Pixel Scroll 7/8/22 Doctor Scroll In The Multipixel Of Madness

(1) IN SUIT OVER CONTROLLED DIGITAL LENDING PARTIES FILE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. This week both parties to the lawsuit over “controlled digital lending” — four publishers on one side and the Internet Archive on the other — filed motions for summary judgment Publishers Weekly reports: “Publishers, Internet Archive File Dueling Summary Judgment Motions in Scan Suit”. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to render a decision on the record already submitted.

The battle lines have now been drawn in a potentially landmark lawsuit over the scanning and lending of books. In a motion for summary judgment filed this week, lawyers for Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House argue that the Internet Archive’s controversial program to scan and lend books under an untested legal theory known as “controlled digital lending” is a massive piracy operation “masquerading as a not-for-profit library.” And in a dueling motion for summary judgment, the Internet Archive counters that its scanning and lending program does not harm authors and publishers and is a public good protected by fair use.

Copies of both parties’ motions are available online, the publishers motion here, and the Internet Archive’s motion here.

The publishers contend Internet Archive’s practices violate copyright law:

…Yet Internet Archive assumes that all “information should be free” and has searched for years to find a legal rationale for its radical infringements. Around 2018, it helped manufacture and market a theory called “controlled digital lending” or “CDL,” which was developed with no input from authors or publishers and without the imprimatur of Congress. Directly contradicting the idea that copyright protects a bundle of divisible rights, IA posits that it is lawful for a library to make digital copies of any print book it acquires and distribute that digital copy over the internet, without a license, as long as (a) the library uses digital rights management (“DRM”) technology to prevent additional copying, and (b) the library “only loan[s] simultaneously the number of [print] copies that it has legitimately acquired.” SUMF¶436. Regardless of whether it actually complies with CDL – and it does not – Internet Archive’s practice of CDL violates fundamental principles of copyright law, and undermines market incentives necessary to spur the creation of new works…

The Internet Archive’s motion gives this explanation of Controlled Digital Lending:

…CDL is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending; it’s just a better way of getting the book to the one patron who borrowed it. Because every book in the Internet Archive’s print collection has already been bought and paid for, everyone agrees the Internet Archive could loan those books by handing or mailing them to a patron.  The only difference is that the Internet Archive is loaning the books over the Internet.  Either way, the books on loan are not available to other patrons until they are returned….

The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a press release supporting the Internet Archive’s motion: “Internet Archive Seeks Summary Judgment in Federal Lawsuit Filed By Publishing Companies”.

“The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right foreign to American copyright law: the right to control how libraries may lend the books they own,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “They should not succeed. The Internet Archive and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it are not pirates or thieves. They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of a library’s right to lend its books to its patrons, one at a time.”

(2) IT CAUGHT ON IN A FLASH. Space Cowboy Books presents an “Online Flash Science Fiction Reading” on July 19 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings with authors Douglas A. Banc, Ricardo Victoria, and Adele Gardner. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(3) MUSK TO TWITTER: EJECT! “Elon Musk tells Twitter he wants out of his deal to buy it” reports CNN.

Elon Musk wants to terminate his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter — the latest in a whirlwind process in which the billionaire Tesla CEO became the company’s biggest shareholder, turned down a board seat, agreed to buy the social media platform and then started raising doubts about going through with the deal. The next chapter in the saga is almost certain to be a court battle.

Musk claimed in a letter to Twitter (TWTR)’s top lawyer that he is ending the deal because Twitter (TWTR) is “in material breach of multiple provisions” of the original agreement, which was signed in April, according to a regulatory filing Friday evening.

Musk has for weeks expressed concerns, without any apparent evidence, that there are a greater number of bots and spam accounts on the platform than Twitter has said publicly. Analysts have speculated that the concerns may be an attempt to create a pretext to get out of a deal he may now see as overpriced, after Twitter shares and the broader tech market have declined in recent weeks. Tesla (TSLA) stock, which Musk was planning to rely on in part to finance the deal, has also declined sharply since he agreed to the deal….

(4) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS. An exhibit of top African-American artists in the comic book industry, “The Artist’s Experience: from Brotherman to Batman”, is being hosted by the Society of Illustrators through October 29.

The Society of Illustrators has announced a dynamic installation on display in the museum that delves between the pages of comic books and explores the artists’ process. “The Artist’s Experience: From Brotherman to Batman” on display from June 15 through October 29, 2022. The exhibit celebrates some of the top African-American artists in the comic book industry, and was co-curated by renowned culture journalist and writer Karama Horne (Marvel’s Protectors of Wakanda: A History and Training Manual of the Dora Milaje) and Eisner Award-nominated artist and writer Shawn Martinbrough (How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling, Thief of Thieves, Red Hood), whose work will be featured along with over sixteen other talented artists.

… Also featured are Eisner Award-winning artists Afua Richardson (Black Panther World of Wakanda, HBO’s Lovecraft Country), Alitha Martinez (Batgirl, World of Wakanda) and John Jennings (Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower), as well as veteran artists Larry Stroman (Alien Legion, X-Factor) and Darryl Banks (Green Lantern).

Artwork from award-winning artist Ronald Wimberly, founder of the experimental art magazine THE LAAB (whose Prince of Cats graphic novel is currently being adapted to film by Spike Lee), Khary RandolphJamal Igle, Micheline Hess, Sanford Greene, Eric Battle, Marcus Williams, Chuck Collins, Damion Scott and Robyn Smith will all be on display, as well.

(5) TOLL ON LIBRARY WORKERS. “Groundbreaking Study Explores Trauma, Stress in Frontline Library Workers”Publishers Weekly gives an overview.

The 2022 Urban Libraries Unite Trauma Study draws upon a wide-ranging literature review, survey responses from more than 435 urban library workers (conducted between August and September 2021), focus groups, and a two-day forum. The final report paints a vivid picture of the difficult working conditions facing many urban librarians and library workers, as well as a promising framework through which the library community can begin to address its needs.

“It is clear that there is a crisis of trauma in urban public libraries and the evidence for this is so overwhelmingly compelling that it seems likely that trauma impacts work in libraries of all types across the profession,” reads the report’s conclusion. “It is also clear from the literature search and the conversations that created this report’s conclusions that the library profession is starting to wake up to this deeply corrosive crisis.”

The report describes a range of violent or aggressive patron behavior toward library workers, including racist and sexist verbal abuse, harassment, physical assault including having guns and other weapons brandished, and drug and alcohol issues including overdoses. In addition, library workers reported significant instances of “secondary trauma” from constant interactions with community members (including children) struggling with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, or drug abuse….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join David Gerrold for a breakfast buffet on episode 175 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

David Gerrold

Now it’s time for breakfast with David Gerrold, who I first encountered when I was 12, because I saw the Star Trek episode scripted by him, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” when it first aired in 1967. And they say 12 is the Golden Age of science fiction, right?

But David is so much more than that famed episode. He’s the author of more than 50 books, hundreds of articles and columns, and numerous hours of television. His TV credits include episodes from Star Trek (such as the aforementioned “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “The Cloud Minders”), Star Trek Animated (“More Tribbles, More Troubles” and “Bem”), Babylon 5 (“Believers”), Twilight Zone (“A Day In Beaumont” and “A Saucer Of Loneliness”), Land Of The Lost (“Cha-Ka,” “The Sleestak God,” “Hurricane,” “Possession,” and “Circle”), Tales From The Darkside (“Levitation” and “If The Shoes Fit”), Logan’s Run (“Man Out Of Time”), and others.

His novels include When HARLIE Was One (which I believe was the first prose of his I read, at age 17), The Man Who Folded HimselfThe War Against The Chtorr septology, The Star Wolf trilogy, and The Dingilliad young adult trilogy, the Trackers duology, and many more. The autobiographical tale of his son’s adoption, “The Martian Child,” won the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette of the Year and was the basis for the 2007 movie, Martian Child.  He was the 2022 winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which was presented during Balticon.

We discussed what he means by “humility in the face of excellence,” the curse of fame and why J. D. Salinger may have had the right idea, how the more you know the slower you write, the challenge of living up to having won the Heinlein Award (and why Heinlein once called him “a very nasty man”), the scariest story he ever wrote, how Sarah Pinsker helped him understand what he really felt about Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the kind of person he might have been had he not moved to L.A. as a kid, the fannish way he found out he’d been nominated for a Hugo Award, how it feels to already know what the headline of his obituary will be, and much more.

(7) TOM FABER ON VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber recalls seeing Braveheart with his cousin, who asked, “Where are all the wizards?”

On surveying my collection of fantasy movies and video games the next day, I realized that almost all of them were set in a place that resembled 13th-century Scotland, from Lord Of The Rings to Skyrim to Game Of Thrones.  Given that fantasy is the only genre that gives writers unlimited creative licence to dream up the wildest worlds, why do we see the same tired cliches again and again?…

…This is finally starting to change with the emergence of game developers outside the conventional industry hubs who are weaving new fantasies from the threads of their own history and myths.  Earlier this year, Mexican studio Lienzo released Aztech:  Forgotten Gods, which imagines a sci-fi world in which the Aztecs were never conquered.  Rafi:  An Ancient Epic incorporates Hindu mythology and draws inspiration fro the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Maori developer Naphtali Faulkner created the stylish Umurangi Generation, a photo game set in a near-future New Zealand. Meanwhile, Aurion:  Legacy of the Kori-Odan and the ambitious upcoming game The Wagada Chronicles both explore complex African mythologies.

(8) NOT JUST ANY STREAM. “Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novels are set for TV adaptation” – the Guardian tells about the deal.

A new partnership will bring together all nine of the novels, plus the accompanying short stories, novellas and graphic novels, for the screen.

Rivers of London is part urban fantasy, part police procedural, centring on detective constable Peter Grant. A newly graduated police officer from London, he is recruited in the first book by wizard and inspector Thomas Nightingale to the Folly, a police unit working on supernatural crimes, after an encounter with a ghost….

(9) DIRDA ON BOOKS OF INTEREST TO FANS. Michael Dirda reviews three volumes of Folio Society collections of Marvel comics and three volumes of Penguin Marvel collections. He also reviews a book called Cosplay which is a history of cosplayers going back to Worldcon masquerades. “Marvel comics in updated editions from Penguin and Folio, reviewed” in the Washington Post.

…All this past spring, then, I was eagerly looking forward to recapturing some of that ancient enchantment by immersing myself in six colorful volumes of Marvel superhero comics: three Penguin Classics collections of the early adventures of Spider-ManCaptain America and Black Panther, and three Folio Society best-of collections devoted to Spider-Man, Captain America and Hulk.

For fans, both series are desirable and contain little overlap. The general editor of the Penguin editions, Ben Saunders, a comics scholar from the University of Oregon, provides historical background on how Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others co-created these modern legends. Contemporary writers such as Qiana J. Whitted, Gene Luen Yang, Jason Reynolds and Nnedi Okorafor contribute additional introductions or winningly personal forewords. Appendixes feature recommended reading lists and sometimes supplemental essays, such as Don McGregor’s memoir of how he wrote the multi-issue “Panther’s Rage,” which supplied some of the plot elements to the “Black Panther” movie. Each of these collectible Penguin hardbacks runs to roughly 350 pages and is priced at $50. Paperback editions cost $28.

The Folio Society volumes cost $125 apiece, but for purists they offer a slightly more authentic reading experience….

…At least, I continue to be childishly delighted by adult cosplay, the practice of dressing up as a favorite fictional or cinematic character. As our troubled superheroes know, donning a mask can be liberating, a way of releasing one’s deeper self. Appropriately, Andrew Liptak’s opens his chatty “Cosplay: A History” by looking at costume balls, historical reenactors, Halloween and the tradition of masquerade night at science-fiction conventions. Still, his heart really belongs to the Star Wars franchise.

(10) R. C. HARVEY (1937-2022). Cartoonist Robert C. Harvey, a respected comics historian and columnist, died July 7. His autobiographical intro at The Comics Journal sums up an incredible career.

Harv’s first foray into expository text was with a column in the fondly recalled Menomonee Falls Gazette (a weekly newspaper of comic strips) in the fall of 1973. A couple years later, he launched his Comicopia column in No.130 of the Rocket’s Blast – ComiCollector, which, by then, had been taken over by James Van Hise from Gordon Love, the founder. For RB-CC, he created a mock comicbook superhero, Zero Hero.

In March 1980, Harvey abandoned early columns and started writing for The Comics Journal, with a new effort, The Reticulated Rainbow, starting in No. 54 and continuing regularly under various titles for an insufferably long time. By the time he was in his eighties, Harv’d become, probably, the Journal contributor with the greatest longevity.

Bob also was a longtime contributor to Jud Hurd’s Cartoonist PROfiles magazine, The Thompson’s Comics Buyer’s Guide, Hogan’s Alley, and Nemo, the Classic Comics Library, among others. He also contributed to the early version of the scholarly comics publication Inks. The R.C. Harvey archives for The Comics Journal can be accessed here, and his recent Humor Times columns are here.

Harvey has written or collected and edited thirteen books on comics and cartooning, including his Milton Caniff: Conversations (2002) from the University Press of Mississippi, followed by a full biography of Caniff, Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon (2007) published by Fantagraphics. His most recent book is Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators (2014) from UPM. A complete list of his books appears at his website.

Harvey still has two books scheduled to be released this Fall. He annotated the current Fantagraphics Complete Pogo series giving context to references in Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Volume Eight will arrive with R.C.’s contribution. He has also wrote and assembled The Art and History of Popeye due later this year.

(11) LARRY STORCH (1923-2022). Actor Larry Storch died July 8 at the age of 99. His most famous role was the scheming Corporal Agarn of F Troop (1965-1967). His genre work included co-starring with Bob Burns (who wore a gorilla costume) and Forrest Tucker on the Saturday morning children’s show The Ghost Busters. Storch appeared in more than 25 films, including The Monitors (1969, based on a Keith Laumer novel), and Without Warning (1980). He voiced characters in animated shows such as Merlin the Magic Mouse and Cool Cat. In Journey Back to Oz he voiced Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s farmhand Amos.

(12) KAZUKI OBITIARY. Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Takahashi Kazuki hwas found dead at sea says Deadline. He was 60.

Takahashi Kazuki, the creative force behind manga trading card and Japanese entertainment franchise Yu-Gi-Oh!, has been found dead, according to local public broadcaster NHK.

It was reported Takahashi, whose real name is Kazuo Takahashi, was discovered floating while in snorkeling gear in near Okinawa Prefecture in Japan on Wednesday. A coast guard is looking into the cause of death.

Takahashi began as a manga artist in the 1980s and found success in 1996 when he created manga comic series Yu-Gi-Oh! and began serializing it in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. He later outlined the rules for an accompanying trading card game.

The franchise grew to span several TV shows, manga spin-offs and video games and is now one of the highest-grossing of all time….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2003 [By Cat Eldridge.] Some amazingly strange series come out of Canada. So it is with the Alienated series that debuted nineteen years ago this day on the Space network in Canada. It lasted for two seasons and a mere twenty-two episodes.

I’ve no idea who created it since, in true Heinleinian fashion, the serial numbers seem to have been completely filed off. 

It was a comedy centered on a stereotypical suburban family living in Victoria, British Columbia who undergo strange and often overtly sexual changes (all nudity was pixillated) after being abducted by aliens. The mother was played by Sarah-Jane Redmond best remembered  as Lucy Butler on the Millennium series and the father was played by Johnathan Whittaker who later shows on up The Expanse as Sec-Gen Gillis.

I think it was, to say the least, not aimed at all at being tasteful based on episode titles of the likes of “Where’s the Vagina?”, “Hard to Keep a Good Man Down” and “Where’s the Saltpeter?”. I have no idea what time of the evening it was broadcast in but I’m betting it was later on.

Critics, the few who actually bothered with reviewing it, found it entertaining. It never got a proper wrap-up as it was cancelled in the way so many of these low rated series are — in the middle of the night when no one is looking.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1933 — Michael Barrier, 89. One of the few actors not a regular crew member on the original Trek who shows in multiple episodes under the same name. He was DeSalle in “The Squire of Gothos”, “This Side of Paradise” and “Catspaw”. While he has the same name each time, he does not have the same shipboard job as he serves as a navigator in the first episode, a biologist in “This Side of Paradise” and assistant chief engineer in “Catspaw”. 
  • Born July 8, 1942 — Otto Penzler, 80. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it. Back in the Seventies, with Chris Steinbrunner, he co-wrote the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection for which they won an Edgar Award.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 71. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 67. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 64. The role I best remember him for is Valentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man

(15) TUTTLE’S PICKS. “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup” by Lisa Tuttle in the Guardian. Covers The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch; The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings; Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata and Old Country by Matt and Harrison Query

(16) SUPER-PETS CASTING. “The Good Place star confirmed as Wonder Woman in new DC movie”Digital Spy knows her name.

DC has got itself a new Wonder Woman, with The Good Place‘s Jameela Jamil confirmed as the voice of Diana Prince’s super alter-ego in DC’s League of Super-Pets.

(17) BIG NUMBERS. “Six Flags Magic Mountain to debut record-breaking Wonder Woman coaster”KTLA has details.

WONDER WOMAN Flight of Courage will take riders on a thrilling adventure for the very first time next Saturday, July 16.

Riders will reach speeds of up to 58 mph and can expect a steep climb up a 131-foot hill, an intense 87-degree drop and three inversions (like a loop) along the coaster’s 3,300-foot track.

Before boarding, those waiting in the Greek-inspired ride queue will be treated to immersive storytelling and a deep dive of the comic book heroine’s history and greatest accomplishments…

(18) IT WILL TAKE YOU THERE. “‘Portals will be as important as the car’: the architects exploring gateways to new dimensions” at the Guardian.

