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.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/21 Pixelo And Scrolliet, A Play In 3 Acts By Filiam Scollspeare

(1) NO CHANGE ON DISCON III / WECHAT STATUS. DisCon III announced on November 29 they had to remove WeChat as a payment option. “Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time.” Their tech team was trying to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. Today File 770 checked in with Tim Szczesuil, DisCon III’s Site Selection Administrator, and asked if they’d had success. He said no:

Our Tech person has been working with WeChat to resolve the situation, but our WeChat Pay account is still locked. The lockout is on their end, not ours. We haven’t given up hope that this will be resolved, but time is running out.

Many people in China are buying memberships and paying for the voting fee via credit card. Currently, there is nothing much we can do.

(2) AROUND THE BLOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik notes that “language development” software GPT-3 has become open source which has led Sudowrite to develop a tool that could help blocked writers complete their articles.  So Zeitchik interviews Gay Talese about his famous article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (which, remember, has an appearance by Harlan Ellison) and film critic Katie Walsh, and has Sudowrite come up with synthetic completions of their articles which he asks Talese and Walsh to grade.  He concludes that software can help writers but not yet replace them. “Sudowrite and GPT-3 imitate Gay Talese in this test of artificial intelligence”.

…I asked Walsh what she made of the fact that a computer program could, with her raw material, come up with something that sounded like a professional review.

She replied: “This is way better than I expected from it! It’s pretty good! I can see this now not as ‘taking my job’ (because the machine can’t watch the movie … yet), but as a tool for a writer/editor to evade writers block.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to take the AI paragraph and rework it, because it did successfully guess where I was going most times.”

Oddly, Gupta hasn’t optimized Sudowrite yet for nonfiction; it’s more for novelists. But he saw GPT-3 as very adaptive to journalism.

“Ultimately, it’s a tool that will move things up the chain,” he said. “As a writer, you may not need to crank out words anymore. You’re more of an editor, choosing the best versions.”

This seemed pretty scary to me, and I spent the rest of the day wondering if it was too late to enroll in trade school….

(3) TRIFFID TALK. A BBC Radio 3 panel discusses John Wyndham’s classic: “Free Thinking, The Day of the Triffids”. Listen at the link.

Killer plants, a blinding meteor shower, the spread of an unknown disease: John Wyndham’s 1951 story explores ideas about the hazards of bioengineering and what happens when society breaks down. Matthew Sweet is joined by writers Amy Binns and Tanvir Bush, broadcaster Peter White and New Generation Thinker Sarah Dillon to look at the novel which spawned film, TV and radio adaptations and discuss what resonance it has today.

Amy Binns has written a biography of John Wyndham – ‘Hidden Wyndham: Love, Life, Letters’. Tanvir Bush is a writer and photographer whose most recent novel is ‘Cull’. Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent and presents You and Yours on Radio 4.  Sarah Dillon is Professor of English at Cambridge University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. Her most recent book is ‘Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning’.

(4) BLINDNESS IN SFF. Meanwhile, you can still hear a Triffid-referencing episode of BBC Radio 4’s program Seriously… about “Sci-Fi Blindness”:

From Victorian novels to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, sci-fi regularly returns to the theme of blindness.

Peter White, who was heavily influenced as a child by one of the classics, sets out to explore the impact of these explorations of sight on blind and visually impaired people.

He believes a scene in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham imbued him with a strange confidence – and he considers the power of science fiction to present an alternative reality for blind readers precisely at a time when lockdown and social distancing has seen visually impaired people marginalised.

He talks to technology producer Dave Williams about Star Trek The Next Generation’s Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen talks about Birdbox and world-building from a blind point of view in James L Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London takes us back to 1910 to consider The Blue Peril – a novel which in some ways is more forward thinking in its depiction of blindness than Hollywood now.

And Doctor Who actor Ellie Wallwork gives us her take on why blindness is so fascinating to the creators of science fiction.

(5) HOT WINGS. The Penguin will celebrate 80 years as a Batman villain in an uncharacteristic way: “Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story” in the Guardian.

Batman’s least intimidating foe the Penguin, usually seen plotting the heist of Gotham City’s priciest jewels, has a somewhat less dastardly plan up his sleeve in his latest outing: he’s out to vaccinate the world.

The feathered supervillain’s latest storyline was dreamed up by the actor Danny DeVito, who played the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Working with artist Dan Mora, DeVito has written the story Bird Cat Love for an anthology celebrating Batman’s enemies, Gotham City Villains, published on Tuesday by DC Comics to celebrate the 80th anniversary year of the character’s creation.

Rather than depicting the Penguin up to his usual tricks, however, DeVito has him stealing all the world’s vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies who are hoarding them, according to an early report from comics site Bleeding Cool News – and then forcibly vaccinating everyone on the planet.

(6) A STAKE IN FUTURE WHO. “Sony officially acquires Doctor Who series 14 producer Bad Wolf” reports Radio Times.

Sony Pictures Television has officially bought Bad Wolf, the company set to produce Doctor Who series 14.

Sony purchased a majority stake in the indie production company, which is behind shows such as His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie, while the deal also includes the Wolf Studios Wales facility in Cardiff and a minority stake in Bad Wolf America.

Russell T Davies, who will return as showrunner for Doctor Who’s 60th year, will be enlisting the help of Bad Wolf to produce the next season, set to air on BBC One in 2023 with a brand new Doctor.

The company was founded by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter back in 2015 and while Sky, HBO and Access Entertainment did hold stakes in it, Sony has now taken them over….

(7) NOT OF THIS MIDDLE-EARTH. Yahoo! says “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show Will (Majorly) Break From Tolkien’s Canon”. Well, how could it not, when did showrunners ever follow the books? But if you’re interested in speculations about the exact departures from the books, read on. Here are two short excerpts:

What’s young Aragorn got to do with anything?

Turns out, nothing. Early reports about the series speculated that it would follow the adventures of young Aragorn, whose path prior to his introduction in The Fellowship of the Ring was long and winding. However, when Amazon tweeted, “Welcome to the Second Age,” which took place thousands of years before Aragorn’s birth, speculation was debunked….

Who’s attached to the series?

