Pixel Scroll 6/3/22 Pixeled Like Your Soul, I’d Rather File Than Watch Disco’s Control

(1) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. Radio Times reports “Verity Lambert, Doctor Who’s original producer, honoured with blue plaque”.

Some major names in the history of British television gathered on Sunday 29th May to honour the pioneering producer Verity Lambert, as Doctor Who’s very first director Waris Hussein and former showrunner Steven Moffat jointly unveiled a blue plaque on the wall of Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

As the first ever female producer in the BBC drama department, Verity made a name for herself launching Doctor Who in 1963. Across a long and prestigious career, she produced dozens of successful and fondly remembered programmes, such as Take Three Girls, Budgie, The Naked Civil Servant, Rock Follies, Edward and Mrs Simson, The Flame Trees of Thika, Minder and Jonathan Creek. She died in 2007.

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Karen Heuler and Sam. J. Miller in person at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, June 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Masks Strongly Encouraged.

  • Karen Heuler

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 120 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to Weird Tales, as well as in a number of Best Of anthologies (and in one of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies!). Her latest novel, The Splendid City, has just been published by Angry Robot Books. It’s a tale about stolen water, an exiled witch and her gun-wielding cat, and a city run by a self-declared President who loves parades. She has a literary short-story collection about dementia coming out in August, and Fairwood Books will publish A Slice of the Dark, a SF/F mix, this coming November.

  • Sam J. Miller

Sam J. Miller’s books have been called “must reads” and “bests of the year” by USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among others. He is the Nebula-Award-winning author of Blackfish City, which has been translated into six languages and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He’s also the last in a long line of butchers. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

(3) PAUL WEIMER. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Paul Weimer: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Paul Weimer is a fan, a photographer, a podcaster, a review, a critic, a traveller and did I mention that he is a fan? A prolific reviewer and a frequent guest on numerous podcasts, Paul does not literally know everybody in science fiction but I like to imagine that he does. These days you are most likely to find paul at the Nerds of a Feather fanzine blog or on the Skiffy and Fanty podcast or among the webpages of Tor.com….

(4) HOW THE WEST WAS WON. Clarion West invites everyone to support the students coming to this year’s workshop by chipping in to pay for things on their Summer Workshop Wish List.

If you’d like to help the workshop’s students be more comfortable in our new facilities where they’ll be eating, sleeping, and living story for six weeks this summer, there are ways for you to help

The Summer Workshop needs items large and small for the students every year—from coffee to whiteboards and beyond. This year we especially need additional safety supplies to be as safe as we possibly can during the pandemic and to meet our COVID protocols. If you’d like to help out, you can purchase items from our Amazon Wish List.

Thank you so much for helping support our students and our workshop!

(5) DEVOLVER NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews the games of “tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital.” WASD was a game fair held recently in London.

Every year, a few Devolver titles inevitably make their way to year-end best-of lists.  ‘That success gives us the mandate to take risks and do some really interesting, off-the-wall games,’ says Graeme Struthers, head of publishing.  At WASD, this reputation attracted a constant stream of excited gamers to their booth of playable demos.  I sampled new releases Trek To Yomi, a moody samurai game in grainy monochrome inspired by classic Kurosawa films; Card Shark, a beautifully illustrated tale of cheating your way to the top of 18th-century French society using only a deck of cards; and Terra Nil, a ‘reverse city builder’ that asks you not to pave over the wilderness with motorways but instead restore the countryside to its former glory…

….Many of Devolver’s best releases take a received idea about games on their head and encourage players to look at the medium from a new perspective.  Often this means casting the player as a character they never thought they would inhabit. In Ape Out, you play an escaped gorilla whose every movement triggers a crash of cymbals or a snare-hit, creating a jazz score as you go.  The highlight of Devolver’s upcoming roster at WASD, Cult Of The Lamb, casts players as a sacrificial lamb which escapes from the altar and starts building its own cult in revenge.

(6) SIDE BY SIDE BY CYBERMEN. Radio Times tries to read the tealeaves of the Doctor Who multiverse: “Could Yasmin Finney’s new Rose be the key to Doctor Who’s own multiverse?”

Jodie Whittaker’s exit coming a year ahead of Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary means fans are expecting something massive in the next 12 months. Alongside the high-profile returns of David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble, Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney is paving the way for diversity. Details about these returns and debuts are sketchy, but Finney’s role as “New Rose” could have us opening the doors to the multiverse….

… When Whittaker’s Thirteen escaped a possible-future version of a nuclear-ravaged Earth in Orphan 55, she told us. “The future is not fixed, it depends on billions of decisions and actions, and people stepping up.” This was teased years earlier when the Doctor-lite Turn Left explained how drastically things can change with a simple decision. Ten’s iconic episode featured Donna being manipulated by a Time Beetle, and although ‘Donna’s World’ was erased from existence, it’s got us thinking about how many others there are. 

Doctor Who has long established that N-Space is the Prime Universe in canon, but over the past 60 years, we’ve learned about a lot more. Across various media, the Doctor has visited an alternate Earth populated by the vampire-like Haemovores, the many alternate realities that have been conquered by Cybermen, and even one with Tardis Tails – an anthropomorphic cat version of the Doctor….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this date in 1969, the first incarnation of Star Trek came to an end. Its “five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before” would last just three years and seventy-nine episodes before ending with the “Turnabout Intruder”. 

The ratings for the series were never great and NBC responded by cutting the production each season from one ninety thousand the first season to the one eighty-five thousand the second season to the one hundred seventy-five thousand the last season. Assuming that there were salary increases which there were obviously were, this left little for special effects, costumes or anything else by the third season. And yes, it showed. 

It might have been a ratings failure in its first run but it thrived in syndication and spawned a vast franchise currently of ten television series (eleven if you include Short Treks which is remarkably good) with the latest being Strange New Worlds which I like quite a lot, and thirteen films. Not to mention novels, comics, action figures, games and toys. And decades of cosplayers. 

I’ve rewatched a lot of the series recently courtesy of Paramount + which is the home of it and everything else Trek. Some of the episodes are quite excellent, some are not bad and some are really execrable. I think it holds up fairly well all things considered. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 3, 1901 Maurice Evans. Ahhh the amazing work of make-up. Under the make-up that was Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes was this actor. Though this was his most well-known genre role, it wasn’t his only ones — he was in a Thirties Scrooge as poor man, on Bewitched as Maurice, Samantha’s father, on Batman as The Puzzler in “The Puzzles are Coming” and “The Duo Is Slumming”, in Rosemary’s Baby as Hutch, and finally in Terror in the Wax Museum as Inspector Daniels. Oh, and he showed up on Columbo as Raymond in “The Forgotten Lady”. No, not genre — but I love that series! (Died 1989.)
  • Born June 3, 1946 Penelope Wilton, 76. She played the recurring role of Harriet Jones in Doctor Who wherethey actually developed a story for the character. She was also played Homily in The Borrowers, Barbara in Shaun of the Dead, The Queen in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Beatrix Potter in The Tale of Beatrix Potter, The White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass and Gertrude in in Hamlet at the Menier Chocolate Factory. 
  • Born June 3, 1947 John Dykstra, 75. He was one of the founders of Industrial Light & Magic. That means he’s responsible for the original visuals for lightsabers, the space battles between X-wings and TIE fighters, and much of the other Star Wars effects. Can’t list everything he later worked on, so I’ll single out his work on Battlestar Galactica, the sfx for Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, the visual effects on X-Men: First Class, and visual effects supervisor on Doolittle. I know the last is a shite of a film but the creatures aren’t. 
  • Born June 3, 1949 Michael McQuay. He wrote two novels in Asimov’s Robot City series, Suspicion and Isaac Asimov’s Robot City (with Michael P. Kube-McDowell) and Richter 10 with Arthur C. Clarke. The Mathew Swain sequence neatly blends SF and noir detective tropes – very good popcorn reading. His novelization of Escape from New York is superb. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 3, 1950 Melissa Mathison. Another one who died far too young of cancer. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 3, 1958 Suzie Plakson, 64. She played four characters on the Trek franchise: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man”(Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. By the way, her first genre role was in the My Stepmother Is an Alien film as Tenley. She also showed up in the Beauty and the Beast series as Susan in the “In the Forests of the Night” episode.
  • Born June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 58. His most recent genre performance was as Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive was as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. And let’s not forget that he’s Hap Collins in the Sundance series Hap and Leonard which is steaming on Amazon Prime. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows why it’s not easy for a monster to get a drink.
  • Breaking Cat News shows that the future is unequally distributed. 

(10) TANGLED WEB. BBC’s Tanya Beckett takes a closer look at how China’s increasing influence is affecting the movie-making process in Hollywood. “Why did China ban Spider-Man?” – listen in at BBC Sounds.

Ever since Hollywood entered the Chinese market in the early ’90s, the importance of Chinese audiences was apparent. Over recent years the Chinese market has grown in significance to the point of deciding whether a film is ultimately successful or not. Given the country’s importance to the overall profitability of Tinsel Town, it is of little surprise that their censors are able to increasingly demand changes to films that threaten the Chinese narrative. Despite this, the recent Sony/Marvel blockbuster Spider-Man did not appear to challenge Chinese values.

(11) PROJECTING. GameSpot calls these “The Very Best Sci-Fi Movies Of the 1980s”. Twenty films – but there are three I’ve never had a desire to see. Does it help balance things that I have watched this one so many times?

2. Ghostbusters (1984)

Much like another entry on this list, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters was almost a very different film with a very different cast. Luckily, though, the production ended up with the right team and script to truly capture a lightning ghost in a bottle. Ghostbusters tells the story of a trio of academics and inventors studying the paranormal, who go into the business of capturing and containing dangerous ghosts. It is, in essence, blue-collar sci-fi, with a heavy dose of comedy resulting from having three of the best comedy actors of the 1980s on the cast. Few movies are this rewatchable and this quotable.

(12) SPEAKING OUT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Kristen Schaal, who is proud of her extensive voice work in animation (most recently in The Bob’s Burgers Movie) but also in BoJack Horseman and Toy Story. “Kristen Schaal of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ is the queen of quirky voice acting”.

… The Emmy-nominated actress aims to elude being pigeonholed, yet she’s well-aware that some casting directors now refer to a “Kristen Schaal type,” saying on Marc Maron’s podcast several years ago that their elevator-quick description of her as performer might well be: “She’s manic and a little crazy, coming out of that sweet face and voice.”

Whatever the alchemy within her artistry, there’s no doubting that Schaal has carved out an animation niche within her larger résumé: She is the queen of voicing the askew….

(13) AUTHOR’S PAPERS. This processing of Lawrence Watt-Evans’s papers reportedly is very recent.  UMBC is the University of Maryland (Baltimore County). “Lawrence Watt-Evans papers”. They were donated in 2017.

Abstract: The collection contains materials that cover Lawrence Watt-Evans professional career from 1974 to 2018. Included are manuscripts of his books, short stories, editorials, and comics and graphic novels; personal papers; correspondence with publishers, fellow authors, and fans; and convention memorabilia including programs and fliers.

Citation: Lawrence Watt-Evans papers, Collection 260, Special Collections, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Baltimore, MD).

(14) PIZZA NIGHT ON THE ISS. Six of seven Expedition 67 crew members are pictured enjoying pizza during dinner time aboard the International Space Station. Clockwise from left are, Flight Engineer Denis Matveev, Commander Oleg Artemyev, and Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov, all from Roscosmos; NASA Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins; and ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti.

(15) WHERE TO GET BUTTERSCOTCH BEER. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Wand sold separately (and batteries not included!) “Flying Cauldron Butterscotch (non alcoholic) Beer – 12 Oz”.

The Art Of Magic Is Thirsty Work!

Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer (non-alcoholic) 

Last time around, you cleared our shelves of this irresistible soda within hours of our owls delivering the newsletter!

Flying Cauldron Butterscotch (non-alcoholic) Beer is another butterscotch flavored soda in our beverage lineup.  This is a fun, magical drink that is free of preservatives, free of caffeine, free of gluten & GMO’s.  Enjoy this drink in a frozen mug or drop in a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In The Mandrake, jointly made by 11 students at the Savannah College of Art and Design,  carrot farmer Mr. Rabbit is right to worry when a raccoon shows up with a strange plan.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Nancy Sauer, 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 Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/6/22 What About My Pixel? You’re Lucky You Still Have Your Brown Paper Zine, Small Type

(1) THEIR BUDGETS CANNA STAND THE STRAIN. Except Scotty isn’t the character in the middle of this social media tempest.“George Takei’s Plea for Americans to Endure Higher Gas Prices to Put ‘the Screws to Putin’ Sets Off a Twitter War” reports MSN.com.

“Star Trek” actor George Takei’s tweet asking Americans to endure paying a little more for food and gasoline as a result of sanctions President Biden imposed on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine caught fire on Twitter Saturday — and that fire is as hot-headed as you probably suspected.

“Americans: We can endure higher prices for food and gas if it means putting the screws to Putin,” Takei tweeted Friday. “Consider it a patriotic donation in the fight for freedom over tyranny.”

Twitter users flocked to Takei’s tweet to express their opinion of his suggestion, with many bashing his perceived wealth in a “HE can endure higher prices” but the average working-class American cannot kind of way. On the opposite side of the argument, Takei’s supporters pointed out that he and his family were sent to Japanese internment camps in Arkansas and California during WWII, so he knows the repercussion of people remaining silent when they should be speaking up…

(2) EXQUISITE TIMING FOR CROWDFUNDING. It’s a good week to launch a Kickstarter, don’t you think? Not that Edward Willett is any newcomer to the idea, with a track record of two previous successes. Willett opens his latest Kickstarter campaign at noon Eastern on March 8 to fund Shapers of Worlds Volume III, the third annual anthology featuring top writers of science fiction and fantasy who have been guests on his podcast, The Worldshapers (www.theworldshapers.com).

Shapers of Worlds Volume III will feature new fiction from Griffin Barber, Gerald Brandt, Miles Cameron, Sebastien de Castell, Kristi Charish, David Ebenbach, Mark Everglade, Frank J. Fleming, Violette Malan, Anna Mocikat, James Morrow, Jess E. Owen, Robert G. Penner, Cat Rambo, K.M. Rice, and Edward Willett; poetry from Jane Yolen; and additional stories by Cory Doctorow, K. Eason, Walter Jon Williams, and F. Paul Wilson.

Backers’ rewards offered by the authors include numerous e-books, signed paperback and hardcover books (including limited editions), Tuckerizations (a backer’s name used as a character name), commissioned artwork, original poetry (from Jane Yolen), audiobooks, opportunities for online chats with authors, short-story critiques, and more.

The Kickstarter campaign can be found here.  The campaign goal is $12,000 CDN.

Most of those funds will go to pay the authors, with the rest going to reward fulfillment, primarily the editing, layout, and printing of the book, which will be published in both ebook and trade paperback formats by Willett’s publishing company, Shadowpaw Press (www.shadowpawpress.com). The special Kickstarter edition for backers will be followed by a commercial release this fall. Stretch goals are simple: for every $5,000 over the goal the campaign raises, the authors will be paid one cent a word more.

(3) BREAKING UP ISS HARD TO DO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The head of Roscosmos is, as seems usual for him, talking loudly and carrying a big shtick. The Russian space agency has released a video showing cosmonauts waving goodbye to astronauts and splitting the Russian part of the International Space Station from the rest. They then “set sail” and depart from the ISS’s orbit with an impressive (and equally improbable) delta V for such a large mass. “Russia Releases Bizarre Video of Space Station Breaking Apart” at Futurism.

We’re not exactly sure what Russia’s space agency head Dmitry Rogozin is threatening the US with, but he certainly seems to be alluding to… something. A bizarre new video posted by state controlled media RIA Novosti showed the International Space Station breaking apart in an artist rendering after Russian cosmonauts bid adieu.

(4) SF IN TRANSLATION. Cora Buhlert’s newest Non-Fiction Spotlight is for Out of This World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium by Rachel S. Cordasco”, another 2021 non-fiction release that Cora believes deserves a lot more attention than it got.

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

This book isn’t necessarily the kind of thing you’d read in one sitting by the fire (though you definitely could!). Rather, it’s the kind of book that you’d read to learn about SF from different source languages. You might read the Finnish chapter if you’re interested in Sinisalo or Krohn. Then, if you’ve picked up a work of Japanese space opera at a bookstore, you could turn to the relevant section to learn about that  language’s wide variety of hard-science-fiction subgenres. You could even use the index to find themes that span the different SFTs and compose reading lists for your book club. Also, that cover is gorgeous (the people at UIP picked it), so it would be a lovely display for your coffee table….

(5) A GRAND MASTER’S UNIVERSE. The good folks of Goodman Games study the strengths of Andre Norton’s Witch World series in “A Look at Andre Norton’s Witch World”

… While many of the novels are good, it’s in the two short story collections, Spell of the Witch World (1972) and Lore of the Witch World (1980) that Norton really kills it. The stories range from straight sword-and-sorcery to horror to the aforementioned fairy tales. Her writing in these is tighter and often even darker than in the seven novels I’ve read. Several of them dig into a regular theme of the series; the place of women in a pre-industrial world. Where physical strength is the determinant of power, Norton makes it clear that women will often be at the mercy of men. It’s not easy and finding some sort of agency, whether with sword or spell, is an often brutal task. I cannot recommend these two collections enough….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty years ago, The Lawnmower Man premiered. It is not based off the story by Stephen King by that name and King sued successfully to get paid damages and his name removed from any association with the film. He won further damages when his name was included in the title of the home video release. Some production companies never learn their lesson, do they? 

