Pixel Scroll 3/19/22 Marconi Scrolls The Mamba

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

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

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

The Marcon.org website shut down earlier this month.

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

The British Boethius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/22 Diskworld Engineers

(1) WHERE THE FUTURE COMES FROM. Nnedi Okorafor was featured in Chicago Magazine in January: “Nnedi Okorafor’s Books Focus on Future Tense”.

What are some of your favorite books?

Wizard of the Crow [by Ngugi wa Thiong’o], The Talisman by Stephen King [and Peter Straub], Life of Pi [by Yann Martel], and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, which is like a dream, so psychedelic. It’s probably the most influential book for me. It’s about a young boy who was born with spirit friends, but it’s an adult novel. He views the world in such a way that the mystical and mundane coexist. It’s set in Nigeria during a very politically tumultuous time. Akata Woman, my new book, pays homage to The Famished Road. The first time I read it, I was an undergrad. This guy I was dating had gotten it for an African studies class and I just stole it from him. He didn’t care. He didn’t even read it. For me, it changed everything.

(2) AARDMAN NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I watched this 2015 BBC Documentary, “A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman”, directed by Richard Mears, which tells the story of Aardman. You learn lots of things in it, including where their name came from — it’s a 1972 animation that company founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton sold to the BBC about a creature that’s half-human, half aardvark. They talk about how Nick Park submitted student films to the company and essentially became the third partner, with his creation Wallace and Gromit earning him two Oscars with a third for his short “Creature Comforts.”

Lots of actors and fellow animators are in this, including Terry Gilliam, Matt Groening, John Lasseter, and even Jeffrey Katzenberg, the great Bill Nighy, who’s done voice work for Aardman, says the four things that seem to him to be England at its best are the Rolling Stones, Harold Pinter, Crystal Palace FC, and Aardman Animations.

Aardman fans will note this show was done before the last theatrical release, Early Man, which bombed and led to everything Aardman does going straight to Netflix.

Fun facts: the documentary says that the Oscar for best animated feature happened because of the success of Chicken Run (2000).  Nick Park says he wanted to call Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit “The Great Vegetable Hunt” but changed it because focus groups of kids said they didn’t like vegetables.

I thought this was a fun hour.

(3) M SQUAD. [Item by Steven French.] Some alliteration here! “A mashup of mythology, Middle-earth and Marvel comics, …” — “Marlon James: ‘Violence is violent and sex is sexy. You are supposed to be appalled’” in The Guardian.

…He read whatever he could get his hands on – “the only category I needed for a book was ‘next’” – coming late to classic fantasy fiction simply because there wasn’t a drugstore paperback of The Lord of the Rings. Instead he gorged on film tie-ins, fairytales and comics. He attended the “posh” school, where he always felt a bit of an outsider. It was this sense of “having to negotiate a world you don’t belong to”, that he associated with Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell, and which he gives to Sogolon and also to the ambitious Nina Burgess in A Brief History, the character closest to him, he says….

(4) TABLE TOP SFF GAMES. CBR.com gives us “The 10 Best Sci-Fi Board Games, Ranked”.

3. Terraforming Mars Is Corporate Greed & Future Progress

Terraforming Mars is one of the most beloved board games in the world at the moment. The game currently sits in the top 5 board games of all time, according to hobbyists on the website Board Game Geek. In Terraforming Mars, players take on the role of different corporations that are attempting to terraform and mine resources from Mars for greed and political gain. The game has tons of unique cards, combos, and strategies which is what keeps players coming back to it time and time again.

(5) HOME ON THE STRANGE. “Outer Range: First look at Josh Brolin’s Amazon Prime Video thriller” at Vanity Fair.

…Brolin plays Royal Abbott, an old-school cowboy and patriarch tested by horrors both known and unknown. In the former category: His daughter-in-law has gone missing, and simmering tension with the rival Tillerson family is about to reach a boil. And in the latter: A giant metaphysical void has popped up on the Abbott property, representing…something. An alternate dimension? Aliens? Nightmares? As Royal stumbles upon it, we quickly glean that it’s his—and our—destiny to find out. Eventually. 

Outer Range is difficult to pinpoint, its shades of Yellowstone and Westworld (continuing in prestige TV’s ongoing Western trend) gradually giving way to a true singularity…. 

(6) CLEAR FEAR. Catriona Ward contends, “‘When done right, horror is a transformative experience’” in a Guardian Q&A.

Does it chafe to be described as a horror writer?
Like most terms applied to books, it’s both really useful and not useful at all, but I love horror. I think it’s one of the most expressive, most empathetic genres you can work in. Everyone feels afraid at some point in their life. Reading is a sustained act of telepathy or empathy, and reading horror is even more profound than that: it’s asking people to share real vulnerabilities of yours and open themselves up to their own. It is like going down a tunnel, and hopefully the writer is leading the way with a torch, taking the reader’s hand….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty-eight years ago this evening, TekLab, the third of the TekWar episodes, aired. Created by William Shatner who you all know, the novels are ghost-written by Ron Goulart, but I don’t know how much input he had into the TV series. TekWar would be developed for television by Stephen Roloff who earlier had done the same for Friday the 13th: The Series and Beyond Reality, also produced in Canada. 

TekLab would take our detectives to London attend a ceremony at the Tower of London which marks the start of a campaign to restore the British monarchy. Before the film ends, much will happen including the appearance of Excalibur. 

The primary cast was Greg Evigan as Jake Cardigan, Eugene Clark as Sid Gomez, William Shatner as Walter Bascom, Michael York as Richard Stewart, Laurie Winger as Rachael Tudor and Maurice Dean Winter as Lt. Winger. 

I can’t say the critics loved this William Shatner created affair as they didn’t, with one saying of the series in general that it was “bargain basement science fiction with a stale protagonist, a convoluted murder mystery, and a narrative that feels incomplete.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give this film specifically a thirty-one percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1937 Barbara Babcock, 85. She had a remarkable six roles on Star Trek, first as Mea 3 on “A Taste of Armageddon” followed the “Assignment: Earth” episode as Beta 5 Computer / Isis, then in “The Tholian Web” as the voice of Cmdr. Loskene followed  by being on “Plato’s Stepchildren” as Philana. Her final appearance was in “The Lights of Zetar” as the Voice of Zetar. Somebody in casting really, really liked her voice. She also showed up on Green HornetLogan’s RunMission: ImpossibleNight GallerySalem’s Lot and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Born February 27, 1940 Howard Hesseman. Though best-known as DJ Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati and the New WKRP in Cincinnati (and yes, I remember the frozen turkey episode vividly), he did do quite a bit of genre. His first genre role I’m reasonably sure was as Dr. Louis Faraday in The Flight of The Navigator, a most superb film, he is Rupert King in “Titan Man” portion of Amazon Women on the Moon. He’s Doctor Berg in Martin Child, and his last genre film was Halloween II where he was Uncle Meat. Huh. He’s done one-offs on the Faerie Tale TheatreThe Ray Bradbury Theatre and The Outer Limits. (Died 2022.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay, a World Fantasy Award winner, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not at all familiar with. Who’s read them? (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 62. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. He’s won a very impressive eleven Harvey Awards and ten Eisner Awards! Kindle, though not Apple Books, has the complete Bone for a very reasonable twenty dollars.
  • Born February 27, 1962 Adam Baldwin, 60. Genre roles include Firefly and its continuation in Serenity as Jayne Cobb. Colonel John Casey in the exemplary Chuck series, Independence Day as Major Mitchell and Mike Slattery in The Last Ship, series I’ve yet to see. He’s also done voice work such as Hal Jordan and Jonah Hex on Justice League Unlimited, and Metamorpho on Beware the Batman
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 58. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series with over two dozen appearances, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon as he’s Agent Bernard Fainon in the new Night Stalker for several episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex  Nolan. Yep, two Last Ship performers here in these Birthdays. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SPEED OF LIGHTFINGERS. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki told Facebook readers a funny story related to his interview in a recent issue of Locus.

(11) TIME ON HIS HANDS. “Men In Black Turns 25: Why The Movie Remains A Sci-Fi Comedy Classic” at GameRant.

…Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black is one of the most popular science-fiction films of the past half-century. Joining the ranks of Star WarsStar Trek, and most recently Dune, the Men in Black franchise has the benefit of being one of the most internationally recognizable science-fiction I.P.’s in recent memory. While the sequels and reboot of the M.I.B. property have certainly done a lot towards hindering the brand, the first Men in Black remains a propulsive, thrilling, and funny entry in a landscape that often sees more failures than successes….

And John King Tarpinian says, “The movie made me to want to buy the Hamilton Ventura watch.”

(12) TAKING THE HANDOFF. Geek Tyrant boosts the signal for “STAR WARS Severed Hand Magnets Include Luke Skywalker and Wampa Hands”. What a concept.

Regal Robot has a Star Wars Separation Collection, and they introduced two new severed hand magnets. Those magnets include a severed Luke Skywalker hand holding a lightsaber and a severed wampa hand, the one sliced off by Luke Skywalker….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fanac.org has taken a sound recording of Fred Lerner’s 1963 interview of fannish legend Sam Moskowitz, matched in still photos to create a YouTube video.