…The examples range from the rabbit-hole in Alice in Wonderland and the wardrobe in the Narnia books, to Dr Who’s Tardis, Back to the Future’s DeLorean and Platform 9¾ in Harry Potter, via all manner of holes, mirrors, cracks, bridges and “energy frames” found in sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Their timeline tells an eye-opening story, charting the explosion of portals after the second world war, marked by the likes of The Sentinel by Arthur C Clarke (which formed the basis of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey), the Wayback Machine in Peabody’s Improbable History, and the tollbooth from the 1961 book The Phantom Tollbooth, written by architect Norton Juster.

The following period, leading up to the cold war and the space race, saw portals take the form of massive energy-intensive machines and weapons built in the battle for world domination. They highlight the 1960s TV series The Time Tunnel, where thousands of people work under the desert surface on a secret megastructure, which would allow the US military to travel in time, noting how its iconic spiral design went on to inspire countless portals in future stories. The period after the cold war, meanwhile, saw portals serve more satirical and comical roles in lowbrow sci-fi and family movies – such as the phone booth in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, or the people-eating television in the 1980s body horror film Videodrome.

They found one of the most recurring types of portal to be the “portable hole”, first featured in the Looney Toons cartoon The Hole Idea in 1955, in which a scientist demonstrates his device for rescuing a baby from a safe, cheating at golf and escaping from housework. It later appears in the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine, in the form of the Sea of Holes, as well as in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, reaching a hole-studded peak in the 1985 Marvel cartoon character, Spot – whose body is covered in portals…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Stranger Things Season 4 Pitch Meeting”, Ryan Geroge, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the villain this season is a guy who is bald, strong, doesn’t have a nose, and is clearly not Voldemort,  Also several characters manage to remain alive by not explicitly dying in front of the camera during their death scenes.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/27/22 All Ringworlds Great And Small

(1) MAUS OUT OF SCHOOL LIBRARY. In response to the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus by the McMinn County Tennessee School Board Neil Gaiman has tweeted: “There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days.” “Tennessee school board bans Holocaust comic ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman” at CNBC.

A Tennessee school board has voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust.

The Jan. 10 vote by the McMinn County School Board, which only began attracting attention Wednesday, comes amid a number of battles in school systems around the country as conservatives target curriculums over teachings about the history of slavery and racism in America.

“I’m kind of baffled by this,” Art Spiegelman, the author of “Maus,” told CNBC in an interview about the unanimous vote by the McMinn board to bar the book, which is about his parents, from continuing to be used in the curriculum.

“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” said Spiegelman, 73, who only learned of the ban after it was the subject of a tweet Wednesday – a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He called the school board “Orwellian” for its action….

In “Maus,” different groups of people are drawn as different kinds of animals: Jews are the mice, Poles are pigs and Nazi Germans — who had a notorious history of banning and burning books — are cats. It has won a slew of awards, including a 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

(2) CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE MEDICAL UPDATE. Author Catherynne M. Valente has contracted Covid and has been tweeting about how she feels, and is handling quarantining away from the rest of the family. She also will be unable to appear in person at Capricon the first weekend in February.

(3) THE GAME’S AFOOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives a con report on the Baker Street Irregulars annual convention. “Sherlock Holmes gets the gala treatment in New York”.

…This year, socializing got underway on Thursday afternoon at the Grolier Club, the country’s leading society for bibliophiles. Opening that week, and running till April 16, was “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects,” an exhibition drawn from the fabled collection of Glen S. Miranker. Fabled? As I once wrote, “If the Great Agra Treasure — from ‘The Sign of Four’ — contained rare Sherlockian books and manuscripts instead of priceless gems, it would resemble Glen Miranker’s library.”

In display cases below a huge banner depicting Holmes in his signature dressing gown, one could see the only known copy in its dust jacket of the first edition of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” with original artwork by Sidney Paget and Frederic Dorr Steele, handwritten drafts of four major stories, and even Conan Doyle’s work ledger containing the December 1893 memorandum, “Killed Holmes.” This refers to “The Final Problem,” which ends with the great detective and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, both falling to their deaths, or so it seemed, at the Reichenbach Falls….

(4) PHILOSOPHICAL FAVES. University of California (Riverside) philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel picks five sf novels of interest to philosophers. “Science Fiction and Philosophy – Five Books Expert Recommendations”.

It’s an interesting conundrum, because some science fiction seems to extrapolate from existing science to a future that’s possible and consistent with what we know about science today. That is, a hypothetical situation that is a plausible, possible future world—or maybe not so plausible, but still could happen. But there’s another kind of science fiction which doesn’t seem to be bound by anything we know about science now—it just allows what you might call magical things to happen. I wonder how the two of them relate to philosophy.

Fantasy just allows magical things to happen. And that can be very useful in thinking through philosophical issues because you might be interested in considering things that aren’t scientifically plausible at all, exploring them as conceptual possibilities. Now, within the constraints of scientific plausibility we can find a second big philosophical value in science fiction: thinking about the future. For example, I think it’s likely that in the next several decades, or maybe the next 100 or 200 years, if humanity continues to exist and continues along its current trajectory, we will eventually create artificial beings who are conscious. Maybe they’ll be robots or maybe they’ll artificial biological organisms. Or they might be a bio-machine hybrid or the result of technology we can’t yet foresee. We might create artificial entities who are people—entities with conscious experiences, self-knowledge, values, who think of themselves as individuals. They might be very much unlike us in other ways—physiologically, physically, maybe in their values, maybe in their styles of thinking.

If that happens, that’s hugely significant. We’d have created a new species of person—people radically different from us, sharing the world with us. Humanity’s children, so to speak. Few things could be more historically momentous than that! But these matters are hard to think about well. Maybe that future is coming. But what might it even look like? What would it do to ethics? To philosophy of mind? To our sense of the purpose and value of humanity itself? Science fiction is a tool for imagining the possible shape of such a future. So that’s just one example of the way in which science fiction can help us think about future possibilities.

(5) WTF. In the Washington Post, Jonathan Edwards says that Peter Dinklage, a guest on”WTF With Marc Maron,” slammed the live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as “a backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave.” “Actor Peter Dinklage calls out ‘Snow White’ remake for its depiction of dwarves”.

…Dinklage, 52, told Maron he was surprised by what he saw as a contradiction.

“They were very, very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ ” Dinklage said, adding, “You’re progressive in one way … but you’re still making that … backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave. What … are you doing, man?”

On Tuesday, Disney responded, saying it will aim to present the characters in a sensitive manner….

(6) POUL AND GORDY. Fanac.org has posted a 1977 video recording from ConFusion 14 with Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson holding forth about a chapter in sf history: “The Way It Was (Pt  1): Minneapolis Fantasy Society”.

This short video features a conversation between authors Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson on the history of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS). Gordy, the older of the two, begins with a description of the prewar (World War II) MFS, a serious writers’ group with members such as Clifford Simak and Donald Wandrei. Poul and Gordy then bring the calendar forward with anecdotes of traveling to Torcon (1948), MFS parties, and how the writing community worked in the middle of the century. 

These much loved members of the science fiction community are by turns very earnest, very funny and always very engaging in telling us “The Way It Was”…

Note that this is part 1 of a longer program. As of January 2022, we are working to digitize the next part.

Also note that there are about 5 seconds of disrupted video towards the end of the recording.

Thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) SEE VIDEO OF MANCHESS ADAPTATION. On Muddy Colors, Gregory Manchess posted a link to a video of the stage production of Above the Timberline, based on his story and art. “Watch the Stage Play of Above the Timberline!” (The video has to be watched at the link.)

In an alternate future where the weather of the world has been permanently altered, the son of a famed polar explorer sets out in search of his father, who disappeared while looking for a lost city buried under the snow. But Wes Singleton believes his father is still alive – somewhere above the timberline. Adapted from the exquisitely painted novel, the world premiere stage adaptation is sure to delight.

(8) FARLAND MEMORIES. The Writers & Illustrators of the Future have produced a visual tribute to their coordinating judge who recently died: “David Farland Memorial (1957 – 2022)”.

One only needs to look at Dave Farland’s vast roster of names discovered and nurtured. It is no wonder his keen eye for talent was dubbed “Writer Whisperer.” Dave was an extraordinary individual, a kind soul, and a cherished personal friend and friend to everyone in the writing community. He was always there to lend a helping hand. Dave will be greatly missed. But it is good to know that due to his excellent work and dedication to creating the future, science fiction and fantasy will continue to be in good hands.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

Captain Janeway: Coffee, black. 

Neelix: I’m sorry, Captain. We’ve lost another two replicators – 

Kathryn Janeway: Listen to me very carefully because I’m only going to say this once. Coffee – black.

Twenty three years ago this evening on the UPN network, Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Bride of Chaotica!” first aired. It was the twelfth episode of the fifth season of the series. The episode is loving homage to the 1936 Flash Gordon film serial and 1939 Buck Rogers film serial that followed film. Much of the episode was shot in black and white to emulate the look of those shows. 

The story was Bryan Fuller who was the writer and executive producer on Voyager and Deep Space Nine; he is also the co-creator of Discovery. The script was by Fuller and Michael Taylor who was best known as a writer on Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Critics really liked it. SyFy Wire said it was “campy, hilarious, hysterical, brilliant, and an absolute joy.” And CBR noted that Voyager was “having fun with its goofier side.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1832 Lewis Carroll. Writer, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In 1876, he also produced his work, “The Hunting of the Snark”, a fantastical nonsense poem about the adventures of a very, very bizarre crew of nine tradesmen and a beaver who set off to find the snark. (Died 1898.)
  • Born January 27, 1938 Ron Ellik. A well-known sf fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine Fanac in the late Fifties. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that ‘He also had some fiction published professionally and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.’ (ISFDB says it was The Cross of Gold Affair.) Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 82. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact, which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, Robot, Spider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1953 Joe Bob Briggs, 69. Writer, actor, and comic performer. Host of the TNT MonsterVision series, and the ongoing The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder from 2018–present. The author of a number of non- fiction review books including Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies that Changed History!  And he’s written one genre novel, Iron Joe Bob. My favorite quote by him is that after contracting Covid and keeping private that he had, he said later that “Many people have had COVID-19 and most of them were much worse off than me.  I wish everybody thought it was a death sentence, because then everyone would wear the f*cking mask and then we would get rid of it.”
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 65. If you’re not a comic reader, you first encountered him in the form of Robocop 2 which I think is a quite decent film. His other films include Robocop 3Sin City300Spirit (fun) and various Batman animated films that you’ll either like or loathe depending on your ability to tolerate extreme violence. Oh, but his comics. Setting aside his Batman work all of which is a must read, I’d recommend his Daredevil, especially the Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus which gives you everything by him you need, Elektra by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, all of his Sin City work and RoboCop vs. The Terminator #1–4 with Walt Simonson. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 59. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop in the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler in X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?)
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 52. Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books. Editor of Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. Interestingly, she won all but one of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director that were given out between 2004 and 2012. 

(11) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] A Texas primary candidate for the state House got in an uproar regarding a tall tale about Furries. She decided that it was an outrage that some schools would be lowering their cafeteria tables to make it easier for these anthropomorphs to eat out of their bowls—sans utensils or hands. 

This despite the fact that Furrys don’t do that. Or that the schools in question had no intention of lowering their tables. Or that, in fact, it was impossible to do so given the tables’ design.

This is hardly the only tall tale about Furries and schools. I’ll leave it to your imagination (or to your clicking though to read the article) as to what alternative restroom arrangements were supposedly on the table for one school system in Michigan. Or, rather, on the floor.  “A Texas GOP Candidate’s New Claim: School Cafeteria Tables Are Being Lowered for ‘Furries’”

On Sunday night, a candidate in the GOP primary for Texas House District 136, which includes a large portion of the suburbs north of Austin, tweeted a curious allegation. That candidate, Michelle Evans—an activist who works with the local chapter of conservative parents’ group Moms for Liberty and who cofounded the anti-vaccine political action committee Texans for Vaccine Choice, back in 2015—tweeted that “Cafeteria tables are being lowered in certain @RoundRockISD middle and high schools to allow ‘furries’ to more easily eat without utensils or their hands (ie, like a dog eats from a bowl).”

She was responding to a tweet from right-wing Texas provocateur Michael Quinn Sullivan, who had shared a video of a woman speaking at a December school board meeting in Midland, Michigan, claiming that schools there have added “litter boxes” in the halls to allow students who identify as “furries” to relieve themselves. Sullivan retweeted the video, adding, “This is public education.” (It isn’t; the claims made by the speaker in the video have been shown to be untrue.) 

… Similar reports have popped up elsewhere. In Iowa, an unsourced, anonymous report claimed that school boards were considering placing litter boxes in the bathrooms, while a Canadian public school director took to the media to connect similar rumors in his community to a backlash around accommodations that his schools had created for transgender students. Evans’s claim that Round Rock lowered its tables appears to simply be a new variation on the myth…. 

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! and saw a contestant struggling with this:

Category: Books and authors

Answer: This feral character raised by jungle animals originally appeared in Rudyard Kipling’s short story “In The Rukh”

Wrong question: Who is Tarzan?

Correct question: Who is Mowgli?

(13) DRY FUTURE FOR SOME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] With a global population explosion and climate change, both factors will combine to create water shortages in some places (which would not happen otherwise if one or other factor did not exist).  Now, writing in Nature Communications, N. American researchers based in Canada and the US have mapped the global situation.  (Not looking good for SW of the USA.) “Hotspots for social and ecological impacts from freshwater stress and storage loss”.

The most-vulnerable basins encompass over 1.5 billion people, 17% of global food crop production, 13% of global gross domestic product, and hundreds of significant wetlands. There are substantial social and ecological benefits to reducing vulnerability in hotspot basins, which can be achieved through hydro- diplomacy, social adaptive capacity building, and integrated water resources management practices, the researchers conclude.

(14) A LITTLE CHILD SHALL MISLEAD THEM. In “Misunderstandings”, David Bratman says, “A comment elsewhere prompted me to drag out recollections of words whose meaning I misunderstood as a child,” and gives several engaging examples.

*blind spot
I thought this meant you were literally struck blind if you looked in that direction – whether permanently or momentarily I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to find out the hard way. I specifically remember our coming across a road sign with this warning when we were out driving around house-hunting in the hill country, which would put my age at 7. It is characteristic of me that, well over a half century later, I still remember exactly where this was, even though I’ve never gone back to check if the sign is still there. (I might be struck blind!) But from Google street view, apparently not.

(15) A PARAGON. I felt much better about File 770’s copyediting when I read artist James Artimus Owen tell Facebook readers

I have accidentally replaced all the spaces in my current manuscript with the words, “Chuck Norris”. But I’m leaving it in, in hopes that the change will be accepted as one of those necessary, semi-invisible words like “and”, “the”, and “defenestrate.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the concluding Final Fantasy game has many “beautiful and poignant moments” because “you spent 5,000 hours with these characters in the previous 13 episodes,” but there are exciting sidebars, such as “waiting for a really rare monster to appear while someone writes the entire plot of Shrek in chat.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Joel Zakem, Bruce D. Arthurs, BravoLimaPoppa, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/21 A Pixel Upon The Deep

(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —

The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.

(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.

With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:

1: Anime

The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….

(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large…. 

(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.

… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….

(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.

You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.

Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.

(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.

… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.

The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….

(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.

… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….

(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama”Tor.com has the story.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….

(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.

An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….

(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.

In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.

“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.

Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.

Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn. 

The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).”  It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent. 

Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1952 Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The LostThe Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1953 Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed. 
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the  Supergirl series..   Her other genre appearences include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.

Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly.  Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design.  You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers.  Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on.  Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….

Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world.  This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.

(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.

(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.

‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)

This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….

(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.

… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….

(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question  “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”

…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered… 

(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled.  “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.

Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.

In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….

(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.

…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…

(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 12/12/21 To Your Scattered Pixels Go

(1) THE RIGHT PANTS. Sharon Lee assures Facebook readers it can be done. Repeatedly.

So, the question arises on Twitter — Is it possible to pants — i.e. write outline-free — an entire novel?

Er, yes, it is possible to pants an entire novel — or even 34 entire novels. It’s not neat, and there’s a certain amount of waste involved, but, let’s face it, I’m never going to outline a novel. How could you even DO that? Things are gonna change as you go along, anyway.

(2) SHOPPING LIST. In the second part of his Christmas book round up, Michael Dirda reviews The Ray Bradbury Compendium! Also, American Christmas Stories edited by Connie Willis. “Books make the best gifts. Here are seven surprising choices for the readers on your list” in the Washington Post.

Years ago, I was invited to write a letter recommending Ray Bradbury for a special Pulitzer Prize. Anne Farr Hardin helped organize that successful effort, largely out of her affection and admiration for the author who gave us “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (all, by the way, available in a new Library of America volume edited by our leading Bradbury scholar, Jonathan Eller). Hardin’s own fabulous Bradbury collection — now housed at the University of South Carolina and the basis for this annotated catalogue — features warmly inscribed books, personal letters, rare pulp magazines, manuscripts, photographs, poems, Christmas greetings and all kinds of memorabilia, even Bradbury’s famous bicycle, now painstakingly restored.

(3) FILLING IN THE BLANKETYS. “’They were a bit abrasive’: how kids’ TV Clangers secretly swore” — “The son of Oliver Postgate, creator of the 1970s show, reveals what was in the scripts for the delightful and puzzling swannee-whistle creatures” in the Guardian.

