NONFICTION. Cora Buhlert’s new Non-Fiction Spotlight introduces us to By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga by Erica Friedman: “Non-Fiction Spotlight: By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga by Erica Friedman”.

Some people claim that the reason that SFF-related non-fiction books have increasingly been crowded out of the Best Related Work category at the Hugos is that there are not enough non-fiction books published every year to fill the Hugo ballot. This is wrong, since there is a wide spectrum of non-fiction books covering every SFF-related subject imaginable released every year. Today’s featured non-fiction book proves how wide that spectrum truly is, because it is a book about the history of lesbian relationships as portrayed in manga and anime.

Therefore I’m thrilled to welcome Erica Friedman, author of By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga to my blog today.

Tell us about your book.

My book is By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga.

Lesbian-themed animation and comics (and related media), known as “Yuri,” is the newest genre of Japanese pop culture. Even though it’s only been acknowledged as a separate genre for a little over a decade, Yuri has a literary and artistic history that can be traced back to the early 20th century. My book is a series of interlocking lectures and essays that trace that history and bring the story of Yuri to the present. I cover key series and creators, as well as the efforts by creators and fans to carve out a space for ourselves in the larger Japanese pop culture fandom.

(7) CROMCAST PODCAST COVERAGE OF HOWARD DAYS. The good folks of The Cromcast have posted yet more recordings of the 2022 Robert E. Howard Days.

This recording from Friday, June 10th includes academic papers delivered by Drs. Dierk Guenther, Gabriel Mamola, and James McGlothlin. The panel is moderated by Dr. Jason Ray Carney.

This recording is from Friday, June 10th, and is from the Robert E. Howard Celebration Banquet. The guest of honor is Fred Malmberg, who shares comments and stories about his years in the gaming industry, as well as the influence of Robert E Howard on the history of gaming. The guest of honor is introduced by Rusty Burke.

For this recording, Josh and Luke are joined by various attendees for afterhours conversations on Friday, June 10th.

(8) BEYOND GAME OF THRONES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian has a very extensive interview with Emilia Clarke, which is easy to miss, because it was posted in the theatre section rather than the film or TV sections: “Emilia Clarke: ‘The best place in the world is backstage at a theatre’”.

…The actor is no stranger to the divisive power of art – on which more later – but the spare and lean production marks a pronounced change from the jobs she has done since being catapulted into superstardom by Game of Thrones in 2011. Following the phenomenally successful HBO series, in which she portrayed Daenerys Targaryen, Clarke has starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys, played Han Solo’s love interest in Solo: A Star Wars Story and dressed as an elf in Paul Feig’s Emma Thompson-scripted romcom Last Christmas. She has won a Bafta Britannia award and been nominated for numerous Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Critics’ Choice awards; in 2019, she was one of Time’s 100 most influential people….

(9) WOULD THAT BE A TOTAL OF SIX BODIES? Two adaptations of The Three Body Problem are moving forward.

“The Three-Body Problem: New Chinese Trailer, Key Art Poster Released”. Bleeding Cool covers new publicity for the Chinese adapation – see the poster at the link.

The Three-Body Problem by Chinese author Liu Cixin is the Science Fiction trilogy that’s made the biggest splash in the 21st Century, and a TV series adaptation is highly anticipated by fans. Just this week, Chinese studio Tencent released a poster and the second trailer for the Chinese TV adaptation.

…The first trailer for the Chinese version of The Three-Body Problem was released back in November 2021. So far, no premiere date for the series has been announced. Reports on Chinese social media suggest that the series is currently being re-edited to get approval from government censors before a release date can be determined. That means the whole series has been shot….

In the U.S., The Hollywood Reporter named new members of the cast: “Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’ Casts Another ‘Game of Thrones’ Alum”.

The drama series adapted from Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award-winning trilogy has added four more actors to its sprawling ensemble, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Jonathan Pryce (The Crown), Rosalind Chao (Better Things), Ben Schnetzer (Y: The Last Man) and Eve Ridley (Peppa Pig) have joined the show….

(10) THIS FILM HAS NO DICK. Den of Geek’s Ryan Britt and the headline writer did not have a meeting of the minds about his post “Blade Runner Became a Sci-fi Classic by Being a Terrible Philip K. Dick Adaptation”.

The title of the 1982 film Blade Runner is taken directly from a book. Well, from two books: the 1979 novella Blade Runner (a movieby William S. Burroughs, which, in turn, was based on the 1974 novel The Bladerunner by Alan E. Nourse. Both of those books are science fiction stories set in the near future, but have nothing to do with escaped androids. Instead, the movie’s plot is based on the 1968 novel by Philip K. Dick called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It’s tempting to say that Ridley Scott’s science fiction masterpiece took the name Blade Runner and slapped it on a Philip K. Dick story, but the truth is, Blade Runner succeeds because it’s not really an adaptation of anything…. 

(11) MEMORY LANE

1963 [By Cat Eldridge.] So fifty-nine years ago on this evening, like peanut butter and chocolate two great monsters united when King Kong Vs. Godzilla premiered. Really would I kid you? (Well I would and you well know it, but that’s why for a different discussion, isn’t it?)

Not at all surprisingly, this Japanese kaiju film was directed by Ishirō Honda, with the special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Nine years previously, Honda directed and co-wrote Godzilla of which Tsuburaya is considered the co-creator. 

The script was Shinichi Sekizawa, mostly known, again not surprisingly, for his work on the Godzilla films but he did some other genre work such as Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon and Jack and the Witch.  

It started out as a story outline written by King Kong stop motion animator Willis O’Brien in the early Sixties in which Kong battles a giant Frankenstein Monster. The idea was given to the Tojo film company without his permission and they decided Godzilla would be a bigger draw. 

An individual by the name of Merian C. Cooper filed a lawsuit against the film showing here claiming he had exclusive right to the King Kong character in the United States, a claim that the film distributor quickly refuted as it turned out many individuals did.

It had already been the single most popular Godzilla film in Japan before it showed here and remains so to date. It made nearly three million here, not bad considering its tiny budget of four hundred thousand— two men in suits don’t cost much, do they? — so the film made twenty times that in its first run. Monsters rock! 

The Hollywood Reporter liked it: “A funny monster picture? That’s what Universal has in “King Kong Versus Godzilla.” Though the New York Times noted “The one real surprise of this cheap reprise of earlier Hollywood and Japanese horror films is the ineptitude of its fakery. When the pair of prehistoric monsters finally get together for their battle royal, the effect is nothing more than a couple of dressed-up stuntmen throwing cardboard rocks at each other.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so rating of fifty six percent.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 26, 1904 — Peter Lorre. I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in an Americanized version of Casino Royale as Le Chiffre which was an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Ooh the horror!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 26, 1910 — Elsie Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. She married Donald A. Wollheim in 1943. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 26, 1950 — Tom DeFalco, 72. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his work at Marvel Comics and in particular on the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 26, 1965 — Daryl Gregory, 57. He won a Crawford Award for his Pandemonium novel. And his novella We Are All Completely Fine won the World Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award. It was also a finalist for the Sturgeon Award. I’m also fond of his writing on the Planet of The Apes series that IDW published.
  • Born June 26, 1969 — Lev Grossman, 53. Most noted as the author of The Magicians trilogy — The MagiciansThe Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. He wrote the screenplay for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things film which was based off his short story of that name. I hear his Magicians trilogy has been made into a series — who’s seen it? 
  • Born June 26, 1969 — Austin Grossman, 53. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designer, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 26, 1980 — Jason Schwartzman, 42. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 26, 1984 — Aubrey Plaza, 38. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. And she was Lenny Busker on Legion.  

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe today is about a cat, so of course it belongs in the Scroll.
  • Funky Winkerbean is about vows from a sacred text – of sorts.

(14) BELLE REVISIONED. “For the Most Complex Heroines in Animation, Look to Japan” says the New York Times.

At a time of widespread debate over the depiction of women in film, the top Japanese animators have long been creating heroines who are more layered and complex than many of their American counterparts. They have faults and weaknesses and tempers as well as strengths and talents. They’re not properties or franchises; they’re characters the filmmakers believe in.

… Because Japanese animated features are made by smaller crews and on smaller budgets than those of major American films, directors can present more personal visions. American studios employ story crews; Hosoda, Hayao Miyazaki, Makoto Shinkai and other auteurs storyboard entire films themselves. Their work isn’t subjected to a gantlet of test audiences, executive approvals or advisory committees….

(15) BOTTOM OF THE BARREL. Slashfilm curates the worst times to come:  “Dystopian Sci-Fi Movie Worlds Ranked By How Horrible They’d Be To Live In”.

We love dystopias. There’s something shuddery and intriguing about exploring a world that’s a lot like ours, but there’s something wrong with it. We fall to the allure of it. Sure, this brave new world is terrible, but how cool would it be to survive? Maybe even become a hero? And for many of our favorite dystopian stories, survivability feels possible — at least for a while. These scenarios borrow from today and hold warnings about what tomorrow could be unless we act. We feel prepared by watching them. We feel, for a little while, empowered.

… These stories are about people’s extraordinary efforts to thrive, and sometimes they fail. Let’s explore some of our favorite dystopias and imagine what it would be like to try and live in them.

5. Snowpiercer

Stylistically similar to Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” “Snowpiercer,” directed by Bong Joon-ho, is an adaptation of a French comic that foretells a world of few survivors on a frozen Earth. Society is packed into trains that run ceaselessly across the world. Classism allows the elite to feast on the plight of the poor. If you were trapped in a world like this one, imagine the smell. Even in the forward cars, people smell in closed quarters. Water is at a premium. The stink of the train’s oils and electricity will always be in the air.

As in “Elysium,” there’s a chance you might find yourself among the privileged, but it’s far likelier you’ll be in the cattle cars. Sure, there’s a guy that looks like Chris Evans, but your fate could be as simple as winding up an awful-tasting protein bar for your friends to eat. It’s life, of a sort, but it’s not desirable. The end of the film suggests that the world beyond the train is healing, and someone with a gift for survivalism and the right gear to keep warm might make it — but to do what? It’s going to be decades of hard living and starvation before the first villages thrive.

