Pixel Scroll 5/13/22 Make Room Party, Make Room Party

(1) COME THE MILLENNIUM. This year marks 60 years of the iconic Spider-Man. Marvel Comics will celebrate this milestone anniversary with a special issue honoring the comic that started it all, Amazing Fantasy. Arriving in August, Amazing Fantasy #1000 will be a giant-sized one-shot brought together by some of the industry’s most acclaimed creators.

Here’s just some of what fans can expect from this landmark issue:

  • Visionary writer Neil Gaiman’s grand return to the Marvel Universe
  • Emmy Award winning creator behind “Veep” and “Avenue 5” Armando Ianucci’s Marvel Comics debut
  • Spider-Man mastermind Dan Slott and superstar artist Jim Cheung team up to explore the enduring love between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in a story set in the far future
  • Acclaimed artist Michael Cho and novelist Anthony Falcone introduce a new Spider-Man villain
  • Ho Che Anderson crafts a horror-fueled Spidey adventure that cuts to Peter Parker’s core
  • Plus stories by Rainbow Rowell, Jonathan Hickman, and many more!

 “It’s Spider-Man’s 60th and we wanted to celebrate in style by inviting some of the greatest creative minds in the world to celebrate it!” Editor Nick Lowe said.

Join the industry’s top talent in celebrating Spider-Man’s birthday when Amazing Fantasy #1000 arrives in August. 

(2) THE SKY IS FALLING. Chillercon, the Horror Writers Association’s UK event, announced a change of venue after the ballroom ceiling collapsed in their planned facility. The con will still take place in Scarborough from May 26-29.

The convention received news this week that there has been a ceiling collapse in the Cabaret Ballroom of the Grand Hotel, one of our main programming rooms in that hotel, and asbestos has been discovered. The room has been closed off and the hotel declared safe to run by the relevant authorities, but for the last forty-eight hours the convention committee has been working with both hotels towards the best solution for both the ability of ChillerCon UK to run effectively and for the safety of our attendees, as obviously we are keen to ensure there’s no risk to anyone attending.

To that end, we are pleased to confirm that all programming and accommodation has now been moved to the Royal Hotel with immediate effect….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join John Appel for a dry-aged burger in Episode 171 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Appel

John’s debut novel Assassin’s Orbit, published last year, was a finalist for the 2022 Compton Crook Award. He’s a former US Army paratrooper, a long-time information security professional, a historical fencer, and a life-long gamer who’s written the occasional tabletop RPG adventure. He co-edited the anthology Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger along with Mary Alexandra Agner. John’s also a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop and a founding member of the Maryland Space Opera Collective writing group.

We met for lunch at the White Oak Tavern, which is in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center in Ellicott City, Maryland, and if there was ever a proper place to record an episode of Eating the Fantastic, an Enchanted Forest certainly sounds like it.

We discussed how pitching his debut novel as “Battlestar Galactica meets Golden Girls” got him an agent, why his background in table-top RPGs might be the reason he writes novels rather than short stories, how he deals with the “candy bar” scenes of his plots, the way critique groups and sensitivity readers can help make books better, how to juggle multiple viewpoints and still have them all be equally compelling, the political aspects of his novel which make it a different read than it would have been when it was first begun, his particular set of skills which helped bring fight scenes alive, and much more.

(4) BARRIERS REMAIN. Nalo Hopkinson is profiled by Silvia Moreno-Garcia for the University of British Columbia publication Beyond: “As publishing becomes more varied and diverse, challenges remain for writers of colour”.

…Hopkinson believes universities can help enrich the literary landscape by embracing genre fiction, looking at alternatives that deviate from traditional forms of learning and helping students develop a sense of belonging. For example, the traditional workshop model, where students sit around a circle discussing their stories, may be of little value to a student if they are the only writer of colour in a class.

“I encounter a lot of emerging writers who come from a marginalized community who feel that they won’t be welcomed,” she explains.

Hopkinson believes something that helped her become a writer was “middle class entitlement.” She grew up in a place where Black people were in the majority, where her father was a teacher and her mother a librarian and literature seemed an obtainable pursuit.

“There’s a certain type of entitlement because of that. Not wealth, but entitlement,” she says. “That sense of I have a right to be here.”

The hardest lesson for Hopkinson to teach is this self-empowerment….

(5) THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN. “Janelle Monáe: ‘Erasure is happening right under our noses’” the singer and author tells Christiane Amanpour at CNN Style.

…As Monáe wrote on Instagram in December, they have always used sci-fi and Afro-Futurism as “vehicles” for translating ideas into music, art and now literature. But the singer told Amanpour that they believe memory and history are under threat in today’s America.

“I think that there is definitely an agenda for erasure,” Monáe said, pointing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans LGBTQ+ topics in elementary school classrooms, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing legislation that restricts how race and US history is taught in the state’s schools.

“These are real experiences for our ancestors, real experiences for us,” Monáe said. “And erasure is happening right underneath our noses. And it’s being done through lawmaking.”…

(6) VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses TV adaptations of games.

What film directors seem to miss while adapting games for cinema is that games do not resolve around stories we are told but worlds we inhabit. They need to ask what it means for this story to be watched rather than played, and how it might have to change accordingly. In that respect, TV may prove a more natural fit. The length of a series creates space for the spreading storytelling style of games and their myriad characters. This breathing room should also allow showrunners to capitalise on the abundant lore and environmental detail of modern games, which assist in the trendy pursuit of ‘world building.’

Two TV shows that offer hope for the future are both animations. Castlevania, a vampire story based on a series of hit 1990s games, has become a surprise hit on Netflix since launching in 2017.  It is sharply written with mature themes and thoughtful plotting and paved the way for last year’s Arcane. Another Netflix show, Arcane digs into the origin stories of two heroes from the online battle arena game League Of Legends using striking animation that blends hand-painted textures with 3D graphics. Unlike other adaptations, Arcane forgoes fussy plot exposition in favor of character-driven drama and plays loosely with its source material, focusing on the complex relationship between two women and including action only where it meaningfully impacts the narrative.

(7) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is hosting the first annual Sturgeon Symposium on September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. Here’s the call for papers. They are accepting proposals until June 30.

(8) TIME TRAVEL AND SEX. Nibedita Sen is interviewed by Sarah Gailey in “First Times” at Stone Soup.

First Times is structured unlike anything I’ve read before, using recursion in the narrative to expand and deepen the theme of the story. What inspired you to work in this particular structure? How did you approach storytelling in this medium?

A couple of things, actually – the most important of which is that this was my very first time (hah) writing interactive fiction. As such, I really wanted to keep the game as short and simple as possible, having been warned how easily the simplest-seeming idea can balloon once you actually get down to writing multiple branches of a narrative. Another piece of advice I was given, as a first time IF-writer, was to think about replayability – a game shouldn’t be a one-and-done (hah) kind of thing, but something a reader could go back to multiple times, discovering something new every time….

(9) FRED WARD (1942-2022). Actor Fred Ward has passed on at the age of 79. Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell, Earl Bassett in Tremors and sequels, and the lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He was also in The Crow: Salvation, Invasion Earth (miniseries), had parts in episodes of The Incredible Hulk and The Hitchhiker. The New York Times tribute here comments:

…Mr. Ward was likely best known for his performances in “The Right Stuff,” the acclaimed 1983 adaptation of a book by Tom Wolfe, and “Tremors,” a monster movie that ascended to cult classic status since its release in 1990.

But his long career included a broad range of roles in which he applied a sometimes gruff but almost always grounded charisma to parts on film and TV: among other parts, a union activist in “Silkwood,” a detective in “Miami Blues,” Henry Miller in “Henry and June,” and a motorcycle racer in “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-eight years ago, The Crow premiered. I saw it at the theatre and yes, I liked it quite a bit. I’m not a horror fan but I found this quite impressive.  I hadn’t realized until now that it was co-written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow but I’ll get back to that in awhile. 

It was directed by Alex Proyas who would later be nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon Three (1999) for Dark City. (The Truman Show won that year.) And he’d also later direct I, Robot.

The Crow was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill. Most would produce the sequels, The Crow: City of AngelsThe Crow: Salvation and The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Pressman was the uncredited executive producer for Conan the Destroyer and Grant Hill was involved in the Matrix films plus V for Vendetta.

Of course the movie starred Brandon Lee, an actor who gave the film a certain tragic edge by dying. The other major roles were held by Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott. Ernie you know, but Michael Wincott has largely played villains in such films as Alien Resurrection and The Three Musketeers (remember I hold them to be genre). 

So yes, it was written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow. Checking IMDB, I see Shirley has written far too many screenplays too list all of them here, so I’ll just note his work on Deep Space NineBatman Beyond and Poltergeist: The Legacy. Though definitely not genre, he also wrote one episode of the Red Shoe Dairies. Really he did.

The Crow did well at the box office making nearly a hundred million against twenty-four million in costs. 

So what did the critics think? Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune had this to say: “What’s scary about The Crow is the story and the style itself: American Gothic, Poe-haunted nightmare, translated to the age of cyberpunk science fiction, revenge movies and outlaw rock ‘n’ roll, all set in a hideously decaying, crime-ridden urban hell.” And Caryn James of the New York Times said: “It is a dark, lurid revenge fantasy and not the breakthrough, star-making movie some people have claimed. But it is a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth.”

It holds a most exemplary ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 13, 1922 Bea Arthur. Really only one meaningful genre credit but oh but what a credit it is. She’s in the Star Wars Holiday Special as Ackmena. That character in the Star Wars canon was the nightshift bartender in Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley on Tatooine who joined the resistance. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite, as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. No, I’ve not forgotten about his Hugos. Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal.  It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light. His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 13, 1946 Marv Wolfman, 76. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And he worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell, he even wrote a Reboot episode!) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 73. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. 
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 71. His retelling of The Tain is marvellous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific.
  • Born May 13, 1964 Stephen Colbert, 58. Ubernerd who’s currently recovering from his third bout of Covid. He’s hosted charity showings of Tolkien. Genre credits a cameo as a spy in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the voice of Paul Peterson in Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the voice of President Hathaway in Monsters vs. Aliens

(12) THE SLEEPER SYMBIOTE CLAIMS A NEW HOST IN VENOM #11. This cover reveal is really only the first phase of Sleeper Agent’s look. They are symbiotes, after all. Pick up his debut issue when Venom #11 arrives in August.