…“People have often wondered whether there was swearing,” said Postgate, who revived the show for a new generation in 2015. He is surprised, he said, by the idea the soundtrack of whistles could ever have been entirely improvised. “Some people don’t realise that the scripts were written in English. And those who do often speculate on whether a certain amount of bad language – swearing, to be blunt – had been slipped into their conversations.”…

(4) UNDERGROUND LITERATURE. Londoners know all about this, but it was news to me – every month they post poetry on the Tube. If you can’t make it there, you can read this month’s Poems on the Underground at the link. (Or the poems from November 2021 here; all of 2021 here; and all of 2020 here.) Some of this month’s selections are of genre interest — beginning with Margaret Atwood.

(5) SECOND REITH LECTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The second of the 2021 Reith Lectures can be heard on BBC Radio 4. The lecture can be downloaded from here for a month. (After that search for it on BBC iSounds.)

AI in warfare – Episode 2 of 4

Skynet is not the problem…

Stuart Russell warns of the dangers of developing autonomous weapon systems – arguing for a system of global control. Weapons that locate, select, and engage human targets without human supervision are already available for use in warfare,. Some argue that AI will reduce collateral damage and civilian casualties. Others believe it could kill on a scale not seen since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Will future wars be fought entirely by machines, or will one side surrender only when its real losses, military or civilian, become unacceptable? Professor Russell will examine the motivation of major powers developing these types of weapons, the morality of creating algorithms that decide to kill humans, and possible ways forward for the international community as it struggles with these questions.

Stuart Russell is Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley.

There was also an accompanying science programme later that day: “Rutherford and Fry on Living with AI”.

What if a despotic leader could programme a swarm of drones to kill a set of identified targets with just the push of a button? Due to ever expanding AI capabilities this extreme dystopian vision may not be technically unfeasible. In this second of a four part series responding to this year’s BBC Reith lectures from Stuart Russell, Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry unpick the role of AI in warfare.

Joining them to help them navigate the battlefield of information is Ulrike Franke, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who specialises in the future of warfare.

Together they will be investigating ‘lethal autonomous weapons’ – these are weapons that can find, chose and kill human targets without human supervision. We will be discussing how advanced this technology actually is – some think the world may have already experienced the first ever autonomous strike in Libya. What are the repercussions of this technology for safety on the battlefield , and what are the wider geo-political ramifications?

Stuart Russell has deep concerns over the development of these types of weapons and Rutherford and Fry pick apart some of the ethical debates this technology raises. Who would be responsible if a system malfunctioned and killed a civilian? What’s to stop it getting into the wrong hands? Should we even be creating these weapons in the first place – do we instead need a convention banning them? And is that even possible?

(6) ANNE RICE (1941-2021). The author of Interview With the Vampire, Anne Rice, died December 11 at the age of 80 due to complications resulting from a stroke.

Interestingly, Rice’s Interview With the Vampire received many rejections, until Rice attended a writer’s conference conducted by Ray Nelson, where she met her future literary agent, Phyllis Seidel, who sold the book. (Ray Nelson is a writer, and also the fanartist whose cartoons popularized the image of beanie-wearing fans.)

 The Guardian notes:

…Rice wrote a further 12 novels in the Vampire Chronicles series, and was dismissive of the sparkly, vegetarian version of vampires made popular in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, saying she felt “sorry for vampires that sparkle in the sun” and that Lestat “would never hurt immortals who choose to spend eternity going to high school over and over again in a small town”.

…Rice was also known for her erotic fiction Sleeping Beauty series

Her son Christopher eulogized her death on Facebook:

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty years ago at Noreascon 1 where Robert Silverberg was the Toastmaster, Theodore Sturgeon won the Hugo for the Short Story for his “Slow Sculpture“ story that had been published in the February 1970 of Galaxy. Other nominated works were R. A. Lafferty‘s “Continued on Next Rock”, Gordon R. Dickson‘s “Jean Duprès”, Keith Laumer’s “In The Queue” and Ben Bova and Harlan Ellison‘s “Brillo”. It would also win a Nebula Award, but in the Novella category. Note that the Galaxy cover calls it a Novelette thereby giving us a hat trick.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1891 Malcolm Jameson. His “Blind Alley” novella, first published in the June 1943 issue of Unknown,was used for the Twilight Zone episode “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville”. It was broadcast on April 11, 1963. He only wrote three novels but penned over seventy short stories. Kindle, though not Apple Books, has most of his fiction at very reasonable rates. (Died 1945.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 77. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo in Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3 after five previous nominations. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 – Karl Edward Wagner. Trained as a psychiatrist, Wagner quickly abandoned the medical profession in favour of writing and editing. Nowadays, he is best remembered for the adventures of the immortal warrior Kane (implied to be the Cain from the Bible), who appeared in three novels and twenty short stories and novellas between 1970 and 1994 and even met Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné in one story. The Kane stories rejuvenated the sword and sorcery genre and are considered precursors to today’s grimdark fantasy. Wagner’s Robert E. Howard pastiches, the Conan pastiche The Road of Kings and the Bran Mak Morn pastiche Legion of Shadows, are considered among the best of the many Howard pastiches. Wagner was also an acclaimed horror author and his 1974 story “Sticks” is believed to have inspired the movie The Blair Witch Project. Between 1987 and 1991, Wagner edited three volumes of the heroic fantasy anthology Echoes of Valor and was the first to publish stories like Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stranger” or Fritz Leiber’s “Adept’s Gambit” in their original, unaltered form. Wagner was also the editor of the Year’s Best Horror Storiesanthologies from 1980 to his death in 1994. Together with David Drake, he founded the publishing house Carcosa, which specialised in reprinting pulp era fantasy and horror stories. Wagner won the World Fantasy, Stoker and British Fantasy Award and the special British Fantasy Award for contributions to the genre is named after him. Wagner is the subject of the 2020 documentary The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner, which may be viewed on Vimeo. There is also a podcast about his life and work named The Dark Crusade. (Died 1994)  [By Cora Buhlert.]
  • Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale The Feather of Finist the Falcon. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies, and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman.  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon after falling on harsh circumstances. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty years ago, “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”  (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 72. Yes, he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the known, Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to other blink-and-he’s-gone, as when he played the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther. (Yes, ENT Doctor, not EMT Doctor.) He’s John Kildare in the most excellent The Limehouse Golem.
  • Born December 12, 1956 Noël Sturgeon, 65. Daughter of Theodore Sturgeon. And yes she’s has genre creds though ISFDB doesn’t list them as she has edited Slow Sculpture: Volume XII: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon and The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume XIII: Case and the Dreamer. She’s a tenured academic who has two published works to date, Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory and Political Action and Environmentalism in Popular Culture: Gender, Race, Sexuality, and the Politics of the Natural. Hardcore stuff that. 
  • Born December 12, 1959 Beth Bernobich, 62. Her novel, A Study in Honor, won for Best Lesbian Mystery at Lambda Literary Awards. (The Hound of Justice novel picked up a second nomination for the same Award.) Her River of Souls series, of which the second book, Queen’s Hunt was longlisted for a David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, is quite good. 
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 60. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children In Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Mädchen Amick, 51. I remember her first as Ariel, the shapeshifter who was Roarke’s second-in-command, on the second Fantasy Island which I had no idea only lasted for only thirteen episodes. But her first genre role was on Next Gen as Young Anya in “The Dauphin” several before she played Shelly Johnson on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, a role she reprised on Twin Peaks and the recent Twin Peaks in which she’s renamed Shelly Briggs. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 45. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine AfflictionBone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which you’ve not tried it you should and I’d recommend Little God as a good place to start. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot’s “The Spice Must Flow” suggests that perhaps nutmeg and  melange are similar. (Hey, melange could almost be read as “allspice”, right?)

(10) MORE SEASONING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] They could call this “Spice: The Final Frontier!”

Dune Spice Wars is an upcoming real-time strategy game with 4X elements and featuring asymmetrical gameplay, as well as multiple playable factions.

(11) YOUR SCI-FI DOCENT. Star Trek writer Marc Scott Zicree takes you on a tour of the “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” exhibit at Skirball Cultural Center in LA.

(12) IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Laura Sheppard Churchley, the daughter of pioneering American astronaut Alan Shepard, was among those on the latest suborbital launch by Blue Origin. And, oh yeah, some famous guy was also in the capsule. Can you guess which one was named in the headline and the lede? “Strahan flies to space with astronaut’s daughter: ‘Wow!’”

Football star and TV celebrity Michael Strahan caught a ride to space with Jeff Bezos’ rocket-launching company Saturday, sharing the trip with the daughter of America’s first astronaut.

“TOUCHDOWN has a new meaning now!!!” he tweeted after landing.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket blasted off from West Texas, sending the capsule on a 10-minute flight with the two VIP guests and four paying customers. Their automated capsule soared to an altitude of 66 miles (106 kilometers), providing a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting into the desert. The booster also came back to land successfully….

(13) GET A LIFE, KEEP A LIFE. Meanwhile, William Shatner is still holding onto that sense of wonder inspired by his Blue Origin trip. He declares, “The Future Is Worth Fighting For, And Fans Will Lead The Way” at SlashFilm.

So. I’m back from space.

I saw just how fragile our home, this spinning blue ball, really is in the depthless darkness with my own eyes and I was moved. It made all the constant static we are surrounded with evaporate and gave a clarity unknown to me.

If only the world could see what I saw — this comforter of blue that surrounds us. When everyone can see how fragile and special life is, we will finally see ourselves as one community, one people.

This past August I was in the green room of a San Jose pop culture convention when I was approached by two men — one dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, the other wearing an Indiana Jones costume complete with bullwhip. They didn’t want a selfie, but instead pitched me on a startup (this was Silicon Valley, after all) – Legion M, an entertainment company built from the ground up to be owned by fans.

It’s a simple but brilliant idea: Harness the wisdom and power of the community. Shorten the distance between creators and consumers. Give people a say in what gets made and a stake in the outcome. Grow that community large enough, and you could potentially change the way entertainment is produced forever. A big idea….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, N., Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/21 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls In To Mine

(1) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC 2021. The New York Times reports “Hochul Urges Anime NYC Conference Attendees to Get Tested Due to Omicron”.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Thursday that everyone who attended a recent anime convention in Manhattan should get tested for the coronavirus, after it was announced that an individual who tested positive for the Omicron variant in Minnesota had attended to the conference.

Ms. Hochul said the individual, a Minnesota resident who was vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, had attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center in Midtown Manhattan. She urged people who attended the event, which was held from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, to get tested and said that health officials would be in contact with attendees. The convention hosted 53,000 attendees over three days, according to a spokesman for the Javits Center….

The Mayor of New York City also put out a statement:

(2) VARLEY MEDICAL UPDATE. In “The Two Johns”, John Varley tells why he’s home from his third stay in the hospital this year. Much as he works to lighten it up, this is serious, plus some touching moments about his last roommate. The digest version about his health is in this excerpt of the last three paragraphs:

…So I’m back home now. My final diagnosis, like a slap on the butt as I went out the door, was C.O.P.D. (That’s #5.) It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. My guess is that it has something to do (ya think?) with over fifty years of a pack-and-a-half per day smoking habit, only recently terminated. Used to be, it was easy to find me at SF conventions. Just look for the very tall guy whose head was obscured by the smoke that encircled his head like a wreath. That was in the early days. More recently I could usually be found outside the hotel, huddled against the rain, the cold, and the howling gale with a couple other hopeless addicts.

I was sent home with a couple bottles of oxygen and an oxygen concentrator, but it’s possible I won’t need them after a while. Lee and I were enrolled in classes at something called the Transitional Care Clinic, TCC, a really smart and nice service of the Clinic where you record all your vital signs and come in weekly for consultation. I hate trailing the coiled tubing for the O2 all around the house, but so be it. I am able to do most things I always did, and get around in the car. I still tire quickly, but I don’t pant like an overheated hound dog.

Thanks again to all who sent money after my heart attack at the beginning of the year. I can’t tell you how much those dollars have helped take a heavy load off both our minds….

(3) MOBY WORM. Michael Dirda, well-known Washington Post critic who started there writing sf book reviews, has written an introduction to the new Folio Society edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune. An excerpt appears at Literary Hub: “What Accounts for the Lasting Appeal of Dune?”

… Even now, half a century since it first appeared in 1965, Dune is certainly still “the one”—it continues to top readers’ polls as the greatest science-fiction novel of modern times. Many would say of all time. Before Star Wars, before A Game of Thrones, Frank Herbert brought to blazing life a feudalistic future of relentless political intrigue and insidious treachery, a grandly operatic vision—half Wagner, half spaghetti western—of a hero discovering his destiny. Characters include elite samurai-like warriors, sadistically decadent aristocrats, mystical revolutionaries, and, not least, those monster worms, which barrel along under the desert surface with the speed of a freight train, then suddenly emerge from the sand like Moby Dick rising from the depths….

(4) MISSING A FEW THINGS. A.V. Club’s M.L. Kejera’s “Comics review: The History Of Science Fiction is bad history” contends “This reprehensible graphic novel could have been so much more, but instead spends time covering up history, not unpacking it.”

… Presented with an index and a list of principal art sources, the book is clearly attempting to be of some academic or referential use, on top of its wider appeal. But the English translation of Histoire De La Science Fiction fails utterly as a proper historic work—and worse, ends up functioning as weak hagiography.

… For example, though objects and ideas from Japanese sci-fi litter the futuristic museum, no Japanese author is given anywhere near the depth as writers from the aforementioned countries. Considering that one of the primary sources for this book is able to be precise about its purview (La Science-Fiction En France Dans Les Années 50, or Science Fiction In France In The ’50s), it’s a baffling decision on the part of everyone involved here to not specify this—especially while calling itself history.

Additionally, there is an ugly tendency in the book to gloss over the more reprehensible aspects of the writers featured….

(5) CLARK DEPARTS. SFWA bid “A Farewell to SFWA Blog Editor C.L. Clark”.

As of November 30, our blog editor, C.L. Clark (Cherae) has stepped down from her role for personal reasons. Clark joined SFWA’s staff in the summer of 2020. Her editorial perspective has brought many new voices to the blog over the past year, voices with a lot of insightful and fresh perspectives on the publishing industry today and the craft of science fiction and fantasy writing in the many mediums in which our members work. She’s also provided essential assistance with the release of The Bulletin #216 and our other SFWA Publications projects…. 

(6) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a “Call for Artists 2022” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2022.  Full guidelines at the link.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats. The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

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

Submission Dates: November 20, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

(7) HOST CITY WANTED FOR 2023 WESTERCON. Kevin Standlee posted an announcement at the Westercon.org website: “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2023 Westercon”.

Because no groups filed to host Westercon 75, selection of the site of the 2023 Westercon devolved upon the 2021 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 73 (in conjunction with Loscon 47) in Los Angeles on November 27, 2021. The Business Meeting voted to appoint Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Westercon 74 Head of Hospitality Lisa Hayes as a committee to select a site and committee to run Westercon 75. Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75.

To submit a bid to the “Standlee-Hayes Commission” to host Westercon 75, write to Kevin Standlee at chair@Westercon74.org, or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee.

The initial deadline for applications is January 31, 2022.

(8) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Rosemary Claire Smith encourages writers to do what they want to anyway: “Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works” at the SFWA Blog. Here’s the second of four points:

2. Award Eligibility Posts Are for All Writers, Not Only the Big Names.

Don’t believe me? Consider how many writers won a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award or another prestigious literary prize with the first story or novel they ever got into print. Think about the “newcomers” awards such as the Astounding Award for Best New Writer given to someone whose first professional work was published during the two previous calendar years. It’s been a springboard launching a number of careers. Also, keep in mind that your audience may nominate and/or vote on readers’ choice awards given by Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and other periodicals. 

By now, some of you are saying to yourselves, “Why bother when I’ll never win an award…or even be nominated. Or if I am, it’ll be as a list filler.” Others are thinking, “I only published one story. It came out in an obscure publication.” Then there’s, “My novel didn’t sell all that well,” not to mention the perennial, “The reviewers don’t know my book exists.” Are you thinking about waiting until…what? You’re better known? You sell more copies? You get published in a top market? Your sales figures improve or your social-media following grows? Your work attracts a glowing review? 

To every one of your objections, the answer is the same: Your fiction merits more attention right now. Even in better times, writing is a difficult enough business without running ourselves down. As writers, we are notoriously NOT the best judge of our own work. We’re too close to it. Sometimes words flow quickly and effortlessly. Other pieces fight us for every sentence we succeed in wringing out of them. Critical and popular acclaim aren’t tethered to the ease or difficulty of creation. Besides, our assessment of particular pieces may evolve as we gain the advantages of time and distance. In short, you never know how a story will fare….

(9) A TOP SFF BOOK COMES TO TV. Station Eleven will air starting December 24 on HBO Max.

A limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, #StationEleven is a post-apocalyptic saga that follows survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what’s been lost.

(10) GAIMAN ON TOUR. Neil Gaiman will be visiting many cities in the U.S. in April and May next year – see the schedule on Facebook.

(11) OSBORN OBIT. [Item by Bill.] I am saddened to pass on that Darrell Osborn has died of heart issues. He’s the husband of Stephanie Osborn. They’ve made a number of appearances at SF cons in the Southeast, with Stephanie as a writer and Darrell doing magic and balloon animals. Darrell’s day job was as a graphic designer for an aerospace contractor, and he did cover art for SF books.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age wins the Hugo for Best Novel at L.A. Con III where Connie Willis was Toastmaster. The other nominated works that year were The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, Brightness Reef by David Brin, The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer and Remake by Connie Willis. The Diamond Age would be nominated for Nebula, Campbell Memorial, SF Chronicle, Clarke, Locus, Prometheus, BSFA and HOMer Awards, winning the SF Chronicle and Locus Awards. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. He wrote a lot of SFF novels, none of which I recognize from the ISFDB listings. A lot of his genre novels are available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.  He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 84. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 75. British-born American illustrator and writer who is at least genre adjacent I’d say. (Motel of the Mysteries is genre.) Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 69. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. She too loves dark chocolate. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1952 Keith Szarabajka, 69. Quite a few genre roles including Daniel Holtz in the Angel series, voicing the demon Trigon in the Teen Titans series, Gerard Stephens in The Dark Knight and a recurring role as Donatello Redfield on Supernatural. That’s just a small sample of his genre roles down the decades. 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 50. Writer and illustrator, best remembered as creator of the most excellent Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. It’s available from the usual suspects. In French only for some reason. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full’s joke really has nothing to do with Tom Baker. Honestly.