Sam Moskowitz (SaM) was the chairman of the first World Science Fiction Convention (1939), a mover and shaper of science fiction fandom from the earliest days, and a historian of the field. 

In this audio interview (presented with illustrative pictures) from 1963, Fred Lerner, noted librarian, bibliographer and historian, conducts a conversation that ranges from the definition of science fiction, to typical early plots, to an analysis of the early 60s magazine and paperback industry. 

SaM was both a professional in the field, a writer, anthologist and critic as well as an iconic fan presence. In this interview, he speaks as a professional, casually inserting fannish references as he discusses the differences between science fiction fandom in the 30s and 60s, analyzes how fans relate to the general readership, and talks about the gaps that science fiction can fill.

In Fancyclopedia.org, it is reported that “one friend described him as “physically massive” — with a booming voice.” In later years, SaM had throat cancer which required the surgical removal of his larynx, necessitating that he speak through an electronic voice-box, held against his throat. In this recording, you can hear SaM speak in his own voice about the field he loved and lived in. Thanks to Fred Lerner for providing the recording, and to Dr. Eric Fleischer (Dr. Gandalf) for digitization.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/22 And The Scrolls That Mother Gives You Don’t Have Any Pixels At All

(1) WAVE FUNCTION. Jim Benford was interviewed in a double-segment of 60 Minutes about the “Havana Syndrome” that is sickening State Department staffers around the world. He was interviewed as an expert on microwaves and as the author of High Power Microwaves, a copy of which was shown on screen. He was asked if the syndrome could be caused by a microwave weapon. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript.

James Benford: I think the best explanation, the most plausible, is that it’s a high-power microwave weapon.

James Benford is a physicist and leading authority on microwaves. He was not part of the government studies, but he co-wrote the book on microwave transmission. These are portable microwave transmitters of the kind that could damage the tissues of the brain.

James Benford: There are many kinds, and they can go anywhere in size from a suitcase all the way up to a large tractor trailer unit. And the bigger the device, the longer the range. 

Scott Pelley: This would be able to transmit its microwave energy through the wall of a van, the wall of a home, something like that?

James Benford: Vans have windows, microwaves go through glass. They go through brick. They go through practically everything.

The technology, Benford told us, has been studied more than 50 years.

James Benford: It’s been developed widely in, perhaps, a dozen countries. The primary countries are the United States, Russia and China.

(2) VALE LOVECRAFT. From Joseph T. Major’s latest Alexiad I learned: “H. P. Lovecraft has stunned the world by announcing that this summer will see the end of his regular advice videos, ‘Ask Lovecraft’, on YouTube. How blasphemeously rugose and squamous! …Leeman Kessler, the real voice of Ask Lovecraft, has a second child and regular responsibilities as Mayor of Gambier, Ohio. After ten years, this additional activity has become more than he can handle. We will miss Ask Lovecraft.”

The latest video assures listeners things will wind down gradually —

And we’re not ending right away. Have no fear, we’re going to take things to the middle of the year so that we are right on our 10th anniversary. Until that time we will continue to answer your questions, dispense wisdom and offer up all the jackanapes you’ve come to expect.

(3) IT’S THE ECONOMY. Author Kyle Galindez asks “Why can’t Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine alternatives to capitalism or feudalism?” at Salon.

… As a fantasy author myself, I’m intrigued as to how writers’ imagination hit a wall when imagining political alternatives. I am reminded of the oft-quoted remark from literary theorist Frederic Jameson, who quipped that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. Accordingly, the authors who are adept at imagining the end of capitalism are, more often than not, at the fringes….

(4) BY CROM, NOW THIS IS A MIGHTY ORGAN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Found in my library’s sale pile, and purchased for a buck, because it didn’t occur to me to first check Hoopla, YouTube, etc:

Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack for the Conan The Barbarian movie, transcribed for organ, performed by Phillipp Pelster (on Amazon).

As opposed to the actual soundtrack: “Conan The Barbarian (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” (via Hoopla).

Here’s one of several tracks, via YouTube:

Here it is being played on piano

And here’s a live orchestra performance (not just the organ):

By Crom’s Cavitous Teeth, I wouldst happily sell my copye for that dollar plus shipping (media mail even), elstwhyse I mayeth slip the foul thing back into the library’s for-sale box.

(5) MOCCA. The Society of Illustrators released the visuals for the 2022 MoCCA Arts Festival to be held April 2-3 in New York.

Featuring work by over 500 creators, the weekend will also include live lectures, panels, and artist signings! In one of the first independent comics festivals of the season, this year’s Fest will truly be a momentous occasion with many happy reunions for the community!

To help announce and promote this year’s Fest, the Society asked creator Yadi Liu, previous MoCCA Arts Fest exhibitor and Award of Excellence gallery artist, to create a colorful, celebratory image. Liu’s art will grace the cover of the Souvenir Journal and will feature prominently on all advertising and promotional materials, as well as a selection of merchandise available to purchase at the SI Booth. “Yadi’s art really captures our excitement for the return of the Fest. After several years of challenges and disappointments, we are so happy to welcome everyone back!” said Executive Director Anelle Miller.

In addition to Liu’s art, the Society has also asked several notable artists to create work for the show. Natalie Andrewson’s whimsical creatures will be displayed on the badges, and Patrick McDonnell’s quirky MUTTS characters will be featured as spot illustrations found throughout the Fest. These featured artists will be attending the Fest, and their schedules and table locations will be released as the date approaches. 

(6) BLACK HISTORY MONTH CONTINUES. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its “Black Heritage HWA interview series” –

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

For sure in the 50 years that I’ve been writing I see changes. Per diversity: In the beginning there were so few Blacks (and others) in genre writing. Since then it has increased in horror and science fiction and fantasy, which is good. The birth of black publishers and self-publishing has created an outlet for Other authors to offer their work to readers, in addition to the traditional publishers. We need this expanding to include more Others to continue. There are many different kinds of stories to be told and and creators to be seen. A big part of making this happen is for the publishing field to increase awareness and be willing to work at including other voices and realize that decision makers need to include Others.

Who are some African diaspora horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

The incredibly talented Chesya Burke is a writer who first came to my attention when I was putting together 60 Black Women in Horror. Valjeanne Jeffers and Crystal Connor are two writers who have impressed me with their short story work. I love L.A. Banks’ highly entertaining Vampire Huntress series. I love anthologies that give the reader a sampling of various African Diaspora horror writers, and Sycorax’s Daughers, edited by Linda Addison, Kinitra Brooks, and Susanna Morris and Dark Matter edited by Sheree Renee Thomas are two I recommend.

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

I was drawn to horror because I needed it. I needed the distraction, the escape. The truth is, I was sort of an outcast and a latch-key kid until high school, where I would settle into just being awkward. I’m the quintessential late bloomer. With that, all that we now label ‘nerd stuff’ drew my attention and helped keep my little mind off some of the more challenging aspects of my life. Because of my strange interests, the other kids didn’t get me, and to be fair, I may have handled it badly. To give you a sense of how early my problems started, the first fight I ever had in school was over a Planet of The Apes action figure which I mistakenly brought to school only to have someone try to steal it. That was second grade.

As far as horror was concerned, everything I was exposed to became part of this rich fantasy world I developed in my head. At any given moment my imagination let me either hunt Dracula or be just like them. Naturally, this was balanced out with fantasies about being Batman or Spider-Man but as I approached my teens, these fantasies became an addiction. I think that’s possible; being addicted to your own imagination. And mine is a beast. It’s been fed some of the best horror books and movies. There’s also been a lot of cross pollination within genres, like drama and comedy. That’s why there are certain things I cannot stop doing, like inserting humor into some of my work, or creating these dialogues that could easily be inserted into a family drama, if not for the fact it’s a vampire and a werewolf having the argument.

(7) THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. The New York Times asked “How Marlon James, Novelist, Spends His Sundays”.

ON CALL When I come back here, I usually have to deal with people who don’t respect the sanctity of my Sunday, like the production team for this TV show I’m working on called “Get Millie Black,” a detective show set in the U.K. and Jamaica. It’s produced by HBO and hopefully will be out around this time in 2023. When you’re a writer, there’s no days off….

(8) WORLD VIDEO GAME HOF NOMINATIONS. You have until February 28 to submit a recommendation for the 2022 World Video Game Hall of Fame sponsored by The Strong National Museum of Play.

Do you have a favorite video game that deserves to join icons such as Pong, Pac-ManSuper Mario Bros., TetrisThe Legend of Zelda, and The Oregon Trail in The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame? Video game lovers everywhere are urged to submit nominations for induction onlineSubmissions for nominations must be made by Monday, February 28, 2022. Finalists will be announced in March, 2022, and inductees will be revealed at a special ceremony at The Strong museum on May 5, 2022.

The World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong was established in 2015 to recognize individual electronic games of all types—arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile—that meet the following criteria: icon-status, the game is widely recognized and remembered; longevity, the game is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over time; geographical reach, the game meets the above criteria across international boundaries; and influence, the game has exerted significant influence on the design and development of other games, on other forms of entertainment, or on popular culture and society in general.