Three lead actors have been announced: Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones) will star as Beldor, an “experienced fighter”; Markella Kavengeh (Picnic at Hanging Rock) will play Tyra, an “empathetic” individual who’s likely an elf; and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones‘ Uncle Benjen) will star as Oren, the lead villain. It’s worth noting that none of these characters are Tolkien characters—all are new, original characters. Moryfdd Clark will follow in Cate Blanchett’s footsteps as Galadriel, suggesting that other familiar roles, like Elrond, may be recast….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago on CBC, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas first aired. It would premiere a year later in the States on HBO.  It was based off of the children’s book of the same name by Russell Hoban and his wife Lillian Hoban. Russell Hoban you’ll no doubt recognize as the author of Riddley Walker which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was directed and produced by Jim Henson off the script by Jerry Juhl who was known for his work on The Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and Sesame Street.

The Muppets voice cast was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Marilyn Sokol and Eren Ozker. Paul Williams, who I was surprised to learn wrote Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” among quite a few other songs, composed the music and several songs here. This would not be his last such Muppets work as he would be involved in The Muppet Movie several years later among other of his Muppets projects. 

Reception was very positive with the New York Times comparing it to The Wind in The Willows saying and “These really are the nicest folk on the river.” And AV Critic said that “it was “The kind of Christmas special you could wrap in tissue when the season’s over and store carefully in a box in the attic.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-four percent rating. 

Oh, and Bret McKenzie is writing the script and songs for a film adaptation of it which will be produced by The Jim Henson Company. You fans of The Hobbit films might recognize him. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).  I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And of course there’s “The Three Little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 70. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  at Chicon 7 for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1961 Nicholas Jainschigg, 60. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 48. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(10) SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT BANKS. Grimes, a female pop musician who had a two-year relationship and a son with Elon Musk, Tesla baron and Iain M. Banks fan, has released the song “Player of Games” off of her new album Book 1. Observers guess that she is punning off the Banks book of the same name. “What Does Grimes New Song Mean, Player Of Games & Elon Musk” at Kotaku.

Apparently, Musk really loves the game and is the greatest gamer, but not much of a lover or boyfriend, assuming the song is indeed about him. (Which it super, probably is.)

(11) READING RED. Mike Thorpe, a sedimentary geochemist contracted to NASA and a Towson University grad, is interviewed about the analysis of samples gathered by the Mars rovers: “Reading the Story in Red Soil” in Towson University Magazine.

Just because it will take years for the samples taken by Perseverance to return to Earth doesn’t mean Thorpe is idle.

“Right now, I’m busy collecting and curating reference materials from the Mars 2020 rover with the team here at NASA JSC as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ultimately helping build a history of sample collection through the course of the mission,” he says.

“All this work leading up to Mars sample return is to make sure we know that what’s in these samples is truly Martian. Perseverance was made here on Earth and we want to keep Earth, Earth and Mars, Mars. We need to analyze every step of the way, including every part of making the rover, to understand what sources of contamination there might be.”

Another of his responsibilities requires him to consider things that may not exist yet: what tools are going to be used to analyze the samples when they come back.

“Some of the instruments that we may be analyzing these samples with haven’t even been built yet,” he says. “We may have some newer technology with capabilities that we aren’t even familiar with yet. So it’s understanding what is state of the art now and also projecting what it is going to be in the future and how we can improve that to handle some of the most precious geological samples we’ll ever have in our lifetime.”

But to have materials to handle, they have to be extracted from the surface of Mars first….

(12) FEELINGS. The goal of this technology is to create the sensation of touch for VR users. “Meta haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets” at The Verge.

You cannot pet a dog in Meta’s new, high-tech virtual reality gloves. But researchers are getting closer.

Meta (formerly Facebook) is known for its high-profile moves into virtual and augmented reality. For seven years, though, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. While Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device — alongside other wearable tech — as the future of VR and AR interaction….

(13) KUDOS. A customer who bought LEGO’s Mos Eisley Cantina set, which has over 3,000 pieces and costs $350, was halfway through building it when he realized the box was missing a bag of pieces. Fast Company praises the company’s response email (which you can read at the link): “A Customer Discovered Their $350 Lego Set Was Missing Pieces”.

… I mean, if you’re not a Star Wars fan, the email doesn’t really seem like much, but that’s the point. The person who wrote the email clearly understood that anyone who buys this set isn’t just a loyal LEGO fan, they’re a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Whoever wrote the email clearly knows their audience and took the time to make it fun. With what is arguably very little effort, they turned a disappointing situation into something delightful….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you’re a rat, strange things happen to you in the alchemist’s lab!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, 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 Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 11/12/21 She Scrolls In Pixels Like The Flight, Of Rocketships In Starry Skies

(1) PLANE CRASH CLAIMS BLUE ORIGIN TRAVELER. Just last month he was part of the foursome with William Shatner who rode Blue Origin to the edge of space: “Blue Origin astronaut Glen de Vries dies in plane crash” reports CNN.

One of Blue Origin’s newest astronauts, 49-year-old Glen de Vries, survived a ride to space in October alongside actor William Shatner. But less than a month later, he was killed in a small plane crash on Thursday in New Jersey.

…De Vries never disclosed how much he paid for a seat on the New Shepherd spacecraft. But whatever the amount was, after returning to Earth, de Vries told CNN it was worth it.

“We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries,” a spokesperson for Blue Origin said. “He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired.”

Also on last month’s flight was Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of satellite company Planet Labs, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations.

(2) LITERARY ARTS EMERGENCY FUND. Applicants can apply for funds administered by the American Academy of Poets, National Book Foundation, and Community of Literary Magazines and Presses until January 6, 2022: see the Literary Arts Emergency Fund Submission Manager.

ELIGIBILITY

  • Literary arts organizations and publishers* AND
  • Incorporated nonprofits with 501(c)3 status OR a fiscal agent AND
  • Based in the United States, U.S. territories, or Tribal lands

*Because recent financial losses experienced by nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers have been substantial and emergency relief is limited, libraries, museums, book arts organizations, humanities councils, centers for the book, residencies, playwriting organizations, author’s homes, and organizations devoted to championing the legacy of an individual writer are ineligible.

(3) COME EXPERIENCE NONVIRTUAL REALITY. “Iceland Skewers Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse With New Tourism Ad”Gizmodo sets the frame for this wonderful send-up:

Iceland released a new tourism ad on Thursday, poking fun at Facebook’s (sorry, Meta’s) recent promises for how we’re all going to live in the future. But Iceland’s version of Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want to sell you on visiting the sci-fi dystopia that we were all warned about for decades. No, Iceland just wants you to see its geysers and stuff.

