Pixel Scroll 10/26/21 Big Pixel In Little Scroll

(1) KRUGMAN’S RINGING ENDORSEMENT. “‘Dune’ Is the Movie We Always Wanted” says Paul Krugman.  After pausing to tell us why he hates Apple TV’s Foundation series, he tells why he loves the Villenueve Dune adaptation.

… Now on to “Dune.” The book is everything “Foundation” isn’t: There’s a glittering, hierarchical society wracked by intrigue and warfare, a young hero of noble birth who may be a prophesied Messiah, a sinister but alluring sisterhood of witches, fierce desert warriors and, of course, giant worms.

And yes, it’s fun. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would engage in mock combat in which the killing blow had to be delivered slowly to penetrate your opponent’s shield — which will make sense if you read the book or watch the movie.

What makes “Dune” more than an ordinary space opera are two things: its subtlety and the richness of its world-building.

Thus, the Bene Gesserit derive their power not from magic but from deep self-control, awareness and understanding of human psychology. The journey of Paul Atreides is heroic but morally ambiguous; he knows that if he succeeds, war and vast slaughter will follow.

And the world Herbert created is given depth by layers of cultural references. He borrowed from Islamic and Ayurvedic traditions, from European feudalism and more — “Dune” represents cultural appropriation on a, well, interstellar scale. It’s also deeply steeped in fairly serious ecological thinking…

(2) SILICON VOLLEY. Did you have any doubts? “’Dune: Part 2′ Officially Greenlit” reports Variety. But you have to wait ‘til 2023 to see it.

… Legendary Entertainment announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday, ensuring that the spice will continue to flow on screen. Warner Bros. will distribute the film and help finance it, though Legendary is the primary money behind the movie and owns the film rights to the book series. The film is expected to have an exclusive theatrical run, and Legendary will likely make that point iron-clad after “Dune” debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max last week. The unorthodox distribution pattern was a pandemic-era concession by Warner Bros., but one that caused an uproar when it was unveiled in 2020. “Dune: Part 2” will hit theaters on Oct. 20, 2023….

When interviewed by Variety at the Toronto Film Festival, Villeneuve said, “I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously. For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm… As I was doing the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”

(3) DISCON III BUSINESS MEETING DEADLINE. Meeting chair Kevin Standlee reminds all that the deadline for submitting proposals to the 2021 WSFS Business Meeting is November 16, 2021. Any two or more members of DisCon III (including supporting and virtual members) may sponsor new business. Submit proposals to businessmeeting@discon3.org. See “A Guide to the WSFS Business Meeting at DisCon III” [PDF file] for more information about the WSFS Business Meeting.

Reports from committees of the Business Meeting and financial reports from Worldcon committees are also due by November 16, 2021. Send reports to businessmeeting@discon3.org.

(4) RED ALERT. Remember when you had half a year to do all your Hugo reading? Okay, now’s time to panic. DisCon III today posted a reminder that the Hugo voting deadline is just a few weeks away.

(5) 6TH ANNUAL CITY TECH SF SYMPOSIUM. The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and SF has extended the submission deadline of its call for papers until October 29. See full guidelines at the link.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium aims to explore the broad theme of “Access and SF” as a way to understand the relationship between access and SF, identify what’s at stake and for whom, foster alliances between those fighting for access, and discuss how improving access for some improves access for all.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium is a virtual event that will be held online Thursday, December 9 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Eastern at CUNY in New York.

(6) HORROR TRIUMVIRATE Q&A. Goodreads invites fans to “Meet the Authors of Today’s Big Horror Novels”.

Stephen Graham Jones, author of My Heart Is a Chainsaw

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

SGJ: One that changes your daily behavior—makes you afraid of the shower, afraid of the dark, suspicious of the people in your life. One that leaves you no longer certain about yourself or the world you live in. A perfect horror novel is one you forget is a book at all. It’s one that lodges in your head and your heart as an experience, a little perturbation inside you that you only snag your thoughts on when alone. But when those thoughts start to seep blood, you place that cut to your mouth and drink. This is the nourishment you need, never mind how drained it leaves you feeling. Nothing’s for free.

Caitlin Starling, author of The Death of Jane Lawrence

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

CS:  I want to drown in atmosphere. That doesn’t mean I want only slow-moving horror but books that feel like the movies The Blackcoat’s Daughter or A Dark Song—something in that vein. I also want characters that I can live inside, that even if I question their decisions, I don’t just hate or want to suffer. It’s more fun for me to watch a character I enjoy struggle.