(15) BEEBO, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A.V. Club declares, “Beebo Saves Christmas is one of the oddest holiday specials ever”.

You don’t (apparently) have to have been watching the WB/”Arrowverse” series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; indeed, it’s not clear that will help or otherwise make any difference. Beebo is a small furry toy that’s appeared as a character in several LofT episodes, ranging from as a mild joke to a malevolent something-or-other.

… For those who aren’t invested in Arrowverse lore, Beebo Saves Christmas was spun out of a running joke on DC’s Legends Of Tomorrowthe show about loser superheroes traveling through time and trying to save the day without making anything worse. In one episode—arguably the show’s best—a talking Tickle Me Elmo-style toy called Beebo is sent back in time and ends up in the possession of Leif Erikson and a group of Vikings who worship the talking toy as their new god of war….

If you can find it. On the CW, it apparently aired last night, “with an encore presentation airing on December 21, 2021.”  JustWatch.com doesn’t have this in its database. This Decider article has some other how-to-watch-it suggestions: “What time is ‘Beebo Saves Christmas’ on The CW?”

I’m thinking that an hour might be overmuch, but there’s only one way to find out…

(16) LAUREL & HARDY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2017 podcast Leonard Maltin did with Mark Evanier on Laurel and Hardy (Maltin on Movies: Mark Evanier.)  As kids, both of them watched Laurel and Hardy two-reelers after school and when John McCabe’s Mr Laurel And Mr Hardy came out in 1961 both checked out copies from the adult section of the library.  Because the Los Angeles public library didn’t have a copy, Evanier persuaded his aunt to get the Beverly Hills library’s copy.

Both men are really knowledgeable on silent film history, and if you know enough to argue about whether Snub Pollard was funnier than Charley Chase, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.  But their points are simple ones: all of Laurel and Hardy is worth watching except for the last five years of their careers, and it’s best to see them in a theatre or with friends because the laughter produced by a group adds to the joy these great comedians provided.

Fun facts: The stairs used in the 1932 short The Music Box still exist, and you can visit them in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.  Two Oscar-winning directors: Leo McCarey (as director) and George Stevens (as cinematographer) got their start on Laurel and Hardy shorts.

I thought this was a fun hour.

(17) THREE’S A CHARM. The first two were cursed. “BABYLON 5 The Geometry of Shadows commentary/reaction by Straczynski Third Version”. Why was this the third version? Straczynski spends the opening minutes explaining the problems that trashed the first two attempts:

…I’m recording the commentary for the Geometry of Shadows for the third time. The first time turned out that the new lavalier i was using wasn’t exactly hooked up right and did the entire recording sounding like Marvin the Martian — if Marvin the Martian were a raging drunk. Same applies to the Sense-8 commentary I did the same night. The second time I did it to redo the technology of the first one everything went fine. The sensitive microphone picked up all the sound in the room which was great, until I found out that it also picked up enough of the dialogue from the screen that it showed up on the recording and Youtube, when it did its search, said you cannot use this, Warner Brothers television has a claim on this, you can’t use it, you can’t post it. From 26 minutes to 42 minutes we can hear it. This is now my third run at this. I am beyond annoyed. I’m so – I wore a B5 cap from the pilot. I had a whole story about this. Screw it. I’m not telling you what it was because i don’t care anymore…

(Is this what really happened to the first four Babylons?)

(18) NOT SF. AT ALL. But if you read the Jack Reacher books you might want to see this trailer for Amazon Prime’s Reacher series. If it’s important to you that the new actor be taller than Tom Cruise, they have that covered. However, the trailer makes this Reacher look a bit of a showoff and dipshit, which isn’t his psychology in the books.  

(19) LIKE A DOG WITH A BONE. Can’t let go of it. But why couldn’t his passion project turn out great? Maybe someday. “Guillermo del Toro Wants to Make a ‘Weirder, Smaller’ Version of ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ Possibly at Netflix” at Yahoo!

Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has long held that his passion project is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” and while he still hopes the opportunity arises to make the film, he now has a different version in mind than the one he nearly got off the ground a decade ago.

Appearing on the Stephen King-centric podcast The Kingcast to discuss “It,” del Toro was asked about the multiyear deal he signed with Netflix in 2020 and whether he might finally make “At the Mountains of Madness” at the streamer. “Take a wild guess which were the first projects I presented, you know?” del Toro replied. “I went through the cupboard and found ‘Monte Cristo’ and ‘Mountains of Madness.’ Those were a couple of the ones I presented first.”

(20) NEUTRON BEAMS, FAITH AND MAGIC.  In today’s Nature: “Neutron Beam Peers Into Medieval Faith And Superstition”.

A Norwegian amulet more than 700 years old has been hiding a runic inscription that holds religious and magic significance.

When archaeologists found the rectangular metal object during an excavation in Oslo’s medieval town in 2018, they saw that it was covered with runes and folded several times. Hartmut Kutzke at the city’s Museum of Cultural History and his colleagues wanted to study what was inscribed inside, but they feared that manually opening the talisman, known as the Bispegata amulet, would damage it. Because it is made out of lead — a heavy metal that blocks most X-rays — using X-ray tomography to make the hidden runes visible would not work either. Instead, the researchers used a neutron beam to peek inside the amulet and create a detailed reconstruction of it.

They found that some of the runes spell out Latin and Greek phrases, whereas others signify repetitive sequences of seemingly meaningless words. Some of the comprehensible phrases might carry religious meaning, whereas the abstruse abracadabra was probably thought to have a magic effect, the researchers say.

(21) IT’S A YOUNG MOON AFTER ALL. From “Robotic sample return reveals lunar secrets” in today’s Nature:

A mission to unexplored lunar territory has returned the youngest volcanic samples collected so far. The rocks highlight the need to make revisions to models of the thermal evolution of the Moon.

The wait is over for more news from the Moon1. Three studies in this issue, by https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04119-5.pdf  Tian et al.   https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04107-9.pdf   Hu et al. and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04100-2.pdf ;Li et al., together with one in Science by Che et al. report data on the lunar samples brought back by China’s robotic Chang’e-5 mission — the first to return samples since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. These data shed light on volcanic eruptions that occurred more than one billion years more recently than those known about previously, and provide information on the cause of the volcanism that cannot be obtained from orbit. The results raise questions about the structure and thermal evolution of the lunar interior, and could help to improve methods for estimating the age of planetary surfaces throughout the inner Solar System.

In December 2020, the Chang’e-5 lander set down in the Rümker region near the northwest corner of Oceanus Procellarum on the side of the Moon closest to Earth (Fig. 1). Like the sites visited by Luna and by NASA’s Apollo missions, the Rümker region consists predominantly of a magnesium-rich volcanic rock known as basalt, but the difference from previous missions is that the Rümker basalts are potentially as young as 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion years old, which makes the Chang’e-5 samples the youngest taken from the Moon so far.

(22) NERD ART. “’Selfie with Godzilla’?! Artist Fuses Reality and Science Fiction in Multimedia Gallery Show” — some entertaining images in Houston City Book.

…Houston artist Neva Mikulicz, a self-described “nerd” with an alter ego named Commodore Mik, who once ordered Kirk to the Star Fleet Fat Farm so she could board and evaluate the condition of the Starship Enterprise, smartly and humorously blurs that line between science and science fiction in her new exhibit, Declassified, a collection of beautifully realized Prismacolor pencil on paper drawings, complemented by archival videos and LED and sound module technology. The show opens Saturday at Anya Tish Gallery.

UFOs, robots, and monsters both prehistoric and imagined are recurring subjects in Mikulicz’s artwork, which radiates with a 1950s “vintage-y” vibe, the decade when the automobile, rock’n’roll and television took hold of the country’s collective imagination.

But Declassified is no nostalgia trip. Some drawings mirror the look of our world as it is photographed and disseminated by handheld consumer gizmos, while other works are composed like panels in a graphic novel, a medium that many contemporary fine artists find inspiring. One features a T-Rex chasing an iconic orange-and-white-striped Whataburger cup; another is titled “Selfie with Godzilla.” Mikulicz also created a comic book to accompany the exhibition….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  No Time To Die,” the Screen Junkies say the film shows that Bond has gone beyond silliness (remember Roger Moore driving a gondola?) to be a movie “about a divorced dad who wonders what to feed a French kid for breakfast.” Also, why should characters care who is 007, since that’s basically “an employee ID number?”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, Bill, Michael J. Walsh, Kevin Standlee, David K.M. Klaus, Will R., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 12/1/21 Scrolls, Glorious Scrolls, Fresh Godstalked And Pixeled

(1) FUTURE RACE. Kathryn Finch discusses the way sff uses cross-species “hybrid” characters to discuss racial issues and how those depictions still often fail in “The Kids Aren’t Alright: The Race Essentialism of Sci-fi Hybrids” at Blood Knife.

…Whether it’s the regal elves and (literally) down-to-earth dwarves of the Lord of the Rings or the regal Vulcans and (not-so-literally) down-to-earth Klingons of Trek, world building often relies on generalizations. Race essentialism has been a useful shorthand for some writers, and giving each new race in a populous universe a specific “hat” to wear allows for the appearance of novelty and diversity, without the requirement to actually flesh out individual characters more than the minimum necessary for the purposes of the plot. This does not strike the casual observer as problematic, as the innate foreignness of a creature from another world is much more expected than any sort of familiarity.

And therein lies the problem. In the future, racism is not extinguished, but transformed. A conflict between two completely different species is patently understandable; they are, quite literally, otherworldly….

(2) LAVISH EDITIONS. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] Unsurprisingly, Michael Dirda is living in our libraries. “Critic’s picks: Best illustrated nonfiction books” in the Washington Post.

What do Santa Claus, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a certain Washington Post reviewer and the Lord High Executioner from “The Mikado” all have in common? Give up? Each of us has been known to say, “I’ve got a little list.” This holiday season, though, my list isn’t so little. In fact, it will extend over three weeks. This is the first, focusing on large-sized, illustrated nonfiction….

‘Spider-Man,’ by Roy Thomas (Folio Society, $125)

To complement his three-volume historical sampler of Marvel Comics (“The Golden Age,” “The Silver Age,” “The Bronze Age”), the company’s former editor in chief, Roy Thomas, has begun to assemble additional volumes, each devoted to a major superhero. After last year’s Captain Marvel, this fall’s release showcases everyone’s favorite web-slinger in eight representative Spider-Man adventures, starring either Peter Parker or Miles Morales. Given the ritzy Folio Society treatment, Spidey never looked so good — and that goes for his archenemies, too, including my grandson’s favorites, Venom and Doctor Octopus. So if you know someone enthralled by the Spider-Verse, your shopping is done.

(3) WATCH THIS SPACE. The Planetary Society lists “The Best of 2021” in space exploration. For example:

Most exciting planetary science moment

2021 was quite a year for space exploration firsts, but the one that voters loved best was the Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first flight. On April 19th the little spacecraft took its first leap off the Martian surface, becoming the first aircraft to complete a powered, controlled flight on another planet. 

(4) AFRICAN BOOKS HONORED. Brittle Paper’s list of “50 Notable African Books of 2021” includes several genre works, most notably —

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

(Editor) Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The collection celebrates African speculative fiction at its best, giving lovers of the genre an immersive experience of non-realist worlds. Well-known and new authors offer stories in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more.

(5) DOUGLAS Q&A. Ian Douglas is one of the many pseudonyms for William H. Keith, creator of many sff works. Writer’s Digest has published an interview with him: “Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction”.

What prompted you to write this book?

Alien Hostiles is the second entry in a three-book series, picking up where Book One—Alien Agendas—leaves off and continuing with plot elements introduced there … though it can also be read as a stand-alone work.

My reason for writing the entire series was, I suppose, prompted by my distaste for the extremely bad science and logic behind so many current UFO conspiracy theories, most of which read like very bad B-movie sci-fi. I was at particular pains to weave those theories—those I chose to include, of course—into a seamless whole, a plausible story with at least some reasonable science behind it.

Probably the one idea that was the most important in shaping the entire series has to do with the ubiquitous alien Grays, those big-headed guys with big black eyes and spindly bodies we seem to see everywhere nowadays. It is my contention that the Grays are far, far too human to literally be alien life forms. At several points throughout each of the books, I introduce real aliens, and try to show how different they would be in anatomy, biochemistry, and psychology.

In this way I suppose I follow in the sandal-prints of Poo-Bah, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, as I provide “corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”…

(6) EH? WHAT’S THAT? “Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)” at SlashFilm.

I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood films. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed that percentage has dropped significantly — and it’s not due to hearing loss on my end. It’s gotten to the point where I find myself occasionally not being able to parse entire lines of dialogue when I see a movie in a theater, and when I watch things at home, I’ve defaulted to turning the subtitles on to make sure I don’t miss anything crucial to the plot.

Knowing I’m not alone in having these experiences, I reached out to several professional sound editors, designers, and mixers, many of whom have won Oscars for their work on some of Hollywood’s biggest films, to get to the bottom of what’s going on. One person refused to talk to me, saying it would be “professional suicide” to address this topic on the record. Another agreed to talk, but only under the condition that they remain anonymous. But several others spoke openly about the topic, and it quickly became apparent that this is a familiar subject among the folks in the sound community, since they’re the ones who often bear the brunt of complaints about dialogue intelligibility…. 

(7) PODCAST PEOPLE. Podside Picnic episode 145 features Karlo Yeager Rodriguez and Connor Southard making their “Hugo Predictions Beer Run”. My hearing isn’t good enough to take a listen, which is too bad because there are a couple categories I’m curious to hear them talk about.

(8) SCORING ENCANTO. At Nerds of a Feather, Arthur Serrano’s “I’m Colombian. Here’s what ‘Encanto’ means to me” provides analysis of how the new Disney animated movie makes use of Colombian culture.

…So when I, a Colombian reviewer, draw attention to the significance of Mickey Mouse dancing cumbia at the end of Encanto, I’m absolutely not in any way framing it as our culture being finally worthy of being showcased by Hollywood. The question to ask is exactly the opposite: it’s whether Hollywood is worthy of getting its hands on our culture….

One example of it being deployed effectively:

…Just like in the United States you hear of a divide between the prosperous, educated, productive coastal cities vs. the neglected flyover country, in Colombia we have prosperous, educated, productive mountain cities vs. the neglected coasts and forests. It has become a habitual refrain to say that ruling elites in Colombia live secluded between mountains and oblivious to what goes on elsewhere. In the flashback scene where the matriarch of the Madrigal family loses her husband, bursts into tears and magically creates an entire town (am I the only one getting WandaVision vibes here?) so that she can raise her kids in safety, the most striking image is the rising of the mountains that keep her refuge closed off from the world. This is a symbolic clue to the persistent anxiety that defines this character: she’s afraid of everything outside of her microcosm.

It’s a brilliant move by the film to establish the grandmother’s character flaw in terms of her relation to physical space. It has been pointed out that Encanto is the rare adventure story where the adventure doesn’t leave the home, and there’s a solid reason for that. There’s a certain current in Colombian literature that treats the extended family household as a metaphor for the country…. 

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-six years ago, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space premiered in the USA at theaters though details of where are scant to say the least. It was not released elsewhere in this manner as far I can determine. 

It is about the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, a series akin to Captain Video. And it won’t surprise you that it was intended to pay homage to both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

The cast was Nichelle Nichols as Sagan, High Priestess of Pangea, Ron Perlman as Lord Vox of Vestron, Daniel Riordan as Ty Farrell / Captain Zoom, Liz Vassey as Princess Tyra, Native Leader of Pangea and Gia Carides as Vesper, High Priestess of Vestron. 

Reception was excellent with critics universally liking it. It hasn’t apparently been given a video release, nor does it apparently made it to the streaming services, so it has no rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, was a Hugo finalist at Loncon II and won one of the inaugural National Book Awards, the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included it as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modeled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 Malachi Throne. You’ve likely seen him if you watched genre television on the Sixties and Seventies as he had roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaStar TrekNext GenLand of the GiantsThe Time TunnelMission: Impossible, Lost in SpaceOuter LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. , Batman,  and The Six Million Dollar Man. He provided the voice of the Keeper in Trek’s first pilot episode “The Cage”. Throne was cast in another role in “The Menagerie”, Commodore José I. Méndez, so his voice has altered in his “Cage” role. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 Melissa Jaffer, 85. Likely you best remember her as Utu Noranti Pralatong on Farscape though she was also in Mad Max: Fury Road where she played Keeper of the Seeds. And she was Annie in the Good Vibrations series. And she played Adeline Fitzgerald on Glitch, the Australian paranormal series. It ran for seven seasons. 
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 79. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. (Yes Little, Big did a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV.) Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? 
  • Born December 1, 1962 Gail Z. Martin, 59. Best known for known for The Chronicles of The Necromancer fantasy adventure series. Her single award to date, and it is impressive, is the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy for her Scourge novel. It was the seventh time that she had been a finalist for it. 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 57. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In her World Fantasy Award-winning Tooth and Claw dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other. Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo at Chicon 7 is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. She even won an Aurora Award for her “Nidhog” poem! 
  • Born December 1, 1965 Bill Willingham, 56. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals, and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always quite ambivalent about the Jack of Fables series that he spun off of Fables. Though his House of Mystery was rather good. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SIX-PACK. In “6 Books with Marissa Lingen”, Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer gets to hear what’s on a writer’s shelves, or might be soon.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Megan E. O’Keefe’s Catalyst Gate, which is the culmination of a trilogy that starts with Velocity Weapon. It’s space opera that’s filled with spaceships, alien intelligence, nanites, and shooty-shoot–and also personal relationships and the human heart. The series is full of twists and turns, and I can’t wait to see where it all ends up.