(9) WADE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna writes about “Homer At the Bat,” a classic episode of The Simpsons that first aired in February 1992 and was one of the first episodes to feature multiple celebrities in one episode.  Cavna reports the episode is packed with baseball lore (if you know who Cap Anson was, this is a show for you) and he interviews Wade Boggs, who says at autograph shows “I feel like I’m at a Comic-Con” because he has as many fans asking him to sign stills from The Simpsons as he does photos of him in a Red Sox, Yankees, or Devil Rays uniform. “’Homer at the Bat’ at 30: The ‘Simpsons’ baseball episode that pushed the show’s boundaries”.

…As Major League Baseball endures a lockout and faces a possible delay to this season, it’s an apt occasion to remember another time when ballplayers and management didn’t see eye to eye. Enter Homer, Mr. Burns and themighty lineup of imported pro ringers.

“Homer at the Bat,” which featured the voices of nine active major leaguers andmade its debutFeb. 20, 1992,was more than a quirky one-off in celebrity stunt casting. The 17th episode of Season 3 emboldened the minds behind “The Simpsons” to push the boundaries of what an animated half-hour series could do and show.

And from a ratings standpoint, it was a bellwether for the surging show: “Homer at the Bat” marked the first time that a new “Simpsons” episode beat an original episode of “The Cosby Show,” long an NBC juggernaut; on that prime-time Thursday night, “Simpsons” softball also topped CBS’s Winter Olympics coverage from Albertville, France….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1967 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-five years ago, Raquel Welch starred in One Million Years B.C. which was financed by Hammer Film Productions and Seven Arts. It was a remake of One Million B.C., a film made twenty-seven years earlier. The original film was also known as Cave Man, Man and His Mate and Tumak. That film was produced by Hal Roach and D. W. Griffith who I know you’ll recognize. 

 It was directed by Don Chaffey from the screenplay by Michael Carreras which in turn was based off the screenplay for the first film written by Mickell Novack, George Baker and Joseph Frickert. 

The primary cast was Raquel Welch as Loana and John Richardson as Tumak with rest of the cast being Percy Herbert as Sakana, Robert Brown as Akhoba, Martine Beswick as Nupondi  and Jean Wladon as Ahot. 

Ray Harryhausen animated all of the dinosaur attacks using stop-motion animation techniques, and also coordinated all of the live action creatures used from turtles to crickets and iguanas. 

So what was the reception for it? Most critics liked it. The Monthly Film Bulletin said that while it was “Very easy to dismiss the film as a silly spectacle; but Hammer production finesse is much in evidence and Don Chaffey has done a competent job of direction. And it is all hugely enjoyable.” And TV Guide said “While far from being one of Harryhausen’s best films (the quality of which had little to do with his abilities), the movie has superb effects that are worth a look for his fans.”

It cost just two point five million to make and made four point five million, a solid profit at the time.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a really poor thirty-six percent rating which I admit surprised me.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing StoriesAstoundingThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionMarvel TalesSuper Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing beginning initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. The 1963 Worldcon presented him with a special committee award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1914 H.L. Gold. Editor of Galaxy from 1951 to 1960 and If from 1959 to 1961. Before that, from 1939-41 he was an assistant editor on Captain FutureStartling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories. He also was a writer working for DC in the early Forties on BatmanBoy Commandos, Superboy, Superman and Wonder Woman. In the Thirties, he wrote two novels, A Matter of Form and None But Lucifer, the latter with L. Sprague de Camp. And he wrote a double handful of short fiction. Philcon II awarded him, along with John W. Campbell, Jr. for Astounding Science Fiction, the Hugo for Best Professional Editor for his work on Galaxy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he was prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The usual digital suspects stock him deeply at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 21, 1937 Gary Lockwood, 85. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot, Mission ImpossibleNight GallerySix Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 76. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the productions in the series, no matter what they are. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role in the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume in our community. Of course he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1950 Larry Drake. I know him best as the over the top Robert G. Durant in the Darkman franchise. His other genre roles are largely in series one offs such as several appearances on Tales from the Crypt, an appearance on The Outer Limits and even an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1961 David D. Levine, 61. Winner of the Hugo Award at L.A. Con IV for the Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear thisaway. He has the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is four novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro with Batman and Robin – took me a moment to get it!
  • It’s The Argyle Sweater, but this one would be just as at home in Bizarro or The Far Side.
  • Dinosaur Comics’ creator tells the audience, “What this comic assumes is that the ninth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, knows who Spider-Man is. I believe this to be an extremely fair assumption.”
  • Tom Gauld in the Guardian:

(13) EASTER EGGS. Each week Dan Piraro, the creator of the Bizarro newspaper comic, posts his Sunday comic, then a short essay. In “Pie Eyed” he explains all the extras in yesterday’s comic. There are plenty!

…Anyway, I’m fascinated by background jokes and hidden images. I’m saying all this because the Sunday cartoon above is a prime example of my obsession. There are so many background gags in this one it almost overwhelms the main joke. I’m aware of that but I can’t stop myself.

I’ve included Bunny’s Pie Repair as a business in the background of cartoons on city streets a bunch of times, but I think this one is the most elaborate version I’ve done. Here’s an enlargement for your convenience….

(14) ARCHIE’S NOTES. Bob Byrne turns another calendar page at West 35th Street: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 37” at Black Gate.

So, in 2020, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty-six. Here is thirty seven (April 27). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Thirty Seven – 2020 Stay at Home

I was looking through some old notebooks today and came across this gem from a case I never finished writing up. There have been times when I think Inspector Cramer really did want to lock me up forever, and this was one of them…

(15) ONCE AND FUTURE AILUROPHILES. Mark Twain House & Museum will host a free virtual event “A Cat’s Tale: Dr. Paul Koudounaris and Baba the Cat on the History of Cats in America” on Thursday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

The Mark Twain House & Museum is delighted to welcome fellow feline enthusiast, historian, and author Paul Koudounaris – a man who might just love cats as much as Mark Twain did.

Paul will discuss the history of America’s felines and their oft neglected contributions. Presented with a slideshow of historical images, the talk will take the audience on a wild and harrowing journey to reclaim the prodigious achievements of some of our nation’s greatest cats. Learn about cats in wartime and their role in the Wild West. Hear the extraordinary stories of cats like Clementine Jones, who traveled 1600 miles to find her family in a home and city she had never before been in. Or Pooli, a World War II US Navy cat who is the most decorated military animal in American history. Or Kiddo the flying cat, the world’s first celebrity feline. Or the amazing Colonel, the greatest (and highest ranking!) cat in US Army history.

(16) KEEP CALM.

Twitter would not give me the blue check, so I can assure everyone that standards are being upheld.

(17) COULD IT BE…CTHULHU? “Galaxy’s Centre Hosts Hundreds Of Strange Tendrils” reports Nature.

The Galaxy’s population of mysterious filaments that emit bright radio waves is at least ten times larger than scientists realised

Radio astronomer Farhad Yusef-Zadeh co-discovered the first of these filaments in the 1980s.  The structures consist of electrons travelling at nearly the speed of light, on trajectories that spiral around magnetic-field lines. Now, Yusef-Zadeh, who is based at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and his collaborators have used MeerKAT, an array of 64 antennas in South Africa’s Northern Cape region, to take a series of 20 shots of the Milky Way’s central region, an effort that took some 200 hours.

The resulting composite image reveals a number of striking features, including expanding shock waves generated by supernovae, or exploding stars, and almost 1,000 filaments. The filaments’ spectral features suggest that their origin is not related to supernovae.

One possible explanation is that they originated from past cycles of activity of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the Galaxy’s centre. Mysteriously, some of the filaments seem to be clustered together and evenly spaced, like the teeth of a comb.

(18) WALLY FUNK AND INGENUITY AWARDED. The National Air and Space Museum’s 2022 Michael Collins Trophy has been awarded to Wally Funk and the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter Team.

Wally Funk will receive the 2022 Michael Collins Trophy for Lifetime Achievement. Funk embodies the adage of “never give up on your dreams.” Since her first flying lesson in 1948 at age 9 and enrollment in flight school at 16, Funk knew that she wanted to fly, despite societal biases against women in aviation. After earning multiple certificates and ratings, she set her sights even higher in the sky—space. She was one of the top-performing participants in the Lovelace Woman in Space Program and dedicated decades of her life to flight instruction and safety, having logged over 19,600 hours of flight time, while never abandoning her dream of going to space. In 2021, that dream came true when she launched on the first crewed suborbital mission of Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule.

MiMi Aung and the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Team will receive the 2022 Michael Collins Trophy for Current Achievement. In April 2021, a small robotic helicopter achieved the first powered flight on another planet. Delivered to the surface of Mars by the rover Perseverance, Ingenuity was a technology demonstration aboard the Mars 2020 mission and successfully proved that flight was possible on the Red Planet. It is also now serving as a helpful tool to aid rover exploration of Mars. Ingenuity completed increasingly challenging flights and scouted areas for the Perseverance rover’s upcoming treks. Ingenuity’s “Wright brothers moment” captured the attention of the public back on planet Earth and inspired everyone to imagine what could be next in planetary exploration.