Grady Hendrix, author of The Final Girl Support Group

GR: What sparked the idea for your latest book?

GH: Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies, so after Boy Scout meetings when our Scoutmaster took us to the gas station for snacks, I convinced him that I was allowed to buy issues of Fangoria with my snack money instead. I’d pore over Fango’s deeply detailed plot breakdowns and photo spreads so that I could pretend to have seen all these horror movies. The first one I remember was their feature on the opening of Friday the 13th Part 2, in which the final girl from Part 1, played by Adrienne King, gets murdered by Jason. The casual cruelty of that blew my mind. This woman had seen all her friends die, decapitated the killer, and survived, but she still couldn’t let her guard down. I always wanted to write her a happier ending.
(Fun fact: Adrienne King is the audiobook narrator for The Final Girl Support Group.)

(7) CLASSISM IN SESSION. In “The Potterization of Science Fiction”, The Hugo Book Club Blog decries a prevalent type of sff story, and the distortions it has wrought on the TV adaptation of Foundation.

…One of the fundamentally troubling assumptions behind the born-great protagonist is the anti-democratic idea that the lives of some people simply matter more than the lives of other people. If we accept that Harry Potter is destined to be the only one who can do the thing that’s important, then why should we care about the life of Ritchie Coote? Likewise, if Aragorn is destined for the throne then we have to accept that all other Men of Gondor would be incapable of managing the kingdom (let alone Women of Gondor). There is a direct link between the idea that one person can be born great, with the ideas that underpin racism, classism, and sexism. See also: the equally flawed “great man” theory….

(8) DEATH FROM ABOVE. In the latest episode of Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie’s Science Fiction 101 podcast, “Fly Me To The Moon”, they review The Apollo Murders.

The author, Chris Hadfield, has flown on the Space Shuttle and on Soyuz, worked on the Russian Mir space station, and commanded the International Space Station. You can’t get more astronaut experience than that.

….If you’ve been tempted by The Apollo Murders, listen to our review to see if it’s the kind of thing that appeal to you. But do be warned: here there be spoilers!

(9) FRIENDLY LOCAL GAME STORE DOCUMENTARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Here’s a trailer for an interesting Kickstarter documentary about the largest independent games store on Earth. Now, I might be biased, since I worked there in the 1990s, but Sentry Box is great. One of the best SF book selections anywhere (Gord, the owner handed me my first copy of Lest Darkness Fall … and Steve Jackson and Judith Reeves-Stevens used to visit the store semi-regularly.) 

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1984 – Thirty-seven years ago, The Terminator said “I’ll be back” as the first in that franchise was released.  It was directed by James Cameron who wrote it along with Gale Anne Hurd who also produced it. (She would marry Cameron in 1985.) It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton.  Almost all the critics at the time really liked it, though the New York Times thought there was way too much violence. You think? One critic at the time said it had, and I quote, “guns, guns and more guns.” Huh.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very high score of eighty-nine percent. I was surprised that it did not get a Hugo nomination.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 67. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. 
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 61. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quelled, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. It’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 59. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride which won a Hugo at Nolacon II as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. And no, that’s hardly all his genre roles. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 58. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 50. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his other series, Codex Alera and Cinder Spires? I see he won a Dragon this year for his Battle Ground novel, the latest in the Dresden Files series.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 48. Ok, I confess that I tried watching The Orville which he created and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I will admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield shows we need some better way to handle giant robots. (I imagine Slim Pickens delivering the line in the comic.)

(13) DIOP WINS NEUSTADT. Boubacar Boris Diop is the 27th laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide. Diop is not a genre writer so far as I’m aware, but this major literary award news came out today.

Francophone writer Diop (b. 1946, Dakar, Senegal) is the author of many novels, plays and essays. He was awarded the Senegalese Republic Grand Prize in 1990 for Les Tambours de la mémoire as well as the Prix Tropiques for The Knight and His Shadow. His Doomi Golo was the first novel to be translated from Wolof into English. Toni Morrison called his novel Murambi: The Book of Bones “a miracle,” and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair listed it as one of the 100 best African books of the 20th century.

…The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. Winners are awarded $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver and a certificate.

