Pixel Scroll 5/4/24 Pixels On The Storm

(1) KUANG Q&A. In the Guardian: “Rebecca F Kuang: ‘I like to write to my friends in the style of Joan Didion’”.

And cancel culture? Does it exist?
I find a lot of this so disingenuous. The shape of an internet takedown would go something like this: somebody would err, and often there would be pretty genuine complaints about their conduct. But there’s also a really big spectrum of what counts [as bad behaviour]. It could be something quite egregious and harmful, and it could also be something as silly as misrecognising a breakfast cereal. We conflate all of these scales of harm. Anyway, someone would air this complaint, and then there would be a back and forth with that complaint, and then, very quickly, it would spread to the corners of the internet, and those with no stake in it at all would spread disinformation. Nobody would ever seem interested in the truth, or in reparations, or in genuinely understanding what happened. It’s so self-serving and frivolous…

What are you working on now?
My next book is set in the 80s. It’s a fantasy novel, but it’s very different from The Poppy War trilogy. It’s Neil Gaiman meets… Lewis Carroll. There’ll be a big emphasis on nonsense and riddles and mysteries. It’s an entirely new genre. I like to feel like I’m moving forward. I get bored very easily.

(2) CRIMINALIZED WRITING. “Record Number of Writers Jailed Worldwide in 2023” says PEN America annual report.

PEN America today released its annual Freedom to Write Index, recording the highest number of jailed writers around the globe since the Index launched five years ago. There were 339 writers from 33 countries jailed in 2023, an increase of 62 writers compared to 2022 and 101 more than in 2019….

The top ten jailers of writers in 2023 are China (including autonomous regions) with 107, Iran 49, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam each with 19, Israel (including the Occupied Palestinian Territory) with 17, Belarus and Russia each with 16, Türkiye 14, Myanmar 12, and Eritrea seven. 

PEN America spends the entire year researching news and verifying accounts of writers jailed for their speech–and held for a minimum of 48 hours –anywhere in the world (see more on our methodology here). In addition to the Freedom to Write Index, PEN America maintains and updates a Writers at Risk Database throughout the year, providing insights into the wide array of threats that writers face. There are currently 923 active cases of writers at risk in 88 countries in the database….

(3) FEARLESS OCTAGENARIAN. “’I can say things other people are afraid to’: Margaret Atwood on censorship, literary feuds and Trump” in the Guardian.

…Questions of freedom of expression are “front and centre” right now, she believes, with both left and right turning to censorship. “‘You have to take this book out of the school because it hurts my child’s feelings,’ says one hand, and the other hand says ‘Well this other book hurts my child’s feelings, so you have to take it out.’ And that goes on until there aren’t any books left. If you go too far down the road in either direction, you shut down political speech.” While she doesn’t think this is likely to happen in Britain any time soon – “the British are quite mouthy, you may have noticed” – it is happening in parts of America.

When Atwood speaks the world listens, with good reason: the financial crash, the rise of the extreme right and the infringement of women’s freedoms in recent years have all been anticipated in her work. “I just pay attention,” she likes to say. Her status as an international treasure and seer means she is frequently sought out for her opinions on the hottest issues of the day, as well as panel discussions and events.

“I’m a kind of walking opinion poll,” she says. “I can tell by the questions that people ask me what’s on their minds. What is the thing they’re obsessing about at the moment.” The backwards turn of women’s rights, with the ruling just this month that the 1864 total ban on abortion be enforced in Arizona, for example, is high on the list. But as always she is careful to stress that there is no one answer to questions about the future for women. “I have to ask which women? How old? What country? There are many different variations of women.”

She attributes her outspokenness to the fact that she doesn’t have a job: “You can say things that other people might be afraid to because they will lose their job or get cancelled.”… 

(4) WATER WAITERS. Animation Magazine signal boosts a “Dreamy Chinese Animated Feature ‘Deep Sea’ Now Streaming on Peacock”.

Having made a striking visual impression upon audiences at prestige film festivals in Berlin, Tribeca, Annecy and Tokyo, the innovative CG-animated feature Deep Sea has made its exclusive streaming debut on Peacock. Written and directed by Tian Xiaopeng (Monkey King: Hero Is Back), the film is produced by China’s October Media and Enlight Pictures, and had a limited U.S. theatrical release through Viva Pictures in November.

Synopsis: A young girl named Shenxiu is unexpectedly swept into the sea during a family cruise and stumbles upon a mysterious restaurant under the waves. There, she meets the scheming head chef Nanhe, and his ragtag crew of adorable otters and sarcastic walruses. They join forces to save the restaurant and reunite Shenxiu with her long-lost mother in a kaleidoscopic, dreamlike world of swirling color and dazzling views….

(5) A TRAILER PARK FAR, FAR AWAY. Animation World Network is tuned in when “Disney+ Drops New ‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Trailer”.

To celebrate Star Wars Days, Disney+ has just dropped a second trailer and batch of images for Star Wars: The Acolyte, which debuts with the first two episodes on June 4.

The newest Star Wars offering, the mystery-thriller takes viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a shocking crime spree, but as more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.

(6) SANFORD (SANDY) ZANE MESCHKOW (1941-2024). By Nigel Rowe: Sandy (Sanford) Meschkow passed away on January 28, 2024 in Bryn Mawr, Montgomery, Pennsylvania. He was 83.

He grew up in the Catskill Mountains area of New York State, and was a longtime SF fan and onetime roommate and best friend of artist Mike Hinge. As President of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society early in the 1970s Sandy commissioned Kelly Freas to do a portrait of Keith Laumer for a PSFS program book. An engineer and editor/writer by trade who worked at NASA for a time in the Sixties. James Blish has Sandy to thank for helping him move out of his apartment when he was moving to England.

Back in early 2022, he wrote saying, “My wife died in January of 2019 and I moved into this large retirement facility that July. I just turned 81and while I have some cardiac and dfiabetic problems I’m not using a walker yet! I wrote an SF novel I can’t seem to sell, but I’ll e-mail it to you for comments if you want to see it. I keep in close contact with an old girlfriend who also knew Mike and we keep each other from getting depressed.  We are in anti-COVID-19 lockdown here. Only one resident and seven staffers have caught the new variant lately.”

He never did send the story along, but we wrote a few more times, sharing memories about Mike and what Sandy was up to. Sandy was Mike’s executor and had packed up all his personal items for me to transport back to New Zealand along with his ashes. A task I carried out the year after he passed. A memorial for Mike was dutifully held in NZ with Mike’s brother Noel and several old time New Zealand 50’s fans present.

Sandy’s fannish memories about his early days in fandom are available in his blog from 2009: Fanograph.

Sadly, we never did meet up in person, but I’ll miss those occasional chatty emails.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 48. Steampunk and mannerpunk , it’s time to talk about both, specifically that as written by our birthday author, Gail Carriger.  

Where to start? Her first novel, Soulless, set in an alternate version of Victorian era Britain where werewolves and vampires are members of proper society. Alexia Tarabotti is a wonderful created character that anyone would love to have an adventure with, as well as sit down with to high tea in the afternoon. 

It begins the Parasol Protectorate series centered around her, which as of now goes on to have Changeless, Blameless, oh guess, Heartless and Timeless in it, plus one short story, “Meat Cute”. Why the latter broke the naming convention I know not. 