Writers Al Ewing and Ram V and artist Bryan Hitch’s acclaimed run on Venom continues to reshape the symbiote mythos in each explosive issue! And luckily for Venom fans, the trio of superstar creators have no plans to slow down as the ongoing series enters its’ third terrifying arc this August in Venom #11. Kicking off a three-part story called “VENOMWORLD”, readers will see Eddie and Dylan Brock’s journey take a sharp turn as they deal with the shocking revelations of Venom #10. Dylan is still at the mercy of Bedlam while Eddie battles his way across the cosmos, discovering more about the symbiotes than ever before. And the hits keep coming as the Sleeper symbiote joins the fray with a deadly new look… 

(13) LIVE TWEETING. Cat Rambo did the Writers Corner Live show, talking about The Reinvented Heart with Mary Elizabeth Jackson. 

(14) BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron, in a spoiler-packed article, discusses his screenplay and the Star Wars film he is working on for Kevin Feige. BEWARE SPOILERS! “’Doctor Strange 2′ Writer on Wanda, Mr. Fantastic, ‘Star Wars’ Movie” in Variety.

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently playing in theaters. Do not read until you’ve seen the movie.

As an alum of “Community” and “Rick and Morty,” screenwriter Michael Waldron certainly knows outré, genre-hopping science fiction; with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Waldron found a kindred spirit in director Sam Raimi, who invented outré, genre-hopping horror with his “Evil Dead” trilogy.

Together, Raimi and Waldron have made one of the most distinctive — and, for some, controversial — movies ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To wit (the big spoilers start here): Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) goes full Scarlet Witch and brutally murders anyone who gets in the way of her mission to find a universe in which her sons from the 2021 Disney+ series “WandaVision” are still alive. It’s a heel turn that has shocked many — including Olsen — especially when Wanda decimates the Illuminati, the team of superheroes from an alternate reality that includes Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier (from 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” movies), Anson Mount’s Black Bolt (from ABC’s “Inhumans” TV series), and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards, the first time the leader of the Fantastic Four has appeared in the MCU….

(15) IT WILL BECOME ROUTINE. “Huntsville International Airport becomes first commercial airport allowed to land a space vehicle” reports WAFF.

The Huntsville International Airport was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow commercial space vehicles to land at the airport….

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser is a space utility vehicle that is designed to transport crew and cargo to destinations such as the International Space Station.

Sierra Space was awarded six missions by NASA to resupply the International Space Station. The FAA could grant the Dream Chaser the option to land in Huntsville in 2023.

“This is a significant milestone for Huntsville International and for our community in the pursuit of landing a commercial space vehicle right here in Rocket City U.S.A.,” Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port of Huntsville/Huntsville International Airport, Mark McDaniel, said in a statement. “That’s going to be an exciting day, not just for the Airport but also for the talented and dedicated partners in this effort.”

(16) EATING OUTSIDE THE BOX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Marylou Tousignant says that May 11 was National Eat What You Want Day and recommended ten foods kids could try, including Japanese tuna eyeballs, Vietnamese coconut worms, and Marmite. “On Eat What You Want Day, try something new”.

… It’s easy to think of foods you love and want to eat. We decided to tinker with the idea and tell you about 10 unusual dishes from around the world that you may never have heard of. We’re calling it International Give It a Try Day….

She alerted me to all the damage Paddington caused in this commercial when he switched from marmalade to Marmite sandwiches! “Paddington Bear Marmite TV Commercial “.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Dan’l, Paul Weimer, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/22 I Have No Internet And I Must Stream

(1) BREATHTAKING. Here’s a chance to admire Nalo Hopkinson’s magnificent SFWA Grand Master award.

(2) SILVER Q&A. Sea Lion Press’ Gary Oswald has a conversation with a co-founder of the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History: “Interviewing the AH Community: Steven H Silver”.

In 2020, a Sea Lion Press story won a Sidewise Award for the first time. Most Sidewise winners are paper novels by major book publishers which sell in the thousands so it was exciting to us that an ebook by a minor publisher with more modest sales could win it. You’re obviously not the only judge but do you consider popularity or legitimacy at all or would you be happy to vote for a self published ebook with barely any sales if you felt the work was good enough?

I try to read each story or novel for the Sidewise Award pretending I know nothing of its provenance. I try to ignore who the author is, who published it, or the way it got to press. To me, it is about the story being told and the way it is told. I try to judge each book on two levels. Is it a good/interesting alternate history and is it a well written book. I’ve voted down books I like because they were strong in one of those two categories, but weak in the other. If the writing isn’t good, the concept doesn’t matter and if the writing is good but the alternate history is weak, it is hard to consider it a contender….

(3) WHO CAN RESIST CETACEANS? [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist JohannesVIII (@ViiiJohannes) did this piece of two humpback whales assimilated as Borg from Star Trek.

(4) FANHISTORY ZOOM. Fanac.org’s next Fan History Project Zoom Series presentation is happening on February 26. To RSVP, or find out more about the series, please send a note to fanac@fanac.org.

  • Death Does Not Release You – LASFS Through the Years with Craig Miller (M), Tim Kirk, Ken Rudolph and Bobbi Armbruster

Date: February 26, 2022
Time: 4pm EST, 1pm PST, 9PM London, 8AM Sunday AEDT (Melbourne)

LASFS is unique – in its history and impact on fandom. LASFS has a clubhouse, a long list of professional writers that have been members, and has had an incredibly active fan group over the decades. Los Angeles area fandom has produced innumerable fanzines, six Los Angeles Worldcons (and many other conventions). Join us for a session with our real world AND fannishly accomplished participants – convention runners (including a Worldcon chair), a noted fan and professional artist, and a fanzine editor, all past or present LASFS members – in conversation about Los Angeles fandom from the inside.

Upcoming Fanac.org fanhistory Zooms are:

  • March 19 — Traveling Ghiants, Fan Funds from the Days of Mimeo to the Days of Zoom

Geri Sullivan (m), Lesleigh Luttrell (DUFF), Justin Ackroyd (GUFF) and Suzle Tompkins (TAFF)

4pm EDT, 1pm PDT, 8pm London, 7am AEDT (Melbourne) – 

  • April 23 — Fandom From Both Sides

Joe Haldeman and Gay Haldeman

2pm EDT, 11am PDT, 7pm London – 

(5) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The CDC has published a study of what ABC News identifies as the 2021 Anime NYC COVID-19/Omicron outbreak. The function isn’t named in the study, but details that are given match that convention. “Omicron spread quickly at convention in New York City — but boosters helped at ABC News.

…According to convention rules, attendees were required to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and wear masks indoors.

The first case was reported to the CDC by the Minnesota Department of Health on Dec. 2 in a man — called Patient A — who had flown to New York City for the convention, the report said.

For the report, the CDC teamed up with the MDH and state and local departments across the country interviewing Patient A, and 23 of his 29 close contacts from 13 states who also attended the convention.

Patient A had traveled to New York City on November 18. He was fully vaccinated and received a booster shot earlier in November, according to the authors.

However, he developed symptoms on Nov. 22 and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, after which he notified all his close contacts, the report said.

Of the 23 attendees contacted, 16 tested positive for the virus, equating to an attack rate of 70%.

All the contacts were fully vaccinated, but only 11 had received a booster dose before going to the convention, according to the report. The authors indicate that having a booster dose lowered the odds of testing positive for COVID-19.

Ten of the 12 people, or 83%, who didn’t receive a booster tested positive for the virus while six of the 11 people, 55%, who tested positive were boosted, meaning there were 1.5 times fewer infections in boosted individuals….

(6) TEXMOOT CALL FOR PAPERS. Signum University is hosting a hybrid event, TexMoot 2022, whose theme is “Starships, Stewards, and Storytellers: How Imaginary Worlds Teach Us to Care for This One”. It takes place in Austin, TX on March 26. Registration costs $50 for on-site participants, $25 for online attendees, and $15 for students in either mode. To register, click here. The complete call for papers is here.

In 2022, Signum University’s Annual Texas Language and Literature Symposium (TexMoot) invites you to join us as we consider the ethical turn in speculative fiction: How do imaginary worlds teach us to care for this one?

From ecological concerns to social commentary, science fiction and fantasy offer readers a mirror through which to view our own world. For example, the struggles of a terraforming planet may remind us how precious and fragile is the one we live on. The real-world conflict between nature and technology comes to life on the page when trees march to war. We may find insights into how to interact with people around us by spending time with characters in a fellowship—or on a starship. 

At TexMoot 2022, you will explore questions like: How do we relate to the Other—the “monsters” and “aliens” beyond the bulkhead door? What roles can technology play in preserving nature or reinforcing what makes us human? Do humans change the nonhuman environment, or are they inevitably changed by it? Is there really a clear line between the human and the nonhuman, anyway? And whose responsibility is it to preserve “civilization” and transmit its legacy to future generations?

TexMoot 2022 will also investigate the ways authors convey these commentaries. What literary techniques best serve the message; at what point does a work cross the line into propaganda? When does the message serve the story, and when does the story serve the message?

The TexMoot Team is looking for both traditional academic papers (of about 15 minutes) and shorter discussion prompts in which the presenter talks for 5 minutes and ends with a provocative question to start a roundtable discussion. Presentations and discussion topics can be more academic or popular, according to your preference and experience. 

(7) STRANGER THINGS GETS FIFTH SEASON. The airdates for the fourth season of Stranger Things have been announced, as has the greenlit fifth and last season. Deadline has the story, and a gallery of promotional posters. “’Stranger Things’ Renewed For Fifth And Final Season, Gets Premiere Dates For Split Season 4 On Netflix”.

Stranger Things, a signature show for Netflix since its premiere in 2016, has been renewed for a fifth and final season.

In addition to the climactic renewal, the company said the long-awaited Season 4 of the show will premiere in two “volumes,” the first on May 27 and the second on July 1. In an open letter to fans (read it in full below), co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer said the split season resulted from the season’s nine episodes having a total running time twice as long as that of any previous season.

The Duffer Bros noted that the full arc was expected to be “four or five” seasons when they first envisioned the show, so the end is not a surprise. Plus, it won’t be the end of the franchise, they promised.

“There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things: new mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes,” they wrote. “But first we hope you stay with us as we finish this tale.”

(8) IT HAPPENED TO JANE. You may not be able to watch Natalie Portman gear up as Thor just yet, but you can pre-order an action figure of her. Gizmodo offers “Thor Love and Thunder Natalie Portman as Thor First Look”, but it comes with a spoiler warning.