The film is from an original screenplay called “CyberGod” written by Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett. The latter would later be involved in Virtuosity which like this film was lauded for its groundbreaking computer animation and visual effects. 

It had a rather decent cast in Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright and Geoffrey Lewis. None of which would be back for the sequel, Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace which is probably good as no one, and I mean no one, liked that sequel.

So how was the reception for it? Well it made thirty million against costs of ten million, so quite good there. (The sequel bombed at box office. Really bombed.) Now however most, though not all, critics hated it. The Spectator summed it up succinctly as “Gratuitously offensive” and the Washington Post reporter didn’t update his review later: “So loosely based on a Stephen King short story as to constitute fraud, The Lawnmower Man goes right to the bottom of a growing list of failed King adaptations.” 

Now it is worth noting that audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really, really didn’t like it as they gave it a quite poor thirty-one percent rating. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1918 Marjii Ellers. Longtime L.A. fan who was active in the LASFS.  Her offices in the LASFS included Registrar and Scribe. She was known for her costumes at cons. Indeed, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 from the International Costumers’ Guild. An avid fanzine publisher and writer, some of the fanzines she edited were Masqueraders’ GuideMore Lives Than One,  NexterdayOne Equal TemperThousands of Thursdays, and Judges’ Guide. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan. Author of the long running Logan’s Run series (only the first was written with George Clayton Johnson). He started out in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including one dedicated to Bradbury. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. He’s done far too much writing-wise for me to sum it him up. He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 85. Son of Joseph W. Ferman, the publisher and sometime editor who established F&SF in 1949. He took over as editor in 1964 and continued until 1991. For one year (1969), he edited and published a related magazine called Venture Science Fiction Magazine. Winner of a stellar eight Hugos mostly for Best Professional Magazine. 
  • Born March 6, 1942 Dorothy Hoobler, 80. Author with her husband, Thomas Hoobler, of the Samurai Detective series which is at least genre adjacent. More interestingly, they wrote a biography of Mary Shelley and her family called The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein which sounds absolutely fascinating. Note to ISFDB: no, it’s not a novel. Kindle has everything by them, alas Apple Books has only the biography.
  • Born March 6, 1942 Christina Scull, 80. Tolkien researcher and married to fellow Tolkien researcher Wayne Hammond who all her books are co-authored with. Their first was J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, and I’ll single out just The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and The Art of The Lord of the Rings as being worth your time seeking out.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 65. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. At Anticipation, Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature. Her The Big Book of Modern Fantasy (with Jeff VanderMeer) won a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology.
  • Born March 6, 1972 K J Bishop, 50. Australian writer who I really like, author of The Etched City which was nominated for the Aurelias, the International Horror Guild Award and World Fantasy while winning the Ditmar Award. Impressive. She also won the latter for Best New Talent. She’s also written a double handful of short stories, many collected in the Ditmar-winning That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote
  • Born March 6, 1979 Rufus Hound, 43. Ok, I admit it was his name that got him here. He’s also had the good fortune to appear as Sam Swift in “The Woman Who Lived”, easily one of the best Twelfth Doctor stories. He’s also played Toad twice in The Wind In The Willows, a musical written by Julian Fellowes, first in an out-of-town premiere in 2016, then in the West End in 2017. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) MY SUPERHERO IS BLACK Q&A. Entertainment Weekly interviews authors John Jennings and Angélique Roché: My Super Hero Is Black will tell the other history of Marvel comics”

…These days, Black Panther is one of the most visible superheroes in a superhero-obsessed age, and his 2018 solo film remains one of Marvel Studios’ most acclaimed (it still holds the #1 spot on EW’s own ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe). The Falcon and the Winter Soldier recently explored the idea of a Black Captain America, both with Sam Wilson in the present and Isaiah Bradley in the past. Moon Girl, a young Black genius who pals around with a dinosaur, will soon be getting her own animated series.

My Super Hero Is Black will trace how these and other characters moved from the margins to the mainstream thanks to the work of creators like Billy Graham, Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, among others. The book will also feature accounts from prominent Black creators and luminaries about their personal relationships with Marvel heroes….

(10) NOW AT BAT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna and David Betancourt rank the six actors who have played Batman in films, saying that in their view Robert Pattinson does a good job but Michael Keaton remains the best Batman. (And I guess no spoiler warning is required when they put the result in the headline) “Best Batman actors ranked, from Robert Pattinson to Michael Keaton”.

… The comic-book Bat-world first created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in the ’30s has spawned an entire tireless industry of screen adaptations, from mid-century movie serials to ’60s TV camp to animated titles — with Kevin Conroy and Will “Lego” Arnett especially shining as the voice of Gotham’s odd nocturnal knight.But for the sake of fair comparison, let’s rank the actors who have portrayed a live-action Batman in Warner Bros./DC’s modern film franchise since 1989. Without getting so serious, here is our freewheeling assessment of the Dirty Half-Dozen…

At Yahoo!, Jason Guerrasio repeats the evaluation, except he ranks 10 actors, because he includes everyone back to the Forties series. “Every actor who’s played Batman, ranked from worst to best — including Robert Pattinson”.

Interestingly, both surveys came up with the same number one.

(11) KSR NON-SFF. Publishers Weekly interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about his book The High Sierra: A Love Story in which he shares his admiration of the Sierras.

What was the hardest part of putting your decades of experience hiking the Sierras into a book?

Memoir. I’ve never done it. I think it’s suspect, and hard in and of itself. It’s a fiction, memoir. You make your past self into a character, and you summarize things that took years, and you’re judging your earlier self. So that was hard.

You’re best known for your science fiction. What impact did the Sierras have on your novels?

My Sierra experience has been crucial to my science fiction because I’ve written science fiction that is aware that we are part of a biosphere, and that planets are actors in the story. They determine societies and individuals and consciousness. I felt that in myself because of my Sierra experiences. I’ve always been writing about planets changing, and my Mars trilogy could be seen as a gigantic climate change novel. So my work hangs together, intellectually, and also emotionally by way of this Sierra anchoring point….

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. A contestant on Friday night’s episode of Jeopardy! guessed wrong. If it hadn’t been about a work of fantasy, Andrew Porter would have let it slide. However….!

Category: The Elements of Literature

Answer: In a work by L. Frank Baum, the Scarecrow & this character are captured by a female giant & turned into a bear & an owl

Wrong question: What is the Cowardly Lion?

Correct question: What is the Tin Man?

(13) OVER HERE. While looking for articles about the claim of lunar ownership registered by the Bay Area’s Elves’, Gnomes’ and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society, Bill found this Oakland Tribune clipping about their meeting with Arthur C. Clarke during his first visit to America. In July 1952 the club held a banquet where they presented Clarke with the Invisible Little Man award – “a trophy which consists of the base of a statue with no statue, just a pair of mysterious footprints above the inscription…”  The newspaper interview quotes Clarke’s hopes for a chain of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbits.

(14) PAWS FOR REFLECTION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Saturday Night Live explains that it’s a really bad idea to fire your police and fire fighters and replace them with the Paw Patrol!

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Austin McConnell video is about the fake 1956 novel I, Libertine which was turned into a real novel by Theodore Sturgeon. I didn’t realize that the broadcasts of Jean Shepherd survive. “This Best-Selling Novel Was A Total Hoax!”.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bill, Jeffrey Smith, Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, 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 Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/22 But It Is The Plotted Truth, That Really Drives You Insane! Let’s Scroll The Pixel Again!

(1) THE BROKEN MIRROR OF NOSTALGIA REFLECTS A FRACTURED PAST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] At the Escapist, possibly my favorite film critic Darren Mooney offers trenchant analysis on the recent phenomena of movies paying homage to previous works that were widely disliked when they first came out. In essence, he suggests that there may be a collective yearning for an imagined halcyon past that never really existed in the first place. “Phantom Menace & ASM: Why Are We Nostalgic for Things We Hate?”

Nostalgia isn’t memory. In many cases, what is being evoked in these nostalgic franchise extensions isn’t anything resembling reality or history, but instead an imagined object. This often involves a crass distortion of the original object, in order to flatter the presumed audience.

(2) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll has the Young People Read Old SFF panel opine about Vonda McIntyre’s “Wings.” It was a very well-received story five decades ago, however, the reception comes with a bit of static now.

Although it has not been often reprinted, Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1973? “Wings” seems to have struck a chord with fans and fellow professionals. ?“Wings” was nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula, losing the first to Le Guin’s ?“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and the second to Tiptree’s ?“Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death”. ?“Wings” is one of two stories about an alien race whose name for themselves is never given. Their world dying, the species launches a generation ship for another star. 1974’s ?“The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” details how the great migration played out. ?“Wings”, in contrast is focused on events on the dying homeworld, and the relationship of two persons there….

(3) FIYAH GRANTS OPEN. FIYAH Literary Magazine is accepting applications for grants to assist Black writers of speculative fiction in “defraying costs associated with honing their craft.” Three $1,000 grants will be distributed annually as part of Juneteenth every year. Applications for the Rest, Craft, and Study grants are being accepted through May 15, 2022. There also are two other grants. All the grants are limited to prose writers for now. [Via Tor.com.]

The Rest Grant — $1,000

The FIYAH Rest Grant is for activists and organizers with a record of working on behalf of the SFF community, but who are in need of respite or time to recommit to their personal projects. Application materials include a 1-2 page personal statement on one’s history of work or ongoing projects on behalf of an inclusive SFF space.

 Study Grant — $1,000

This grant is to be used for defraying costs associated with attending workshops, retreats, or conducting research for a writing project. Application requirements include proof of acceptance to a workshop or retreat (where applicable),  a 1-page description of the work requiring research, and a 3k-word writing sample.

Craft Grant — $1,000

This grant is awarded based on a writer’s submitted WIP sample or project proposal, in the spirit of assisting with the project’s completion. Application requirements include a 5k-word writing sample, a 1-page proposal or synopsis of the project in question, and an introductory document detailing your goals for the project after completion.

Two emergency grants of $500 will be awarded, in March and October.

Emergency Grant — 2x $500

This is a needs-based grant to assist Black SFF writers with emergency financial circumstances which may be interfering with their ability to write. Emergency circumstances may include but are not limited to threat of eviction, payment of school fees, compromised or destroyed equipment, injury, travel for family care-taking in a time of crisis, or disaster or medical related relief. The Emergency Grant is awarded biannually, once in March and once in October. Application requirements include a 1-page statement detailing the nature of the emergency need for funds and intent for its use.

There is also –

Editorial Grant

The FIYAH Editorial Grant is intended as a stipend for Black editors who have been accepted for an unpaid editorial internship or fellowship at a publishing house or literary agency in 2022-23. Application requirements include a personal statement detailing your editorial experience (or lack thereof) as well as your focus for your professional development and career going forward as an editor, agent, or other industry professional. A detailed critique of a SFF novel or novella you’ve read in the last 12 months is also required. Use the button below to access the application form.

This grant was made possible by a sponsorship from Sydnee Thompson.

Applicants for any FIYAH Grant must be 18 years of age by June 19th of the application year, and writers of speculative fiction. In addition:

FIYAH Grants, like our other submissions, are open to Black people of the African Diaspora. This definition is globally inclusive (Black anywhere in the world) and also applies to mixed/biracial and Afro-appended people regardless of gender identity or orientation.

(4) MAUS CREATOR COMMENTS ON BAN. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Art Spiegelman about the recent efforts to ban MAUS. Spiegelman says he is happy that “the book has a second life as an anti-fascist tool.”  The hardcover of MAUS is currently #3 on Amazon and two paperback editions are in the top 10. “Art Spiegelman, ‘Maus’ author, sees the book’s Tennessee school ban as a ‘red alert’”.

…The 10-member board in McMinn County chose to remove “Maus” from its eighth-grade language arts curriculum, citing its profanity and nudity. Now the New York-based author is sifting through the minutes of the board’s Jan. 10 meeting, trying to make some sense of its decision to target the graphic memoir, which previously has been challenged in California and banned in Russia. [Spiegelman’s] conclusion: The issue is bigger than his comic book.

In the current sociopolitical climate, he views the Tennessee vote as no anomaly. “It’s part of a continuum, and just a harbinger of things to come,” Spiegelman says, adding that “the control of people’s thoughts is essential to all of this.”

As such school votes strategically aim to limit “what people can learn, what they can understand and think about,” he says, there is “at least one part of our political spectrum that seems to be very enthusiastic about” banning books.

“This is a red alert. It’s not just: ‘How dare they deny the Holocaust?’ ” he says with a mock gasp. “They’ll deny anything.”…

(5) LOCKED STAR MYSTERY. James Davis Nicoll tells his Tor.com audience about “Five Flawed Books That Are Still Worth Rereading”. One of them is —

Sundiver by David Brin (1980)

…Modern readers will likely find Sundiver (the novel, not the spacecraft in the novel) a bit too much of its era; not in a good way. The treatment of women in this novel makes it obvious that the novel was published closer to the midpoint of the 20th century than to today. The “uplift” which gives Brin’s series its name involves a combination of genetic manipulation and selective breeding, though the humans in the novel decry the way senior galactic patrons treat their servant races. As to the science: Brin, even at the time, must have known that cooling lasers could not work as he has them work in the book. Too bad that many readers must have accepted this as science fact.

However! The novel in hand is not the grand-scale space opera one might expect. It’s a murder mystery on an isolated space craft. It just so happens that I am, in addition to being an SF fan, am also a fan of murder mysteries set in isolated locations. Sundiver was an engaging example of the form—it is hard to get more isolated than a location within the Sun….

(6) FREE BOOK UPCOMING. One of the three books Team File 770 advanced to the finals of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition will be available free over the next few days. Martin Reed’s novel The Hammond Conjecture will be on free book promotion on Amazon from February 1-5.

(7) EARLY CINEMATIC VAMPIRE. Dutch fantasy writer Remco van Straten has dug up a Dutch vampire movie from 1919 called “Vampire: the Scourge of Amsterdam (1919)”.

 As I looked through the Dutch newspaper archive for information on Nosferatu‘s Dutch premiere for a blog post, I stumbled upon something that I, fairly knowledgeable on horror film history, didn’t know about: an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was produced in the Netherlands in 1919, a full three years before Murnau made Nosferatu in 1922!…

(8) FANCAST DOUBLE-DIP. Cora Buhlert has posted a double Fancast Spotlight for The Dickheads Podcast (as in Philip K. Dick) and Postcards from a Dying World“Fancast Spotlight: The Dickheads Podcast and Postcards from a Dying World”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

I am involved in two fancasts. First and foremost is The Dickheads Podcast. We are in the 5th and maybe the final year of covering all of Philip K. Dick’s books in publication order. He has over forty novels published and at the time of this interview, we are about to record A Scanner Darkly the novel released in 1977….

On my own, I do a podcast called Postcards from a Dying World. In this show, I do whatever I want…. 

(9) THE PATTON OF SPACE FORCE. Season 2 of Space Force (dropping February 18 on Netflix) has a future where Patton Oswalt is an astronaut but the New York Jets are STILL terrible!

(10) HOLGER M. POHL OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] German SFF writer, editor and fan Holger M. Pohl died unexpectedly aged 63.

Pohl was a German SFF writer, editor and columnist for the fanzine Fantasyguide. He was the author of Arkland, a fantasy novel inspired by the sword and sorcery of the 1960s and 1970s,and contributed to the multi-author space opera series Die Neunte Expansion and Rettungskreuzer Ikarus. With Dirk van den Boom he co-wrote the space opera novel Welt der Sieben Ebenen. He was a common sight at German cons and beloved member of the German SFF community. I only met him once at the Dublin Worldcon. Very nice guy.

Here are some German-language obituaries: Markus Mäurer, “Holger M. Pohl – Ein Nachruf” at Translate or Die (the blog’s actual name); Dirk van den Boom, “Holger M. Pohl ist tot” at SF Boom; and the fanzine Fantasyguide where he had a regular column. 

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1966 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-six years at Tricon where Isaac Asimov was Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal would win the Hugo for Best Novel in a tie with Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in October and November 1965, in 1966 by Ace Books, in 1967 by UK publisher Hart-Davis in hardcover, and later by the SF Book Club with a Richard Powers cover. Three other works were nominated: John Brunner’s The Squares of The City, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress which would win this Hugo the next year at NYCon 3 and Edward E. Smith’s Skylark DuQuesne.

(12) TODAY’S DAY.

January 31: National Gorilla Suit Day. 

Mad Magazine artist Don Martin created the idea of National Gorilla Suit Day for a 1963 comic strip in which a character mocks the holiday and is then assaulted by gorillas and people in gorilla suits. Since that time, the holiday has been semi-celebrated every year by fans of Mad Magazine and Don Martin by dressing up in a gorilla suit.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket ManRevenge of the CreatureTarantulaThe Mole PeopleAttack of the Puppet PeopleInvisible InvadersDestination SpaceJourney to the Seventh PlanetCurse of the Swamp CreatureZontar: The Thing from Venus, Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. Love that last title! (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 85. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a very fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre underpinning. I’m very, very fond of the latter two works. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 62. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the HBO Max series is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and The Multiversity which is spectacularly weird. 
  • Born January 31, 1962 Will McIntosh, 60. Best known for the  dozens of short stories he’s written that have been published in magazines including Asimov’s, InterzoneLightspeed and Strange Horizons. He won a Hugo for his short story “Bridesicle“ at Aussiecon 4.
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 54. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited and Clyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 49. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would I’d stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but which is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, musical Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the delightfully weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) FUTURE TENSE. The January 2022 story in the Future Tense Fiction series, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives, is “If We Make It Through This Alive,” by A.T. Greenblatt, a story about a cutthroat future road race, the climate crisis, the ability/disability continuum, and much more.

