Pixel Scroll 12/10/22 Pixel Was A Scrollin’ Stone

(1) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] After a long drought, we get our second and third in the space of two days!

LL95 match day 22 Q3: What 1898 novel, famous in its own right, is also famous for its presentation in the October 30, 1938 installment of the CBS radio series “Mercury Theater on the Air”?

Filers no doubt will readily identify this as The War of the Worlds, and LLamas knew it too, with an 83% get rate.

Same match day, question 5: “SDCIWC” is an initialism common to many players of the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. Per the game’s original 1974 rules, the first four letters stand for Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence. What do either of the final two letters stand for?

This was Wisdom or Charisma. Get rate was 65%, with 6% of players giving the most common wrong answer “Courage”.

(2) FTC HANGS UP ON CALL OF DUTY. “F.T.C. Sues to Block Microsoft’s $69 Billion Acquisition of Activision” – the New York Times covers the government’s grounds for a suit.

The Federal Trade Commission, in one of the most aggressive actions taken by federal regulators in decades to check the power of the tech industry’s giants, on Thursday sued to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of the video game maker Activision Blizzard.

The F.T.C. said that the deal would harm consumers because Microsoft could use Activision’s blockbuster games like Call of Duty to lure gamers from rivals. The agency’s commissioners voted 3to 1 to approve filing the suit.

The decision is a blow to the expansion of Microsoft’s video game business, which has become its most important consumer unit and topped $16 billion in annual sales during the most recent fiscal year. For the F.T.C. chair, Lina Khan, a legal scholar who rocketed to fame after she wrote an article criticizing Amazon, the lawsuit will test whether her aggressive plan to rein in the power of Big Tech can survive in the courts….

(3) YOUNG WOLVES. Wolf Pack, the newest release by Edo van Belkom, is the inspiration behind a new TV series coming to Paramount+ on January 26, 2023.

Nothing gets between a wolf and its pack…

Most of the time, Noble, Argus, Harlan and Tora are like any other teenagers. Prowling the halls of their high school in search of new crushes and true friendships, all while trying to keep up their grades. Except these teens are anything but ordinary…

Discovered as wolf cubs in the wilderness of Redstone Forest, the pack knows their adoptive parents are the only humans they can trust with their shape-shifting secret. So whenever the siblings want to wolf around, they race to the forest to run—and relish their special bond. Until the terrible day a TV crew films their shocking transformation—and Tora is captured by a scientist determined to reveal her supernatural abilities to the world.

Now the brothers will do anything to get their sister back. Even if it means taking their powers to a whole new level by becoming werewolves for the very first time–something their parents warned them never to attempt. But once the teens go to the dark side, will they ever make it back to the only life they’ve ever known?

Available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

Bram Stoker and Aurora Award-winner Edo van Belkom is the author of over 200 stories of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. As an editor, he has four anthologies to his credit that include two books for young adults, Be Afraid! (A Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year finalist) and Be Very Afraid! (An Aurora Award winner — Best Work in English).

(4) ARTIFICIAL STUDENT INTELLIGENCE. The Atlantic’s article “ChatGPT Will End High-School English” is mostly paywalled, but there’s the beginning:

Teenagers have always found ways around doing the hard work of actual learning. CliffsNotes date back to the 1950s, “No Fear Shakespeare” puts the playwright into modern English, YouTube offers literary analysis and historical explication from numerous amateurs and professionals, and so on. For as long as those shortcuts have existed, however, one big part of education has remained inescapable: writing. Barring outright plagiarism, students have always arrived at that moment when they’re on their own with a blank page, staring down a blinking cursor, the essay waiting to be written.

Now that might be about to change. The arrival of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a program that generates sophisticated text in response to any prompt you can imagine, may signal the end of writing assignments altogether—and maybe even the end of writing as a gatekeeper, a metric for intelligence, a teachable skill.

If you’re looking for historical analogues, this would be like the printing press, the steam drill, and the light bulb having a baby, and that baby having access to the entire corpus of human knowledge and understanding. My life—and the lives of thousands of other teachers and professors, tutors and administrators—is about to drastically change….

(5) DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO. Nicholas Barber’s review for the BBC “Pinocchio: The scariest children’s story ever written” includes spoilers. Like these in the very first paragraph:

Two major Pinocchio films premiered this year, but it isn’t too difficult to tell them apart. One of them is Robert Zemeckis’s live-action remake of the 1940 Walt Disney cartoon, with Tom Hanks as a cuddly Geppetto, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt providing the voice of Jiminy Cricket. The other, directed by Guillermo del Toro, has Geppetto’s flesh-and-blood son being killed by a World War Two bomb, Geppetto (David Bradley) carving a wooden boy in a drunken fury, and Mussolini’s fascists ruling over Italy. And then there are the deaths, plural, of the title character. “Pinocchio dies in our film three or four times,” del Toro tells BBC Culture, “and has a dialogue with Death, and Death teaches him that the only way you can really have a human existence is if you have death at the end of it. There are roughly 60 versions of Pinocchio on film, and I would bet hard money that that doesn’t exist in any of the other 60.”…

(6) GARY FRIEDKIN (1952-2022). Actor Gary Friedkin, who made his film debut as a four-foot-tall Munchkin in the 1981 comedy Under the Rainbow, died December 2 of Covid complications. His other genre appearances include, uncredited, in Blade Runner and as an Ewok in Return of the Jedi.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Dorothy L Sayers

Now we have a statue of a mystery writer which you will notice includes her SJW credential. 

The statue of Dorothy L Sayers and stands in Newland Street, Witham, opposite the Witham Library, and also opposite her house.

The statue was cast in bronze, about six and feet tall tall, by the Ardbronze Foundry and designed by John Doubleday, the sculptor who did the Sherlock Holmes sculptures we talked about in the Scroll last night. It was erected in 1994. 

An amusing note: several commenters online say that you can see that quite a few children and even adults like to pet Blitz, Sayer’s feline companion — he is now quite shiny on top!

A very, very not amusing note: it was privately funded through sale of much smaller statues as the British government didn’t think she was worthy of have a statue and wouldn’t fund it saying that she lacked literary worth. Fans of Ngaio Marsh need not apply. 

The plinth bears the inscription: Dorothy L. Sayers 1893 – 1957 and the name John Doubleday, Sculptor with the foundry name.

Witham Library holds a reference collection of all of her works, press-clippings, all of her reviews and letters in the Dorothy L Sayers Centre, which is jointly managed by Essex Libraries and the Dorothy L Sayers Society, and which is held in a specially outfitted room on the upper floor.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815 Ada Lovelace. English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine and S.M. Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers. (Died 1852.)
  • Born December 10, 1824 George MacDonald. Scottish author I think best known for Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women and The Princess and The Goblin. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton and Madeleine L’Engle to name but a few who mention him. The Waterboys titled their Room to Roam album after a passage in Phantastes. (Died 1905.)
  • Born December 10, 1903 Mary Norton. Author of The Borrowers which won the 1952 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognizing the novel as the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British author. She would continue to write these novels for three decades with Hallmark turning it into a film in the early seventies. Her novels The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks would be adapted into the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in the same period. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 10, 1907 Graves Gladney. An illustrator known for his cover paintings for Street & Smith pulp magazines, especially The Shadow. He produced all the covers from April 1939 to the end of 1941, and here’s one of his covers from June 1st, 1939. It’s worth noting that when he replaced The Shadow‘s cover artist George Rozen who did a more fantastical approach to the covers, Gladney depicted an actual scene that Walter Gibson had written in a story inside. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 10, 1927 Anthony Coburn. Australian writer and producer who spent most of his career living and working in the U.K. He was closely involved in the earliest days of Who to the extent that it’s believed it was his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be The Doctor’s granddaughter.  He wrote four scripts for the show, of which only An Unearthly Child was used. (Died 1977.)
  • Born December 10, 1953 Janny Wurts, 69. Illustrator and writer.  She’s won three Chesley Awards, plus a HOMer Award for her Servant of the Empire novel. I strongly recommend the Empire trilogy that she co-authored with Raymond E. Feist, and her excellent That Way Lies Camelot collection was nominated for a BFA.
  • Born December 10, 1984 Helen Oyeyemi, 38. I like it when a Birthday results in my adding to my audiobook listening list. She’s resident in Prague now and her take on European folktales that surround her there is particularly sharp in Mr. Fox, which was nominated for an Otherwise Award, off that well known tale. And White is for Witching has all the makings of a damn fine haunted house story. Now one should not overlook her Icarus Girl, her first novel, which is fascinating. I’ve not encountered Gingerbread, her latest novel. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys shows a 20th Century answer to a 19th predicament that may not end as well for Tiny Tim.
  • Tom Gauld gives season’s greetings to a UFO.
  • In another cartoon, Tom Gauld renders a brutal translation of a familiar academic conversation.

(10) IT ONCE WAS WET. Yesterday’s Science journal reports from Mars: “Organic geochemistry in Jezero crater”.

The Perseverance rover has investigated the floor of Jezero crater on Mars, finding that it consists of igneous rocks that were modified by reactions with liquid water (aqueous alteration). Scheller et al. used the rover to perform Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy of rocks at two locations within the crater. They identified the presence of organic molecules, including aromatics with one and two benzene rings. The presence of perchlorates allowed the authors to set a limit of more than 2 billion years for the last time water filled the crater. Carbonates and sulphates were also found. The results demonstrate that the rocks in Jezero crater contain a record of ancient organic geochemistry.

Primary research paper here.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended presents “How Black Adam Should Have Ended”.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/26/22 A Pixel Short And A Scroll Late

(1) THE NEW NUMBER ONE. The ever-widening circle of people who are hearing about the death of beloved sf author Greg Bear has resulted in File 770’s obituary notice “Greg Bear (1951-2022)” becoming the site’s most-read post ever. It passed 55,000 hits today.

The previous two record-holders were both from 2015, “Sunday Business Meeting at Sasquan” and “Viewing the Remains of Bradbury’s Home”, each with over 50K hits.  

(2) TOASTS TO GREG BEAR. Also, today at 4:21 p.m. in each time zone people have been offering a rolling toast to Greg Bear, and some have posted photos – like Walter Jon Williams on Facebook.  

Astrid Bear’s own comment on Facebook details what was in her glass:

I sit here near Seattle WA as the skies darken. It’s been an overcast day with occasional rain, so there is no hope of a golden sunset here at ground level. In my glass is a wee dram of Zaya rum from Trinidad and Tobago, one of Greg’s favorites. I am hearted to consider this toast rolling along the globe as sunset travels westward. I know people will be toasting in Australia, Europe, and the Americas, as each in their turn see the shadows draw long.

The memories of Greg will remain with those of us who knew and loved him for many years to come. His books will live on for many more years, even centuries. And that is a grand thing.

To Greg!

——–

Tasting notes: a lot of caramel and vanilla. Almost crème brulee in a glass. The label says “Trinidad and Tobago/Land of the Hummingbird.” Greg loved watching the hummingbirds that come to our flowers and feeders, and he managed to get some very good photographs of them.

(3) BUTLER’S EARLY DAYS. E. Alex Jung chronicles “The Spectacular Life of Octavia E. Butler” at Vulture.

…In her family, Butler went by Junie, short for Junior, and in the world, she went by Estelle or Estella to avoid confusion for people looking for her mother. As a girl, she was shy. She broke down in tears when she had to speak in front of the class. Her youth was filled with drudgery and torment. The first time she remembered someone calling her “ugly” was in the first grade — bullying that continued through her adolescence. “I wanted to disappear,” she said. “Instead, I grew six feet tall.” The boys resented her growth spurt, and sometimes she would get mistaken for a friend’s mother or chased out of the women’s bathroom. She was called slurs. It was the only time in her life she really considered suicide.

She kept her own company. In her elementary-school progress reports, one teacher wrote that “she dreams a lot and has poor concentration.” That was true. She did dream a lot, and she began to write her dreams down in a large pink notebook she carried around with her. “I usually had very few friends, and I was lonely,” Butler said. “But when I wrote, I wasn’t.” By the time she was 10, she was writing her own worlds. At first, they were inspired by animals. She loved horses like those in The Black Stallion. When she saw an old pony at a carnival with festering sores swarmed by flies, she realized the sores had come from the other kids kicking the animal to make it go faster. Children’s capacity for cruelty stayed with her. She went home and wrote stories of wild horses that could shape-shift and that “made fools of the men who came to catch them.”…

(4) BRINGING THEM BACK TO LIGHT. Cora Buhlert’s new “Fancast Spotlight” is “Tales from the Trunk”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Tales from the Trunk is a podcast about the stories that we, as writers, have had to give up on for one reason or another. Every episode, an author comes on to read a story out of their trunk, or in the case of book tour episodes to read an excerpt from a new or forthcoming release, and chat about the writing life, the reasons that some stories just don’t make it, and why every word you write is its own victory. Episodes come out on the first and third Friday of every month.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

Tales from the Trunk is hosted and produced by author Hilary B. Bisenieks (that’s me). I’m joined each episode by a guest author who works in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and beyond….

(5) GOING HOG WILD. Cora Buhlert has also debuted another “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Pig Invasion’”.

… Now I have a soft spot for pigs in general and the villain Pig-Head is a delightfully goofy character, a pig with a Samurai-style helmet in the most mid 1980s colour scheme ever. So once I spotted him for a good price, I bought him.

Since I like taking photos of new arrivals, I made a short photo story to post on Twitter before Twitter goes belly-up altogether, something which is looking increasingly likely.

So let’s see what happens when Pig-Head invades Eternia….

(6) CLOUDS OF PUNK WITNESS. New Lines Magazine appears to have a -punk suffix movement issue, since they published articles about cyberpunk and solarpunk.

Twenty minutes into the future, the transformative effects of computers and networks necessitate that misfits, outcasts and dissenters living on the fringes rebel against the abuse of cutting-edge science and tech for pleasure, profit and power.

That may seem extreme, but if “Star Trek” and its ilk were the summations of the optimism of the Atomic Age, this is the logical conclusion to the nihilism of the Information Age — one where technology won’t usher in the world of tomorrow. One where the solutions of yesterday will be our undoing; one where we wish we had dismantled the system we now live in before it was too late.

…Enter Solarpunk. By its simplest definition, Solarpunk is a literary and art movement which imagines what the future could look like if the human species were actually to succeed in solving the major challenges associated with global warming, from reducing global emissions to overcoming capitalist economic growth as the primary motor of human society. These seemingly titanic tasks are actually pragmatic necessities dictated by scientific knowledge. We know, for example, that it is simply impossible to have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. And yet, this impossibility is exactly where we are still heading towards as a species…

(7) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Inverse speculates, “If Neanderthals had survived, this is what the world might look like now”.