While movie studios like Marvel like to keep all details about their films under complete wraps, there’s one truth they simply cannot get around: It takes a long time to make merchandise, especially action figures. That’s why they’re often the first looks at movie outfits and characters, and it’s why we’re getting this first look at Natalie Portman as Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. In related news, she’s awesome—as regular Thor’s new movie outfit, which you can also see here!…

(9) RIDE WITH THE SPACE COWBOY. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast episode 48 is live, featuring short stories by F.J. Bergmann and Toshiya Kamei with original soundtracks by Phog Masheen and RedBlueBlackSilver. “Simultaneous Times Ep.48 – F.J. Bergmann & Toshiya Kamei”. Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(10) FAREN MILLER (1950-2022). Faren Miller, a Locus staffer and contributor for 37 years, died February 15 at the age of 71 reports Locus Online. Miller was hired by Locus in 1981, and her last review column for the magazine was in 2018. Her only published novel, The Illusionists (1991), was a finalist for the William Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1989 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-three years ago, the first film of what would become the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, premiered on this day. It was directed by Stephen Herek as written by Chris Matheson, son of author Richard Matheson, and Ed Solomon, writer of the first Men in Black film, who would write all three of these films. 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, of course, stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin. (I met the latter many years ago. A rather nice gentleman he was.) Two out of the three had successful careers after this, one really didn’t. 

It was a box office triumph earning back forty million against a modest budget of just ten million.

Critics generally hated it. The New York Times in reviewing it flatly stated that it was a “painfully inept comedy”. And the Los Angeles Times said that it was an “unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake”. Dissenting from this unrelenting hostility, the Radio Times cheerfully said ir was a “flawless, purpose-built junk movie”. 

So how do audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes view it now? Well, they give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1913 David Duncan. A screenwriter and novelist who was nominated twice for Hugos, first for being writing the screenplay for The Time Machine at Seacon, and for the same work on Fantastic Voyage at NyCon 3. He also wrote Time Machine: The Journey Back sequel to The Time Machine. And he wrote The Outer Limits’ “The Human Factor” episode. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 17, 1939 Kathy Keeton. Founder and publisher of the now defunct Omni. It was founded by her and her partner and future husband Bob Guccione, the publisher of the also defunct Penthouse. It would publish a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata”, Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic” and George R. R. Martin’s “Sandkings” to name a few of the stories that appeared there. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 68. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person.
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 51. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. A few years later she’ll be Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She played Victoria Dare in Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1975 Jerry O’Connell, 47. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind-the-broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League DarkThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent.

(13) SUBSCRIBERS MUST SQUINT. According to Polygon, “recent updates have made it harder to read, shop, and publish on the U.S.’s most popular digital comics platform” — “Amazon’s big Comixology changes ignite concern from comic book creators, fans”.

This week Amazon, launched a new app for its digital comics platform, Comixology, and a new Amazon-native online storefront that will eventually replace Comixology’s browser-based store and reader. But the new changes have alarmed both users and creators.

Long-time Comixology users have taken to social media to list all the ways the new web and app user experience represents a step backward from what they’re used to. Chief among the many complaints is a new web reader that doesn’t display double page spreads correctly, has removed creator credits from book listings on the storefront, and lacks both panel-by-panel and zoom functions, rendering most comics in illegibly small images….

(14) MISSING A PART OF THE FUTURE. Voice acting veterans Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Kari Wahlgren, and Charlie Adler call out Hulu, which is reviving Futurama but hasn’t been willing to meet the terms of Bender’s voice John DiMaggio: “Futurama Hulu revival: Actors supporting John DiMaggio” at SYFY Wire.

A number of established Hollywood veterans have come to the side of John DiMaggio as the actor continues to clash with Hulu and 20th Century Studios over proper compensation for the streamer’s upcoming revival of Futurama.

The official announcement of the beloved series’ return from co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen was slightly marred by the fact that DiMaggio (who voices foul-mouthed robot Bender and a plethora of supporting characters) was the only member of the original cast who had not signed on for the revival. It was soon reported that the show would recast Bender in the wake of contract negotiations stalling out. If talks have ended for good between both parties, some fans say they won’t be tuning in if DiMaggio isn’t brought back for the 20 additional episodes slated to premiere sometime next year (production kicks off this month)….

(15) STORYLIVING BY DISNEY. Love Disney parks so much you’d want to live in one?  Now you can (sort of). “Disney is developing planned communities for fans who never want to leave its clutches”The Verge will fill you in.

Disney has launched a new business for fans who can’t bear to leave the pristine, family-friendly world the corporation has nurtured through its theme parks and media ventures.

“Storyliving by Disney” will operate as part of the company’s theme parks division, developing a series of master-planned communities for residential living, designed by Disney’s creative staff and offering the same pampered tranquility found in its resorts.

“Picture an energetic community with the warmth and charm of a small town and the beauty of a resort,” said Disney Parks, Experiences and Products exec Helen Pak in a promotional video.

Only one location has been announced so far: a community of 1,900 housing units named Cotino that will be built in the city of Rancho Mirage in California’s Coachella Valley (a location where Walt Disney himself once lived)….

(16) SPLISH SPLASH, YOU’LL BE TAKIN’ A BATH. [Item by Michael Toman.] I can’t be the only Filer who would be interested in reading this Kim Stanley Robinson nightmare scenario, with or without fires and earthquakes. What will California’s coast look like in 100 years? “We’re Kind of Built on This Knife’s Edge” at Alta.

Eighteen thousand years ago, give or take, the continental shelf 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco was exposed as a wide, flat coastal plain with an extensive system of dunes and river valleys connecting the Farallon Islands to the continental United States, which didn’t go by that name. Farther north, salt waters from the Pacific Ocean stretched all the way inland to present-day Sacramento.

Rising sea levels have continued to erode the shoreline ever since, as human beings established a society they would eventually call California. Some of our biggest cities were built in this 10 miles of dynamic coastline.

“We often think of the California coast as this high-relief terrain with active tectonics, which it is, but we’ve put millions of people in the lowest parts of the entire state, like the San Diego Bay, the San Francisco Bay, and the Los Angeles Basin,” says Patrick Barnard, the research director of the climate impacts and coastal processes team at USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz….

(17) YAKKITY-YAK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Not satisfied with something commonplace like a robotic dog, China is going for a robotic yak. They are said to be essentially ready for troop support, but Popular Mechanics isn’t buying it. “China’s New ‘Robotic Yak’ Will Support Ground Troops, But It’s Not as Capable as It Seems”.

Chinese engineers are developing a large, four-legged robotic “yak,” supposedly capable of hauling as much cargo as two real yaks. The unnamed robot—which seems destined for military use—is similar to the robo-dog concept that Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics has popularized over the last decade. But a careful reading of the video shows that it may just be a bunch of Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

Supported by its four spindly legs and barrel-shaped body, the robot is topped off with a cargo-carrying metal rack. Global Times, a Chinese tabloid with links to the Chinese government, claims it can carry up to 160 kilograms (352 pounds) and travel at up to 6.21 miles per hour. It cites the Chinese Communist Party news site People’s Daily as saying the robot was “the world’s largest, heaviest and most off-road-capable of its kind.”…

…. Robo-yak isn’t going anywhere anytime soon for the same reasons the Marines never pursued LS3: robots run on batteries and once the batteries run down, it takes hours—at a place with abundant power to spare, which is not exactly the desert—to recharge them. 

(18) THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. “Homelander’s Vought Origin Story Shown In The Boys Diabolical Trailer”Screen Rant sets the frame:

Set within the same universe as its parent series, The Boys: Diabolical acts as an eight-part collection of animated short films exploring a range of stories related to the corrupt superhero world that fans of The Boys have come to know and love. Each episode will run between 12 and 14 minutes and feature a unique animation style

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: It Takes Two,” Fandom Games says the gimmick of this game is that you’re supposed to play it with your partner and preserve your marriage.  But the narrator says a better test is to “Play Cuphead with your wife, because if your marriage can survive that, it can survive anything!”

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

2022 NEA Creative Writing Fellowships

The National Endowment for the Arts today announced the 35 recipients of their 2022 Creative Writing Fellowships. Among them are several writers of genre interest:

Yohanca Delgado – She had two stories picked for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021, “The Rat” and “Our Language,” and also has written for Nightmare Magazine.

Rachel Heng – Her novel Suicide Club tells about a trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold. With the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die. But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality.

Nalo Hopkinson – In 2021 honored by the Science Fiction Writers of America with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, making her the first woman recipient of African descent. She is also a recipient of the John W. Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Sunburst Award.

Morgan Talty — His forthcoming story collection Night of the Living Rez includes at least one story of genre interest, in which a boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling.

Laura van den Berg – Her novel The Third Hotel involves the apparent return of the dead, blurring the distinction between reality and fantasy.

Yvonne Woon — The author of the Dead Beautiful paranormal mystery series.

Nalo Hopkinson’s comment on receiving the fellowship is:

As a genre, speculative fiction challenges the preconceptions we’ve internalized about what is known, what is possible, whose experiences are important. From the most frivolous story to the most rigorous, it does so by stepping outside the borders of reality to imagine alternate ways of being. As such, it can be an extremely important mode of fiction for audiences, authors, and communities that experience institutionalized oppression. It’s certainly been the genre that allowed me to find my voice, my courage as a queer, Black woman writer living with the legacy of colonization. It’s given me new paradigms in a world that sorely needs them, and the conceptual tools with which to consider them. Reading and writing in this mode has brought me so much joy, hope, wonder, intellectual engagement, and artistic delight. It is my privilege when I can bring readers any of those gifts. Yet for all its revolutionary potential, speculative fiction—science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.—are frequently misunderstood and held in contempt by the larger literary community. There are grants and publishing venues which explicitly exclude genre fiction at the outset, and creative writing departments which refuse to let their students write it. So receiving this recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts is for me a much appreciated acknowledgement that the value of my genre and my work can be perceived on a larger artistic stage. It’s something I’ve always believed, but this fellowship tells me that I may be contributing in a small way to making some room at the table. I’m eager to share the new work the fellowship will enable.

The fellowships are worth $25,000, and there were more than 2,000 applicants this year. The fellowships allow recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and career development. The winners are selected through an anonymous process and are judged on the basis of artistic excellence of the work sample they provided.  

Pixel Scroll 12/16/21 A Pixelness In The Scroll

(1) COLBERT’S LOTR CAST REUNION RAP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Stephen Colbert (of The Late Show) is a self-proclaimed Lord of the Rings fanatic (both the books and the movie series).His show is going on hiatus after this week for the rest of the year and Colbert bemoaned the fact that he will not be on air to celebrate Sunday’s 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of the first LOTR movie directed by Peter Jackson.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert assembled Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, pro rappers Killer Mike and Method Man, plus bandleader Jon Batiste, host Colbert, and (for reasons unknown) Anna Kendrick, to create a rap video that pounds home the dominance of the LOTR movie trilogy.