… Iceland is desperate to get tourists back into the country, with tourism accounting for almost 9% of the nation’s GDP before the pandemic and employing roughly 30,000 people. But covid-19 obviously put the brakes on tourists visiting its scenic vistas—though Iceland is looking to lure those people back with clever ads.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to Take a break for baklava with Suzanne Palmer in episode 158 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Suzanne Palmer

…Ay last month’s Capclave in Rockville, Maryland. I was able to harvest two con conversations for you there, something I haven’t been able to do in far too long — the first, this episode’s lunch at Mykonos Grill with Suzanne Palmer.

Suzanne Palmer is a multi-award-winning science fiction writer. Her novelette “The Secret Life of Bots” won a Hugo Award in 2018, as well as the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award, plus her story “Waterlines” won the 2020 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. She’s published three novels with DAW Books about an interstellar repo man — her debut novel Finder in 2019, followed by Driving the Deep (2020) and The Scavenger Door (2021).

Her love of narrative science fiction extends beyond the written word, for when she was obtaining her Bachelors degree of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, her thesis exhibition consisted of an entire museum of artifacts from a fictional world, including clothing, coins, furniture, manuscripts — and an 8? tall horned creature covered with fur. I found that part of her background, unknown to me until I started preparing for my conversation, fascinating, since as longtime listeners know from my interview with the team at Submersive Productions in Episode 86, I love immersive theater.

We discussed her recurrent dreams of accidentally impaling someone with her Hugo Award trophy during the ceremony, the Ray Bradbury story she copied out of a library book by hand word for word as a child, the differences between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (and why some readers have difficulties with the latter), the way a friend’s urgings she do NaNoWriMo caused her to take her writing more seriously, the spark that gave birth to her interstellar repo man Fergus Ferguson, how the pandemic affected the writing of her latest novel, and much more.

(5) ON THE MOVE. A new quarterly magazine of speculative fiction by immigrant and diaspora writers has produced its third issue. Click here.

We are dedicated to diversity and elevating the voices of immigrant and diaspora authors.

We publish fiction, genre non-fiction, and art; our stories include fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and any genre in between or around it — as long as there’s a speculative element. We’re especially interested in writing and art that explores migration. Examples include themes of immigration, diaspora, and anti-colonialism, as well as more metaphorical interpretations of the term. 

Any act of migration, whether voluntary or forced, requires a recalibration of self-identity. We are defined, after all, by the environment that surrounds us: people, language, food, smell, sound. To change any one of them may be disorienting; to change them may leave us adrift. What better medium to explore this sensation than speculative fiction, where the author must create a new world for the reader to inhabit?  

(6) GAINING MOMENTUM. Fusion Fragment was relaunched in March 2020 as a semi-pro SF market. Issue #8 is already here, and issue #9 is coming soon.

The publisher tweeted about #9: “Also did I imagine that this is the biggest issue ever? And also that it has a new layout? And also that it has a new short fiction review column? I’m super excited and gonna start proofreading immediately to get this issue out to everyone soon!”

(7) BAYMAX! The trailer for a Disney Plus series in the Big Hero 6 universe dropped today.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1961 — Fifty years ago at Seacon with the Toastmaster being Harlan Ellison, Poul Anderson wins the first of what eventually will be seven Hugos, for “The Longest Voyage.” It was first published in Analog Science Fact -> Fiction in the November 1960 edition. The other nominated works that year were Pauline Ashwell’s “The Lost Kafoozalum”, Philip José Farmer’s “Open to Me, My Sister” and Theodore Sturgeon’’s “Need”. It’s in The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volume Two: The Queen of Air and Darkness that NESFA published.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 12, 1917 Dahlov Ipcar. Though primarily an artist and you really should go visit her website, she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978 which are The Warlock of Night, The Queen of Spells and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1922 Kim Hunter. She portrayed the chimpanzee Zira in the Planet of the Apes films For the first three outings. Her first genre roles was her first film role as Mary Gibson in the early Forties, The Seventh Victim. She’s June in A Matter of Life and Death, and Amanda Hollins in The Kindred. She has one-offs on Project U.F.O.Night GalleryMission Impossible and even appeared on The Evil Touch, an Australian horror anthology series. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film which only covers part of the novel.  Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time.   The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo which I’ve delightfully encountered, I’ve not read any of these.  (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 78. Probably best remembered as the ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film. He also was the voice of Rex in the Toy Story franchise. 
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 75. David Pringle included his Who Made Stevie Crye? novel in Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1946-1987, high praise indeed. Though it feels slightly dated now, I’m fond of his Urban Nucleus of Atlanta series. And Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas is simply amazing. He’s nominated for far too many Hugos to recount here. His major Award is a Nebula for his No Enemy but Time novel. 
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodenchik, 69. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The RocketeerHere Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskinStar Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted, alas), Tales from The CryptSlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 39. She starred as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in The Dark Knight trilogy. More impressive she was The White Queen In Alice Through the Looking Glass, and she was Agent 99 in the remake of Get Smart! No, not as good as the original but fun nonetheless.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal  “Norms”: The times they are a’changing? Yes? No?

(11) BOOZE WITH A VIEW. Untapped New York takes you to the “7 Best Bars in NYC Where a Drink Is Served with a Work of Art”. Only one or two are in the genre of fantastic art, still, it’s a very interesting article.

7. Marie’s Crisis

Located at 59 Grove Street, Marie’s Crisis is housed in an 1839 building. Its name is derived from Thomas Paine’s essay, The American Crisis, since Paine died on the site in 1809, and from Romany Marie, who was the proprietor of several tearooms in Greenwich Village at the turn of the century. Today, Marie’s Crisis is a piano bar where a showtune is never far away and was a former haunt of Eugene O’Neill and Edward VIII. The ambiance is aided by a WPA mural, whose origins are unknown. The mural  behind  the bar depicts the French and American revolutions and another mural entitled  La Convention depicts Robespeirre, Danton, and Paine.