Slate published the story along with a response essay by Damien P. Williams, a scholar of technology and society. “How heeding disabled people can help us survive the climate crisis.”

Aliza Greenblatt’s “If We Make It Through This Alive” is an immediately engaging story, but the deeper in you get, the more is revealed. And one of the starkest but most subtly played revelations comes near the very end, when the audience is confronted with twin harsh truths: Disabled and otherwise marginalized people are least often thought of when planning for the future—and what disabled people know from their experience of living in this world likely makes them better prepared than nondisabled people to survive whatever comes next….

(16) BLACK PANTHER HISTORY. As Black History Month approaches, Marvel is taking fans on a historical journey, uncovering the evolution of Marvel’s first Black superhero: T’Challa, the Black Panther. Marvel Entertainment and SiriusXM will launch their latest original unscripted podcast series, The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther, on Monday, February 14.

The six-episode documentary podcast, hosted by New York Times best-selling author Nic Stone (“Shuri,” “Dear Martin”), explores the comic book origins of the Black Panther through conversations with the creators who shaped T’Challa’s journey, celebrates the innately Afro-Futuristic world of Wakanda, and analyzes the larger social impact of the character.

The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther brings writers, artists, and historians together to share a story that only Marvel can tell. The show features exclusive interviews with notable talent including Brian Stelfreeze, Christopher Priest, Don McGregor, Joe Quesada, John Ridley, John Romita Jr., Reginald Hudlin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and more.

The show explores some of Black Panther’s most pivotal moments including Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s 1966 debut of the character at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, his continued evolution through the birth of the Black Power Movement, his time with the Avengers and of course, the launching of  Black Panther’s adventures.

The series will initially be available exclusively on the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts. Episodes will be widely available one week later on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the U.S. Learn more at siriusxm.com/blackpanther.

(17) PITCHLESS MEETING. Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer pretty much doesn’t watch TV and rarely sees a movie, which isn’t a problem except in this one way — “Every word you say…”

…It’s a curse because the right way to do elevator pitches to editors was to describe your book as like X movie or TV series, meets Y movie or TV series. Mary Poppins meets Die Hard and have a bastard love-child would be about my level… but I have actually heard it done, with movies I had never heard of (I am sure everyone else had). The Movie/TV tropes and references were plainly so much easier for both the author and the editor, than book ones. It is also plainly popular with readers, who, it seems know much more about movies than I do….

(18) ROAD TRIP! “NASA Vet and Space Mogul Aim to Build 97% Cheaper Space Station” at MSN.com.

…If Michael Suffredini is to get the price tag of the first private space station down to $3 billion — compared with the $100 billion it cost to build the International Space Station — the CEO of Houston-based Axiom Space has some decisions to make about what to outsource and what to build in-house.

… Axiom has tripled its headcount at its 14-acre Houston headquarters to 392, and will aim to get to 600 in the coming year. Recent hires include Tejpaul Bhatia, who helped build the startup ecosystem for Google Cloud, as chief revenue officer.

In order to make money, Axiom will also offer space tourism, though it says most of its revenues would eventually come from companies and industries taking advantage of a microgravity environment. U.K.-based studio Space Entertainment Enterprise, which is producing Tom Cruise’s upcoming space movie, announced on Jan. 20 a deal with Axiom to build an in-orbit studio.

Axiom slated its first entry to space for February, but recently moved it to March 31, due to additional spacecraft preparations and space-station traffic. For its first mission to the ISS in March, the crew includes American real estate mogul Larry Connor, Canadian entrepreneur Mark Pathy and Israeli tycoon Eytan Stibbe. The trip is costing each of them $55 million, according to Ghaffarian. It would be the first private astronaut mission in which the transportation vehicle is also private, according to NASA’s Hart. Axiom contracted SpaceX for the launch, and has become the biggest private client of Elon Musk’s space startup with four missions contracted. SpaceX did not immediately reply to a request for comment….

(19) LOOK, UP IN THE SKY! Space.com reports “The James Webb Space Telescope’s 1st target star is in the Big Dipper. Here’s where to see it.”

…Now that JWST has reached its final destination in space, the mission team is getting the next-generation space telescope prepped for observations. A bright point like HD 84406 provides a helpful target by which the team can align JWST’s honeycomb-shaped mirrors and to start gathering engineering data, according to the tweet….

(20) THE PLAY’S THE THING. [Item by Michael Toman.] Would any other theaterphile Filers also appreciate the opportunity to see this free performance of Jeton’s “The Department of Dreams”? Maybe with a small donation?

The world premiere of Department of Dreams by Kosovar playwright Jeton Neziraj at City Garage, November – December 2019. In this nightmarish, Orwellian comedy an autocratic government demands its citizens deposit their dreams in a central bureaucratic depository so that it can exert the fullest possible control of their imaginations. Dan, a new hire for the prized job of Interpreter, sift patiently through the nation’s dreams looking for threats to the government’s authority.  but finds nothing is as it seems except the authority he serves.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, 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 Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/22 Do Starros Work As Facemasks? What About Tribbles?

(1) SLF ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. Michelle Feng is the winner of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s search for their 2022 Illustration of the Year.

Michelle Feng

Hoping to translate theory into policy and practice, Michelle’s experience revolves around working directly with traditionally underserved individuals and communities of color to bridge the gap between lived experiences and policy that fails to reflect the complexities of society on a universal scale. Through her dedication to public service, where she traveled around the country working in dedicated pursuit of localized projects with focuses on urban development, environmental conservation, disaster relief, and food insecurity in rural areas. Michelle has also spent time in Human Resources at the Department of Defense and has experience in social work at a small non-profit, which subsequently trained her in crisis de-escalation, conflict mediation, and trauma-informed care.

Feng commented that she found inspiration for her illustration through wanting to combine visual elements from traditional village living structures with futuristic elements of a modern city. Feng used a mix of mediums and textures to build a piece with collage-like elements that illustrated a layered approach to world-building: “imbuing realities that are grounded in something familiar, but still continue to live outside of our surface-level understanding of the world, define speculative fiction to me. As a first generation Chinese-American daughter of immigrants, I grew up hearing stories of my mother’s experience traveling to the rural village her mother grew up in, who always emphasized the importance of balancing education, literacy, and imagination as the key to upward mobility.”

The person climbing the wall of books on the left hand side of the image was inspired by her grandfather, a professor of contemplative literature who taught her mother that art is the highest form of expression. Her hope is that those who see the piece can connect to both of its real & imagined worlds while exploring intersections between the built and natural environment.

You can find more of her work on instagram: @michellef.arts

(2) SQUEECORE. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast offer “A Guide to Squeecore”, their term for sff’s current favorite flavor.

In 1936, anthropologist Ralph Linton said, “The last thing a fish would ever notice would be water.” It’s difficult to see the medium that encompasses everything around you, especially when you’ve never known anything else. Well, if fish were contemporary sci-fi/fantasy readers, the last thing they would notice is squeecore. What is squeecore? You’re soaking in it! Squeecore is the dominant literary movement in contemporary SFF, a movement so ubiquitous it’s nearly invisible. But in this episode, we are taking notice of how speculative fiction got watered down.

(3) UNWRAPPING THE PRESENT. Camestros Felapton catches the conversational ball thrown by Raquel S. Benedict in that Rite Gud podcast – “Is there a dominant mode of current science fiction?”

…Again, I think that idea (if not the name) that there are common aesthetic elements in notable science fiction (ie what gets critical attention and award nominations) makes some sense. Historically, in the Hugo Awards, I think what we see is overlapping time periods of popularity of some authors, publishers and outlets (5 to 10 year periods, with some figures having much longer spans of relevance). Pick any snapshot of time though, you are likely to find works that reflect elements that are going out of fashion, works that are currently most fashionable and works that reflect newer fashions. That is reflected in the kind of names (some coined contemporaneously and some retrospectively) given to works from particular times. The podcast picks up on that element and the need for a name for the current state of affairs….

(4) ENCOURAGING INTENTIONALITY. Maurice Broaddus urges conventions to move beyond checking the “diversity box” and work on building community. Thread starts here.

(5) ADAPTING STATION ELEVEN. Esquire’s Adrienne Westenfeld analyzes “How HBO Max’s Station Eleven Reimagines the Novel”.

…. Readers of the novel will remember its unique structure: nonlinear and multi-perspective, arcing across time, space, and characters to tell its poignant story about survival and the human spirit. We sense some of that looping structure in the television show, particularly in Episode One’s flash-forward glimpses of Chicago (for the purposes of this adaptation, HBOMax has transplanted the story from Toronto to Chicago). In these shots, we glimpse an unrecognizable world: today’s driveway becomes an overgrown wilderness, years after the pandemic. Today’s theater, where Arthur performs King Lear to a packed audience, is later overrun by feral hogs. The visual style hints at a narrative omniscience….

(6) DAVE WOLVERTON (1952-2022). Dave Wolverton, aka Dave Farland, died the day after sustaining a head injury due to a fall, his son Spencer announced this morning:  

Again this Dave’s son Spencer.

Dave has officially passed. He held on till all his children could say goodbye, then faded swiftly without pain. Thank you for all the kind words, messages, and memories.

After reading the countless messages and reflecting on my own experience, it is safe to say that my dad had a special way of seeing the potential in people. He will surely be missed.

Words can’t express the emotions of losing a loved one.

Eric Flint is among the many paying tribute, here on Facebook:

…Dave was part of my writing career from the very beginning. In fact, he’s the person whom you could say started it. He was the coordinator of the Writers of the Future contest in 1992. I submitted a story which he liked well enough to include in the finalists from whom the judges chose the winners, and I won first place in the winter quarter of that year. Winning that award is what kicked off my writing career. I stayed in touch with Dave after the contest and he was a help to me in many ways, from giving me excellent editing advice to connecting me with the person who became (and still is) my literary agent.

Some years later, Dave and I were two of the five founders of the Superstars Writing Seminar. (The other three were Kevin Anderson, Rebecca Moesta and Brandon Sanderson.) As a result of that association, we met every year at the four-day event, which is held in Colorado Springs in February. I was expecting to see him next month and looking forward to it.

David Doering’s appreciation about him will appear shortly on File 770.

(7) RICK COOK (1944-2022). Rick Cook, author of the Wizardry series (starting with Wizard’s Bane in 1989), died January 13. He wrote a total of nine sff novels, and much short fiction. His short story “Symphony for Skyfall,” co-written with Peter L. Manly, was shortlisted for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1995. His fact article “The Long Stern Case: A Speculative Exercise” won the Analog Readers Poll in 1987 (and between 1995-1998, three more short stories co-authored with Manly placed second or third in the poll.)

Sir Richard Ironsteed.

He was a co-founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Kingdom of Atenveldt, which encompasses the state of Arizona. In the SCA he was known as Sir Richard Ironsteed. Recalling the early days of the Kingdom of Atenveldt, Cook wrote:

We made it up as we went along. In 1968 I went to Worldcon in San Francisco. The SCA appeared there for the first time. It was then I was introduced to the SCA. I picked up the Known World Handbook and brought it back to the Valley of the Sun. I couldn’t build up much interest, but shared the information with Mike Reynolds. In 1969, he suggested we start a branch. We were the first group that wasn’t started by people who had lived in the Kingdom of the West.

I was part of building the initial group, martial activities, including the administrative duties of marshalling. As first king of Atenveldt, I enjoyed making up the fun as we went along. Those things of great tradition from the early days were really just having a good time. I was also the first herald of Atenveldt, long before we were a kingdom. I tried my hand at many things from helping make our first (infamous) trebuchet to making jewelry.

He became the First King of Atenveldt in 1971.

Heather Jeffcott shared warm memories of him on Facebook:

…He used words like swordplay. Strong and persuasive, nimble and light when needed, then *SMACK*! There came the pun that would lighten the tenor of the conversation. He could be blunt without being rude. (Which is not to say he couldn’t descend into crudity, it just wasn’t his first choice. He was selective in how and when to apply such words for he had plenty of others in his arsenal.) He had a talent for telling you a truth and making it seem like a tall tale. And if he told you a Tall Tale, it took on the manner of a LEGEND….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, the first version of Fantasy Island aired its first episode this evening on ABC. The series starred Ricardo Montalbán who was previously known for his Chrysler Cordoba commercials, with their tagline of “Fine Corinthian Leather”, as Mr. Roarke, the Host, and Hervé Villechaize as his dwarf assistant, Tattoo. It was created by Gene Levitt who had very little previous genre experience. 

The critics were unanimous in their utter loathing of it. Newsday was typical of the comments about: “Given the premise, the [pilot] movie could have been fun, but it’s not. It drips with Meaning, but there is none. Actually, it’s quite dumb.”

It was obviously critic-proof as it had an amazing run lasting seven seasons of one hundred fifty-two episodes, plus two films called Fantasy Island and Return to Fantasy Island

A one-season revival of the series with Malcolm McDowell and Mädchen Amick in the two roles aired fourteen years later while a re-imagined horror film version was released two years ago. I’ve seen neither of those versions. I do remember the original series and remember rather liking it.

Chrysler Cordoba commercial (proof nothing vanishes on the net) here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 14, 1943 Beverly Zuk. Ardent fan of Trek: TOS who wrote three Trek fanfics, two of them on specific characters: The Honorable Sacrifice (McCoy) and The Third Verdict (Scotty). Let’s just say that based on her artwork that I found I’d not say these are anything less than R rated in places. She was a founding member of the Trek Mafia though I’m not sure what that was, but I’m betting one of y’all can tell me. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 74. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other genre creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 73. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Born January 14, 1957 Suzanne Danielle, 65. A Whovian as she showed up as Agella in “The Destiny if The Daleks “ a Fourth Doctor story. She was on the Hammer House of Horror series in the Carpathian Eagle” episode, and she’s also in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected multiple times in different roles. To my knowledge, her only other SFF appearance was on the Eighties Flash Gordon film.
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 60. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions.
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 55. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She apparently also was in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. 
  • Born January 14, 1990 Grant Gustin, 32. The actor, known as Barry Allen aka the Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode on A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well, the Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest meet some genetic engineers whose experiments result in terrible puns.

(11) SPRING HAS SPRUNG AT SF2 CONCATENATION. SF² Concatenation has just posted its seasonal edition of news, articles, conreps, genre film analysis, and over 40 standalone book reviews. Vol. 32 (1) contains:

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(12) FOUNDRY EVENT. Flights of Foundry, a virtual convention for speculative creators and their fans, will be held online from April 8-10. Programming is now being organized, and registrations taken, at the link.

The world’s biggest multi-disciplinary, round the clock, international virtual convention is returning for its third year, and it’s going to be even better than ever. With stellar guests of honor such as L. D. Lewis and Jana Bianchi, an intensive workshops series, and activities to fill the whole weekend, there’s something for everyone and more than you’ll make it to. Donation-based registration means everyone can attend, and you’ll have a rare opportunity to meet people you’ll never see on the regular con circuit. Join us to learn about craft and business from creatives in your field and those you’ll collaborate with over the course of your career. Talk about your favorite works with people who love them, and love to dissect them, too!

(13) A JAR FULL OF MONEY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna notes that now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, artists and writers will have a field day as long as they don’t make the bear wear a shirt (Disney owns that shirt!), don’t mention Tigger (not introduced until the still-under-copyright The House At Pooh Corner) and they should probably put a disclaimer in saying Disney has nothing to do with their work. “’Winnie-the-Pooh’ just entered the public domain. Here’s what that means for fans.”

He notes that Ryan Reynolds has used Winnie the Pooh’s public domain status to promote his cellphone company.

(14) SPIDER-MAN IS THE HOTTEST PROPERTY ON THE BLOCK. The auction block, that is: “Spider-Man comic page sells for record $3.36M bidding”.

Mike Zeck’s artwork for page 25 from Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars No. 8” brings the first appearance of Spidey’s black suit. The symbiote suit would eventually lead to the emergence of the character Venom.

The record bidding, which started at $330,000 and soared past $3 million, came on the first day of Heritage Auctions’ four-day comic event in Dallas.

(15) THE HORTHMAH. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] I saw that a new movie has been released, but the title is a bit weird. It mixes existing nordic runes with some that are made up from our ordinary latin alphabet. The closest I come when translating it is “The Horthmah”, but perhaps it is more than two alphabets in there. Is there any filers that are better at runes than me and can help out here? Anyway, I have no idea of what a Horthmah is, but I guess I’ll have to see the movie to find out.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dance along to the opening credits of James Gunn’s Peacemaker, starring John Cena. Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max.

(17) CREDENTIALS IN SPACE. Adventures in Purradise entices viewers to watch “Fur Trek: Tribble Troubles”.