For 99 percent of the last million years of our existence, people rarely came across other humans. There were only around 10,000 Neanderthals living at any one time. Today, there are around 800,000 people in the same space that was occupied by one Neanderthal. What’s more, since humans live in social groups, the next nearest Neanderthal group was probably well over 100 kilometers away. Finding a mate outside your own family was a challenge.

Neanderthals were more inclined to stay in their family groups and were wary of new people. If they had outcompeted our species (Homo sapiens), the population density would likely be far lower. It’s hard to imagine them building cities, for example, because they were genetically disposed to be less friendly to those beyond their immediate family…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1968 [By Cat Eldridge.] Charly 

So let’s talk about the film that was based off a Hugo Award winning story. 

Charly premiered fifty-four years ago on this date. It was based off “Flowers for Algernon” which is a short story and a novel by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, would win the Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Pittcon. The novel was published in 1966 and was the joint winner of that year’s Nebula Award for Best Novel with Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17

The scriptwriter for this film was Stirling Silliphant who is best remembered for his screenplay for In the Heat of the Night for which he won an Academy Award the previous year.  Not genre but worth noting is he created the Perry Mason series.

The movie had an outstanding cast of Cliff Robertson, Claire Bloom, Leon Janney, Lilia Skala and Dick Van Patten. 

I’m not going to detail the film here as I’m assuming y’all have seen, so no spoilers this time. May I say I found it a terribly depressing film and leave it at that? 

It’s worth noting that the short story became “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon”, a 1961 television adaptation for The United States Steel Hour in which Robertson had also starred. The UCLA Film & Television Archive has it legally up on YouTube so you can watch that version here.

William Goldman was to write the screenplay on the strength of his No Way to Treat a Lady novel and got $30,000 to write a screenplay. However, Cliff Robertson was pissed off with Goldman’s work and he hired to Silliphant write a draft which he found most satisfactory.

It was a hit by the studio, making eight times its budget of just a million dollars. 

I think Vincent Canby, critic for the New York Times, summed it up best in saying that it is a: “self-conscious contemporary drama, the first ever to exploit mental retardation for…the bittersweet romance of it.”  It is still way too depressing and ethically questionable for me, but that’s me. I’ll entertain other opinions of course. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 26, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman, pure fantasy Graeme and the Dragon and an Arthurian novel in Chapel Perilous. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honored for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, magazines he edited won three Hugos, fiction he wrote won three Hugos and two Nebula Awards, and at the end of his career he circled back around and won the 2010 Best Fan Writer Hugo. His 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him the 12th recipient of its Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. OK, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Astonishing StoriesGalaxy Science FictionWorlds of If, and Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astonishing Stories, plus the Star Science Fiction anthologies – and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 Shusei Nagaoka. Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue, by Electric Light Orchestra and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks which was launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.) (JJ) 
  • Born November 26, 1940 Paul J. Nahin, 82. Engineer and Writer of numerous non-fiction works, some of genre interest, and at least 20 SF short fiction works. Time travel is certainly one of the intrinsic tropes of SF, so certainly there should be at least one academic that specializes in studying it. Oh, there is: I present this Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire who has written not one, but three, works on the subject, to wit: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science FictionTime Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel, and Time Machine Tales: The Science Fiction Adventures and Philosophical Puzzles of Time Travel. No mere dry academic is he, as he’s also had stories published in genre venues which include Analog, Omni, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. (JJ)
  • Born November 26, 1949 Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 73. Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two of her three Hugo Award nominations for Best Fan Artist. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado. (JJ) 
  • Born November 26, 1961 Steve Macdonald, 61. Musician, Writer, Singer, Filker, and Fan. He served for several years as the Evangelista for the Pegasus Awards (the Filkers’ most prestigious awards, given out by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest), and was responsible for many changes in the award process that led to greater participation among the voting base. In 2001, he attended ten filk conventions around the world and recorded filkers singing “Many Hearts, One Voice”, a song he had composed; the tracks were merged electronically for the WorlDream project to celebrate the new millennium. He has won six Pegasus Awards, for Best Performer, Writer/Composer, Filk Song, Adapted Song, Dorsai Song, and Myth Song. He has been Filk Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006, after which he emigrated to Germany to marry fellow filker Katy Droge, whom he had met eight years before at OVFF. (JJ)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mutts is one of the many comics paying tribute to Charles Schulz today on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

(11) MAKING NEW STAR WARS FANS. The conclusion of Andor has people raving (favorably). Here’s a transcript of NPR’s “Movie Review: ‘Andor’”. Beware spoilers.

…DEL BARCO: Showrunner Tony Gilroy created the show after working on “Rogue One” and having written movies such as “Michael Clayton” and the “Bourne Identity” franchise. For many years, he’s been fascinated with empires and revolutions throughout history.

GILROY: I mean, I have a library downstairs just on the Russian Revolution alone. I can go between the Montagnards and the Haitians and the ANC and the Irgun and the French Resistance and the Continental Congress. And literally, you could drop a needle throughout the last 3,000 years of recorded history, and it’s passion. It’s need. It’s people being swept away by betrayal and their own ability and failure to commit. And, oh, my God, it’s just everything.

DEL BARCO: Gilroy infused that kind of drama into “Andor,” and he’s been pleasantly surprised by the passionate reaction by critics and fans, even those like himself who were not necessarily hardcore “Star Wars” aficionados before….

(12) JPLRON. Space.com introduces listeners to “’Blood, Sweat & Rockets:’ Podcast series looks at colorful founders of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab”. The direct link to the podcast is: Blood, Sweat and Rockets.

The early years of rocketry weren’t all about horn-rimmed glasses and slide rules. 

Some of the 20th century’s most important aerospace pioneers were incredibly colorful characters — folks like Jack Parsons, a handsome young chemist who conducted occult rituals with L. Ron Hubbard and sold bootleg nitroglycerine during the Great Depression.

Parsons’ many interests also extended to the nascent field of rocket science: He helped establish the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which eventually became NASA’s lead center for robotic exploration.

…A new podcast called “Blood, Sweat & Rockets (opens in new tab)” delves into the lives and work of Parsons and his circle, which included fellow JPL co-founders Frank Malina and Theodore von Kármán. Some of these ambitious engineers, Parsons and Malina among them, were part of a group called the Suicide Squad. The name came from their aggressive approach to rocket research, as the podcast will doubtless detail….

(13) SHADES OF WEIRD TALES. Cora Buhlert has done a “Retro Review” for “’The Hanging of Alfred Wadham’ by E.F. Benson”, which she feels is “a not very good ghost story” that appeared in Weird Tales in 1929.

 …In addition to satirical novels about upper class people being jerks, Benson also wrote a lot of ghost stories and this is what brought him to the attention of H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote admiringly about Benson’s work in “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, and finally to Weird Tales….

(14) SF SCREENPLAY CONTEST. The Geneva International Science in Fiction Screenplay Awards are taking entries through December 2. Full details at the link.

GISFSA is a science related and Sci-Fi screenplay contest based out of Geneva, Switzerland, sponsored by the local production company, Turbulence Films, and CineGlobe the film festival of the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).

Our roots in scientific research and connections makes GISFSA the premiere science and sci-fi screenplay contest. We connect winners with the most reputable scientists in the world, who regularly advise on sci-fi pictures.

When submitting a screenplay, all content is analyzed through our sponsors at Scriptmatix, the industry’s leading content evaluation technology company.

For Screenplay Contests:
CONTEST ENTRIES receive analytics on their screenplay’s execution across multiple categories.
ENTRIES + ANALYSIS receive full analytics and evaluative write-ups….

(15) CAST(ING) OF HUNDREDS. “’The sheer scale is extraordinary’: meet the titanosaur that dwarfs Dippy the diplodocus” in the Guardian.

It will be one of the largest exhibits to grace a British museum. In spring, the Natural History Museum in London will display the skeleton of a titanosaur, a creature so vast it will have to be shoehorned into the 9-metre-high Waterhouse gallery.

One of the most massive creatures ever to have walked on Earth, Patagotitan mayorum was a 57-tonne behemoth that would have shaken the ground as it stomped over homelands which now form modern Patagonia. Its skeleton is 37 metres long, and 5 metres in height – significantly larger than the museum’s most famous dinosaur, Dippy the diplodocus, which used to loom over its main gallery.

…The remains of Patagotitan mayorum were uncovered in 2010 when a ranch owner in Patagonia came across a gigantic thigh bone sticking out of the ground. Argentinian fossil experts later dug up more than 200 pieces of skeleton, the remains of at least six individual animals.

Casts have been made of these bones by the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio in Trelew, Patagonia, and these form the skeleton that will go on display in London in March.

“The number of bones uncovered represents a treasure trove of material,” said Sinead Marron, the exhibition’s lead curator. “It means we now know a lot more about this species than we do about many other dinosaurs.”…

(16) GOOD NIGHT OPPY REVIEW. The New York Times shows why “This Mars Documentary Required Many Sols”.

Early in the documentary “Good Night Oppy,” footage from late 2002 shows Steve Squyres, clad in scrubs, staring down in quiet awe, his eyes welling up as he shakes his head in disbelief. Squyres, the principal investigator for NASA’s first Mars rover mission, is watching his babies take their first steps.

That at least is the sense one gets from the improbably sentimental journey at the core of this movie (which begins streaming Wednesday on Amazon Prime Video) about the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity (a.k.a. Oppy). Squyres vividly remembers experiencing this exact moment from the film.

“The first time it sort of came to life, it was a very, very moving experience,” he said recently over Zoom.

Squyres had long awaited the moment. A former geologist, he had worked on Mars exploration proposals for 10 years, including three failed submissions to NASA, before spending another six years, including three cancellations and revivals of the mission, building the machines.

As much as “Good Night Oppy” chronicles the depth of the human achievement behind the Mars rover mission — which was initially planned for a roughly 90-day stretch but instead lasted 15 years — the film is anchored most of all by a kind of pure devotion and connection to the rovers.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended says this is “How Top Gun Maverick Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, Francis Hamit, Jack William Bell, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Pixel Scroll 11/4/22 All Hearts Is Turned To Gizzards

(1) ABOUT THE BIRD. Neil Clarke, Editor of Clarkesworld, tweeted a series of thoughtful insights in reply to the current anxiety about Twitter’s future as a vehicle for marketing short fiction magazines. Thread starts here. Excerpts follow.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to munch Carnitas Benedict with the award-winning Michael Swanwick in Episode 184 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Swanwick

Michael has won five Hugo Awards and three Locus Awards, as well as a Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award — plus has been nominated for and lost more of these major awards than any other writer. His novels include Vacuum FlowersStations of the Tide, and Bones of the Earth, plus his most recent, City Under the Stars, a novel co-authored with the late Gardner Dozois. He’s also published a baker’s dozen of short story collections over the past three decades, starting with Gravity’s Angels in 1991 and most recently Not So Much Said the Cat in 2016, as well as the 118 short stories included in The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, one per each element. His recent novel The Iron Dragon’s Mother completed a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter in 1993, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Two of his short stories — “Ice Age” and “The Very Pulse of the Machine” — were adapted for the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots.

We discussed his response to learning a reader of his was recently surprised to find out he was still alive, how J. R. R. Tolkien turned him into a writer, why it took him 15 years of trying to finally finish his first story, how Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann taught him how to write by taking apart one of his tales and putting it back together again, why it was good luck he lost his first two Nebula Awards the same year, the good advice William Gibson gave him which meant he never had to be anxious about awards again, which friend’s story was so good he wanted to throw his own typewriter out the window in a rage, the novel he abandoned writing because he found the protagonists morally repugnant, why he didn’t want to talk about Playboy magazine, the truth behind a famous John W. Campbell, Jr./Robert Heinlein anecdote, and much more.

(3) NEW YORK STATE OF MIND. Chris Barkley, Astronomicon GoH, is a newsmaker on CBS affiliate WROC as “Sci-fi convention ‘Astronomicon’ returns to Rochester”.

…Various authors and artists are invited to come to the event, including Chris Barkley who is Astronomincon’s guest fan of honor this year.

“Science fiction conventions have been around for much longer than people think. Most people believe the mythology that Star Trek conventions were the beginning start of science fiction conventions. No, the first science fiction conventions actually took place in the 1930s, 1936. And the first World Science Fiction Convention took place in New York City in 1939,” Barkley said….

(4) LOTS OF POSSIBILITIES. At The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt asks if the Multiverse is where originality goes to die or if it unlocks new storytelling possibilities. Includes references to Leinster and Stapleton (and Borges) with quotes from Sanifer. “Is the Multiverse Where Originality Goes to Die?”.

…All these multiverses might add up to nothing good. If all potential endings come to pass, what are the consequences of anything? What matters? Joe Russo, the co-director of “Endgame,” has warned that multiverse movies amount to “a money printer” that studios will never turn off; the latest one from Marvel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a sloppily plotted heap of special effects notable for its horror tropes, cameos, and self-aware dialogue, has earned nearly a billion dollars at the box office. This year, Marvel Studios announced the launch of “The Multiverse Saga,” a tranche of movies and TV shows that features sequels and trequels, along with the fifth and sixth installments of the “Avengers” series. (“Endgame,” it turns out, was not the end of the game.) Warner Bros. has released MultiVersus, a video game in which Batman can fight Bugs Bunny, and Velma, from “Scooby-Doo,” can fight Arya Stark, from “Game of Thrones.” Even A24, a critically admired independent film studio, now counts a multiverse movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022), as its most profitable film.

There’s a reason that studios plan to spend billions of dollars—more than the economic output of some countries—to mass-produce more of the multiverse: tens of millions of people will spend time and money consuming it. Is the rise of the multiverse the death of originality? Did our culture take the wrong forking path? Or has the multiverse unlocked a kind of storytelling—familiar but flexible, entrancing but evolving—that we genuinely need?

Andrew (not Werdna) dissents on one count: “I wouldn’t consider Endgame to be a multiverse movie.”

(5) PERSONAL WORLDS. At the Guardian, Tom Shone uses Avatar as a takeoff point for an interesting article about worldbuilding and paracosms: “’Storytelling has become the art of world building’: Avatar and the rise of the paracosm”.

…Developmental psychologists have their own vocabulary for what [James] Cameron was up to in math class. His teenage dream of Pandora was somewhere between a heterocosm – the imaginary world of an adult author intended for publication such as Thomas Hardy’s Wessex or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast – and a paracosm, an imaginary world conjured by a child that, in its original form, is almost entirely private. Usually begun between ages six and 12, they seem to be linked to all the private clubhouses, hidden rituals and secret societies of middle childhood, in that they are maintained over a period of time, sometimes years, as the child builds a logically consistent, satisfyingly complete alternative universe for themselves. They tend to peter out with adolescence, about 12 or 14.