(13) KDRAMA. The Silent Sea comes to Netflix on December 24.

With Earth in ruins, 24 hours on the clock, and the odds stacked against them, a team of space specialists embarks on a seemingly routine mission to the moon. But when things quickly take a turn for the worse, they’ll fight for their lives and uncover secrets that make their mission seem more and more impossible by the minute.

(14) THE MACHINES ARE TAKING OVER. ARE WE READY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for a bit of science culture from the nation that first put someone on the Moon (with the aid of Cavorite;).

A bit of one of the many cultural traditions in Brit Cit are the annual Reith LecturesBaron Lord Reith, in case your memory needs jogging, was the first Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC’s Reith Lectures were instituted in 1948 in his honour. These annual radio talks, with the aim of advancing “public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest” have been held every year since, with the exception of 1992.

This year the Reith Lectures’ topic will be Living With Artificial Intelligence. There will be one lecture per week this month broadcast Wednesdays 09.00 GMT. “The Reith Lectures – Reith Lectures 2021 – Living With Artificial Intelligence”.

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Centre for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of California, Berkeley will be the 2021 BBC Reith Lecturer. He will deliver four lectures this autumn, which will explore the impact of AI on our lives and discuss how we can retain power over machines more powerful than ourselves.

The lectures will examine what Stu Russell will argue is the most profound change in human history as the world becomes increasingly reliant on super-powerful AI. Examining the impact of AI on jobs, military conflict and human behaviour, Stu Russell will argue that our current approach to AI is wrong and that if we continue down this path, we will have less and less control over AI at the same time as it has an increasing impact on our lives. How can we ensure machines do the right thing? The lectures will suggest a way forward based on a new model for AI, one based on machines that learn about and defer to human preferences

The first lecture (already broadcast and online) is entitled What is AI and should we fear it?

In it Stuart Russell reflects on the birth of AI, tracing our thinking about it back to Aristotle. He will outline the definition of AI, its successes and failures, and potential risks for the future. Why do we often fear the potential of AI? Referencing the representation of AI systems in film and popular culture, Russell will examine whether our fears are well founded. As previous Reith Lecturer Professor Stephen Hawking said in 2014, “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” Russell will ask how those risks arise and whether they can be avoided, allowing humanity and AI to coexist successfully.

The lectures will be downloadable as an .mp3 for a month after broadcast. The
first is here.

(15) TOP 10. JustWatch says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the United States in November 2021:

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Free GuyThe Wheel of Time
2DuneDoctor Who
3GhostbustersCowboy Bebop (1998)
4Venom: Let There Be CarnageHawkeye
5Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsArcane
6Spider-ManFoundation
7Spider-Man: Far From HomeRick and Morty
8VenomBlade Runner: Black Lotus
9Spider-Man: HomecomingBattlestar Galactica
10The Amazing Spider-ManInvasion

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica reports “Russia threatens criminal charges against a NASA astronaut”.  (1) This traces back to the August 2018 “hole in the Soyuz” incident. (2) The headline implies criminal charges may be pending. That seems to be an overstatement, based on what is actually written in the article. The article could, however, have left out information that would support the headline.

The Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, said it has completed an investigation into a “hole” found in a Soyuz spacecraft when the vehicle was docked to the International Space Station in 2018.

Moreover, Roscosmos told the Russian publication RIA Novosti that it has sent the results of the investigation to law enforcement officials. “All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft were transmitted to Law Enforcement officials,” Roscosmos said. No further details were provided.

In Russia, the results of such an investigation are sent to law enforcement to allow officials to decide whether or not to initiate a criminal case, which would be akin to issuing an indictment…. 

Since then, the focus has been on what—or who—may have caused the hole. A micrometeoroid strike was soon ruled out. Some Russian media reported that the hole had been caused by a manufacturing or testing defect, and this seems to be the most plausible theory. At the same time, however, sources in the Russian government started baseless rumors that perhaps a disgruntled NASA astronaut had drilled the hole….

(17) MONSTROUS BEHAVIOR. “2022 National Park Monsters Calendar” strikes me as a highly amusing product. However, the seller I ordered it from bit me with an $8.99 “tax” that was not shown to me as part of my order and now I am disputing it. So no link….

Real National Parks; Fake Monsters! It’s the 2022 Alternate Histories Calendar, packed with monsters, aliens, zombies, and other creatures rampaging through America’s National Parks.

(18) ONE HACKER’S OPINION. Behind a paywall at Wired, Andy Greenberg makes the argument that “The Matrix Is the Best Hacker Movie“ ever. Oh, he admits that the actual amount of hacking shown is quite small, but, quoting an early viewer of the movie, Neo understood that “by interfacing with this black screen with glowing green writing on it, he could change the world in ways that it was not necessarily meant to be changed.”

Or, in Greenberg‘s words, “The real hacking in The Matrix is metaphorical. The red-pill lesson Morpheus gives Neo is that a user in a digital system doesn’t have to abide by its terms of service.“

…For years the generally accepted canon of classic hacker movies has been a kind of holy trinity: 1983’s WarGames, with its digital delinquent caught up in Cold War geopolitics; the 1992 computers-and-cryptography heist film Sneakers; and 1995’s teen cyber-hijinks thriller Hackers. With a couple of decades of hindsight, however, it’s well past time to recognize that The Matrix has in some ways eclipsed that triumvirate. As other hacker films ossify, turning into computer cat-and-mouse-game time capsules, The Matrix has become the most abiding, popular, and relevant portrayal of hacking—a brain-plug jacked so deeply into our cultural conception of the genre that we’ve almost forgotten it’s there….

(19) WE HAVE IGNITION. Yahoo! recaps a network TV show which includes a genre Christmas light extravaganza: “Homemade ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ decorations set high bar for Christmas displays”.

The holiday season was in full swing Sunday as ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight returned for yet another year. While there were no large crowds in attendance this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was still a festive celebration filled with thousands of lights and incredibly creative decoration themes. One of the more popular themes from the night was based on the stop-motion holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostbusters: Afterlife Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer pitch that all the fans who were mad at the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot will pay to see a “loving tribute” to the original, including the last third that “follows the third act of the original, beat for beat.”  Also the writer has the producer play “product placement Mad Libs,” which is why we have characters buying a lot of Baskin-Robbins ice cream at Wal-Mart.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kurt Schiller, Jeffrey Smith, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Twisty Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/21 Now We Know How Many Holes It Takes To Fill A Pixel Scroll

(1) REFUTING FOUNDATION. Who cares if a brutal autocracy is destroyed? Why would anyone want to make another one? The Atlantic’s Zachary D. Carter says “’Foundation’ Has an Imperialism Problem”. Beware spoilers.

Foundation is a grand sci-fi adventure, sure, but it’s better understood as a work of political theory—a young American’s dialogue with the Enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon about the promise and peril of empire. To its credit, Apple’s new series embraces the philosophical ambition of Asimov’s masterpiece. But in updating Foundation for the 21st century, Goyer has produced a near-comprehensive repudiation of his source material. This is a show not about space or science, but rather the limits of liberal politics….

(2) WITH A SENSE OF LOSS. David Drake told his newsletter readers he’s giving up writing new novels, but will keep writing short stories. In his own words: “Newsletter #123 – the last one”.

Karen suggested I title this newsletter last, so I’m doing that. My health problems continue, whatever they are. I can’t concentrate enough to write a novel and I even had to give up my project with Ryan Asleben, (who couldn’t have been nicer).

I just couldn’t keep my texts straight. I’m still able to write stories and I think they’re pretty good. One on military robots is coming out in what’s now called Robosoldiers: Thank you for your Servos, edited by Stephen Lawson (Baen June 2022). The later story I did as a whim has been accepted for Weird world War IIIChina, edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett.

I can’t tell you how much I regret retiring. I’m okay for money and the anger I came back from Nam with has settled down to the point I’m no longer dangerous to other people, but I would certainly be happier if I were able to write….

(3) THE INTERSTELLAR JEWISH DIASPORA. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In his article “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew,” Yair Rosenberg meditates on representation of his culture in SFF, on the relationship between mainstream Christianity and Judaism, and on the life (and death) of a little-known character actor. It’s an interesting bit of research, and a reminder about the importance of cultural details in fiction. “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew” in The Atlantic.

…But for my money, with apologies to Mel Brooks, the most remarkable and utterly unexpected space Jew is this guy from the cult classic Firefly:

Created by Joss Whedon, Firefly lasted only one season, but it sold so many DVDs after it was canceled that the studio revived it for a full theatrical film. The yarmulke-clad figure is Amnon, the space mailman [played by character actor Al Pugliese] who runs a post office frequented by the show’s heroes. He appears in only one episode, and his Jewishness is so fascinating because it goes entirely unremarked. The show’s characters never discuss it, and it plays no role in the plot. It’s just there.

So how did this happen—and in one of the most celebrated single seasons of television ever created, no less? And what explains the incredible attention to detail? Observant viewers will note that Amnon is even wearing tzitzit, the ritual fringes typically but not exclusively donned by Orthodox Jewish men, an impressively deft touch. Why so much effort for something so seemingly incidental?…

(4) PUGLIESE DEATH NOTICE. Incidentally, Steven H Silver reported today that Al Pugliese (December 24, 1946) died from complications from COVID on July 24, 2021. His genre roles included episodes of Firefly, American Horror Story, and Brisco County, Jr., and the films Annihilator and Philadelphia Experiment II. Pugliese was not, in fact, Jewish, though as he told the writer of The Atlantic article above: “Even some of the Jews on set—actors and crew members—mistook him for a religious authority. ‘I’d say, “Wait a minute guys, I’m not a rabbi, I’m an actor.”’”

(5) PEEVED IN TEXAS. This is the lede of a column by Karen Attiah in the Washington Post about librarians battling book banners. “Texas librarians are on the front lines in a battle for the right to read”.

“Librarians are the secret masters of the world,’ wrote American Canadian author Spider Robinson.  “They control information.  Don’t ever piss one off.”

(6) IN DIALOG. “Explicit Queerness: A Conversation with Charlie Jane Anders by Arley Sorg” is a feature in the November Clarkesworld.

What is the key to writing a coming-of-age story that really speaks to readers?

What I love in a coming-of-age story is a character who is discovering their identity at the same time that they’re learning how the world works. There’s something super powerful and also heartbreaking about realizing that the world wasn’t what you thought, while also claiming your own selfhood and your own power. I sort of think of Empire Strikes Back as the great coming-of-age story, alongside the Earthsea books. And more recently, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

(7) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd recently sat down for Wired‘s online series where celebrities answer the web’s most searched questions.

Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd answer the web’s most searched questions about themselves and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ What is Dominic Monaghan doing right now? How tall is Billy Boyd? Why is Peregrin Took called Pippin? What kinds of accents do Merry and Pippin have? Dominic and Billy Boyd answer all these questions and much more!

(8) THIS IS NOT FOR YOU, PADAWAN. “Star Wars’ Real Lightsaber Is the Only Thing Without a Price at Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser”Gizmodo has the story.

Hey, you remember that awesome lightsaber Disney revealed that looked like the laser blade was actually igniting and extending? Like a parent to a small child reaching for a pair of sharp scissors, Disney has said, “Only Daddy touch.” Meaning the company is not going to offer them to the public, even if you’re going to the stupid-expensive Galactic Starcruiser Star Wars LARP hotel.

In fact, the only way you’ll ever be able to get your hands on one is to get hired as an actor at the Galaxy’s Edge section of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida—specifically as a Jedi—since they’ll be the only ones allowed to carry them…

(9) OH WHAT FUN. Elves is a Danish horror series picked up by Netflix.

(10) S&S PODCAST. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Rogues in the House podcast interviews Philip Gelatt and Morgan King, creators of the animated sword and sorcery film The Spine of Night. This is exactly the sort of project — both movie and podcast — that deserves more attention.  “’Spine of Night’ with Creators Morgan King and Phil Gelatt”.

 (11) THEY NAMED YOU AFTER THE DOG? Olivia Rutigliano talks about fatherhood as portrayed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“’Don’t Call Me Junior’: Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989)” at Bright Wall / Dark Room.

… Furthermore, this man’s whole outfit is the one Indy will later wear on his adventures—the button-down and khakis, the leather jacket and shoulder bag. The grown-up Indy has fashioned himself in the image of this man, emulating the look and even the occupational stylings of this nameless stranger for his whole adult life. That this man means so much to him suggests firmly that he has rejected his own father—the man who sits in such close proximity, yet has no time, patience, or interest to listen to his son and understand what is wrong. This man, this bandit he has just met, offers the young Indy admiration and pride—fond paternal regard which, it is implied, he has long been denied…. 

…Indy’s name is Henry Jones, Jr., but he never goes by it …

For Indiana Jones, everyone is a formative father figure—random criminals, animals—except his own father.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 — Twenty-two years ago, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow premiered. You know what’s it’s rather loosely based with the story here being scripted by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker. The former is notable for being known as responsible for Freddy Krueger’s makeup and the Crypt Keeper creature. They met when the Walker was working on the latter series. It starred Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien and Jeffrey Jones. 

Generally critics loved it with Roger Ebert praising both Johnny Depp’s performance and Tim Burton’s visual look.  And Doug Walker said the “clever casting” gave it the feel of a classic Hammer film, high praise indeed.  It was a reasonable box success making two hundred million against the rather high costs of a hundred million. Remember the studio doesn’t get all of a ticket sale. Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather exemplary eighty percent rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike of course has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 68. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that identifies it as Trek related.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 66. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1958 Charles Stewart Kaufman, 63. He wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both definitely genre. The former was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000, the year Galaxy Quest won. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also a Hugo nominee, losing to The Incredibles at Interaction. 
  • Born November 19, 1962 Jodie Foster, 59. Oscar-winning Actor, Director, and Producer who played the lead in the Hugo-winning film version of Carl Sagan’s Contact, for which she received a Saturn nomination. She has also received Saturn noms for her roles in horror films The Silence of The Lambs, Flightplan, and Panic Room, and she won a well-deserved Saturn trophy for her early horror role at the age of thirteen in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Other roles include Elysium, the recently-released Hotel Artemis, and voice parts in The X-Files series and the animated Addams Family.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 58. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She, too, shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. Anyone seen this? 
  • Born November 19, 1965 Douglas Henshall, 56. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander.
  • Born November 19, 1975 Alex Shvartsman, 46. Author of the delightfully pulpy H. G. Wells: Secret Agent series. A very proficient short story writer, many of which are collected in Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories.

(14) FAMOUS TUBES. “The Wonderful World of Disney Neon” will be a Zoom artist talk hosted by the Museum of Neon Art on December 9 – cost $10.

Zoom Artist Talk
Thursday, December 9, 7pm PST

The Museum of Neon Art and Steve Spiegel, Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering will present a one-night-only Zoom event on December 9th at 7pm showcasing the history of luminous tubing in Disney Parks. Disney theme parks are known for their rigorous attention to historic and aesthetic detail and the “Imagineers,” Disney’s team of artists, writers, engineers and technicians use neon and other forms of lighting in multiple ways, from perfectly replicating Golden Age movie houses of Hollywood to transporting audiences into hyper-realistic future worlds. This illustrated lecture draws from the Disney archives as well as Steve’s own photographs. Through images, the presentation details both the history of neon and of Disney. Audiences will learn when neon first appeared in Disney parks, and how the medium influenced park architecture, visitor experience, and storytelling. Audiences will be wowed by the levels of narratives presented through light at Disney theme parks worldwide, such as the dazzling neon collection at Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park.

Presenter Steve Spiegel is the Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, the theme park design and development division of The Walt Disney Company.

(15) 5-7-5, OR WHATEVER TICKLES YOUR FANCY. Fantasy Literature is taking submissions to its “Eighth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. In addition to receiving the glory, “We’ll choose one haiku author to win a book from our stacks or a FanLit t-shirt (depends on size availability). If you’re outside of the U.S.A., we’ll send a $5 Amazon gift card.” Here are two of their “inspirations from previous years.”

We fear the new plague.
Still, we come together at
Station Eleven.


When they realize
that I’m there to rescue them–
I don’t hate that part.

(Murderbot, paraphrased)

(16) PLAY IT AGAIN. “’A Voyage to Arcturus’ may have sold 596 copies in its first printing, but it deserves a wider audience” Michael Dirda advocates for the David Lindsay novel in the Washington Post.

…Of course, fantasy and science fiction have long welcomed and celebrated books that require serious effort from a reader. Samuel R. Delany’s “Dhalgren” is perhaps the most famous recent example, but the locus classicus remains David Lindsay’s “A Voyage to Arcturus.” Its pages are crowded with strangely named beings, most of them bizarre and off-putting; each stage of the hero’s extraterrestrial “Pilgrim’s Progress” generally ends with a murder or two; and the reader closes the book puzzled about what it has all meant.And yet “A Voyage to Arcturus” is deservedly regarded as titanic, the depiction of a spiritual rite of passage that interlaces death and renewal with a quest for transcendence….

(17) SFF ON SIXTIES TELEVISION. Cora Buhlert has reviewed two more episodes of the German TV show Space Patrol Orion at Galactic Journey

…While the streets of West Germany were shaken by anti-war protests, “Deserters”, the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) showed us what warfare might look like in space. Because humanity is fighting the mysterious aliens known only as the Frogs, and that war is not going well: the Frogs have developed a shield that repels energy weapons, rendering them useless….