Gail Carriger. Photo by Vanessa Applegate.

Wait, wait, don’t tell me! — she’s done more mannerpunk. Indeed she has. There is Custard Protocol series (Prudence ImprudenceCompetence and Reticence), also set in Parasol Protectorate universe. When Prudence “Rue” Alessandra Maccon Akeldama , a young woman with metahuman abilities, is left an unexpected dirigible in a will , she does what any sensible (ha!) alternative Victorian Era female would do — she names it the Spotted Custard and floats off to India. Need I say adventures of a most unusual kind follow? I really love this series and not just for the name of the series. It’s just fun. Really fun.

The Finishing School series is set in Parasol Protectorate universe. Again she has a delightful manner in naming her tales, Etiquette & EspionageCurtsies & ConspiraciesWaistcoats & Weaponry and Manners & Mutiny. Go ahead, I think you can figure what this series is about without me telling you. It’s delightful of course.

So I’m not that familiar with her other writing. It appears the two Delightfully Deadly novellas might have a tinge of romance in them though at least one also has dead husbands, four to be precise, lobsters and of course high society. Lobsters? 

The Claw & Courtship novellas are standalone stories set in the Parasol Protectorate universe. So far there’s just “How to Marry a Werewolf (In 10 Easy Steps)”, though she says there’ll be more.

Finally, I’ll note she did a SF series, the Tinkered Stars Universe series — how can this possibly be? — which she describes on her website as “a sexy alien police procedural on a space station”. Oh, that sounds so good. It consists of Divinity 36Demigod 22Dome 6Crudat and The 5th Gender

Did she do short stories? Just four, of which I really want to read one — “The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn’t, The Mummy that Was and the Cat in the Jar”.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) OUTRÉ TECH. Gizmodo has a slideshow of “7 Extremely Weird Inventions From the Grandfather of Science Fiction” – ideas conceived by Hugo Gernsback.

…In 1913, he started The Electrical Experimenter, which would become known as Science and Invention in the 1920s. And in 1919 he founded Radio News, with Television News launched in 1928, just a couple of years after the first experimental tests of TV. That doesn’t even include the sci-fi titles he started like Amazing Stories.

All of these serious-minded tech magazines had at least one article in every issue by Gernsback, and they often included ideas for futuristic inventions. They’re simply some of the most interesting old ideas for the future from a century ago….

(10) YE KEN NOW. Apparently it booked up last year, however, you can still take a virtual tour of “Barbie’s Malibu DreamHouse, Ken’s Way in Malibu, California, United States” on Airbnb. (Was this a real property? Hard to tell.)

Welcome to my Kendom! While Barbie is away, she has handed over the keys to her Malibu DreamHouse this summer and my room could be yours for the night. I’ve added a few touches to bring some much-needed Kenergy to the newly renovated and iconic Malibu DreamHouse. Placed perfectly above the beach with panoramic views, this life-size toy pink mansion is a dream come true!

Booking opens at 10 a.m. PT on Monday, July 17 for two, one-night stays for up to two guests on July 21 and July 22, 2023.

What you’ll do
Situated along the stunning, photogenic coastline, the Malibu DreamHouse is a sunny surfer’s sanctuary surrounded by beach, beach and more beach – just the way I like it.

I’ve decked out the place with a little more…well, me! I’m more than just beach! My cowboy stuff is great. And horses! Guitars, games and more. And of course, rollerblades, because I literally go nowhere without them. Now, guests can live it up Ken-style for a neon night in Barbie Land – six-pack not included.

– During your stay, you will have the opportunity to live in technicolor by:
– Taking a spin through my awesome wardrobe to find your best beach fit. Look out Barbie, I’ve got quite the closet too!
– Channeling your inner cowboy and learning a line dance or two on my outdoor disco dance floor or performing a sunset serenade on my guitar
– Challenging your fellow guests to a “beach off” with plenty of sunbathing and chillaxing by the infinity pool
– Taking home a piece of my Kendom with your very own set of yellow-and-pink Impala skates and surfboard

(11) THE SHIP OF ISHTAR. Grammaticus Books looks at an early 20th century classic.

An in-depth review of A. Merritt’s high fantasy novel, ‘The Ship of Ishtar’. Originally published in serialize form in 1924. And an influence for future fantasy authors such as Michael Moorcock.

(12) RECOGNIZE THIS ROCK? “After Star Trek Symbol Was Spotted By NASA’s Mars Rover, We’re Getting Serious ‘Strange New Worlds’ Vibes”. See the video at the link.

Fans are experiencing a bit of a lull due to the fact that upcoming Star Trek shows are still months off. However, fortunately, NASA’s Mars rover is keeping fans entertained in a surprising way. The Curiosity happened to photograph a rock that strongly resembles an iconic symbol from the franchise and, with that, we’re now getting serious Strange New Worlds Season 2 vibes after seeing it. NASA has made cool shoutouts to The Orville and other sci-fi shows, and one gets the feeling that there are also some Trekkies working at the space-centric organization. The official account for Curiosity confirmed that there were team members delighted when an X user scanning publicly available raw images from the rover noticed a rock that looked like the Delta sigil commonly seen on a comm badge.

(13) WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU JUMP INTO A BLACK HOLE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week physicist Matt O’Dowd over at PBS Space Time asks what happens if we jump into a singularity…

Meet Alice and Bob, famous explorers of the abstract landscape of theoretical physics. Heroes of the gerdankenexperiment—the thought experiment—whose life mission is to find contradictions in the deepest layers of our theories. Today our intrepid pair are jumping into a black hole. Again. Why? Well, to determine the fundamental structure of spacetime and its connection to quantum entanglement of course.

[Thanks to Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Nigel Rowe, JJ, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Steven French for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Nominations Are Open for the 2024 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction

All are welcome to nominate work for the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction, an annual $25,000 cash prize.

The Prize is given to a writer whose book reflects the concepts and ideas that are central to Ursula’s own work, which include (but are not limited to): hope, equity, and freedom; non-violence and alternatives to conflict; and a holistic view of humanity’s place in the natural world.

To be eligible for the 2024 Prize, a work must also be:

  • A book-length work of imaginative fiction written by a single author.
  • Published in the U.S. in English or in translation to English. (In the case of a translated work winning the Prize, the cash prize will be equally divided between author and translator.)
  • Published between April 1, 2023, and March 31, 2024.

The Prize also gives weight to writers whose access to resources, due to race, gender, age, class or other factors, may be limited; who are working outside of institutional frameworks such as MFA programs; who live outside of cultural centers such as New York; and who have not yet been widely recognized for their work.

Additionally, any use of large language models/“AI” in the creation of a work must be disclosed. Works with undisclosed use of large language models/“AI” may be disqualified.

Read more about the prize and eligibility requirements here.

The members of the 2024 selection panel are authors Margaret Atwood, Omar El Akkad, Megan Giddings, Ken Liu, and Carmen Maria Machado. The judges’ biographies follow the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 2/1/24 Scroll Pixel Like Fritos, Scroll Pixel Like Tab And Mountain Dew

(1) 2024 HUGO VOTING STALLED. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon paused Hugo nomination voting on January 28, announcing in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” Their January 30 update said, “We committed to update you on the temporary pause of Hugo Award nominations. Our UK software provider is still working on a solution. We will provide you with our next status update no later than the 6th February.” At this time they do not expect to extend the nomination voting deadline.