Boubacar Boris Diop

(14) SCIENCE FICTION IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE PRESENT.  Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s article about the Dune novel and movie’s use of culture is much more nuanced than the headline Slate gives it: “Is HBO’s 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book a white savior narrative?”

…Part of this is also Herbert’s fault. By writing a story in which he intended to critique “Western man,” Herbert also centered Western man. Often when critiquing something, one falls into a binary that prevents the very third option that so many have been looking for since decolonization. Herbert’s greatest shortcoming can be seen in his analysis of T.E. Lawrence and the deification of leaders in an interview he gave in 1969. He said, “If Lawrence of Arabia had died at the crucial moment of the British … he would have been deified. And it would have been the most terrifying thing the British had ever encountered, because the Arabs would have swept that entire peninsula with that sort of force, because one of the things we’ve done in our society is exploited this power.”

Herbert’s shortcoming is not his idea that “Western man” seeks to exploit the deification of charismatic leaders but that Arabs (or any other non-Western) would fall easily for it. This notion, in fact, builds on a stereotype that motivated European powers to fund propaganda among Muslims during the world wars in the hope that they could provoke a global jihad against one another. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, because Islam isn’t a “warrior religion” whose followers are just waiting for the right trigger to go berserk. Islam’s followers are human and are as complicated and multifaceted as other humans. Herbert should have seen that more clearly….

(15) PILE THESE ON TOP OF MT. TBR. CrimeReads’ Rektok Ross recommends some compelling YA horror and sf novels: “9 YA Survival Thrillers To Get Your Heart Pounding This Fall”.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

During a catastrophic natural disaster, high school sophomore Miranda takes shelter with her family in this heart-stopping thriller. After a meteor knocks the moon closer to earth, worldwide tsunamis demolish entire cities, earthquakes rock the world, and ash from volcanic explosions block out the sun. When the summer turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother are forced to hideout in their sunroom, where they must survive solely on stockpiled food and limited water. Readers will find themselves completely riveted by this story of desperation in an unfamiliar world although there are small slivers of hope, too.

(16) UNCOVERED. Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, in “Inspiration: The Reflection”, compares Will Bradley’s 1894 art with the science fictional cover by Mike Hinge it inspired, published by the 1975 fanzine Algol. Editor Andrew Porter commented there —

…This issue was the first with a full color cover. Working with the artist, Mike Hinge, was a challenge. He was a stickler for details, even demanded that his copyright appear on the front cover, in the artwork! This was also the first issue with the covers printed on 10pt Kromecoate, so the image really bumped up.

I forgot to mention that Hinge also did interior artwork, for the Le Guin piece. Also, all the type on the cover, and the headlines inside was done using LetraSet, which I still have dozens of sheets of, though I haven’t used it in decades.

(17) TOCHI ONYEBUCHI AND NGHI VO. At Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron, Nghi Vo and Tochi Onyebuchi joined Alan Bond and Karen Castelletti to talk about their 2021 Hugo Awards nominated works, Empress of Salt and Fortune and Riot Baby.

(18) FAMILY TREE. Joe Abercrombie’s response to Nina Melia’s tweet is, “Holy shit I’m Frodo in this metaphor?”

(19) THE WEED OF CRIME. In the Washington Post, Hannah Knowles says that federal prosecutors have charged Vinath Oudomzine for fraudulently obtaining a pandemic-related Small Businsss Administration loan. Prosecutors charge that Oudomosine spend $57,789 on a Pokemon card, which they did not identify. “Vinath Oudomsine used covid-19 business relief to buy a Pokémon card, federal prosecutors say”.

… On July 14, 2020, according to prosecutors, Oudomsine sought a loan for a business that he said had 10 employees and revenue of $235,000 over a year. The next month, court documents state, the SBA deposited $85,000 into a bank account in Oudomsine’s name.

Court filings give few details about the alleged Pokémon card purchase — such as which “Pocket Monster” it carried — simply stating that Oudomsine bought it “on or about” Jan. 8 of this year.