.. However, West German science fiction fans were a lot more excited about the day after St. Martin’s Day, because the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) aired.

“Der Kampf um die Sonne” (Battle for the Sun) plunges us right in medias res, when the Orion makes a remarkable discovery. The planetoid N116a has uncommonly high temperatures, a breathable atmosphere and lower forms of plant life, all of which should be impossible, since N116a is supposed to be a dead rock in space….

(18) ADMIRE ALAN WHITE’S NEFFY CERTIFICATE. Lovely!

(19) VORTEX BLASTERS. “Microwave observations reveal the deep extent and structure of Jupiter’s atmospheric vortices” – an article in Science.

Jupiter’s atmosphere has a system of zones and belts punctuated by small and large vortices, the largest being the Great Red Spot. How these features change with depth is unknown, with theories of their structure ranging from shallow meteorological features to surface expressions of deep-seated convection. Researchers present observations of atmospheric vortices using the Juno spacecraft’s Microwave Radiometer. They found vortex roots that extend deeper than the altitude at which water is expected to condense, and they identified density inversion layers. Their results provide the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s vortices and their extension below the top cloud layers. They detected a perturbation in the planet’s gravitational field caused by the storm, finding that it was no more than 300 miles (500 kilometres) deep….

 (20) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. Just how early does this training start?

(21) MY FAIR OMNIVORE. This sketch from The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, which dropped last week, has Kermit the Frog in a blond wig!  (Thanks to Mark Evanier for the link.)

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Morgan Matyjasik asks, “What if there was a two-lane blacktop you could take your motorcycle to the Moon on?”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Olav Rokne, Steven H Silver, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Karl-Johan Norén, Cora Buhlert, 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 Jeffrey Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/21 Benny And The Gesserits

(1) WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. Exciting opportunity for those communicating about space to be recognized by the European Space Agency, with categories for video, artwork, storytelling, public speaking, and education. How many fans do we know who fall into these categories! “‘ESA Champions’ award initiative launched”. Check out the link for more info, and use #ESAchampion when sharing eligible projects on social media. Full details at the link.

Whether you are hosting a YouTube channel about space or volunteering to speak at your local school, we want to recognise and reward your passion and advocacy for space.

Our new ESA Champions initiative will honour outstanding contributions to communicating about space in Europe with unique awards and give you the chance to become part of an exclusive network of space enthusiasts, as well as win some awesome prizes.

We’ll be monitoring social media over the next few months for creative representations of your passion for space in Europe, in particular on TwitterInstagramFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

If you’re an artist who paints or draws space-themed pieces, a writer who publishes short stories about space or a vlogger who posts videos, now is your chance to be recognised….

(2) DOCTOR WHO ACTORS IN THE SPOTLIGHT. Mandip Gil tells Radio Times what it feels like to be a companion on the way out.“Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who return is a ‘relief’ says star”.

…“When I started, I didn’t realise how significant it was taking over from other people, but now it’s happening to me,” she tells RT. “You’re not part of it, in that you don’t know what’s happening. Who are the companions? What are they going to do?

“I’m going to watch it, be nosey and think, ‘How’s it different to ours?’”…

But Jodie Whittaker confessed to Radio Times she was tempted not to go after all: “Jodie Whittaker considered going back on her Doctor Who exit plan”.

Speaking exclusively to Radio Times magazine, Whittaker said: “Chris [Chibnall] and I always said we were going to do three series together, but then when you get to it, it’s a very different thing.

“Sometimes it was like… ‘Are we sticking to this decision?’ There’s part of me that could absolutely say, ‘No, let’s keep going! Let’s go back on it!’ But to give the fans the level that they deserve, there has to be some sacrifice. You have to know when you’ve done it.”

Meanwhile their final season is about to air. Radio Times fished for possible surprises: “Doctor Who Thasmin in series 13 – do the Doctor and Yaz get together?”

…However, Gill also cautioned that fans don’t buy a hat for Yaz and the Doctor’s wedding just yet, noting that the duo’s closeness doesn’t necessarily mean they’d become involved romantically.

“At the same time, it could also head down the route of like it being platonic, because two people are allowed to travel together and not have that relationship,” she said.

“People have asked about it, people have wanted it. Me and Jodes have a lovely relationship as people, as actors, and our characters have a really, really nice relationship. And I think it’s been written very naturally.”…

(3) JMS FAQ. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers today:

I’m getting a lot of nearly identical questions on various forums — here, Twitter, elsewhere — so to avoid redundancy, or repeating myself, or saying the same thing more than once in a way that doesn’t exactly sound like a repetition but serves the same purpose, I’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions file to address the issue.

Here’s the link: “JMS POSTING FAQ” from J. Michael Straczynski on Patreon. A few examples:

17) WHAT IS THE NEW BABYLON 5 PILOT/STORY ABOUT? WHAT CHARACTERS ARE IN IT? WHERE IS IT SET? All of that is classified, I can’t publicly discuss any of it. So there’s no point in asking anything about the story for the new pilot, because I can’t tell you.  But patrons here will be the first to get the details as they emerge, long before it reaches the rest of the world.

18) WHY DID YOU HAVE GWEN STACY AND NORMAN OSBORN HAVE KIDS? They were going to be Peter’s kids but Marvel thought Norman was a swell idea and would avoid making Peter seem old. I didn’t know any better. I was an idiot. Here, rub some salt in my wounds….

19) CAN I SUGGEST ACTORS FOR THE NEW SHOW? Technically yes (provided those suggestions don’t come with character names), but really, if you don’t know for sure who the characters are going to be, how can you suggest a suitable actor? Riddle me that, Batman!

(4) NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET. Michael Dirda anoints Ambrose Bierce as “One of America’s Best” in The New York Review of Books.

Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) is arguably the finest not-quite-first-rate writer in nineteenth-century American literature. Civil War veteran, contrarian journalist, master of the short story, muckraker, epigrammatist, and versifier, he is today most widely known for that word hoard of cynical definitions, The Devil’s Dictionary, and for a handful of shockingly cruel stories about the Civil War.

In those dozen or so “tales of soldiers,” gathered in the collection eventually titled In the Midst of Life (1892, augmented in 1898 and 1909), a brother shoots his brother, a sniper is compelled to kill his father, and a cannoneer obeys the order to destroy his own house, where his wife and child await his return from battle. The best known of these contes cruels, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” has been called—by Kurt Vonnegut, himself a kinder, gentler Bierce—the greatest short story in American literature. Surely, no first-time reader ever forgets the shock of its final sentences….

(5) SANDCASTLES IN THE AIR. John Scalzi registers his take on the epic film: “Dune: A Review” at Whatever.

…To bring Villeneuve himself back into it, it’s fair to say that he is a very fine match for the material. To begin, Villeneuve’s visual aesthetic, and its tendency to frame people as tiny elements in a much larger composition, is right at home with the Dune source material, in which legions of Fremen and Sardaukar and Harkonnens stab at each other, and 400-meter sandworms tunnel through the dunes of Arrakis. To continue, anyone who has seen Villeneuve’s filmography is well aware he is a very very very serious dude; there’s not a rom-com anywhere in his history. Dune’s single attempt at a joke is done and over in the first 20 minutes the film, almost before it even registers. One can argue whether or not Frank Herbert’s prose and story styling in Dune is exhaustingly and pretentiously serious or not, but it is what it is. Given what it is, it needs a director whose own style matches. That’s Villeneuve. I don’t care to see Villeneuve’s take on, say, Galaxy Quest. But Dune? Yup, that’s a match….

(6) 100% ACCURATE PREDICTION. Here’s Ursula Vernon’s reaction. Thread starts here. A few highlights:

HORROR THIS YEAR. Raquel S. Benedict, David Jesudason and Rich Johnson appeared on Connecticut NPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show where the host led a discussion about why horror, as a genre, is particularly resistant to Disneyfication and other topics covered were the current renaissance in Black horror cinema and An American Werewolf in London“Not Necessarily The Nose: The year in horror, 2021”.

This year: Could it be that the one genre with a certain amount of immunity from the Disneyfication, the cinematic universeification of everything… is horror?

And: There’s an ongoing renaissance in Black horror dating back to Jordan Peele’s Get Out in 2017. This year’s best example is probably Nia DaCosta’s Candyman reboot/remake/sequel (co-written by DaCosta and Peele). But horror’s creeping (you see what I did there) reckoning with racism is having its share of ups and downs, too.

And finally: We have a largely arbitrary tradition of spending a chunk of this show on a horror classic that’s celebrating, specifically, its 40th anniversary. Previously, it’s been HalloweenAlienThe Shining. This year: An American Werewolf in London.

(8) AND AT THE NEXT TABLE. CrimeReads’ Molly Odintz convenes a symposium with horror writers, including Alma Katsu, Stephen Graham Jones, and Grady Hendrix. “Horror Fiction In The Age of Covid: A Roundtable Discussion”.

I came to horror the same way I came to Rihanna—later than most, but with the commensurate fiery passion of a true convert. Crime and horror have, after all, been slowly converging for many years, as domestic suspense transformed into the New Gothic, and psychological thrillers took over from procedurals as the dominant trend in the genre. And yet, despite my newfound fandom, I’m about as poorly informed a horror reader as one could be (I’ve only read one Stephen King novel and it was Mr Mercedes). So I invited a whole bunch of authors with horror novels out in 2021 to join me for a roundtable discussion on the genre and its appeal to crime fans, and in which I could stealthily attempt to figure what exactly horror is—and why we’re all enjoying it so much during the pandemic.

(9) COME AND GET MY COPPER. Atlas Obscura tells how the genre got its name, and contends they had a beneficial side-effect: “How Gruesome Penny Dreadfuls Got Victorian Children Reading”.

…As one might expect, no audience was drawn into the world of penny dreadfuls more than children and teenagers. In fact, they specifically targeted young readers. Many of the stories feature young characters, such as the schoolboy Jack Harkaway, who would become as beloved to Victorian readers as Harry Potter is today, according to the British LibraryBoys of England, a periodical marketed to young boys, first introduced the character in the 1871 penny dreadful “Jack Harkaway’s Schooldays,” which details the protagonist running away from school, boarding a ship, and embarking on a life of adventure and travel. Jack even had to battle a 15-foot python when one of his many pranks went awry.

The popularity of penny dreadfuls had another side: They helped to promote literacy, especially among younger readers, at a time when, for many children, formal education was nonexistent or, well, Dickensian. The proliferation of such cheap reading material created “an incentive to require literacy,” says professor Jonathan Rose, author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. People were invested in the stories of Jack Harkaway and Sweeney Todd, and there was only one good way to keep up—learn to read.

While some historians credit compulsory education for the increased literacy of the age, “The fact is that most of the increase in literacy happened before you got universal free education,” says Rose. In England, education wasn’t required for all children until 1880, decades into the heyday of penny dreadfuls….

(10) DE PATIE OBIT. Animation producer David DePatie died September 23 at the age of 91 reports Deadline.

…Born in Los Angeles, DePatie, according to Animation magazine, was a self-described “Warner Brat” whose father Edmond DePatie was a longtime WB exec who eventually become vice president and general manager of the studio under Jack Warner. The younger DePatie began working for the studio in 1961 as a Warner Bros. Cartoon production executive.

[NY Times noted, “David started his Hollywood career as a sound and film editor at Warner Bros. He worked on several films for the studio, including “Them!” (1954)…]

According to the magazine, DePatie “oversaw the end days of this iteration of WB animation, ushering the final Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn and Tweety Bird theatrical cartoons to screens.” He would also produce TV’s The Bugs Bunny ShowThe Adventures of the Road Runner and other projects including animated commercials.

In 1963, DePatie and Freleng formed their own company, soon landing a contract that would make their names: the comedy feature film The Pink Panther starring Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The animated opening-credit sequence featuring the panther quickly led to a United Artists commission for a separate cartoon short, which became the Oscar-winning The Pink Phink, launching the durable franchise of theatrical shorts and TV series.

For decades the DePatie-Freleng logo was a familiar sight to any kid watching Saturday morning cartoons or such primetime series as 1969’s My World and Welcome to It and the Seuss specials…. 

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1994 – On this day in 1994, Stargate premiered. It’d be a runner-up at Intersection to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s  “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. It was directed by Roland Emmerich and produced by Dean Devlin, Oliver Eberle and Joel B. Michaels. It was written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.  Principal cast was Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson and Viveca Lindfors.

It was a box office success earning over two hundred million on a budget of fifty-five million despite some critics not at all being fond of it. Ebert put it on his list of most hated films of all time, but others thought it was an “instant camp classic”. Currently it holds a most excellent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of seventy-three percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Now she actually had a longer career than that as she’ll have roles in Mary Poppins, Blackbeard’s Ghost, Willard, Alfred Hitchcock HourAlice in WonderlandThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 70. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, a American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 69. The original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II of course but also appeared in HerculesThe Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories series , and The Man Who Fell To Earth film. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the new Ghostbusters film. 
  • Born October 28, 1957 Catherine Fisher, 64. Welsh poet and children’s novelist who writes in English. I’d suggest The Book of The Crow series of which the most recent, Corbenic, won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. Her Incarceron series earned two more Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature nominations as well. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 63. Writer of four novels over a decade twenty years ago, including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 59. Her very first role was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labeled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare ClassicsBatman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa again. 
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 54. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird  Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think for the sake of you not imagining her as such…
  • Born October 28, 1972 Matt Smith, 49. He’s the current and longest-serving editor of long-running 2000 AD, and also the longest-running editor of its sister title Judge Dredd Magazine. He’s written three Judge Dredd novels plus a number of other genre novels based off the properties he edits. Along with Alan Ewing and Michael Carroll, he’s written the Judge Dredd audiobook, a take on the newly deputized Dredd.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) ABOUT BERNIE WRIGHTSON. Michael Gonzales tells CrimeReads where he first encountered the artist: “Scary Monsters and Spooky Freaks: Bernie Wrightson Unleashed”.

…While comic book shopping in 1972, I spotted The House of Mystery #204. The cover featured a disgusting multi-eyed green blob creeping across the floor in pursuit of a screaming femme. In the lower right hand corner the illustrator’s signature was a simple “bw” that I later learned belonged Bernie Wrightson, the artist who’d soon become my comic book hero as well as a later inspiration for my writing. Wrightson’s cover became my gateway into the world of 1970s horror comics.

Five years later I had the pleasure of seeing the original pen and ink drawing in its entire poetic, grotesque splendor hanging on the wall of the New York Comic Art Gallery. I stared at that image with the same intensity I’d give the the Mona Lisa three decades later. It was scary, yet moving and damn near alive. Wrightson imagined things and made the horror real. However, the rules of the then-active Comics Code stated, “No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title,” so the books were referred to as mysteries or suspense….

(15) IF CTHULHU CALLS, HANG UP! James Davis Nicoll didn’t, but in compensation he got a Tor.com article idea: “Eldritch Abominations for the SFF Soul: Five Works of Cosmic Horror”.

Happy birthday, Call of Cthulhu! Forty years ago on Halloween 1981, the roleplaying world met and grew to love the Lovecraft-inspired game in which characters boldly confront the unknown before being consumed by it! If there’s one thing humans seem to desire, it’s to have their skulls cracked open like walnuts and their minds consumed by entities whose true nature would drive the sanest person mad, were they unlucky enough to understand what had them gripped in its tentacles.

Of course, Lovecraft wasn’t the first author to dabble in cosmic horror nor has he been the last. In honor of Halloween and forty years of Call of Cthulhu, allow me to suggest the following five works of cosmic horror….

(16) IN CONCLUSION. Cinefex, the visual effects magazine, has called it quits. The announcement was made earlier this year, and since then the publication has been doing a few activities to call attention to its winding down.

After 41 years of publication, we are sad to report that Cinefex 172, just off the presses, will be our final issue. We extend heartfelt thanks to our loyal readers and advertisers who sustained us through the years, and to the countless filmmakers and artists who told us their stories, shared their secrets, and trusted us to write and preserve the history of motion picture visual effects. A fond farewell to you all.

(17) MONUMENTAL RESEARCH. At Mystery File, veteran collector Walker Martin reviews Ed Hulse’s new volume, “The Art of Pulp Fiction”.

…Many collectors contributed to this book by lending paperbacks to Ed. Also he visited several art collectors. His visit to my house can serve as an example of his methods in borrowing so many books. One afternoon several months ago, he visited me and we went through the rooms discussing and looking at my paperback collection. We started on the second floor in the room that my wife and kids call “The Paperback Room”. The entire room is devoted to detective and mystery paperbacks including what may be a complete set of the hundreds of Dell mapbacks. Also in the room is some original cover art and several paperback racks which took me decades to find. These wooden racks were made to hold paperbacks for sale and were usually destroyed or lost over the years.

 We then went to my basement where we looked and talked about my science fiction, western, and mainstream paperbacks. Ed ended up borrowing two boxes full of paperbacks, perhaps 75 to 100, of which close to 50 may have been used in the book. By the way, I noticed one paperback lacked the 50 words of comment. If there is a reprint or revised edition in the future. page 116 needs comments for Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave….

(18) NEVER SAY NEVER. “’Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ director Jason Reitman used his ‘complicated’ relationship with his father to take on the franchise he’s avoided his whole life”MSN’s Jason Guerrasio profiles the younger Reitman.

… Reitman’s change of heart began with the idea of a girl in a cornfield, wearing a proton pack.

“A decade ago, I had this vision of a girl shooting a proton pack in a cornfield and suddenly popcorn flying up and her catching and eating it,” Reitman said with a far off look in his eye as he sipped on his morning coffee inside his home office. The sun shined in from his backyard window beside his desk.