(2) NEW STAR IN THE FIRMAMENT. Margaret Atwood appears as a guest star on the CBC series Murdoch Mysteries this coming Monday, February 5. She plays Loren Quinnell, Amateur Ornithologist. “Her and her feathered friends help crack the case…”

(3) NEW CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIPS. The Salam Award and Clarion West Week One Instructor Usman T. Malik (CW ‘14) have offered two new scholarships for 2024 Students: “The Salam Award and the Malik Family Sponsor Scholarships for Pakistani and Palestinian Students”.

The Salam Award Scholarship: For the year 2024, The Salam Award has agreed to sponsor a student of Pakistani origin, whether a Pakistani resident of any ethnicity, or a Pakistani-origin student anywhere in the world up to USD $1,000. 

The Malik Sharif-Fehmida Anwar Scholarship: Usman T. Malik and his parents Malik Tanveer Ali and Shabnam Tanveer Malik have offered an annual travel scholarship to help fund travel up to USD $2,500 for a student of Palestinian-origin. The applicant should be Palestinian Arab-Muslim or Arab-Christian from Gaza, West Bank, or Golan Heights, or may be Palestinian diaspora located anywhere in the world. 

Through the generosity of our donors, Clarion West provides a number of scholarships for writers every year. Approximately 60-90% of our Six-Week Workshop participants receive full and partial-tuition scholarships. You must indicate your need for financial aid when you apply to the six-week workshop. Your application is reviewed without regard to your financial aid request.

You can learn more about scholarships for the Six-Week Workshop here

(4) WHAT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT. RedWombat took inspiration from the continuing Hugo controversy to pen these lyrics, shared in ha comment on File 770 today.

This only works if you pronounce it “Wisfuss,” but…

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

But!

It was Hugo nom day
(It was Hugo nom day)
We were running numbers
and there wasn’t much good to be found
Standlee stops by with a glint in his eye
(Trademark!)
You filking this thing or am I?
(Sorry, sorry, please go on)

Standlee says, “we can’t enforce…”
(Why did he say it?)
The lawyers are aghast, of course
(That’s not how you play it)
And MPC did not endorse
(Had to resign but nevermind…)

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

Hey, grew to live in fear of what the lawyers might find next
Feeling like the whole organization’s been hexed
I associate it with the sight of scathing posts
(Tsk tsk tsk)
It’s a heavy job sieving through this murk
Implicit contract no longer seems to work
Can’t rely on the Old SMOFs Network
Who’s gonna do the work?

M-P-C, taken aback
People still mad about the AO3 attack
How can you enforce this implicit contract?
Yeah, the lawyers scream and break into teams
(Hey)
We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

We never should have asked about WSFS, no no no
Why did we talk about WSFS?

(I put that song in my head for the next year doing this, so if you’re going to complain, believe me, I have already been punished.)

(5) WRITERS AT GEN CON. The 2024 Gen Con Writers’ Symposium guests will include Linda D. Addison, Mikki Kendall, and quite a few featured speakers who are sff authors. Gen Con 2024 will be held August 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Gen Con Writers’ Symposium is a semi-independent event hosted by Gen Con and intended for both new and experienced writers of speculative fiction. All registration is handled through the Gen Con website.

(6) WHO ELSE HAD A STAKE IN DRACULA? Bobby Derie tells readers that H. P. Lovecraft claimed his friend Edith Miniter was offered the chance to revise Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What do we know about this claim? Find out! “Lovecraft, Miniter, Stoker: the Dracula Revision” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

In The Essential Dracula (1979), Bram Stoker scholars Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu revealed a letter (H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 10 Dec 1932) that had been drawn to their attention by horror anthologist and scholar Les Daniels, where H. P. Lovecraft claimed that an old woman he knew had turned down the chance to revise Stoker’s Dracula. The letter had not been published before this. Although Lovecraft’s claim had been made in print as early as 1938, and a letter with the anecdote was published in the first volume of Lovecraft’s Selected Letters from Arkham House in 1965, this seems to be the first time the Stoker scholar community became generally aware of the claim. The authors were intrigued by the possibilities…

(7) LDV NEWS. J. Michael Straczynski shared that Blackstone Indie has unveiled a webpage for The Last Dangerous Visions. It does not take preorders yet.

In 1973, celebrated writer and editor Harlan Ellison announced the third and final volume of his unprecedented anthology series, which began with Dangerous Visions and continued with Again Dangerous Visions. But for reasons undisclosed, The Last Dangerous Visions was never completed.

Now, six years after Ellison’s passing, science fiction’s most famous unpublished book is here. And with it, the heartbreaking true story of the troubled genius behind it.

Provocative and controversial, socially conscious and politically charged, wildly imaginative yet deeply grounded, the thirty-two never-before published stories, essays, and poems in The Last Dangerous Visions stand as a testament to Ellison’s lifelong pursuit of art, representing voices both well-known and entirely new, including: David Brin, Max Brooks, James S. A. Corey, Dan Simmons, Cory Doctorow, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, among others.

With an introduction and exegesis by J. Michael Straczynski, and a story introduction by Ellison himself, The Last Dangerous Visions is an extraordinary addition to an incredible literary legacy.

(8) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR THE CAPTAIN’S LOG. The Visual Effects Society will honor Actor-Producer-Director William Shatner as the recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence in recognition of his valuable contributions to visual arts and filmed entertainment at its annual ceremony on February 21. “William Shatner Named as Recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence”.

(9) ST:TNG GETTING SATURN HONORS. “The Cast Of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ To Receive Special Lifetime Achievement Saturn Award” at TrekMovie.com.

…The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation will receive The Lifetime Achievement Award at the 51st Annual Saturn Awards, being held in Los Angeles this Sunday. For 2024 the Academy is doing something different for the TNG cast with this award. A statement from the Academy to TrekMovie explains:

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is usually presented to an individual for their contributions to genre entertainment. Top luminaries like Stan Lee and Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, have received this top honor. It’s not new, but we extended this award to cover the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to its continued influence on the face of general television. It was originally doomed to failure since it was following in the footsteps of the original Star Trek, yet it carved its own identity, and its diverse cast was light years ahead of its time!”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 1, 1954 Bill Mumy, 70. Bill Mumy is best remembered of course for being on Lost in Space for three seasons (“Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”) though he has a much more extensive performance resume.

At the rather tender age of seven, he makes his genre acting debut on The Twilight Zone as Billy Bayles in “Long Distance Call”.  He’d appear in two Twilight Zone episodes, “It’s A Good Life” as Anthony Fremont, a child with godlike powers and finally as the young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”.

He’d show up much later on in Twilight Zone: The Movie in one of the segments, not unsurprisingly a remake of “It’s A Good Life” which here is listed as being from a screenplay by Richard Matheson. Here he’s Tim. Whoever that is. 

He’d be on the reboot of the Twilight Zone in “It’s Still A Good Life” as the Adult Anthony Fremont.

Photo of Billy Mumy in 2013
Billy Mumy in 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He next had three appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, none genre. His next genre outing would be playing two different characters on BewitchedI Dream of Jeannie and the Munsters followed.