Many cultural figures have been drawn to these imaginary worlds. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, for example, shared a secret language and addressed one another as “King” and “Queen” of their fictional kingdom. The Brontës imagined an “infernal world” of Byronic villains and architectural majesty. CS Lewis made up a land of animals where cats acted like the knights of the round table. Robert Louis Stevenson drew maps. JRR Tolkien invented languages, while the Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem issued fake passports. Friedrich Nietzsche and his sister Elisabeth created an imaginary world revolving around an inch-and-a-half-tall porcelain squirrel. “Everything that my brother made was in honour of King Squirrel; all his musical productions were to glorify His Majesty; on his birthday poems were recited and plays acted, all of which were written by my brother.”

Today, the Nietzsches would be show-runners with a deal with Apple+ to write and direct their own long-running King Squirrel series (“From the mind that brought you Thus Spake Zarathustra and the studio that brought you God is Dead: A CSI investigation …”).

(6) HORROR FOR LAUGHS. At the Guardian, Rich Pelley interviews Garth Marenghi (a.k.a. comedian Matthew Holness) from the British cult TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace“Garth Marenghi: ‘Many writers cite me as an influence … and I will be suing them all’”

Anyway, you’re back with brand new horror book Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome. Apparently it’s been 30 years in the making. How come it took so long?
[Wiping anti-bacterial gel into hands] The nature of time has been the main issue. Seconds and minutes quickly form themselves into hours, transmuting by degrees into days, weeks, months and, ultimately, years. Before you know it, decades have elapsed. The essential issue was the ever passing of time between the commencement and conclusion-ment of my task.

Would it have been quicker had you bothered to learn how to type with more than two fingers?
Writing balls-to-the-walls horror is extremely physical. Typing with more than two fingers is counterproductive for any horror writer; you need to concentrate your strength on two fingers alone. I get quite hard when I write, so the best way to channel that energy is by banging – bang, bang, bang. If you type with your hands dancing all over the keyboard [mimes touch-typing], you’re essentially rubbing without release. It’s far more potent to jab….

(7) THE LAST ROUNDUP. “HBO Cancels ‘Westworld’ in Shock Decision”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

…The network has decided to cancel the sci-fi drama after its recent fourth season.

It’s an unexpected fate for a series that was once considered one of HBO’s biggest tentpoles — an acclaimed mystery-box drama that racked up 54 Emmy nominations (including a supporting actress win for Thandiwe Newton).

… Yet linear ratings for the pricey series fell off sharply for its third season, and then dropped even further for season four. Westworld’s critic average on Rotten Tomatoes likewise declined from the mid-80s for its first two seasons to the mid-70s for the latter two. Fans increasingly griped that the show had become confusing and tangled in its mythology and lacked characters to root for. Looming over all of this is the fact Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has pledged aggressive cost-cutting, though network insiders maintain that saving money was not a factor in the show’s cancellation….

(8) SHE REALIZED HER DREAM. Fanac.org has posted a video interview, “Maggie Thompson:  Before, During and After the Origins of Comics Fandom”, in two parts. Maggie Thompson has the unique distinction of being a second generation science fiction fan, one of the architects of comics fandom in the early 60s, and is a much-revered professional in the comics field.  She is interviewed by Dr. Chris Couch.

Part 1: In this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her lifelong experiences with science fiction, science fiction fandom, and popular culture. From her early love of the Oz books and her delight in John Campbell’s magazine Unknown, to her convention and masquerade experiences, to her professional successes, Maggie’s anecdotes are engrossing. There are great stories here – how she acquired her complete set of Unknowns, the origins of her publications Comic Art and Newfangles, the family connection to Walt Kelly (and the Pogo comic strip), her friendship with Carl Barks, and more.

Endearingly, when asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, Maggie answered “I want to be a BNF” (Big Name Fan). She has certainly accomplished that ambition. 



Part 2: In this part of the interview by Dr. Chris Couch, we learn more about Maggie Thompson and her influence on comics. With husband Don Thompson, she published fanzines Comic Art and Newfangles, and went on to edit The Comics Buyer’s Guide and others. Maggie is a respected professional in the field and has been recognized with many awards, including the Eisner, the Harvey, the Inkpot, and the Jack Kirby awards.

Continuing this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her segue into the professional field, the end of Newfangles and the start of the The Comic Buyers Guide. The engrossing anecdotes continue, with the nature of cosmopolitan Iola, Wisconsin,  her articulation of “perpetual but non-exclusive rights”, Dark Shadows, and the Done in One label for comics.  There are stories of some of the field’s great figures, including Harlan Ellison, Stan Lee, and Carl Barks.  You’ll see questions from the audience as well. 

After decades of furious activity in science fiction and comics, Maggie remains bubbling and full of enthusiasm for her chosen community. There was no need to ask Maggie what keeps her involved—the answers are more than clear. 

(9) THE SUCCESSOR TO SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw this documentary about the rover Opportunity tonight. The film has very good special effects from ILM. But people should know the film, as the trailer points out, tries to turn the rover into Wall-E (“She” “has a face”). I would have liked at least five minutes about the science Opportunity discovered instead of having NASA people who have spent too much time in media training talk about how brave the robot was. *Sigh* “Good Night Oppy – Official Trailer”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise (1983) 

There was a man called Mael the Red who dwelt in Ar-Mor. That was the far western end of Brezh, which was itself the far western end of the Domain. Seen from those parts, Skyholm gleamed low in the east, often hidden by trees or hills or clouds, and showed little more than half the width of a full moon. Yet folk looked upon it with an awe that was sometimes lacking in those who saw it high and huge. — first words of Orion Shall Rise

Some novels I really like. Such is the case with Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise. By now, I must’ve read it at least a dozen times.

It was first issued by Phantasia Press Inc., a small publisher created  by Sidney Altus and Alex Berman. (This I did not know having, the Timescape Books from 1983.) They published short-run, hardcover limited editions of science fiction and fantasy books with an emphasis L. Sprague de Camp C. J. Cherryh, Philip José Farmer, and Alan Dean Foster. It was lasted from 1978 to 1989.

The book is said to be part of his Maurai series which really is a bit of lie. There are is only three more stories in total, “The Sky People”, “Progress” and “Windmill” I wonder if he meant to write more, but didn’t.  And yes, the Maurai world is visited by the time-traveling character of There Will Be Time.

SPOILERS BEWARE ARE SWIMMING AROUND, AND FLYING TOO

The novel is set apparently several hundred years after a devastating nuclear war which has set back civilization on Earth from a technology viewpoint. and vastly reduced the population as well, by billions it seems. Most of the planet has no advanced technology at all, and The Maurai Federation, the radically anti-technology society in the Pacific Ocean region, is dominated by the Maurai peoples of N’Zealann.

Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, the Domain of Skyholm, a class-based European society, rules over much of lower Europe from their pre-war dirigible aerostat.

Let’s not forget the Northwest Union, a clan-based society based in Pacific Northwest is the most technologically advanced and, and here comes the major spoiler — I did warn you, didn’t I? — they’ve been scavenging pre-War nuclear material to fuel the Orion class starship they have been constructing.

NOW BACK YO MY IMPRESSIONS

So why do I like the Orion Shall Rise so much? Well the story writing is damn perfect and doesn’t slip up at all. I do wish that Anderson had indeed written an actual Maurai series as there’s much here that could’ve been expanded upon.

There is one other thing that is wonderful and that is his characters. It is quite obvious to me that he loves his characters here, so let me quote a lengthy description of one early on:

Clansman was unmistakable. Even his clothes – loose-fitting shirt beneath a cowled jacket, tight-fitting trousers, low boots – were of different cut from their linen and woolen garb, and of finer material. At his ornate belt, next to a knife, hung a pistol; a rifle was sheathed at his saddlebow; and these were modern rapid-fire weapons. His coat bore silver insignia of rank on the shoulders, an emblem of a gold star in a blue field on the left sleeve. Before all else, his body proclaimed what he was. He sat tall and slender, with narrow head and countenance, long straight nose, large gray eyes, thin lips, fair complexion but dark hair that hung barely past his ears and was streaked with white. Though he went clean-shaven in the manner of his people, one could see that his beard would be sparse. He carried himself with pride rather than haughtiness, and smiled as he lifted an arm in greeting.

Everything here feels right, feels alive. I truly regret that was never told in an oral form as its sounds so much like a spoken tale.

It is available from the usual suspects. The Timescape trade edition is available, errr, new for just ten dollars on Amazon. They must have a time machine sitting around. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 4, 1912 Wendayne Ackerman. Wife of Forrest J Ackerman in the Forties. After eight years of marriage, she and FJA divorced but remained friends and companions. Later she translated the German language Perry Rhodan books he acquired for English-language publication. (Died 1990.)
  • November 4, 1934Gregg Calkins. Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.” (Died 2017.)
  • November 4, 1953Kara Dalkey, 69. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of SagamoreSteel RoseLittle Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Tiptree Awards.
  • November 4, 1953Stephen Jones, 69.  Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies quoted sometime ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated HistoryBasil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He has also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere.
  • November 4, 1957Jody Lynn Nye, 66. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent  MythAdventures series.  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. And she has written novels with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
  • November 4, 1958Nancy Springer, 64. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel. The Oddling Prince came out several years ago on Tachyon. 
  • November 4, 1958Lani Tupu, 64. He’d be here just for being Crais and the voice of the Pilot on the Farscape series but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings including the 1989 Punisher as Laccone, and  Gordon Standish in Robotropolis. He also had roles in Tales of the South SeasTime Trax and The Lost World. All of which we can guess were filmed in Australia. Lastly, he appears in the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series which if you haven’t seen it is quite excellent. I just found it in DVD format sometime in the past several years.
  • November 4, 1960John Vickery, 62. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there.  His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”.  He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) QUANTUM OF KNOWLEDGE. Available to watch now, a Quantum Week webinar exploring the forthcoming quantum technology revolution: “Perspectives on societal aspects and impacts of quantum technologies” at Physics World. The participants are listed with brief bios at the link.

Quantum science and technology is advancing and evolving rapidly and, in the last decade, has shifted from foundational scientific exploration to adoption by commercial and government organizations. It is essential that scrutiny and guidance is applied to this quantum revolution to bring other societal stakeholders onboard and ensure that the benefits can be maximized for all society.

What considerations exist for quantum technologies? How should we engage as a society in the future, as promised and created by this emerging sector? We will discuss some key questions that will shape the forthcoming quantum technology revolution.

(14) FROM THE VAULT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Charles Schulz tells the BBC’s Peter France about the importance of perseverance and draws a strip with Snoopy in this 1977 BBC clip that dropped today.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “She-Hulk Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says She-Hulk is “one of the most meta” Disney Plus shows ever.  It has a gratuitous twerking scene with Megan Thee Stallion which is put in there “to rile up angry internet dudus, and then we’re going to make fun of them for getting angry.” This is the show where She-Hulk smashes into the show’s writer’s room, demands they produce better scripts, and then meets the writers’ boss, who is not Kevin Feige.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/4/22 TANSTAFE! (There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Elevenses)

(1) MEASURED BY ANOTHER YARDSTICK. “Too Dystopian for Whom? A Continental Nigerian Writer’s Perspective” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki at Uncanny Magazine.

It is a common conception that people come to fiction, especially the speculative, to escape reality. And that is indeed one of the purposes it can serve. Another is that conversely to escaping, people come to fiction to encounter or experience reality. A paradox? After all, we already live in reality, one that is ubiquitous. We have it all around us, painfully so sometimes. Hence the need for an escape. But you see, reality has different facets, different windows, like eyes, that reveal different vistas.

This is why the consumption of fiction and SF/F based on other cultures and by people of other demographics is a necessity. Doing so helps us diversify our understanding and encounter all these different realities that lie beyond our immediate purview. What we are often steeped in is our own immediate reality, which is, while occasionally painful, also painfully limited.

It has often been surmised, most especially around discussions of war, climate change, natural disasters, and more recently the outbreak of COVID-19, in articles like this in Wired and on The Apeiron Blog we are living in a dystopia. This realization has weaned many of the need for apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction, and has them preferring instead to immerse themselves in lighter, more upbeat and positive work. This is of course valid, as we all must do what we feel right. But beyond personal preferences of individuals for lighter, “happier” works in this period of gloom, there is a wider and more general assertion that dystopias, apocalypses, grimdark, dark fantasy, and the like are now unnecessary because we live in and have it all around us. A Publishers Weekly piece talks about dystopian fiction losing its lustre due to the pandemic and spells doom for the subgenre of doom. But is this really so? In a viral tweet, the account tweets its disagreement, which I quite agree with, saying that “Dystopian fiction is when you take things that happen in real life to marginalized populations and apply them to people with privilege.” The dystopian reality is not new and has been with us for a while. Its fictionalizing continues till date despite those debates regarding its relevance or necessity….

(2) FINALIST NUMBER ONE. Mark Lawrence has started posting finalists for the 8th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. The first (and as of today only) finalist is Tethered Spirits by T.A. Hernandez.

(3) NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today announced the winners of “The Nobel Prize in Physics 2022: Entangled states – from theory to technology”.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2022 to
Alain Aspect, Université Paris-Saclay and École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France,
John F. Clauser, J.F. Clauser & Assoc., Walnut Creek, CA, USA and
Anton Zeilinger, University of Vienna, Austria

Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger have each conducted groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states, where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated. Their results have cleared the way for new technology based upon quantum information.

The ineffable effects of quantum mechanics are starting to find applications. There is now a large field of research that includes quantum computers, quantum networks and secure quantum encrypted communication.

One key factor in this development is how quantum mechanics allows two or more particles to exist in what is called an entangled state. What happens to one of the particles in an entangled pair determines what happens to the other particle, even if they are far apart….

(4) THE ONION ISN’T KIDDING. “Area Man Is Arrested for Parody. The Onion Files a Supreme Court Brief.”  — the New York Times covers the litigation.

A man who was arrested over a Facebook parody aimed at his local police department is trying to take his case to the Supreme Court. He has sought help from an unlikely source, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Monday.

“Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government?” the brief asked. “This was a surprise to America’s Finest News Source and an uncomfortable learning experience for its editorial team.”

The source is, of course, The Onion.

Or, as the satirical website described itself in the brief, “the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.”

The Parma, Ohio, area man in question, Anthony Novak, spent four days in jail over a Facebook page he created in 2016 that mocked his local police department. He was charged with using a computer to disrupt police functions, but a jury found him not guilty.

Mr. Novak says his civil rights were violated, and he is trying to sue the city for damages. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this year, saying that the police had qualified immunity, and an appeals court upheld that decision. Now the high court is reviewing his request to take up the matter….

(5) STAR TREK SANDWICH. According to Boing Boing, “Harlan Ellison auction includes the world’s most (in)famous “Star Trek” photo”.

Heritage Auction’s upcoming auction of Harlan Ellison’s estate contains a wealth of memorabilia, including a photo of young Harlan flanked by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in full character costume. Nimoy inscribed the photo with, “Harlan, Love you & your great credits,” and Shatner wrote, “Who’s the kid in the middle.”