Are you a Star Trek fan? Do you like funny cats? Then this episode is right up your alley. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, move over! Fur Trek is coming at warp speed. Capt. James T. Purrk of the UFS Kittyprise responds to a distress call from the planet Tribbiani, home of the adorable indigenous creatures known as Tribbles. Ambassador Barker suspects the warlike Klingoffs plan to steal his cargo of the life-saving grain, quadrokittycale, so he enlists Purrk’s help. Will the innocent Tribbles get caught up in a war between the Furderation and the Klingoff empire? Get ready to travel at warp speed on Jan. 1st to find out.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/22/21 There’ll Be Time Enough To File When The Clicking’s Done

(1) WORLDCON PROGRAM. DisCon III has posted a basic outline of the times programming will take place – on their website here. They’ve also included specific times on significant events and for important DisCon III locations, such as Registration and the Exhibit Hall.

(2) OP-ED. Nicholas Whyte writes about the “2021 Worldcon Business Meeting agenda: my comments” at his LiveJournal, From the Heart of Europe. Here’s an excerpt:

A.3.2: Hugo Awards Study Committee – I was one of the original proposers of this committee. I am very disappointed with the results. The only concrete output that it has achieved in four years of existence is the addition of the words “or Comic” to the category title of “Best Graphic Story”. In the meantime other proposed changes have been killed off by referring them to this committee, which has then failed to consider them. I would not support the continuation of this committee’s mandate. I do not blame anyone, especially in the circumstances of the last two years, but I think we have proved that this is not a format that will deliver change.

On the other hand, if it is renewed, I would prefer to continue as a member, and I strongly urge (yet again!) that it takes the reform of the Best Artist categories as a priority. This was the main motivation for my proposing the committee in the first place. It is the single issue that has caused most headaches in my four years of Hugo administration. The Artist category definitions are very out of date, and present a risk to the future reputation of the awards because it would be very easy to make a public and embarrassing mistake. A bit more on this further down….

(3) C.J. CHERRYH HEALTH UPDATE. In a public Facebook post, C.J. Cherryh discusses the effects of her chemotherapy.

Coming to grips with chemo and change…

I’ve decided to go with the Gandalf look. I had reconciled myself to the Yul Brynner or Zhaan look, but I didn’t lose the hair with chemo. It just went snow-white and brittle. It’s not bad, now that I’m not trying to be Cher. I think I’ll let it grow and see if I can rock the look. I have a light hat I can wear when the wind’s blowing, so I don’t look like sfx surround me—it’s super light, and doesn’t stay put.

Complexion—well, that’s aged a whole lot. Dropping 40 sudden pounds will do that to you: I am developing…character. That’s my take on it. Always wondered where the lines would go. Not too bad.

Strength: that’s the big one. I don’t have much stamina for standing upright—or for walking very far…

She is getting a portable powered scooter and plans to attend cons as they continue to open up again.

(4) ROWLING DOXXED? “J.K. Rowling condemns activists for posting her address to Twitter” reports Yahoo!

…[On] on Friday, …activist-performers Holly Stars, Georgia Frost and Richard Energy held a protest ahead of Saturday’s Trans Day of Remembrance in front of Rowling’s Scotland home to protest what many see as the author’s anti-trans viewpoints. They held signs that read “Don’t Be a Cissy” and ‘Trans Liberation Now” and, while there, took a photo in front of Rowling’s house in which the address was visible, then posted it on Twitter.

Rowling’s thread starts here.

Rowling’s response included the Twitter URLs of the three who had tweeted the picture – they have since deleted their accounts.

Forbes has subsequent developments: “J.K. Rowling Slams ‘Activist Actors’ Who Doxxed Her During Trans Rights Protest”.

… According to Pink News, their demonstration outside Rowling’s home in Edinburgh, Scotland, was in support of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event to memorialize the scores of trans and gender nonconforming people murdered every year.

The Post Millennial reported Stars, Frost and Energy stood by their tweeting of the photo, but Stars tweeted they made the decision to delete it after a backlash from Rowling supporters:

“Yesterday we posted a picture we took at JK Rowling’s house. While we stand by the photo, since posting it we have received an overwhelming amount of serious and threatening transphobic messages so have decided to take the photo down. Love to our trans siblings.”

(5) PLAYING MONOPOLY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch thinks about what-might-have-been if the DOJ had been on the job sooner: “Business Musings: The If-Only Lawsuit”.

The United States Justice Department is suing to stop the big merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. That I can write about without a lot of research, because I’ve been following this merger for a long time….

All the promises in the world mean nothing when large companies merge.

I read the complaint for the suit the day the suit was announced. The complaint is worth reading because, if nothing else, it’s a what-if. What if the DOJ had been on this as the mergers started twenty years ago? What would the traditional publishing landscape look like now?

I can tell you: It would look completely different. Instead of the traditional part of the industry being dominated by five large conglomerates, the traditional part of the industry would look the same or better than it did in the early 1990s. There would be a lot of publishing houses, a lot of working editors, a lot of imprints, and a lot of competition….

(6) DC METRO NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This article about the problems of the Washington Metro is important because it’s going to affect DisCon III attendees.  The short version: one of the 7000 series of Metrorail cars derailed on October 12 and Metro pulled these cars out of service.  They haven’t brought them back yet. So Discon attendees should factor in extra time when using the troubled Washington D.C. subway. “Metro extends limited rail service through December”.

Metro will operate with reduced rail service through the end of the year as it works to return its 7000-series rail cars to the tracks, the transit agency announced Monday.

The trains, the newest in Metro’s inventory, make up 60 percent of the transit agency’s fleet but have been sidelined since the October derailment of a Blue Line train near the Arlington Cemetery station….

[Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld] said a more likely scenario would be a gradual ramp-up of service as trains are cleared to resume carrying passengers. In all, Metro has 748 rail cars in the series. The transit agency is operating with about 45 trains using its older 2000-, 3000- and 6000-series rail cars.

Wiedefeld said rail ridership, which had been around 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels, has dipped to about 28 percent in recent weeks.

No one was injured in the Oct. 12 incident, but an initial investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found defects in the trains’ wheelsets that could make them more prone to derailment. 

(7) OKORAFOR IN THE NEWS. In the Chicago Tribune, an article (which you may find blocked by a paywall) refers to fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor in reporting on Black residents who have moved out of the Chicago area. “Black residents leaving Chicago with few regrets”. Here are the paragraphs about her:

Award-winning fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor said she moved from the south suburbs to Phoenix earlier this year, drawn there by its year-round warmth. The author of 19 books, Okorafor said her resolve to stay in the Southwest grew after her daughter, Anyaugo, was accepted at Arizona State University.

“Each time I’ve gone (to Arizona), I’ve gradually fallen in love with the area because I love heat and the desert,” she told the Tribune. “Once (my daughter) got into ASU, it all just lined up and made sense.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1996 — Twenty-five years ago, Star Trek: First Contact premiered. It was the eighth film of the Trek films, and the second of the Next Gen films following Star Trek Generations. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes from the screenplay by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore. The story was written by Rick Berman, Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore.  It of course starred the Nex Gen cast plus guest stars Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell and Alice Krige, the latter as the Borg Queen. 

First Contact received generally positive reviews upon release. The Independent said “For the first time, a Star Trek movie actually looks like something more ambitious than an extended TV show.”  And the Los Angeles Times exclaimed, “First Contact does everything you’d want a Star Trek film to do, and it does it with cheerfulness and style.” It did very well at the box office making one hundred fifty million against a budget of fifty million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent rating of ninety percent. 

It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2, the year that Babylon 5’s “Severed Dreams” won. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being in Teenage Caveman, Starship InvasionsThe Lucifer ComplexVirusHangar 18Battle Beyond the StarsSuperman III C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that awful title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 81. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else.  Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his work for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had the staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes. Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  He’s not won any Hugos though he has been nominated for four — Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime BanditsBrazil and Twelve Monkeys. My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 78. Fata Morgana might be in my opinion his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories of which there are many are quite excellent too.  Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books.
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Encyclopedia of Fantasy which won a Hugo at BucConeer.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo at Noreascon 4 for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of His short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 22, 1957 Kim Yale. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer, she was a writer whose first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. For First Comics, she co-wrote much of the amazing Grimjack with her husband.
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 63. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well, that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives.  She would reprise the role of Laurie in six sequels, including Halloween H20Halloween: ResurrectionHalloween II and Halloween III: Season of the WitchHalloween (a direct sequel to the first Halloween) and Halloween Kills.  She shows up in one of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version. Is True Lies genre? Probably not, but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say.  No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career. 
  • Born November 22, 1979 Leeanna Walsman, 42. Spoiler alert. She’s best known as the assassin Zam Wesell from Attack of The Clones.  Being Australian, she’s shown up on Farscape, a Hercules series (but not that series), the BeastMaster and Thunderstone series, and Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord
  • Born November 22, 1984 Scarlett Johansson, 37. Best known perhaps for her role as the Black Widow in the MCU films including the present Black Widow film but she has other genre appearances including playing Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell which was controversial for whitewashing the cast, particularly her character who was supposed to be Japanese. 

(10) REUBEN WINNER. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a profile of Ray Billingsley, creator of “Curtis,” who is the first Black winner of the Reuben Award, given by the National Cartoonists Society for best cartoonist of the year. “Cartoonist Ray Billingsley has been portraying Black family life for decades — and now he’s getting his due”.

Ray Billingsley didn’t much like his second-floor Harlem home on Bradhurst Avenue back then. It was affordable — this being the mid-’80s — but he felt isolated, and he knew crime was a threat: “One evening while in bed with the window open, I actually heard three guys planning on burglarizing my apartment.”Yet this setting was also where, later that night after going to bed, Billingsley drew inspiration. He awoke with a creative burst. “I had a vision of these two kids. I sketched them down in the dark and went back to sleep. That morning, I found the first images of Curtis and Barry.”

There they were, two cartoon brothers — the taller one wearing Curtis’s signature ball cap, the shorter one in suspenders. With minimal line work, he had rendered his future….

(11) TAKE A BOW (WOW). “League of Super-Pets: John Krasinski Teases Role as Superman” at Comicbook.com.

…When DC’s League of Super-Pets comes to theaters next year, fans will get an odd pairing as Superman and Lex Luthor: facing off against Marc Maron’s scheming Luthor will be a Man of Steel voiced by The Office star John Krasinski. Sharing a still from the upcoming, animated movie, Krasinski revealed not only that he is Superman, but what his Superman will look like. The costume owes a debt to the one from the Max Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s — a look that recently popped back up again in flashbacks of Tyler Hoechlin’s character on Superman & Lois.

While the Super-Pets getting their own feature film may seem strange, the movie has an absolutely stacked cast providing the voices for its characters. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is starring in the film as Krypto the Superdog, the canine pal of one Superman. Kevin Hart, Johnson’s friend and frequent collaborator, will be voicing Batman’s four-legged friend, Ace the Bat-Hound….

(12) FAMOUS LIGHTSABERS AND WANDS. Julien’s Auctions “Icons And Idols: Hollywood” auction starts December 2. “I am almost grateful that I don’t have unlimited funds,” says John King Tarpinian, who sent links to such items as this lightsaber.

Collectors Hype ran a feature about some items on their “Original Movie Prop and Costume Blog”:

From the Harry Potter franchise: David Thewlis’ wand in his role as Professor Remus Lupin from the 2004 installment Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban ($5,000-$7,000), a wand used by Death Eater “Alecto Carrow” in the 2011 film Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows and Rupert Grint’s hero wand in his role as “Ron Weasley” from the same film as well as signed stamp sheets by the cast members, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, call sheets and Hogwarts acceptance letter;

Julien’s is also hawking “Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck voice artist Mel Blanc’s personal memorabilia” according to the Daily Mail.

Also included in the collection is a signed animation cel from 1958 featuring five of Blanc’s famous characters, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Bugs Bunny, Sylvester the Cat, and Daffy Duck. 

The cel is inscribed in black fountain pen ink on the background page, which reads, ‘For Pat/ with love from/ ‘Uncle’ Mel Blanc/ 4/8/58.’

(13) FIRST BLACK VOICES MATTER ACQUISITION. Angry Robot Books has officially announced their first signing through the Black Voices Matter unagented submissions.

Denise Crittendon

Denise Crittendon is a former editor of NAACP’s The Crisis, and her debut Where it Rains in Colour infuses romance, mystery and the mythology of the Dogon tribe of Mali, West Africa in a magical mythological retelling. Significantly inspired by her time in Zimbabwe, Crittendon questions and plays with universal beauty standards, and challenges the structure and system in which they live. Where it Rains in Colour will be published in December 2022.

Launched as an open submissions program for sff novels by Black authors in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, this window was originally meant to run from July to September 2020, but Angry Robot Books has since announced it would be extended indefinitely. For more details, click through here.

(14) ZERO GRAVITY NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport talks about how he experienced weightlessness for only $7,500 on a Zero-G flight from Dulles Airport, as he talks about adapting to weightlessness and how these flights give a lot of encouragement to disabled people who get to stand for the first time in years. “You don’t have to go to space to experience weightlessness”.

… I did the flips, flew arms wide like Superman, did the Spider-Man crawl along the ceiling, all in an airplane with a couple dozen others as part of a flight organized by Zero Gravity Corp. (Zero-G) that flew out of Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia earlier this month.

For years, the company has been able to create an experience for customers that mimics the weightless experience of going to space by flying in parabolic arcs. The plane flies up on a pitched ascent, and then crests over like a roller coaster into a steep dive that allows passengers to float for about 30 seconds at a time.

In a hollowed-out cabin of a 727 jet, with padding all around, your body rises involuntarily, and you float, effortlessly, as if you were a molecule in a state of matter that suddenly went from a solid to freewheeling gas, pinging around with abandon….

(15) ACRONYMS IN SPACE. “The Search for Life Around Alpha Centauri Just Took a Major Leap Forward”Gizmodo tells how.

Our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is 4.37 light-years from Earth, which is super close from a cosmological perspective but achingly far from a human point of view. A new telescope promises to bring this intriguing star system, and any habitable planets it holds, into closer view.

The new mission, called TOLIMAN, was announced today in a press release. TOLIMAN is the ancient Arabic name for Alpha Centauri—the closest star system to Earth—but it’s also an acronym for Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighbourhood. Once in space, astronomers will use the orbital observatory to search for potentially habitable exoplanets around Alpha Centauri.

The international collaboration includes teams from the University of Sydney, Breakthrough Initiatives, Saber Astronautics, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Peter Tuthill from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney will lead the project.

(16) PUSHBACK. NPR tells how“NASA’s DART spacecraft will smash into asteroid to test planetary defense tool”.

…In the first real-world test of a technique that could someday be used to protect Earth from a threatening space rock, a spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Tuesday at 10:20 p.m. PST.

The golf-cart-size spacecraft will travel to an asteroid that’s more than 6 million miles away — and poses no danger to Earth — and ram into it. Scientists will then watch to see how the asteroid’s trajectory changes.

NASA has identified and tracked almost all of the nearby asteroids of a size that would cause world-altering damage if they ever struck Earth. For the foreseeable future, none that big are headed our way. But there are plenty of smaller asteroids, the size that could take out a city, that still haven’t been found and tracked.

It’s a space rock of that smaller size that the DART mission — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — will take head-on…

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Jim Meadows III, Chris Barkley, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/25/21 I Am The Pontiff Of Pixel, Scroller Of All I Survey

(1) I’D LIKE TO MEET HIS TAILOR. James Davis Nicoll is “Asking the Tough Questions About Superheroes and Public Nudity” at Tor.com. Don’t tell me this hasn’t troubled you, too!

…If [the superhero is] prone to turning into living flame? Clothes go up in flame. Super-cold? Cloth turns brittle when frozen. Change size? Clothing shreds. Or a teeny-tiny size-changer can slip between the weave of the cloth. Then change back to normal human and oops, no clothes.

In the old days, the Comics Code Authority guaranteed a certain level of protection from power-induced nudity. The Hulk’s pants size might go from M to XXXXXXXL but somehow his trousers always stretched enough to provide him with shorts. Similarly, Doctor Phosphorus’ skin incinerated everything it touched, despite which he somehow always had enough of his trousers left to avoid being charged with indecent exposure (well, in addition to terrorism and murder)….

(2) RECLAMATION 2022 VENUE ANNOUNCEMENT. The Reclamation 2022 committee today announced that next year’s UK Eastercon venue will be the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre London Heathrow. The con will run April 15-18, 2022.

The hotel, formerly known as the Park Inn, is a venue that will be familiar to regular science fiction convention goers and is easily accessed via various transport links. In addition to the hotel, there are local pubs and restaurants and central London is a tube ride away.

The committee would like to thank the community for their enormous patience. The current global situation made the process far more difficult than we’d hoped. It has taken over two years of searching to find a suitable venue for a convention of our size that will accommodate non-corporate gatherings.

We did want to announce the venue much earlier in the year. We had hoped to bring Eastercon to Brighton for 2022. Sadly, the venue required more extensive renovations than they, and we, first anticipated and it’s no longer available at this time. We hope to see an Eastercon there in the future.

To attend Reclamation, the 72nd Eastercon, you need to purchase membership for the convention. All information can be found on the website at https://reclamation2022.co.uk/membership/ . Membership can also be purchased at Eastercon fan tables, which can be found at various forthcoming fan conventions….

(3) MISSING CREDITS. The Irish Times’ John Connolly contends women writers of genre fiction are doubly ignored: “Pulp friction: Irish women’s place in genre writing should be rescued from ignominy”.