(2) LEE AND MILLER’S FREE HOLIDAY STORY. Steve Miller says he “is in a strange land far away from Worldcon” —

The plan was that our new Liaden story would hit the interwebz while we were off at Worldcon, but we dropped that plan awhile back due to the pandemic. The story came out on time, but we’re home in Maine! FWIW I had several convention dreams last night (guess I’m missing the whole crew!), but it still isn’t the same.

Yesterday some folks were having a hard time finding the new release, though, so this is a direct link to “From Every Storm A Rainbow”, our official free online Liaden Universe holiday story for 2021, which follows pretty hard on the heels of our recent “Bread Alone” chapbook, which ran a week or so as “#1 new release” under SF anthologies right at Thanksgiving. “Bread Alone’s” on sale in many venues now, but here’s the Amazon link.

Have a good holiday season, a good year, and we’re still hoping for Chicago….

Bests wishes from all of us here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory …

(3) CLARION WEST IS HIRING. The annual Clarion West Writers Workshop is looking to fill several positions – Six-Week Workshop Facilitator, Residential Workshop Administrator, and Communications Specialist. See Jobs – Clarion West for the details.

Do you believe that stories are important? Do you want to work with a diverse and passionate team to bring emerging writers to the field of speculative fiction? Do you want to support more writers of color and from traditionally underrepresented communities? Take a look at our open opportunities and see where your expertise can grow Clarion West.

(4) SITE SELECTION CONTINUES. Rich Lynch sent along this photo he took of DisCon III’s at-con Site Selection voting area.  

(5) ON YONDER SHOREHAM. Highlander tweeted a video walkthrough from the first day of DisCon III. I see John Hertz in his beanie appears around the 25-second mark.

(6) HALL COSTUMES. Ian Randal Strock tweeted a photo of cosplayers at DisCon III dressed as the TARDIS and two Doctor Who nemeses.

(7) MOFFAT TEASES WHO FANS. Radio Times plucked some juicy quotes from an hour-long conversation about Steven Moffat’s career hosted by the Oxford Union: “Steven Moffat talks Russell T Davies’ ‘fantastic’ plans for Doctor Who”.

…“I had no idea Russell was going to do that,” Moffat told Oxford Union. “He told me the night before, he sent me an email and I read it. I was just coming home from a restaurant and I thought: ‘Is that real? I’ll see if that email is still there in the morning.’

“Then I phoned him up and said, ‘Have you read [behind-the-scenes Doctor Who book] The Writer’s Tale? Have you read it? Because I think you should’,” continued Moffat. “He said, ‘I want to do it again, I’m excited, I’m thrilled.’”…

View the complete Q&A session on YouTube.

Writer of Doctor Who and Sherlock, Steven Moffat has won an Emmy award, five BAFTA Awards and four Hugo Awards. He had been a fan of Doctor Who since childhood, and is responsible for some of the most famous episodes including ‘Blink’ and ‘Silence in the Library.’ In 2015, he was appointed an Order of the British Empire for his services to drama

(8) SIGNED BY EGO. Rob Hansen has posted a real rarity at his THEN British fanhistory website – the text of a 1940s chain letter with Arthur C. Clarke as one of the participants: “FAN-MAIL (1941)”.

Here’s something I never thought I’d ever see – one of Clarke’s WW2 chain-letters. Yet, amazingly, this one has survived after 80 years. And finally seeing one has, I think, enabled me to figure out the how these chains worked, an explanation of which appears after the scans. I described them in THEN as essentially operating like APAs, but the logistics involved were a bit more complicated than that.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1987 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty four years ago, A Muppet Family Christmas first aired on ABC. It was produced not by Jim Henson (though he did executive produce it) , a rare thing indeed, but rather by Peter Harris and Eric Till from a script by Jerry Juhl who had earlier scripted the most excellent Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. For a Muppet film, it had an unusually large cast, to wit Gerry Parkes, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Caroll Spinney, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell and David Rudman. 

This is one of the rare Muppet productions to feature the Muppets that were associated with all four of the major Muppet franchises: Fraggle RockMuppet Babies (who are seen here as actual puppets instead of their usual animated selves), The Muppet Show and Sesame Street

If you’ve saw it on TV and then watched it later on the North American DVD and VHS release, you might’ve notice that a lot of the original film was missing. That was because the Henson company only secured broadcast rights, not subsequent rights to songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” weren’t available. 

Critics generally like it. Myles McNutt of the A.V. Club said of it that was “a love letter to the Muppets as a wide-ranging, meaningful part of viewers’ childhoods.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most cheery eighty-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome.  I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there and I passed by his residence one day. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read.  I’ve read a lot of short fiction including of course Tales from The White Hart. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. (The later Lord Darcy collection has two previously uncollected stories.) Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say that saying he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. I was surprised his only Hugo win was for at The Man in The High Castle at DisCon though Blade Runner would pick up one at ConStellation. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley.  He had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of DragonsThe Ropemaker garnered a well-deserved Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His James Pibble upper-class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 64. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the BuffyverseOutlandersTime PoliceRogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1961 Jon Tenney, 60. He’s best known as Special Agent Fritz Howard on The Closer and continued in its spinoff Major Crimes, but he does have genre creds. He played Jimmy Wells in The Phantom, Martin Jordon in Green Lantern, and Lt. Ching in two episodes in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also showed up on Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits and neXt
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 54. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. (I stopped watching after The Fellowship of The Rings.) She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an amazing cast even if the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a five percent rating meaning the critics really didn’t like it.

(11) GUESS WHAT? This March, make way for the new Sorcerer Supreme!

With Doctor Strange dead, another sorcerer has taken the title, or should we say Sorceress? Clea, mistress of the Dark Dimension and Stephen Strange’s powerful partner, will rise to the challenge of defending earth from mystical and otherworldly danger in writer Jed MacKay’s STRANGE #1! Featuring artwork by AMAZING SPIDER-MAN artist Marcelo Ferreira, this all-new ongoing series will spin directly out of the story still unfolding in MacKay’s DEATH OF DOCTOR STRANGE. 

.. Here’s what MacKay had to say about continuing this unprecedented Doctor Strange saga:

“After the apocalyptic events of The Death of Doctor Strange, there’s a new Sorcerer Supreme in residence at 177A Bleecker Street, and a new Doctor Strange- Clea Strange. And she’s got her work cut out for her- when she’s not fighting off the magical gangsters of the Blasphemy Syndicate, or battling undead super-monsters, she’s going after what’s hers: the late Stephen Strange. Clea is of the Faltine, that race of Warlords and conquerors, and like her relatives Dormammu and Umar, she will not be thwarted in her desires, not even by the mysterious Harvestman standing in her way.”

(12) NOW PLAYING. You can listen to Connie Willis and Nalo Hopkinson’s LOA Live appearance to promote American Christmas Stories on Soundcloud or watch the program on the Library of America website.

(13) FLICK PICKS. Wired presents its list of “The Best Sci-Fi Movies of 2021”. They start with Dune, but let’s skip ahead to one you haven’t read a million words about:

… Perhaps, at this stage, you’d prefer your women on the more visible side of things. If so, consider the French film Oxygen (Netflix), whose main—nearly only—character is a scientist played by the marvelous Mélanie Laurent. She wakes up in an AI-controlled cryogenic pod and must figure out how to escape it before the titular oxygen runs out. Who put her there? Where even is there? Soon enough, she begins to remember a man. A husband. The love of her life. Who died in a horrible pandemic back on Earth. Yes, that’s it: She’s part of a mission to save the human race, predicted to die out completely in two generations….

(14) A BIG DEAL. Radio Times fills us in on the new owner’s ambitions for Bad Wolf: “Doctor Who’s Bad Wolf could be biggest drama producer in UK, says Sony”.

Sony Pictures has invested £50 million into Welsh drama producer Bad Wolf, in the hopes of helping the maker of Doctor Who and His Dark Materials reach its “zenith”.

Wayne Garvie, Sony’s president of international production, recently revealed his hopes that Bad Wolf could become “the biggest drama producer in Britain and in Europe” (via BBC News).

He said: “We have invested in a company that has not reached its zenith. We have [another] company called Left Bank Pictures who make The Crown, which you may have watched, and which is Britain’s biggest drama company. And we built that together with the founders of the company over about eight years or so.

“And we want to do the same with Bad Wolf. There is no reason why Bad Wolf should not be or could not be the biggest drama producer in Britain and in Europe. And that is our ambition.”

(15) KEEPING TRACK OF CENSORSHIP. “School Library Journal Starts a Library Censorship Tips Hotline” reports Book Riot.

…In response to this wave of censorship attempts, the School Library Journal has opened a library censorship tips hotline, which allows library professionals to report censorship attempts anonymously. Hopefully, this will give a more complete picture than the ALA numbers and shed light on censorship happening that is not getting covered on the news. The censorship tips hotline form asks for name and email (both optional); the library/school district, and state; and a comments field: “Tell us who is behind the objection—parents, school board members, or other parties—and how the district/library responded. Was challenge policy followed? Let us know anything else relevant.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang have an opinion about Spider-Man.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Steve Miller, Rob Thornton, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26/21 Tinker, Tailor, Pixel, Scroll

(1) WILL YOU GIVE THANKS FOR COMIC-CON? Did you know San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition is happening this weekend? It was news to me, too. And tickets are still available. The Times of San Diego tells what this streamlined version will be like: “Virus-Safe, Stripped-Down Comic-Con Opens Friday After 2-Year COVID Hiatus”.

Superheroes won’t be the only ones wearing masks in downtown San Diego this weekend.

After a two-year absence, Comic-Con International returns to San Diego on Friday to entertain, inform and tantalize pop culture fans the world over.

But this won’t be the Comic-Con you remember. This is Comic-Con Special Edition, a stripped-down, three-day event being held over a holiday weekend to limit crowds during an ongoing pandemic that has forced online-only versions of the last two conventions.

Comic-Con organizers said they wanted to hold an in-person event but do it safely. So, that meant fewer days, smaller scope and a return to the intimate gathering that longtime attendees fondly remember.

And it means attendees will be asked to show proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 tests. They will also have to wear masks or face coverings regardless of vaccination status….

(2) SQUID GAME CONSEQUENCES. “North Korean sentenced to death after students caught watching Squid Game” according to Radio Free Asia, a United States government-funded private non-profit news service.