Heritage says the photo is “sure to be one of the most fought-over, sought-after items in Heritage’s history.”

…Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Harlan and Susan Ellison Foundation, a nonprofit created by Straczynski. The foundation is working to turn the late couple’s Los Angeles home into what Straczynski calls “a place dedicated to writing, creativity, art and music.”

It will be a “memorial library,” he says, “full of books (50,000 by actual count), art (the pieces in the Heritage auction represent only a small portion of what’s there), comics, amazing architecture (complete with a tower, hidden rooms, gargoyles and the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars).” Straczynski says it will serve “fans of Harlan’s work, sure, but also lovers of art and books and architecture, as well as academics who will be able to study his manuscripts and decades of correspondences with some of the most famous writers in and out of the science fiction genre.”

(6) DEBUT NOVEL OF FAMED COMICS CREATOR. Grant Morrison discusses their first novel at CrimeReads. “Grant Morrison on Gender, Genre, and Drag”.

Molly Odintz: Luda is all about the instability of identity, exemplified by drag. What did you want to say about the identities we are assigned, and assume?

Grant Morrison: At the simplest level, I suppose I want to say that ‘identity’, at least from my point of view, appears to be conditional and refuses to be contained by any label; how does the ‘identity’ of a person as a two year old child square with that same person’s alleged ‘identity’ as a 40-year old or as a dying 90-year old in a failing physical frame – our bodies and minds and how we feel about ourselves, and who we are within a larger constantly shifting and rearranging system, are subject to such radical transformations over decades that were we to speed a human life up to last ten minutes rather than 80 years the result would resemble a radical metamorphic shifting of shape and size, intellectual capacity and ‘personality’. The idea of a single label adequate to that process seems absurd.

(7) SOCIAL MEDIA CRITICISM AGAINST GRRM COAUTHORS. George R.R. Martin’s tweet publicizing a forthcoming Westeros reference book opened floodgates of criticism against his coauthors Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr.

Variety reported today “‘Game of Thrones’ Fans Boycott George R.R. Martin’s Next Book, Accusing Coauthors of Racism”.

Bestselling fantasy author and “House of the Dragon” executive producer George R.R. Martin is caught in the crossfire of the heated battle over inclusive casting — and some of his fans are calling for a boycott of his upcoming book due to comments by its coauthors.

Out Oct. 25, “The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One” is being touted as a “deluxe reference book” for those itching to learn more about Westeros’ most powerful family. When Martin publicized it on social media last week, thousands of fans responded in outrage, many calling out the problematic behavior and “history of racism” of his coauthors, married couple Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr. “I will not be buying anything with Linda and Elio attached to it,” one wrote, while others urged Martin to sever ties with the pair….

…Antonsson contends that upset fans are criticizing “cherry-picked statements stripped of context.” She tells Variety that it bothers her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building.” According to the author, she has no issue with inclusive casting, but she strongly believes that “diversity should not trump story.”

“If George had indeed made the Valyrians Black instead of white, as he mused on his ‘Not a Blog’ in 2013, and this new show proposed to make the Velaryons anything other than Black, we would have had the same issue with it and would have shared the same opinion,” Antonsson says.

Vulture carries more documentation: “’Game of Thrones’ Book Co-Authors Accused of Racism by Fans”.

…Married couple Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr., who founded the fansite Westeros.org and have worked as fact-checkers on Martin’s novels, have decried the casting of people of color in Game of Thrones for over a decade. In 2011 and 2012, Antonsson made numerous Tumblr posts saying that most of Westeros, including Dorne, and many of the overseas lands, should be considered “very white indeed,” and getting angry and defensive at any suggestions from “whiny social justice crusaders” to the contrary. Antonsson insists that the only correct interpretation of the books is that “Unremarked skin colour=>white.”

“If you start talking about there being a need — a need outside of what is in the text — to cast actors of certain ethnicites [sic] even if their appearance doesn’t match at all what’s in the text … well, fuck that, plain and simple,” she wrote in May 2012. “I don’t respect that approach, never have and never will, and that is a perfectly valid decision. It has nothing to do with racism, so kindly go fuck yourself with something sharp and pointy.” She disapproved of the casting of a Black actor as Xaro Xhoan Daxos because that character was described as “pale” in the books, and celebrated the casting of a white actor to play Daario Naharis because of his race. In 2021, after the casting of Steve Touissant as Corlys VelaryonAntonsson wrote on Twitter, “Take your woke fucking stupidity and shove it up you ass. Corlys is miscast, there are no black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show.”…

(8) BIG DEALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the appeal of card games.

The influence of cards is more notable in the popular genre of ‘deck-building’ games.  These titles such as Slay The Spire and the enormously popular Hearthstone, from World Of Warcraft creator Blizzard, prove particularly compelling because they augment cards with all the capabilities of digital technology, offering seamless online multi-player modes, visual pyrotechnics and an eternally expanding set of possible cards from which to choose…

…The enduring presence of cards is credit to their adaptability.  Cards are not a game in themselves but a highly flexible medium which can be used as metaphors for combat, vehicles for strategy or links to a long lineage of play that stretches far back into human history.  Today you can build memories out of houses of cards in Where Cards Fall or use cards as units of dialogue in Signs Of The Sojourner.  Rather than killing off the humble playing card, video games have given them thousands of fresh possibilities.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1965 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-seven years ago on the BBC, Out of this World series first aired. It. produced by the BBC and broadcast on BBC2 in four series. 

It was created and produced by Irene Shubik while she was working on Armchair Theatre as a story editor. In the highly patriarchal workplace of the Sixties BBC, it was unusual that was allowed to do this. 

(Very much to her credit, she was involved in The Jewel in the Crown undertaking, a most impressive series indeed.)

She was aided by the fact that Armchair Theatre had done an adaptation of John Wyndham’s “Dumb Martian” story as a deliberate showcase for the Out of this World series. 

It lasted but thirteen episodes of which one survives today as the BBC bulk erased them, the ass****s. Too bad as Boris Karloff presented it and the stories were based off tales written by Clifford D. Simak (“Immigrant”), Isaac Asimov (“Little Lost Robot”) which is the only one that survives which the British Film Institute has released on DVD and Philip K. Dick (“Impostor”). 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 4, 1860 Sidney Edward Paget. British illustrator of the Victorian era, he’s definitely known for his illustrations that accompanied Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand. He also illustrated Arthur Morrison’s Martin Hewitt, Investigator, a series of short stories featuring the protagonist, Martin Hewitt, and written down by his good friend, the journalist Brett. These came out after Holmes was killed off, like many similar series. (Died 1908.)
  • Born October 4, 1904 Earl Binder. Under the pen name of Eando Binder, he and his brother Otto published SF stories. One series was about a robot named Adam Link. The first such story, published in 1939, is titled “I, Robot”. (A collection by Asimov called I, Robot would be published in 1950. The name was selected by the publisher, despite Asimov’s wishes.) As Eando Binder, they wrote three SF novels — Enslaved BrainsDawn to Dusk and Lords of Creation. There’s lots of Eando Binder available on iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1966.)
  • Born October 4, 1923 Charlton Heston. Without doubt, his best known genre role was astronaut George Taylor in the Planet of the Apes. He returned to the role Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He’s also Neville in The Omega Man, and Detective Thorne in Soylent Green. By the way, once at the LA Music Center he played Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, opposite Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson. His IMDB credits show him as being on SeaQuest DSV in the “Abalon” episode. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 4, 1932 Ann Thwaite, 90. Author of AA Milne: His Life which won the Whitbread Biography of the Year, as well as The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh, a scrapbook offshoot of the Milne biography. (And yes, Pooh is genre.) In 2017 she updated her 1990 biography of A.A Milne to coincide with Goodbye Christopher Robin for which she was a consultant. 
  • Born October 4, 1956 Christoph Waltz, 66. He portrayed James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre and in No Time to Die. Genre wise, he also portrayed Qohen Leth in The Zero Theorem, Benjamin Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet (I lasted ten minutes before giving up), Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, himself in Muppets Most Wanted, Léon Rom in The Legend of Tarzan and Dr. Dyson Ido in Alita: Battle Angel
  • Born October 4, 1956 Bill Johnson. His writing was strongly influenced by South Dakota origins. This is particularly true of his “We Will Drink a Fish Together” story which won a Hugo for Best Novelette in 1998. (It got a Nebula nomination as well.) His 1999 collection, Dakota Dreamin, is quite superb. (Died 2022.)
  • Born October 4, 1960 Annabelle Lanyon, 62. She was Oona in Legend. And she showed as Isabel in the Quatermass franchise, Quatermass series and the Quatermass Conclusion. She’s been in more genre related films and series than I can possibly list here, i.e. The Werewolves of The Third Reich which has a twenty-one rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, 
  • Born October 4, 1975 Saladin Ahmed, 47. His Throne of the Crescent Moon was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and did win the Locus Award for Best First Novel. He has also written for comics characters Kamala Khan (The Magnificent Ms. Marvel), Black Bolt, Exiles and the Miles Morales (Spider-Man) series, all on Marvel Comics. Oddly only his Marvel is available at the usual suspects.

(11) COMPLETELY MAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Sergio Aragones, who is still active at 85 drawing for MAD, about his comic book Groo The Wanderer. “Sergio Aragones, MAD magazine artist, is still spoofing our humanity”.

… “When Mad accepted me, that was a change of life, a change of mind, a change of everything. Somebody liked what I did,” Aragonés says. Yet despite this “radical mind change,” he appreciated: “I didn’t have to change at all. It was what I had been doing since I was a kid, drawing, drawing, drawing.”

Aragonés also cherished the famous annual Mad trips, sometimes to far-flung places. He roomed with his heroes in Switzerland, went on safari with them in Africa, and while onboard near Bermuda, helped surprise Gaines by re-creating the publisher’s favorite Marx Brothers moment: the crowded cabin scene from “A Night at the Opera.”…

(12) IT’S OFFICIAL. “Velma Is a Lesbian: New ‘Scooby Doo’ Film Makes Her Gay Officially” reports Variety.

Velma is officially a lesbian.

Clips from the brand new movie “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!,” which show the Mystery Inc. member googly-eyed and speechless when encountering costume designer Coco Diablo, have gone viral on Twitter, confirming suspicions held by the “Scooby” fan base for decades.

“OMG LESBIAN VELMA FINALLY,” reads one tweet, which has over 100,000 likes.

It’s long been an open secret among fans and “Scooby-Doo” creatives that Velma is gay. Even James Gunn, who wrote the early live-action films, and Tony Cervone, who served as supervising producer on the “Mystery Incorporated” series, have confirmed the character’s sexuality, but they were never able to make it official onscreen.

In 2020, Gunn tweeted that he “tried” to make Velma a lesbian in the live-action movies. “In 2001 Velma was explicitly gay in my initial script,” he wrote. “But the studio just kept watering it down & watering it down, becoming ambiguous (the version shot), then nothing (the released version) & finally having a boyfriend (the sequel).”

(13) LOCAL ROVING. [Item by Steven French.] Wanted: job for redundant Mars rover! “Planetary rover once intended for Mars tested in Milton Keynes quarry” – the Guardianihas the story.

A planetary rover potentially destined for missions on the moon or Mars has been put through its paces at a quarry in Milton Keynes.

The Sample Fetch Rover (SFR), known as Anon, was intended to collect sample tubes left on the surface of Mars by Perseverance.

But this year Nasa and the European Space Agency announced the rover would no longer be needed for this work, as Perseverance, which landed on the red planet in February 2021, was already collecting samples from the planet.’

… Quarry testing is essential to the development process, providing a unique and dynamic landscape that cannot be replicated within the Mars Yard test facility at Stevenage, and the event marks the first time all the rover’s systems are being tested simultaneously….

(14) PLAYING IN OVERTIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Visual Effects Crisis,” the Royal Ocean Film Society notes that visual effects artists are suffering, with weeks of 100-hour days to make insane deadlines.  The Phantom Menace used one visual effects company; The Rise Of Skywalker used 12, and some Marvel films use 35.  But profit margins are thin, and companies frantically shift locations to take advantage of tax credits.  CATS is exhibit A of what happens when visual effects companies screw up.  The narrator notes that Rhythm and Hues’s work helped Life Of Pi win four technical Oscars but the company went bankrupt because of the many changes they had to do to make director Ang Lee happy.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Avatar (2022 Remastered) the Screen Junkies say that even though they did Avatar in 2012 if there’s a remastered version of Avatar in theatres they can take on the film again.  They say the plot combines Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and Ferngully, with generic characters they call “Colonel Soldier” and “Doctor Samples” (because Sigourney Weaver’s character is always looking for samples).  The aliens look like a cross between Ugly Sonic and those creatures in CATS.  And if you think “unobtainium” is a silly name, your inner 12-year old can look up the real mineral “cummingtonite” on Wikipedia.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/22 Scrolls Against Pixelry

(1) HALFWAY THRU THE YEAR. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility tops Amazon.com’s list of the twenty “Best science fiction and fantasy of 2022 so far”.

And joining Sea of Tranquility on Amazon.com’s overall “Best Books of the Year So Far” are Saara El-Arifi’s The Final Strife and John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society.

(2) BROOKS BY THE BOOK. The New York Times’ interview with Geraldine Brooks gives backhanded praise to a Hugo winner.

Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?

The “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy, by Liu Cixin, is full of insight into everything from China’s Cultural Revolution to why we have yet to experience first contact, and why we maybe shouldn’t want to. But there’s a clunkiness to some of the sentences and I can’t know if it’s the writing or the translation. Alas, it’s too late for me to learn Mandarin in order to get a definitive answer.

(3) HEAVY DUTY. TrekMovie.com reports “Toymaker TOMY To Make 32-Inch Die-Cast ‘Star Trek’ USS Enterprise Weighing 20 Pounds”. Twenty pounds!!! What, have they got Garfield the Cat as the Captain?

… TOMY has announced a new collaboration with Paramount to develop a number of Star Trek products, starting with a limited edition highly-detailed 1/350 scale premium die-cast U.S.S. Enterprise model from The Original Series. Made of 90% die-cast metal, the model includes precision detailing and decorations with over 70 LED lights and a premium stand with collector packaging…. 

Gizmodo has more of the story and – brace yourself – the price tag: “Star Trek USS Enterprise Model Created With Smithsonian’s Help”.

…As you’ve probably guessed, this replica isn’t priced for casual Trekkies. Tomy is taking a crowd-funded approach and will only put the limited run replica into production if it receives 5,000 pre-orders for the ship, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. That’s a lofty goal, especially with a price tag of $600, and with pre-orders being limited to just Star Trek fans in the United States. If Tomy finds enough backers, its Prestige Select U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 replica will ship out to fans next Summer in 2023.

This video shows off the prototype with the lights in action.