Congratulations to these two worthy recipients! They will be honored at an event at the end of March. The event is sponsored by Atlas Air Worldwide, BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, Jacobs, Leidos, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Pratt & Whitney, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Thales.

(19) FLAME ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This remake of Stephen King’s Firestarter is coming in May and has a kid “who can unleash a nuclear explosion simply by using the powers of her mind.”  Gosh wow!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This video, which dropped yesterday, has Ryan George playing an apprentice ghost who’s having a hard time learning not to haunt people: “Ghosts Are Bad At Revenge”.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, 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 Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/22 Head Like A Scroll, Pixeled Like Your Soul

(1) SFWA VOTING ON NEW MEMBERSHIP QUALIFICATIONS. At The World Remains Mysterious, Cat Rambo encourages SFWAns to support these “Possible Upcoming Changes to SFWA Membership”. SFWA members have until February 15 to cast their votes.

…An interesting development for SFWA that seems to have been flying under most people’s radar is that the organization’s members will be voting on whether or not to change the membership requirements in a way that the organization has not previously done. This may be one of the biggest changes made to the membership yet in the organization’s 50+ years of history.

The new qualifications: a writer can join as an Associate member once they have earned $100 over the course of their career, and as a Full member at the $1000 level.

That’s a huge and very significant change from the current, somewhat arcane membership requirements of $1000 over the course of a year on a single work to become a Full member. Particularly when you think that one of the most contentious propositions on the discussion boards in the past has been the idea of re-qualification, of making people prove they qualify on a yearly basis. Moving away from a system so complicated SFWA had to create a webform to walk people through whether or not they qualified to something like this is a big win in so many ways.

Cat follows up with six reasons SFWAns should vote for the change.

Meanwhile, she notes that the SFWA Board has already implemented another tool which did not require a membership vote:

One other change from the board meeting answers the question of how this affects the idea of “SFWA qualifying markets,” which has in the past been used as a way to make sure fiction markets increased their rates every once in a while. We’re going to see a fiction matrix that looks at a number of factors, including pay, but also response time, quality of contract, etc. It’s very nice to see this long overdue project finally manifest, and I bear as much guilt as anyone in the long overdue part, since I was around when it was first proposed and should have kicked it along significantly harder than I did. I’m very happy to see this and ten thousand kudos to the people who made it happen.

An email sent to SFWA members in January (which I did not receive from Cat) explains the new matrix:

Short Fiction Matrix: The Short Fiction Committee has developed a plan to replace the current Market Qualifying list with a Short Fiction Matrix that will better evaluate the professionalism of short fiction markets and model best practices. This is not contingent on the bylaws vote; the Board has already approved this plan to respond to changes needed to the membership criteria to admit newly voted-in categories of SFWA members. As a result, the current Market Qualifying list is less useful to prospective members, many of whom are deterred from applying by mistakenly assuming that only works sold to markets on the Market Qualifying list make them eligible to apply.  

The move to a matrix will better fulfill SFWA’s mission to promote and educate on writer-friendly practices in our industry. It will also aim to correct misperceptions that SFWA’s minimum professional rate is the only benchmark that a publisher must meet to be considered professional. SFWA will continue to fight for fair and equitable conditions across SF/F and related-genre markets via a minimum professional per-word rate, but additional metrics will give us more tools to use to achieve that goal. We are not abandoning the minimum professional rate at all, but reinforcing it with this matrix. SFWA recognizes the importance that this rate has served in the industry and plans to preserve that outside of the membership qualification criteria. 

The rate is meant to encourage better pay for creators, not limit their chances to participate in their professional organizations.

Ten categories have been proposed to comprise the matrix, including wordcount payment rate, payment procedures, good contract practices, audio and translation rights, and promotional efforts, among others. Precisely how each category is evaluated and the points assigned are still in discussion…. 

(2) THEY ASKED. Marlon James did an Ask Me Anything session for Reddit’s r/Books community today: “I’m Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and the forthcoming MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING!”

Marlon James

LElias2784: Hi Marlon! So excited that you’re doing this! Can you tell us how you developed the maps that are printed in the books?

MJ: The great thing about writing say, New York is that the city is there. Make up a place and you need a world for the characters to move around. I have to bear in my two things, which might seem at odds. 1. The world is new to the reader, so a lot of world building needs to happen, but 2. it’s not new to the characters and they can’t move through it like a tourist, which means I can’t move around like a tourist. So I sketch a rudimentary map before I even write a word. And it helps to define the place. But as the book gets deeper, the maps gets more detailed, until I reach the point where the book is following the map, not the other way around. This creates challenges, for example, by adding up the distance travelled by a character you might realize that they weren’t gone a week, but a year. Or instead of reaching a new destination, they merely circled back to the old. Which means constant modifications. OR you get to the point where the map IS the standard and the prose is what has to change. I appreciate that part actually, because I can say nope, can’t write that because that’s not in the map….

(3) NEW INTERVIEW SERIES LAUNCHES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I have decided to interview authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books in a probably futile attempt to restore Best Related Work from “Best response to whatever annoyed us at last year’s Worldcon.” Here’s the introductory post: “Introducing Non-Fiction Spotlights”.

… So I want to shine a spotlight on works of long form non-fiction that came out in 2021. The main focus of this series will be on non-fiction books, whether academic or popular, though I will also feature the occasional documentary or blog series. And indeed the first installment of this series will feature a non-fiction book which started out as a series of blogposts. I am not looking for essays, articles, poems, Twitter threads, virtual cons, podcasts, archives, databases, recommendation lists and similar projects at the moment, no matter how worthy….

And here is the first interview: “Non-Fiction Spotlight: The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War by Camestros Felapton”. Cam was kind enough to act as my guinea pig, so I can hopefully persuade more authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction to take part.

What prompted you to write your book?

I’d been thinking of a project like this for some time but the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol was a specific impetus. I wanted to talk about how a section of the US population had become entranced by ideas that seemed so sharply at odds with reality. The overlap between the thinking of some of the key figures in the Sad/Rabid Puppy campaigns and issues such as Covid-denial and election-fraud conspiracy theories was substantial. One key personality from that time had become a major promoter of Qanon, another had been an early proponent of anti-covid-lockdown protests and yet another had been an active proponent of election-fraud conspiracy theories. I really wanted to trace the journey that people went through and how the earlier (fairly minor) conflict foreshadowed later events.

(4) LEDE GENERATOR. Rodolfo Ocampo extended an invitation to the internet: “As part of my PhD, I’m researching human-AI creative interaction. I created a little tool where you can write two themes and see the beginning of a story come alive.” You can try it here: Narrative Device.

I was asked to enter two themes. I gave the AI “hamburger” and “moon.” Here’s what I got back:

The moon was full and shining brightly in the sky. The stars were out, and it was a beautiful night. A family of four was out eating a hamburger at a local burger joint. They were all enjoying their meal, when the father said, “I love hamburgers. They’re such a classic.” His children agreed, and the mother said, “I love moon pies. They’re so yummy.”

(5) SUPER BOWL RINGS. Usually a few Super Bowl commercials have genre elements. This year one will be about a major genre production: “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Trailer to Air During Super Bowl” on February 13.

… The official first look video of the most expensive TV series ever made (the first season costs at least $465 million) will debut during Super Bowl LVI.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon releasing tease-y character posters showing merely the torsos and hands of its cast.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power follows the forging of the original rings of power that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread darkness across Middle-earth….

(6) DEEP DIVE INTO HOBAN. Evelyn C. Leeper invites Russell Hoban fans to enjoy her webpage of “Russell Hoban Reviews”. “Hoban’s style is (to me) quintessential magic realism, and incredibly poetic, and I wish his adult books were not so hard to find.”

(7) IAN KENNEDY (1932-2022). Comics artist Ian Kennedy died this month – 2000 AD has a profile: “Ian Kennedy 1932-2022”.

…It is no hyperbole to describe Kennedy as a legend of British comics. With a career spanning more than seven decades, his meticulously detailed but dynamic work graced dozens of titles, from Hotspur to Bunty, from Commando to 2000 AD.

… As tastes changed, so did the audience for his work. His style adapted perfectly to the new generation of science-fiction comics like 2000 AD, for which he worked for on strips such as ‘Invasion’, ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘M.A.C.H.1’, as well as on ‘Ro-Busters’ for stablemate Star Lord. One of his most covers featured the perfect intersection of his changing career – Messerschmitt 109s from World War Two transported to the skies over Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One, with one pilot screaming “Himmel! This isn’t Stalingrad!”.

His richly coloured art, with his particular skill for sleek, dynamic and functional machines and spacecraft, was perfect for the relaunch of ‘Dan Dare’ in Eagle in the 1980s as well as Blake’s 7M.A.S.K., the short-lived IPC title Wildcat….

(8) ANGÉLICA GORODISCHER (1928-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Argentinian author of SFF and many other things Angélica Gorodischer has died at the age of 93. For some reason, there have been almost no obituaries in the English language world, not even from places like The Guardian, where you might expect to find them. Locus had a brief item and here is a longer tribute from an obscure news site: “Angélica Gorodischer, the woman who imagined universes” at Then 24.