Collectible gaming cards can fetch big sums — this year, one unopened box of first-edition Pokémon cards sold for more than $400,000.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Halloween Kills Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, which has spoilers, Ryan George says Michael Myers managers to escape from the cliffhanger of the previous Halloween movie, even though he’s “an eight-fingered 60-year-old with smoke inhalation.”  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis, despite her billing, is barely in the movie and about half the script is various characters saying, “Evil dies tonight!”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Jennifer Hawthorne, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, Dann, Gadi Evron, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

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

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

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

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

(9) WRITING PROMPT. From Agatha Chocolats:

Popehat suggests: “Cthulhu fhtagn exact change only.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/26/17 May You Dream Of Large Pixels

(1) WUT. WIRED has a bad feeling about this: “Only You Can Stop The Expanse From Becoming the Next Canceled Sci-Fi Classic”

Syfy’s epic space show The Expanse is a smash hit among science fiction fans, drawing praise from websites like io9 and Ars Technica and from celebrities like Adam Savage. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley also loves the show.

“This is my favorite show on TV,” Kirtley says in Episode 248 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “This is the most serious science fiction TV show—in terms of what hardcore science fiction fans would want in a TV show—that I’ve seen in a long time, possibly ever.”

But while the show is widely praised in many corners, it has yet to attract a wider audience. John J. Joex, who tracks the ratings of various shows over at Cancelled Sci Fi, says that The Expanse looks like a show headed for cancellation.

“The ratings started out decent and then really dropped off,” he says. “And I know this is an expensive series to produce, so I was really getting kind of nervous about it.”

(2) TECH PREDICTIONS. There’s a touch of Ray Bradbury in “Interactive! The Exhibition” at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum through April 16:

Interactive! is a large-scale, hands-on examination of how popular culture in movies, books, TV, and the arts has influenced modern technology and changed the ways we live, work, move, connect and play. In addition to a wide variety of “hands-on” experiences, including Oculus Rift virtual reality, interactive robots, the driverless car, multiple gaming stations, remote control drones, 3D printing stations and more, Reagan Library visitors will also get up close to some of science fiction’s most iconic characters, including a roving, interactive R2D2 from Star Wars, a T-800 endoskeleton from The Terminator, and a full-size Alien from the Alien films. The exhibit also showcases the creative inspiration behind legendary innovators such a Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Walt Disney.

  • Over a dozen immersive games await, including Virtual Reality Gaming by Oculus Rift, robotic arm interactives, 80’s gaming stations and more.
  • Create and compose your own musical masterpiece.
  • Seek out resources on Mars with a remote-control version of the rover from the hit film The Martian.
  • Get up close with the first ever 3D printed car, by Local Motors.
  • Examine communications from the landline rotary telephone and VCR to smartphones.
  • Check out jetpacks, Marty McFly’s hoverboard and even meet Baxter the robot!
  • And much more!

This exhibit is great for museum guests of all ages – from the young, to the young at heart!

(3) VISIONS OF BEAUTY. Jane Frank has remodeled her WOW-art (Worlds of Wonder) website.

She’s also offering Un-Hinged! A Fantastic Psychedelic Coloring Book with All Original Designs by Mike Hinge through Amazon.

(4) ONE THUMB UP. David Sims of The Atlantic finds “’Life’ Is a Fun, Joltingly Scary Creature Feature in Space”.

Daniel Espinosa’s new horror film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds as astronauts fighting a hostile alien…

Any reasonable creature feature worth its bones should have, on balance, about half a dozen scenes where a character makes a patently illogical decision. Just discovered a new form of ancient alien life? Give it some zaps with a cattle prod, just to see what happens. Now you’re fighting an alien enemy in an enclosed space station? Break out the flamethrower! Running low on fuel? Definitely vent everything you have left in an effort to startle the creature, even when it doesn’t work the first three times. If the film is scary and chaotic enough, every bad choice will act as a link in a chain, building to a satisfying crescendo of mayhem that the audience has secretly been rooting for all along. Life isn’t perfect—you probably won’t remember it after three months—but it does exactly that.

Daniel Espinosa’s horror film is set in space and has some ostensible sci-fi trappings, as it’s centered around humans’ first encounter with prehistoric Martian life. But the movie might as well take place in an underground cavern or a fantasy dungeon, since its two-fold premise is fairly universal: The heroes are trapped in a gilded tomb from which they may not escape, and the monster they’ve awakened is stuck in there with them.

(5) WE HATES IT. At Locus Online, Gary Westfahl makes clear that Life does nothing to alter his dislike of horror movies generally – “Mutiny of the Unknown Alien Slime: A Review of Life”.