(4) INTO THE WEST. HBO’s Westworld Season 4 Official Trailer says, “Maybe it’s time you questioned the nature of your own reality.” Sounds right.

(5) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDALS. The Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. Neither winner is a genre work.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal 

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 

  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)

(6) YOUNG XENA AND OTHER ROLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rose McIver. “Maltin on Movies: Rose McIver”.  Nearly all of her work is genre-related, including her current role in CBS’s Ghosts and her best-known role in IZombie.  Of course, being a Disney fan, Leonard Maltin made sure to ask about her work as Tinker Bell (spelled that way) in Once Upon a Time.

McIver has a good story about Lucy Lawless.  When she was nine she played young Xena while Lawless stepped away from her role during her pregnancy.  Lawless sent McIver several cassette tapes where she explained Xena’s story and gave her a chance to listen to the cadences of Lawless’s voice so she could do a better job of being a young Lucy Lawless.  McIver fondly remembered Lawless’s kindnesses over two decades later.

I thought this was a good interview.

(7) A VISIT TO THE INSTRUMENTALITY. Rich Horton tours the worldbuilding of Cordwainer Smith in “The Timeless Strangeness of ‘Scanners Live in Vain’” at Black Gate.

I recently had occasion to reread Cordwainer Smith’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame story “Scanners Live in Vain.” This was probably my fifth rereading over the years (soon followed by a sixth!) — it’s a story I’ve always loved, but for some reason this time through it struck me even more strongly. It is a truly great SF story; and I want to take a close look at what makes it work….

(8) PORT YOUR HELM. If you can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, you can certainly make an anime feature from Tolkien’s appendix. “’Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim’: Brian Cox, Miranda Otto Cast”Deadline has the story.

…The movie centers around the fate of the House of Helm Hammerhand, the mighty King of Rohan, a character from the J.R.R. Tolkien book’s appendix. Succession actor Cox will provide the voice of that protagonist.

The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original trilogy of films. A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg – a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.

Wise (A Walk in the Woods) will play Hammerhand’s daughter Hera; and Luke Pasqualino (Snowpiercer) will portray Wulf…

(9) DOCTOR DOOGIE HOWSER WHO? “Neil Patrick Harris Joins Doctor Who’ for 60th Anniversary Special” reports Yahoo! But what’s he doing on the show?

…“It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the mighty Neil Patrick Harris…but who, why, what is he playing? You’ll just have to wait,” [Russell T] Davies said in a statement. “But I promise you, the stuff we’re shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”

Harris is currently filming his scenes for the special, though details about his role are being guarded safely behind the closed doors of the TARDIS…

Harris released a photo of him in character on Instagram.

(10) THREE MORE MONGOLIAN TRANSLATIONS. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] I stopped in at the really snazzy bookstore at the State Department Store today and found three more recent translations: Second Foundation (the Mongolian is literally more like “Second Storehouse/Coffers/Holdings”), Fahrenheit 451, and Zamyatin’s We (between Ahmet Ümit’s Istanbul Souvenir and Moby Dick).

(11) ESSAY: GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER’S WHEN GRAVITY FAILS

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] No, When Gravity Fails wasn’t published this month. It was published in January of 1986 by Arbor House. It’s just one of my favorite novels. And it’s one of the few truly great genre fictions set in the Middle East or whatever you want to call that region. (Jon Courtney Grimwood’s Arabesk trilogy and G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen are two other great ones set there. Do suggest others ones to me please.) That When Gravity Fails is the first in the Marîd Audran series makes it even better.

SPOILER ALERT Effinger’s novel, set near the end of the 22nd Century in an Islamic world in the rise while the West is fast descending or so we are told, describes an ascendant Arabic/Muslim is Center around Marîd Audran, a young man whose has a deep phobia about getting his brain wired. Hence he’s always on the outside of society. He and his trans girlfriend sometimes get along, sometimes want to kill each other. END SPOILER

I re-read about a half a decade ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the Suck Fairy hadn’t trod her steel studded combat boots upon this work. It feels remarkably fresh and Effinger’s society still rings true. Like the settings in Grimwood’s Arabesk or Wilson’s Alif, it feels real. That a neat trick that not many genre writers accomplish when trying to create a different culture. 

I understand that Effinger said in interviews that a lot of his society there was based on his living in the New Orleans French Quarter. If that’s true, the sex, violence, and moral ambiguity shown in the novel suggests a lot about the French Quarter in the Eighties! 

A note for y’all to consider. Most reviewers consider it a cyberpunk novel. I do not. It’s very good SF novel but the personality chips just don’t feel cyberpunkish to me. Neither the Arabesk trilogy or Alif is cyberpunk either.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 16, 1896 — Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 “First Contact” novella, a 1996 Retro Hugo-winner, one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 16, 1924 — Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties film This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999.)
  • Born June 16, 1938 — Joyce Carol Oates, 84. To my utter surprise, she’s won a World Fantasy Award for a short story, “Fossil-Figures”. And though I didn’t think of her as a horror writer, she’s won five, yes five, Stoker Awards.  Her short fiction, which is legion, is stellar. I recommend her recent Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense collection . 
  • Born June 16, 1939 — David McDaniel. A prolific writer of The Man from U.N.C.LE. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The  Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two which I must find. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director, writing various APAs and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” which is to say he financially support the Club. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 16, 1940 — Carole Ann Ford, 82. Best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in Doctor Who, and as Bettina in of The Day of the Triffids. Ford appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born June 16, 1957 — Ian Buchanan, 65. Best remembered as Dick Tremayne on Twin Peaks. He’s done one-offs on the first Flash series, Quantum Leap, voice roles on GargoylesBatman: The Brave and the BoldBatman Beyond and Justice LeagueCharmed and Stargate SG-1
  • Born June 16, 1972 — Andy Weir, 50. His debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal”  which is only available as an Audible audiobook. Project Hail Mary is nominated for the Hugo Award this year. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater is based on a gag I bet every comics reader has thought of at some point.
  • Bizarro finds it’s time to have that discussion when little robots wonder where they came from.
  • Close to Home overhears what the next thing is that a kaiju wants to eat.

(14) VOYAGE CONTINUES WITH A NEW PILOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randy Milholland, who has just taken over Popeye from 95-year-old Hy Eisman.  Cavna explains that Milholland is trying to preserve Popeye’s noble spirit and champion of the underdog while making Popeye a GenXer and Olive Oyl a MIllennial. “Popeye is getting a makeover at age 93”.

…Today, he thinks characters like Olive Oyl, as shaped long ago by Segar and writer Tom Sims, can speak to modern audiences. He notes that their Olive was outspoken and in your face. “She was never the damsel in distress in the comics.” He says her stance was: “I’m here and I will fight either at Popeye’s side or I will get in front of him.”

All these characters have flaws — and Popeye’s father, Poopdeck Pappy, “is a flaw on his own,” Milholland notes with a grin — but Popeye and Olive are the types to “find their moral centers” when needed.

Milholland likes to play with character faces and shapes, including the antagonistic witch the Sea Hag and the magical pet Eugene the Jeep. He enjoys designing the ballet of fisticuffs that flows across the page. Yet, for all the enduring dynamics of “Popeye,” Milholland comes back to valuing the familial heart that beats at the center of the strip….

(15) DINO MIGHT. Did you ever ask yourself “Why Does Batman have a T-Rex in the Batcave?” MSN.com’s Aman Singh did.

Debuting in 1943, the Batcave is a fascinating place that holds many mementos to Batman’s long history. The Caped Crusader’s lair features many interesting items such a giant penny and a large replica of Joker’s playing card. Though some may say it’s ridiculous, the cave is a reflection of Batman’s character evolution. Despite going through many changes over the years and different iterations across creative teams, one of the few items that remains constant is the iconic T-Rex prop. The origins for this unusual memento go way back into Batman’s formative years….

(16) NINEFOX GAMBIT TRPG ON ITS WAY. Yoon Ha Lee has designed an RPG for his Machineries of Empire universe.

(17) ONE THUMB DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This reviewer pretty much hates Kyra Sedgwick‘s directorial premier, indie feature film Space Oddity. I’ve seen others reviews that were kinder to it. Me? I have no clue. “Space Oddity Review: Kyra Sedgwick’s Sexless, Spaceless Rom-Com” by Samantha Bergeson at IndieWire.

….But the film heavy-handedly relies on a climate change component to beat people over the head with a bouquet of reasons why the world as we know it is dying. True, but this film makes a good reason for why it should.

At one point, Alex angrily lectures a mirror: “I hope you all had a good time at the farewell party for the tigers and the lions!” And no, he is not talking about Detroit teams finishing their seasons. It is hysterical in the best way. “I’m going to Mars!” is Alex’s refrain in “Space Oddity,” and he even says it to himself — “over and out.”….

(18) BUGS, MR. RICO. ZILLIONS OF ‘EM. “Spilling the Tea: Insect DNA Shows Up in World’s Top Beverage” is the jolly news from The Scientist.

How do you monitor which species live in an area? In addition to traditional ecological tools such as camera traps, researchers have reported new methods in recent years that allow them to detect minute traces of DNA known as environmental DNA, or eDNA, that animals leave behind in water and even air. In a study published June 15 in Biology Letters, a group reports picking up eDNA from a new source: dried plant material. The team purchased tea from grocery stores, and were able to detect hundreds of species of arthropods in just one bag….

TS: Was there anything about the results of this study that surprised you? 

HK: What really surprised me was the high diversity we detected. . . . We took one tea bag, and . . . I think it was from 100 [or] 150 milligrams of dried plant material, we extracted DNA. And we found in green tea up to 400 species of insects in a single tea bag. . . . That really surprised me. And the reason probably is that this tea, it’s ground to a relatively fine powder. So the eDNA [from all parts of the tea field] gets distributed.  

(19) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. The Scientist reports on evidence that the “Black Death Likely Originated in Central Asia”.

In the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains in what is now Kyrgyzstan, tombstones in the Kara-Djigach cemetery with Syriac inscriptions showed that the village’s death rate skyrocketed over a two-year period. Phil Slavin, a historian at the University of Stirling in Scotland, says that “out of a total of 467 stones that are precisely dated to the period between 448 and 1345, 118 actually turned out to be dated to the years 1338 [and] 1339.”…

(20) A CLOSER LOOK. “NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” reports Nature. “Rolling up an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, the rover starts crucial rock sampling.”

More than 15 months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.

On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover there. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.

Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter.

The rover will spend the next few months exploring the Jezero delta, while mission scientists decide where they want to drill and extract rock samples. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to retrieve those samples and fly them back to Earth for study, no earlier than 2033, in the first-ever sample return from Mars….

(21) DEL TORO OPENS HIS CABINET. Guillermo Del Toro and Netflix have shared the first teaser trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, an eight-episode horror anthology featuring original plots and adaptations of short stories. No release date has been set.

The maestro of horror – Guillermo Del Toro – presents 8 blood-curdling tales of horror. This anthology of sinister stories is told by some of today’s most revered horror creators, including the directors of The Babadook, Splice, Mandy, and many more.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Jurassic World: Dominion Pitch Meting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode says that neither the producer or the screenwriter can remember the names of the characters Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt play so a quick Wikipedia search is in order. Also, when the producer learns that several characters from Jurassic Park have come back, he asks, “Is there any other way to make money? We’re rapidly running out of iconic characters to bring back!”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rich Horton, Ferret Bueller, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/22 Life’s Like A Pixel; Scroll Your Own Ending

(1) NOT QUIET ON THE BOOKSTORE FRONT. Sergej Sumlenny tweeted a long thread about “How [the] Russian book market prepared Russians for a full-scale war against Ukraine, NATO, the West, and promoted stalinism and nazism, and how this was ignored by the West.” Thread starts here. Some excerpts:

(2) THE BUZZ. Sam Stone returns an enthusiastic verdict on “Pixar’s Lightyear” at CBR.com. If it has a fault, it’s that the movie doesn’t swing for the fences as hard as it should.

… The animation team similarly pulls out all the stops to make Lightyear a memorable sci-fi film, with a visual style that feels very much its own thing compared with the Toy Story movies while retaining that sense of familiarity. Drawing from a whole line of sci-fi influences, Lightyear evokes the sensibilities of classic ’80s sci-fi cinema, from the Space Rangers’ tech and vehicles to the creepy extraterrestrials prowling the planet where Buzz and his friends have crashed. With its time-bending concepts and a genuine sense of heart, Lightyear earns its place among that pantheon of great science fiction….

(3) WHO LEFT THE GRAVITY TURNED ON? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I’m up to February 2019 in my New Yorkers (you may report me to the magazine control board!) but I thought this Talk Of The Town piece was interesting: “When ‘Spaceman’ Came Crashing Down to Earth”.

… On February 22nd of last year, “Spaceman” made its début at the Wild Project, an eighty-nine-seat theatre in the East Village. The set was a room-size contraption made of welded steel and Plexiglas, fitted with buzzers and keyboards and a chair that spins on a truss. The production simulated zero gravity using low-light effects and a puppeteer. After the show, Treadway, feeling good about the performance, came out for a bow in her spacesuit. As she walked off the stage, she tripped over a speaker. She broke her fall with her arms, then popped back up and made a “clumsy old me” face.

“Then I walked backstage and was, like, whoa,” she recalled. “I realized I couldn’t even take my costume off.” Stevens helped her change clothes, and they took an Uber to a clinic in Red Hook. The doctor informed Treadway that she had broken both elbows and her left wrist. (“The woman at physical therapy said it’s an injury that a lot of break dancers have,” she said.) She would need hard casts for a week, and then splints. They would have to cancel the entire three-week run. Stevens recalled, “The next morning, I’m drafting an e-mail to everybody telling them the news, and I’m looking through all these e-mails from people saying, ‘Break a leg!’ ” He laughed ruefully. “I never want to hear that phrase again.”…

(4) THE DOOR INTO MUMMER. FirstShowing.net introduces a “Fun Trailer for Aliens vs Swordsmen Epic Sci-Fi ‘Alienoid’ from Korea”.

“How long do we have to stay on Earth?” CJ Entertainment in Korea has revealed the first international trailer for an epic sci-fi movie called Alienoid. Actually it’s two movies! This “Part 1” will be out in July in Korea, though no US date is set yet. During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Taoists try to take a mysterious holy sword. Meanwhile in present day (in 2022), aliens appear on Earth. A time door soon connects the late Goryeo period and the present day. The two parties cross paths when a time-traveling portal opens, causing chaos and confusion…. 

(5) AIYEE! SYFY Wire promises these are “The Star Trek movies’ 12 most disturbing moments”. First on the list:

1. RANDOM TRANSPORTER ACCIDENT (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE

Here’s one way to get rid of a science officer. Sonak is a Vulcan prepped to take the place of Spock at the start of the first Star Trek movie. His tenure in the position is quite short. Thanks to a random transporter malfunction, he (and the person he transports over to the Enterprise with) dies a gruesome death. 