…She knew from a very young age that she would dedicate herself to writing. Perhaps she did not imagine that she, as a declared feminist writer since the 1980s, would leave a singular mark on literature written in the Spanish language. The true homeland of Angélica Gorodischer, who died at her home in Rosario at the age of 93, was books: the books she read and those she wrote, among which Trafalgar (1979) and the stories of Kalpa Imperial (1983) stand out. The latter was translated into English by none other than Ursula K. Le Guin, the greatest figure in Anglo-Saxon science fiction.

Gorodischer’s best novel, Prodigies, is not sff but was translated into English by Sue Burke, another noted sff author.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty years ago at  ConJosé where Tom Whitmore and Kevin Standlee were the Chairs and Vernor Vinge was the author guest,  David Cherry the artist guest, Bjo & John Trimble fan guests and Ferdinand Feghoot was the imaginary guest (ok, would someone explain that choice please), Neil Gaiman wins the Best Novel Hugo for the best excellent American Gods

Five novels made the final nomination list: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, Connie Willis’ Passage, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, Robert Charles Wilson‘s The Chronoliths and Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep.

It would also win the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and be nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, a BFA for the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy for Best Novel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1908 Larry “Buster” Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do all three, though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)
  • Born February 7, 1941 Kevin Crossley-Holland, 81. Best known for his Arthur trilogy consisting of The Seeing StoneAt the Crossing-Places, and King of the Middle March. I really liked their perspective of showing a medieval boy’s development from a page to a squire and finally to a knight. Highly recommended. 
  • Born February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 73. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 72. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as she has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection, a World Fantasy Award winner, and The Jane Austen Book Club novel, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and “The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 
  • Born February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey  and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 7, 1955 Miguel Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in  RoboCop who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World.  Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voicing Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 62. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova and Julian Rome in Alien Hunter.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

From Bestie:

(12) FCBD 2022. Titan Comics unveiled artist Piotr Kowalski’s cover for their  Bloodborne Free Comic Book Day edition, which will be given out at participating comic shops on May 7.

Enter the city of Yharnam through the eyes of its citizens, when new hunters take to the streets to fight against the cruel and unusual epidemic that has gripped the city. In the black of night, families and faith will be tested… Based on the critically-acclaimed Bloodbourne video game!

(13) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Open Culture reviews some century-old predictions: “In 1922, a Novelist Predicts What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wireless Telephones, 8-Hour Flights to Europe & More”.

…In the Paris-born-and-raised George’s ancestral homeland, George Orwell described him as an author of what G.K. Chesterton called “good bad books,” singling out for praise his 1920 novel Caliban amid the “shoddy rubbish” of his wider oeuvre.

Still even authors of rubbish — and perhaps especially authors of rubbish — can sense the shape of things to come. For its edition of May 7, 1922, the New York Herald commissioned George to share that sense with their readers. In response he described a world in which “commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace,” reducing the separation of America and Europe to eight hours, and whose passenger steamers and railroads will have consequently fallen into obsolescence. “Wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system,” resulting in generations who’ll never have seen “a wire outlined against the sky.”

That goes for the transmission of electricity as well, since George credits (a bit hastily, it seems) the possibility of wireless power systems of the kind researched by Nikola Tesla. In 2022, coal will take a distant backseat to the tides, the sun, and radium, and “it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed.” As for the cinema, “the figures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their natural colors and speak with ordinary voices. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entirely disappear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only need to know how to smile but also how to talk.”…

(14) SOMETHING WAGNERIAN. The Rogues in the House podcast (which will be featured as a fancast spotlight soon) discusses Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane: “Some like it Rough – Karl Edward Wagner and Kane”.

The Rogues are joined by Whetstone Magazine editor Chuck Clark as they journey into the depths of esoteric time on a quest for a deeper understanding of the Sword & Sorcery mainstay, Kane the Mystic Swordsman and his creator, Karl Edward Wagner. Is this mysterious, flame-haired immortal a friend? Perhaps a foe? And what’s this about World Domination? Hang on to your fur-diapers and winged helms, it’s gon’ get rough!

(15) THEY DIDN’T START THE FIRE. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Jason Ray Carney, editor of Whetstone Magazine, Witch House Magazine and The Dark Man Journal at So I’m Writing a Novel… — “Interview with Jason Ray Carney of Whetstone Magazine”.

Oliver and Jason get to some INTERESTING places in their far-reaching discussion, including subjects like: writing workshops, working class literature, modernist literature, R.A. Salvatore as a literary gateway drug, starting a literary magazine & the origin of Whetstone, why he feels you shouldn’t send your best work to Whetstone, “mid-list exposure”, submitting for ultra low acceptance rate magazines, elevated language, Clark Ashton Smith, grading English papers by engineers, Jason’s role as academic coordinator for the Robert E. Howard foundation, Walter Benjamin, how a genre rooted in our past like sword & sorcery can give people an inspiring vision of something new…

(16) BOBA BATHOS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian interviews Jennifer Beals of Flashdance fame who’s currently in The Book of Boba Fett as well as a long time Star Wars fan: “’I’ve had letters from klansmen’: Jennifer Beals on Flashdance, The L Word and fighting to get diverse stories told”.

… Now, she has entered a franchise with a fractionally longer Hollywood pedigree than her own, as Garsa Fwip in The Book of Boba Fett, a spin-off of The Mandalorian – itself, of course, a spin-off of Star Wars. It takes a while to get your ear in to her natural register, which is playful, very literary and full of bathos. “It’s so exciting to be part of the lineage,” she says of Boba Fett. “It feels like a calling, like there’s some reason that the universe has decided that you’re going to enter into these stories.”…

(17) GENRE ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews  A Number, a 2002 play by Caryl Churchill that is playing at the Old Vic (oldvictheatre.com) through March 19 and is about a father and son.

The son has just discovered that he is one of ‘a number’–a set of identical humans cloned from an original.  Every shred of their relationship is being reconfigured in his mind.  More shocking still, he’s not even number one:  Somewhere out there is another, older him–a son five years his senior who grew up in care.  Before long, Bernard 1 is in the kitchen too, with his own set of questions…

…Its genius as drama is that it (the play) relies on the skill of the actors to scope out the minute shifts in body language that bring these questions (about the purpose of life)) alive.  In (Lyndsey) Tuirner’s deftly calibrated staging, (Paapa) Essiedu is mesmerising as multiple iterations of one person.  As Bernard 2, he pads about the living room, apparently at ease.  But his hands, either buried in the cuffs of his overlong sweater sleeves or nervously flexing and grasping the air, tell a story of deep-set insecurity.  As Bernard 1, the original, abandoned son, he is tighter, sharper, angrier.  But as he listens to his father explain why he gave him up, he becomes entirely still–we see a man sunk in deep, bewildered pain.  It’s a superbly detailed performance.”

Sarah Hemming also reviews Alistair McDowall’s play The Glow, which is playing at the Royal Court Theatre (royalcourttheatre.com) through March 5.  The play is about a Victorian spiritualist named Mrs Lyall.

Here Mrs Lyall’s instinct to cheat death and reach into eternity proves key as the play slips its moorings and roves across time, rolling form glimpses of pre-history and Arthurian legend to the 1970s and 1990s and even the heat death of the universe.

Our woman (Mrs Lyall)  is a constant throughout:  a time-travelling stranger or spirit, permanently in search of a home.  She becomes symbolic of humanity’s nagging sense of profound loneliness:  the root of legend, myth and religion,  McDowall has said of this play, ‘I want it to feel like there’s a vast, undulating network of stories that you only get a sliver of,’ and he works to give the audience the same bird’s eye view as the woman, stepping outside linear time, allowing patterns to emerge and overlap.

(18) SPACE FOR A MEMORY. An asteroid has been named after trans electronic/pop music icon SOPHIE reports Nylon: “SOPHIE Is Forever Memorialized As An Asteroid”.

A little over a year since the sudden passing of avant-garde pop star and producer SOPHIE, she’s officially part of the solar system as an asteroid memorialized in her honor.

Back in February 2021, SOPHIE fan Christian Arroyo began a petition to dedicate the planet TOI-1338 b in honor of the late pop star, noting that the pale lavender, cloudy atmosphere of the planet (discovered in the summer of 2019 by Wolf Cukier) looked similar to the ethereal album cover art of SOPHIE’s debut record Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. “I am requesting that TOI-1338 b be named in honor of SOPHIE, in honor of a great LGBT+ influence,” wrote Arroyo. “I want her name to be remembered and her influence to continue to flourish for many years to come.”…

(19) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. Be careful out there.

(20) ARRAKIS STREET. A.V. Club is there when “Elmo, young Muppet, overcomes Dune’s Gom Jabbar test”.

Fresh off the heels of his career-invigorating feud with a rock that wants to take his oatmeal raisin cookie, Elmo has returned to the spotlight yet again to prove that he’s a thinking, feeling organism who deserves to be treated with greater respect than both inanimate objects and the world’s animals.