… The assault on genre writing in Ireland began as early as 1892, when Douglas Hyde, eventually to become the first president of the Irish Free State, gave a speech to the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin in which he urged his listeners to set their faces “sternly against penny dreadfuls, shilling shockers”. To Hyde, genre writing was not only “garbage” and “vulgar”, it was also “English”, which made it undesirable in the extreme. It had no relevance to his conception of Irishness, which was limited to everything “most smacking of the soil, most Gaelic”. If it was genre fiction, it wasn’t Irish literature. In fact, it probably wasn’t literature at all….

(4) PODCASTER Q&A. Cora Buhlert has posted a new “Fancast Spotlight” for Light On Light Through, a podcast by Paul Levinson: “Fancast Spotlight: Light On Light Through”.

 … Today, I’m pleased to feature Light On Light Through, a podcast run by Paul Levinson, who’s a science fiction author, singer/songwriter, media critic and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University.

Paul Levinson is clearly a very busy man, so I’m thrilled to welcome him to my blog today to talk about Light On Light Through….

(5) SUBGENRE CHALLENGES. Cora Buhlert, who sent this link, notes she’s not the only one who’s interviewing semiprozine editors. Bobby Derie just interviewed Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris, editors of the new magazine of Starward Shadows Quarterly“Editor Spotlight: Interview with Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris of Starward Shadows Quarterly”.

“We’re interested in exploring the wicked, strange places that walk the line between reality and nightmare—the alien, the absurd, and above all else, the weird.” —Starward Shadows Quarterly Submissions page

Aside from Lovecraft, other thematic inspirations cited for Starward Shadows Quarterly include J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. How do you handle the historical racism and colonialist tropes inherent in fantasy and sword & sorcery?

DRH: This is a tricky topic. The best I can explain it is that we always look for ways to bring fresh, modern insight on those topics, and we deliberately seek out authors who provide that. If a story doesn’t have a new, enlightened viewpoint that shatters racism and colonialism and instead falls back on addressing those grief-ridden topics in the same, tired, old ways, then we simply won’t publish the story—no matter how good it is otherwise. It isn’t enough for something to be “not that problematic.” It needs to actively counteract the social impact that previous authors have had in these difficult areas in order for us to accept it….

(6) THE DUNES ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The New York Times tells “How Hans Zimmer Conjured the Otherworldly Sounds of ‘Dune’”.

…For “Dune,” by contrast, Zimmer wanted to conjure sounds that nobody had ever heard before.

“I felt like there was a freedom to get away from a Western orchestra,” he said recently, speaking in the Warner Bros. offices overlooking Hudson Yards in New York. “I can spend days making up sounds.”

The resulting soundtrack might be one of Zimmer’s most unorthodox and most provocative. Along with synthesizers, you can hear scraping metal, Indian bamboo flutes, Irish whistles, a juddering drum phrase that Zimmer calls an “anti-groove,” seismic rumbles of distorted guitar, a war horn that is actually a cello and singing that defies Western musical notation — just to name a few of its disparate elements.

The score combines the gigantic, chest-thumping sound of Zimmer’s best known work of the last decade with the spirit of radical sonic experimentation. The weirdness is entirely befitting the saga of a futuristic, intergalactic civilization whose denizens are stalked by giant sandworms and revere a hallucinogenic substance called spice….

(7) IT’S NOT JUST A SURPRISING IDEA – IT’S THE LAW! “Pablo Escobar’s Cocaine Hippos Are Legally People, Court Rules”Gizmodo has the story.

Pablo Escobar’s hippos have a lawyer. And a good one at that. In a U.S. first, a court recognized the animals as legal persons. That could be the hippos’ salvation in the ongoing fight about what to do with one of the world’s most rotund and dangerous invasive species.

… Now, there are up to 120 hippos roaming around Colombia, and they are considered one of the top invasive species in the world. Authorities have weighed a plan to kill the hippos off and on since 2009, and its recently gained steam.

Last July, Colombian attorney Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed a lawsuit on the hippos’ behalf to save them from being euthanized. Instead, the case recommends sterilization. Colombian officials announced a plan to use a chemical contraceptive developed by the U.S. Agriculture Department to sterilize “the main group” of the hippos, and the region’s environmental agency Cornare began to implement the plan on Friday, darting 24 hippos. 

… “The Colombian legal system can’t compel someone in the U.S. to provide testimony or to produce documents, but we have this federal law that allows interested persons in Colombia to go to the U.S. and obtain that ability to obtain documents and testimony.” Christopher Berry, the attorney overseeing the U.S. case who also serves as managing director at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said. “So we applied for the hippos’ rights to compel their testimony in order to support the Colombian litigation, and now the [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio] has granted that application, recognizing that the hippos are interested persons.”…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1968 – Fifty-three years this evening on NBC, Star Trek’s “Spectre of the Gun” first aired. It was written by former producer Gene L. Coon (under the name of Lee Cronin) and directed by Vincent McEveety.  It had one of the larger guest casts — Ron Soble  as Wyatt Earp, Bonnie Beecher as  Sylvia,  Charles Maxwell  as Virgil Earp, Rex Holman as Morgan Earp,  Sam Gilman as Doc Holliday,  Charles Seel as Ed the bartender, Bill Zuckert  as Johnny Behan,  Abraham Sofaer as the Melkotian Voice and Ed McCready as Barber. You know the premise, so I won’t detail it here.  I will note that the budget wasn’t available to shoot on location on a full set, so instead a Western street of false building fronts and no sides was used. It’s considered one of the finest episodes of the original though Keith R.A. DeCandido of Tor.com inexplicably decided to criticize the episode for its historical inaccuracies. Huh? And I’ll note that the First Doctor had done an Old West story two years previously, “The Gunfighters” and the Eleventh Doctor will have his own such story as well, “A Town Called Mercy”.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”,  but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The InvadersI Dream of JeannieThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaScience Fiction TheaterThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in the Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also know for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1955 Gale Anne Hurd, 66. Her first genre work was as Corman’s production manager on Battle beyond the Stars. (A decent forty-two percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) From there, we’ve such films as Æon Flux, the Terminator franchise, AliensAlien NationTremorsHulk and two of the Punisher films to name just some of her genre work. We’ll forgive her for the latter. 
  • Born October 25, 1955 Glynis Barber, 66. Soolin on Blake’s 7 for a series. She also appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles (Ian Richard and Donald Churchill were Holmes and Watson) and a Sherlock Holmes series I didn’t know about, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson starring Geoffrey Whitehead and Donald Pickering. 
  • Born October 25, 1963 John Gregory Betancourt, 58. Writer best known most likely for his work In Zelazny’s Amber universe but who has written quite a bit of other franchise fiction including works in the Star TrekHerculesRobert Silverberg’s Time ToursDr. Bones and The New Adventures of Superman. Most of his original fiction was early in his career. He’s also edited in a number of magazines including Weird TalesAmazing StoriesH. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of HorrorAdventure Tales and Cat Tales. He even co-edited with Anne McCaffrey, Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey. His Wildpress Press has been nominated three times for World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 50. Author of two MilSF series, Frontlines and The Palladium Wards. His Lines of Departure was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Novel at Sasquan on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. Four of his books have been Dragon Awards nominees in the Best Military SF or Fantasy category.
  • Born October 25, 1971 Elif Safak, 50. Turkish writer not currently under arrest though considered an opponent of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as she’s lived in the U.K. for eight years. She’s got three genre novels, one written originally in Turkish (Mahrem), The Gaze in its English translation, and two written in English, The Architect’s Apprentice (which was translated into Turkish as Ustam ve Ben)  and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
  • Born October 25, 1989 Mia Wasikowska, 32. She’s Alice in Tim Burton’s creepy Alice in Wonderland and equally creepy Alice Through the Looking Glass. Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a fifty-three percent rating and the second a twenty-nine percent rating.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mutts warns us about what can go wrong with your magic spells. (A re-run of an earlier strip, but fans of puns won’t mind seeing it again.)
  • Frank and Ernest find out the Tooth Fairy has issues.
  • Off the Mark shows a truly terrifying Halloween costume for dinosaurs.
  • Batch Rejection demonstrates an efficient pet’s name.
  • And for the record, the current Dick Tracy team did a sign-off strip, as in, the current creative team is (apparently) moving on.

(11) A LEGEND IN HER OWN TIME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Ruthie Tompson, who met Walt Disney in 1918, worked for Disney animation for nearly 50 years, became a Disney Legend in 2000, and passed away recently at 111. “Ruthie Tompson, who died at age 111, was a Disney trailblazer in ‘a man’s world’”.

Ruthie Tompson, whose hand helped paint early Mickey Mouse, was the very picture of humility — even as she turned 110.

Tompson became an animation trailblazer in 1937, working among the scores of other young women in Disney’s famed Ink & Paint department — for long hours, relatively low pay and no screen credit — on the landmark feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”“We worked into the night, day after day, until we got it exactly right!” she told the Hollywood Reporter last year, from the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s retirement community in Woodland Hills, Calif., while enduring the second global pandemic of her lifetime….

(12) SOMETHING TO DREAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the lasting appeal of Nintendo’s sf game Metroid, whose 2021 extension, Metroid Dread, was recently released.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps in 2021, Metroid has been a victim of its own success.  Back in 1997, a game called Castlevania: Symphony of the Night borrowed elements from Super Metroid and set the mould for a genre unimaginatively dubbed the ‘metroidvania.’  These are titles united by their contiguous 2D maps and gameplay that juggles tense combat with exploration.  In recent years indie developers have followed in Metroid‘s footsteps to create modern classics such as the graceful Ori series, the haunting Hollow Knight, or the pixel art gauntlets of Dead Cells and Axiom Verge….

…These games have innovated to thoughtfully elevate Metroid‘s blueprint.  Hollow Knight and Ori And The Will Of The Wisps are among the most beautiful games I’ve played in years; Metroid Dread doesn’t quite deliver the same charm.  It’s certainly taut, engrossing, and slick, but I can’t help wondering if it might feel more revelatory if the original Metroid not been quite so influential in the first place.

(13) KEEPING UP WITH MILTON DAVIS. Oliver Brackenbury, whose podcast So I’m Writing a Novel… Cora Buhlert featured awhile ago, interviews Milton J. Davis in episode 20:  “Interview with Milton Davis about Sword & Soul”.

Milton J. Davis also has an interesting Kickstarter for an animated movie based on his Steamfunk novel From Here to Timbuktu“From Here to Timbuktu: A Steamfunk Action Adventure by MVmedia, LLC”.

… MVmedia has teamed up with Avaloy Studios to bring you this story as an animated series.  Milton Davis, the novel author, will write the script, with animation duties done by Avaloy Studios. The pledges from this Kickstarter will allow us to create the first five episodes of the series…. 

(14) GET AN EARFUL. The Cromcast posts its annual Halloween episode, where they discuss three vampire stories by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Bram Stoker: “A Weird Fiction Podcast: Cromtober 2021 – A Trio of Vampire Tales”.

Listen here as we discuss ‘Dracula’s Guest’ by Bram Stoker, ‘A Rendezvous in Averoigne’ by Clark Ashton Smith, and ‘The Horror from the Mound’ by Robert E. Howard!

(15) KITCHEN APPLIANCE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] First there is a credential, then there is no credential, then there is. The Schrödinger Drawer, or, the credential that walks through credenzas. (Via Steven J Vaughan-Nichol’s Facebook page.)

(16) WHAT’S UP D&DOC? Boing Boing reminds us “Bugs Bunny’s Official D&D Character Sheet Is A 15th-level Illusionist”.

Dragon Magazine #41 was published in April 1981. And it was in the pages of this official Dungeons & Dragons tome that the immortal deity known as Bugs Bunny was finally given its due as a playable character in the game, along with several other cartoon characters — or rather, “Saturday morning monsters.”…

(17) BLUE SKY. Space.com reports  “Blue Origin unveils plans to build a private space station called Orbital Reef by 2030”.

Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Space and several other partners announced today (Oct. 25) that they plan to build a commercial off-Earth outpost called Orbital Reef, which is scheduled to be up and running by the late 2020s.

Orbital Reef’s envisioned customers include national governments, private industry and space tourists, project team members said. The outpost will initially complement but eventually take the baton from the International Space Station (ISS), which is expected to be retired in the 2028 to 2030 timeframe….

(18) MONEY IS THE CUBE ROOT OF ALL EVIL. “Star Trek beams up 2021 advent calendar themed to iconic villains”Digital Spy tells where you can buy one.

Star Trek is assimilating its 2021 advent calendar.

The iconic sci-fi franchise is turning to the dark side this festive season for an advent calendar designed to look just like the Cube ship used by the Borg alien race.

Any Stark Trek fan knows that a Borg Cube on the radar means serious trouble for the Federation because the cybernetic alien race will stop at nothing to conquer and assimilate their enemies….

Digital Spy will also tell you where to buy the Doctor Who 2021 advent calendar shaped like the TARDIS.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A guy who watched Star Trek IV too many times asks: Can you really fit two humpback whales on a Klingon ship? To answer that, first you have to deduce the size of a Bird of Prey.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Lowrey, Cora Buhlert, Dan’l, Chris Barkley, Darrah Chavey, Rob Thornton, Daniel Dern, 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 Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/21 Curse You, Pixel Scroll, For Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal

(1) HOW DRAGON CON IS HANDLING COVID. Atlanta’s Dragon Con, being held September 2-6, devotes an entire webpage to the COVID-related attendance rules at “Updates – Dragon Con”.

Today they also sent members an informational email which says they’re considering offering onside testing (for a fee, see below) to facilitate compliance with their entry requirements.

All 2021 attendees will need to provide proof of full vaccination – OR – a negative Covid-19 test that has been administered within 72 hours of badge pickup. 

Please see our updates page at https://www.dragoncon.org/updates/ for additional details on all health and safety guidelines including the indoor mask mandate.

We are currently working with an outside vendor to potentially offer onsite testing to attendees for a fee of $25 – $40 collected directly by the provider…. 

(2) SHATNER Q&A. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a chat with Shat, because William Shatner is going to be a guest at Awesome Con (the Washington, D.C. media con) this weekend. Shatner shares news on his latest projects, including his new album Bill and spending five days with StoryFile “for interactive conversational-video technology” so fans can ask questions of the William Shatner hologram! “William Shatner, at 90, keeps seeking that next personal frontier”.

…Shatner, a veteran performer of spoken-word tunes, has an album due out next month simply called “Bill.” Some of the songs are inspired by events in his life, and his collaborators included They Might Be Giants songwriter-musician Dan Miller.

He also enjoyed teaming with the L.A.-based company StoryFile to spend five days recording answers for interactive conversational-video technology. He was filmed with 3-D cameras so his words can be delivered via hologram.

The idea, he says, is that people will be able to push a button and ask questions of a virtual celebrity — like “asking Grandpa questions at his gravestone,” but with technologically advanced replies.

(3) JOB APPLICANT. “Babylon 5 boss has ‘contacted’ BBC over Doctor Who showrunner job” reports Radio Times.

Last month, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski threw his hat into the ring to become the new Doctor Who showrunner, tweeting his interest in replacing Chris Chibnall when the latter steps down in 2022.

And now Straczynski has issued an update on the situation, revealing that contact has been made with the BBC about the soon-to-be vacancy for Doctor Who showrunner.

Replying to a fan who asked what the situation was on Twitter, he wrote, “Contact with the BBC has been made. They’re going through their own process, which began before my tweet, and that has to run its course, but if those don’t pan out and there’s a discussion to be had, they will reach out.”…

(4) OUT OF JEOPARDY! Meanwhile, Jeopardy! jettisoned Mike Richards as the replacement host after some troubling quotes from his old podcast were publicized. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Mike Richards Out as ‘Jeopardy!’ Host After Podcast Comments”. Whether this reopens LeVar Burton’s candidacy remains to be seen.

…Sony released the following statement which confirmed that Richards will continue on as the show’s executive producer, if not as Alex Trebek’s successor: “We support Mike’s decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward. Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the Jeopardy! team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.”

Sony also confirmed the episodes Richards shot on Thursday will still air during the upcoming season as scheduled, followed by a rotation of guest hosts until a new permanent host is selected….

(5) MAGAZINE DEBUTS. The first issue of Witch House, a new magazine of cosmic and gothic horror, is now available.

Witch House Issue 1 is now available. You can download it here. This issue includes several great stories and poems. Thanks to Chase Folmar (Associate Editor), Luke E. Dodd (Associate Editor), and all our great contributors for helping us release this issue. We hope you enjoy it!

(6) SCHASCARYZADE. Netflix dropped a trailer for Nightbooks, with Krysten Ritter.

Scary story fan Alex must tell a spine-tingling tale every night — or stay trapped with his new friend in a wicked witch’s magical apartment forever.

(7) BUTLER BIO. “Octavia E. Butler Biography Reveal: Star Child by Ibi Zoboi”Gizmodo previews the cover at the link. The book will be released January 25; it’s available for preorder now.

An author as distinctive as Science Fiction Hall of Fame member Octavia E. Butler (KindredThe Parable of the Sowerdeserves an equally distinctive biography—which is exactly why Ibi Zoboi’s Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler is so exciting. Described as “a poignant biography in verse and prose,” the book, which is aimed at middle-grade readers but is truly universal, explores Butler’s childhood and how it informed her award-winning, influential literary career.