North Korea has sentenced to death a man who smuggled and sold copies of the Netflix series “Squid Game” after authorities caught seven high school students watching the Korean-language global hit show, sources in the country told RFA.

The smuggler is said to have brought a copy of Squid Game into North Korea back from China and sold USB flash drives containing the series. Sources said his sentence would be carried out by firing squad.

A student who bought a drive received a life sentence, while six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years hard labor, and teachers and school administrators have been fired and face banishment to work in remote mines or themselves, the sources said.

RFA reported last week that copies of the violent drama had arrived in the reclusive country despite the best efforts of authorities to keep out foreign media. They began spreading among the people on flash drives and SD cards.

… “This all started last week when a high school student secretly bought a USB flash drive containing the South Korean drama Squid Game and watched it with one of his best friends in class,” a source in law enforcement in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service Monday.

“The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them. They were caught by the censors in 109 Sangmu, who had received a tipoff,” said the source, referring to the government strike force that specializes in catching illegal video watchers, known officially as Surveillance Bureau Group 109.

The arrest of the seven students marks the first time that the government is applying the newly passed law on the “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture,” in a case involving minors, according to the source….

(3) SMOFCON PROGRAM AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS. SMOFcon Europe (December 3-5 in Lisboa, Portugal) has announced their program schedule. They say one must be a member to access program — purchase memberships here.

We are thrilled to announce our programme schedule and workshop sign ups are now available on our website at https://www.smofconeurope.com/whats-on/programme/! The programme grid shows not only time zones but whether items are in person or streaming. Also on this page are the descriptions of our Workshops and links to sign up for them. Workshop space is limited and requires advance signup so don’t delay!

You’ll need to be a member to access programme, so if you still need one you can purchase your membership here: https://www.smofconeurope.com/membership/

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to pig out on Peruvian with Lawrence M. Schoen in episode 159 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence M. Schoen was a finalist for the 2007 Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and in the years since has been nominated for the Hugo Award (once), the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award (twice), and the Nebula Award (six times). He’s twice won the Cóyotl award for Best Novel — for two books in his critically acclaimed Barsk series: The Elephants Graveyard (2015) and The Moons of Barsk (2018). He also was the 2016 winner of the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award.

His most well-known creations are the space-faring stage hypnotist, the Amazing Conroy, and his alien animal traveling companion, a buffalito named Reggie who can eat anything — which he then converts into oxygen via … flatulence. For more than 10 years, he’s hosted the Eating Authors series, which has shared the most memorable meals of more than 500 writers. In addition to all that, he founded the Klingon Language Institute, plus is a hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.

We discussed how he was able to release 12 books in a difficult year affected by both a pandemic and chemo, the pseudonym he was relieved he never had to use, what caused him to say “you find the answers to the problems of your life by writing a story about it,” the RPG improv which led to the creation of his Barsk universe, what he learned at the Taos Toolbox workshop which caused him to completely rewrite one of his books, the all-important power of the subconscious, how transcription software affected his style, why he doesn’t want people to read the final paragraph of his second Barsk novel, his relationships with the indie side of publishing, the many joys of mentoring, how he uses hypnotism to help other writers, and much more.

(5) JACKSON’S BEATLES DOCUMENTARY. I’m going to yank this item right out of the Scroll as soon as I confirm it has no genre connection. So far, all I’ve located in respect to genre is reporters mentioning that Peter Jackson previously directed Lord of the Rings before working on this Beatles documentary. For example, look at this San Diego Union-Tribune headline: “The Beatles meet ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in ‘Get Back’: ‘It’ll blow your mind,’ says director Peter Jackson”.

Just as The Beatles used their timeless songs in the 1960s to take millions of listeners across the universe on a magical musical mystery tour, Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy director Peter Jackson has taken millions of viewers worldwide on a magical cinematic mystery tour in this century.

So what happens when these two worlds and creative forces intersect, 51 years after The Beatles acrimoniously split up in 1970?

“It’ll blow your mind!” said Jackson, a lifelong fan of the most famous and influential band in rock ‘n’ roll history.

And what happens when that unlikely intersection — which has resulted in Jackson’s engrossing new film documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back” — comprehensively chronicles the month of January 1969?

… Jackson culled “Get Back” from nearly 60 hours of previously unseen footage that was shot in January 1969 for director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s briefly released and widely criticized “Let It Be” documentary.

Steven Colbert also had the director on The Late Show and made a point of saying this would be the only interview he ever did with Jackson that didn’t mention Lord of the Rings. Well, except to say he wasn’t mentioning it. “’We Shed Tears That Night’ – Peter Jackson And Stephen Wept Watching Footage Of The Beatles”. Yep, so this Scroll item might end up failing the Obligatory SF Reference requirement. Read fast.

In part one of this multi-part interview, Stephen welcomes Sir Peter Jackson and sets the stage for their in-depth discussion of Jackson’s work directing the incredible Disney+ documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back,” which is set to change the public’s perception of the relationship between John, Paul, George and Ringo in their final years as bandmates.

But wait! Steven H Silver says, “During the first episode of The Beatles Get Back, there is a section about 1:29 in where George is describing watching the Into the Unknown adaptation of Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc on the BBC.” Okay, we’re covered!

(6) IMAGINE THAT. At Stone Soup, Sarah Gailey’s “Building Beyond” is an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be. In the latest installment — “Building Beyond: Unfathomable Depths” – Gailey is joined by Suzanne Walker, Hunter Ford, and Natalie Zina Walschots to play with the prompt  —

A deep sea diving expedition finds a long-abandoned dome.

(7) TO AFFORDABLY GO AND WATCH. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Amazon Prime Video is (currently) offering (to Amazon Prime members, in case that doesn’t go without saying) Paramount+ (Star Trek shows, etc) (and some other channels) for $0.99/month for up to two months.

(8) WILLIS AND HOPKINSON ON LOA LIVE. The Library of America’s “LOA Live” will have a video session about American Christmas Stories on December 15 featuring editor Connie Willis and novelist Nalo Hopkinson. It looks like registration to create an LOA account is required for the live Zoom event, however, afterwards the video will be posted to the Library of America’s YouTube channel.

Wednesday, December 15
6:00 pm ET
American Christmas Stories

Acclaimed bestselling SF and fantasy writer Connie Willis, editor of the just-released American Christmas Stories, joins LOA LIVE for a merrily unconventional yuletide conversation about the uniquely American literature inspired by this most magical time of the year. With Jamaican-born speculative novelist Nalo Hopkinson, who contributes a story to the collection, and historian Penne Restad (Christmas in America: A History.)
Registration link TK

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1865 — One hundred fifty-six years ago, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly referred to as Alice in Wonderland) was first published by Macmillan in London. It was the first work of Lewis Carroll, the alias of pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. It had illustrations by John Tenniel. 

The text blocks of the first printed edition were removed from the binding and sold with Dodgson’s permission to the New York publishing house of D. Appleton & Company, after Tenniel objected to the quality of the illustrations. So this was actually the second printed edition. The entire print run sold out quickly. It has a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. It has been continuously in-print including writer Martin Gardner’s exemplary The Annotated Alice.

I count at least fifty video riffs off of it so far including of course Star Trek‘s “Shore Leave” with the white rabbit and Alice. A number of genre works have riffed off it as well including Otherland by Tad Williams, The Looking Glass Wars, and its sequel, Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor, Automated Alice by Jeff Noon and After Alice by Gregory Maguire.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 26, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman, pure fantasy Graeme and the Dragon and an Arthurian novel in Chapel Perilous. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 26, 1910 Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected rounds out his genre acting. Well, and what looks like an absolutely awful Tam-Lin… (Died 1993.)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honored for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, he won three Hugos and three Nebula Awards for his fiction, three Hugos as Best Professional Editor, and one as Best Fan Writer (2010). His 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993  and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. Ok setting aside Awards which are frelling impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Astonishing StoriesGalaxy Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction UKIfStar Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astonishing Stories and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the two John W. Campbell Memorial Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not but that was true of most SF writers of the time. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 Shusei Nagaoka. Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra, and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 26, 1945 Daniel Davis, 76. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for his two excellent appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyver, Gotham and Elementary. He played The Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series. 
  • Born November 26, 1949 Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 72. Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two Best Fan Artist Hugos, one at Denvention Two and the next at Chicon IV. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado.
  • Born November 26, 1961 Steve Macdonald, 60. A fan and longtime pro filker ever since he first went to a filk con in 1992. In 2001, he went on a “WorlDream” tour, attending every filk con in the world held that year. He’s now resident in Germany where he moved to marry fellow filker Kerstin (Katy) Droge. He was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 26, 1988 Ben Bird Person, 33. A Filer who writes “silly” Wikipedia articles and commissions art of his cat Snow. As DoctorWho042 is in the top 2000 on the list of Wikipedians by number of edits
  • Born November 26, 1988 Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 33. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate! At the first Philadelphia Ren Faire he appeared as King Thor, the leader of a Viking raiding party.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Heathcliff – Is this Asimov’s next law of robotics?
  • xkcd confronts the challenge bookstores face in sorting fiction from nonfiction.

(12) BEWARE SPOILERS. And I mean it this time! BEWARE SPOILERS. Vanity Fair’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife—The Day Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson Reunited” is one big spoiler about the actors’ return as Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore, and how they handled the loss of Harold Ramis and Egon Spengler. NO EXCERPT!!

(13) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and guest Marguerite Smith are live from Novacon 50! We discuss DisCon III, Glasgow in 2024, and Dublin in 2029 before diving into actual science fiction and live letters of comment. Listen here: “A Fistful of Dongles”.

Below, Sue Mason illustrates guest Marguerite Smith and not-a-guest Meg MacDonald from the Glasgow in 2024 bid.

(14) OPEN SESAME. Street Gang, an HBO original documentary about the most impactful children’s program in television history, Sesame Street, premieres December 13 on HBO Max.

(15) USE YOUR IMAGINATION. “Santas are in short supply, which leads to intriguing alternatives” reports the Washington Post.

…“Across the board I’ve seen an uptick in number of requests, but once I’m full, I’m full,” says Doug Eberhardt, a Santa based in Charlotte. “I’ve got 92 gigs booked between now and Christmas.”

HireSanta, an agency for Santas and Mrs. Clauses, has been turning down requests for weeks.

“Hundreds of people a day have been reaching out to us,” founder Mitch Allen says. “We always sell out on weekends, but normally it’s after Thanksgiving.” This year, his Santas were all fully committed for every weekend by the first week of November.