Transporter malfunctions happen all the time, but this is not “The Next Phase” or “Tuvix.” These two people are dead, and it looks (and sounds) horrific. What little of them is recovered does not last long. That’s what Admiral Kirk is told, anyway. 

People make light of McCoy not wanting to use the transporter a little later in the movie, but after this? Damn right he shouldn’t use it, especially since the accident was so random and is never really addressed. It’s not a transporter, it’s a character killer. What did Sonak ever do to deserve it? Highly illogical and highly disturbing. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1980 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-two years ago, a rather charming film premiered in syndication this evening as produced by Paramount. The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything was based on the novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald who of course did the Travis McGee series. I know it watched it and I know I liked even four decades on.

It was written by George Zateslo who hadn’t written anything prior to this save an episode of CHIPS. After writing this, he’d write the script for the sequel, The Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite

The two cast members to note here are Robert Hays as Kirby Winter and Pam Dawber as Bonny Lee Beaumont. That because the story is — SPOILER ALERT — rather a thin SF plot involving a young male who inherits a gold watch that inherits from his millionaire uncle a gold watch that has the power to stop time. A series of rather unlikely and comic adventures ensue. And yes there’s a girl involved. END OF SPOILER ALERT. 

An episode of the Twilight Zone, “A Kind of Stop Watch”, has essentially the same story as that of “The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything”. A lot of Twilight Zone fans would claim very loudly that McDonald ripped off Serling’s script. The episode, however, aired in October of 1963, the year after the publication of the novel on which the movie is based. Sigh. 

Neither film appears to streaming anywhere, nor does it appear to be available for purchase. Huh.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1893 — Dorothy Sayers. I absolutely love her mysteries. I think the Lord Peter Wimsey series are among the best mysteries ever done. And I thought that Ian Carmichael made a most excellent Lord Peter Wimsey in the Seventies Clouds of Witness series. Now to the matter at hand, ISFDB often surprises me and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957)
  • Born June 13, 1892 — Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (after all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1903 — Frederick Stephani. Screenwriter and film director who is best remembered for co-writing and directing the 13-chapter Flash Gordon serial in 1936. He directed Johnny Weissmuller‘s Tarzan’s New York Adventure (aka Tarzan Against the World). He was also an uncredited writer on 1932’s Dracula. (Died 1962.)
  • Born June 13, 1929 — Ralph McQuarrie. Conceptual designer and illustrator. He worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, the first Battlestar GalacticaStar Wars Holiday Special (well somebody had to, didn’t they?), CocoonRaiders of the Lost Ark, Nightbreed, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home andE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialAll of his work is quite stellar. Literally. Pun fully intended. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell, 79. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the second rebooted Fantasy Island. (Still haven’t seen either of the recent versions.) Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film that was and yes, I saw it in the theater. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Remember the truly awful Will Smith starred Wild Wild West film? Of course you do unfortunately. Here is the same premise with Jonah Hex involved instead as written by Joe R. Lansdale. Go watch it as it is a stellar script and of course everything is perfect. 
  • Born June 13, 1949 — Simon Callow, 73. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”, an Eleventh Doctor story. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the series. How is this series? He was also The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander. And he did have a role in Shakespeare in Love which I claim is genre. As of late, he’s been on Hawkeye as Armand Duquesne III in the pilot episode.
  • Born June 13, 1953 — Tim Allen, 69. Jason Nesmith in the much beloved Galaxy Quest. (Which of course won a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon 2000.) He actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in what would become a long-running film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 — Audrey Niffenegger, 59. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film or the series as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. (I’ve stated before that I don’t watch films or the series based on novels that I really like.)  Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performance at the Royal Opera House. Oh, and her Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories is, well, chillingly delicious.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? “Taika Waititi’s Star Wars Script Is Still Not Finished” he tells CBR.com.

Taika Waititi has revealed that he is still hard at work finishing the script for his upcoming Star Wars movie.

In an interview with Screen Rant, Waititi explained where he’s currently at in the writing process for his untitled film and how he approached tying his script into the wider Star Wars universe. “That’s yet to be seen. I don’t know. I’m still writing. I’m still coming up with the ideas and storylining it and just wanted to make sure that it feels like a Star Wars film,” he said. “Because, I could say, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll just write any old thing and set in space and then put Star Wars on the front.’ But it wouldn’t be a Star Wars film without certain elements and a certain treatment, so I’ve just got to make sure that it stays within that wheelhouse.”…

(10) UTTERLY MADE UP. GameRant walks us through the development of the alien tongue: “Star Trek: The Klingon Language, Explained”. Dr. Marc Okrand’s 1985 book The Klingon Dictionary sold over 300,000 copies.

The Klingons have been a steady part of Star Trek right from the beginning, starting out as the main antagonists in The Original Series and progressing to tentative friends in series to follow. Roddenberry took a leaf out of Tolkien’s book, and created the Klingon language to flesh out the culture. In doing so, he was able to add a depth of realism to his fictional race that’s not often seen even today (with a few exceptions). Instead of a bare-bones array of random sounds, the language has its own vocabulary and grammar, even its own regional dialects. The language was not always present in its fullest form, and developed slowly alongside the show. The first Klingons during the main TV series simply spoke in English, with the audience first hearing their guttural tones during the Star Trek: The Motion Picture film in 1979….

(11) SO MANY TITLES. What should File 770’s headline be for Science Alert’s story “A Hitchhiking Rock Has Traveled With The Perseverance Rover For More Than 120 Days”? Mike Kennedy couldn’t decide on one, so he sent them all.

  • Rock and Roll, OR
  • (The) Rolling Stone, OR
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned, OR
  • (Just) Along For The Ride, OR
  • Pet Rock, OR
  • Moss-free, OR
  • Stone Cold, OR
  • The Stones Must Roll, OR
  • probably dozens more

Roaming Mars is a lonely existence for NASA’s Perseverance, but the exploratory rover now has a traveling companion: a hitchhiking “pet rock” that got stuck in one of its wheels.

Luckily, the Martian stone won’t impact the rover’s science mission and is only a minor inconvenience  – like having a pebble stuck in your shoe. 

Perseverance’s front-left wheel accidentally picked up the pet rock on Feb. 4, or Sol 341 – the 341st Martian day of the Martian year, according to a statement by NASA.

The rock has periodically photobombed images taken by the rover’s front-left Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam).

Recent images show that the rock is still tumbling along with Perseverance 126 days (123 sols) after it first hitched a ride. (A sol, or Martian day, is just 37 minutes longer than an Earth day.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(15) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/1/22 They Say Everyone Has A Pixel Scroll Tile Inside Them

(1) LESSING’S LETTERS. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] In between her biographies of Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree and the in-progress one of Ursula Le Guin, Julie Phillips has written a study of motherhood and creativity, The Baby on the Fire Escape. Slate has published this excerpt on Doris Lessing. “Doris Lessing and motherhood: Why the novelist left her first two kids.”

… Yet is also occurs to her that the problem is structural, and possibly generational. Her English grandmother had had a nanny, and her grandchildren, she predicted, would have affordable day care. It was her contemporaries who were so disappointed: promised career success, stuck with babies. “I haven’t yet met a woman who isn’t bitterly rebellious,” she wrote, “wanting children, but resenting them because of the way we are cribbed cabined and confined.”

I found her in the letters not trying to get away from John and Jean, but arguing to spend more time with them, an uphill battle against her first husband. The problem was that under Rhodesian law, a woman who left her marriage lost all rights to her children. At the time of the letters, Wisdom was just starting to allow her to visit them again, after a full year in which he had kept them from her….

(2) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. A Facebook friend of Steve Vertlieb’s reports that Steve made it through his heart operation. Good news!

(3) NEBULA CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIPS: TIME IS RUNNING OUT. Only a few hours remain for people to apply for 2022 Nebula Scholarships – the deadline is May 1, 11:59 p.m. Pacific.

SFWA will once again be offering up to 200 scholarships for members of underserved communities to attend the conference! If you or someone you know may benefit from these scholarships, please apply or share the link. Scholarship applications must be completed on the form below by May 1, 11:59pm Pacific Time.  

Here are the categories of scholarships we’re offering and the number available for each. 

Scholarship for Black and/or Indigenous Creators: This scholarship is open to Black and/or Indigenous creators in the United States and abroad. (quantity: 80)

Scholarship for AAPI Creators: This scholarship is available to Asian creators, Asian American creators, and creators from the Pacific Islands. (quantity: 30)

Scholarships for Hispanic/Latinx Creators: This scholarship is available to creators with backgrounds in Spanish-speaking and/or Latin American cultures. (quantity: 40)  

Scholarship for Writers Based Outside of the U.S.: This scholarship is available to creators who live outside the United States. (quantity: 50)

Scholarship for Ukrainian Creators: This scholarship is for creators displaced or otherwise affected by the war in Ukraine. (quantity: case-by-case)

From the applicant pool, the scholarship recipients will be selected by lottery.

(4) SFRA ONLINE CONFERENCE. The Science Fiction Research Association is registering people for its online SFRA 2022 Conference. The theme is “Futures From The Margins.”

There is no cost to attend the conference, and you need not be an SFRA member to attend. Register here.

(5) IAFA ONLINE CONFERENCE. The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts will hold an online conference — “The Global Fantastic” – from October 7-9, 2022. The Call for Papers is at the link.

The Guest of Honor is Tananarive Due, the winner of the American Book Award for The Living Blood (2001). The Guest Scholar is Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay (University of Oslo), an internationally recognized scholar of global fantastic and the leader of the prestigious European Research Council grant “CoFutures: Pathways to Possible Presents.”

(6) IMPERIAL VISION. Jason Sanford contends Mikhail Yuriev’s The Third Empire: Russia As It Ought to Be is “The Science Fiction Novel that Inspired Putin’s War” in an unlocked Patreon post.

One aspect of the horrific Russian invasion of Ukraine that hasn’t received much attention is how a science fiction novel appears to have heavily influenced Vladimir Putin’s decision to start this war….

(7) NEW DHS APPOINTEE TARGETED. [Item by Karl-Johan Norén.] Nina Jankowicz, who recently was selected to head the new Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS Standing Up Disinformation Governance Board Led by Information Warfare Expert”) has become a target for online trolls. Her background as a wizard rocker in the band The Moaning Myrtles (2006-2009, with a short reunion in 2017) was dug up, and it has been used in a smear and doxxing campaign against her.

Short background: Wizard rock developed as the musical branch of Harry Potter fandom. A lot of the bands used and uses the schtick of presenting themselves and singing from the viewpoint of one of the characters in the Harry Potter stories. The Moaning Myrtles used the ghost of Moaning Myrtle and her toilet in a very creative way within that tradition.

The band was made up of Lauren Fairweather and Nina Jankowicz.

(8) FELINE FELICITY. Michael Steinberg notes “A Few Points of Philosophical Interest Learned by Watching Our Cats: Part I” at The Philosophical Salon.

…What goes on “inside” Oliver’s mind? What is it like to be our cat? Those two moments in our everyday interactions seem to map out two opposing possibilities. When he nuzzles me and settles between my legs it is hard not to see Oliver as a being imbued with a rich emotional life and the awareness that comes with those feelings. William James saw emotions as intuitions of bodily states, and as Mark Solms points out, they would be useless unless they were experienced. But when Oliver springs into action he seems to be identical with his acts, living in a pure responsiveness without reflexive awareness.

These happen to be the only two possibilities that Descartes could imagine. He argued that humans were ensouled, self-aware beings capable of both thought and the passions, but “beasts” were merely animate bodies. …

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo: A Fan Letter (1947)

Seventy-five years ago this year, one of my favorite Robert Heinlein novels came out. Rocket Ship Galileo, the first of the Heinlein juveniles, a long and successful series that was published by Scribner’s. Heinlein originally envisioned the novel as the first of a series of books called “Young Rocket Engineers”. 

Now it almost didn’t exist as a novel. Publishers, all save one, rejected the idea, judging that going to the moon was “too far out” in the late Forties, as Heinlein tells the tale in the paperback edition of Expanded Universe. Fortunately Scribner’s decided differently and we got to read the story.

I loved this novel, as I did all of the juveniles he did, for both the characters and the settings appealed to the young me. Without doubt the novels I remember the fondest all these decades on are first Rolling Stones, which I still find absolutely fascinating, followed by Space CadetHave Space Suit—Will Travel and Starman Jones

I still think that these juveniles are his finest writing. Indeed I can even make a rather great argument that Rolling Stones is his best novel.  I know it didn’t win a Hugo (although it was eligible for the first ones, having been published after August 1952) but damn it, it was the funnest to read of all his novels by far and that as to count for a lot, doesn’t it? 

It is available as a Meredith moment from the usual suspects. Spider Robinson narrates the audio version. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 1, 1905 Edna Mayne Hull. Wife of A.E. van Vogt who began writing genre fiction after their marriage in 1939. Her initial sale, “The Flight That Failed”, appeared in the November 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction under chosen author credit of “E.M. Hull” though eventually she used her own name. She has but one novel of her own, Planets for Sale, and one with her husband, The Winged Man, and only a dozen stories, one with A.E. Van Vogt & James H. Schmitz. Alibris.com has copies of both of those books, no else does.  (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 1, 1923 Ralph Senensky, 99. Director of six Trek episodes including “Obsession” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?“ which are two of my favorite episodes. He also directed episodes of The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleThe Twilight Zone (“Printer’s Devil”), Night Gallery and Planet of the Apes.
  • Born May 1, 1924 Terry Southern. Screenwriter and author of greatest interest for adaptating Peter George’s original novel, Two Hours to Doom (as by Peter Bryant) into the screenplay of Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a movie directed (and in part written) by Stanley Kubrick. He was also involved in scripting Barbarella. Though uncredited, he did work on the script of Casino Royale as well. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 1, 1946 Joanna Lumley, 76. She was no Emma Peel, but she was definitely more than a bit appealing (pun fully intended) in the New Avengers as Purdey. All twenty-six episodes are out on DVD. Her next genre outing was In Sapphire & Steel which starred David McCallum as Steel and her as Sapphire. If you skip forward nearly near twenty years, you’ll  find her playing the The Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death, part of a Comic Relief special. Yes, she played the first version of a female Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born May 1, 1952 Andy Sawyer, 70. Member of fandom who managed the Science Fiction Foundation library in Liverpool for 25 years up to last year. For his work and commitment to the SF community, the Science Fiction Research Association awarded him their Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service. The paper he wrote that I want to get and read is “The Shadows out of Time: H. P. Lovecraftian Echoes in Babylon 5” as I’ve always thought The Shadows were Lovecraftian!  And his APA list is impressive: &Another Earth Matrix, Paperback Inferno and Acnestis
  • Born May 1, 1955 J. R. Pournelle, 67. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about an SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter, Jennifer. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called, errrr, Moties. It’s much better than The Gripping Hand. I have no idea where you can get it and my copy alas disappeared when that MacBook died a fatal death several years back. I don’t see listed anywhere at the usual suspects. 
  • Born May 1, 1956 Phil Foglio, 66. Writer, artist, and publisher. Foglio co-won with his wife Kaja the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story at Anticipation for the absolutely stunning Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, and the next two in the category at Aussiecon 4 and Renovation. Having won these three years running, they removed themselves from further competition.  If you haven’t read them, you’re in for treat as they’re quite amazing.
  • Born May 1, 1957 Steve Meretzky, 65. He co-designed the early Eighties version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game with the full participation of Douglas Adams. ESF also says that he also did a space opera themed game, Planetfall and its sequel A Mind Forever Voyaging in the Eighties. He did the definitely more erotic Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well. Well, erotic by the standards of the Eighties. 