(16) UP AGAINST THE WALL-E. Proving that sf has plenty of painful futures to go around, this Inverse article is about one film that didn’t even make Slashfilm’s list: “The best post-apocalypse movie of the century reveals a dark debate over humanity’s future”.

… Released by Pixar in 2008, Wall-E was ahead of its time on AI sentienceautomation of the workforce, and interstellar travel. But perhaps the movie’s most timely theme is its complicated environmental message.

While the climate crisis isn’t overtly mentioned, it’s probably safe to assume it had a role in turning our planet teeming with life into a barren wasteland devoid of sentient life — save for the garbage-collecting robot known as “Wall-E.” And in the years since, this kind of lifeless apocalyptic setting has become far more common in Hollywood sci-fi movies, reflecting the growing trend of “climate doom” in real life.

But what is “climate doom” and are we really doomed to the future seen in the movie. Or can climate optimism win out and save our planet before we turn it into a gloomy garbage heap a la Wall-E?…

(17) SPLAT. NASA spotted a couple new holes in the Moon, and they know what made them, but not who: “Rocket Impact Site on Moon Seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter”. Photo at the link.

Astronomers discovered a rocket body heading toward a lunar collision late last year. Impact occurred March 4, with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later spotting the resulting crater. Surprisingly the crater is actually two craters, an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards).

The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. “THEODORE ARROWAY,” CONTACT (1997)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1963 [By Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

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

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

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

LAURA DERN And Tim’s a grown man now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/22 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) FAHRENHEIT – NEVER MIND. The Associated Press reports: “Burn-proof edition of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ up for auction”.

Margaret Atwood has imagined apocalyptic disaster, Dystopian government and an author faking her own death. But until recently she had spared herself the nightmare of trying to burn one of her own books.

With a flamethrower, no less.

She failed, and that was the point.

On Monday night, timed for PEN America’s annual gala, Atwood and Penguin Random House announced that a one-off, unburnable edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be auctioned through Sotheby’s New York. They launched the initiative with a brief video that shows Atwood attempting in vain to incinerate her classic novel about a totalitarian patriarchy, the Republic of Gilead. Proceeds will be donated to PEN, which advocates for free expression around the world…

…The Gas Company’s principal owner, Doug Laxdal, told the AP that instead of paper, he and his colleagues used Cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product. The 384-page text, which can be read like an ordinary novel, took more than two months to complete. The Gas Company needed days just to print out the manuscript; the Cinefoil sheets were so thin that some would fall through cracks in the printer and become damaged beyond repair. The manuscript was then sewed together by hand, using nickel copper wire….

(2) THE NEXT UNICORN. “Peter S. Beagle Returns to the World of The Last Unicorn With The Way Home reports Molly Templeton at Tor.com.

…The Way Home, according to a press release, “continues the story of beloved characters unicorn, Molly Grue, and Schmendrick the Magician from the point of view of a young girl named Sooz.” The two works included in the collection are Two Hearts, which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novelette in 2006, and Sooz, which has not been previously published. It’s described as “a lyrical story of childhood left behind, dedicated to the love of Beagle’s life, who passed away before it could be published.”

The new edition of The Last Unicorn will be available in July; The Way Home publishes in spring 2023.

(3) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. “‘Stranger Things’ Is Back, and the Duffer Brothers Made It Big” – and the New York Times knows just how big.

…During the two days I observed them, the Duffers, who continue to direct, write and oversee “Stranger Things,” had enough on their plates just getting things manageable. The pandemic had already caused significant delays, and the new season is five hours longer than any previous one. That was the main reason they had decided to release it in two chunks, Ross said. There was just so much material to get through. Demogorgons needed animating. Run times needed tightening.

“How long is the episode right now?” Ross asked their editor Dean Zimmerman about the episode on the screen. Zimmerman glanced my way.

“You want me to say it out loud?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“Two and a half hours.”

With episodes like short movies (three of the first four are 75 minutes or more), one might worry that the Duffers have succumbed to excess. For now, they seem content to let the fans decide; Netflix has proved willing to support their expanding vision. Meanwhile, the tone is decidedly shifting this season (think “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Hellraiser”), and its young cast has been shaving for at least a few years. (Want to feel old? Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink are 20.) Plenty can change in three years, including viewer attention. Will fans still flock to “Stranger Things”?

(4) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. Jeff VanderMeer needs no predictive powers to speak about “The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy” in Current Affairs.

…In his 1944 book That Vanishing Eden: A Naturalist’s Florida, Thomas Barbour bemoaned the environmental damage caused by development to the Miami area and wrote, “Florida … must cease to be purely a region to be exploited and flung aside, having been sucked dry, or a recreation area visited by people who …  feel no sense of responsibility and have no desire to aid and improve the land.”

Even then, a dark vision of Florida’s future was clear.

Most of this harm has been inflicted in the service of unlimited and poorly planned growth, sparked by greed and short-term profit. This murder of the natural world has accelerated in the last decade to depths unheard of. The process has been deliberate, often systemic, and conducted from on-high to down-low, with special interests flooding the state with dark money, given to both state and local politicians in support of projects that bear no relationship to best management of natural resources. These projects typically reinforce income inequality and divert attention and money away from traditionally disadvantaged communities.1

Consider this: several football fields-worth of forest and other valuable habitat is cleared per day2 in Florida, with 26 percent of our canopy cut down in the past twenty years.  According to one study, an average of 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation worldwide.

The ecocide happening here is comparable for our size to the destruction of the Amazon, but much less remarked upon. Few of the perpetrators understand how they hurt the quality of life for people living in Florida and hamstring any possibility of climate crisis resiliency. Prodevelopment flacks like to pull out the estimates of the millions who will continue to flock to Florida by 2030 or 2040 to justify rampant development. Even some Florida economists ignore the effects of the climate crisis in their projects for 2049, expecting continued economic growth. but these estimates are just a grim joke, and some of those regurgitating them know that. By 2050, the world likely will be grappling with the fallout from 1.5- to 2-degree temperature rise and it’s unlikely people will be flocking to a state quickly dissolving around all of its edges….

(5) WALDEN WITH AN ELECTRIC SOCKET. And if you need cheering up after that last excerpt – surprisingly, Kim Stanley Robinson is the one about to help you out. “Q&A with Sci-Fi Author Kim Stanley Robinson” in Sactown Magzine.

I hear birds singing in the background. Where are you right now?

I’m outside. My office is my front courtyard on the north side of the house. I’ve got a tarp slung up so that I can be in the shade all the time and see my laptop screen. I also work outside in the rain. I’ve got a waterproof power cord and it powers the laptop and sometimes a little heating pad like you use for your lower back that I throw over my feet. I work all the days of the year out here. In the cold, I wear my winter backpacking gear, including a down hood and [fingerless] wool gloves. I feel like I’m on a little backpacking trip.

My work life has turned into an outdoor adventure. I did this about 15-20 years ago, and it was a great move. I thought I was burning out on writing, but what I was really burning out on was staying indoors all day. When I moved out to this courtyard, the first day that it rained and I slung a tarp up, that was it for me. I have never written a single word of my novels indoors since. I’m looking at white-crowned sparrows now. That’s probably what you’re hearing. And the scrub jays, these are my office mates. I’ve got a couple bird feeders around in this courtyard, and because I’m just sitting here for hours every day, I’m just part of the landscape as far as they’re concerned. I’ve had a scrub jay land on my boot at the end of my footstool and just stare at me like, “Are you alive or dead?”

(6) ACTIVISM. “Workers at an Activision studio vote to unionize, a first for the gaming industry.” The New York Times has the details.

A group of workers at a video game studio that is part of Activision Blizzard has voted to form a union, a first for a major North American video game company.

The vote, which passed 19 to 3, affects 28 quality-assurance employees at Raven Software, the Wisconsin studio that helps to develop the popular Call of Duty game. The workers voted over the past several weeks, and the results were tallied by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Activision has one week to formally object if it finds grounds for complaint.

The new union, the Game Workers Alliance, is the culmination of months of labor organizing at Activision, which has faced increasing pressure from employees to improve working conditions after a lawsuit accused the company of having a sexist culture in which women were routinely harassed.

Organizing at Raven in particular increased in intensity in December, when quality-assurance, or Q.A., workers walked out to protest the ending of about a dozen workers’ contracts. The Communications Workers of America, a prominent tech, media and communications union, helped lead the unionization effort….

(7) BRING THE HAMMER.  The trailer for Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder dropped today.

“Let me tell you the story of the space viking, Thor Odinson…”

(8) HE MORPHED THOSE CHECKS. The New York Times tells why “A former ‘Power Rangers’ actor is charged with helping steal millions in Covid relief funds.”

The actor who led a team of teenage superheroes on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been accused of helping steal millions of dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program pandemic relief fund.

Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, who played the Red Ranger under the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 others were charged with fraud this week in a Texas federal court over what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to illicitly obtain $3.5 million in P.P.P. loans.

Mr. Geiger and the others he is said to have worked in coordination with used a mix of genuine and sham businesses to obtain loans from the relief program, prosecutors said. According to court filings, they fabricated documents and made false claims about sales and payroll to obtain inflated loans, then spent the cash on jewelry, precious metals and cars.

Mr. Geiger received a loan of $225,754 in June 2020 for his company St. John Enterprises, which sells Power Rangers memorabilia, such as $60 autographed photos and $100 personalized video messages. Instead of using the money to pay workers — the relief program’s intended purpose — Mr. Geiger funneled most of the money to two of his co-defendants, prosecutors said in court filings….

(9) DENIS MEIKLE (1947-2022). In the Guardian, Jasper Sharp pays tribute to his late friend, film historian Denis Meikle.

…In 1996 Denis’s first book, A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer, was published, after almost six years of writing and intensive research during which time he developed a close friendship with Michael Carreras, the head of the studio in its later years. It is considered the definitive history of Hammer Films.