Since there is no better way for him to prove such a thing than to look to an ordeal devised by Frank Herbert in the novel Dune, Elmo has now been made to prove himself through an edit of the 2021 film adaptation’s take on the Gom Jabbar test….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Peer, N., Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, 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 Charon Dunn.]

Pixel Scroll 1/22/22 How Many Pixels To Babylon? Four-Score Pixels And Ten

(1) MORE AUTHORS EXIT FARPOINT OVER DEFICIENT COVID POLICY. Keith R.A. DeCandido announced that he is also out of Farpoint, as are authors Peter David, Kathleen David, David Mack, and Howard Weinstein. Details on his blog: “I will not be attending Farpoint 2022”.

…Farpoint, unfortunately, is sticking by their COVID policy, which is not to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test. They are requiring masks, at least, but given the contagiousness of the Omicron variant and how much more severe it is for unvaccinated, I don’t feel safe being around an indeterminate number of unvaccinated folks. (They’re also permitting guests to unmask while on panels, which strikes me as unnecessarily risky.)

After the really good experiences at Dragon Con and DisCon III (both much larger than Farpoint), who required proof of vaccination and all-masking all the time, I can’t understand why any convention wouldn’t require this much…. 

(2) MIDSOUTHCON. David Mack, who announced on January 18 that he withdrew from Farpoint due to its Covid policy, is also facing questions about MidSouthCon (March 25-27) in Memphis, TN, where he is scheduled to be one of the guests.  

MidSouthCon’s Covid-19 Policy requires masks, however, Tennessee state law prohibits them from requiring proof of vaccination or negative covid tests.

Our attendee’s health and safety is our priority. With that, we are following the guidance of our venue and our local, state, and federal authorities. 

1. Masks – per our venue, masks are required for all visitors/guests in all public space, which is any non-guest-room space. All convention attendees will be expected to adhere to this requirement.

2. Vaccinations – per a recent state law passed by our Tennessee legislature, government entities and private businesses in Tennessee are prohibited from requiring proof of vaccination or negative covid tests to employees, patrons, and visitors…

David Mack told File 770: “I and other guests and vendors of MSC are still discussing the matter with the concom. The MSC concom is scheduled to meet tomorrow, and I am told that they are aware of my post and my withdrawal from Farpoint.

“I hope that the MSC concom will choose to adopt the stricter standard of COVID screening for MidSouthCon. If not, I will have a difficult choice to make.

“However, until they’ve had a chance to discuss it and render some kind of decision, I have refrained from any public comment on their current COVID policy.”

(3) WEIRD ROLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Friday night’s cold open for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert featured the news that Daniel Radcliffe will play “Weird Al” Yankovic in a streaming biopic. As one might expect, they played up the Harry Potter angle (which is the genre tie-in here). “Weird Al Yankovic Needed A Little Magic To Become Truly Weird”.

(4) FATE OF LOST DOCTOR WHO ANIMATIONS UP IN THE AIR. Radio Times initially reported that “Doctor Who animations of lost episodes ‘cancelled’” but has since learned that while BBC America has pulled out, BBC Studios is actively seeking another partner to work with on future productions.

The remaining Doctor Who animated specials, which have been restoring lost episodes for a new generation, have reportedly been scrapped by the BBC.

The latest entries in the series of releases include last year’s The Evil of the Daleks and Galaxy 4, following Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor and William Hartnell’s First Doctor respectively.

The collaborative project between BBC Studios and BBC America had made much progress towards giving die-hard Whovians a complete library of stories, but that looks as if it might now be cut short.

The Mirror reports that BBC America has pulled its funding from the project, meaning only the one story already in development will be released this year: The Abominable Snowmen (which recently dropped a teaser trailer)….

(5) UP CLOSE. A Tolkien language scholar assesses the differences between the verse from the 1977 translation by Bill Welden and Chris Gilson and the one used in the new Rings of Power trailer. “’Rings of Power’ Tengwar and Sindarin (Prime)” at Tolkniety.

(6) MARLON JAMES. The UC San Diego Library will host a Zoom webinar, “A Conversation with Marlon James,” on January 26 from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Pacific. Free and open to the public. Register here.

In 2015, James won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” becoming the first Jamaican author to win the award. His 2019 fantasy novel “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” the first installment in his planned Dark Star Trilogy, was named one of the Washington Post’s top 10 books of 2019 and received awards such as the 2020 Locus Award for Horror. Its film rights were purchased by Warner Bros. and Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society. The second book in the trilogy, “Moon Witch, Spider King,” will be published in February 2022. 

This virtual event will be moderated by Helen V. Griffith, Ed.D., executive director of The Preuss School UC San Diego.

(7) DON WILSON. Guitarist Don Wilson of The Ventures has died at the age of 88 reports Rolling Stone. The band is in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but his passing is noted here because Wilson is credited with penning “Love Goddess of Venus,” from 1964’s The Ventures in Space….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2010 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twelve years ago, a prequel of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica aired on Syfy. It came out right after the original Battlestar Galactica finished up and was followed by the Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome series. 

The show, like so many genre series, was shot in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition, buildings from in the financial district of Dubai have been digitally added to the images of Caprica City to enhance its look. 

Reception among critics was fantastic with Annalee Newitz  of io9.com saying that “Caprica may be starting off a little unevenly, but it’s packed with such a wealth of great ideas that you won’t want to miss a single episode.” And Kris King of Slant magazine stating that  “Caprica manages to take on some daring themes with that familiar dedication to character and plot.” 

Unfortunately, the ratings were less than great, and it was cancelled rather quickly and there were only nineteen episodes ever made. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent eighty-eight percent. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were publish in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella  originally published in Analog in 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, only Missing Man is available from the usual suspects, and I’ve not read it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician seriesbut as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual, but I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in The Lord of the Rings (1978) as the voice of Aragon, and later voiced General Woundwort in seven episodes of the Watership Down TV series.. He appeared as Kane, the first victim, in Alien (and had a cameo in Spaceballs parodying that performance.) Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in 1984. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander in Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course, he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable.  If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 63. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film),  GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream name a few. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1965 Diane Lane, 57. I’ve got her as Ellen Aim In Streets of Fire which I count as genre. She’s Chief Judge Barbara Hershey in Judge Dredd, a film I’ll freely admit that I actually like because it catches the pop culture feel of the 2000 A.D. comics in a way the second film doesn’t. Next up for her is playing Mary Rice in Jumper. She’s been playing Martha Kent in the DC Universe films as of late. 
  • Born January 22, 1970 Alex Ross, 52. Comic writer and artist. His first work was as an artist was Terminator: The Burning Earth. My favorite work is Kingdom Come was written by Mark Waid and him and painted in him. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LEARNED LEAGUE. N. says, “Learned League is fun!”

LL is a creed. An ideal. A Weltanschauung.

More specifically, it is an online trivia league, where members face one another head-to-head in a season. There is trivia. And there is defense. And there is crying. And there is more, here.

January 20’s “One Day Special” was “Robots in Pop Culture”. N. says, “A health ailment caused me to miss out on this one, but giving it a cursory glance, I would’ve gotten…4 to 5 of them right?”

Oh, I almost forgot this one from a day earlier: “One-Day Special: Nichelle Nichols”.

Today there’s a One-Day Special with questions on Doctor Who.

(12) BE FREE! Yes, these are the stories we scour the world for: “Robot vacuum cleaner escapes from Cambridge Travelodge” in BBC News.

A robot vacuum cleaner made a break for freedom after giving staff the slip at a Travelodge hotel.

The automated cleaner failed to stop at the front door of the hotel in Orchard Park in Cambridge on Thursday, and was still on the loose the following day.

Staff said it just kept going and “could be anywhere” while well-wishers on social media hoped the vacuum enjoyed its travels, as “it has no natural predators” in the wild.

It was found under a hedge on Friday.

(13) MEANWHILE…. [Item by Michael Toman.] Coming Soon From the Folks at The Asylum, the ones who brought you “Sharknado” and alla them sequels? “100 Flying Monkey Apocalypse?” With special thanks to Chris Marker, Terry Gilliam, Elizabeth Hand, Kij Johnson, and L. Frank Baum? “Police: Truck with 100 monkeys crashes, some of them missing”.

How many Other Filers do you know who would also stream or rent that particular flick? “Mockbuster Spec Script Scribes, Start Your Word Processors!”

The driver of a pickup transporting monkeys pulls a crate of monkeys off of state Route 54 at the intersection with Interstate 80 near Danville, Pa., Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, after the pickup and trailer were hit by a dump truck. They were transporting 100 monkeys and several were on the loose at the time of the photo.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Five Nights At Freddy’s:  Security Breach,” Fandom Games says this latest addition to the Five Nights At Freddy’s franchise is so bad that it “sucks harder than a jet engine” and “there’s nothing you can get out of this experience that you can’t get out of a wiki article.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, rcade, Contrarius, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Masked Filers Reading SFF: The Girl With No Face

Kendall volunteered to kick off a series inspired by the latest worldwide fashion statement.

I’m too shy to take my own photo and I don’t promise I’m reading all of these right now, but here is a photo for the new feature.