Then of course was the eighty-three episode, three season run on Lost in Space. He’d be eleven years old when it started. I know I’ve seen all of it at least once. No idea how the Suck Fairy would treat it nearly this long on, but I really liked it when I saw it at the time. 

Remember the 1990 Captain America? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In this WW II version, he plays a young boy, Tom Kimball, who photographs Captain America over the Capital building kicking a missile off after batting Red Skull so crashes in Alaska, burying itself and Steve Rogers under the ice. 12%, repeat 12%, is the rating audience reviewers gave it on Rotten Tomatoes. 

He showed up once in the first iteration of a Flash series, and then has three appearances as Tommy Puck in the Nineties Superboy series. The first I saw and quite like, the latter not a single episode have I encountered. 

The next thing that is quite worthy of note is his stellar role on Babylon 5 as Mimbari warrior monk, I think that’s the proper term,  Lennier. Of one hundred and ten episodes, he was in all but two. That’s right, just two. Or at least credited as being so. What an amazing role that was. I’ve watch this series including the six films at least twice straight through. No Suck Fairy dares comes near it. 

The last thing of note, and I’m not seen the series, was him playing Dr. Zachary Smith on the reboot of the Lost in Space series that came out just a few years ago for two episodes. Please, please don’t ask who he’s playing as my continuous headache got even worse when I tried to figure out who he really was. Really I did. What they with that series was a crime. 

(11) PUTTING THE BITE ON TOURISTS. [Item by Steven French.] If you’re ever in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Atlas Obscura recommends a visit to “Vampa: Vampire & Paranormal Museum”.

TUCKED AWAY IN THE SAME building as an antiques store in a small Pensylvania town lies a shockingly large collection of antique vampire-killing sets.

Covering the walls are the standard tools of the vampire hunter: the stake, the crucifix, the holy water bottle. But the stakes are far more than pointy, wooden sticks. Believed to date back centuries, all the weapons have been beautifully decorated with a variety of religious and allegorical carvings. They are spectacular objets d’art from every corner of the world, including several personal collections from actors who played Dracula in films. One wooden “traveling vampire hunter kit,” from around 1870 was owned by actor Carlos Villarias, who portrayed the famous count in a Spanish language Dracula….

(12) EARTH FARTS? Space reports that the “Mystery of Siberia’s giant exploding craters may finally be solved”.

The craters are unique to Russia’s northern Yamal and Gydan peninsulas and are not known to exist elsewhere in the Arctic, suggesting the key to this puzzle lies in the landscape, according to a preprint paper published Jan. 12 to the EarthArXiv database.

Researchers have proposed several explanations for the gaping holes over the years, ranging from meteor impacts to natural-gas explosions. One theory suggests the craters formed in the place of historic lakes that once bubbled with natural gas rising from the permafrost below. These lakes may have dried up, exposing the ground beneath to freezing temperatures that sealed the vents through which gas escaped. The resulting buildup of gas in the permafrost may eventually have been released through explosions that created the giant craters.

… But the historic-lake model fails to account for the fact that these “giant escape craters” (GECs) are found in a variety of geological settings across the peninsulas, not all of which were once covered by lakes, according to the new preprint, which has not been peer reviewed….

… Permafrost on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas varies widely in its thickness, ranging from a few hundred feet to 1,600 feet (500 m). The soil likely froze solid more than 40,000 years ago, imprisoning ancient marine sediments rich in methane that gradually transformed into vast natural gas reserves. These reserves produce heat that melts the permafrost from below, leaving pockets of gas at its base.

Permafrost in Russia and elsewhere is also thawing at the surface due to climate change. In places where it is already thin on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, melting from both ends and the pressure from the gas may eventually cause the remaining permafrost to collapse, triggering an explosion.

This “champagne effect” would explain the presence of smaller craters around the eight giant craters, as huge chunks of ice propelled out by the explosions may have severely dented the ground, according to the preprint….

(13) HUNT TO EXTINCTION. The stories you hear from Brian Keene.

(14) NEW HEADSHOT. Scott Lynch introduced his new photo with a wry comment.

(15) COMING ATTRACTIONS. The “Next on Netflix 2024: The Series & Films Preview” sizzle reel includes clips from Bridgerton, Squid Game, Umbrella Academy and Rebel Moon.

(16) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty respond to a letter of comment from Tobes Valois in episode 102 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I fully comprehend the mysteries”.  

Octothorpe 102 is here! We discuss the Hugo Awards debacle in some depth and SOLVE ALL THE ISSUES (no, really) but we book-end it with letters of comment and picks for those who need a bit of respite. Artwork by Alison Scott. Listen here!  

Alt text: Scooby, Velma and Daphne unmask the panda from last week’s cover art, and the person wearing the panda suit looks a lot like Dave McCarty. They say “It was old Mister McCarty all along!” and he says “And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling Hugo finalists!” He is tied up with rope. The words “Octothorpe! 102” appear at the top of the image.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/23 I’m Gonna Send You Back To Wherever The Hell It Was You Came, And Then I’m Gonna Get This Pixel Scrolled To Another File’s Name

(1) OSCARS IN MEMORIAM VIDEO. The 95th Oscars In Memoriam tribute aired last night included Albert Brenner, Robbie Coltrane, Kirstie Alley, Gregory Jein, Christopher Tucker, Nichelle Nichols, Clayton Pinney, Angela Lansbury, Wolfgang Petersen, Carl Bell, James Caan, and Raquel Welch, and doubtless many more who worked on genre films at some time in their careers.

(2) THEY’LL MEET AGAIN. “Ke Huy Quan, Harrison Ford get Indiana Jones reunion at Oscars”. “Indy and Short Round were together again on Hollywood’s biggest night. How could you not cry?” asks Entertainment Weekly. Photos at the link.

… Meanwhile, both Quan and Ford are set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the near future, with Quan playing an as-yet-undisclosed role in Loki season 2 and Ford taking over the role of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in Captain America: New World Order and Thunderbolts. That means there’s a possibility viewers could see them together on screen again.

“It would be freakin’ awesome if we get to do one scene together,” Quan told EW about the possibility….

(3) LE GUIN REVISIONS. Speaking of changing the texts of authors who are late: Theo Downes-Le Guin explains “Why I Decided to Update the Language in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Children’s Books” at Literary Hub.

In a 1973 letter to the editor of The Horn Book Magazinemy mother, Ursula K. Le Guin, took Roald Dahl’s books to task. While acknowledging her own “feelings of unease” about Dahl’s work, she remarked that “…kids are very tough. What they find for themselves they should be able to read for themselves.” I had this in mind as I read about wording changes in new editions of Dahl.

As Ursula’s literary executor, I recently faced a similar decision. My mother, known for her young adult and adult novels, also wrote several children’s books. A multigenerational fan base has kept her Catwings books in print in the US since the 1980s. I was excited to move the books to a new publisher last year.

As we began work on the new editions, I received an unexpected note from the editor: “I’m writing to propose several minor changes to the language… to remove words that now have a different connotation than when the books were originally published.” The words in question were “lame,” “queer,” “dumb,” and “stupid,” a total of seven instances across three books.