This was followed by Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies (2001), Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (2003), Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion (2004), The Ring Companion (2005) and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out (2006).

With Jane, in 2007 he founded Hemlock Books, specialising in non-fiction publications on film, horror, mystery and the macabre and actor and director biographies, through which he edited and published the journals The Fantastic Fifties, The Sensational Sixties and The Age of Thrills (1930s and 40s), and published his final work, Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019), jointly researched with Kip Xool and Doug Young.

This recent Tod Slaughter biography encapsulates Denis’s approach to film writing perfectly: scholarly, fact-driven and intensively researched without being dry, and writerly and critical without thrusting his role as the writer to the fore….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is the month that saw the publication of John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of the Travis McGee novels. (Warning: there’s nothing genre or genre adjacent here. So go away if that’s what you were expecting.) In my opinion, the Travis McGee novels are among the finest mystery series ever done.

I’m listening to them now because Audible dropped the price way, way down on each work. And it’s been at least twenty years since I read them all. So it’s an excellent time to re-experience them. The narrator, Robert Perkoff, is quite excellent, capturing the first person voice of Travis as well as I expect him to. 

This novel was only accepted by in 1964 by Fawcett Publications editor Knox Burger after MacDonald says in a later interview with Ed Gorman: “At the request of Knox Burger, then at Fawcett, I attempted a series character. I took three shots at it to get one book with a character I could stay with. That was in 1964. Once I had the first McGee book, The Deep Blue Good-by, they held it up until I had finished two more, Nightmare in Pink and A Purple Place for Dying, then released one a month for three months. That launched the series.” 

McGee is of an uncertain background, he’s ex-military, but that may be the Korean War or it might be just out of the very early Vietnam War, as MacDonald hints at both. He is a big man and knows how to fight, has a temper, but controls it.  He won the Busted Flush, his house boat, in a card game. Was it a honest game? Who knows? 

The novels really should be read in the order written as both McGee and the America that he’s part of change in a very chronological fashion. Travis has definite strong political opinions and I won’t say I always agree with them, but that’s the character. And no, I won’t say that this character is altogether pleasant as he isn’t as in this novel and in every novel in the series, he will do things that make me cringe. 

If you haven’t read The Deep Blue Good-by, go ahead and read it — if you like it, you’ll like the whole series. The Deep Blue Good-by is reasonably price at the usual suspects for six dollars.

A film version of The Deep Blue Good-by, directed by Oliver Stone, was optioned a decade ago. Christian Bale who is six feet tall to Travis McGee’s stated six feet four was going to the lead. The film was never developed. There’s one film based off a later novel in this series, Darker Than Amber starring Rod Taylor, and one, Travis McGee: The Empty Copper Sea that starred Sam Elliott but which moved McGee to sunny California. McDonald vetoed a television series in the Sixties on the grounds that if it was popular no one would read his novels. 

See? Not a single spoiler! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accidental gunshot wound. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 70. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series. She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 69. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2 and inSpider-Man: No Way Home, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot in the modern day version of Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. 
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 62. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1963 Michael Chabon, 59. Author of what I consider the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland, which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but was Executive Producer for the just concluded season.
  • Born May 24, 1965 John C. Reilly, 57. I honor him for just his performance as Amos Hart in Chicago but as that film is hardly genre I’d better go on and list genre appearances, shouldn’t I? (Chicago is streaming on Paramount +.) He’s Lefty in A Prairie Home Companion which we’ve established is genre followed by being Crepsley in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and he shows up in the Guardians of the Galaxy as Corpsman Dey. He’s Hank Marlow in Kong: Skull Island. He was Dr. Watson in the film everyone wants to forget, Holmes & Watson. His last genre role that I’m aware of was playing Cap in the Moonbase 8 comedy series. 

(12) KAMALA KHAN. Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel starts streaming June 8 on Disney+.

Good is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do.

(13) MADE (UP) MAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Ron Perlman.  Perlman is of interest to us because nearly all of his work has been genre-related, beginning with his debut in Quest For Fire.  Perlman says he got his job in the first Beauty and the Beast because makeup artist Rick Baker said Perlman worked well with prosthetics.  Perlman also discusses his long-running collaboration with Guillermo del Toro; Perlman worked on del Toro’s first film, Cronos, and has collaborated with Del Toro on seven other projects, including the forthcoming Pinocchio.  Perlman also discusses what actors do during a daily four-hour stint in the makeup chair and his extensive voice work, including playing Optimus Prime in two Transformers movies. “Maltin on Movies: Ron Perlman”.

In his earliest screen appearances (remember Quest for Fire?) Ron Perlman was buried under a ton of makeup and prosthetics. That’s also how he became the Emmy-winning star of television’s Beauty and the Beast. Since then he’s shown his versatility, especially in his collaborations with the gifted filmmaker Guillermo del Toro like Hellboy and the forthcoming Pinocchio. His new film The Last Victim, casts him as a weary sheriff in the modern-day West. As Leonard and Jessie quickly discovered, Ron has the soul of a poet and the heart of a movie buff. Wait till you hear him singing the praises of Gary Cooper!

(14) I GUESS WE DO TALK ABOUT HIM. Tonight Andrew Porter witnessed another item that stumped Jeopardy! contestants.

Category: Bruno

Answer: “Sylvie and Bruno” was a dreamy 1889 children’s book by this Brit who was comfortable with fantasy worlds.

Wrong questions: “Who was Barrie?” and “Who was Tolkien?”

Right question: “Who was Lewis Carroll?”

(15) GENUINE TRIVIA. It doesn’t get much more obscure than this: “10 actors from The Andy Griffith Show who voiced major cartoon characters” at MeTV.

The Andy Griffith Show hired a sprawling cast to play all the quirky citizens of Mayberry. Many of those actors were skilled at performing in amusing voices. No wonder they tended to have careers in cartoons, too.

Many of the faces from Mayberry were notable animation voice-over artists. Here are some of our favorite that might surprise you.

1. Arlene Gorlonka

Speed Buggy was one of several successful Hanna-Barbera clones of its hit Scooby-Doo. Substitute the Great Dane with a talking anthropomorphic dune buggy and it’s essentially the same show. “Tinker” looked and acted a whole lot like Shaggy. And then there was Debbie, the Daphne, if you will. The mystery-solving teen was voiced by none other than Howard Sprague’s girlfriend, Millie!

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Morbius,” the Screen Junkies say that “Michael Morbius is a doctor living a serious challenge: being Jared Leto.”  Dr. Morbius chugs enough blood at blood banks that the narrator says it reminds him “of the time at camp when we found the Capri Suns.” Also Matt Smith (speaking of doctors) “acts with the freedom of someone who knows he’s in a train wreck.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/22/22 With A Capital ‘T’ And That Rhymes With ‘P’ And That Stands For Pixel

(1) EMPEROR STARDUST RETURNS. For last night’s Nebula Awards ceremony Henry Lien returned in his Emperor Stardust persona and supplied a rocking musical introduction to The Andre Norton Nebula Award For Middle Grade And Young Adult Fiction category. Not an easy title to versify, and the Emperor also did a wonderful job of making the nominees into lyrics as well. He begins —

It’s the Andre Norton Nebula Award

And if you read these books you’ll totally be floored…

(For a captioned version see the official Nebula Awards Ceremony video starting around the 46:00 mark.)

(2) EVERY BOOK A WINNER. Popular fan artist Alan White will be holding a garage sale next weekend in Las Vegas. No wonder the poster is so gorgeous.

MADNESS ENSUES as 4000 paperbacks and several hundred hardbacks magically disappear for prices unknown in modern times! YOU, yes YOU can have a commanding library of dang near every possible genre author in a matter of minutes! Here’s your chance to beg out of social events by saying, “Sorry, I have books to read”. Here’s your chance to wonder “What the hell am I going to do with all these damn books?” while your mundane friends complain “Looks like a fire hazard to me”. Oh, the pity of it! This event runs all day Saturday beginning at 10AM sharp. (I plan on sleeping till 9:50am). And on Sunday until 2pm or the shelves are bare! Will this sale be an astounding success or a calamitous disaster? If you don’t show, you won’t know!

(3) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Vertlieb was rehospitalized after developing a blood clot in one leg, and underwent surgery on May 19 to deal with it. The initial reports are favorable.

(4) IMMEDIATE ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert is already on record with “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Nebula Award Winners – and Two SFWA Uproars”.

…The 2021 Nebula Award for Best Novelette goes to “O2 Arena” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. This is a win which makes me very happy, because not only is it a good story, but it’s also (to my knowledge, at least) the first Nebula win for an author who lives and was born in Africa. Coincidentally, it is also the first Nebula win for Galaxy’s Edge magazine, which normally doesn’t get a whole lot of awards love….

(5) CHRIS BARKLEY’S HUGO PACKET SELECTIONS. Best Fan Writer nominee Chris Barkley has posted a collection of links on Facebook which he calls “A Sampling of The Best of So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask 2021: The 2022 Hugo Awards Packet Edition.”

I have assembled, for your reading pleasure, what I (and my editor Mike Glyer) consider the best of the columns I wrote this past year. Mind you, in re-reading them, I was tempted to rewrite some of them or insert a few more snarky comebacks to spruce them up a bit.

But …no.

My nomination as a Hugo Awards Finalist is based on these works and I offer them to you again, dear reader, unaltered and unabridged.

A link to each column that was submitted for the 2022 Hugo Awards Voter Packet will be linked below in the comments.

(6) HOW A MENTOR DISCOVERED ARISIA – AND OTHER SFF REALMS. The Horror Writers Association Mentor of the Year award recipient Michael Knost posted on Facebook the acceptance speech he really wanted to give.

I changed my Mentor of the Year Award speech during the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony at the last second as I recognized I was too emotional to deliver it. As I wanted to recognize my first mentor. I know I ugly-cry so I wanted to spare everyone. But I’d like to say what I wanted to say then, here. I apologize for the long post.