Zoboi—a National Book Award finalist for her YA novel American Street—actually studied with Butler at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop before Butler passed away in 2006. Star Child showcases Butler’s “own words and photos of documents from her childhood,” bolstered by Zoboi’s research on Butler’s papers at Los Angeles’ Huntington Library. 

(8) LISTEN IN. Stephen Graham Jones, who’s already won several awards this year, will do an author talk about his book My Heart is a Chainsaw on August 31 at 7:00 p.m. Mountain time. Free livestream, register here.

(9) MURPHY OBIT. Jill Murphy, author of the Worst Witch series of children’s books, died August 18. The Guardian has a profile: “Jill Murphy, children’s author and illustrator, dies aged 72”.

… Murphy started writing The Worst Witch while still at school, completing her first manuscript at the age of 18. Her mother once commented that Murphy and her two friends looked like witches in their dark school uniforms, which gave the author the idea for her first book.

Murphy initially struggled to publish her first novel, as many publishers at the time worried that children would find the book about witches too frightening. But the tale of clumsy young witch Mildred Hubble and her adventures at Miss Cackle’s Academy stole the hearts of generations of children, selling more than 3m copies and becoming one of the most successful Young Puffin titles.

Murphy’s books went on to win many major awards, including the Smarties prize for The Last Noo-Noo. Peace at Last and All in One Piece were both commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She was also an honorary fellow of Falmouth University….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1974 – Forty seven years ago at Discon II where andrew j. offutt was Toastmaster, Arthur C. Clarke won the Hugo for Best Novel for Rendezvous with Rama. Other nominated works that year were Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, Larry Niven’s Protector, Poul Anderson‘s The People of the Wind and David Gerrold‘s The Man Who Folded Himself. It was a popular choice as it would also win a BSFA, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, a Locus Best Novel Award and a Nebula Award. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text yet more; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.)
  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 78. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won a Nebula Award, and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II in its original novelette form is a amazing read. His novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio are also Nebula winners, and he has other short fiction award winners. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 60. Australian writer who does exist though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent  Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. And he’s won a lot of Ditmar Awards.
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 59. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 58. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well-crafted. She shows up in other genre undertakings such as Super ForceConanJourney to The Center of The EarthThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-FilesCarnosaur 3: Primal SpeciesConan and Highlander: The Series

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Onion is dead on about the intersection between climate change and space travel! But didn’t someone already write Garbage Planet?
  • The Oatmeal did this comic to commemorate Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday yesterday.

(13) TURNING THE CAMERA AROUND. After reading The Oatmeal linked above, you realize there’s a lot more material to work with than just his career in TV: “Gene Roddenberry Biopic In Works With ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ Scribe Adam Mazer” – details at Deadline.

Roddenberry Entertainment has been working quietly on a feature biopic of the sci-fi TV icon, and there is a script by Adam Mazer, whose credits include the Emmy-winning script for the 2010 HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack which starred Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Producers include Star Trek caretakers Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth, who executive produce all current franchise series including Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Next up the development will be finding a director and actors.

… There’s no shortage of subject matter surrounding Roddenberry, the fighter pilot-turned-LAPD cop-turned-TV writer who survived two plane crashes and the rough waters of Hollywood to create Star Trek, one of the world’s most enduring sci-fi franchises, with the original 1966-69 TV series eventually spawning spinoffs, movies, books and a legion of hard-core fans.

(14) THE THREE BLAHS OF ROBOTICS. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] Not satisfied with developing cars that can drive themselves (HINT: not there yet), Elon Musk is now saying he intends to develop humanoid robots to do dangerous and boring tasks. So far he seems to have this mission statement, a slide deck, plus someone dressed in a skintight suit and wearing a helmet. “Tesla Bot: Elon Musk Unveils Humanoid Robot to do ‘Boring’ work” at Bloomberg.

… The Tesla Bot, a prototype of which should be available next year, is designed to eliminate “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks,” like bending over to pick something up, or go to the store for groceries, Musk said. “Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice.”…

(15) THE CLOCK IS RUNNING. Filers might find today’s New Yorker “Name Drop” puzzle of interest.

(16) INSIDE A PERRIN GAME. James Davis Nicoll tells how “Steve Perrin’s Worlds of Wonder Changed the Game for RPGs” at Tor.com.

Emmet Asher-Perrin’s worthy obit for Steve Perrin mentions such Perrin-related projects as StormbringerCall of CthulhuThieves’ WorldElfquestRobot Warriors, and (of course!) Superworld. One fascinating Perrin work that often goes unmentioned, probably due to the fact that it has become a comparatively obscure work, is 1982’s groundbreaking Worlds of Wonder. You may not have encountered it, but odds are that you’ve seen and played later games that it inspired or influenced.

The 9½ x 12 x 1 inch box for this game contained four 16-page booklets: Basic Role-PlayingMagic WorldSuperworld, and Future World.  Assisting Steve Perrin were Steve Henderson, Gordon Monson, Greg Stafford, Lynn Willis and others. Roleplaying game design tends to be a team effort….

(17) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. This week’s PBS Space Time looks at the end of everything, including beyond File 770… The universe is going to end. But of all the possible ends of the universe vacuum decay would have to be the most thorough – because it could totally rewrite the laws of physics. How terrified should you be….? 

(18) MOONING PEOPLE. The Old Farmer’s Almanac encourages us to look: “Full Moon August Appears to Shine All Weekend”.

On all three nights, the Moon will be tangled together with the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Very close to Saturn on Friday night, right amidst both brilliant Jupiter and less-bright Saturn on Saturday, and forming a line with them when it’s full on Sunday. Read about super-bright Jupiter which is at its best right now….

And there are more reasons at the link.

(19) A PERTINENT PEW POLL. Pew on belief in space aliens. Graphs at the link. “Religious Americans less likely to believe intelligent life exists beyond Earth” at Pew Research Center.

….This is evidenced by a variety of measures of religious engagement. For example, U.S. Christians are far less likely than religiously unaffiliated Americans to say that their “best guess” is that intelligent life exists on other planets (57% vs. 80%). And U.S. adults who attend religious services on at least a weekly basis are considerably less likely than those who seldom or never attend services to say that intelligent life exists elsewhere (44% vs. 75%).

Similarly, around half of Americans who say religion is very important to them (49%) say their best guess is that intelligent life exists on other planets. By comparison, roughly three-quarters of those who say that religion is less important in their lives (76%) say that intelligent life exists elsewhere. …

(20) HOW DOGS THINK. So far, it appears that no dog has learned how to cheat at their version of the Kobayashi Maru test. ”How dogs think, learn, communicate and problem-solve” in the Washington Post.

…By way of example, he talked about dogs he has worked with for the U.S. Marine Corps, compared with dogs he has worked with for Canine Companions for Independence in California. The Marines needed dogs in places like Afghanistan to help sniff out incendiary devices, while the companions agency needed dogs that were good at helping people with disabilities.

Just looking at both types of purpose-bred dogs, most people would think they’re the same — to the naked eye, they all look like Labrador retrievers, and on paper, they would all be considered Labrador retrievers. But behaviorally and cognitively, because of their breeding for specific program purposes, Hare said, they were different in many ways.

Hare devised a test that could tell them apart in two or three minutes. It’s a test that’s intentionally impossible for the dog to solve — what Star Trek fans would recognize as the Kobayashi Maru. In Hare’s version, the dog was at first able to get a reward from inside a container whose lid was loosely secured and easy to dislodge; then, the reward was placed inside the same container with the lid locked and unable to be opened. Just as Starfleet was trying to figure out what a captain’s character would lead him to do in a no-win situation, Hare’s team was watching whether the dog kept trying to solve the test indefinitely, or looked to a human for help.

“What we found is that the dogs that ask for help are fantastic at the assistance-dog training, and the dogs that persevere and try to solve the problem no matter what are ideal for the detector training,” Hare said. “It’s not testing to see which dog is smart or dumb. What we’ve been able to show is that some of these measures tell you what jobs these dogs would be good at.”…

(21) SMASHING DISCOVERY. Nature reports “Exotic Four-Quark Particle Spotted At Large Hadron Collider”.

Rare tetraquark could help physicists to test theories about strong nuclear force.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is also a big hadron discoverer. The atom smasher near Geneva, Switzerland, is famous for demonstrating the existence of the Higgs boson in 2012, a discovery that slotted into place the final keystone of the current classification of elementary particles. But the LHC has also netted dozens of the non-elementary particles called hadrons — those that, like protons and neutrons, are made of quarks.

The latest hadron made its debut at the virtual meeting of the European Physical Society on 29 July, when particle physicist Ivan Polyakov at Syracuse University in New York unveiled a previously unknown exotic hadron made of four quarks. This brought the LHC’s hadron bounty up to 62, according to a tally kept by Patrick Koppenburg, a particle physicist. Tetraquarks are extremely unusual: most known hadrons are made up of either two or three quarks. The first tetraquark was spotted at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2003, and LHCb has seen several more. But the new one is an oddity. Previous tetraquarks were likely to be pairs of ordinary quark doublets attached to each other like atoms in a molecule, but theoretical physicist Marek Karliner thinks that the latest one could be a genuine, tightly bound quadruplet. “It’s the first of its kind,” says Karliner, who is at Tel Aviv University in Israel and helped to predict the existence of a particle with the same properties as Tcc in 2017.

(22) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Today’s Scroll title was inspired by this Firefly clip. Which doesn’t mean we’re going to start explaining the titles, it is just a good excuse to include a moment from the series.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Honest Trailers: The Suicide Squad” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the one thing that every character in the film has “traumatic parent issues,” that director James Gunn replaced the overlong character introductions in Suicide Squad with no introductions at all, and Viola Davis has “way too much talent and elegance to be in a film with Pete Davidson in it.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/21 Like A Mouse Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Scroll The File

(1) KOWAL ON WALLY FUNK. The New York Times has run an essay by Lady Astronaut author (and DisCon III chair) Mary Robinette Kowal on Wally Funk. “Wally Funk’s Launch With Jeff Bezos Defies 60 Years of Exclusion From Space”. (Registration may be required.)

Ms. Funk’s trip to space with Jeff Bezos is reason to celebrate. But the launch this week, decades after she was denied the opportunity, also raises questions about whom space is for.

(2) APEX APPEAL. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to fund Apex Magazine 2022. On the first day people have contributed $5,325 of its $10,000 goal. Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore says:

The last few years of Apex Magazine (including 2021), we’ve produced an incredible run of transformative and diverse fiction. We relaunched with Fargo Tbakhi’s “Root Rot,” a timely tale regarding colonization. “Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow threaded the needle between heartbreaking and hopefulness. Sam J. Miller celebrated the power of music in “A Love That Burns Hot Enough to Last: Deleted Scenes from a Documentary.”

We published back-to-back Hugo Award winners (2018 & 2019) in the category of Best Short Fiction (“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse and “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow, respectively) and the 2017 Hugo Award winner in the category of Best Novelette (“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon). Fiction from Apex Magazine has also won the Nebula Award, Locus Award, and numerous others.

In addition to our phenomenal fiction, every issue of Apex Magazine offers evocative cover art, thought-provoking nonfiction, author and  artist interviews, and a professional-quality podcast produced by KT Bryski.

All these wonderful things would exist if not for the community of readers, creators, and staff—the extended Apex family. Thank you so much for your love and continued support!

The Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter also promises: “Should we fund, we will commission new original fiction from five writers who we think embodies the type of bold, diverse work we seek to publish.” Those writers are: Gabino Iglesias, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samit Basu, and Lavie Tidhar.

(3) THE OOPS DIRECTIVE. James Davis Nicoll makes you wonder if there would be a story if people followed the rules. There’s plenty where they don’t, as James shows in “Five SF Stories About Disobeying Non-Interference Directives” at Tor.com.

…For historical reasons—that throughout Earth history, first contact between dissimilar cultures was generally followed by vigorous efforts by whichever culture enjoyed a military advantage to strip-mine the other of goods and services—many science fiction authors (particularly during the mid-century period when various empires were winding down) gave their settings laws encouraging non-interference. One might call this a Prime Directive….

(4) HELP REQUESTED. The“Fundraiser by Adam-Troy Castro : In the Aftermath of Unexpected Death” is a GoFundMe brought on by the sudden death of his wife, Judi. It has raised $26,979 so far.

…She was also, through her own income, the chief support of our family. I am a writer and my money comes in irregularly, sometimes in decent sized chunks (like last week, but delayed for a year by COVID), sometimes in tiny little amounts. I am going to have to restructure my new life as a freshly minted widower, and I will, but in the interim our fragile climb back to solvency has been slammed back to the earth. I am in big, big trouble; destitute with debt still looming.

I damn the whims of fate.

I am not the kind of person who finds this easy. It hurts me to type these words, and I am intensely self-conscious about asking for help this soon after the last time. I can tell you that I did not want the prior worst period of my life to be followed so soon by another loss that is even more primal, even more destructive. I have had no time to think, just arranging the memorial — and I am sure that the bills for her time for the ICU, after insurance, will be coming, inevitable and unswayed by sentiment, even as we run late on bills that would have normally been her duty to pay. (She died in a distant city, in the home of a family we were pet-sitting for, so we are far from our records, from our mailing address, and…this is a pyramid, folks. It gets higher and higher.)

If you knew Judi at all, you loved her. If you know me at all, maybe you have some of that same feeling. I have to jettison pride. She has left me bereft. I will be deeply grateful for any help you can give,

(5) SPACE JAM RULES AT BOX OFFICE. Critical reviews did not keep Space Jam: A New Legacy from overtaking Black Widow in theater ticket sales last weekend.

The Hollywood Reporter starts the ball rolling:

Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring the basketball great [LeBron James], beat holdover Black Widow to top the chart with a better-than-expected domestic debut of $31.7 million from 3,956 theaters.

Marvel and Disney’s Black Widow fell to No. 2 in its second outing with $26.3 million. The superhero pic suffered a steep 67 percent decline, one of the biggest drops ever for a Marvel title, and the worst among the Marvel films released by Disney. The decline underscores that the box office recovery is far from over; also, the tentpole is available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access (piracy is another problem)….

Deadline notes that’s the steepest second-weekend drop ever for a Disney-distributed MCU title, beating Ant-Man and the Wasp (62 percent). They say piracy is a big problem: “’Black Widow’ Post Steep Box Office Drop For MCU Title; Disney Mum On PVOD”.

…Fact: Black Widow was the most-pirated movie last week on Torrent Freak, ahead of The Tomorrow War in the No. 2 spot. I understand from sources that have seen several piracy reports that apparently Black Widow might be the most-pirated title to date during the pandemic, ahead of Wonder Woman 1984.

Studios go to extra lengths to encrypt and watermark their movies before release. Pristine copies of a tentpole spell death at the box office, and they further spell death here on both the box office and Disney+ Premier side.

Many of these piracy sites dress themselves up with images from the film to make it look like they’re legit. One industry analytics source informed me over the weekend that in one study they did for a studio, it showed that these piracy sites were the No. 1 means for those at home to watch movies, not Disney+ or any other streamer….

The LA Times tries to account for this surprising showing: “’Space Jam’ sequel unseats ‘Black Widow’ at the top of the box office”:

…Not many expected “Space Jam: A New Legacy” to pull off this win. The poorly reviewed film was pegged for an opening in the $20-million range. But a sizable number of families and millennials who grew up with the original “Space Jam” left the house and went to a theater to see it, even though it’s currently streaming on HBO Max free for subscribers. Not only that, audiences also gave the film a promising A- CinemaScore, suggesting word of mouth could be strong….

(6) SPEAKING UP. In the Washington Post. Michael Cavna interviews Jeff Bergman, who voices Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, met Mel Blanc once, but only met LeBron James at the premiere when he shouted something to James in his Bugs voice. “’Space Jam: A New Legacy’: The Bugs Bunny voice actor has spent a lifetime perfecting the craft”.

…After the premiere, James was surrounded by layers of fans. What could Bergman do to get the NBA star’s attention despite the distance and din? “I yelled out from about 20 feet away and said in Bugs Bunny’s voice, ‘Hey, Doc, we really are family,'” Bergman said. “He heard and saw me.” Bergman was ushered through the throng to greet him.

“He was holding his daughter and we embraced and thanked each other,” Bergman said. Even amid the crowd, it felt like “a very private congratulatory moment.”

(7) VISION AND REVISION. “At times it’s hard to believe what you see” it says on the cover of Dragons Walk Among Us, source of “The Big Idea: Dan Rice” at Whatever.

Is there a world before our eyes that most people overlook? What are the ramifications for someone who can see the unseeable? This is the big idea behind my debut novel Dragons Walk Among Us.

I first became interested in the world that most people overlook through photography. For example, star trails illuminate landscapes that most people never experience except through photographs taken by others. What really started to fascinate me years ago are water droplets––on blades of grass, flower petals, leaves, windows, etc. Individual little worlds are scattered across the dewy grass, and most people never take the time to appreciate them. Sometimes I imagine each dewdrop is a microcosmos populated by strange creatures. I suppose on the infinitesimal scale of microbes, this is true….

(8) SALLY MILLER GEARHART (1931-2021). Author and academic Sally Miller Gearhart died July 14 at the age of 90. The Advocate has a profile about her activism and work as an educator: “Sally Gearhart, Veteran Activist and Academic, Dead at 90”.