“It was just one of those images where I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do with that,'” he continued.

Reitman is the first to admit that he usually doesn’t embrace these types of ideas. His movies, up to this point, have been grounded in reality. He’s preferred the independently-financed dramas that explore the human condition and usually feature women going through challenging times in their lives like a teenaged pregnancy (“Juno”) or a mid-life crisis (“Tully”).

He’s always had the same answer when asked if he’ll ever make a “Ghostbusters” movie: “No.”…

(19) AND IF YOU WANT TO PLAY ALONG AT HOME. Gizmodo reports “Hasbro’s fan-funded Haslab is offering the chance to purchase a full-scale model of the iconic prop” – “Ghostbusters Proton Pack”.

…Furthermore, the prop even has “a metal V-hook bracket that connects to the metal V-hook bracket on the bottom of the Neutrona Wand,” the Neutrona Wand being another Hasbro Pulse item you can preorder here for $125. If you’re not up on your Ghostbusters equipment lingo, the Neutrona Wand… well, it’s the gun that connects to the proton pack, so if you really want to get your cosplay on, you’re looking at dropping $525 for the pair. That is, assuming the Proton Pack project gets fully funded, but I wouldn’t be too worried about that. More than half of the 7,000 backers needed have signed up since the project launched yesterday, and there are still 45 days to go… 

(20) OCTOTHORPE. Time for the 43rd of Octothorpe. Listen here! “Clip That Out, John”.

John Coxon is critically bereft, Alison Scott made a mistake, and Liz Batty is carving papayas. We discuss Hallowe’en and then we move onto discussing problematic Guests of Honour in the context of convention bidding, before wrapping up with quick picks.

(21) TWO CHAIRS TALKING. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “celebrate St. Crispin’s Day by discussing recent awards, what they’ve been reading, both non-fiction and fiction, and summarizing their thoughts about this year’s Hugo Award nominees” in episode 64 of Two Chairs Talking: “And gentlemen in England now-a-bed”.

(22) SWEDEN’S SOLAR SYSTEM MODEL. [Item by Ingvar.] In the intermittent “Ingvar investigates planets”, I found the Jupiter model. It is pretty big, and publicly accessible without having to do anything, except walk.

(23) TOO MUCH INFORMATION. In Atascadero, CA “It’s No. 1 For Chills”.

At this haunted house, the ghosts and ghouls sometimes elicit more than screams.

The Haunt in Atascadero keeps extra pants on hand for visitors so frightened that they lose control of their bodily functions.

Two people have requested the pants, said Sandi Andersen-Tarica, the Haunt’s production manager.

And the staff keeps a list of those who wet themselves — at least 31 “confessed pee-ers” in the last two years.

“Some people, when they know what’s happening, they like to sign it as sort of a badge of honor,” Andersen-Tarica said. “And we do have it on a sign that we will provide emergency pants upon request.”

Nestled among coffee shops and restaurants in downtown Atascadero, the Haunt draws about 4,000 visitors each year….

(24) IF YOU THINK YOU’VE FOUND E.T. “Call for a framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth”Nature has the details.

Our generation could realistically be the one to discover evidence of life beyond Earth. With this privileged potential comes responsibility. The magnitude of the question of whether we are alone in the Universe, and the public interest therein, opens the possibility that results may be taken to imply more than the observations support, or than the observers intend. As life-detection objectives become increasingly prominent in space sciences, it is essential to open a community dialogue about how to convey information in a subject matter that is diverse, complicated and has a high potential to be sensationalized. Establishing best practices for communicating about life detection can serve to set reasonable expectations on the early stages of a hugely challenging endeavour, attach value to incremental steps along the path, and build public trust by making clear that false starts and dead ends are an expected and potentially productive part of the scientific process….

 [Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dr. Emma J. King, Sandra Miesel, Raquel S. Benedict, Lise Andreasen, Ingvar, Daniel Dern, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, StephenfromOttwa, Carl Coling, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, a combiner of Elton John and Dune motifs, who admits Benny And The Gesserits also was a Portland, Oregon band, with at least one song from 2015, “I Guess That’s Why They Call This Place Dune”.]

Pixel Scroll 10/22/21 I Must Not Scroll, Scroll Is The Pixel-Killer

(1) MCINTYRE FILM ADAPTATION COMING TO THEATERS. Moviegoers at last will be able to see the film based on the late Vonda McIntyre’s 1997 Nebula-winning novel The Moon and the Sun: “A Fantasy Blockbuster Shot In 2014 Is Finally Being Released” reports Looper. It arrives in theaters in January.

The Moon and The Sun actors Kaya Scodelario and Pierce Brosnan.

… However, one fantasy blockbuster’s release problems predate the worldwide pandemic by over half a decade. It’s a film that has been mysteriously missing ever since its production finished in 2014. That film was originally known as “The Moon and the Sun,” before it dropped off the radar ahead of its planned 2015 release date. The vanishing movie is based on the 1997 Nebula Award-winning novel of the same name by Vonda N. McIntyre (via Deadline). The family-friendly fantasy epic features Pierce Bronson in a lead role, and — had the film arrived on schedule — it would have been the realization of nearly two decades worth of effort to get the story to the big screen.

Obviously, “The Moon and the Sun” didn’t make its release date and lost the attention of both the media and moviegoers as it went into a lengthy post-production limbo. However, it seems that the film, which has been rebranded and renamed, is finally ready for a wide release and will be headed to theaters in early 2022. Here is everything fans need to know about “The King’s Daughter,” and why they’ve had to wait nearly six years to finally see it….

McIntyre got to see production shooting in France (“Vonda Visits Versailles”). A print reportedly was shown during her GoH slot at Sasquan in 2015.

(2) SAND THROUGH THE HOURGLASS. Alissa Wilkinson dissects “Dune’s expansive, enduring appeal” at Vox.

Harkonnens. Messiahs. Deadly, insect-like hunter-seekers. A secretive all-women order of spies, nuns, scientists, and theologians that’s bending history to its will. A spice harvested from an arid desert that enables space travel. ’Thopters. Interstellar war. Giant sand worms.

The world of Dune is a wild one, a tale spun by Frank Herbert in the tumultuous 1960s that mixes fear of authoritarian rule and environmental collapse with fascism, racism, and hallucinatory imagery. The 1965 novel, which eventually garnered widespread acclaim, was followed by a universe of sequels for its rabidly devoted fans. The trappings of its imagined, distant-future world feel wondrous, unfamiliar, and strange.

Or they would, if we hadn’t been steeped in Dune fever for so many years, even prior to the recent arrival of Denis Villeneuve’s extraordinary and resolutely abstruse film adaptation. Even the most Dune-averse person can hardly avoid the long tail of Herbert’s saga, whether they realize it or not.

The story has been referenced by pop stars like Lady Gaga, who made a sly nod to Dune in the “Telephone” music video, and Grimes, whose debut studio album, Geidi Primes, is a concept album based on Dune. Fatboy Slim’s song “Weapon of Choice,” the one with the music video starring Christopher Walken, is one big reference to the book (“Walk without rhythm / It won’t attract the worm”). Video games like Fallout and World of Warcraft contain references to Dune, as do plenty of TV shows from Scooby-Doo to Rick & Morty to SpongeBob SquarePants. There’s a crater on the moon officially named Dune, and some of the features on Saturn’s moon Titan have been named for planets from the series….

(3) A HOUSE DIVIDED. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda offers his assessment of the book and film of DUNE and recalls his meeting with Frank Herbert in 1984. “’Dune’ has long divided the science fiction world. The new film won’t change that.”

… Unlike “Star Wars,” though, Villeneuve’s “Dune” isn’t a sparky, upbeat space opera. It’s more like a Wagnerian music-drama, a somber story built around intimations of doom and orchestrated with a soundtrack of pounding drums and high-pitched wailings and ululations. It is, however, packed with eye-popping visual spectacle, notably speedy little aircraft that resemble mechanical dragonflies and enormous space cruisers as sleek as any on the cover of an old issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. Like Herbert’s book, the film is also deliberately majestic in its pacing and virtually without humor. Life is real, life is earnest and nobody has much fun. Instead, characters nobly pontificate or murmur gnomically about whether the young hero, Paul Atreides, is or isn’t the Kwisatz Haderach, the promised warrior prophet who will lead the tough and fiercely independent Fremen to victory over their brutal oppressors. Their cruelest enemy, the consummately evil Baron Harkonnen, symbolically dwells in darkness, surrounding himself with swirling smoke and completely hairless attendants. He is a grotesque vision of rampant, unbridled capitalism….

(4) DUNE VS. TATTOOINE. On This Day in Science Fiction delivers an assessment of this week’s cinematic history by comparing two sf epics with grit in “Stardate 10.22.2021.B: 2021’s ‘Dune’ Needed More Spice”.

… Paul means little to me.  Luke?  I get Luke.  I want to be Luke.  I’ll fly the Death Star trench with him, and I’ll gladly join him on Dagobah for secret Jedi training, or I’d even stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a blazing lightsaber battle with Emperor Palpatine if Luke asked me to.
 
But … Paul?
 
He’s Christlike … so what does he need me for?
 
Now, categorically, none of this lessens the strengths of what director Villeneuve accomplishes visually.  Clearly, he’s immersed himself in these worlds, and he’s spared no investor’s expense to bring them to life on the screen.  He’s taken the wide, open, endless desert seas of Arrakis and made them visual poetry – certainly real enough for fans of this franchise to enjoy again and again, much like Marvel fans flock to their superhero yarns for endless repeats.  He’s given breath to the political machinations of a galaxy that really only existed before in Herbert’s series of books in such a way that I’m sure folks will be reminded of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and HBO’s Game Of Thrones adaptations.  These ships and vehicles are unlike anything many have ever seen before, and I’m convinced these production designs will become influential in the years and decades ahead for other filmmakers who want to tackle similar challenges with the kind of scale employed here….

(5) A CHALLENGE FACED BY INTERNATIONAL WRITERS. Jason Sanford has posted a public Genre Grapevine column on his Patreon about the issues that international authors in Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America, etc… face to get paid for their work:  “Genre Grapevine Special Report: A Truly Global SF/F Genre Must Recognize the Financial Barriers Faced by Many International Authors and Creatives”.

…3. A fear that many people in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe don’t understand the financial barriers faced by those in other countries and that the hassles of arranging payments could cause some international authors and creatives to not have their works considered for publication in the first place.

That last point is a critical one to emerge from my interviews with more than a dozen authors, artists and creative people in countries such as Colombia, Australia, India, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, and Mexico, all of whom have experienced issues with receiving payments.

None of the people I spoke with knew of a single technical solution to the problems they’ve encountered with receiving payments. Instead, they spoke of worries about how the editors, publishers, and clients they’ve worked with in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe perceive these difficulties in receiving payments. It’s likely even their fellow authors and creatives in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe don’t generally understand these concerns.

In fact, most of the people I interviewed asked to remain anonymous because they feared harm to their career if they spoke publicly about the issue….

(6) REMEMBERING TRAGIC ACCIDENT VICTIM. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Everybody is talking about Alec Baldwin, but the Guardian has a profile/obituary of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer Baldwin accidentally shot. Some of the films she worked on were genre. Plus, I think she deserves to be remembered as more than just a footnote: “Halyna Hutchins profile: a talented and passionate cinematographer”.

Halyna Hutchins was a talented and passionate cinematographer who was clearly enjoying her job as director of photography on Alec Baldwin’s latest cowboy movie.

Over the past three weeks, she posted photos on her Instagram account from the film’s rugged set in the foothills of New Mexico. They included vivid sunsets and a cast and crew picture in which Hutchins is standing next to Baldwin against the backdrop a log cabin.

There is also a short video clip taken on Wednesday in which Hutchins – wearing a grey scarf and wide-brimmed hat – sets off on horseback with colleagues. “One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off,” she wrote….

(7) FRIGHTENING ADVICE. Will Maclean shares some tips in writing scary ghost stories: “How to write scary ghost stories” at Writers Online.

The first and most important thing to remember when writing a ghost story is the difference between scariness and creepiness. You will need to deploy both moods, so it’s well worth giving the matter some thought.

The part of us concerned with pure scariness is indescribably ancient, concerned only with fight or flight, with survival. As such, we are only truly, properly terrified when we’re confronted with those same primal terrors that threatened us a million years ago – being alone, being watched, being hunted or chased or otherwise pursued, with deadly intent… that small stock of evergreen human nightmares is where the pure, visceral scares will always come from….

(8) ANATOMY OF A SUBGENRE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Bill Ward has an article about the intersection of cosmic horror and sword and sorcery at Goodman Games, who are a remarkably good source of SFF related articles: “The Cosmic Horror of Sword & Sorcery”.

… The bones of sword & sorcery lie close to the skin, and one sure blade-stroke is enough to lay them bare for all to see. There is plot-driven pulp action there, at the core, but supporting that is a foundation of swashbuckling historical adventure, and expectations of encounters of the picaresque and the exotic kind. To be sure we can also see the unsentimentality of the hardboiled, the individualism of the American experience, and a surprising dose of literary realism for a genre concerned with fantastic monsters, haunted crypts, and vampiric blades….

(9) FOUNDATION REVIEW. Camestros Felapton weighs in on “Foundation Episode 6”. As he says, spoilers follow.

The show has been taking its time by introducing the background and a broader plot about the fall of the Galactic Empire. However, if the pace was slow it was still moving. Episode 6 was a case of the show spinning its wheels without really going anywhere. There are some good bits but what momentum the story had in the previous episodes got caught up in dithering. Spoilers follow….

(10) YAKKO, WAKKO AND DOT. Hulu dropped this trailer for season 2 of Animaniacs yesterday.

“We’re so meta the shark jumped us!”

(11) SAME MOTIVE AS EVER, GETTING PAID. The Digital Antiquarian’s article about “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” begins with an expansive biography of author Harlan Ellison before turning to the game based on one of his stories.

… Ellison’s attitude toward computers in general was no more nuanced. Asked what he thought about computer entertainment in 1987, he pronounced the phrase “an oxymoron.” Thus it came as quite a surprise to everyone five years later when it was announced that Harlan Ellison had agreed to collaborate on a computer game.

The source of the announcement was a Southern California publisher and developer called Cyberdreams, which had been founded by Pat Ketchum and Rolf Klug in 1990. Ketchum was a grizzled veteran of the home-computer wars, having entered the market with the founding of his first software publisher DataSoft on June 12, 1980. After a couple of years of spinning their wheels, DataSoft found traction when they released a product called Text Wizard, for a time the most popular word processor for Atari’s 8-bit home-computer line. (Its teenage programmer had started on the path to making it when he began experimenting with ways to subtly expand margins and increase line spacings in order to make his two-page school papers look like three…)

(12) ANGEL OBIT. Legacy.com covers the career of the late “Jack Angel (1930–2021), voice actor in ‘Super Friends,’ ‘Transformers’” – who I remember listening to on KFI at the beginning of his career.

Angel got his start in the entertainment industry as a radio disc jockey in California. He worked in radio for almost 20 years before beginning his voice acting career on the popular Saturday morning cartoon “Super Friends.” Angel provided the voices of Hawkman, the Flash, and Super Samurai. He went on to perform in beloved cartoons including “The Smurfs,” “Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo,” and “Spider-Man.” In 1985, Angel began voicing a number of characters for “The Transformers,” including Ramjet, Smokescreen, and Omega Supreme. He was the voice of Wetsuit in “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” and Dr. Zachary Darrett in “Pole Position” as well as providing a number of voices in “Voltron: Defender of the Universe.” Angel also worked in animated feature films, providing voices for many movies including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “A Bug’s Life,” “The Iron Giant,” “Spirited Away,” and “Monsters Inc.” Angel was a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea.

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2006 – On this evening in 2006, Torchwood first aired on BBC Three before moving to BBC Two and finally to the level BBC One. A spin-off of Doctor Who which returned the previous year after a long hiatus, it was created by Russell T. Davies, the first Showrunner for the new Doctor Who. Its principal cast was John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori. Over five years, it would run for four series and forty-one episodes. I personally liked the first two series much better than the last two series. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent seventy-four percent rating. Both BBC and Big Finish have continued the series in audio dramas. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list.  (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 83. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s played Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass. I’ll single out that he’s played Macbeth at Barbican Theatre in London as part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre ensemble.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 83. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in the most excellent Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and played a wonderful Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Though I admit didn’t spot him in that makeup.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 82. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. “Boobs” won the Best Story Hugo at ConFiction. Her Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast novelette was a nominee at LoneStarCon 2. She’s also won the Otherwise, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, Nebula, Gaylactic Spectrum, and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series? 
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If for three years. In late 1999, he started Webscriptions, now called Baen Ebooks, which is considered to be the first profitable e-book service. He also was the editor of Destinies and New Destinies which I remember fondly.  He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo five times between 1975 and 1981 but never won. At Nippon 2007, he’d be nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 69. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Independence Day: Resurgence), but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the  Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. Well, I do really like Independence Day. Though not even genre adjacent, he’s got a nice run on Law and Order: Criminal Intent as Zack Nichols.
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. No Hugos not even a short list nomination but he’s won quite a few BFAs and one WFA for The Facts of Life novel. (Died 2014.)

(15) TANANARIVE DUE PROFILE. “Afrofuturist and horror writer Tananarive Due: ‘Invite more Black creators to the table’”. So she tells interviewer Roxane Gay at Inverse.

RG: You have this seemingly idyllic upbringing with both of your parents, loving family, surrounded by books. How do you develop an interest in writing horror?