I hated school growing up. I hated education, reading, writing, and everything that went with it. I had great teachers, wonderful people, but I didn’t like school one bit. Then I met my fifth grade teacher, Mr Bill Marino.

He caught me in the hallway one day after lunch and handed me a classic science fiction novel—a yellowing mass market paperback. He must have seen the disappointment on my face and said, “I just want you to read this. There’s no tests, no book reports, etc. I just want to know what you think of the book. AND, while you are reading it, you will be exempt from all homework that the other students have to do.”…

(7) FRIENDLY DJINN PERSUASION. “George Miller reveals first trailer for ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’” and SYFY Wire has the essence.

… Based on a story by A.S. Byatt, Three Thousand Years of Longing marks Miller’s return to fantasy filmmaking after first delving into the genre with The Witches of Eastwick 35 years ago. The film tells the story of a solitary scholar named Alithea (Tilda Swinton), who arrives in Istanbul for a conference and finds herself in the presence of a millennia-old Djinn (Idris Elba). The Djinn offers her three wishes, after which he will be granted his freedom, but of course, Alithea is an academic, and she doesn’t necessarily believe the Djinn’s gifts — leaving him to regale her with stories of his long life in an effort to convince her….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2008 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fair warning: usually we avoid essaying anything that I don’t like. I got special permission to do this film. You are warned! 

Just fourteen years ago, the last installment in the Indiana Jones franchise so far, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, premiered on this date. (The untitled fifth Indiana Jones film is a sequel to this film and our Indy will be, if he’s the same age as Harrison Ford who plays him, eighty one years of age. A fine vintage for a globe trotting whip bearing archaeologist.) 

Directed by Steven Spielberg who had directed all of these, from a screenplay by David Koepp but, and this is a huge but, Jeb Stuart, Jeffrey Boam, Frank Darabont, George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson had previously attempted to write suitable screenplays and failed. Yes, consider that for a moment — the screenplay you see is one of legions done. And the one considered most filmable. God help us. We can blame!  At least we know that we can curse George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson for the story we see here.

According to the publicists, it was intended to pay tribute to the SF B-movies of the Fifties. Well in my opinion it failed at that. Aliens. Crystal skulls. Nuclear explosions. Gateways to other, well, somewheres. WTF? I really think that Indy Jones is at his best old-fashioned pulp adventure, not SF. Bah humbug. 

Well it cost nearly two hundred million dollars and the appeal of Harrison Ford proved irresistible as it made four times that at the box office.

And critics mostly loved it though there were some who decidedly loathed it with all their beings. 

Jeff Beyer of the Chicago Daily Herald did notice how bad the story was: “Normally it’s a terrible thing if a film only gives us one good character … except when it’s Indiana Jones, with a whip at his side. A terrible story can’t totally ruin Jones. Thank God.”

Lori Hoffman of the Atlantic City Weekly in her review took note of the long break between this film and the last one: “While we can never go home again completely, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ reminds us of why we fell in love with Indiana Jones in the first place.” 

David Denby of the New Yorker gets the last word as he sums up my feelings towards this film: “Crystal Skull isn’t bad — there are a few dazzling sequences, and a couple of good performances — but the unprecedented blend of comedy and action that made the movies so much more fun than any other adventure series is mostly gone.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are as ambivalent as I am giving it just a fifty-three percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 21, 1859 Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve read all of the Holmes stories a long time ago and that was a delightful undertaking indeed. My favorite isThe Hound of the Baskervilles as it allows him to develop a story at length. Favorite video Holmes? Jeremy Brett.  Least favorite? The one who went on to play Khan. Just really didn’t work for me at all.  Looking at ISFDB, I’m see there were more Professor Challenger novels than I realized. And the Brigadier Gerard stories sound suspiciously comical…  (Died 1930.)
  • Born May 21, 1900 Wallace West. His first two short stories were “Loup-Garou” in Weird Tales, October 1927 and “The Last Man” in Amazing, February 1929. He published continuously through the Sixties though only averaged a story a year. Interestingly his first two novels were about Betty Boop in the Big Little Books format: Betty Boop in Snow-White: Assisted by Bimbo and Ko-Ko and Betty Boop in “Miss Gulliver’s Travels”.  He wrote four genre novels, only a few of which are available from the usual suspects. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 21, 1934 Shirley Boone, 88. Ok, she’s here for but one role. She played the construct of Ruth, Kirk’s old Academy flame, on the “Shore Leave” episode of Trek. I really, really love that episode. Other than that episode, she appeared in a horror film, It’s Alive, and her last roles were three in I Dream of Jeannie before retiring from acting at age thirty-six.
  • Born May 21, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 84. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre which I just essayed as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. 
  • Born May 21, 1939 Paul Winfield. Another one taken far too soon. He’s best remembered as Capt. Terrell in The Wrath of Khan, but he was also in the Next Gen episode “Darmok” as the signature character.  He showed up in Damnation Alley as a character named Keegan and in The Terminator as Lt. Ed Traxler. Oh, and let’s not forget that he was Lucien Celine In The Serpent and the Rainbow which surely is genre. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 21, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 62. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arli$$ as it’s not genre though it is definitely worth seeing.  Her best genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short lived Monsters anthology series. She had a one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series. 
  • Born May 21, 1964 Kat Richardson, 58. Her Greywalker series is one of those affairs that I’m pleased to say that I’ve read every novel that was been published. I’ve not read Blood Orbit, the first in her new series, yet. Has anyone here done so? Her Blood Orbit novel won an Endeavour Award which is given for a science fiction or fantasy book written by a Pacific Northwest author and is given by a panel of judges chartered by Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. 
  • Born May 21, 1968 Karen Lord, 54. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and a Kitschie for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well-done as her earlier novel, and different and fascinating in its own right. Unraveling is her latest novel.

(10) NEWS FROM NEW MEXICO. Margaret Atwood and Emily St. John Mandel are two sff writers who spoke on day one of the Santa Fe Literary Festival reports Yahoo!

The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, …spoke about the leaked Supreme Court memo that suggested the US could imminently overturn Roe v Wade. She was unimpressed with justices who defend such judgments by self-identifying as Constitutional orginalists.“If you take the original Constitution [as it is and apply it], a lot of people are going to lose their rights, including all women,” she said, as well as “people who don’t own property”….

On day two, local author George RR Martin made a revelation which was reported by The Independent (registration required).  

George RR Martin has revealed that when Game of Thronesthe hit HBO show based on his epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, was first being pitched to television networks it was sold as: “The Sopranos in Middle Earth”….

(11) BE FREE. To celebrate the movie’s 40th anniversary, Parade has come up with “21 Things You Might Not Know About the E.T. Movie”.

3. The scene in science class when Elliott frees all the frogs, saving them from dissection, is based on Spielberg’s own past. He was apparently so aghast when asked to cut open a frog in school that he released several of the amphibians.

(12) GROWING UP EVIL. In a Nerds of a Feather film review Arturo Serrano says “’The Innocents’ is a disturbing look at how evil is born and nurtured” and his concern about these characters is contagious.

…Ben’s case merits attention for its own reasons. He’s on a trajectory parallel to Ida’s, one where raw id is unhindered by morality, but what fuels his cruelty is his mother’s abuse. He has actively been taught to cause harm. We can more readily understand why he’s the way he is, but when paired with Ida, we are made to wonder how children of such drastically different parents can become equally monstrous. The spark of the whole conflict is precisely Aisha, whose superpower is what the other kids lack: empathy.

The movie achieves all this with incredibly few lines of dialogue. Most of the weight of the storytelling is carried by the camera, handled with confidence to make a shiny forest creepy, a boring building ominous, and a clear pond loaded with tension. With such versatile skill for shot composition, lighting, framing, camera angles, and the sheer brutal power of great acting, the need for visual effects is minimal….

(13) FRESH MAGIC. Nerds of a Feather also gives us Paul Weimer’s “Microreview [book]: Rise of the Mages by Scott Drakeford”.

…I have to give Drakeford good marks for imagining a fantasy world that is not a stasis frozen in amber and where the only discoveries are re-discoveries. There are people seeking not only the lore of the past or lore from outside, but making new discoveries of their own (particularly Ban, Emrael’s brother). Societies are never static, there may be forces slowing progress and change, but the “everything has been the same way for a thousand years” is a trap that Drakeford avoids, on cultural, social and technological axes….

(14) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. “Blood moon eclipse to occur Sunday night” reports MSN.com. Never mind — like the first comment says, “This was last week, dopes.”

…What this means is that the moon will turn a blood-red-orange color late Sunday night until early Monday morning.

The reason for the red color is the exact same reason sunsets appear red….

This has inspired Michael Toman to send me these lyrics:

A Crimson Shade of Doo-Wop Lunar Activity

Blood, Blood, Blood, Blood Moon /

You heard me crying on my fresh-fried phone /

A lone stranger, with his sad tune, on the Night Tide Dune/

With no love of my own…

Wop Bop a Mary Lou Bop Apocalypse Rag Wham! /

“Blooooooood  – – – Moooooon!

Toman adds:

“Unsolicited Shout-Outs to GRRM in Santa Fe, NM and Howard Waldrop, Who Knows Where or When?”

PS. “Appearing next, ‘Live!’ on our All-Star Cavalcade Show, Howard W. and The Mar-Velles!”

PPS. “And the Wind Cries ‘Waldrop?’ Or was that “Westeros?”

(15) A VALHALLA FOR CARTOON CHARACTERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The latest trailer from the game where all the Warner Bros and DC characters fight each other in one epic battle. “MultiVersus – You’re with Me!’”.