(12) SECOND WORLDSHAPERS ANTHOLOGY. Edward Willett’s Shapers of World Volume II, a sequel to last year’s Shapers of Worlds, was released November 2, featuring new stories from Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Garth Nix, Candas Jane Dorsey, Jeremy Szal, Edward Willett, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Lisa Foiles, Susan Forest, Matthew Hughes, Heli Kennedy, Helen Dale, Adria Laycraft, Edward Savio, Lisa Kessler, Ira Nayman, James Alan Gardner, and Tim Pratt, plus reprints from Jeffrey A. Carver, David D. Levine, Carrie Vaughn, Nancy Kress, Barbara Hambly, and S.M. Stirling. Both books were Kickstarted, with each raising approximately $16,000 CDN in pledges. The book is available from Shadowpaw Press and other retailers.

All of the authors were guests during the second year of Willett’s Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers.

Willett is himself an award-winning author of more than sixty books of fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, including eleven novels for New York’s DAW Books. His twelfth novel for DAW, the humorous space opera The Tangled Stars, will be out in 2022.

(13) IT IS THE END MY FRIEND. The Guardian profiles a band that draws on sff as one of its inspirations: “Placebo: ‘It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of the human species’”.

… While writing the album, Molko returned to the sci-fi films he had loved as a child – psychedelic ruminations on technology and power from the 1970s, such as Fantastic Planet and Silent Running. “I’m very interested in creating, with each song, an alternative universe where the laws of physics don’t necessarily apply,” he says. “Each song really does exist in its little parallel universe. If we’re not tied down to the laws of physics that are generally accepted in the universe we see, then certainly emotion will follow. Certainly anything is possible in another reality. It allows me to speak freely about what bothers me. I try to exaggerate things to increase dramatic effect, to highlight how ridiculous our reality is.”…

(14) INGENUITY INDEED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s Summer on Mars where the Ingenuity helicopter is, and this is an issue. The atmosphere is significantly thinner in the Martian Summer’s relative warmth, which cuts down on the lift the rotors can generate. 

Not wanting to give in to the mere fact of trying to operate a helicopter remotely in conditions it was never designed to accommodate, NASA engineers used a little ingenuity of their own. 

By sharply upping the rotors‘ RPM, then remotely diagnosing a problem with the flight control motors, NASA took Ingenuity for a short test hop then a longer checkout flight. This sets the scene to resume using Ingenuity to scout locations for the Perseverance rover. Ars Technica reassures us that “NASA’s stalwart Mars helicopter is back and better than ever”.

…Cumulatively, Ingenuity has now flown more than 3 km across the surface of Mars—more than five times farther than NASA had hoped to demonstrate with this technology. It’s safe to say that flying on other worlds, with atmospheres, will be more than just a passing fad for future exploratory missions. Rather, it likely represents the future.

(15) INTELLIGENT LIFE – ON EARTH? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature reports on papers that show “Mysterious ‘alien beacon’ was false alarm” — “Radio signal seemed to originate from the star Proxima Centauri, and provided a helpful drill for future searches.”

A radio signal detected by an Australian telescope in 2019, which seemed to be coming from the star closest to the Sun, was not from aliens, researchers report today in two papers in Nature Astronomy [here and here];

“It is human-made radio interference from some technology, probably on the surface of the Earth,” says Sofia Sheikh, an astronomer at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and a co-author of both papers.

But the disturbance, detected by Breakthrough Listen — an ambitious and privately funded US$100-million effort in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) — looked intriguing enough at first that it sent astronomers on a nearly year-long quest to understand its origins. It was the first time that data from Breakthrough Listen triggered a detailed search, and the experience puts scientists in a better position to study future candidate detections.

“It’s really valuable for us to have these dry runs,” says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “We need these candidate signals so we can learn how we will deal with them — how to prove they are extraterrestrial or human-made.”

Mysterious blips

Since 2016, Breakthrough Listen has used telescopes around the world to listen for possible broadcasts from alien civilizations. The programme has picked up millions of radio blips of unknown origin, nearly all of which could be swiftly classified as coming from radio interference on Earth, from sources such as mobile-phone towers or aircraft radar.

The 2019 signal was different. It was detected by the 64-metre Parkes Murriyang radio telescope in southeastern Australia and came from the direction of Proxima Centauri — the nearest star to the Sun, just 1.3 parsecs (4.2 light years) away. Proxima Centauri is of intense interest to SETI researchers, not just because it is nearby. The star has at least two planets, one of which orbits at the right distance for liquid water to be present on its surface — a prerequisite for life as it exists on Earth…

…“The Universe gives us a haystack,” says Ravi Kopparapu, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It is our need to find the needle in it, and make sure that it is actually a needle that we found.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Ryan George’s “James Bond: Skyfall” on Screen Rant, Bond gets shot, falls off a high bridge, and his semi-conscious body plunges down a giant waterfall.  But why didn’t he die?  We don’t know, but there’s a cool opening song by Adele to cover up the handwaving!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5/21 If You Wish To Scroll, Turn To Page 18. If You Wish To Pixel, Turn To Page 45

(1) IMAGINARY WORLD INSIDE A GAME. [Item by Soon Lee.]  Ursula Vernon’s been playing Townscaper, an open-ended game/thingy where you build towns on water, and has taken to it so much that, well, would you just look at this gorgeous fan comic that’s come out of Ursula’s wonderful creativity? Thread starts here.

(2) LOCAL STAR. Transforming Edmonton’s series “The Writers’ Block” begins with “Chapter 1: Scientist and rising Edmonton author Premee Mohamed explores dichotomies”.

…Edmonton is a frequent backdrop in Mohamed’s science fiction, which often deals with calamities—whether caused by ancient monsters or climate disasters. 

 “I don’t think it’s realistic to write anything set in the future on Earth and NOT mention climate change,” says the Clareview resident.

Mohamed used to take classes in “BioSci”—she’s a scientist with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science. She currently works for the Alberta government, devising guidelines for the clean-up of industrial activities such as factories, oil and gas wells, gravel pits and fertilizer plants. 

Science was an early passion for Mohamed. While many four-year-olds are obsessed with cars or dolls, she was fascinated with microbes—tiny organisms that you can’t see without a microscope, let alone dress up or play with in a sandbox…. 

(3) DIAGRAM PRIZE SHORTLIST. The Guardian calls “Is Superman Circumcised? favourite to win Oddest book title of the year”.