(11) HE LIKES THEM. Dennis Hartley decided against making big claims for this list – they are just “favorites” – “Any world (that I’m welcome to): 10 Sci-fi favorites” at Digby’s Hullaballoo.

I thought I’d paw through the “sci-fi” section of my collection and share ten of my favorites. Keep in mind that these are personal favorites; I was careful not to title the post “Top 10 Sci-fi Movies of All Time” (there is no more surefire way to spark a virtual bare-knuckled fracas). Anyway, here are 10 off-world adventures awaiting you now…

On the list is –

The Day the Earth Caught Fire– This cerebral mix of conspiracy a-go-go and sci-fi (from 1961) was written and directed by Val Guest. Simultaneous nuclear testing by the U.S. and Soviets triggers an alarmingly rapid shift in the Earth’s climate. As London’s weather turns more tropical by the hour, a Daily Express reporter (Peter Stenning) begins to suspect that the British government is not being 100% forthcoming on the possible fate of the world. Along the way, Stenning has some steamy scenes with his love interest (sexy Janet Munro). The film is more noteworthy for its smart, snappy patter than its run-of-the-mill special effects, but delivers a compelling narrative. Co-starring veteran scene-stealer Leo McKern.

(12) BRING FORTH THE HOLY HAND GRENADE OF JERUSALEM. Business Insider reports an interesting discovery: “Jerusalem: Archeologists Find Evidence of Crusader Hand Grenades”.

…Sherd 737, according to the archeologists, contained traces of a unique explosive mix composed of plant oils, animal fats, nitrates, and sulfur. It suggests that Crusader knights had invented their own blend of explosive chemicals.

“It shows that the explosive weapons described by the Crusaders were a local invention,” said Carney Matheson, a molecular archaeologist at Griffith University, in an email to Insider.

“This shows for the first time a whole different mixture for the ingredients of an ancient explosive which is consistent with the historical Arab texts,” Matheson continued….

(13) MARTIAN HOPPER. Yahoo! made me click: “NASA’s Mars helicopter discovers ‘alien’ wreckage on the Red Planet”. Image at the link.

…In this case, though, humans are the aliens. The wreckage was found to be from another Martian spacecraft; it is a part that detached during the landing of the Perseverance rover back in February 2021.

The photos of the wreckage, while fascinating on their own merit, will actually help scientists plan more landings on the surface of Mars in the future.

According to NASA, Martian landings are “fast-paced and stressful”. A vehicle entering Mars’ atmosphere can spiral into the planet at nearly 12,500 mph and wrestle with high temperatures and intense gravitational forces. Being able to study the wreckage that remains might allow scientists to make changes that allow for smoother landings in the future….

(14) THEY MADE A FEW MISTAKES. Indy100 tells how “Doctor Strange viewers spot four mistakes in just 13 seconds of new movie” – just like Filers do with the Scroll! Here’s the first example.

The next Marvel extravaganza, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness isn’t even in cinemas yet but fans have already spotted a litany of mistakes in a short teaser scene released online this week.

A clip from the mind-bending new superhero film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen, was exclusively released by IMBD earlier this week and shows the Sorcerer Supreme battling the creature known as Gargantos on a New York City street.

The clip is just over a minute long and although it is fun, in the typical Marvel way, eagle-eyed viewers have spotted a huge error in the director, Sam Raimi’s film.

If you concentrate on Cumberbatch, you notice a man carrying a briefcase running past him in terror, trying to get away from Gargantos. However, that man doesn’t just run past Cumberbatch once but runs past him four times.

(15) LINE UP, SIGN UP, AND REENLIST TODAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I think this is a recruiting video for ILM that shows all the opportunities people have at the company to use their creativity.  It dropped earlier this week. “Inside ILM: To be a Generalist”.

At Industrial Light & Magic, Generalists possess a high degree of proficiency across multiple disciplines including modeling, lighting, texturing, shading/look development, FX, matte painting, animation, shot composition, and rendering. Take a deep dive into what makes the team unique, then head to jobs.jobvite.com/lucascompanies/jobs/ilm to apply today.

(16) TEASER FOR MAY THE FOURTH. “Apple Teases Star Wars-Themed ‘Behind the Mac’ Film Featuring Skywalker Sound”MacRumors has the story.

Apple today released a brief teaser trailer for an upcoming “Behind the Mac” film featuring Skywalker Sound, the sound effects division of Lucasfilm known for the Star Wars franchise and many other high-profile movies.

The full film will be released on Apple’s YouTube channel on May 4, Star Wars Day, and will examine how artists at Skywalker Sound use Macs and other tools to generate the sounds featured in the iconic films.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/19/22 I Am NOT Pixel Number Six

(1) COLUMBIA COLLEGE REACTS TO ALLEGATIONS AGAINST WELLER. Columbia College Chicago has announced that faculty member and Bradbury biographer Sam Weller, accused by a former colleague of sexual assault, will ‘step away’ from teaching during Columbia investigation.

A Columbia faculty member publicly accused of sexual assault by a former colleague at the college has agreed to “step away” from the classroom while the college investigates the claims. 

In an article published on Medium Feb. 12, Cara Dehnert, a former associate professor of instruction in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department, accused Sam Weller, associate professor in the English and Creative Writing Department, of sexually assaulting her in his office on March 25, 2018. 

…Dehnert said she received no communication from Human Resources after her meeting with them in 2020, and as of Feb. 18 has not heard from the college following the publication of her article.

In a Feb. 15 statement, Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations, said the college was investigating the allegations against Weller. 

“Columbia College Chicago is aware of recent new allegations of potential criminal behavior and misconduct, which the College is investigating,” the statement said. “All reports of crimes and misconduct are taken seriously, investigated by the College and forwarded to local law enforcement if necessary.”  

Over the course of the past week, Dehnert’s post was shared on various social media platforms, via email and in the Columbia Engage app. As word of the accusation spread, calls for accountability and for Weller’s removal from the classroom grew. A petition titled “Hold Sam Weller accountable” was posted Wednesday on Change.org, and as of Friday evening had garnered more than 2,600 signatures. 

In a Feb. 16 interview, Madhurima Chakraborty, president of the Faculty Senate and associate chair of the English and Creative Writing Department, said she wanted more transparency from the college. 

“I want there to be clarity around accountability,” Chakraborty said. “I want there to be a clear understanding of what it is that we should be able to expect from our workplaces and the place where we study.” 

A statement from Lukidis to the Chronicle on Feb. 18 said Weller and the college “have agreed he will step away from his classes pending the outcome of the investigation.”  

Students enrolled in Weller’s classes received an email Friday afternoon from Pegeen Reichert Powell, chair of the English and Creative Writing Department, informing them that Weller’s classes would be taught by a substitute “for the time being.”…  

A local Chicago TV news devoted two minutes to the story, strangely failing to identify the accused person but interviewing the accuser on camera: “Columbia College Professor to ‘Step Away’ From Teaching Amid Sexual Assault Probe” at NBC Chicago.

Cara Dehnert Huffman has learned she’s not the only one, as she told Facebook readers yesterday.

… Since then, I’ve been contacted by five other women and counting who shared similar experience. Except all of them were students at the time.

I don’t know why Columbia College Chicago didn’t act when Sam’s behavior was reported by someone else in 2017. I don’t know why (it appears) that CCC did not act when I reported in 2020.

I’ve said all along that my only goal is to help people moving forward. But as I read and listen to heart wrenching tale after tale, all of which are too similar to mine and all of which done by the hands of Sam, I’ve reconsidered my position.

The pattern is clear. Sam’s abuse and manipulation go back as early as 2008. 2008!!!! …

(2) SOMETHING PROS WONDER ABOUT. Lincoln Michel asks, “Do blurbs work?” and answers: Maybe, but yes if Stephen King blurbs your first novel: “Do Blurbs Actually Work?”

… Yes, sometimes. I myself have bought books thanks to blurbs now and then. Recently, I was browsing a translated literature table and saw The Houseguest by Amparo Dávila. I’d never heard of the author, but the book had blurbs from Carmen Maria Machado and Julio Cortázar so I thought, hell, let’s give this author a try! I’m glad I did.

Whenever blurb discourse heats up, plenty of readers say blurbs are a factor. So yes, they can sell books.

At the same time, yes, it is perhaps true that blurbs are rarely the deciding factor….

(3) GET READY. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki pointed Facebook readers to the cover and table of contents release for Bridging Worlds: Global Conversations on Creating Pan-African Speculative Literature In A Pandemic at Jembefola, which will be released as a free download there on February 21.

…It will feature 18 non-fiction pieces by 19 creatives You can check out the TOC  here.

Our amazing cover was done by Dare Segun Falowo. The book itself will be free to download in all formats, following and due to the events inspired by Amazon KDP’s bad behaviour….

… 2020 was a landmark year in the lives of speculative fiction writers trying to both survive and create in the pandemic-lockdown breakout year. It was especially difficult for Black people, and Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.

The Bridging Worlds anthology examines those difficulties and how Black people and African writers navigated them. Even though we had myriad experiences in the different worlds we inhabit, we were nonetheless plagued by well, the same plague, no pun intended.

Bridging Worlds seeks to explore the threads and lines that connect us as we navigated this singular yet multifaceted experience, and show that connection in the various non-fiction pieces written in the diverse styles and forms the authors chose….

(4) WRAPPED. George R.R. Martin gave Not a Blog readers a progress report on House of the Dragon.

Exciting news out of London — I am informed that shooting has WRAPPED for the first season of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON.

Yes, all ten episodes.   I have seen rough cuts of a few of them, and I’m loving them.  Of course, a lot more work needs to be done.   Special effects, color timing, score, all the post production work.

But the writing, the directing, the acting all look terrific.   I hope you will like them as much as I do…. 

HBO/HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys was asked by Variety when the show will air.

…While Bloys could not tell Variety when “House of the Dragon” might premiere, he did confirm that it’s likely the show sticks around for more than just one season.

“If you’re betting on whether we’re going to do a second season, I think it’s probably a pretty good bet,” Bloys said. “Generally speaking, we usually let something air and see how it does, but obviously, we’ll make preparations ahead of time to make sure we’re ahead of the game.”…

(5) SFF MAGAZINE TRENDS AND INSIGHTS. Jason Sanford has published the “Genre Grapevine SF/F Magazines Survey Results” in a free Patreon post. He notes, “It turns out the results before the pandemic match up pretty close to the results in 2022. I also included a ton of the comments people shared as they completed the survey. Some fascinating stuff in those comments.”

At the end of 2019 I released the special report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines, which examined the history of genre magazines along with the issues facing today’s magazines and podcasts. The report also included interviews with the editors, publishers, and staff of a number of leading SF/F magazines and podcasts.

I intended to follow that report with an examination of the attitudes of people in the science fiction and fantasy community towards their genre’s magazines and podcasts. I completed a survey on this topic in December 2019 and intended to combine the survey results with more interviews and research.

If all went well, the report would have been released in February 2020.

Of course, all did not go well. The global COVID pandemic shut the world down and swept my own personal life. I didn’t have the time to complete the report.

A few weeks ago I looked over the 2019 survey results and realized they presented an opportunity to see if the pandemic had changed attitudes among people in the SF/F community toward genre magazines and podcasts. I re-ran the same survey and compared the results….

(6) MYSTERIES REVEALED. Editor Laura Stadler tweeted a thread inviting readers to better understand what editors do. However, it’s in German, and if Twitter’s translations are not up to your standards, by all means, don’t click! Personally, I found it helpful. Thread starts here. The translation of the first tweet says —

Twitter, let’s talk about what editors do? And why am I, as an editor, not an absolute enemy of authors and why do you really not have to be afraid of me and my work on your texts?

(7) RETURN TO WONDERLAND. Literary Hub’s Erin Morgenstern shares the experience of rereading Carroll’s story for Alice in “How Lewis Carroll Built a World Where Nothing Needs to Make Sense”.

… Every time I read the books, I am struck by something that hadn’t captured my attention the same way in previous readings. On this most recent re-reading, I noticed anew how often Alice interferes with pencils belonging to other characters, and I was particularly caught by the question of what does the flame of a candle look like after the candle is blown out? There are treasures to be found in these pages, glimmering, whether it is your first time reading, or fifth, or fiftieth.

No matter how familiar these stories may be, that white rabbit might lead you somewhere unexpected, if only you will follow….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1960 [Item by Cat Eldridge]

The time is the day after tomorrow. The place: a far corner of the universe. A cast of characters: three men lost amongst the stars. Three men sharing the common urgency of all men lost. They’re looking for home. And in a moment, they’ll find home; not a home that is a place to be seen, but a strange unexplainable experience to be felt. — opening narration

On this date sixty two years ago, The Twilight Zone’s “Elegy” aired for this first time. It was the twentieth episode of the first season and was written by Charles Beaumont who you might recognize as the screenwriter of 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. Beaumont would die at just thirty-eight of unknown causes that were assumed to be neurological in nature. 

The cast for this SF Twilight Zone episode was Cecil Kellaway as Jeremy Wickwire, Jeff Morrow as Kurt Meyers, Kevin Hagen as Captain James Webber and Don Dubbins as Peter Kirby. 