In MultiVersus, the Multiverse is at your fingertips as you battle it out in intense 2v2 matches. Up against Batman & Shaggy? Try using Bugs Bunny & Arya Stark! This platform fighter lets you play out your fantasy matchups in a fun co-op or head-to-head fight for supremacy. MultiVersus is an all-new free-to-play, platform fighter videogame. With an ever-expanding cast of iconic characters and legendary universes, MultiVersus will feature multiple online modes, including a team-based 2 vs. 2 format, 1 vs. 1 matches and 4-player free-for-all, along with upcoming content-filled seasons.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/30/22 Those Who Cannot Remember Past Pixel Scrolls Are Doomed To Re-File Them

(1) CAT RAMBO AT FUTURE TENSE. The new entry from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives. Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to Be Trees” at Slate.

“For someone like me,” Nefirah’s client said, “it’s not a question of whether or not I’ll be remembered. The question is precisely how.”…

Tamara Kneese, an expert on the digital afterlife, delivers a response in her essay “Is a Lasting Digital Memorial to a Dead Person Even Possible?”

I’m a death scholar and a sustainability researcher at a major tech company, so Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to be Trees” hit home. In the story, a death care worker is asked to memorialize clients in innovative ways, using cutting-edge technologies to blur the boundaries between life and death, and between humans and the natural world. For the past 15 years, I have been researching how people use technology to remember and communicate with the dead. My forthcoming book, Death Glitch: How Techno-Solutionism Fails Us in This Life and Beyond, explores the fundamental incompatibility between dreams of technologically mediated life extension and the planned obsolescence of material technologies…. 

(2) AUTHOR MAGNET. The inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will take place May 20-23, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, NM. The authors who are scheduled to appear include Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, Joy Harjo, Anne Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Phil Klay, Jon Krakauer, Emily St. John Mandel, George R.R. Martin, N. Scott Momaday, James McGrath Morris, Douglas Preston, Rebecca Roanhorse, Bob Shacochis, Colson Whitehead and Don Winslow.

Besides author readings and book signings, the festival will feature meals during which chefs and food writers will talk about the food they’ve prepared, their work and their books; Walk & Talks, during which attendees and authors will together explore parts of Santa Fe; and Tea & Tequila, featuring tea and tequila tastings. On Monday, the last day of the festival, attendees will be able to go on literary day trips in Santa Fe and nearby areas in northern New Mexico.

(3) FRESH VIEWPOINT. Artists & Climate Change’s “Wild Authors: Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki” is a Q&A with a 2022 double-Hugo-nominee and editor of The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

In your short story “Mercy of the Wild,” you wrote from the viewpoint of a lion. What inspired that story?

“Mercy of the Wild” was a point of experimentation for me. I love to experiment with forms and styles or speculative fiction, and that was one such experiment that I was delighted to follow up on. The story was inspired by an almost childlike, wide-eyed curiosity about what goes on in the minds of the creatures we share the planet with. What if we heard their story, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Or as the Igbo proverb says, “Until the lion learns to tell its story, the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” This got me wondering, what if the roles were reversed? Its telling impresses on me the need for people of diverse cultures to champion and find spaces for their stories to thrive in the world of today.

(4) GREAT LEAP FORWARD.  Cora Buhlert was a guest on the Dickheads podcast (as in Philip K. Dick) and discussed “‘The Big Jump’ – Leigh Brackett” with Grant Warmack and host David Agranoff.

In the first episode of this podcast, Solar Lottery, David said he would someday do this episode. So four years later, in January of this year, he sat down with a couple of colleagues and discussed the lesser-known novel The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett. The pair of talents he was privileged to have here are newcomer to Leigh Brackett writer/music manager/tarot reader Grant Wamack and long time ‘Bracketteer’ teacher/translator/writer and three time Hugo nominee Cora Buhlert. Enjoy.

(5) S&S: Here is more about the nascent New Edge sword and sorcery movement: “New Edge S&S Guest Post: Oliver Brackenbury” at Scott Oden’s blog.

[Scott Oden:] I put out the call, a few days ago, for a few guest posts relating to the New Edge of Sword & Sorcery. And here is our first victim . . . er, participant. Oliver is a podcaster, a screenwriter, and a novelist; he’s also one of the organizers of the whole New Edge movement. Oliver, you have the floor . .

[Oliver Brackenbury]: …I’ve been in conversations like that before, in other scenes and settings, and I thought “Wouldn’t be nice if all this energy was directed at really changing the situation?”. So I proposed an open, yet specific question – “What could we do to get more young people into this genre we all love?”.

Now, I can take credit for asking the question, but I cannot take credit for the incredible amount of energy I unwittingly tapped into by asking it. The conversation that took off was galloping and enthusiastic and good-natured and productive and WOW!

Scott Oden’s own thoughts about the movement appear in “Putting a NEW EDGE on an Old Blade”.

A genre can grow dull. The accretion of old social mores — the misogyny, racism, and homophobia of bygone eras — can oxidize a genre, making it seem as graceless as a barnacle-encrusted hunk of metal drawn from the sea. A genre’s founders can (and will) die, leaving less-invested imitators to tease out only the surface tropes while its deeper meanings are lost to the ages. And, over time, that genre starts to become irrelevant to the world at large.

In today’s fiction market, this is largely the fate of sword-and-sorcery. Mainstream publishers are loath to market a work as S&S because they consider it a dead end market. Readers less concerned with genre labels use the term nowadays to describe any book with swordplay and magic, from Tolkien to Pratchett — and they’re unaware that it has (or had) a very specific meaning. In short, the term sword-and-sorcery has lost its edge. It has rusted, and is stuck in a very old and problematic scabbard.

There is, however, a nascent movement that has started in the small press sphere to remove that blade from its sheath, to clean the rust from it, sharpen it on a grinding wheel, and fashion a new scabbard — one free from the old problems of the genre. That movement is called the NEW EDGE of S&S….

(6) SUBGENRE GETS NEWSLETTER SOURCE. There’s now also a free weekly sword and sorcery newsletter with the delightful name “Thews You Can Use” from Sword & Sorcery News. It just started.

This week’s Roundup will be a little different—not that you’d know, since it’s the first. Rather than covering the week in S&S news, I’ll go back over the last couple months. Here’s a quick roundup of S&S news from February through April…. 

(7) MURDERBOT AND POLICY. The New America website will hold a gathering of its Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club to discuss All Systems Red on June 1 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the next, we have selected All Systems Red by Martha Wells.

The novel explores a spacefaring future in which corporate-driven exploratory missions rely heavily on security androids. In Wells’ engaging – at times funny – tale, one such android hacks its own system to attain more autonomy from the humans he is accompanying. The result is a thought-provoking inquiry into the evolving nature of potential human-robot relations.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 1 to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).

(8) SPACE FORCE OFFICIALLY GROUNDED. I hadn’t realized the show wasn’t already canceled. Well, it is now: “Netflix cancels Steve Carell sci-fi comedy ‘Space Force’” reports SYFY Wire.

…In addition to Carell as General Mark Naird, the show also starred an A-list supporting cast of John Malkovich (Dr. Adrian Mallory), Ben Schwartz (F. Tony Scarapiducci), Tawny Newsome (Captain Angela Ali), Lisa Kudrow (Maggie Naird), and Diana Silvers (Erin Naird). 

That group is chock full of talent, which may have been part of its downfall — according to THR, the show’s large budget was reportedly in part because of the actors’ salaries, with Carell getting over $1 million per episode. That much built in spending, along with mixed reviews for both seasons, apparently resulted in a failure for Space Force to (ahem) launch into a third season…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1938 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Not his official appearance as Bugs Bunny that will happen in “A Wild Hare” on July 27, 1940. But a preliminary version of the character we now know as him first showed up in “Porky’s Hare Hunt” eighty-four years ago today. The Looney Tunes cartoon was directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway (do note his name) and an uncredited Cal Dalton. It stars Porky Pig as a hunter whose quarry is a rabbit named Happy. Yes, Happy.

Oh, I well know that most Bugs Bunny fans will tell you that July 27 is the day that he was created as that is the anniversary of the 1940 debut of the familiar rabbit and his adversary, Elmer Fudd. In that July debut people also heard for the first time Bugs’s famous line, “What’s up, Doc?”

But today is the real anniversary of the creation of this character.  He first appeared on the theater short called as I noted above “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” Perhaps the reason people don’t recognize, or indeed want to credit him as that rabbit, is Bugs in that early cartoon was credited as Happy Rabbit. And admittedly it really looks pretty much like any rabbit save the smirking face, doesn’t it? Or does he? 

It’s been uploaded to YouTube so go watch it. It may not look like him but it acts like him and it sounds like him. Several sources state that Mel Blanc voiced him here but the cartoon itself has no credits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 30, 1930 Bill Buchanan. A musician who was not a filker but might have been. Really. Truly. His most famous composition took place in 1956, when he and Dickie Goodman created the sound collage “The Flying Saucer”.  They then did “The Flying Saucer Goes West” which is a lot of fun. A short time later, they would do “The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)” / “Meet The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)”. With other collaborators, he did such works as “Frankenstein Of ’59/Frankenstein Returns”.  Checking iTunes, quite a bit of what he did is available. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 84. One of my favorites author to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version as you know since I wrote an essay on them. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me. 
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 54. Son of Jane Yolen. One time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. (Which I just discovered has not released a recording in a decade. Damn.) He was the lead vocalist for Songs from The Gypsy which was based on The Gypsy, the novel written by Steven Brust and Meghan Lindholm. A truly great album.  With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are well worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as quite engaging.
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 49. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novelwhich won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome. She has a number of Hugo nominations starting at Nippon 2007 for His Majesty’s Dragon, then next at MidAmericaCon II for Uprooted, The Temeraire series at Worldcon 75. No wins yet which really, really surprises me. She’s twice been a finalist for Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book with A Deadly Education at DisCon III for  and this year at Chicon 8 for The Last Graduate.
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 40. Her first genre role was as Claudio in Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise, voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode!
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 37. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production Death on the Nile which is quite lovely but not genre adjacent, but I really don’t mind as they’re lovely mysteries. Oh, and she’s playing The Evil Queen in the forthcoming Snow White film.
  • Born April 30, 2003 Emily Carey, 19. Yes, nineteen years old. She has had a lot of roles for her age. First she played the twelve-year-old Diana in Wonder Woman followed by playing  the fourteen-year-old Lara in the rebooted Tomb Raider.  And then she’s in Anastasia: Once Upon a Time in the lead role of Anastasia.  She’s Teen Wendy Darling in the forthcoming The Lost Girls. She was in the genre adjacent Houdini and Doyle as Mary Conan Doyle, and finally she’s in the not-yet-released G.R.R. Martin’s House of the Dragon series as the young Alicent Hightower. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CHALK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Pasadena Chalk Festival returns June 18-19 at The Paseo.