…Gearhart, a Virginia native, taught for many years at San Francisco State University, where in 1973 she became the first out lesbian to be named to a tenure-track position (at the school and, apparently, in the nation). At SF State, she established one of the first women’s and gender studies programs in the nation. She was an author of feminist science fiction as well….

The Wikipedia entry synopsizes her sff career:

…In 1978, her most famous novel, The Wanderground, was published, exploring themes of ecofeminism and lesbian separatism. She wrote two books as part of the Earthkeep trilogy, The Kanshou, published in 2002, and The Magister, published in 2003. Both stories explore a dystopian world where women outnumber men, and humans are the only beings on the planet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago, Roger Zelazny’s “Home is The Hangman” novella wins the Hugo at MidAmeriCon. The other nominated works that year were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys, and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. His Doorways in the Sand would be nominated for Best Novel that year, finishing second to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 19, 1883 Max Fleischer. Animator, film director and producer. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman to the screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations including the Rotoscope and Stereoptical Processes. You can see Betty’s first screen appearance here in the 1930 Cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes”. (Died 1972.)
  • Born July 19, 1924 Pat Hingle. He portrayed Jim Gordon in the Burton Batman film franchise. Genre wise, he had roles in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneCarol for Another ChristmasMission: ImpossibleThe InvadersTarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Amazing Stories and The Land Before Time. He would reprise his Gordon role in the Batman OnStar commercials. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 19, 1927 Richard E. Geis. I met him at least once when I was living out West. Interesting person.  He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice; and whose science fiction fanzine Science Fiction Review won Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine four times. The Alien Critic won the Best Fanzine Hugo once (in a tie with Algol), and once by himself. And yes, I enjoyed reading the Science Fiction Review. I’ve not any of his handful of genre novels, and certainly haven’t encountered his softcore porn of which there’s a lot. (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 19, 1938 Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, 82. He and Fred Hoyle developed the Hoyle–Narlikar theory, which Stephen Hawking would prove is incompatible with an expanding universe. He would write two genre novels, The Return of The Vaman (translated from Marathi) and The Message from Aristarchus. His autobiography is My Tale of Four Cities: An Autobiography.
  • Born July 19, 1957 John Pelan. Committed (more or less) the act of opening serial small publishing houses in succession with the first being Axolotl Press in the mid-Eighties where he’d published the likes of de Lint and Powers (before selling it to Pulphouse Publishing) followed by Darkside Press, Silver Salamander Press and finally co-founding Midnight House. All have been inactive for quite awhile now and he’d been editing such anthologies as Tales of Terror and Torment: Stories from the Pulps, Volume 1 for other presses though even that has not happened for some years as near as I can tell. As a writer, he had more than thirty published stories and he had won both a Stoker for The Darker Side: Generations of Horror anthology and an International Horror Guild Award for his Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium anthology. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 19, 1963 Garth Nix, 58. Writer of children’s and young adult fantasy novels, to wit the Keys to the KingdomOld Kingdom, and Seventh Tower series. The Ragwitch which I read quite some time ago is quite excellent and being a one-off can give you a good taste of him without committing to a series. 
  • Born July 19, 1969 Kelly Link, 52. First, let me note that along with Ellen Datlow, she and her husband Gavin Grant were responsible for the last five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. They all did a magnificent job. All of her collections, Pretty MonstersMagic for Beginners and Get in Trouble are astonishingly good. And she’s much honored having won a Hugo Award, three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, an Otherwise Award, a Sturgeon Award and received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
  • Born July 19, 1976 Benedict Cumberbatch, 45. Confession time: I really didn’t care for him in the Sherlock Holmes series as that series didn’t work for me, nor did I think his Khan In Star Trek Into Darkness was all that interesting but his Stephen Strange In Doctor Strange was quite excellent. He did do a superb job of voicing Smaug in The Hobbit, and his Grinch-voicing in the latter film was also superb. And yes, he’s the voice of Satan in Good Omens.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GETTING PAID. The Hollywood Reporter discovers that “Marvel, DC Offer ‘Shut Up Money’ As Comic Creators Go Public”.

… Multiple comic creators have publicly stated that DC’s payments for adaptations, in general, is higher. Comic creator Jim Starlin turned heads in 2017 when he publicly noted that Warner Bros. paid him more for a minor character that appeared in DC’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than he received for Marvel’s major Guardians of the Galaxy characters Thanos, Gamora and Drax combined. After Starlin’s airing of grievances, Disney renegotiated his deal for Thanos, the villain of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Those films went on to gross $4.83 billion globally, and Starlin, while not sharing details of his deal, walked away happy. “The cliche is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Starlin tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The way these agreements are written up, Disney can be more generous if they want. It is written right there that they can change the terms to make it better.”

There’s no legal obligation to make additional payments for adaptations, with companies such as Marvel viewing these payments as thank-you gifts — and
a way to avoid the bad publicity of warring with a creator. “It’s ‘shut-up’ money,” as one Marvel creator who receives such payments, but also declined to share details of compensation, likes to call it. Even if companies have no legal obligation to compensate these writers and artists, paying more is akin to contract renegotiations with an actor. If a TV show or movie is a smash success, studios believe it makes sense to offer an actor more money for the sequel (or the next season of TV) to keep them happy. No one wants a bitter actor on set….

(13) THE SQUAD. DC dropped a Suicide Squad “In On The Action Featurette”. Comes to HBO Max on August 6.

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

(14) WILLIAM F. NOLAN & CO. At the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation website, a 1999 article about the many-named writing group Christopher Conlon likes to call the “Southern California Sorcerers”.

…Group member William F. Nolan, whose film credits include Burnt Offerings and Trilogy of Terror, explains: “We’d talk plot, read stories we’d finished for opinions, talk about markets and what was selling and who was buying, discuss character development and structure, and, yes, we’d argue, but in a constructive way. We all helped each other…and inter-connected on projects.”

“Sometimes, of an evening,” Ray Bradbury has written, “Richard Matheson would toss up there merest dustfleck of a notion, which would bounce off William F. Nolan, knock against George Clayton Johnson, glance off me, and land in [Charles Beaumont’s] lap. ..Sometimes we all loved an idea so much we had to assign it to the writer present who showed the widest grin, the brightest cheeks, the most fiery eyes.”

Direct collaborations between Group members were common. And no wonder. In those early days, most of them, particularly the “inner circle” of Nolan, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and novelist John Tomerlin, were men in their twenties who were just beginning their careers. They found strength, encouragement, and a sense of solidarity in the company of other struggling young writers. Because of the Group, says Nolan, “We were not alone; we had each other to fire us creatively, to bounce ideas around, to solve plot problems. It was the best kind of writing class that could ever be imagined.”…

(15) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says that Facebook has come up with new software that lets robots walk like toddlers, which might be a good first step in letting robots walk like human adults. Especially if it lets robots learn to do so without falling down all the time, for which they’re less prepared than toddlers. “Facebook reveals AI development to help robots move in uncharted territory”

Facebook developed what it calls a foundational “breakthrough” in the race to create more humanlike robots: software that enables machines to learn to walk like toddlers.

Humans are very efficient at maneuvering. As kids, we figure out how to adjust our stride and cadence to trek through mud, water, and up and down hills with ease. Through trial and error, we adapt, figuring out the best ways to move our feet according to real-time situations. And we can do this while toting a variety of objects, either in our hands or on our backs.It’s tough to program robots to make instantaneous adjustments to their legs and feet to accommodate such a variety of tasks, mainly because it’s hard to train themto deal with corner cases, or objects and environments they’ve never seen before….

(16) CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN. Sure, that’s easy for you to say. According to Gizmodo, “Neutron Stars Have Mountains That Are Less Than a Millimeter Tall” but that would be one big step even for Barlennan.

A team of astrophysicists recently used new models of neutron stars to map the mountains—tiny raised areas—on the stars’ otherwise perfectly spherical structures. They found that the greatest deviations were still extraordinarily small due to the intense gravitational pull, clocking in at less than a millimeter tall.

Neutron stars are the dead cores of once-huge stars that collapsed in on themselves. They are the densest objects in the Universe aside from black holes. They’re called neutron stars because their gravity is so intense that the electrons in their atoms collapse into the protons, forming neutrons. They’re so compact that they pack a mass greater than that of our Sun into a sphere no wider than a city.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, Creature Features and La-La Land Entertainment present a virtual panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Arachnophobia with director Frank Marshall and special guests.

Recorded in November 2020, moderator Mike Matessino hosts a lively and informative discussion with ARACHNOPHOBIA’s director / executive producer Frank Marshall, co-producer Richard Vane, actor Peter Jason, production designer James Bissell and entomologist Steve Kutcher.

No stranger to delighting audiences worldwide for decades, Mr. Marshall, producer of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, POLTERGEIST and JURASSIC WORLD, made his directorial debut with ARACHNOPHOBIA in 1990, bringing rapt audiences to the edge of their seats with laughter and shrieks in equal measure. The film has remained a beloved fan favorite to this day and its appreciation continues to grow as it connects with a new generation. Now, Mr. Marshall and special guests take you behind the film, its production, and its astounding spider effects and action!

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, Joel Zakem, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 7/12/21 Your Pixel Will Be Transferred To The Next Available Scroll

(1) CADIGAN’S GOOD NEWS. Pat Cadigan put out two health updates in May. The first discussed her apprehension about her forthcoming usual blood test: “Guess What? You’re Scared!”

Life in Cancerland: no matter how well-adjusted you may think you are, you’re not. Pro tip: that’s okay. It’s not your job to be well-adjusted. Your job is to stay alive. Trust me; I‘m experienced.

The second was about the good report: “Okay. Okay. Okay, Yes, Okay!”

If you heard something you thought was a crazy banshee on party drugs, that was me.

The Macmillan Cancer Centre told me they were going to call me this afternoon. Instead, they called this morning and it’s taken me a while to calm down enough to type.

The level of cancer in my body has dropped a whole bunch of points. Everything else is okay, except I have to stop taking calcium supplements because I’ve got a little too much.

So I’m off calcium supplements and I don’t get another oncology appointment for another six months. Just as well. I need a couple of days to pull myself together after this one.

So now I know. Cancer is afraid of me. It should be.

(2) SCREEN TIME. James Davis Nicoll recommends “Five SF Stories About Raising the Children of the Future” at Tor.com. And his footnotes are not to be missed.

In the years following World War II, Americans celebrated the end of a global war and a recovery from a previous decade of economic crisis by producing an astounding number of children, with consequences that are still unrolling to this day. It was a veritable explosion in birthrates—someone should invent a snappy term for it. Maybe the Big Bang Theory?

This focus on children was reflected in the American science fiction of the day….

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury (1950)

Unlike Merril’s vision of the future, the America that Bradbury’s Hadley family calls home is a peaceful, prosperous nation. The parents use their impressive incomes to provide their children with the best of all possible childhoods in a fully automated Happylife Home.

Primitive Americans might have settled for plunking their kids down in front of ten-inch black-and-white TV sets showing Howdy Doody. Happylife Houses offer what we would probably call virtual reality suites. Every setting the children could possibly desire is available. The realism of the settings is astounding. Mr. and Mrs. Hadley are duly astounded…albeit very briefly….

(3) RECOVERY WORK. Erin Underwood says, “I finally wrote a blog post that should have been written 10 years ago about what it is like to be a new fan who is marginalized at a convention.” — “The Overpowering Power of Men at Conventions”.

…I was invisible. I was an obstacle that he pushed aside in order to have his more important conversation with Jack. I think about this now and I know that I am not the only person who has had something like this happen at a convention. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it is an example of how women have been treated in society for far too long, including convention society. The fact that it has taken me 10 years to publicly post about this also speaks to social issues of embarrassment and fear of condemnation by some members of our society….

(4) HOURGLASS. Abigail Nussbaum breaks down Black Widow at Asking the Wrong Questions. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… But the thing is, Natasha Romanoff is not James Bond. Her emotional reserve isn’t counteracted by the outsized place she takes in the world, and by the attention and obsequiousness of everyone she encounters. On the contrary, the character has always been defined by her ability to disappear into the crowd, to be whatever people need her to be without them ever stopping to wonder why that is. Her signature move—which is repeated in Black Widow, in the climactic showdown between Natasha and Dreykov—is to get overconfident men to spill the beans about their secret plans by pretending to be weaker and more vulnerable than she actually is. Scarlett Johansson’s genius in interpreting the role was in nevertheless finding hints of personality and humor in this reserved, centerless person. But Black Widow was an opportunity to peer beneath that façade, to let the person Natasha is when she isn’t performing for anyone take center stage (or, conversely, to grapple with what it means that that person doesn’t exist). Instead, it chooses to double down on its heroine’s chameleon quality, even in the presence of the people she considers family. The result is that Natasha might be her own film’s chief mover, but not its protagonist….

(5) THE SUSPENSE BEHIND THE CAMERA. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna, in a piece with a spoiler warning, interviews Black Widow director Cate Shortland and star David Harbour about the “family dinner” scene that has revelations about the family Natasha Romanoff grew up in. BEWARE SPOILERS. “How ‘Black Widow’ nailed its moving family dinner scene — where no action was involved”.

There are no pyrotechnic effects. The dramatic tension does not revolve around swooping aircraft or lethal hand-to-hand combat. Yet it is the most enlightening “Black Widow” scene — one that screenwriter Eric Pearson “had the most panic about.”…

 “That was our biggest scene — a megillah,” Pearson says by phone. In a Marvel movie packed with action, the dialogue-rich Family Dinner ran nine pages. Every exchange, every emotional beat had to deepen the film while explaining the personal stakes for each of these psychologically warped characters….

(6) SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Enjoy this short parody video on “How Women Are Written In Sci-Fi Movies”.

(7) FULL CIRCLE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Not genre but worth noting. Well, they did occasionally delve into Thing Supernatural.“Bryant & May author Christopher Fowler: ‘Writing the end was really emotional’” in The Guardian.

… This month London Bridge Is Falling Down, Fowler’s 20th Bryant & May crime novel, will be published, bringing to a close a much-loved series that started in 2003 with Full Dark House. The books feature the unconventional detective duo Arthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit, who solve arcane murders whose occult significance baffles more traditional detectives. Crime fiction aficionados can amuse themselves by spotting references to classics of the golden age, whose plots and twists Fowler ingeniously projects on to the era of computers and mobile phones. Everyone else can enjoy the endlessly bantering and discursive dialogue between the pair as they break all procedural rules, and the uniquely droll narrative voice with its sharp-eyed slant on modern life.

…Of course London has moved on inexorably since Fowler began his writing career, and co-founded his film marketing company the Creative Partnership at the age of 26. Soho is not the international film hub it once was, in the heady days when the company was working on 15 films a month, including marketing campaigns for Reservoir Dogs and Trainspotting. One of Fowler’s claims to fame from the time is mentioned in Film Freak. “Asked to provide poster straplines for Alien, I wrote several pages of them, including ‘In space no one can hear you scream’. I assume I wasn’t the only person to think of this – it’s an obvious line,” he writes.

“Someone else laid claim to it this month, I noticed,” he says now. “I love it! But we worked on it first, because it was shooting in the UK. Ridley Scott came to see us and gave us a drawing of an egg and said: ‘That’s really all I can tell you – and it’s going to be very frightening.’ We used to get paid £20 per page of copylines and that was the one they went with.”

(8) SEASON’S READINGS. Former President Obama continues his tradition of sharing his summer reading list, which includes some genre works:

(9) ROCHA OBIT. DC Comics artist Robson Rocha has died. The announcement came two weeks after a colleague tweeted an appeal for blood donors because the artist was hospitalized with COVID-19.

CBR.com listed the highlights of Rocha’s career:

Rocha is known for his work on titles such as Birds of PreyBatman/SupermanBatman: Arkham KnightSuperboy and more. He has also provided cover art for Aquaman (in addition to being the series’ main artist), Supergirl and Teen Titans, among other major DC books. Rocha became a breakout star following DC Rebirth in 2016, though he had worked with the publisher before that on other projects.

SYFY Wire rounded up tributes from Rocha’s colleagues in social media: “Robson Rocha: Comics world mourns passing of DC Comics artist”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 12, 1969 — Fifty-two years ago on this date, BBC 1 aired  the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode of Star Trek. It was the third episode of the first season and the second pilot shown. It was directed by James Goldstone and written by Samuel A. Peeples whose only other Trek script was for the pilot episode of the animated series, “Beyond the Farthest Star”.  (He would later write the scripts for the first six episodes for Jason of Star Command which was when James Doohan was involved.)  The primary guests were Gary Lockwood  as Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. It is notable for the absence of the series regulars of McCoy, Uhura , and Chekov.  Reception, now and then, was universally superb for the episode with it being considered one of the finest ones across all of the series.  The episode would be adapted into a short story by James Blish for his Star Trek 8 anthology, and it also became the second in Bantam’s Fotonovels series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 — Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 — James Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. He won another Hugo at MidAmeriCon for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s extremely well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1933 — Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station which you could think of as a Clue-style novel he wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature which has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1947 — Carl Lundgren, 74. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
  • Born July 12, 1961 — Scott Nimerfro. He had an impressive production list of genre films and series he did, to wit Tales From The CryptTrekkiesX-MenPerversions Of ScienceThe GatesPushing Daisies, and the Once Upon A Time series which he produced three seasons of. He has one genre acting credit in “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” story of Tales From The Crypt in which he was Fouser. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 12, 1968 — Sara Griffiths, 53. She appeared as Ray in the Seventh Doctor story “Delta and the Bannermen”.  She was being considered as a companion to the Doctor, a role however taken by Sophie Aldred as Ace.
  • Born July 12, 1975 — Phil Lord, 46. Shared a Hugo for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at Dublin 2019. With co-director Christopher Miller, he’ll be doing the sequel to it. They also co-produced The Last Man on Earth series, and he executive produced Solo: A Star War Story.
  • Born July 12, 1976– Gwenda Bond, 45. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Mind, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe.  And she penned the Dear Aunt Gwenda section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. 