An examination of the Jewish origins of the Man of Steel, Is Superman Circumcised?, is vying with an up-to-date look at camel milk and related camel goods, Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products, for the dubious honour of the oddest book title of the year….

These six books are in the running for the 43rd Diagram Prize, nominated by members of the book trade:

  • Curves for the Mathematically Curious
  • Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products
  • Hats: A Very Unnatural History
  • Is Superman Circumcised?
  • The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé
  • Miss, I Don’t Give a Shit: Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools

(4) ETERNALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 2 Financial Times behind a paywall, Danny Leigh interviews Kumail Nanjiani about his role in Eternals.

Nanjiani begins at a pitch of red-carpet enthusiasm.  ‘Honestly,’ he says, ‘it’s easy to talk about the movie because I’m so excited.  I genuinely, genuinely love it.’  He says he is a life-long fan of comic books and Marvel films  His character, Kimgo, is a Bollywood leading man who is also an immortal superhero.  An action figure is available.  At home in Los Angeles, Nanjiani says, he has shelves already filled with models of Batman, Hellboy, and more  His own tiny likeness now stands among them.. ‘They minimised my eyebrows to be sensitive to my feelings, but I’m like, ‘No!  Use more black paint!’…

…’What helped’ him make Eternals ‘was a lifetime watching superheroes.’  But other influences are in play, too.  We meet Kingo in the vivid middle of a Bollywood dance number.  Growing up in Karachi, Nanjiani saw as much Bollywood as Hollywood.  Getting the details and spirit right in Eternals mattered to him.  ‘American audiences might see a Bollywood movie as ironic.  But it’s hyper sincere. That’s the beauty of it.’

Then, in the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday interviews director Chloe Zhao about Eternals and the continuity Zhao sees between her Marvel project and Nomadland. “Chloe Zhao’s ‘Eternals’ is a Marvel movie made her own way”.

… Zhao’s fans will surely recognize some of her signatures in “Eternals,” including a hat-tip to South Dakota, where she filmed her first two films, as well as portions of “Nomadland.” (The state is played by England in “Eternals,” with the help of some subtle visual effects.) Zhao insisted on practical locations when at all possible, giving “Eternals” a more organic, natural feel than most Marvel movies. When she pitched Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige on her concept for the film, she referred to the poem “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake.

“?‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/and Eternity in an hour.’ .?.?. I think of that with ‘Nomadland’ quite a bit,” Zhao said. “And that’s Fern’s journey, in a way — going into nature and a community to be part of something bigger, and therefore heal from that process. With ‘Eternals’ it’s very much a bigger call to that — to humanity, in a way, understanding our place in the universe, our relationship with our planet, and therefore with ourselves. These are the bigger themes Jack Kirby had explored in his comics, and we were fortunate enough to [explore] in this film.”…

The New York Times gives the film a positive review: “‘Eternals’ Review: When Super Franchises Walk the Earth!”

Throughout “Eternals,” the latest — though certainly not the last! — from Marvel Studios, you can see the director Chloé Zhao fighting to cut this industrial-strength spectacle down to human size. Her efforts are mostly evident in the sincerity of the performances, and in the heartfelt moments that punctuate the movie, creating pinpricks of warming light. But it’s a titanic struggle. And as Zhao keeps lubricating the machinery with feeling and tears, her efforts seem to mirror the battle that her likable superheroes are waging against a force seeking to thoroughly control their destinies….

(5) STRANGER THINGS POP UPS. New York and Los Angeles will be the sites of two temporary pop-ups, the Stranger Things: The Official Store. They open tomorrow, for a limited time. It’s a 30-minute experience. Reservations available at the link.

…Embark on an interactive journey filled with photo moments and fun easter eggs, as you explore Hawkins and settings like Joyce’s House, Palace Arcade and Starcourt Mall. You will be able to interact with friends and foes from Hawkins. Get up close to the Russian Guards, hang out with Scoops Ahoy employees, and much more!

(6) LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy (Penny and Will Robinson from the original Lost in Space) have issued a revised version of their book about the show: “Lost (and Found) in Space 2: Blast Off into the Expanded Edition”.  

And Heritage Auctions Hollywood & Entertainment Signature® Auction now in progress includes some of the costumes. Amid all this activity, another cast member gave an interview to Fox: “’Lost in Space’ star Marta Kristen recalls moment she heard ‘60s series was ending: ‘No one really knew why’”.

Fox News: How did you cope when the show ended?
Kristen: Oh, I remember that moment vividly. I was at my house and I received a phone call. I learned it was canceled. I was speechless. No one really knew why. Later on, we found out that it was possibly Irwin’s battle with CBS at the time. He wasn’t giving the scripts that CBS demanded. And they wanted six of them, apparently, or something like that.

I think everyone has a different version of the story. But at that time, Irwin just had so many projects. And I guess he just thought it wasn’t worth the fight. So it was canceled. And it was unusual because we were doing very well in the ratings. We had a very large fan base even then. But it was an expensive show.

(7) CAMILE SAVIOLA OBIT. Actress Camille Saviola, who had over 40 film and TV roles and is remembered by fans for a short run on Deep Space Nine, died October 28 at the age of 71. The full New York Times obituary is here.

…She endeared herself to a different group of fans when she was cast in “Deep Space Nine” as Kai Opaka, a spiritual leader on the planet Bajor. Though she appeared in only four episodes, from 1993 to 1996, Ms. Saviola was well known to followers of the franchise, many of whom posted about her death on social media.

In a 1995 interview with a “Deep Space Nine” fan magazine that is quoted on the website Memory Alpha, Ms. Saviola talked about how she got the part.

“I went in — every character actress was there — and did a little reading, the real thing,” she said, referring not to a script reading but to a tarot card reading. “My grandmother read cards and tea leaves down in Greenwich Village — she never charged people money — and I have a little bit of that gift.”

(8) BOB BAKER 1939-2021. Bob Baker, who co-wrote several Third and Fourth Doctor Who serials with his writing partner Dave Martin, has died reports Gizmodo. Bob Baker was also known for being a co-writer of the Wallace and Gromit films The Wrong TrousersA Close Shave and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death. 