The Pasadena Chalk Festival began in 1993 after a summer intern at the Light Bringer Project attended a street painting festival in Paris and brought back her amazing pictures and observations. The first “Chalk on the Walk” took place at Centennial Square at Pasadena City Hall with over 150 visual artists participating in the first Los Angeles-area event. All proceeds went toward community arts programs and HIV/AIDS resources.

In 2010, The Pasadena Chalk Festival was officially named the largest street painting festival by the Guinness World Record, welcoming more than 600 artists using over 25,000 sticks of chalk and drawing a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors in one weekend. 

Below is an hour-long video of last year’s Chalk Festival. And here is File 770’s roundup of sff art from the 2019 festival via Twitter.

(13) DON’T SAY PAY. The Florida legislature’s move to punish Disney for publicly opposing the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill fails to conform to other requirements of state law says the corporate giant: “Disney’s special tax district suggests its repeal is illegal” in the Miami Herald.

As Florida legislators were rushing through passage of a bill to repeal the special district that governs Walt Disney World last week, they failed to notice an obscure provision in state law that says the state could not do what legislators were doing — unless the district’s bond debt was paid off. Disney, however, noticed and the Reedy Creek Improvement District quietly sent a note to its investors to show that it was confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district operating the 39-square mile parcel it owned in two counties violated the “pledge” the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal. The result, Reedy Creek told its investors, is that it would continue to go about business as usual.

The statement, posted on the website of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on April 21 by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is the only public statement Disney has supplied since lawmakers unleashed their fury over the company’s vocal opposition to the “Parental Rights in Education” law, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill. The statement, first reported by WESH 2, quotes the statute which says, in part, that the “State of Florida pledges…it will not limit or alter the rights of the District…until all such bonds together with interest thereon…are fully met and discharged.”

… In essence, the state had a contractual obligation not to interfere with the district until the bond debt is paid off, said Jake Schumer, a municipal attorney in the Maitland law firm of Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand, in an article for Bloomberg Tax posted on Tuesday and cited in a Law and Crime article.

The law passed by the Republican Legislature on a largely party-line vote, and signed into law by the Republican governor, either violates the contract clause of the Florida Constitution, or is incomplete, Schumer told the Herald/Times on Tuesday. If the Legislature wants to dismantle the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it has more work to do.

(14) FLY YOU FOOLS! J. Michael Straczynski would like to tell you about the worst musical he ever saw. Thread starts here.

(15) DO TOUCH THAT DIAL. Tor.com’s Robert Repino beggars the imagination by reminding readers about “Six Bizarro Made-for-TV SFF Movies That Actually Exist”. Such as —

Gargoyles (1972)

Not to be confused with the prematurely canceled ’90s cartoon of the same nameGargoyles starred B-movie tough guy Cornel Wilde (from The Naked Prey). The opening voiceover raises the stakes pretty high: In the aftermath of the war between God and Satan, a race of creatures climbs out of hell to terrorize mankind every few centuries. In the modern age, the gargoyles are relegated to myth and statues, leaving humans completely unprepared for their next onslaught.

Whoa. That sounds serious. Until you notice that the gargoyles reemerge in a desert that is surely within driving distance of the studio. And it takes only a handful of armed townsfolk to quell the apocalyptic uprising. But those minor details aside, this movie remains a guilty pleasure for my generation, in part because of the Emmy-winning makeup wizardry of Stan Winston. The gargoyles aren’t that scary, but they look pretty darn cool, and some of them even fly. And by “fly,” I mean “slowly lift off the ground with a barely concealed cable.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King meets the evil emperor, who wonders why the people don’t love him!

What do you do when you’ve seized power and/or purchased a large social media company? You monologue.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/19/22 Marconi Scrolls The Mamba

(1) GRIMM TIMES AHEAD. The Brothers Grimm Society of North America launched this week. “The BGSNA promotes the study of all aspects of the legacy and the spirit of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and their works. Website and membership info forthcoming.”

(2) MARCON ENDING. Marcon, the annual Columbus, Ohio convention, is calling it quits. I was Marcon’s toastmaster in 1977. At least that didn’t kill it. The con chair posted on Facebook:

Due to many challenges with which we are all familiar the current staff are stepping down. One of the panel tracks for this year will be “how to run a convention”. If you are willing to travel to Columbus in May to impart your knowledge on how to run a con there will be an entire panel track on just that topic. Please consider sharing your wisdom and experience with the folks coming next and PM me about your desire to sit a panel this May 6-8 at the final MARcon.

The Marcon.org website shut down earlier this month.

(3) VINTAGE PNEUMA. Christianity Today’s Louis Markos reviews The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind by Jason M. Baxter in “C.S. Lewis Was a Modern Man Who Breathed Medieval Air…”

The British Boethius

Like his friend Tolkien, C. S. Lewis was a man who loved all things medieval and who infused all that he wrote with a premodern ethos that hearkened back to an older, more traditional understanding of technology, books, wisdom, and morality. In his new book, The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind, Dante scholar Jason Baxter unpacks the full extent of Lewis’s medievalism. Just as Michael Ward demonstrated in Planet Narnia that Lewis keyed each of his seven Narnia Chronicles to one of the medieval planets, so Baxter demonstrates that the medieval worldview colored not only Lewis’s apologetics and fiction but his scholarship as well….

(4) NO STACKS OF BOOKS WITHOUT STACKS OF BUCKS. Publishers Weekly hears “Librarians ‘Disheartened’ by FY2022 Federal Budget, Preparing for Tough FY2023”.

Signed into law on March 11, the reconciled FY2022 budget (which began on October 1, 2021) contained only flat funding for the LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) at $197.4 million—despite the House last summer approving a $9 million increase that would have taken LSTA funding to $206.5 million. LSTA funding, which is administered by the IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) through grants to states, is the primary source of federal funding dedicated to America’s libraries….

…Amid rising inflation and continued economic volatility and uncertainty as the country emerges from the pandemic, flat funding is essentially a cut.

(5) MARLON JAMES. Boston Review’s Nate File interviews Marlon James, who says: “’Representation doesn’t just mean heroes. We need the villains as well.’”

Nate File: When Black Leopard, Red Wolf first came out, you joked that this trilogy was like an African Game of Thrones. That took off as the elevator pitch for the books, but they’re really very different. Do you regret making that joke?

 Marlon James: No, if for no other reason than it got people to pay attention to it. But also, I’m inspired by this idea that you don’t have to let go of the world of make-believe to tell a serious story. This idea that persists in fiction and in storytelling that realistic fiction is the grown-up genre and that fantasy is child’s play, even though fantasy, at a certain point in our evolutionary history, was considered fact. At one point, Zeus was a fact. For a lot of people, Shango is a fact. Game of Thrones supported the idea of telling a story that is decidedly adult—although I have no problem with teenagers stealing this book—but retain the fantastical and even the supernatural. It liberated how I always wanted to tell a story but never felt I could.

 NF: Why do you think things shifted? When did fantasy become inappropriate for adults?

 MJ: Christianity had a lot to do with it, and it still has a lot to do with it, because we look at fantastical things as inherently demonic. We’ve been burning women as witches for centuries. And, for better or worse, the rise of the nineteenth-century novel reproduced some of those ideas where things that go bump in the night are things that children believe in.

Margaret Atwood said once that human nature hasn’t changed in a thousand years, and the way you know this is to check the mythologies. I agree. I think that we reach for the fantastical sometimes to explain things that we can’t explain in the real world. For Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, only the fantastical could explain the type of horror that they witnessed in World War I. We still reach for allegory, we still reach for myth, we still reach for tall tales in order to understand ourselves….

(6) RANDOMIZED TBR. James Davis Nicoll recommends these “5 Extremely Unscientific Methods for Picking Your Next Book”.

Anyone can apply logic, taste, and methodical research to the problem of selecting which limited subset of the vast number of books available one is to read. Conversely, one can half-ass one’s way through Mt. Tsundoku using methods of dubious reliability. Don’t believe me? Here are five methods I have used, each more ludicrous than the one before….

(7) TAKARADA AKIRA OBIT. Actor Takarada Akira, whose resume was filled with appearances in kaiju movies, has died at the age of 87. Variety’s profile says:

…He made an impression in a major role as a Navy diver in the original 1954 “Godzilla” and thereafter was cast in series follow-ups including “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964), “Invasion of Astro-Monster” (1965), and “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” (1966).

…After the collapse of Japan’s studio system in the 1970s Takarada’s appearances in films became fewer though his career revived in the 1990s with supporting roles in the films of Itami Juzo. He also appeared in new entries in the “Godzilla” series such as the 1992 “Godzilla vs. Mothra” and the 2002 “Godzilla: Final Wars.” He is credited in the 2014 Garth Edwards “Godzilla” as a Japanese immigration agent, though his scenes were cut from the film….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Now I have come to praise Farscape which debuted twenty-four years ago this evening on on Sci-Fi Channel’s SciFi Friday. I won’t claimed to be objective as regards this series as I consider it to be the finest SF series ever done bar none. 

It was produced originally for the Australian Nine Network, and was, as if you didn’t notice, produced in that country with an all Australian cast save Ben Browder as John Crichton.  It was created by Rockne S. O’Bannon who would go on to be involved in seaQuest DSV, Defiance and Alien Nation. He and Brian Henson were Executive Producers (along with a number of other individuals).