… After deep breaths, and with Ursula’s own revisionism in mind, I contacted a disability rights attorney, a youth literature consultant, a racial educator, and some kids. My advisory group leaned toward change but was not in consensus. I genuinely didn’t know what my mother would have decided. But she left me a clue: a note over her desk asking, “Is it true? Is it necessary or at least useful? Is it compassionate or at least unharmful?”…

(4) SMALL WONDER POSTS STORIES. The Small Wonders Magazine: Year One Kickstarter has reached the half-funded point (of their $16,500 goal). Therefore, this week they’re releasing new pieces on the schedule they will follow when the flash fiction and poetry magazine commences publishing.

Monday they published Wendy Nikel’s new story, “The Watching Astronaut”. Wednesday they will publish “The Empress Chides the Hermit,” a new poem from Ali Trotta, and Friday they will release Charles Payseur’s “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting.”

(5) HORROR WRITER’S GENESIS. With “Women in Horror: Interview with Jo Kaplan”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its theme for March.

What inspired you to start writing?

When I was a child of the ‘90s, I was obsessed with the Goosebumps books—and before I even really knew how to write, I wanted to make my own stories emulating them. So, at about six years old, I would create my own versions of Goosebumps by coming up with a title for a story, drawing a cover, and then scribbling over a bunch of paper in imitation of writing. Then I would staple it all together into a book and “read” it to people—but since it was just scribbles, I would make up the story anew each time. I guess this was my proto-writing phase, because the itch to tell stories has never left me.

(6) ATWOOD ON BBC RADIO. This weekend’s Open Book on BBC Radio 4 features Margret Atwood.

She has a new collection of shorts out that includes an article she did for Inque magazine imagining her interviews George Orwell. She also spoke to the importance of writers supporting young reader as without young readers there will be no old readers.

Johny Pitts talks to the giant of contemporary literature Margaret Atwood about returning to short fiction following the death of her husband Graeme, imagining the future and what she would say to George Orwell.

Margaret Atwood

(7) RACHEL POLLACK. There was a premature report in social media that Rachel Pollack had died, however, she was still alive today. Carrie Loveland posted this status on Facebook and asked that it be shared.

…Spoke to Rachel Pollack’s wife, Judith Zoe Matoff, just now and she asked me to please post on her behalf that RACHEL IS STILL ALIVE. I think Neil Gaiman’s social media post yesterday caused some confusion and some people have misinterpreted it. Zoe said that she is “transitioning,” but she is still alive in home hospice….

(8) SUZY MCKEE CHARNAS. The passing of author Suzy McKee Charnas in January was reported by media at the time. However, you might be interested in the extended obituary notice published today in “Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 13, 2023”.

… “Suzy, to me, was a lot like David Bowie,” said Jane Lindskold, a science fiction and fantasy writer who knew Charnas from a writers’ group in Albuquerque, N.Mex. “She followed her own muse. She could have just written only vampire books, but she did what she wanted to do.”…

(9) SANDRA LEVY OBITUARY. Longtime Windycon attendee and volunteer Sandy Levy died this morning from ALS Steven H Silver reported on Facebook.

Sandy was also involved in Capricon and the two most recent Chicons, as well as other conventions.

In 2019, when Sandy retired from her job as a librarian at the University of Chicago, a commemorative book of articles was published in her honor. [“In Honor of Sandra Levy: festschrift”.]  

The Chicon 8 Facebook page invited people to post their memories. Chair Helen Montgomery wrote:

Sandy was one of the best people. She had been involved with Chicago fandom for a very long time. She was on the Bid Committees for both Chicon 7 and Chicon 8. She was so generous with her time and such an important part of our team. Many of you would have spoken to her at our fan tables or parties.

She loved working the Info Desk – everyone got to stop by and say hi to her, and she loved welcoming new fans to the community at conventions. She was Chicon 8’s pre-con Info Desk person, responding to many of your emailed questions until her ALS reached the point where she could no longer do so.

She was not able to attend Chicon 8, but I (Helen) got to go see her two weeks later. We hung out in the garden of her apartment building, and I was able to present her Hero of the Convention medal to her in person, and I am so glad I could do that.

She was a warm, funny, smart, and joyous person. I/We have no words to express how much she will be missed.

 (10) MEMORY LANE.

2016[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll is Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station which was published seven years ago by Tachyon. It won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award as well as the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award and the Xingyun Award. 

I’ve really enjoyed pretty much everything Tidhar has done with the Bookman series with its riff with an alternate Britain being my favorite and the Unholy Land with its take on a Jewish home land that never was being absolutely fascinating. 

Central Station, without giving away anything that’s not in the Beginning, is well-worth your time to read if you like SF set in a believable future that’s both familiar and alien at the same time. 

Oh, and it has a sequel in Neom which is also published by Tachyon. It too is brilliantly executed.

So now our Beginning… 

PROLOGUE 

I came first to Central Station on a day in winter. African refugees sat on the green, expressionless. They were waiting, but for what, I didn’t know. Outside a butchery, two Filipino children played at being airplanes: arms spread wide they zoomed and circled, firing from imaginary under-wing machine guns. Behind the butcher’s counter, a Filipino man was hitting a ribcage with his cleaver, separating meat and bones into individual chops. A little farther from it stood the Rosh Ha’ir shawarma stand, twice blown up by suicide bombers in the past but open for business as usual. The smell of lamb fat and cumin wafted across the noisy street and made me hungry.

Traffic lights blinked green, yellow, and red. Across the road a furniture store sprawled out onto the pavement in a profusion of garish sofas and chairs. A small gaggle of junkies sat on the burnt foundations of what had been the old bus station, chatting. I wore dark shades. The sun was high in the sky and though it was cold it was a Mediterranean winter, bright and at that moment dry. 

I walked down the Neve Sha’anan pedestrian street. I found shelter in a small shebeen, a few wooden tables and chairs, a small counter serving Maccabee Beer and little else. A Nigerian man behind the counter regarded me without expression. I asked for a beer. I sat down and brought out my notebook and a pen and stared at the page. 

Central Station, Tel Aviv. The present. Or a present. Another attack on Gaza, elections coming up, down south in the Arava desert they were building a massive separation wall to stop the refugees from coming in. The refugees were in Tel Aviv now, centred around the old bus station neighbourhood in the south of the city, some quarter million of them and the economic migrants here on sufferance, the Thai and Filipinos and Chinese. I sipped my beer. It was bad. I stared at the page. Rain fell.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 13, 1931 Richard Lawrence Purtill. He’s here as the author of Murdercon, a 1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 73. I’ll start his Birthday note by recalling that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, EvolverThe Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the RescueThe Night of the Headless HorsemanJurassic Park IIISahara and The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born March 13, 1951 William F. Wu, 72. Nominated for two Hugos, the first being at L.A. Con II for his short story, “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium”; the second two years later at ConFederation for another short story, “Hong’s Bluff”.  The former work was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode of the same name. He’s contributed more than once to the Wild Card universe, the latest being a story in the most excellent Texas Hold’Em anthology five years back. Though definitely not genre in general, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850-1940 is decidedly worth reading.
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 67. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman.
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 57. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, the Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. (The third is out this autumn.) That said, Chasm City is fascinating. His next novel in the Revelation Space series, Inhibitor Phase, came out in 2022. 
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 56. A Hugo-winning editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net, Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now. 
  • Born March 13, 1968 Jen Gunnels, 55. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Barney & Clyde shows elementary school students with mature literary opinions.