Perhaps the shortage is an opportunity to rethink what makes a Santa “believable.” For most of the past century, that has meant a St. Nick who is chubby, white-bearded, old, and usually Caucasian. Maybe a gap in the marketplace will open up opportunities for Santas who don’t fit the mainstream mold: Black Santas. Deaf Santas. Spanish-speaking Santas. Connaghan is trying to develop a talent pipeline through an initiative called Santa Bootcamp, sponsored by Old Navy, which recruits Santas with diverse backgrounds. Because there are so few of these Santas — only 5 percent of Santas identify as non-White by industry estimates — they are even harder to find this year than usual, says HireSanta’s Allen….

(16) ALBUM BASED ON DARK STAR. Phenomenology is a concept album of sorts, the central protagonist Talby was the lead character of the 1974 cult sci-fi film Dark Star by John Carpenter and the album depicts a metaphorical journey into the unknown where one has no choice but to face one’s fears, a hero’s journey indeed.” — Phenomenology at Bandcamp.

(17) LOADED CHIPS. “First quantum computer to pack 100 qubits enters crowded race”Nature has the story.

But IBM’s latest quantum chip and its competitors face a long path towards making the machines useful.

IBM’s newest quantum-computing chip, revealed on 15 November, established a milestone of sorts: it packs in 127 quantum bits (qubits), making it the first such device to reach 3 digits. But the achievement is only one step in an aggressive agenda boosted by billions of dollars in investments across the industry.

The ‘Eagle’ chip is a step towards IBM’s goal of creating a 433-qubit quantum processor next year, followed by one with 1,121 qubits, named Condor, by 2023. Such targets echo those that for decades the electronics industry has set itself for miniaturizing silicon chips, says Jerry Chow, head of IBM’s experimental quantum-computing group.

(18) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Nature discusses “How to make macroscale non-crystalline diamonds”. A diamond shatters easily, despite it being the hardest natural material. Atomically disordered forms of diamond made from buckyballs might not only overcome this problem, but also allow other properties to be optimized.

The brilliant facets of diamonds have entranced people throughout history and are a result of the ordered atomic structure of these gemstones. But this order comes at a cost: it makes diamonds fragile. In contrast to quartz and many other crystalline materials that produce atomically disordered forms, a disordered — and potentially less fragile — form of diamond has not been available. Writing in Nature, Shang et al. and Tang et al. report how to produce atomically disordered diamond-like materials with millimetre-scale dimensions, constituting a breakthrough for materials science.

(19) THREESCORE AND TEN. Phil Nichols’ talk “Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man at Seventy”, given during ArtsFest Online, can now be viewed on YouTube.

Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man – a short story collection very loosely woven together with a fantastical framing narrative – is now seventy years old, and yet it remains a greatly influential work. Dealing with ideas around virtual reality, civil rights, the end of the world, and body art, it has managed to sustain a resonance through to the twenty-first century, despite its 1950s trappings. Individual stories from the collection have been adapted for film, television, radio and stage on multiple occasions, confirming Bradbury’s position as one of the most significant writers of science fiction even as the author tried to escape from the “ghetto” of genre fiction. In this illustrated talk, Dr Phil Nichols will show how Bradbury’s short-story collection both defines and confines the author.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Steven French, Dann, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, John Coxon, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/28/21 He Left The Galactic Library To Riverworld City But He Gave All The Scrolls To Her

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The September 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Wait,” by Andrea Chapela, translated by Emma Törzs—a story about disappearances, ubiquitous surveillance, and stultifying bureaucracy.

… When the bell chimes for the next appointment, you raise your eyes from the book you weren’t really reading in the first place. 347. You’re next. You shut the book, a poetry collection you brought intentionally because it lets you open any page and read a few verses before losing the thread and looking back up at the screen…..

It was published along with a response essay by biomedicine and genetics researcher Vivette García-Deister. “Who Wins When the State Appropriates Self-Defense Technologies Developed by Communities?”

… This registry was created in 2018, and it includes disappearances from all the recent violence associated with the nation’s drug cartel wars. But it also includes cases that date back to the “dirty war” of the 1960s, when repressive governments ruthlessly targeted and eliminated revolutionary groups that had taken up arms against the state and anyone else whom they considered political threats, all under the auspices of U.S. anti-communist foreign policy.

Regrettably, therefore, the setting of Andrea Chapela’s “The Wait”—a short story about a woman waiting indefinitely in a governmental office (the “National Institute of Citizen Registration and Geolocation”) for news about Víctor, her missing brother—is painfully familiar to many people in Mexico. And indeed, much like in “The Wait,” women are mainly the ones who do the inquiring of authorities or actually do the searching, sometimes as members of highly organized search collectives….

(2) ROSARIUM ZOOM. Bill Campbell and Rachelle Cruz discuss The Day The Klan Came To Town in a Facebook livestream on Tuesday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

Join us for a Zoom talk with Bill Campbell, author and publisher at Rosarium Publishing. His latest work, The Day the Klan Came to Town, is a graphic novel based on historical events: The Ku Klux Klan attack on the Jewish, Catholic, Black, and southern and eastern European immigrant communities of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, in 1923, and how they rose up to send the Klan packing.

In dialog with Campbell will be Rachelle Cruz,Professor of Creative Writing in the Genre Fiction concentration at Western Colorado University, and author of Experiencing Comics: An Introduction to Reading, Discussing and Creating Comics.

This event is sponsored by the Orange Coast College Multicultural Center.

(3) LEARNING FROM THE BEST. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put up an index to its Deep Dives video series.

We like to think of Deep Dives as Khan Academy, but for creative writing. …

Each module is based on a clip from our featured interviews with masters of the field and concerns a specific aspect of the writers’ craft (plot, character-building, establishing a setting, how to get published, copyrighting, and so on). Right now we’re focused on posting individual modules, but as we continue to build this project we plan to create syllabi, study guides, and assignments for specific course structures (such as eco-literature for a science classroom, or a seminar on feminist dystopian fiction)…. 

(4) OH, THE INHUMANITY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 21 Financial Times (behind a paywall). Isabella Kaminska, in a piece about whether homemade experimenters could genetically modify things at home for bad ends, interviewed Simon Wain-Hobson, a retired virologist who was the first to genetically sequence HIV.

Wain-Hobson “likens the scientific compulsion to tinker with fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett’s observation that ‘if you put a large switch in some cave somewhere with a sign on it saying “End of the world switch. Please do not touch,” the paint wouldn’t have time to dry.'”

(5) CLICKS FROM A DEAD MAN’S EYES. Alexandra Erin has a Twitter thread going about Asimov and the Foundation series’ lack of decent women characters.  Thread starts here.

In the thread there’s a link to a blog post by Justine Larbalestier that reprints some letters from a teenage Asimov on the subject of women in SF stories: “Letters”.

Dear Editor,

Three rousing cheers for Donald G. Turnbull of Toronto for his valiant attack on those favoring mush. When we want science-fiction, we don’t want swooning dames, and that goes double. You needn’t worry about Miss Evans, Donald, us he-men are for you and if she tries to slap you down, you’ve got an able (I hope) confederate and tried auxiliary right here in the person of yours truly. Come on, men, make yourself heard in favor of less love mixed with our science!

—Isaac Asimov, 174 Windsor Place, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Astounding Science Fiction September 1938 p. 161

Isaac Asimov was eighteen when this letter was published.

(6) GAMING COMPANY WILL SETTLE EEOC COMPLAINTS. “Activision Blizzard says it will pay $18 million to settle harassment claims”CNN has the story.

Activision Blizzard will pay $18 million to settle a lawsuit by a US government agency alleging harassment and discrimination, the firm said Monday.

The gaming company, which owns hugely popular titles such as “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush,” announced it had reached a settlement agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in response to a complaint the agency filed earlier in the day.

As part of the settlement agreement, which is subject to court approval, Activision Blizzard (ATVI) said it will create an $18 million fund “to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants.” Any remaining amount will either be donated to charities focused on harassment, gender equality and women in the video game industry, or will be used to create diversity and inclusion initiatives within the company, it added….

In a complaint filed earlier on Monday, the EEOC accused Activision Blizzard of subjecting female employees to sexual harassment, retaliating against them for complaining about harassment and paying female employees less than male employees. The company also “discriminated against employees due to their pregnancy,” the complaint alleged.

(7) DAY AFTER DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 22 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses video games based on Groundhog Day-style time loops.

These (time loop fames) follow in the footsteps of modern classic Outer Wilds, in which players explore a tiny galaxy which resets every 22 minutes when the sun explodes, the minimalist Minit, where you have just 60 seconds to adventure before the game restarts, and the compelling ancient Roman mystery The Forgotten City, in which a whole city is doomed to repeat a day as punishment for its sins.  That’s not to mention the macabre Loop Hero. murder mystery loop The Sexy Brutale, Hamlet-inspired riiff Elsinore, and even a VR game based on the Groundhog Day Ip called Like Father Like Son. There are more every year.  What keeps drawing writers to this particular trope? And why do we never get bored witnessing the same scenes over and over?…

…Gamers have always been at home in loops; traditionally, game environments reset every time they are entered, with enemies respawning and treasure chests restocked with gold.   Game designers speak of the ‘gameday loop,’ the central repeated action which keeps players engaged. Games are the perfect medium to unpack the pleasure in the patterns of a repeated timeframe.  The loop becomes a puzzle that can be solved, while its cyclical nature suggests experimentation–try anything you like, because you can always reset and start again.

(8) VISION QUEST. The wait is almost over. Vox reports “The Webb Space Telescope is 100x as powerful as the Hubble. It will change astronomy”. It will be launched into orbit on December 18.

…The Webb was originally supposed to launch in 2010 and cost around $1 billion. Its price tag has since ballooned to $10 billion, and it’s way overdue. But the wait will be worth it, at least according to the scientists who expect new and revealing glimpses of our universe.

“We’re going right up to the edge of the observable universe with Webb,” says Caitlin Casey, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. “And yeah, we’re excited to see what’s there.”

The Webb will surpass the Hubble in several ways. It will allow astronomers to look not only farther out in space but also further back in time: It will search for the first stars and galaxies of the universe. It will allow scientists to make careful studies of numerous exoplanets — planets that orbit stars other than our sun — and even embark on a search for signs of life there….

(9) REFLECTION IN A GOLDEN VISOR. NASA’s Astronomy Picture Of The Day for September 27, “Five Decade Old Lunar Selfie” turns around a well-known photo taken during the first Moon landing. See the picture here.