Further, one might argue that when it comes to alien life forms, anything is possible, but the plausibility of this particular alien life form can be seriously questioned. Without going into detail about all of its antics, I find it extremely difficult to imagine, given what we know about the history of Mars, any series of events that would cause such a creature to emerge and thrive for hundreds of millions of years (which is what we are told happened). And Derry specifies that the alien is a carbon-based life form that in most ways closely resembles terrestrial life forms; and since all such organisms would die within a minute if exposed to the vacuum of space, the Martian would never be able to cavort about in a vacuum with undiminished energy and flexibility for an indefinite period of time. But this nonsense does provide the film with an exciting scene, and for the filmmakers, that was all that mattered. In sum, precautions will always be necessary in dealing with potential alien life, but no one should have any nightmares about slimy, lightning-fast starfish embarking upon campaigns to slaughter all humans in sight.

(6) BEAT THE CLOCK. James Van Pelt, in “Marketing Short Stories”, reviews lots of sales and rejection statistics derived from taking the Bradbury challenge.

First, the background. Two years ago I decided to try Ray Bradbury’s challenge to write a story a week for a year….

CONCLUSIONS: – I was able to find places to submit all the stories pretty much all the time. If there are that many markets, then the short story marketplace is robust. The Submission Grinder lists 25 markets in science fiction that will pay six cents or more per word. There are many more, beautifully done, semi-pro magazines that I’m proud to submit to who pay less. – This is an old lesson, but if you are going to write short stories and submit them on spec, you have to be thick-skinned. I have been submitting stories seriously since the 80s. I’ve sold 145 stories, been a finalist for the Nebula, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. I’ve appeared in several Year’s Best collections. I think I’m doing okay, but I’m still rejected at an 8 to 1 ratio. Mike Resnick doesn’t suffer from this ratio, I’ll bet, but there’s only one Mike….

(7) SHARING THE FUN. The Los Angeles Times profiles “Frank Oz and the gang of ‘Muppet Guys Talking’ still pulling on their silly strings”.

The movie is the first documentary directed by Oz, who also made such comedies as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Bowfinger.” And of course he was the voice of Yoda in the “Star Wars” films.

It is just a few hours after their premiere and four of the Muppet originators — Oz, Brill, Barretta and Goelz — are sitting around a hotel conference table in Austin. (Nelson died in 2012, the same year the movie’s conversation was filmed.) The four of them have a rapport one might associate with a sketch comedy group, responding quickly to one another with a near-telepathic sense of connection.

With impish delight, Goelz noisily unwraps a candy over the microphone of an interviewer’s recording device a few beats longer than is necessary. Brill playfully spurts a sweet from between her fingers, sending it gracefully arcing through the air to the other side of the room.

It was that largely unseen affinity among them that was the initial impetus for the film. While they have all spoken separately about their characters and time working with Muppets creator Jim Henson, who died in 1990, it was not until filming “Muppet Guys Talking” that they had ever done an interview together.

(8) FRANKLY SPEAKING. ScreenRant, on the other hand, says there are “15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets”.

How quickly people forget that the very first pilot episode of The Muppet Show was entitled, “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence”. In fact, The Muppets and associated Henson characters were never completely immune to controversy, tragedy, or touchy topics, despite their family-friendly exterior. After all, muppets are essentially just a bunch of guys with their hands up the butts of various animal and human-like creations. What kind of dark secrets could we possibly uncover about them? Read on, all you puppet-loving weirdos and take a gander at 15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets

  1. Frank Oz never wanted to be a puppeteer

Amazing as it may seem, one of the most famous muppet voices, aside from Jim Henson himself, never wanted a career in puppetry. Frank Oz was the son of Belgian immigrants who were both puppeteers themselves. While his siblings never took much of an interest in it, Oz performed puppet shows to make extra money as a teenager, saving up for a trip to Europe. As he explained in an interview with IGN, “it was something that I latched on to because it was a way to please them (his parents) and it was a means of expression for a shy, self-effacing boy.”

Oz had actually planned to study journalism in college, but dropped out after a year when Jim Henson offered him a job….

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Spinach Day

It’s not just Popeye who will be strong to the finish on Spinach Day, but everyone who chooses to celebrate the day by consuming some of this leafy green plant will get to join in the health benefits as well!

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 26, 1937 — Popeye statue unveiled during spinach festival, Crystal City, Texas. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

(11) TODAYS BIRTHDAY BOY

(12) INSIDE THE SHELL. The Guardian calls her “Scarlett Johansson, charismatic queen of science fiction”.