(13) VI SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. The Hollywood Reporter checked the bottom line and learned, “Scream VI scared up a franchise-best $44.5 million opening from 3,675 theaters at the domestic box office, easily enough to win Oscar weekend.” 

(14) VONNEGUT AS FICTIONAL CHARACTER. Variety has learned “Oscar Isaac in Talks to Play Kurt Vonnegut in Amazon’s ‘Helltown’”.

According to the logline, the hour-long, 8-episode crime thriller follows the life of Kurt Vonnegut before he became known to the world as a renowned author. Per Amazon, “In 1969 Kurt was a struggling novelist and car salesman living life with his wife and five children on Cape Cod. When two women disappear and are later discovered murdered underneath the sand dunes on the outskirts of Provincetown, Kurt becomes obsessed and embroiled in the chilling hunt for a serial killer and forms a dangerous bond with the prime suspect.”

Based on the book of the same name written by Casey Sherman, the series comes from “Severance” co-EP Mohamad El Masri, who will also serve as showrunner and writer. “All Quiet on the Western Front” director Ed Berger will helm the series and executive produce….

(15) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. From Fox News: “Giant blob of seaweed twice the width of US taking aim at Florida, scientists say (msn.com) Yes, but is it a howling giant blob of seaweed, pace “Cordwainer Bird’s” script for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea?

Drifting between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, the thick mat of algae can provide a habitat for marine life and absorb carbon dioxide. 

However, the giant bloom can have disastrous consequences as it gets closer to the shore. Coral, for instance, can be deprived of sunlight. As the seaweed decomposes it can release hydrogen sulfide, negatively impact the air and water and causing respiratory problems for people in the surrounding area. 

“What we’re seeing in the satellite imagery does not bode well for a clean beach year,” Brian LaPointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute told NBC News…. 

(16) FLATIRON GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. “The famous Flatiron Building to go up for auction” reports MSN.com. It formerly housed Tor’s editorial offices before the publisher moved out several years ago.

As the result of an ongoing disagreement among the current owners of an iconic Manhattan building, the property will soon be available to the highest bidder.

The 121-year-old Flatiron Building, which is currently empty, will hit the auction block in what is known as a partition sale on March 22 — stemming from a ruling in the contentious legal fight between its multiple landlords.

In January, a New York state judge issued an order allowing the auction to move forward following a 2021 suit by Sorgente Group, Jeffrey Gural’s GFP Real Estate and ABS Real Estate Partners, who together own 75% of the building, the Real Deal first reported.

The co-owners sued after reaching a stalemate with Nathan Silverstein, who owns 25% of the steel-framed 175 Fifth Ave. building, which was completed in 1902 and is the namesake for the surrounding neighborhood….

(17) RANDALL MUNROE ON RADIO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Museum of Curiosity on BBC Radio 4 this weekend featured the Hugo Award winner Randall Munroe. He said that one of the most interesting questions he’d been asked is what would happen if the Solar System was filled up with soup to the orbit of Jupiter. (The answer, of course, is the formation of a black hole.) “The Museum of Curiosity, Series 17, Episode 3”.

(18) IT’S THE WATER – AND A LOT MORE. The Little Mermaid comes to theatres on May 26.

“The Little Mermaid” is the beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea and, while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land but ultimately places her life – and her father’s crown – in jeopardy.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Someone has said that RRR is “alternate history” — not that an excuse is really needed to post this Oscar-winning song:

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Joyce Scrivner, Jayn, Stephen Granade, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MF.]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/23 Some People Call Me Morlock, ’Cause I Speak Of The Pixeltus Of Love

(1) RUSSIAN SF PODCAST. [Item by Nickpheas.] Mark Galeotti is a British expert on Russian affairs, with a podcast series “In Moscow’s Shadows”. He’s also an SF fan and roleplayer, having written for RuneQuest and self published a Mythic Russia game, all sadly out of print as far as I can tell.

One of his latest podcasts has a segment on themes in Russian SF and how they shed light on the thinking of the Putin regime. In Moscow’s Shadows 91: “Russian Fantasies – Putin’s address to the nation and the lessons from Russian science fiction”.

The SF bit starts about two thirds of the way in. There is obviously much to say about Kremlin infighting and the war in Ukraine first.

(2) GRIM AND BEAR IT. “Margaret Atwood on Loss and Storytelling” – an interview at Vanity Fair to promote her new story collection, Old Babes in the Wood.

Vanity Fair: While reading the collection, I was reminded of how many funny moments you weave into your writing, regardless of how grim the circumstances.

Margaret Atwood: In Nova Scotia, there’s a tradition of deadpan lying—so, to see if you can get people to believe you—but they have that kind of humor. I think it’s kind of Scottish. It’s not very puritan New England, particularly, although a bunch of the family came from there. Some of them came from Scotland, and some of them came from Wales, and some of them came from France because they were Huguenots who got kicked out of France in the 18th century. We used to laugh a lot as kids at inappropriate things, and maybe it comes from that. But I think a lot of people are actually like that. Things are grim, but they’re not completely hopeless.

Some of the grimmest circumstances can have an absurd bent to them, maybe.

Without a doubt. There’s a very thin line between the absolutely horrific and the slapstick comedy. Pie in the face. There used to be a form of theater called Grand Guignol, which was horror theater, but it was funny too. It’s funny if it’s not happening to you—or anybody you love. But I don’t know, there’s something about rich men in fur coats slipping on a banana peel that’s just funny. Of course, it’s different if it’s a poor person slipping on a banana peel. I think things that violate expectations—or, as somebody said to me long ago, in the English-seaside-postcard tradition, the wife hitting the husband over the head with the rolling pin is funny, but the husband hitting the wife over the head with the rolling pin, that’s a different thing.

(3) SHAPERS OF WORLDS KICKSTARTER COMING MARCH 14. Edward Willett, Saskatchewan-based award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, is launching a Kickstarter campaign on March 14, 2023, to fundthe fourth annual anthology featuring some of the top writers of science fiction and fantasy working today, all of whom were guests on his Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers (www.theworldshapers.com). The Kickstarter campaign can be found here: “Shapers of Worlds Volume IV by Edward Willett”.

Shapers of Worlds Volume IV will feature new fiction from David Boop, Michaelbrent Collings, Roy M. Griffis, Sarah A. Hoyt, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Noah Lemelson, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Edward M. Lerner, David Liss, Gail Z. Martin, Joshua Palmatier, Richard Paolinelli, Jean-Louis Trudel, James van Pelt, Garon Whited, and Edward Willett, plus reprints by James Kennedy, R.S. Mellette, and Lavie Tidhar. Among those authors are several international bestsellers, as well as winners and nominees for every major science fiction and fantasy literary award.

All of the authors were guests during the fourth year of The Worldshapers, where Willett interviews other science fiction and fantasy authors about their creative process.

Backers’ rewards offered by the authors include numerous e-books, signed paperback and hardcover books, Tuckerizations (a backer’s name used as a character name), commissioned artwork, one-on-one writing/publishing consultations, audiobooks, opportunities for online chats with authors, short-story critiques, and more.