Here is one of the most famous pictures from the Moon — but digitally reversed. Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 and soon thereafter many pictures were taken, including an iconic picture of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong. The original image captured not only the magnificent desolation of an unfamiliar world, but Armstrong himself reflected in Aldrin’s curved visor. Enter modern digital technology. In the featured image, the spherical distortion from Aldrin’s helmet has been reversed. The result is the famous picture — but now featuring Armstrong himself from Aldrin’s perspective. Even so, since Armstrong took the picture, the image is effectively a five-decade old lunar selfie. The original visor reflection is shown on the left, while Earth hangs in the lunar sky on the upper right. A foil-wrapped leg of the Eagle lander is prominently visible. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1996 – Twenty-five years ago on CBS, the Early Edition first aired on this evening. The premise was What If tomorrow’s newspaper arrived at your doorstep today? Our protagonist uses this knowledge to prevent terrible events every day.  It was created by Ian Abrams, Patrick Q. Page and Vik Rubenfeld. It was the first major series for all three of them.  It had a cast of Kyle Chandler, Shanésia Davis-Williams, Fisher Stevens, Kristy Swanson and Billie Worley. Set in Chicago, it was largely filmed there as well. It had a successful run of four seasons and ninety episodes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1909 — Al Capp. Cartoonist responsible of course for the Li’l Abner strip. Is it genre? Of course. A decade ago, IDW announced Al Capp’s Li’l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays as part of their ongoing The Library of American Comics series. The series would be a reprinting of the entire forty year history of Li’l Abner encompassing a projected twenty volumes. So far nine volumes have come out. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 28, 1923 — William Windom. Commodore Matt Decker, commander of the doomed USS Constellation in “The Doomsday Machine” episode, one of the best Trek stories told. Norman Spinrad was the writer. Other genre appearances include being the President on Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Major in “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” episode of Twilight Zone and Ben Victor in the “The Night of the Flying Pie Plate” story of The Wild Wild West. This is a sampling only! (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 28, 1935 — Ronald Lacey. He’s very best remembered as Gestapo agent Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s actually in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as Heinrich Himmler though it’s an uncredited role.  One of his first genre appearances was as the Strange Young Man in The Avengers episode “The Joker”.  In that same period, he was the village idiot in The Fearless Vampire Killers which actually premiered as The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My NeckAnd he’s in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as President Widmark. This is but a thin wafer of his genre roles so do feel free to add your favorite. (Died 1991.)
  • Born September 28, 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 September 28, 1950 — John Sayles, 71. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1963 — Greg Weisman, 58. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also produced Gargoyles from early on. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote the children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… 
  • Born September 28, 1982 — Tendai Huchu, 39. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the 2020 issue Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. That issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. His newest novel, The Library of the Dead, is the first in Edinburgh Nights series.
  • Born September 28, 1986 — Laurie Penny, 35. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, Everything Belongs to the Future, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer. “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by Jo Walton is in Vector 288

(12) BEHIND THE MAGIC 8-BALL. Books by Lincoln Michel, S.B. Divya, and Tade Thompson are praised in this CrimeReads roundup by Molly Odintz: “They’ve Seen the Future And They Don’t Like It: The Year’s Best Scifi Noir (So Far)”.

The future is bleak, whether you’re at the bottom of an underwater sea-scraper, in a spaceship headed to a distant galaxy, or just searching for plastic in the polluted rivers of Scrappalachia. More tech leads to more debt, and AI is as likely to compete with humans as to help them. The denizens of the future are buried in the trash of today, and doomed by the politics of yesterday and tomorrow. And yet, as is the surprisingly hopeful message behind any dystopian novel, life continues. Life will always continue. And sometimes, life even finds a way to thrive….

(13) SPIKE THE CANON. The New York Times finds that “In ‘Star Wars: Visions,’ Lucasfilm and Anime Join Forces, and Go Rogue”.

What would happen if some of the most creative animation studios in Japan were let loose in a galaxy far, far away?

In the anime anthology series “Star Wars: Visions,” Jedi warriors battle enemies with faces like oni (a kind of Japanese demon), and straw-hatted droids inhabit feudal villages straight out of Akira Kurosawa’s classic samurai film “Yojimbo.” There are Sith villains and rabbit-girl hybrids, tea-sipping droids (OK, it’s really oil) and sake-sipping warriors. Lightsabers are lovingly squirreled away in traditional wrapping cloths called furoshiki and in red lacquer boxes.

And this being anime, there are over-the-top action sequences, stunning hand-painted backgrounds and computer-generated wonders. And of course, there’s plenty of “kawaii,” the distinctly Japanese form of cuteness….

(14) DISCH TRIBUTE. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1987 movie The Brave Little Toaster, an adaptation of Thomas M. Disch’s 1980 novel.

(15) SEE MOVIE RELICS. The Icons of Darkness exhibit, which represents itself to be the most extensive privately-owned collection of sci-fi, fantasy and horror film artifacts on earth, has now moved to its new home on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland in Hollywood.

From “Star Wars” to “Jurassic Park”, “Terminator” to “Harry Potter”, “Batman” to “Iron Man”, and so many more, the Icons of Darkness exhibition has something for everyone. You’ll see screen-used props, original costumes, life casts, production-made maquettes, makeup effects heads, and artifacts from some of Hollywood’s most famous sci-fi, fantasy, and horror classics. The exhibition will feature pieces from “Dracula”, “Frankenstein”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Spider-Man”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Game of Thrones”, and more!

(16) GETTING CHIPPY. Gene Wolfe gets a one-line mention in “Julius Pringles gets a makeover to celebrate brands’ 30th birthday in the UK” at Bakery and Snacks. Which the site is programmed to stop me from excerpting. You bastards!

(17) A GRAND MACHINE. The New York Times is there when “Amazon announces Astro, a home robot that it swears is more than Alexa on wheels”.

“Customers don’t just want Alexa on wheels,” Dave Limp, the head of Amazon’s devices, said at a company event on Tuesday. Then he proceeded to introduce a technology-packed home robot that looked a lot like … Alexa on wheels.

At least four years in the making, the small robot, called Astro, has a large screen and cameras attached to a wheeled base that can navigate a home…

Of all the products it showed, Amazon was clearly most excited about Astro, which was shown as the finale. And from the start, the company tried to sort out the differences between Astro and Alexa, the company’s digital assistant. Amazon said Astro’s large eyes on the screen, and the different tones it emitted, helped give the machine a “unique persona.” (At a starting price of $1,000, Astro is also a lot more expensive than most Alexa-enabled devices.)

But the main uses Amazon presented seemed to mirror some of the abilities of its Alexa and related products, which already put voice and camera surveillance in different rooms of a house. It does move, though, and Mr. Limp said customers could send the robot to check on people and different pets — for example, raising a camera on a telescopic arm to see if the flame on a stove is still on….

(18) WILD PITCH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In ‘James Bond;  Die Another Day” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the last Pierce Brosnan Bond film features Bond escaping from a hospital by willing his mind into cardiac arrest,, a villain who becomes British, gets knighted, and builds a giant empire in 14 months, and characters who practice ‘dNA remodeling by enlarging your bone marrow” which the producer thinks has enough science words for him.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, Joey Eschrich, Ben Bird Person, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/21 The Scroll Of Elfland’s Pixel

(1) BLACK STARS. There are six short tales of speculative fiction in the Black Stars series of Amazon Original Stories which will be released on August 31.

  • “2043…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” by Nisi Shawl
  • “The Black Pages” by Nnedi Okorafor
  • “The Visit” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
  • “These Alien Skies” by C. T. Rwizi 
  • “Clap Back” by Nalo Hopkinson
  • “We Travel the Spaceways” by Victor LaValle 

(2) NICHELLE NICHOLS CONSERVATORSHIP NEWS. The article excerpted here the other day when it was behind an LA Times paywall is now available in full online at AL.com: “Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, faces heartbreaking conservatorship fight”.

… Questions around the fate of Nichols’ home — who lives in it and what happens to it — have been central to an ongoing, years-long legal battle over the finances and care of the beloved TV star, who friends and family say is financially drained and struggling with dementia.

A three-way fight over Nichols’ fate involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette….

(3) WEST SCHOOL HO! Deadline reports a Seanan McGuire series is being developed by Paramount: ”’Wayward Children’ Movie Franchise In Works After Paramount Lands Rights”.

After aggressively pursuing rights, Paramount Pictures has preemptively acquired the Wayward Children fantasy book series by Seanan McGuire. With six books already published and a seventh installment coming in early 2022, the studio plans to build a franchise around this universe of characters and stories.

Sources say Paramount’s Motion Picture Group president Emma Watts has had her eye on the series for some time and was  hands on in making sure the studio landed the rights. Insiders say the studio views the series as a possible franchise given the huge fanbase that is behind it, and add it has already drawn interest from top talent to be a part of it.

The series adaptations will be produced by Pouya Shahbazian. The series takes place in Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, a boarding school for people who have returned home from magical fantasy worlds and have trouble readjusting to their old lives. For as long as time, children have always found doorways into different worlds, whether down rabbit holes and wishing wells or through wardrobes and magic mirrors, but this series explores what happens to the ones who come back — and want nothing more than to return to those other worlds.

This surreal and subversive take on portal fantasy stories is centered around a culturally diverse group of teenagers across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, as they work to make sense of the fantastical realms they came from and the shared world they find themselves back in….

(4) MAKERS AND SHAKERS. “From Mary Shelley to Carmen Maria Machado, women have profoundly shaped horror” in the Guardian.

You probably know the story of Lord Byron’s house party at Villa Diodati – the one in which he challenged his guests to see who could write the scariest ghost story. Teenage Mary Shelley won his challenge on infamy, if not technicality, when she wrote Frankenstein. Thus the horror genre was invented by a disenfranchised teenage girl.

While it might be more precise to say that Shelley invented science fiction in this moment, her story, a non-religious creationist myth, would upend the rules of literature. Frankenstein has become such an influential examination of the distortion of nature and hubris of man, that it looms larger in the gothic horror genre than any other work of literature.

If you want to acknowledge just how much women have contributed to the horror genre, and how much the genre continues to reflect women and women’s realities back to themselves, Frankenstein is also a useful place to start.

Horror is one of the only genres that allows for a constantly evolving interplay of the factual and fantastical. “When you enter into horror, you’re entering into your own mind, your own anxiety, your own fear, your own darkest spaces,” said American author Carmen Maria Machado, speaking to the Paris Review in 2017. Having won the Shirley Jackson award for her short story collection Her Body and Other Parties, Machado went on to use a horror framework to tell her personal story of queer domestic violence in her 2019 memoir, In the Dream House. With gothic tropes and style, Machado replayed physical and emotional abuse within the walls of her mind and the memories of the old house she shared with her partner – now haunted by the past and their relationship. “Horror is an intimate, eerie, terrifying thing, and when it’s done well it can unmake you, the viewer, the reader,” she said….