…But perhaps most famous of all is “The Invisible Enemy,” which introduced the robot dog K-9. Originally intended to be a one-off appearance, K-9 was instead entrusted to the Fourth Doctor at the end of the story and became a regular companion alongside Leela and Romana. After exiting the show four years later, Baker’s legacy in K-9 would continue with K-9 and Company, a planned spinoff with Sladen that didn’t make it past the original pilot, and of course, K-9’s brief return to Doctor Who’s post-2005 era with the episode “School Reunion.” The character also had regular appearances in Sladen’s children-focused BBC spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, until her passing in 2011…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 – Twenty-eight years ago, Robocop 3 premiered. It was the first in the franchise in which Peter Weller did not play the lead role but instead Robert Burke assumed that role. It was directed by Fred Dekker, the third director in the franchise.  The screenplay was written by him and Frank Miller from a story by the latter. Its primary cast was Robert Burke, Nancy Allen, Rip Torn, Jill Hennessy, Remy Ryan and Mako. So what did critics think of it? Well they didn’t like it. Roger Ebert said, “Why do they persist in making these retreads?” And the absence of Peter Weller in the title role really, really annoyed most of the critics. (I didn’t think the change in performers was that noticeable with that costume.) Box office wise it barely broke even doing forty-seven million dollars on a budget of twenty-two million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it currently giving a pathetic fifteen percent rating after Robocop 2 scored a thirty-six percent rating and the original had a most excellent eighty-four percent rating. Ouch. Needless to say there was not a Robocop 4.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 H. Warner Munn. Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 20s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 70s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939, and they published those novels as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 5, 1938 James Steranko, 83. Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Publisher, and Magician who is noted for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. His breakthough was the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales, and the subsequent series, in the 60s. His design sensibility would become widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he created conceptual art and character designs. He also produced several dozen covers and illustrations for genre novels and anthologies in the 60s and 70s. His two-volume history of the birth and early years of comic books established him as a historian of the field. He received and Inkpot Award and Dragon Con’s Julie Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 Butch Honeck, 81. Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award for Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. The inspiration for characters in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carole Nelson Douglas. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great characters, lovely premise. (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 5, 1960 Tilda Swinton, 61. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I think her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was just frelling strange…
  • Born November 5, 1968 Sam Rockwell, 53. First in our area of interest, he’s the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. And Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest which of course won a Hugo at Chicon 2000. And lastly he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve not seen it yet. Worth seeing? The radio series is so damn good.
  • Born November 5, 1971 Rana Dasgupta, 50. British Indian novelist and essayist. Tokyo Cancelled is definitely genre and is most excellent. He’s written a lot on Dehli including “Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi” which reads like science fiction.

(11) NEXT BIG THING. League of Comic Geeks previews a bestselling author’s work on The Thing #1.

Renowned storyteller Walter Mosley brings his signature style to a sweeping saga of Yancy Street’s favorite son that will range from the urban sprawl of the back alleys of Manhattan to the farthest reaches of the cosmos itself! A lonely evening and a chance encounter (or is it?) sends Ben Grimm embarking on a sojourn that will have him encountering—and battling—figures both old and new. Featuring guest appearances from figures drawn from throughout the Marvel Universe as well as precision artwork by Tom Reilly…

(12) THE CHILLS ARE ALIVE. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode “Once More, With Feeling,” a 2002 Hugo nominee, is remembered fondly by the participants in an LA Times roundtable, “’Buffy’s’ musical episode keeps slaying”.

Ashley Lee: I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since this episode first aired! I must confess that, in those 20 years, I had never seen it, or any other episode of “Buffy.” Watching it for the first time the other day — the series is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — I was floored. This episode f— slaps. I am low-key pissed that I wasn’t allowed to watch this show as a kid because this would have radicalized me. What was it like for a devout “Buffy” fan to see this back then?

Jevon Phillips: Fans knew that Whedon had wanted to do a musical episode for a while. We knew Anthony Stewart Head, who plays Giles, and James Marsters, who plays Spike, could sing. We had heard glowing reviews of Amber Benson’s voice, so Tara was set too. But what about the rest of the cast?

Dawn Burkes: It really was a capital-E Event for “Buffy” fans. And it came during a time when people were still reeling from the show changing networks and well-loved characters changing too. “Where Do We Go From Here,” indeed. (And now I’m singing the entire soundtrack, of which I own a hard copy.)

Tracy Brown: It’s not hyperbole to say that I’ve probably seen “Once More, With Feeling” more times than any single episode — a tally mostly racked up when DVD boxed sets were the only way to revisit your favorite TV. This was before “Glee” or “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” so the only real frame of reference for “musical episode” I had at the time was, like, “Xena: Warrior Princess.” (“Bitter Suite” remains a favorite.) And itwent on to be shown in theaters for fan-driven, interactive sing-along events, at least for a while….

(13) DICTIONARY DEFINITION. In case you didn’t already know the meaning of this word, Lise Andreasen explains it in a tweet:

(14) USE THE CARD, LUKE. CNET’s Bridget Carey previews the Disney World LARP/”indoor cruise” Galactic Starcruiser, opening in March 2022, and “only” costing $6,000 for a family of four. Disney, says Carey, “puts the hype in hyperspace.”

(15) GOLDEN ARCHES AND A GREEN ALIEN. This place has been around a long time – but it’s news to me. “The World’s Only UFO-Themed McDonald’s is In Roswell”NewMexi.co has the story.

…The space-themed McDonald’s in Roswell was built in the 90’s. The design makes it look like a shiny metal saucer during the day and glow like a red and yellow spaceship in the dark. Dominated by a massive indoor galactic Play Place and fascinating works of art, the Roswell McDonald’s is the only space-themed McDonald’s in the world….

(16) ANTICIPATION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A week or two ago File 770 provided news of a preprint of Martian research from the latest lander.

File 770 is clearly ahead of the game as only now, this week, has the research been formally published in Science where it made the front cover.

(17) BRICK BY BRICK. A new Lego commercial has lots of genre callbacks: “Rebuild the world! Anything is possible with LEGO® sets”.

LEGO® sets take kids to a creative world where no rules apply. A fire-fighting dragon; a car on a carousel; clothes on a cactus; giant bees chasing Star Wars™ Stormtroopers… Anything is possible in the vast and diverse LEGO universe. And, because kids can continuously build, rebuild, reconfigure and combine, the developmental play never stops!