The Kickstarter campaign goal is $12,000 CDN. Most of those funds will go to pay the authors, with the rest going to reward fulfillment, primarily the editing, layout, and printing of the book, which will be published this fall in both ebook and trade paperback formats by Willett’s publishing company, Shadowpaw Press (www.shadowpawpress.com). This year, there’s a special stretch goal: once the campaign reaches $17,000, $5,000 over the goal, the anthology will be illustrated, with a new black-and-white drawing for each story from Calgary, Alberta artist Wendi Nordell, who has illustrated numerous books for regional publishers including Edward Willett’s science-fiction and fantasy poetry collection, I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust. [Based on a press release.]

(4) HELP WANTED. Karl Kotas hopes you can remember a book title for him.

I am trying to recall a science fiction first contact novel, possibly by a woman writer, which I read some decades ago. Normally, I have had luck searching online via sites like substack and AskMetafilter but so far I have failed. 

So, let me cut to the chase and tell you what I remember:

The book began with a scene in Iceland or Finland — a man meets some children who claim to have found an elf, a very Nordic elf. The man meets this so-called elf and realizes he is not human.

As it turns out, this elf came from a ship in orbit with a strange matriarchal system system with an extreme sexual dimorphism where the females are giant and the males are tiny..

What came to my mind then are those deep sea  angler fish where the females are enormous with tiny tadpolish males permanently joined to them at the cloaca. 

Fairly fast, these matriarchs took a look at the ecological damage being done to the earth via overpopulation and relentless development and broadcast an ultimatum to the entire human race to shape up or else.

One of the results of this broadcast is no children were conceived or born thereafter for years. This was done via the broadcast or some sort of unexplained handwavium.

Later on the man is aboard the ship and observes the results. Cars and trucks have disappeared to be replaced by railroads and North America was rewilded back to the 17th century level with large herds of bison roaming the vast open plains.

Does this ring a bell to anyone here?

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2013[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So let’s  talk about Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest which is the sequel to children’s children’s book he did with Charles Vess, A Circle of Cats. Without giving away anything, the themes are the same, just expanded to a novel length work.

I love everything that de Lint has done and this is no exception, though is is quite different from the urban fantasy work of his that you’re likely to be familiar with. This is based is the Appalachian myths that I assume he and Vess talked about. He sort of first used them in Someplace to Be Flying, but they were moved to Newford which was deliberately located nowhere. This story, and related stories are located in the Appalachian region.

Needless to say it too is illustrated by Vess. Oh is it. Illustrations beyond counting. Of Lillian, of cats, of other creatures, of the Forest. You get the idea. 

It’s warm, comfortable story with believable characters, human and otherwise. That’s all I’ll say. I is available from the usual suspects but I recommend you buy the hardcover edition instead as it’s a truly remarkable book, one that you’ll cherish. 

Now here’s its Beginning…

Once there was a forest of hickory and beech, sprucy-pine, birch and oak. It was called the Tanglewood Forest. Starting at the edge of a farmer’s pasture, it seemed to go on forever, uphill and down. There were a few abandoned homesteads to be found in its reaches, overgrown and uninhabitable now, and deep in a hidden clearing there was a beech tree so old that only the hills themselves remembered the days when it was a sapling. 

Above that grandfather tree, the forest marched up to the hilltops in ever-denser thickets of rhododendrons and brush until nothing stood between the trees and stars. Below it, a creek ran along the bottom of a dark narrow valley, no more than a trickle in some places, wider in others. Occasionally the water tumbled down rough staircases of stone and rounded rocks. 

On a quiet day, when the wind was still, the creek could be heard all the way up to where the old beech stood. Under its branches cats would come to dream and be dreamed. Black cats and calicos, white cats and marmalade ones, too. Sometimes they exchanged gossip or told stories about L’il Pater, the trickster cat. More often they lay in a drowsy circle around the fat trunk of the ancient beech that spread its boughs above them. Then one of them might tell a story of the old and powerful Father of Cats, and though the sun might still be high and the day warm, they would shiver and groom themselves with nervous tongues. 

But they hadn’t yet gathered the day the orphan girl fell asleep among the beech’s roots, nestling in the weeds and long grass like the gangly, tousle-haired girl she was. 

Her name was Lillian Kindred.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1934 Gray Morrow. He was an illustrator of comics and paperback books. He is co-creator of the Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing with writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and co-creator of DC Comics’ El Diablo with writer Robert Kanigher. If you can find a copy, The Illustrated Roger Zelazny he did in collaboration with Zelazny is most excellent. ISFDB notes that he and James Lawrence did a novel called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  No idea if it was tied into the series which came out the next year. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 7, 1942 Paul Preuss, 81. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular.  I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him. 
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 79. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now. 
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 78. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them. But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly,’ but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.” 
  • Born March 7, 1955 Michael Jan Friedman, 68. Author of nearly sixty books of genre fiction, mostly media tie-ins. He’s written nearly forty Trek novels alone covering DS9Starfleet AcademyNext GenOriginal Series and Enterprise. He’s also done work with Star Wars, AliensPredatorsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanBatman and Robin and many others. He’s also done quite a bit of writing for DC, mostly media-ins but not all as I see SupermanFlash and Justice League among his credits.
  • Born March 7, 1967 Ari Berk, 56. Folklorist, artist, writer and scholar of literature and comparative myth. Damn great person as well. I doubt you’ve heard of The Runes of Elfland he did with Brian Froud so I’ve linked to the Green Man review of it here. He also had a review column in the now defunct Realms of Fantasy that had such articles as “Back Over the Wall – Charles Vess Revisits the World of Stardust”.

(8) HOBBLING THE HUBBLE. The New York Times reports “Hubble Telescope Faces Threat From SpaceX and Other Companies’ Satellites”.

Private companies are launching thousands of satellites that are photobombing the telescope — producing long bright streaks and curves of light that can be impossible to remove. And the problem is only getting worse.

study, published Thursday in the journal Nature Astronomy, reveals an increase in the percentage of images recorded by the Hubble that are spoiled by passing satellites. And the data goes only through 2021. Thousands more satellites have been launched since then by SpaceX and other companies, and many more are expected to go to orbit in the years ahead, affecting the Hubble and potentially other telescopes in space.

“We’re going to be living with this problem. And astronomy will be impacted,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the study. “There will be science that can’t be done. There will be science that’s significantly more expensive to do. There will be things that we miss.”…

(9) SOME GOOD NEWS ABOUT AI. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An article on the Nature website explains how an artificial-intelligence model trialled in Chile’s Atacama Desert could one day detect signs of life on other planets. “Astrobiologists train an AI to find life on Mars”.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning could revolutionize the search for life on other planets. But before these tools can tackle distant locales such as Mars, they need to be tested here on Earth.

A team of researchers have successfully trained an AI to map biosignatures — any feature which provides evidence of past or present life — in a three-square-kilometre area of Chile’s Atacama Desert. The AI substantially reduced the area the team needed to search and boosted the likelihood of finding living organisms in one of the driest places on the planet. The results were reported on 6 March in Nature Astronomy…

….Ultimately, Warren-Rhodes says she would like to see a comprehensive database of different Mars analogues that could feed valuable information to mission scientists planning their next sampling run. Her team’s advance, she adds, might appear “deceptively simple” to anyone who grew up watching Star Trek explorers scanning alien worlds with a tricorder. But, it represents an important advance in extraterrestrial research, in which biology has often lagged behind chemistry and geology. Imagine, for instance, virtual-reality headsets that feed mission scientists real-time data as they scan a surface, using a rover’s ‘eyes’ to direct their activities. “To have our team make one of these first steps towards reliably detecting biosignatures using AI is exciting,” she says. “It’s really a momentous time.”