And that brings me to the Jim Henson Company which was responsible for the amazing look of this series. They produced two of the characters here, Pilot and Rigel, plus produced the appendages on Ka D’Argo’s face and the Diagnostic Repair Drones or DRDs, and of course the makeup that created the various aliens. 

The characters here make use of slang such as frell, drad and dren as a substitute for English expletives. I particularly like frell as it’s so obvious what it really is. 

So how was the reception for it? Buzz-eye.com summed it up nicely this way: “The beauty of ‘Farscape’ for the uninitiated is in how surprising the show can be; you genuinely never know what the writers are going to throw at you next, and I truly envy anyone who gets to imbibe in the series for the first time via this box set.”

It currently holds an eighty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

It would run for four stellar seasons and get a proper send-off in The Peacekeeper Wars after it got cancelled on a cliffhanger. A weird cliffhanger at that. If you’re interested in watching it again, or amazingly haven’t seen it yet, it is currently airing on Amazon Prime. 

That it got no Hugo nominations is frelling beyond the pale. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. A member of First Fandom fondly remembered by OGH and others, he began publishing genre fiction with “Eyes of the Double Moon” in Planet Stories in the May 1953 issue. He would publish some thirty tales over the next fifty years including three with Ellison (including “Rodney Parish for Hire” in Partners in Wonder). Much of it is collected in Final Tales. He was also a writer of mystery fiction, at least twenty-four novels. I’m not seeing him really at the usual suspects in either genre in any meaningful amount. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Best remembered as Number Six as the ever so weird Prisoner series which he both created and produced. He was prior to that series, John Drake in Danger Man which might connect to this series or not. Did you know that he had a long-running connection with Columbo, directing, producing, writing, and appearing in several episodes? He appeared in “By Dawn’s Early Light” and “Identify Crisis”. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1932 Gail Kobe. She has genre appearances with the more prominent being as Jessica Connelly in Twilight Zone’s “In His Image”, in another Twilight Zone episode as Leah Maitland in “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross”, and two Outer Limits episodes, first as Janet Doweling in “Specimen, Unknown” and then as Janet in “The Keeper of the Purple Twilight”. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 86. She was Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, and Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner.  Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 67. So do any of the Die Hard franchise movies count as genre? Even setting them aside he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird sh!t), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down), Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill).
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 58. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series and on The Great War of Magellan film.
  • Born March 19, 1969 Connor Trinneer, 53. Best remembered for his roles as Charles “Trip” Tucker III on Enterprise Michael the wraith on Stargate Atlantis though he only provided the voice later on.  He also was Tycho “Ty”Johns in Star Runners, one of those good awful Sci-Fi films. How awful? It rates twelve percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows Guardian readers the periods of reading in the garden.

(11) ELEVATOR PITCH. SYFY Wire warns that “‘Moon Knight’ Goes Full Horror Mode In First Freaky Clip From Marvel’s New Disney+ Series”.

Here’s a pro Marvel tip: Never let a terrifying Ancient Egyptian deity corner you inside an elevator. Judging by the first official clip from the Moon Knight TV series (coming to Disney+ at the end of the month), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness won’t be the MCU’s initial foray into the world of horror. And here’s another piece of advice: if you’re ever scared witless by what may be a hallucination of an inter-dimensional being, pretend you dropped your contact lens on the floor. It doesn’t exactly work here, but it’s better than nothing….

(12) EMMA VS. J.K. “People Are Praising Emma Watson’s Alleged Jab At J.K. Rowling, Just Days After J.K. Went On An Anti-Trans Rant On Twitter”Yahoo!’s article amplifies what they’re talking about with video clips and tweets.

Earlier this week, Emma Watson graced the BAFTAs stage to present the award for Outstanding British Film.

She was introduced by Rebel Wilson, who joked, “Our next presenter is Emma Watson. She’s proud to call herself a feminist, but we all know she’s a witch.”

Once Emma reached the podium, she immediately said, “I’m here for all the witches.”

Here’s why people kind of did a double-take after that comment. Emma’s “all the witches” remark comes just a few days after J.K. Rowling did one of her infamous anti-trans rants on Twitter….

(13) CLICKS WILL ABOUND. Frankenstein or Dracula? Star Trek or Star Wars? Delta or Omicron? Time for the latest duel: “Wordle vs. Elden Ring: Which is a better game?” asks Slate.

Two massive cultural juggernauts currently stand astride the video gaming landscape. One is Wordle, a minimalist word-guessing game that combines elements of hangman and Mastermind with 3 million total players, many of whom have logged on to play each day’s new puzzle for months and counting. The other is Elden Ring, a brutal fantasy role-playing game released in February, which has received near-perfect reviews from gaming critics and players since release. So far, estimates suggest the multiplatform game has sold 10 million copies on PC alone—a big feat for a game that’s not even a month old.

As games, they couldn’t be more different. Heck, Wordle doesn’t even have any graphics, and failing to solve Elden Ring’s puzzles results in (in-game) death, not a broken win streak. But their differences aside, no two games have generated more discussion and discourse in 2022 than these. They’re early Game of the Year contenders, not soon to be forgotten or toppled. We all know, however, that only one game can be the year’s best game—and while it may be too early to tell, it doesn’t hurt to ask ourselves: Is Wordle or Elden Ring more deserving of the title?…

(14) THEY’RE DYING TO BE INVITED. “Margaret Atwood’s Dream Dinner Party Features a Crystal Ball and Hammer”  at bon appétit.

You get to host any three people, fictional or real, dead or alive. Who’s invited?
I’ll stick to dead people. If I fail to invite some living people, they’d be very annoyed. (Not to say other dead people wouldn’t be. I’d expect to hear from Samuel Johnson and Oscar Wilde, who prided themselves on their dinner conversation.) But here’s my invite list…

(15) THE TRUTH IS SEMI-OUT THERE. This week’s Isaac Arthur video is a look at covert aliens.

Clandestine conspiracies and covert alien activity are popular theories involving UFO & UAP sightings as well as in science fiction, but what would covert alien activity look like?

(16) JAMES BOND DOES IT BETTER FOR COMIC RELIEF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Comic Relief Red Nose Day is an annual BBC charity bash where comedians and others in a funny way raise money for good causes (not for comedians). By midnight last night, more than £42.7m has been raised in Comic Relief’s latest Red Nose Day broadcast, with a host of stars taking part in sketches and stunts. The total will rise as donations continue to come in. Comic Relief: Red Nose Day raises £42m in star-studded show – BBC News. Though there was much new material, we did get a dusting off of a James Bond skit first performed last year.  So, here is 007 meeting Nan (Catherine Tate)…

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day “Everyone who can’t stand ‘We Built This City’”.]

Pixel Scroll 2/24/22 The Naming Of Scrolls Is A Difficult Matter. It Isn’t Just One Of Your Pixel-File Games

(1) BONDS OF EUROCON. The editors of SF2 Concatenation are mindful of the fans affected by the Russian invasion:

(2) REALITY CHECK OR CHECK ON REALITY? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Pulp scholar Jason Ray Carney talks about the value of escapist reading and sword and sorcery at the LA Review of Books“Reading Sword-and-Sorcery to Make the Present Less Real”. (For some reason, the LA Review of Books felt the need to illustrate the essay with a Weird Tales cover that’s not for a sword and sorcery story.)

 …Whether we read to engage or to escape reality, we continue to read fiction because it provides us with an experience that cannot be satisfied by other means. Additionally, as a cultural practice, reading fiction has taken on a quasi-spiritual aura; it has become a secular ritual, not unlike mindfulness meditation, that is robustly encouraged by its proponents. One recalls the Orwellian “READ” posters that have been published by the American Library Association since 1985, the most recent a rendering of Channing Tatum, holding a copy of Peter Pan, standing in front of a glittering star field. Evoking the imperious command of alien billboards in John Carpenter’s They Live — obey, marry, reproduce, consume — these posters celebrate reading as an activity of unquestionable social value and say nothing about what is real. Why not read fiction to escape the real?…

(3) LIVING BY THE SWORD. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Dariel Quiogue, a Filipino author of Asian based sword and sorcery or sword and silk, in episode 34 of the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with Dariel Quiogue – So I’m Writing a Novel…”

…Their discussion covers portrayal of war elephants in history and stories, Alexander the Great being a war criminal to some, Carter & De Camp (and Nyburg) Conan tales, Howard Lamb’s Khlit the Cossack stories (a huge influence on Robert E Howard), drawing from Asian history for his stories – including an intriguing alternate path for Genghis Khan, wanting to write more fiction based in where you’re from, being anxious about a lack of experience to the world limiting your fiction, how late in history Dariel feels you can set a story and still have it feel like sword & sorcery, the “Sword & Sorcery attitude”…

(4) APPENDIX N(ORTON). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The good people of Goodman Games continue their series of profiles of classic SFF authors. Jim Wampler profiles Andre Norton: “Adventures in Fiction: Andre Norton”.

… Norton’s influence on adventure gaming and its creators was not accidental. She often employed a recurring motif in her books in which the protagonist begins as an outsider or “other”, and through dedicating themselves to a perilous journey in the wilderness, eventually becomes a fully-realized heroic figure. The parallels to the level advancement and experience point systems of early role-playing games is obvious….

And Michael Curtis profiles Margaret St. Clair — “Adventures in Fiction: Margaret St. Clair” – focusing almost exclusively on those two novels by her which are listed in the Appendix N of the original D&D Dungeon Master’s guide, even though St. Clair wrote so much more. But Goodman Games is an RPG company, so I guess that’s fair.

…Margaret St. Clair is an interesting figure, one whose work is largely overlooked in the present age. St. Clair was one of only three women authors who appeared on Gygax’s list of influential writers and their works. During both the Golden and Silver Ages of fantasy fiction, the field was dominated by white males, so much so that the now-often derided pronouncement on the back cover of the Bantam Books 1963 printing of The Sign of the Labrys (“Women are Writing Science Fiction!”) was actually somewhat shocking. The fact that Appendix N includes three women authors is a testimony to the breadth of Gary’s reading….