TD: That’s also my mother. She was a huge horror fan. It’s only in recent years really since her loss, ironically, which has been the biggest trauma of my life that I’m thinking, “Ah, I wonder if her love of horror had a lot to do with the trauma she suffered, first growing up under Jim Crow then being subjected to state violence as a civil rights activist?” That monster on a screen, whether it’s Frankenstein or the Wolf Man, can represent the real-life trauma you have to stand up to. And you watch characters stand up to it even when they don’t understand it, even when they don’t know how to fight it.

(16) VONNEGUT ON FILM. Thom Dunn gets us ready to “Watch the trailer for the new Kurt Vonnegut documentary ‘Unstuck In Time’” at Boing Boing.

The upcoming documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time looks pretty interesting if you (like me) are a fan of the late author. Filmmaker Robert Weide first approached Vonnegut in 1988 to propose the idea of a documentary, and they filmed on and off until Vonnegut’s death in 2007. As a result, the movie not only documents Vonnegut’s life and career, but also the evolution of the relationship between the two men. 

(17) SOURCES OF DUNE. Haris Durrani analyzes Herbert’s drawing on Islam in “The Muslimness of Dune: A Close Reading of ‘Appendix II: The Religion of Dune’” at Tor.com.

… I find the books’ engagement with Islam to transcend linguistic wordplay and obscure intertextuality. After all, Herbert was fascinated by linguistics and believed words shape substantive meaning. The use of “Voice” by the Bene Gesserit, an order of imperialist superhuman female breeders, is a prime example of this, as is the saga’s running obsession with symbols and myths. As these semiotic tools wield tremendous power within the Dune universe, Herbert’s references likewise generate a profound “Muslimness” that goes beyond mere orientalist aesthetics. (This is not to say that the Dune novels are not orientalist in other ways, which I have detailed elsewhere.) Dune does not cheaply plagiarize from Muslim histories, ideas, and practices, but actively engages with them….

(18) NOT THE EXPANSE. Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Lucy Launches to Eight Asteroids.”

(19) VERSATILE AARDVARK. Cat discovered recordings of six episodes of “Cerebus: The Radio Show” at the Internet Archive.

Comic book series created by Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim, which ran from December 1977 until March 2004. The title character of the 300-issue series is an anthropomorphic aardvark who takes on a number of roles throughout the series-barbarian, prime minister and Pope among them. The series stands out for its experimentation in form and content, and for the dexterity of its artwork, especially after background artist Gerhard joined with the 65th issue. As the series progressed, it increasingly became a platform for Sim’s controversial beliefs.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]

“A Crewneck for Pete” on Vimeo, directed by Andy Mills, is about how you know it’s fall in New England, when the leaves turn and you drink cider straight from the jug.  But where is Pete going to find a cozy crewneck sweatshirt?

[Thanks to  JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Will R., Cora Buhlert, Jason Sanford, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/21 Revenge Of The Unknown Knowns

(1) SHIPPING NEWS. The New York Times tells how “’Ships of the Northern Fleet,’ a crowdsourced sci-fi project, navigated from TikTok all the way to the convention circuit,” in “The Show Is Fake. The Fandom Is Real.”

…Maybe you remember it, too — but it’s much more likely that you don’t. That’s because “Ships of the Northern Fleet” isn’t real. It’s fabricated. Fake. A nonexistent TV series.

Its fan base, however, very much exists. “Fleeters,” as they’re known, congregate on Discord and TikTok to talk about their favorite “memories” of the adventures of the ship crews of the Four Fleets. Popular discussion topics include the Cog Hogs, small clockwork hedgehogs that are cuter than the Porgs of “Star Wars” fame, and the majestic Sky Whales, giant beasts who flew in the sky next to the pirates’ soaring airships.

Fans debate the merits of the ships’ various captains, including Captain Neil Barnabus (the leader of the True Winds fleet, named after the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman) and Captain George Hellman (who is “played” by Nathan Fillion, a fixture of the sci-fi genre; he wrote in an email that though he hadn’t heard of the show, he is “all for it”).

So, how exactly did “Ships of the Northern Fleet” come into semi-existence? It started, like so many other dramatic arcs online, with a throwaway post on social media.

A Show Is Born

In early February, in a video on TikTok, the video game writer Tyler James Nicol encouraged his viewers to “participate in a hallucinatory experience” by sharing their favorite memories and moments from a show “that will and has never existed,” and that, according to the proposed imaginary construct, had been canceled before its time.

The fake “steampunk sky pirate show,” would be called “Ships of the Northern Fleet” after the name of a novel that Mr. Nicol, 36, had once planned to write.

He never got around to the manuscript, but he did have the title, a TikTok account and an idea to crowdsource its plot and fictional lore.

It took off quickly. Mr. Nicol, Mx. Osborn and four others — Patrick Loller, Erik Tait, Gary Hampton and Logan South — connected on TikTok and started streaming together on Twitch, where they performed improv in character, riffing on questions fans asked them via chat about “working” on the show.

Enthusiasts banded together to create a subreddit, a Discord server and a wiki with over 300 entries. They’ve also produced fan art, songs and a “Ships” tabletop game. There’s knockoff merchandise out there, too, though fans can buy “real” merch from Mr. Nicol; he donates all his earnings from those sales to the Trevor Project….

(2) KAFKA COLLECTION. “Max Brod’s Franz Kafka Archive Digitized”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

During his lifetime, the celebrated Czech Jewish author Franz Kafka penned an array of strange and gripping works, including a novella about a man who turns into a bug and a story about a person wrongly charged with an unknown crime. Now, almost a century after the acclaimed author’s death, literary lovers can view a newly digitized collection of his letters, manuscripts and drawings via the National Library of Israel’s website.

As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, the collection contains around 120 drawings and more than 200 letters owned by Max Brod, a friend and fellow writer who served as Kafka’s literary executor. Instead of destroying the author’s papers as he had requested, Brod chose to publish and preserve them….

(3) AFROFUTURISM BUNDLE. StoryBundle is offering The Afrofuturism and the Black Fantastic Bundle curated by Tenea D. Johnson.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Slay by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  • Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl
  • Dominion by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
  • The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books and a fiction album! That’s a total of 11!

  • New Worlds, Old Ways edited by Karen Lord
  • Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor
  • Baaaad Muthaz by Bill Campbell, David Brame and Damian Duffy
  • How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda D. Addison
  • Reenu-You by Michele Tracy Berger
  • Frequencies by Tenea D. Johnson
  • Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne

(4) FROM SCOTLAND TO THE BORGO PASS. At CrimeReads, Laurie R. King profiles Emily Gerard, whose travels in Transylvania provided Bram Stoker with a lot of inspiration and ideas when he was writing Dracula – “The Scottish Anthropologist Who Inspired Dracula”.

… When she was in her thirties, mother of two young sons, her husband took up a position in the far corner of Transylvania. Gerard was a writer by this time, having published stories, reviews, and a few novels in collaboration with her sister, so her imagination was roused by this fascinating and utterly unknown part of the world. Apparently fearless—“Nonsense!” she says, when her young son urges her to take her revolver on a solitary trek—and fluent in several languages, she would merrily set off on an “easy” walk (“not more than two hours off”) to a spot on a map far from any road, or to a ragged tent she’d spotted on waste-land. There she would watch, and listen, and ask all manner of questions about the work, beliefs, rituals, and lives of the residents.

From these experiences, Gerard wrote an essay on “Transylvanian Superstitions,” which was accepted for publication in one of Britain’s most widely respected journals….

(5) EREWHON AND ELSEWHERE. “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” Episode 14 is a visit with Liz Gorinsky.

Friend of the podcast Liz Gorinsky arrives to share her experiences as an editor, from her early days of reading comic books, to her work at Tor.com, and finally starting Erewhon Books. Mary Anne and Ben inquire about the technical and career aspects of editing, as well as the importance of grappling with their internal editor in their own writing process.

(6) DINOS RETURNING. And SYFY Wire has the new poster: “Jurassic World: Dominion prologue before IMAX F9 screenings, first teaser image”.

Jurassic World: Dominion is finally ramping up its larger-than-life marketing campaign with an extended preview that will play before IMAX screenings of F9 (out in North America Friday, June 25)….

Described as “a prologue” to the main story, the 5-minute sneak peek is set 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period when…*clears throat*…DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. Mr. DNA is on vacation, but Michael Giacchino’s score will be there to guide viewers through the origin story of a lone mosquito that decides to slurp up some tasty dino-blood. The release also promises (count em’) SEVEN new species never before glimpsed within the Jurassic franchise. And just before you think it’s all over, the preview excavates “some real trademark Jurassic surprises with dinosaurs later roaming an Earth that is decidedly less theirs alone,” reads the synopsis.

(7) GRAYSKULL IS BACK. Netflix dropped a trailer forKevin Smith’s Masters Of The Universe:  Revelation.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 10, 1955 — On this day in 1955, This Island Earth premiered in New York City. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. It  Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. It was based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones, which was first published in the Thrilling Wonder Stories as three novelettes: “The Alien Machine” in the June 1949 issue, “The Shroud of Secrecy” in December 1949 issue, and “The Greater Conflict” in February 1950 issue.  Critics in general loved it, it did very well at the box office but currently the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great forty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 — Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, a show I never did quite cotton to, and he also appeared on the Twilight Zone , Outer Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.  He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage, but he illustrated them excellently.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz (Thorpe, Fleming, Vidor dirs. 1939) – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right, and otherwise, as a law-school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of JG’s career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Tatsumi Yoshiro.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  He coined gekiga for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about gekiga and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 84. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 70. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to about a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade-long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various ales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)(CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz, age 68.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, eight Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal. Two artbooks, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of DM Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 –  Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines. Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed AKT in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 57. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development.  Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard, age 35.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher’s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(10) BONUS BIRTHDAY. A.V. Club also reminds us: “Today’s the birth date of the miracle replicant baby in Blade Runner 2049”.

It’s a happy day on both Earth and the off-world colonies alike, at least for high-level replicants who haven’t been “retired” yet. That’s because today, June 10, 2021, is the date repeatedly shown in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 as the birth date of the miracle replicant messiah baby conceived by Nexus-7 replicant Rachael and Blade Runner Rick Deckard (who is also probably a replicant). The birth should’ve been impossible, because replicants are definitely just pieces of machinery who don’t have thoughts or feelings of their own and shouldn’t be capable of having children, because then it would be harder to argue that they’re not normal people and humans might start feeling bad for how they treat them (humans are the worst). That’s what makes this miracle messiah baby so important to the distinctly Jared Leto-like creep Niander Wallace, who wants to use the miracle baby to figure out how he can make more miracle babies and satiate his enormous god-complex…. but that hasn’t happened yet, because it’s still only 2021….

(11) BLESS THEIR HEARTS. ScreenRant pulled up a 1977 video interview where “Stan Lee Admitted Marvel Trolled DC In The Most Hilarious Way”.

…In an interview in the late ’70s, the former Marvel editor-in-chief was asked about his competition at DC Comics. Without hesitation, Lee said “bless their little innocent hearts,” before admitting that they had “fun with them” after they started selling more comics. According to Lee, DC studied Marvel’s covers in an effort to try to emulate their success. Lee said DC noticed the use of red on their comics and started doing their own red covers. He added DC did the same thing with dialogue on the covers. In response, Marvel took “all the red” and dialogue off their covers, which Lee revealed still led to their books still selling better. Lee said it drove DC “crazy.” (Lee’s answer begins around the 8-minute mark of the YouTube video below)….

(12) STORMBRINGER. Spoilerverse carries “Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse: From Melniboné to Hollywood”, a podcast with Andrew Sumner conducting the interview.

Sumner welcomes the world’s greatest living fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, to Hard Agree for the first in an ongoing series of conversations about Michael’s life and work. In this debut episode, Sumner & Moorcock discuss Michael’s parents, his Dad’s regard for Arthur C Clarke, completing the latest Elric of Melniboné novel (due for release in Fall 2022), the beginnings of Jerry Cornelius, Michael’s great friendship with feminist author Andrea Dworkin – and they begin a discussion of Michael’s wild ride through Hollywood that will roll into our next episode.

(13) MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE WRITER. Max Florschutz breaks down “Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites” at Unusual Things.

…See, story services like this are based off of similar setups that come from Asia that started with mangas. And from a business perspective, they’re designed to be explotative.

See, the idea is that the site itself exists to gather as many content creators as possible and then create a microcosm of a “free market,” where everyone is competing with everyone else. Except it’s not really that “free” since it’s controlled by a single entity who runs the service. And they can therefore manipulate how it functions to their advantage.

And oh, do they ever. These services are designed to maximize their profits … at the expense of those who flood them with content.

For instance, there’s an upper limit on how much you can release with each post. Vella, for instance, has a limit per chapter of 5000 words. You can’t release anything larger. Why? Because it maximizes the volume of content readers must click through or pay for, increasing ad and subscription revenue. What would be one chapter becomes two or even three, which means 2-3 times the revenue per reader. Tricky … but effective.

But worse, they actively design the system to produce free content the site runners earn revenue off of for free. When you start at these places, you start at “the bottom.” IE for a lot of the founding originators of this idea, you earned nothing… 

(14) ROUNDUP TIME. In Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 6/10/2021: It Gets Real” at Amazing Stories.

ODDTAXI #10 – Odokawa attempts to recruit Yamamoto into his scheme to upset the heist, only to wind up setting himself up to be conveniently murdered. It is only thanks to Shirakawa that he survives long enough to meet up with Dobu again for a sketch of Dobu’s plan and the long-awaited title drop.

It’s an excellent moment when Shirakawa finally gets to use her capoeira skills in anger, but it leads to the question: how did she happen to be hanging around in the very construction site where Yamamoto was planning to dispose of Odokawa in the middle of the night?…

(15) HE REVIEWS THOSE THEWS. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives an introduction to the fiction of Robert E. Howard as well as biographical and critical works about him. “Robert E. Howard became famous for creating Conan. But that warrior was only the beginning.”

As a reviewer, I’ve always regarded myself as a generalist, lurching from a novel this week to a biography or work of history the next, occasionally interspersing an essay or rediscovering a neglected classic. But every so often, I feel the need to be much more — what’s the right word? — serious, intense, almost scholarly. I yearn to immerse myself in the works of a single author, to spend time reading as much of his or her writing as possible. During these literary sprees, I even undertake actual research, scribble notes, talk to experts.

Last month, I realized that this column would coincide with Robert E. Howard Remembrance Days in Cross Plains, Tex. There, the writer’s fans gather each June 11 — the day the 30-year-old shot himself in 1936 — for talks, barbecue and camaraderie. This year’s guest of honor is Roy Thomas, who wrote the 1970s Marvel comics which — along with Lancer paperbacks featuring brutal and sensual cover art by Frank Frazetta — created a new audience for Howard’s best-known character, the greatest warrior of the ancient Hyborian age.

We first learn his name in the soul-stirring epigraph of “The Phoenix on the Sword”: “Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”…

(16) COVER YOURSELF. The Retro Science Fiction Collage Hawaiian Shirt is an eye-catcher.

(17) A BEAUTY AND SOME BEASTS. Enchanted Living Magazine introduces readers to “The Magical Beasts of Anastasiya Dobrovolskaya”.

… Dobrovolskaya’s first shoot with Stepan took place in January, and she says, “it was a wonderful experience thanks to which we made amazing photos.” She describes Stepan as “the cutest bear in the world: very loving and delicate,” and says that his story “is an example of an endless love between people and an animal. When I saw him for the first time I could not hold back the tears because I saw such a huge love between this animal and his people. I wish that all people treated their pets like Stepan’s family have been treating him.”

Dobrovolskaya has always loved and cared for animals. “As a child I brought home puppies and kittens that had been thrown out,” she said. “On??, I brought a baby raven whose wing was broken. Nothing has changed. I still love animals with all my heart and am always trying to help those in trouble.” She first incorporated animals in her photography by chance in 2018. She’d been taking portraits for a few months when she received a message from a woman who organizes photo shoots in Moscow, offering Dobrovolskaya the opportunity to participate in a shoot with a chicken and a mini pig. How could she resist?

She found a model, plucked a dress from her  own closet, and went—but didn’t know what to do.  “Should the chicken be on the floor? Or should I put him on the fence? The pig suddenly fell asleep—was it okay to wake her up? The only thing I knew was that I wanted those photos to look like fashion ones.” So she told her model Margo, “Imagine that we’re making content for Vogue.” The photos turned out smashingly and even went on to be recognized in the huge international photo contest 35 AWARDS 2018.

As it turned out, the couple who owned the chicken and the mini pig took care of other animals too, including a baby fox cub and an owl. Dobrovolskaya asked if it were possible to take photos with them as well, though she was “very worried that it was stressful for the animals.” The owners assured her it was okay, and to Dobrovolskaya’s surprise, “both the fox and owl were very happy to have an additional walk in a park and didn’t even notice the paparazzi.”…

(18) GOOGLE FOR DUMBOS. Scientific American is there when “The First ‘Google Translate’ for Elephants Debuts”. [Via Slashdot.]

When a male African savanna elephant folds his ears while simultaneously waving them, he’s ready for a fight. When a female folds her ears and accompanies the action with an ear flap, that means she’s also issuing a serious threat. But when elephants come together and fold their ears while also rapidly flapping them, the animals are expressing a warm, affiliative greeting that is part of their bonding ceremonies.

Elephants possess an incredibly rich repertoire of communication techniques, including hundreds of calls and gestures that convey specific meanings and can change depending on the context. Different elephant populations also exhibit culturally learned behaviors unique to their specific group. Elephant behaviors are so complex, in fact, that even scientists may struggle to keep up with them all. Now, to get the animals and researchers on the same page, a renowned biologist who has been studying endangered savanna elephants for nearly 50 years has co-developed a digital elephant ethogram, a repository of everything known about their behavior and communication….

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