This episode was based on his short story “Elegy” published in Imagination, February 1953. It was included in Mass for Mixed Voices: The Selected Short Fiction of Charles Beaumont.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 19, 1912 Walter Gillings. UK fan of some note. He edited Scientifiction, a short lived but historic fanzine. Shortly thereafter he edited Tales of Wonder, regarded as the first UK SF zine. Clarke made his pro debut here. He’d edit a number of other genre zines later on, and ISFDB lists him as having two genre stories to his credit whereas Wiki claims he has three. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 19, 1915 Fred Freiberger. He’s best remembered as  the producer of the third and final season of Star Trek. He was also involved in the Wild Wild West, the second season of Space: 1999 which he’s wholly responsible for and the short-lived Beyond Westworld. He was brought unto Trek after Roddenberry resigned as Showrunner. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 19, 1937 Terry Carr. Well known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list Awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow.  He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to Awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds went to his widow. (Died 1987.) 
  • Born February 19, 1937 Lee Harding, 83. He was among the founding members of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club along with Bertram Chandler. He won Ditmar Awards for Dancing Gerontius and Fallen Spaceman. In the Oughts, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation would give him the Chandler Award in gratitude for his life’s work. It does not appear that any of his work is available from the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem, 58. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Arrest. His only major Award win was a World Fantasy Award for The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye collection. 
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 56. I met him once here in Portland. Author, book reviewer and has edited numerous anthologies. Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of WorshipThe Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains
  • Born February 19, 1968 Benicio del Toro, 54. Originally cast as Khan in that Trek film but unable to perform the role as he was committed to another film. (And yes, I think he would’ve made a better Khan.)  He’s been The Collector in the Marvel film franchise, Lawrence Talbot in the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and codebreaker DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Let’s not forget that he was in Big Top Pee-wee as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy followed by being in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Dr. Gonzo which damn well should count as genre even if it isn’t. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side sympathizes with a famous writer.
  • xkcd explains the tractor beam – in its own idiocyncratic way.

(11) QUEEN TO QUEEN SEVEN. Paul Weimer returns to A Green Man Review with an assessment of “Greta Kelly’s The Seventh Queen

When last we left Askia, things had gone so very wrong for her. Her efforts to protect her people, her lost kingdom had been completely dashed, and she has been captured. Now, at the heart of the power of her enemy, and nearly completely denuded of her powers, Askia has to find new ways and techniques to resist and oppose Radovan, and not incidentally, save her own life. For it is certain that, like his previous captives and victims, Radovan will, within a month, kill her, and take and distribute her power as he did his previous Empresses.

The Seventh Queen continues the story from Kelly’s debut novel The Frozen Queen.

(12) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to brunch with Natalie Luhrs in episode 165 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My guest for brunch at the Unconventional Diner — about which Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema wrote — when he placed the restaurant at #4 on his Fall dining guide last year — “No restaurant fed me more often, or better, throughout the pandemic than French chef David Deshaies’s whimsical tribute to American comfort food.” — was two-time Hugo Award finalist Natalie Luhrs.

She’s the former science fiction and fantasy reviewer for Romantic Times Book Reviews and was briefly an acquisitions editor for Masque Books, the digital imprint of Prime. Though she dabbles in writing speculative fiction and poetry, she is mostly known for her non-fiction — which earned her those nominations — and can be found at her personal blog, Pretty Terrible, the intersectional geek blog, The Bias, which she co-founded with previous guest of this podcast Annalee Flower Horne, and of course, on Twitter, as @eilatanReads.

We discussed why I had a more optimistic outlook on her chances of winning last year than she did, the emotions which inspired her most recently nominated work and the doxxing that resulted from her offering up that opinion, her love for Dune even as she recognizes the classic novel’s problematic parts, what she once said about the Lord Peter Wimsey continuations which caused a backlash, the ways romance and science fiction conventions differ, where she chooses to expend her spoons when controversies arise, the importance of making our shared fannish community a welcoming space for all, recent science fiction novels which blew her mind, and much more.

Natalie Luhrs

(13) A YEAR OF ROVING. NASA interviewed Mars 2020 team members on the occasion of Perseverance’s Landiversary.

It’s been one busy year for NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover! Join us in the Mars Yard at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the robotic explorer’s historic Mars landing. We’ll be chatting with members of the Mars 2020 team who helped make the moment happen, and they’ll tell us what’s next for the rover.

(14) NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE. BBC Culture’s Nicholas Barber is not ready to concede to Plan 9 From Outer Space: “Is this the worst film ever made?”

…Among cinephiles who enjoyed bad films as much as good ones, Plan 9 from Outer Space became known as the one movie you had to watch, and watch again, and tell your friends (or enemies) to watch, too. Xavier Mendik, co-editor of The Cult Film Reader, says that it “remains a key template for judging cult film status”. Its fans wrote unofficial sequels and mounted stage adaptations. Jerry and his buddies aim to watch it in an episode of Seinfeld from 1991. And in 1994, Tim Burton’s biopic of Ed Wood climaxes with the making of the film. “This is the one,” beams Wood (Johnny Depp) at its premiere. “This is the one they’ll remember me for”.

… And here’s the third key to its strange charm: it isn’t actually a failure in every respect. Don’t get me wrong. Plan 9 from Outer Space is a terrible film. A dreadful film. An atrocious film. But it does have some elements that are halfway decent, and it’s unlikely that it would have a cult following without them…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A family of excited Star Wars fans have turned up at a new exhibition on the construction of the Millennium Falcon months before it opens.

 A life-size prop of the spaceship was built in Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire, in 1979 for the Empire Strikes Back, which was filmed in Elstree.

And news of a permanent exhibition there, due to open in April, pushed some fans to make the jump to hyperspace prematurely.

Mark Williams, who works for the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust, said one family had “jumped the gun a little bit” amid a flurry of calls, emails and social media posts from fans.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/22 What Is The Use Of A Scroll, Thought Alice, Without Pixels Or Conversation?

DECEASED AT DC. Nerdist plans to be there when “DC Comics Kills the Justice League”. Will you be invited to the funeral?

Twenty-five years ago this year, Superman died at the hands of Doomsday. And the issue in which he died, Superman #75, became iconic. Now, Superman is dying again. And in another 75th issue. But this time, so are Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League. DC Comics has announced that issue #75 of the current Justice League book will be its last. And it will feature almost the entire team dying on a mission. Writer Joshua Williamson (Batman) and artist Rafa Sandoval (The Flash) have the somber duty of laying the world’s greatest heroes to rest.

According to the official description from DC Comics, a new Dark Army, featuring the DCU’s greatest villains, has formed on the edges of the Multiverse. And they pull together the best and most powerful heroes in an epic war to push the darkness back. In the end, the Dark Army kills the Justice League. And with only one survivor left to warn the remaining heroes of Earth about what is coming for them.

(2) VOICE. Morgan Hazelwood kicks off a series of posts about what she learned about writing at the Worldcon. “Finding The Authorial Voice: A DisCon III Panel”. When you’re looking to get published, people sure talk a lot about your ‘voice’. But what exactly is it? And how can you change yours?”  (Also a YouTube video.)

What is Authorial Voice?

It’s a hard thing to define, but the panelists did their best.

  • A thread that is in all your work, so people can identify you as the author, no matter the subject. It’s what makes you sound like you. (Jo Walton/Cass Morris)
  • What unites all your work (JT Greathouse)
  • What sells you to the reader – often why you read an author. New voices on old stories can carry the story (Walter Jon Williams)
  • A forcefulness of writer personality (Usman T. Malik)

(3) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 49 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Not Sufficiently Sassy”, John Coxon is demanding, Alison Scott joined a Discord, and Liz Batty knows a lot about the WSFS Constitution.

We criticize Amazon for the way they treated Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, listen to Hugo, Girl, and chat about the latest Worldcon gossip.

(4) GASBAG FROM HOLLYWOOD. “Tom Cruise movie producers sign Axiom deal for space production studio” says CNBC.

The producers of Tom Cruise’s future space movie on Thursday announced plans to attach a studio to the International Space Station in development by Houston-based company Axiom.

U.K.-based studio Space Entertainment Enterprise, co-founded by producers Elena and Dmitry Lesnevsky, contracted Axiom to build the module. Called SEE-1, the module would be “the world’s ?rst content and entertainment studios and multipurpose arena in space.”

SEE-1 is scheduled to launch in December 2024. It will attach to Axiom’s first module that the company plans to connect to its space station in September 2024….

… The SEE-1 module is an inflatable module, according to Axiom, which will have a diameter of nearly 20 feet. Using inflatable modules is an increasingly popular approach of private companies developing space stations to build large living areas, due to the advantage of launching in a smaller form factor and then expanding to a greater volume once in space.

(5) COZY BUT WEIRD. At CrimeReads, Amanda Flower recommends her favorite paranormal cozy mysteries: “5 Paranormal Cozies to Help You Escape Everyday Reality”.

… I start out my list with an older title, but a personal favorite, A Potion To Die For by Heather Blake. In this novel, Carly Bell Hartwell is the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magical potion shop specializing in love potions in Hitching Post, Alabama. Carly’s potions are popular in the town. Maybe a little too popular as a soothsayer recently predicted that one of the married couple in Hitching Post was headed for divorce. Now, it seems that every married couple in town wants a love potion from Carly to save their marriage. To make matters worse, Carly finds a dead man in her shop clutching one of her potion bottles in his hands. Now, she is a suspect for a murder that could send her to prison and ruin her business for good….

(6) G.M. FORD OBIT. Mystery novelist and raconteur G.M. Ford died on December 1, 2021, says Shelf Awareness. His agent, Lisa Erbach Vance of the Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency made the announcement. Ford was 76.

Ford’s first novel, Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca?, introduced the irreverent Seattle private eye Leo Waterman and was a finalist for the Anthony, Shamus and Lefty Awards. The Waterman series extended through 11 more books, the most recent of which, Heavy on the Dead, was published in 2019. His work also included the six-book Frank Corso mystery series and several stand-alone novels. His wife, author and photographer Skye Moody, said that “he will live on in his many books and in our broken hearts.”

(7) BOFILL OBIT. Architect Ricardo Bofill died January 14. The New York Times tells why his work might look familiar to sff fans: “Ricardo Bofill, Architect of Otherworldly Buildings, Dies at 82”

…Another, known as Les Espaces d’Abraxas, reinvented and repurposed classical elements in unsettling, otherworldly combinations; it features vast columns made not of stone but of reflective glass. That project was often described as a kind of “Versailles for the people.” But its jarring juxtapositions made it seem dystopian — and it served as the perfect backdrop for Terry Gilliam’s 1985 movie, “Brazil,” and the last of the “Hunger Games” movies.

… He founded his firm, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, in Barcelona in 1963. In 1975, the firm — and Mr. Bofill — moved to La Fábrica, a 32,000-square-foot former cement factory outside Barcelona, which he spent decades turning into a habitable ruin.

Five years earlier he had proposed a housing project for Madrid called the City in the Space, an endlessly expandable structure with turrets and crenelations and, in some renderings, a crazy quilt of colorful patterns….

… In an unexpected twist, Mr. Bofill’s older buildings found new fans in the 21st century. “Westworld,” the HBO sci-fi series, was shot in part at La Fábrica, and “Squid Game,” the Korean TV juggernaut, featured sets that closely resembled La Muralla Roja.

Those Bofill buildings and others became familiar Instagram backdrops — or in the words of Manuel Clavel Rojo, a Spanish architect and educator, “His buildings became pop icons at the very end of his career.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1959 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  Sixty-three years ago this evening, a new genre anthology series called Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond first aired on ABC where it would run for three years. (If you saw it in syndication, it was called just One Step Beyond.) It was created by Merwin Gerard who previously had done nothing at all of a genre nature. He was associate producer here with it actually being produced by Collier Young. 

Unlike other anthology programs of the time, this series was  presented in the form of docudramas. Mind you, the stories depicted hewed close to known urban legends or were remakes of let’s call them horror films on the light side. Ninety-six half-hour episodes would be filmed during its. When it was cancelled, it was replaced by The Next Step Beyond which ran for one season of twenty-five episodes, fourteen of which were remakes of the first series.

John Newland, the original series host, and Gerard were involved in an attempt in the late Seventies to revive it. It failed miserably lasting but twenty-five episodes. As Newland stated later, “The remakes were a bad idea, we thought we could fool the audience, and we soon learned we couldn’t.” 

They are legally available on YouTube now so you can see the first episode, “The Bride Possessed” here if you desire. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the realm of the usual suspects, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. Lots of them. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 88. The Fourth Doctor and still my favorite Doctor. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worst of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. And yes, he turns up briefly in the present era of Who rather delightfully. Before being the Doctor he had a turn as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he played Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad,The MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech-made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of ten percent among audience reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 64. Writer, and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas English Department, which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She’s well-stocked at the usual digital suspects. Oh, and she has a very cool website — https://kijjohnson.com/.
  • Born January 20, 1981 Izabella Miko, 41. She was in The Clash of Titans as Athena. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short-lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood
  • Born January 20, 1983 Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 39. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent Hugh Jackman-led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvel fans will recognize that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian-titled productions so I’m not sure whether any of them are SFF…

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows the effects of being bitten by a radioactive insect are unpredictable.
  • Whereas Baldo shows one reason why the future is unpredictable.
  • Randall Munroe thinks the process was more complex than we assume.

(11) THINKING AHEAD. Isaac Arthur’s latest video is about the SF trope of telepathy and what if science had a fix?

Telepathy and other psychic abilities have often been investigated by science, but could the future offer humanity such talents, and is science they key to unlocking or creating them?

(12) AVOIDING ACCIDENTS. “Guillermo del Toro Hasn’t Used a Real Gun on Set Since 2007: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Necessary Anymore’” – so he told a Directors Roundtable reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

…After an on-set accident involving a prop gun led to the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” last month, the use of guns on film sets has been a hotly debated topic in Hollywood. Several A-list actors and directors have pledged to stop working on films that use real guns. Guillermo del Toro would join them, but he has not fired a gun on one of his sets in over a decade.

Appearing alongside Jane Campion, Pedro Almodóvar, Kenneth Branagh, Asghar Farhadi, and Reinaldo Marcus Green as part of The Hollywood Reporter’s Director’s Roundtable, del Toro took a strong stance against the use of real guns in filmmaking. The Oscar-winning director said that he has not fired a real gun on set “since 2007 or 2008.” According to del Toro, the decision began as a practical necessity, but later became his preferred approach…

(13) SKIDMARKS IN SPACE. Someone has cleverly spliced together a history of “Star Trek Warp Jumps (1979-2021)”.

One of the hallmarks of Star Trek’s visual aesthetic is the classic jump to warp speed. Audiences were treated to the first version of the warp jump in 1979 with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In this video, we will be doing a survey of how the warp jump effect changed over the years. Note: The Kelvin timeline and other alternate continuities are not included in this overview.

(14) RICH SOIL. “Curiosity rover finds ‘tantalizing’ signs of ancient Mars life”MSN Kids has the story.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found some interesting organic compounds on the Red Planet that could be signs of ancient Mars life, but it will take a lot more work to test that hypothesis.

Some of the powdered rock samples that Curiosity has collected over the years contain organics rich in a type of carbon that here on Earth is associated with life, researchers report in a new study. 

But Mars is very different from our world, and many Martian processes remain mysterious. So it’s too early to know what generated the intriguing chemicals, study team members stressed….    

(15) THE FOURS BEWITCHOO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you get bored with regular Lego Star Wars, you can play in “mumble mode!”

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