Primary research paper abstract here here.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Karl Kotas, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/16/23 My AI Is Up Here

(1) MISPLACED FEAR. Behind a paywall in The Atlantic, Margaret Atwood tells the answer to “Who’s Afraid of The Handmaid’s Tale?” Chosen as the magazine’s “One Story to Read Today”, her piece was given this introduction:

A Virginia school board recently demanded the removal of The Handmaid’s Tale from school-library shelves. Its author, Margaret Atwood, replied in the form of an Atlantic essay this past weekend, arguing that trying to stop young people from reading something will only make them want to read it more. “Has sex become too readily available?” she writes. “Banal, even? A boring chore? If so, what better way to make it fascinating again than to prohibit all mention of it?”

The article begins:

It’s shunning time in Madison County, Virginia, where the school board recently banished my novel The Handmaid’s Tale from the shelves of the high-school library. I have been rendered “unacceptable.” Governor Glenn Youngkin enabled such censorship last year when he signed legislation allowing parents to veto teaching materials they perceive as sexually explicit.

This episode is perplexing to me, in part because my book is much less sexually explicit than the Bible, and I doubt the school board has ordered the expulsion of that. Possibly, the real motive lies elsewhere. The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family generated the list of “unacceptable” books that reportedly inspired the school board’s action, and at least one member of the public felt the school board was trying to “limit what kids can read” based on religious views. Could it be that the board acted under the mistaken belief that The Handmaid’s Tale is anti-Christian?…

(2) IMAGINARY PAPERS. Today the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination published the latest issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.

In this issue, environmental humanities scholar Pamela Carralero writes about the Scottish climate fiction graphic novel IDP: 2043, computer scientist Judy Goldsmith writes about ethics-focused approaches to E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” and futurist Suzette Brooks Masters writes about a new report on imagining better futures for democracy.

(3) SPEAK SOFTLY. “Michael Dorn trolled Star Trek haters with Worf voice in elevator” at EW.

Dorn — who, as Klingon character Worf, had to routinely endure hours of prosthetic makeup — recalled the interaction Thursday as part of The View‘s special Star Trek: The Next Generation cast reunion. The reunion was hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, who reprised her role as Guinan from the series as the ABC set transformed into the sci-fi show’s Ten Forward lounge….

(4) FOSTER Q&A. Media Death Cult’s Moid Moidelhoff conducts “The Big Interview” with Alan Dean Foster.

Alan Dean Foster is a living legend of science fiction and fantasy. He has written over 60 novels across multiple original series but is perhaps best known for his novelisations of film scripts including Star Trek, The Thing, Alien, and of course, he was the ghostwriter for the original Star Wars novel.

(5) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA has released episode 60 of Simultaneous Times on all streaming services including Podomatic. Stories featured in this episode:

  • “Turf War 2200” by Matthew Sanborn Smith – with music by Phog Masheeen. Read by Jean-Paul Garnier
  • “Dinosaur Personal Ads” by Sarina Dorie – with music by Fall Precauxions. Read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1908[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

There are classics in children’s literature, and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is definitely one of them. 

It was first published by Methuen in 1908. Most of you probably know the Arthur Rackham illustrated version but that isn’t the quoted edition as that was the Limited Editions Club in 1940 which was, errr, a limited edition with a slipcase. This has a frontpiece illustrated by Graham Robertson as shown below. No other illustrations.

No, I don’t know what young children or Eden have to do with The Wind in the Willows but it’s been a long time since I read it.

I think that it’s a quintessential English novel of manners with animals representing the various English human characters you’d find in other novels. The closet comparison I think of oddly enough is the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Not sure why. 

I’ve read it a number of times and it’s always a delight. The characters are well drawn, the setting is fun and the situations are humorous to say the least. 

And now the Beginning…

THE Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said, “Bother!” and “O blow!” and also “Hang spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged, and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, “Up we go! Up we go!” till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

“This is fine!” he said to himself. “This is better than whitewashing!” The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow till he reached the hedge on the further side.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 16, 1938 Chuck Crayne. An important conrunner who died before his time. (I’m quoting Mike there, so please don’t complain.) He was a LASFS member who was most active during the Sixties and Seventies. You can read Mike’s full post on him here. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 70. I decide to let one of y’all give him Birthday greeting so let’s hear Paul Weimer do it: “I first became of the inestimable Mr. Glyer because of seeing his name in Locus, multiple times, for something called File 770. When I found it online and started to read the blog, I only stepped in the middle of a stream of decades long science fiction fandom that has been his pole star. Mr. Glyer’s fandom has been an inspiration and model for myself, and doubtless, many others. I am glad that I have helped in my own small way to help with the edifice of SF fandom that he has created and in a very real way, embodies. Although I still have not yet managed to meet him in person, I am proud to call him a friend. Happy Birthday Mike!”
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I’m certain I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas, are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 16, 1957 Ardwight Chamberlain, 66. The voice of Kosh on Babylon 5. And that tickles me, as I don’t think they credited it during the series, did they? Most of his other voice work English dubbing versions of Japanese anime including Digimon: Digital Monsters and The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island.
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 59. The Ninth Doctor who’s my third favorite among the new ones behind David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of CobraThor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY WISHES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A few more “Happy 100th, Charles Schultz” comic strips that I’m told were not in the Schulz Museum tribute list previously linked.

(10) IT COULD BE SFF. [Item by Alan Baumler.] A snippet from a review by Abigail Nussbaum which made me, at least, want to read the book. “Telluria by Vladimir Sorokin” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

I’ve been waiting a while for Strange Horizons to run my review of Vladimir Sorokin’s 2013 novel Telluria, published last year by NYRB Classics with a translation by Max Lawton. I wasn’t familiar with Sorokin, a Russian writer who began his career poking at the foibles of the Soviet Union, and has continued to do the same with Putin’s Russia, before picking up this book. But the premise intrigued me, not least because it seemed to intersect with science fiction. Telluria is part of a loose sequence of novels which all take place in a post-post-Soviet setting which Sorokin has dubbed the New Middle Ages, in which familiar geopolitical entities have fractured and new battle lines have been drawn. In this novel, Sorokin introduces the titular drug, which produces euphoria by transporting users to a world where their deepest desires are realized—desires that can be political or ideological as well as personal.

(11) GOOD ITALIAN WOOD, GOOD ITALIAN IRON. “Factory Photos Show Fully Private Space Station Under Construction” at Futurism.

Space startup Axiom Space is making significant progress on its all-private space station dubbed Axiom Station, which it claims will be “the successor to the International Space Station.”

Images shared by former NASA astronaut Micahel López-Alegría, who was part of the startup’s first all-private astronaut mission to the ISS last April, show massive segments of the Axiom Station being fabricated at a factory in Italy….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Alan Baumler, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kathy Sullivan, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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.]