(5) HOW WORLDCON GOHS ARE CHOSEN. Esther MacCallum-Stewart of the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid has written a thoughtful post about the committee’s process for picking their prospective GoHs: “From the Chair: Selecting Our Guests of Honour”.

5. The selection team and the chair’s team then met to decide a Short List, based on the recommendations of the committee, but also considering several other criteria which allowed flexibility in looking at the list:

  • Who will represent Glasgow in 2024’s vision of Inclusion, Caring and Imagination best?
  • Who could present an indicative picture of science fiction and fantasy in 2024?
  • Who might make an interesting Guest of Honour, able to participate to the best of their ability and help create a fun, exciting contribution to a Worldcon in Glasgow 2024?
  • What other elements, like involving local voices, varied perspectives and contemporary discussions, should these Guests represent?
  • How might the Guests of Honour look as a group? (more on this later)

6. Phew! This seems like a lot, but at last there is a short list, and since this process is still happening, I’m expecting it to be about 30 names. We’re ready to start making the decision.

(6) ATWOOD ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Margret Atwood was on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this week with a 15 minute interview. Topics included when did women’s status fall and how
the right purloins left tools.

The programme is downloadable from here for a month after which it will be available on BBC Sounds.

Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of essays, Burning Questions, gathers together her essays and other occasional non-fiction pieces from 2004 to 2021. She is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin which won the Booker prize in 2000. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, was followed in 2019 by a sequel, The Testaments, which was also a Booker Prize winner (with Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other). Margaret joins Emma to talk about culture wars, free speech, feminism, grief and being in your 80’s.

(7) CLONE ARRANGERS. Edward Ashton names books by Tiptree, Simak, and Mur Lafferty while recommending books about clones and replicants at CrimeReads: “Eight Books About What It Means to be Human”.

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

It’s probably a lucky thing that I didn’t read this book until after I’d finished writing Mickey7, because Six Wakes begins in a very similar place—clones, mind-mapping, immortality, an interstellar colonization mission—but then takes off in a wildly different direction….

(8) CLOTHES FOR THE OCCASION. Hypebeast shares a fashion display as “Disney Launches Official ‘Star Wars’ Galactic Starcruiser Merchandise”.

…Offered by the boutique located just off the Atrium of the Halcyon, “The Chandrila Collection” will allow you and your family and friends to fully embrace the world of science-fiction and fantasy with futuristic garments inspired by some of the most iconic characters and factions from the epic franchise. From hooded black dresses and saber-training tunics to mechanics’ jumpsuits and starship captains’ jackets, the collection carries something for every fan. You’ll also find the classic white Princess Leia dress as well as a cloak inspired by Padmé Amidala’s royal wardrobe….

There’s a video here of The Chandrila Collection – some philistines would call it a commercial, I’m sure.

(9) JEOPARDY! As usual, the wrong Jeopardy! questions are the most entertaining. Andrew Porter saw this one tonight.

Final Jeopardy: Fictional Families

Answer: Introduced in the 1930s in The New Yorker, they’ve appeared on TV & Broadway & in live action & animated films.

Wrong question: Who are the Von Trapps?

Correct question: Who is The Addams Family?

(10) KELLERMAN OBIT. Actress Sally Kellerman, whose many roles included a Star Trek appearance, has died at the age of 84. The New York Post profiled her career.

…Kellerman is also rooted in “Star Trek” history. Fans of the original series will remember her role as a psychologist in the third episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — which actually was originally filmed as one of two pilots for the sci-fi series….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2010 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Jack Vance who I think I can say without fear of contradiction is beloved by all here won three Hugos. The first was at the first DisCon for “The Dragon Masters” which was originally published in the August 1962 issue of Galaxy, the second was at NyCon 3 for “The Last Castle” published in Galaxy in the April 1966 issue, and the third, and this one surprised me, was Best Related Work at Aussiecon 4 (2010) for This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”)

His first Hugo nomination that didn’t result in a win was at Detention for “The Miracle-Workers”, published in Astounding in July 1958, his other nomination was a Retro Hugo at Millennium Philcon for The Dying Earth novel. 

His I-C-a-BeM novelette was longlisted at Seacon. His Ecce and Old Earth novel was likewise at MagiCon. If we’re being completists… Queen of Air and Darkness, I love databases! 

Dick Lupoff delivers Jack Vance’s 2010 Hugo.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not at all like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 89. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 77. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2. He also won a Tony Award for his role in The Robber Bridegroom, a play based off the Eudora Welty novella.
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 75. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was Blade Runner as Detective Gaff, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He has made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka.
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 71. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. Though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer LimitsAmazing StoriesRay Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a excellent series indeed. 
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 56. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 54. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(13) ARTHURIANA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says very few people were asking for the PBS animated series Arthur to end after 25 years with their characters aging two decades and the beloved cartoon aardvark turning into “a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee.” “Arthur grew up in the finale of his PBS show. It’s a betrayal.”

… PBS’s sendoff of his namesake show after a quarter-century of seasons unexpectedly age-accelerates its characters two decades or so. It’s a move undoubtedly designed to offer closure to fans from preschooler to professional. But maybe closure is exactly what we didn’t need.

To recap, for those too busy living adult life to dip back into the old days for the finale of the longest-running animated children’s series in history: The (non-)boy the New York Times dubbed “the world’s most popular student aardvark” has apparently become a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee. His sister, the perennial pest D.W., has become … a cop? Buster the bunny is a drably dressed teacher; self-proclaimed tough guy and secret softie Binky Barnes the bulldog is a journalist….

(14) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with director Ken Kwapis, which is worth listening to for one very good anecdote about Jim Henson.  Kwapis directed Henson as a puppeteer in Sesame Street Presents:  Follow That Bird (which Leonard Maltin thinks is an underrated musical).  Jim Henson only had one request.  Before the shoot began, Henson asked everyone–cast and crew–to hold one arm high in the air for a minute. The reason: to give everyone a sense of what puppeteers had to do during a movie.

This is an entertaining hour, but most of what Kwapis directed is not genre.  Even though he directed all seven episodes of the second season of Space Force, he doesn’t have much to say about the show. “Maltin on Movies: Ken Kwapis”.

(15) THE WINTER OF THEIR DISCONTENT. “Patton Oswalt Slams Comixology Changes as Fans Call Out Amazon” reports Screen Rant.

…As Oswalt makes clear, with the changes, ComiXology has gone from being a dedicated hub for comics to just another tab for digital content in Amazon’s Kindle storefront. Whereas before the change, in addition to being a place where subscribers could “collect” and “curate” their digital collections, ComiXolgy provided a way for fans to explore the wonderful world of comics, manga, graphic novels in efficient and enjoyable manner.

Oswalt wasn’t the only one to find fault with the changes. Indeed, from hardcore fans to casual readers, from writers to gamers, the change seems to have struck a chord everywhere….

(16) JEFFERSONIAN STARSHIP. Politico tells “Why Musk’s biggest space gamble is freaking out his competitors”. “Starship is threatening NASA’s moon contractors, which are watching its progress with a mix of awe and horror.”

Elon Musk is planning yet again to rocket beyond the status quo. And if he succeeds, the aerospace giants that won the first space race may never catch him in this one.

Standing in front of the towering Starship rocket at Space X’s southwest Texas “Starbase” on Thursday night, Musk pledged that his most ambitious spaceship yet will make its first journey in the coming months….

Starship is designed to be the first all-purpose space vehicle: a reusable and refuelable spacecraft that can take scores of people and millions of tons of cargo from Earth directly to the moon and eventually Mars — and do it over and over again.

If he can pull it off, Musk’s previous breakthroughs — electric cars, reusable rockets for launching satellites, the first commercial space capsule to dock with the International Space Station — might seem, by comparison, to be modest achievements….

(17) DUSTING OFF HISTORY. Pollen leads to a picture of “The Uneven Sweep Of Black Death’s Assault On Europe” in a Nature article.

The historical pandemic known as the Black Death might not have been as devastating as was previously thought, an analysis of ancient pollen suggests.

Historians estimate that a wave of bubonic plague in the mid-1300s killed about half of the people in Europe, at a time when most lived in rural areas. To investigate the Black Death’s true toll, Alessia Masi at the Sapienza University of Rome and her colleagues analysed ancient pollen from 261 lakes and wetlands across Europe (pictured, a sampled bog in Poland). By assessing the varieties of pollen, the team determined whether fields and pastures had been abandoned after the plague and eventually replaced by forests.

Levels of pollen from species common in agricultural lands were much lower in many places, including France and central Italy, between 1350 and 1450 than during the previous 100 years. This suggests high mortality rates. But in other regions, including Ireland and much of eastern Europe, agricultural activities were stable and even expanded, suggesting that populations there were growing.

Factors such as weather and local economies might have caused the pandemic’s course to vary, the authors say.

(18) FELL WEAPON. Nature discusses a “Gift From Above: The Meteorite Origins Of King Tut’s Dagger”.

Chemical analysis of an iron dagger found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb has identified the type of meteorite from which the metal was derived — and suggests the knife might have been a gift from another ruler.

Tut reigned in the fourteenth century bc, before iron working was common in Egypt. Previous research identified an iron– nickel meteorite as the probable
source of the blade’s metal, but little was known about how the dagger was manufactured.

Tomoko Arai at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Narashino, Japan, and her colleagues mapped the metal’s elements by shining X-rays along the blade and analyzing the resulting fluorescence. They found that the nickel was distributed in a crosshatched pattern typical of a group of meteorites called octahedrites. The blade must have been forged at a relatively low temperature to retain the pattern and other meteorite specific features, they say….

(19) GALAXY CHEX QUEST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1996 computer game Chex Quest. According to Wikipedia, Chex Quest was included as a cereal prize in boxes of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and Wheat Chex. “Daily bunny no.1676 is fighting for a balanced breakfast (A Patreon reward for @DrWho42!)”.

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