Hollywood quickly made room on its red carpets for the young Scarlett Johansson in 2003, when she first created a stir in Sofia Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation. It seemed clear that this blonde bombshell from New York, who was so ably sharing the screen with a dyspeptic Bill Murray, would go on to deliver popcorn buckets-full of mainstream audience appeal. Beautiful, mysterious and charismatic: she was already an aspirational trophy for any traditional leading man.

Yet, 14 years on, Johansson is established instead as a rather different sort of screen idol. Following a succession of high-octane blockbusters and off-beat critical hits, the actress is now enshrined as perhaps the leading sci-fi action star of her generation. Where once her sardonic smirks and sultry looks spoke of old-school movie glamour, she is now more likely to grab the limelight by kickboxing than by smouldering.

(13) IMAGINE SUPERMAN WITHOUT ONE OF THESE. “Last call for the phone booth?” was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Yes, there’s nothing like reaching out and touching someone from a phone booth. They used to be everywhere, but they are now rare coin-operated curiosities. Mo Rocca looks into the history of the once-ubiquitous phone booth, and of the wi-fi kiosks that are now replacing them in New York City.

(14) WWWWD? Another video on CBS Sunday Morning, “The immortal Wonder Woman”.

The real superpower of the comic book heroine, who just turned 75, is the power to inspire. Faith Salie explores the history of Wonder Woman, and talks with Lynda Carter, made immortal by playing the Amazonian on TV in the 1970s, and with Jill Lepore, author of “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.”

(15) A TALE AS OLD AS TIME. In NPR’s analysis of many versions of the basic story includes a discussion ofan upcoming Tanith Lee collection: “Tale As Old As Time: The Dark Appeal of ‘Beauty And The Beast’”.

The tales in [Maria] Tatar’s compilation swing from vicious to romantic, from comedy to horror. There are stories of a steadfast prince being loyal to his frog-wife, or a princess searching for her bear-husband “east of the sun and west of the moon” — here, love is proven in action and rewarded with happiness. But Beauty and the Beast stories are about power as much as about love. So sometimes the prince steals a maiden’s animal skin to force her to stay with him, or he puts his tortoise-wife on display against her wishes, or he ignores his devoted wife’s warnings and discovers she’s actually a crane. And these stories, where power is abused, differ sharply from the stories of proof and trust: Almost all of them end with her escape.

(16) A TALE AS OLD AS ME. And for us oldpharts: BBC provides video coverage of an opera based on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The Opera de Montreal is taking the rock out of “rock opera” with its ambitious interpretation of Pink Floyd’s classic double album, The Wall.

Another Brick in the Wall: L’Opera tells the story of Pink, a rock star who retreats into his mind to cope with the alienation of fame.

Roger Waters’ lyrics provide the narrative backbone of the two-hour production but composer Julien Bilodeau has removed the album’s familiar rhythms and melodies in favour of timpani and a 50-person chorus.

(17) TUNES OF THRONES. An LA audience was treated to a more up-to-date musical experience this past week — “’Game of Thrones’ live experience transforms Forum into Westeros for the night”.

One of the many powers held by a historic music venue like the Forum in Inglewood — which has seen celebrated concerts by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and Prince — is that of a time machine.

Capable of transporting an audience back to a summer when it first heard a favorite song or an aging band to its initial heyday, the Forum’s ability to slip the bounds of time was again in full view Thursday night with the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a celebration of the blockbuster HBO series and its music, led by the show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi.

This time-skipping quality could be felt on two fronts. With a mix of orchestral sweep, multiple screens and the occasional blast of fire and smoke, the show’s expected aim was to transport fans to the Middle Ages-adjacent universe of the tangled and very bloody machinations of George R.R. Martin’s Westeros. However, the performance also offered a fleeting glimpse of the not too distant future when “Game of Thrones” is no longer something analyzed and anticipated — July 16 and the new season is coming, everyone! — and exists only as a memory. Indeed, having left such an imprint on pop culture, it wasn’t difficult to imagine this concert being toured and staged well after “Game of Thrones” is over and our watch is ended.

This sort of living tribute to a series nearing its finish gave the night a communal, Comic-Con-esque quality.

(18) WILSON. In “How sketching a dying father led Daniel Clowes to his quirky new film ‘Wilson’” the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Daniel Clowes, whose new film Wilson is based on his graphic novel.  Clowes makes comparisons between producing graphic novels and directing and discusses what happened when he took Charles Schulz’s challenge to come up with a gag for a comic strip every day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]