Cry Fox (“Rivers of London” graphic novel), Zero at the Bone written by Jane Seville and art by Son Gaepi (manga adaptation of the novel), No Way by S.J. Morden, The Girl With No Face by M.H. Boroson, Before Mars by Emma Newman, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James.


If you want to see this series continue, send photos of your mask and social distancing reads to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Los Angeles Times 2019 Book Prizes

Marlon James won the new Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction, and Walter Mosley was honored with the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement when the 40th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were awarded today on The Times’ Books Twitter feed.

Following each prize announcement, a video of the winner’s speech was shared on Twitter, with all videos now compiled on The Times’ YouTube page.

The Book Prizes recognized outstanding literary works in 12 categories.

2019 Book Prizes Winners

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

  • Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift: A Novel, Hogarth

Biography

  • George Packer, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, Knopf

Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose

  • Emily Bernard, Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine, Knopf

Current Interest

  • Emily Bazelon, Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration, Random House

Fiction

  • Ben Lerner, The Topeka School: A Novel, Farrar, Straus, Giroux

Graphic Novel/Comics

  • Eleanor Davis, The Hard Tomorrow, Drawn & Quarterly

History

  • Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, Yale University Press

Mystery/Thriller

  • Steph Cha, Your House Will Pay: A Novel, Ecco

Poetry

  • Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic: Poems, Graywolf Press

Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction

  • Marlon James, Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy Book 1), Riverhead

Science & Technology

  • Maria Popova, Figuring, Knopf

Young Adult Literature

  • Malla Nunn, When the Ground is Hard, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Marlon James

Bradbury Prize winner Marlon James said in his acceptance remarks:

Well, you know, there is something kind of ironic about winning an award in tribute to the creator of the original American dystopia when we are in a kind of dystopia. You know, I I think kind of it makes me think even more about Ray Bradbury and more about how we look at his dystopia as a possible future not realizing in a way it has happened. You know, we’re not burning books but we’re burning intelligence, we are burning expertise, we are burning the simple privilege of knowing, and we’re seeing the consequences of that. But let’s not deal too much with the bad because this is a great occasion and I’m so incredibly honored and so incredibly humbled by winning this the inaugural Ray Bradbury prize for science fiction fantasy and speculative fiction…

Walter Mosley’s acceptance video:

The complete list of 2019 Book Prizes finalists and previous winners is available at latimes.com/BookPrizes, as is eligibility and judging information

The Book Prizes awards ceremony usually takes place at the LA Times Festival of Books in the spring, but the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, and rescheduled to October 3-4 at USC.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian and Michael Toman for the story.]

2020 Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

The finalsts for the 32nd Annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced March 10. The finalists were selected by a panel of over 60 literary professionals from more than 1,000 book submissions from over 300 publishers.

The winners will be announced June 8 in New York City

See the finalists in all 24 categories at the link.

LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James, Riverhead Books
  • The Deep, Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, Gallery / Saga Press
  • False Bingo, Jac Jemc, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • The Rampant, Julie C. Day, Aqueduct Press
  • A Spectral Hue, Craig Laurance Gidney, Word Horde
  • Stories to Sing in the Dark, Matthew Bright, Lethe Press
  • Wake, Siren, Nina MacLaughlin, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Other categories with many works of genre interest, plus individual nominees of interest, include —

Transgender Fiction

  • The Beatrix Gates, Rachel Pollack, PM Press
  • Honey Walls, Bones McKay, McKay & Gray Publications
  • Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian), Hazel Jane Plante, Metonymy Press
  • Poet, Prophet, Fox: The Tale of Sinnach the Seer, M.Z. McDonnell, Self-published
  • The Trans Space Octopus Congregation, Bogi Takács, Lethe Press

LGBTQ Comics

  • Are You Listening?, Tillie Walden, First Second
  • Cannonball, Kelsey Wroten, Uncivilized Books
  • Death Threat, Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Ness Lee, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Is This How You See Me?, Jaime Hernandez, Fantagraphics Books
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell, First Second

LGBTQ Nonfiction

  • In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado, Graywolf Press

LGBTQ Studies

  • Queer Times, Black Futures, Kara Keeling, New York University Press

Lesbian Mystery

  • The Hound of Justice, Claire O’Dell, Harper Voyager

Pixel Scroll 10/11/19 Keep Them Pixels Scrollin’, Though The Files Are Swollen, Five-Hide!

(1) WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE THINK OF MACLEAN. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF returns with the panel’s responses to “Unhuman Sacrifice” by Katherine MacLean. Mikayla and the other young hands weigh in.

Katherine MacLean (1925 – 2019) was active as a short story writer mainly in the 1950s (although pieces appeared as late as 1997) and as a novelist mainly in the 1970s. Her Second Game saw her a Hugo finalist in 1959; Missing Man won a Nebula in 1972. Rediscovery offers MacLean’s “Unhuman Sacrifice”, an uplifting tale of a human missionary convinced he knows best for a community of just-contacted aliens. No doubt it can only end well.

The plan for this phase of Young People was to shift to a conversation-based format, using Slack to facilitate discussion. I then sabotaged this by getting sick the week the reviews came in. Ah, well. Next time it will all work swimmingly.

(2) MANY CHEFS. Daniel Brotzel’s SFWA Blog post “Collaboration” includes this advice for making it work:

…Writing a book with someone else can be a nightmare or it can be pure pleasure. In our case, lots of things fell into place almost by accident, things which I can now see are essential to making a collaboration work. These include:

• a shared passion for the project and the idea
• mutual respect for each other’s writing and ideas
• a practical way of working that can accommodate everyone’s schedules and constraints
• a willingness to set egos aside and make compromises for the good of the project (and the ultimate benefit of the reader)
• an attitude that embraces sharing and the ambition to see things through
• a good blend of the skills and capabilities that you to get a book off the ground – and beyond

(3) ANIMANIACS. SYFY Wire confirms the Animaniacs Cast Will All Return”.

Almost a full year ago we found out that the Animaniacs will be revived on Hulu with Steven Spielberg executive producing. And that was pretty exciting. But the larger question hung in the air: What about the original cast?

Well you can breath easy: They’re all back. Yes, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, and Maurice LaMarche are all returning to the fold. Or the water tower, I guess. It’s a massive relief. It’s not that animated characters can’t be recast, it’s just that these specific actors are, frankly, a pure distillation of so many childhoods that it would be a shame if they weren’t all returning to Animaniacs. Hooray! Everyone likes good news!

(4) WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD AMAZON? amNY reveals “The secret to The Mysterious Bookshop’s 40-plus years of success”.

…Book clubs also keep loyal readers inspired, including a Book of the Month subscription that includes a signed first edition of the shop’s choosing and an unclassifiable club that includes books that do not fall into the traditional mystery genre. For example, Rob Hart’s “The Warehouse,” which takes place in a near-future dystopian world where a company has become a totalitarian force, would not traditionally be shelved in a bookstore’s mystery section, but has been extremely popular in The Mysterious Bookshop.

Speaking of corporate monopolies, Penzler isn’t fearful of big box competitors.

“We can compete with Amazon because they don’t offer signed books,” he says. “I shouldn’t say that so loudly because they’ll probably do it, but every mystery writer comes to sign at our store. Half of books sold are signed and we don’t charge more for them!”

(5) ONE IS ENOUGH. NPR’s Mark Jenkins pans both performances: “Clone Gunman: Will Smith Vs. Will Smith In Sluggish, Sterile ‘Gemini Man'”.

Long before digital imaging, German philosopher Walter Benjamin opined that reproductions of artworks lacked the “aura” of the original. But what about reproductions of people? To judge by Will Smith’s double act in Gemini Man, the forerunner can be just as lacking as the copy.

Conceived more than 20 years ago as a Tony Scott-directed action flick, Gemini Man eventually fell to Ang Lee, who has recently shown more interest in cinematic technology than storytelling. Once a versatile stylist, the Taiwan-born director of The Life of Pi now seems consumed by advances in CGI. His latest trick, casting Will Smith against a digitally backdated version of himself, can’t save this movie from being bland, sluggish, and sentimental.

…There’s something else that Gemini Man shares with The Da Vinci Code: clunky dialogue. Credited to three writers but reportedly the work of many more, the movie’s script offers a preposterous scenario that might have been finessed by visual and verbal wit. It has little of either….

(6) THE NEED FOR SPEED. Leonard Maltin, on the other hand, was won over by the technical virtuosity as he says in the beginning of his review “Gemini Man: Two Will Smiths For The Price Of One”.

I was wary approaching Gemini Man, which I saw at 120 frames per second (about four times normal film speed) in 3-D. I got a headache the last time I watched a high-frame-rate feature but I came away from this film a believer. Director Ang Lee is trailblazing new territory, as he did in Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk, but this time he has a highly enjoyable, action-packed story and a perfect star in Will Smith. The entertainment value is high and cutting-edge technology organically suits the content….

(7) INSIDE THE CANISTER. Alasdair Stuart says this is what readers of “The Full Lid 11th October 2019” have in store:

This week’s Full Lid soars above London with the parkour and violence enthusiasts of the Assassins Creed Symphony! Then I’m off to Sheffield to discover my new favorite poem at an event that celebrates science and art and where they mix. This piece genuinely left me speechless and I’ve been riding an endorphin wave from being able to see it all week.