(18) TIME PASSAGES. Another commercial’s extrapolation from today to the Christmases of the future is also a trip from cliché to absurdity. “Lidl GB I Big on a Christmas you can ALWAYS believe in”.

If you’re watching this in 2021, or 2041, then you’ll know that we’re always be BIG on a Christmas you can believe in, to help keep your favourite festive traditions going on and on (and on!)

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Lise Andreasen, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/14/21 Pixel 10-10 Whose Gracious Presence Illuminates The File Like The Edgescroll Of A Knife

(1) DOCTORAL THESES. A roundup of Radio Times’ Doctor Who coverage.

The show’s official social media accounts posted a snap of the pair on the TARDIS set, holding a clapperboard, with an accompanying message that confirmed they’d “finished filming”.

Whittaker’s departure from Doctor Who was first announced, along with that of current showrunner Chris Chibnall, back in July.

Though this new post confirms that Gill has also “finished filming” on the next set of episodes, the BBC is yet to officially confirm if she will be departing her role as companion Yaz Khan.

Both stars will return for the show’s 13th series, set to air from 31st October on BBC One. This will be followed by two specials which will air in 2022, then one final feature-length adventure for Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor which will also mark the BBC’s centenary.

Speaking to Digital Spy, he explained: “It all depends. The moment you say yes to Doctor Who, even before you’ve done an episode, you’re being asked whether you’d go back after you finish. I don’t know if this happens to James Bonds. I don’t know if Pierce Brosnan gets asked if he’d go back to James Bond.

“Because there’s that element of fantasy, anything is ultimately possible. You should never say never to anything. I think that way madness lies.”

Well, that didn’t take long – Tennant is voicing the Doctor in a game:

David Tennant returns to the world of Doctor Who today with a special voice appearance in Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality, a video game that sees Tennant’s Time Lord sharing a screen with Jodie Whittaker’s incumbent version of the famous TV hero. But this return did come with a bit of “weirdness” thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(2) FOLLOWING THE JUMP. Heavy.com revisits several efforts to revisit Star Trek’s Guardian of Forever in other iterations of the series: “How Spock Was Supposed to Meet Himself on ‘the Next Generation’”.

Fans cried during the airing of the “Star Trek” episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” This particular program would be proclaimed by many as the “greatest episode” in the franchise’s history. Written originally by science fiction scribe Harlan Ellison, “City” featured a story that taught the cruel lessons of time travel.

… Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) were able to travel into the past with the help of a living machine known as the Guardian of Forever….  

(3) HITTING THE THEMATIC TARGET. Author and editor Michael A. Ventrella from the Pocono Liars Club chats with authors and editors Keith DeCandido and Randee Dawn on the topic of “Writing for Themed Anthologies” with lots of stories, laughs, and advice for writers and editors both!

(4) OCTOTHORPE. Octothorpe 42 is up now. Listen here: “I‘m Up for Running Controlcon”.

John Coxon used to have a different face, Alison Scott is going to Smofcon, and Liz Batty is in disguise. We talk about Douglas Adams, the SF Encyclopedia, and upcoming Worldcon bids.

(5) THE BIG TIME. [Item by Christian Brunschen.] I watched the most recent episode of the BBC quiz show Only Connect on BBC 2 – a quiz show where contestants have to find connections between clues, hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell – and one of the combinations this time featured this combination.

[Note: iPlayer link only works in UK, but YouTube has the episode. This game segment comes after the 20-minute mark.]

(6) GUESS WHO’S A BIG JEAN-LUC FAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews and Roxanne Roberts say Jeff Bezos has been a Trekker since fourth grade, when he’s come home from school and watch classic Trek episodes.  Andrews and Roberts note that Bezos’s favorite captain is Jean-Luc Picard, and that he nearly named Amazon makeitso.com.  His current favorite sf writers are Alistair Reynolds, Ernest Cline, and Andy Weir and it’s not a coincidence that Amazon Studios saved The Expanse after the show was killed by Syfy. “Jeff Bezos and Star Trek: A love affair”.

…“For years, I have been begging Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, to let me be in a ‘Star Trek’ movie,” he said that year. “I am very persistent, and you can imagine the poor director who got the call: ‘You have to let Jeff Bezos be in your ‘Star Trek’ movie. ”

Bezos said he was willing to be unrecognizable but wanted a speaking part — and one that was central to the plot so it didn’t end up on the cutting-room floor.

Bezos appears in the first five minutes of the film as an alien Starfleet officer stationed at Yorktown Starbase in 2263 who scans Kalara as she pleads for help from Commodore Paris and Captain Kirk. “Speak normally,” Bezos tells her. The cameo role required such extensive makeup that he could only drink through a straw.

“He was awesome,” director Justin Lin told the Associated Press. “It was like a president was visiting, you know? He had a big entourage! But it didn’t matter because he was so into it. He had to wait around all day because it was one day we were shooting like three different scenes and, it was also credit to Jeff because … he just nailed it every time.”…

(7) YES BUCKS, YES BUCK ROGERS. I’m still catching up, and this seems a timely place to slip in Saturday Night Live’s “Billionaire Star Trek” sketch from a week ago.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1926 – Eighty-five years ago, A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, was first  published in the United Kingdom. It is a collection of short stories with illustrations by E. H. Shepard. It was the first of two such collections, the second being The House at Pooh Corner. (Yes, it’d later be a song written by Kenny Loggins and performed by their Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their 1970 Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy album but I digress.) The book was well-received at release, and was an extraordinary success, selling some one hundred fifty thousand copies before the end of the year. Winnie-the-Pooh has been adapted in other media, most notably by Disney beginning with Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree in the Sixties. Both books are free as part of the Audible Plus program. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 14, 1899 Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo”. He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger ManDepartment SThe Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral”. The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film though I’m obviously open to being told I’m wrong. (Died 1969.)
  • Born October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, an amazing one hundred eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau!  He even got to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes in New York. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 75. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared in that role with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born October 14, 1949 Crispin Burnham, 72. And then there are those who just disappear.  He was the founder, writer and publisher of Dark Messenger Reader / Eldritch Tales from 1975 to 1995 as the publisher Yith Press. He was also a prolific essayist from 1973 to 1995, his final essay being a reflection on the life and career of Robert Bloch. There’s nothing to show him active after 1998 when the final part of his “People of The Monolith” was publishedin Cthulhu Cultus #13. Then he vanishes without a trace. 
  • Born October 14, 1953 Richard Christian Matheson, 68. Son of the Richard Matheson that you’re thinking of. A very prolific horror writer mostly of short stories, he’s also no slouch at script writing as he’s written for Amazing StoriesMasters of HorrorThe Powers of Matthew StarSplatterTales from the CryptKnight Rider (the original series) and The Incredible Hulk. Wiki claims he wrote for Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber but IMDB shows no such series or show. The usual suspects  have a goodly number of story collections available for him.
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 68. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes, Shatner was in it. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”. 
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 58. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced quite well Livewire in the DCU animated shows.
  • Born October 14, 1968 Robert C. Cooper, 53. He was an executive producer of all the Stargate series. He also co-created both Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe with Brad Wright. Cooper has written and produced many episodes of Stargate series as well as directed a number of episodes. I’m really impressed!