(12) BRANDING. The Conversation details how “China is using mythology and sci-fi to sell its space programme to the world”.

…China’s construction of its own space station stems from the nation’s exclusion from the International Space Station, a result of US concerns over technology transfers that could enhance China’s military capabilities. Undeterred by this, China has forged ahead with its own space programmes and alliances. Since, the country has demonstrated that the Chinese “brand” of space technology is reputable and can hold its own in the international arena.

An impressive track record of remarkable space endeavours is not the only thing that distinguishes China’s space brand from other national players. The government and related organisations have made concerted efforts to establish a unique “Chinese space culture” alongside the country’s advances in space technology. While the target audience for many of these cultural creations remains domestic, China’s space ambitions are directed at global audiences in a variety of ways.

Legendary beginnings

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the naming of these programmes after China’s traditional roots.

The name Tiangong translates as “Heavenly Palace”. This was the residence of the deity who holds supreme authority over the universe in Chinese mythology, the Celestial Ruler. The name is particularly fitting for a Chinese space station, which acts as a home in the heavens for the country’s taikonauts. The meaning of Shenzhou, the missions that take taikonauts to space, is “Divine Vessel”, which is also a homophone for an ancient name for China, “Divine Land”.

China’s lunar exploration missions, meanwhile, are named after the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e. The tale goes that Chang’e flew from Earth to the Moon after stealing the elixir of immortality from her husband, Hou Yi….

(13) ENCANTO. A trailer dropped for Disney’s Encanto. The movie will be out in November.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto,” is the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The all-new original film features the voice of Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel, an ordinary 15-year-old who’s struggling to find her place in her family.

(14) HELLO, DOLLIES. “It’s Hollywood Barbie’s Moment (and She’s Bringing Her Friends)” reports the New York Times.

[In addition to BARBIE, in which Margot (Harley Quinn) Robbie was recently announced as starring in,] The dozen other films in Mattel’s pipeline include a live-action Hot Wheels spectacle; a horror film based on the fortunetelling Magic 8 Ball; a wide-audience Thomas the Tank Engine movie that combines animation and live action; and, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a big-screen Masters of the Universe adventure about the cosmos that includes He-Man and his superheroic sister, She-Ra.

Mattel, Universal and Vin Diesel are collaborating on a live-action movie based on Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, a tabletop game introduced in 1966. Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”) is directing and writing a live-action family comedy based on Mattel’s Polly Pocket line of micro-dolls. Lily Collins (“Emily in Paris”) will play the title role and produce; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is the distribution and financing partner.

Mattel has also announced movies based on View-Master, American Girl and Uno, the ubiquitous card game. (If you think an Uno movie sounds like a satirical headline from The Onion, consider this: There are non-Mattel movies in development in Hollywood that are based on Play-Doh and Peeps, the Easter candy.)

(15) IT’S A MYSTERY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled ‘Black Widow Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant Ryan George reminds us the reason Black Widow came out now instead of several years ago was a comment (made before Wonder Woman) by deposed Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter that “superhero movies starring women don’t make money.”  But who is the mysterious character who shows up at the end credits and tells everyone to subscribe to Disney Plus?

(16) QUOTES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. This version of Groucho Marx’s quote is the best known:

I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into the other room and read a book.

Somebody sent it to File 770 today and lest any commenter prove it really originated with Abraham Lincoln, Voltaire, or some other TV watcher, I ran a Google search. Quote Investigator assures us Groucho said it first – phrased as follows:

I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.

That’s a pretty cynical attitude for “the leer”—that’s me, Groucho—and now that I’m a part of television, or “TV” as we say out here on the Coast, I don’t mean a word of it.

It was in a short article he wrote to promote his own soon-to-debut TV show.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video, written by Ryan George, features Brandon Calder as Donald McDonald, Professional Audio Movie Consultant, who explains that he used to capture sounds in movies by actually duplicating scenes in movies but after breaking his ankles to provide the sound for that scene in Misery he found it safer to create sound effects! “THE Sound Effects Tutorial — Pro Tips By Pitch Meeting”.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/31/21 I’m At The Godstalk, The Death Star, The Second Fifth Hotel, The Pixels Keep On Scrolling And Rolling Files As Well

(1) HANSEN BOOK FREE FROM TAFF. Another ebook is available from the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, #60 in the free library, Rob Hansen’s Faan Fiction 1930-2020: an exploration. Cover artwork adapted from Rob Hansen’s cover for his fanzine Epsilon #7, July 1981. Approximately 61,000 words. (TAFF hopes you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.)

In this combined critique and anthology, Rob Hansen discusses the phenomenon of fan fiction (in the fannish fanzine sense) with a particular focus on the UK. His commentary is interspersed with many examples from such diverse fan writers as John Berry, C.S. Youd (John Christopher), Leroy Kettle, David Langford, Mark Plummer, Bob Shaw, Ian Sorensen, James White, Walt Willis – and Rob Hansen himself, including previously unpublished work. There are several surprises.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword:

One aspect of fandom only lightly touched on by me in Then was fan fiction. By which, of course, I mean fiction about fans and/or fandom. This is a thread that has been woven through SF fandom since it began, enduring almost to the present day, and so is worthy of consideration in that light. I’ll be looking at the people who wrote it and all its various forms and the purposes to which they were put. Inevitably, the quality of the writing varies wildly, with that of those who later went on to write professionally usually being a cut above the rest.

…Where possible the pieces of fan fiction reprinted herein to illustrate various types and forms – all by UK fans – were specifically chosen from those not already available. As a result, most will be things the majority of readers won’t have encountered before.

(2) SF ART COLLECTORS WILL SPEAK. Tomorrow on Comic Art Spotlight Doug Ellis joins a panel with three friends — Glynn Crain, John Davis & Victor Dricks — discussing SF/fantasy art.  All four have large collections of vintage SF art. They’ll be highlighting and discussing various artists and pieces in those collections, including creators like Virgil Finlay, Frank Kelly Freas, Ed Emshwiller, Wally Wood, Ed Valigursky, George Barr and many more.  The panel kicks off June 1 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern:

(3) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. The Haffner Press’ two-volume edition of The Complete John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman is available for pre-order.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Haffner recently posted this photo of artist Tim Kirk’s dropcaps for the book.

(4) FEELIN’ GROOVY. John Coulthart has a gallery of “groovy” sf covers in “The art of Mike Hinge, 1931–2003” at { feuilleton }.

Back in March I ended my post on the psychedelia-derived art style that I think of as “the groovy look” with the words “there’s a lot more to be found.” There is indeed, and I’d neglected to include anything in the post by Mike Hinge, a New Zealand-born illustrator whose covers for American SF magazines in the 1970s brought a splash of vivid colour to the groove-deprived world of science fiction. This was a rather belated development for staid titles like Amazing and Analog whose covers in the previous decade wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Gernsback era. Opening the door to someone like Mike Hinge, a graphic designer as well as a general illustrator, was probably a result of both magazines having undergone recent changes of editorship.

(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION UPDATE. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]Just found out the University of Iowa’s “Hevelin Collection” Tumblr account, which posted pics of items from Rusty Hevelin’s collection of fanzine and other SFnal material (but has been inactive for the last several years), announced about ten days ago they’re officially suspending the Tumblr. (But past posts will remain online for the foreseeable future.)

But you can still see over 700 fanzines, etc., from the Hevelin Collection in the Iowa Digital Library: Hevelin Fanzines — The University of Iowa Libraries.

And rather than single pictures like the Tumbler account did, the IDL archive leads to scans of the full contents, so far as I’ve tested it. Probably a fair amount of overlap with Fanac.org and eFanzines.com, but always good to have fannish history backed up in multiple places.

(The IDL archive may, it occurs to me, be old news to those who keep up with fanzines past and and present more than I do. “Slight” is a polite way to describe my level of involvement these days. Still, news to me.)

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • May 31, 1990 — On this day in 1990, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall premiered. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. It’s rather loosely based on Philip K. Dick‘s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” story. Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman wrote the screenplay. It finished second at Chicon V for Best Dramatic Presentation to Edward Scissorhands.  Most critics liked it well-enough though a number of feminist critics thought it excessively violent towards women. It currently holds a seventy-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 31, 1893 – Elizabeth Coatsworth.  Newbery Medal for The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930).  Four “incredible tales” for adults; four books of poetry; ninety in all; memoir Personal Geography.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1895 — George R. Stewart. As recently noted in the Scroll, his 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. They were a British award and the first one, this very one, was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1910 – Aubrey MacDermott.  Possibly the first fan.  He always said he was. Unfortunately, the supporting evidence is thin.  He may well have founded the Eastbay Club in the San Francisco Bay area around 1928.  Anyway, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXXX (Oakland, 1987).  Here is his Origin Story as of 1990.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1921 – Arthur Sellings.  Six novels, fifty shorter stories, in Fantastic, Galaxy, Imagination, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, NebulaNew WorldsNew WritingWorlds of Tomorrow. Antiquarian, book & art dealer.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1930 — Gary Brandner. Best remembered for his werewolf trilogy of novels, The Howling, of which the first was very loosely made into a film. He wrote the script for Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf. The fourth film of the series, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, is actually almost an accurate adaptation of the first novel. He wrote a lot of other horror and penned the novelization of Cat People. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1942 – Brian Burley.  Active fan in Ohio and New York.  Co-founded Marcon.  In 1979 he was in FISTFA (Fannish Insurgent Scientifictional Ass’n); here he is (with S.H. Craig and Pat O’Neill) on “Fandom in New York” for the Lunacon XXII Program Book.  Co-founded the Beaker People Libation Front, which Fancyclopedia III mildly calls “not entirely serious”; see here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1948 — Lynda Bellingham. She was The Inquisitor in the Sixth Doctor Story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”.  Other genre appearances include the Landlady in Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale, and one-offs in Blake’s 7Robin Hood and Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1950 — Gregory Harrison, 71. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought it has. He was Logan 5 in the Logan’s Run TV series which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object and that series actually lasted awhile), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, 60. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1977 – Cat Hellisen, age 44.  Fantasy for adults and children; free-lance editing; also archery, aikidô, figure skating.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories.  “The Worme Bridge” won the Short Story Day Africa award.  More recently in Fife she likes the forests and the fields and the Forth.  Has read Giovanni’s RoomFlatlandHerland, five plays by Aeschylus, Peter Pan, both Alice books, Les liasons dangereusesThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1979 — Sophia McDougall, 42. She has a very well crafted alternative history series,  the Romanitas series, In which Rome did not fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novels —Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds of a Heinlein YA novel. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1995 – Jeremy Szal, age 26.  One novel, thirty shorter stories.  Fiction editor at StarShipSofa 2014-2020 (Episodes 360-600).  Collects boutique gins.  See his review of Predestination at Strange Horizons here.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full could be making a combined Alice in Wonderland and Simon & Garfunkel joke. Or not.

(9) WRITING PROMPT. From Agatha Chocolats:

Popehat suggests: “Cthulhu fhtagn exact change only.”

(10) SHAVER MYSTERY MAGAZINE ADDED BY FANAC. “If you’ve been hearing the words ‘Shaver Mysteries’ bruited about, now’s your chance to see what all the fuss is over,” says Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari. Check here: Shaver Mystery Magazine, by Richard S. Shaver. There are 7 issues of this semi-pro, related zine. 

Siclari further says, “Some might not consider this a fanzine because rumor has it that it was paid for by Ray Palmer and Ziff-Davis. However the Shaver Mystery stories were a subject of great controversy in fanzines. So it is of related interest. It definitely was not a money-maker. It seems to fit into the category we later called a semi-prozine. And the art! McCauley, Finlay…”

(11) JUMPING IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Pepe The Frog creator Matt Furie who is trying to recapture his character from the alt-right by creating non-fungible tokens featuring Pepe and other of Furie’s characters that have sold for up to $1 million. “Matt Furie is trying to reclaim his famous cartoon Pepe the Frog — through NFTs”.

To Furie, the NFT realm is about more than coin. During the era of Donald Trump, extremist social media users adapted Pepe so often that the Anti-Defamation League deemed it a hate symbol. But the exploding world of crypto-art is allowing the cartoonist to reclaim a character who was never meant to stand for much beyond love, peace, hedonism and altered-state chillaxin’.

“The NFT world is new, and there are a lot of optimistic people creating cool things,” Furie says of his interest in exploring non-fungible tokens — unique digital files whose origins and ownership can be verified.“Pepe does not have the baggage here that he does in the ‘real world,’ and I like working with utopians and optimistic freethinkers. There are so many possibilities.”

(12) A SCHULZ CURIOSITY. Cavna has also written: “Three ‘lost’ Charles Schulz strips have been rediscovered. Do they show the adult Lucy Van Pelt?”To some, they resemble “Peanuts” characters — if Charlie Brown and the gang had ever grown up.

These rare curiosities intrigue and baffle even the experts. “They’re a puzzle to me,” says Jean Schulz, wife of the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who drew them.

They are the seven black-and-white works of comic art from the mid-’50s collectively called the “Hagemeyer” strips. Four of them have appeared in books. The three other “lost” strips were found and purchased at auction in May 2020— but have never been widely published, according to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

(13) IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] From this week’s Nature: “First Nuclear Test Created Impossible ‘Quasicrystals’”.

SF is full of exotic substances from Cavorite to Corbomite. Now it has been discovered that the world’s first nuclear bomb test created ‘impossible’ quasicrystals.

The previously unknown structure, made of iron, silicon, copper and calcium, probably formed from the fusion of vaporised desert sand and copper cables. Quasicrystals contain building blocks made up of arrangements of atoms that — unlike those in ordinary crystals — do not repeat in a regular, brickwork-like pattern. They have symmetries that were once considered impossible.

Materials scientist Daniel Shechtman first discovered such an impossible symmetry in a synthetic alloy in 1982. He won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery. In subsequent years, materials scientists synthesised many types of quasicrystal,
expanding the range of possible symmetries. In the aftermath of the Trinity test — the first detonation of a nuclear bomb in 1945 researchers found a field of greenish glassy material that had formed from the liquefaction of desert sand. They dubbed this trinitite. The bomb had been detonated on top of a 30-metre-high tower laden with sensors and their cables. As a result, some of the trinitite had reddish inclusions: it was a fusion of natural material with copper from the transmission lines. The quasicrystal recently found from this trinitite has the same kind of icosahedral symmetry as the one in Shechtman’s original discovery.

(14) NOW IN 3-D. Nature also reports on “The most detailed 3D map of the Universe ever made”.

A survey of the southern sky has reconstructed how mass is spread across space and time, in the biggest study of its kind. The data provide striking evidence that dark energy, the force that appears to be pushing the Universe to accelerate its expansion, has been constant throughout cosmic history.

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration revealed its results in an online briefing on 27 May and in several papers posted online1.

…The researchers grouped the galaxies by colour, to get a rough indication of each galaxy’s distance from our own: as the Universe expands, galaxies that are further away appear redder because their light waves have stretched out to longer wavelengths. That way, the team was able to add a third dimension to its map.

Looking further away also corresponds to looking to the past, so a 3D cosmic map provides a record of the Universe’s history. By tracking how galaxies spread out over time, cosmologists can then indirectly measure the forces at play. These include the gravitational pull of dark matter, the invisible stuff that constitutes some 80% of the Universe’s mass and dominates the formation of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

(15) DRONE WARFARE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s not exactly a Terminator-style HK-VTOL, but the first autonomous wartime kill by a robot might have happened last year in Libya. Gizmodo reports on the story: “The Age of Autonomous Killer Robots May Already Be Here”.

…“The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability,” the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya wrote in the report.

It remains unconfirmed whether any soldiers were killed in the attack, although the UN experts imply as much. The drone, which can be directed to self-destruct on impact, was “highly effective” during the conflict in question when used in combination with unmanned combat aerial vehicles, according to the panel. The battle resulted in “significant casualties,” it continued, noting that Haftar’s forces had virtually no defense against remote aerial attacks.

The Kargu-2 is a so-called loitering drone that uses machine learning algorithms and real-time image processing to autonomously track and engage targets. According to Turkish weapons manufacturer STM, it’s specifically designed for asymmetric warfare and anti-terrorist operations and has two operating modes, autonomous and manual. Several can also be linked together to create a swarm of kamikaze drones.

(16) CLOCKING IN. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment about “Exploring the boundaries of time travel”.

Breaking the bonds of time has been a timeless pursuit in science fiction stories and movies. Will it ever become science fact? Correspondent Faith Salie explores the possibilities of taking a journey to the future, or the past, even without a souped-up DeLorean.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Cruella Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spolier-filled episode, says that the only way to get viewers interested in Cruelle DeVil’s backstory–“How does she become the person who wants to skin puppies?”–is to have her work for a boss even more evil than her.  Also the screenwriter warns the producer that if he wants all those groovy hits of the 1970s in the movie, he’d better have plenty of money for the rights.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, David Langford, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]