Finally, I take a look at Swedish SF movie Aniara, adapting the epic poem and Horror Christmas reaches The Silence of the Lambs. If you like what you read, please share and subscribe and I’ll see you next week. Happy Friday, everyone!

(8) PEN OUT LOUD. In a wide-ranging conversation with author Marlon James, acclaimed writer and former PEN America President Salman Rushdie previewed his latest novel Quichotte, a modern take on Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century novel Don Quixote, at a PEN Out Loud evening in New York City. There’s also a transcript at the link: “Salman Rushdie and Marlon James Discuss Language, Reality, and Nostalgia at PEN Out Loud”.

RUSHDIE: Intimate, but you know, [English is] not my mother tongue. That’s to say. I grew up in a kind of environment in India where everybody’s kind of multilingual because you have to be. But basically the language we spoke at home was mostly not English, mostly Urdu. But I went to what they call an English medium school. So when I went to school, I was being taught in English. So I grew up more or less bilingual. One of the reasons that I never make a spelling mistake is because I had to learn the language. People who just have the language very often can’t spell.

JAMES: Yes, when you said that, I heard my high school teacher in the back of my head going “dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and leave a full stop by the end of every single sentence.”

RUSHDIE: Yes, exactly. We got taught that shit.

JAMES: Yes, but I remember for a long time my biggest struggle with writing in English is, I would put something down, or I’ll speak, and it took me a while to realize I sounded like the butler.

RUSHDIE: Like a butler?

JAMES: Yeah. Like it was a very colonial English.

RUSHDIE: Like Jeeves.

JAMES: Yeah.

RUSHDIE: I can’t imagine you writing, the books you’ve written, as if you were Jeeves.

JAMES: I’m telling you, I used to use shit like “betwixt.”

(9) LEONOV OBIT. Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first to walk in space, died at the age of 85 on October 11. CollectSpace paid tribute:

…Selected alongside Yuri Gagarin among the first 20 Soviet Air Force pilots to train as cosmonauts in 1960, Leonov flew twice into space, logging a total of 7 days and 32 minutes off the planet.

Launched on Voskhod 2, the world’s 17th human spaceflight, on March 18, 1965, Leonov made history as the first person to exit his spacecraft for an extravehicular activity (EVA).

“The Earth is round!” he exclaimed, as he caught his first view of the world. “Stars were to my left, right, above and below me. The light of the sun was very intense and I felt its warmth on the part of my face that was not protected by a filter,” said Leonov in a 2015 interview with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on the 50th anniversary of his spacewalk.

The New York Times obituary tells how that mission was almost fatal for Leonov:

…What Mr. Leonov did not reveal until many years later was that he and his fellow cosmonaut, Pavel I. Belyayev, who was also an Air Force pilot, were fortunate to have survived.

Mr. Leonov’s specially designed suit had unexpectedly inflated during his walk, and its bulk was preventing him from getting back inside the Voskhod.

“I knew I could not afford to panic, but time was running out,” he recalled in the book “Two Sides of the Moon” (2004), written with the astronaut David Scott, about their experiences in space.

Mr. Leonov slowly deflated the suit by releasing oxygen from it, a procedure that threatened to leave him without life support. But with the reduced bulk, he finally made it inside.

“I was drenched with sweat, my heart racing,” he remembered.

But that, he added “was just the start of dire emergencies which almost cost us our lives.”

The oxygen pressure in the spacecraft rose to a dangerous level, introducing the prospect that a spark in the electrical system could set off a disastrous explosion or fire.

It returned to a tolerable level, but the cosmonauts never figured out the reason for the surge.

When it came time for the return to Earth, the spacecraft’s automatic rocket-firing system did not work, forcing the cosmonauts to conduct imprecise manual maneuvers during the descent that left them in deep snow and freezing temperatures in a remote Russian forest, far from their intended landing point.

(10) PITTS OBIT. The SFWA Blog noted the death of J.A. Pitts:

SFWA member John A. Pitts died on October 3 from amyoidosis.  Pitts began publishing short fiction in 2006 with “There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket (A Fortean Love Story),” co-written with Ken Scholes.  He went on to write several short stories on his own and in 2010 began publishing novels under the name J.A. Pitts with Black Blade Blues, the first novel in his series about Sarah Beauhall.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 11, 1957 The Black Scorpion debuted. Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday and Carlos Rivas, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 33% rating. Mystery Science Theater 3000, well, see for yourself here what they thought of it. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • October 11, 1921 Linda Stirling. Sheila Layton in the 1945 The Purple Monster Strikes serial, also known as D Day on Mars. The sequel to this serial was the 1950 Flying Disc Man from Mars, which simply recycled much of the footage from the original. (Died 1997.)
  • October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.)
  • October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 59. Well known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.
  • October 11, 1965 ?Sean Patrick Flanery, 54. I really think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. 
  • October 11, 1972 ?Claudia Black, 47. Best known for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in The CW’s Containment series.
  • October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 43. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. 
  • October 11, 1985 Michelle Trachtenberg, 34. Dawn, one of the most annoying characters in television ever, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(13) NANCY. A Slate Q&A with Olivia Jaimes reveals “Nancy’s Artist Revived an 80-Year-Old Comic Strip by Writing Fan Fiction”

Matthew Phelan: Is working with someone else’s characters emotionally freeing? Or do you feel an intense, world-historic duty to do justice to classic Nancy

Olivia Jaimes: It feels like I’m writing Nancy fan fiction, which is very freeing. I’ve said the same thing to my editor before, and she’s gently broken it to me that my Nancies are canon, but fan fiction is what it feels like nonetheless. Maybe what I mean by this is that I feel comfortable transforming the strip in ways that suit me because I trust readers to know “the rules” of transformative works like fan fiction. It’s your take on characters that are shared by everyone. You’re not trying to pass seamlessly as the original author; you’re stretching and bending the original work to make it say what you want it to say.

(14) FLASH REFERENCES FLASH. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Am I the only one who (a) couldn’t tell what the words were, in the episode, (b) wouldn’t have recognized this as a Queen tune, even if I had, nor necessarily which movie it was from, (c) don’t mind, since, if nothing else, Cisco (formerly “Vibe”) had “been waiting for the perfect moment to use it, and Caitlin (aka Killer Frost) recognized it. Io9’s James Whitbrook’s episode recap The Flash Finally Did It” explains:

… And, via Cisco, The Flash finally, finally does something that is incredibly goofy, completely rad, and something it has simply been yearning to do since it first began: Cisco taps a key on STAR Labs’ sound system.

And Queen’s Flash Gordon theme starts playing.

It’s so dumb. It’s so good. It is, as Cisco argues, the perfect moment to deploy the 1980 classic. You don’t care that the black hole CG comes with all the questionable success CW-budget computer effects usually bring. You don’t care that this has been, otherwise, a pretty humdrum episode of The Flash, and weirdly low key for a season premiere. This is what this show has always been, and hopefully always will be, about: embracing the sheer, kinetic, camp audacity of superhero comics and just having an absolute whale of a time while doing so.

(15) SAILOR SHIPPING OVER. ScienceFiction.com says “Sailor Moon Is Returning To The Big Screen In 2020 In ‘Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Eternal’”.

(16) GAMES TRANSFORMED TO NARRATIVES. “Ubisoft Planning Animated TV Adaptations of Popular Game Franchises”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Video game giant Ubisoft is getting cartoonish.

The Paris-based company’s film and television division is developing a slate of animated series inspired by its existing IP. First up: a Mars-set Rabbids Invasion special, after four successful seasons of the France 3/Netflix/Nickelodeon kids show. Other family-friendly programs in the works include a comedy-adventure inspired by the popular Rayman franchise and Hungry Shark Squad, based on the mobile game Hungry Shark.

… For slightly older viewers, Ubisoft is toning down its M-rated Watch Dogs action-adventure franchise for a tamer “cybermystery” aimed at tweens. The show centers on a teenaged “super hacker” who solves crimes in her high school.

(17) CHINA’S PROXY CENSOR. Zack Beauchamp, in “One of America’s Biggest Gaming Companies Is Acting As China’s Censor” on Vox, says that Activision Blizzard banned Chung Ng Wa, who plays as “Blitzchung,” after he won a Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament and then put on goggles and a face mask and said, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

On Tuesday, Blizzard came down hard on Chung. In an official statement on Hearthstone’s blog, the company announced that it would be suspending Chung for a year, forcing him to forfeit thousands of dollars in prize money from 2019 and firing the casters (commentators) who conducted the interview.

This is a big deal.

Blizzard, who created (among other things) World of Warcraft, is a massive company. It brought in about $7.5 billion in revenue in 2018. Like the NBA, which has rebuked the Houston Rockets’ general manager over a pro-Hong Kong tweet, Blizzard is not merely trying to operate within the confines of Chinese censorship but acting as its agent.

(18) HEY, THE TIMING IS NOT THE ROBOT’S FAULT. “Istanbul Airport Robot Has A Message for You!” on YouTube describes the friendly robots helping passengers at Istanbul Airport.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, James Davis Nicoll,. Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]