(10) COMICS SECTION.

2021: Let’s not do anything about the climate yet. – That’s a crazy bad idea.

2050: That didn’t work, I wonder what went wrong. – It was a crazy bad idea. 

(11) IATSE STRIKE IMMINENT. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will go on strike Monday, October 18 unless studios and streaming companies meet their demands reports Business Insider: “Hollywood Union President Declares Strike Ultimatum for Monday”.

Earlier this month, IATSE members voted to authorize a strike, with over 98% of members voting in favor for a strike. The union and producers resumed bargaining negotiations on Wednesday, according to Deadline, marking eight days since the strike authorization. The unions have been locked in multiple negotiations since July, but parties have repeatedly failed to reach a consensus on a deal….

The Washington Post sums up the reasons for the stike:

…Members of the IATSE contend that television and film studios have raked in massive profits during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers turn to streaming options to fill more time at home. But those gains have not extended to workers, they say, who now put in significantly longer workweeks…

David Gerrold also discussed what the high (98%) vote portends and urged his readers to support  IATSE.

And John Scalzi voiced his support, too.

(12) UNION FORMS. Meanwhile, Dicebreaker reports board game industry employees are organizing: “Workers at Paizo have announced the United Paizo Workers union”.

Over 30 Paizo staff members from several departments have signed a letter announcing the formation of the United Paio Workers union, in coordination with the Communication Workers of America. This effort is the first of its kind in both the tabletop RPG and board game industry.

The letter states that Paizo workers have been organizing for some time but were spurred to act by September firing of customer service and community manager Sara Marie and what they call the sudden departure of customer service representative Diego Valdez and several others in the recent past. Many former and current employees, as well as freelancers and contract workers, took the opportunity to share stories of abuse, harassment, mistreatment and hostile management.

“These events, as well as internal conversations among Paizo workers, have uncovered a pattern of inconsistent hiring practices, pay inequity across the company, allegations of verbal abuse from executives and management, and allegations of harassment ignored or covered up by those at the top,” the letter said. “These findings have further galvanized the need for clearer policies and stronger employee protections to ensure that Paizo staff can feel secure in their employment.”

(13) DUNE MOTHER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, behind a paywall, Raphael Abraham interviewed Rebecca Ferguson about her role in Dune.

(Timothee) Chalamet may be the star but Ferguson’s character is in many ways the story’s catalyst; her role amped up by (director Denis) Villeneuve–she has defied her mysterious religious order to bear a son and possesses supernatural powers that she attempts to impart to him.  And, while other main players are killed off or become separated from the hero, it is Paul’s mother who remains by his side, battling on foot across the inhospitable desert planet of the title, evading enemies and giant sandworms.  For Ferguson and Chalamet, this meant shooting under the Abu Dhabi sun in bulky space costumery.

‘We had to adapt to mother nature,’ the actress says. ‘We could only film for an hour and a half at dusk and dawn, and during the day we had to stay inside and not burn ourselves.  It was a struggle running uphill in stillsuits but it was also so lovely doing it in the real environment–no bloody studio!’

(14) MASSIVE ART INSTALLATION HONORS ASTRONAUT. The Smithsonian explains how “A Monumental Portrait of NASA Astronaut Stephanie Wilson Crops Up in Atlanta”, as designed by artist Stan Herd.

…Fittingly, for his next creation, which will debut today at Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, the 71-year-old crop artist is looking up to the sky for inspiration. Stretching 4,800 square feet in size, the piece coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child initiative and is also part of World Space Week, an annual event that celebrates global accomplishments in science and technology. Since this year’s theme is Women in Space, Herd has created a portrait of Stephanie Wilson, a veteran NASA astronaut with three space flights under her belt (she’s also the second African American woman to go into space), and one of 18 astronauts who are a part of Artemis, NASA’s lunar exploration program that is scheduled to send the first woman to the moon in 2024…

(15) DESKTOP SPACE BASE. John King Tarpinian is right when he says the S.T. Dupont Space Odyssey Prestige Collectors Set is “over the top.” But it’s priced to move! Now marked down to $9,596.

(16) GILLIAN ANDERSON VOICE ROLE. Robin Robin comes to Netflix on November 24.

Robin Robin, a holiday special from Aardman Animation, makers of Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit. “Starring Gillian Anderson, Richard E Grant, Bronte Carmichael and Adeel Akhtar.” When her egg fortuitously rolls into a rubbish dump, Robin is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent. Robin sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse – but ends up discovering who she really is.

(17) MARTIAN MUD. The journal Science features a Red Planet discovery: “Perseverance rover reveals an ancient delta-lake system and flood deposits at Jezero crater, Mars”.

Perseverance rover reveals an ancient delta-lake system and flood deposits at Jezero crater, Mars

Observations from orbital spacecraft have shown that Jezero crater, Mars, contains a prominent fan-shaped body of sedimentary rock deposited at its western margin. The Perseverance rover landed in Jezero crater in February 2021. Researchers have analyzes images taken by the rover in the three months after landing. The fan has outcrop faces that were invisible from orbit, which record the hydrological evolution of Jezero crater. Researchers interpret the presence of inclined strata in these outcrops as evidence of deltas that advanced into a lake.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In this Saturday Night Live “Cut for Time” sketch, a dinner party (Owen Wilson, Kenan Thompson, Cecily Strong, Heidi Gardner, Alex Moffat, Ego Nwodim) disagrees on splitting a check. But wait! – There’s more, and it’s genre.

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