(5) ANDERS AND YU. A Room of One’s Own in Madison, WI will host A Virtual Conversation With Charlie Jane Anders, author of Never Say You Can’t Survive, and Charles Yu on August 18 at 6:00 p.m. Central

Full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish during the present emergency, Never Say You Can’t Survive is the perfect manual for creativity in unprecedented times. Things are scary right now. We’re all being swept along by a tidal wave of history, and it’s easy to feel helpless. But we’re not helpless: we have minds, and imaginations, and the ability to visualize other worlds and valiant struggles. And writing can be an act of resistance that reminds us that other futures and other ways of living are possible. 

(6) BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THESE. Lisa Tuttle’s latest Guardian column is up: “The best recent fantasy, horror and science fiction – review roundup”. Includes —

…P Djèlí Clark’s debut novel A Master of Djinn (Orbit, £8.99) is set in an alternative-history version of Egypt. In 1912, half a century after the mystic al-Jahiz made an opening into the realm of spirits, Cairo is a modern, multicultural city running on a combination of magical, alchemical and steam-powered technology. Muslims and Copts co-exist with devotees of Hathor; djinn and humans work together; even women have won the right to vote, and are employed in jobs formerly given only to men. Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities has already saved the universe from destruction once and is sure she can handle the little problem of an imposter in a gold mask, claiming to be al-Jahiz and stirring unrest in the rougher neighbourhoods. This fantasy is refreshingly different; a well-plotted mystery filled with engaging characters, presented with a lightly humorous touch….

(7) CLI-FI. Future Tense, a partnership of Arizona State University, Slate, and New America presents the first public event connected with their Climate Imagination Fellowship.

“Unlocking Our Climate Imagination” is on August 31 at 12 p.m. Eastern. Speakers include Kim Stanley Robinson, the three Climate Imagination Fellows, Vandana Singh, Hannah Onoguwe, and Libia Brenda, plus Nigel Topping, the UN High-Level Climate Champion for the UK, and Bina Venkataraman, Boston Globe editorial page editor and former White House climate advisor.

 The event is free and open to everyone. Register here.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1967 – Fifty-four year ago at NyCon 3 where Harlan Ellison was Toastmaster, Robert Heinlein would win the Hugo for Best Novel for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It had been serialized in If the previous year and published by Putnam that year. Other nominated works were Samuel R. Delany‘s Babel-17, Randall Garrett‘s Too Many Magicians, Daniel Keyes‘ Flowers for Algernon, James H. Schmitz‘s The Witches of Karres and Thomas Burnett Swann’s Day of the Minotaur.  It would also be nominated for a Nebula and it would be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926. He also helped create fandom through the Science Fiction League. Pittcon voted him a Hugo titled Father of Magazine Science Fiction, and he was voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s the writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers an “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” There’s at least nine versions of it available at the usual suspects which is sort of odd. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in Outer Limits’ “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode? I’ve not seen it. Do we consider I Spy genre? (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 88. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eleen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. His only award was a Phoenix Award which is lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who had done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 16, 1954 James Cameron, 67. Let’s see… Terminator… Aliens… Terminator 2… True Lies… Strange Days… And The Abyss as well. Did you know he was interested in doing a Spider-man film? It never happened but the Dark Angel series with Jessica Alba did. And then there’s his Avatar franchise.
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 63. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven,” along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls.” She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. Her latest genre undertaking is A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting.
  • Born August 16, 1960 Timothy Hutton, 61. Best known of late as Nathan Ford  on the Leverage series which is almost genre. His first genre was in Iceman as Dr. Stanley Shephard, and he was in The Dark Half in the dual roles of Beaumont and George Stark. He’s David Wildee in The Last Mizo, based off “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (husband-and-wife team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). He was Hugh Crain in The Haunting of Hill House series. I’m going to finish off this Birthday note by singling out his role as Archie Goodwin on the Nero Wolfe series. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows what happens when Uber goes Unter.  

(11) AVENGERS 750. When Marvel Comics presents the 750th issue of Avengers in November, it will include Christopher Ruocchio making his Marvel Comics debut alongside artist Steve McNiven in a bonus story starring Thor.

 “I’m honored to play a small part in this moment of Avengers history and thrilled to get to work with Steve McNiven to bring you all a little classic Thor,” Ruocchio said. “It’s a bit surreal to get to work with a character I grew up with, and I hope I’ve told a tale worthy of the God of Thunder.”

The rest of the supersized issue will include the introduction of The Multiversal Masters Of Evil, the deadly new group of villains fans met in this year’s Free Comic Book Day: Avengers/Hulk #1. Fans will also witness the conclusion of “World War She-Hulk”, finally learn the true purpose of the prehistoric Avengers, uncover the secret of the Iron Inquisitor, watch the Avengers recruit some surprising new members, and follow the Ghost Rider on a quest for vengeance across the Multiverse that will spark an all-new era in Avengers history.

(12) UK REVIEWERS NEEDED. Jonathan Cowie sends a head’s-up to UK based Filers: “SF2 Concatenation is on the hunt for SF/F book reviewers (especially fantasy and especially female reviewers to more even our gender balance). Sadly UK reviewers only as we have to snail-mail post books.” Full details here: “SF & Fantasy book reviewers wanted”

(13) SHINY. James Davis Nicoll knows the addresses of “Five Fictional Space Colonies From the Post-Disco Era”, and they’re definitely not orbiting mirror balls.

As previously discussed, Gerard K. O’Neill’s vision of space colonies was particularly comforting to 1970s anxieties.  Soaring population? The asteroid belt has enough material to build habitats promising many times the surface area of Earth! Energy crisis? Have said habitats pay for themselves by building solar power arrays IN SPAAACE!  Indigenous populations weirdly ungrateful for genocidal displacement by Europeans? Colonization do-over in space where there are no natives to displace or complain!…

A Plague of Angels by Toren Smith and Adam Warren (1990–1991)

When member worlds are overwhelmed by crisis, the United Galactica’s World Welfare Work Association dispatches field agents to resolve the problem. A very unlucky minority of worlds find themselves being assisted by Trouble Consultants Kei and Yuri, who are as inadvertently destructive as they are inexplicably scantily-clad. Code-named “the Lovely Angels,” the apocalyptic pair are infamous as the Dirty Pair.

Habitats are by their nature fragile. Kei and Yuri are harbingers of doom. Logic would dictate sending someone else—anyone else—to Kalevala O’Neill Colony. The 3WA sends the Dirty Pair. Kalevala is struggling to deal with smugglers. Soon, smugglers will be the least of Kalevala’s problems.

(14) PLANETARY EXPLORATION. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on Planet Word: “Word play: A visit to D.C.’s Planet Word”. (Martin Morse Wooster recently wrote about his own visit here.)

(15) TINY WORLDS. Jeffrey Smith sent the link with a comment: “These are amazing! Not really skiffy, but what an imagination!” — “Japanese Artist Creates Amazing Miniature Dioramas Every Day For 10 Years” at Digital Synopsis. (The entire collection by Japanese artist Tatsuya Tanaka is at Miniature Calendar.) I think this first one actually does reference a well-known genre movie. The second is more typical of Tanaka’s series of inventive scenes.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/21 The Abacus Stares Back

(1) IN TWEETS, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU EXPLAIN YOURSELF. Charlie Warzel’s article “It’s Not Cancel Culture — It’s A Platform Failure” at Galaxy Brain analyzes a problematic Twitter feature (illustrated by a topic that was mentioned in item #1 of Pixel Scroll 4/6/21.)

We Need To Get Rid Of Twitter Trending Topics

On April 6, Elle Hunt was in a pub in New Zealand, where life has basically returned to pre-pandemic normal. She was, by her account, two wines deep, having a light hearted argument with her friends about film genres. Half serious, but committed to the bit, she tweeted this:

A few minutes later, in response to a harmless reply, she tweeted her rationale and closed her phone:

Even if you don’t know the story, you probably have a sense of what happened next….

The whole affair is a perfect example of context collapse, which generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith (You can read about the origins here from scholar danah boyd).

In this case, the collapse was substantially amplified by Twitter’s Trending widget, which took an anodyne opinion by a verified Twitter user and displayed it to millions of random people as if it was some kind of significant pop cultural event. “My imagined audience when I tweeted this was, ‘oh, we’re all at the bar and having this low stakes debate,” she told me recently. “In retrospect, that was totally naive to think anyone would have taken it that way.”

The point of Twitter’s Trending Topics is ostensibly to surface significant news and Twitter commentary and invite others to ‘join the conversation.’ Left unsaid, of course, is that ‘the conversation’ at scale is complete garbage — an incomprehensible number of voices lecturing past each other. It didn’t matter how Hunt had intended the argument — whether it was cheeky fun or part of a high-minded indictment of the sci-fi horror industrial complex — it was amplified by others as ammunition to make whatever convenient point that interested parties wanted to make….

(2) YOUR OINKAGE MAY VARY. J.K. Rowling’s children’s book The Christmas Pig will be published October 12 the author’s website announced yesterday.

The Christmas Pig is a heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured toy, and how far he will go to find it.  It’s a standalone story, unrelated to any of J.K. Rowling’s previous work, and is suitable for children 8+: a tale for the whole family to fall in love with.

“Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig.  DP has always been there for him, through good and bad.  Until one Christmas Eve something terrible happens – DP is lost.  But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life – even toys…  And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan:  Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…”

(3) WIKIPEDIA HAILS VONDA MCINTYRE WORK. [Item by rcade.] The featured article on the Wikipedia homepage today is about the SFF writer Vonda McIntyre’s novel Dreamsnake:

Dreamsnake is a 1978 science fiction novel by American writer Vonda N. McIntyre. It is an expansion of her Nebula Award-winning 1973 novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”. The main character, Snake, is a healer who uses genetically modified serpents to cure sickness in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust on Earth. The titular “dreamsnake” is an alien serpent whose venom gives dying people pleasant dreams. The novel follows Snake as she seeks to replace her dead dreamsnake. The book is an example of second-wave feminism in science fiction. McIntyre subverted gendered narratives, including by placing a woman at the center of a heroic quest. Dreamsnake also explored social structures and sexuality from a feminist perspective, and examined themes of healing and cross-cultural interaction. The novel won the 1978 Nebula Award, the 1979 Hugo Award, and the 1979 Locus Poll Award. Snake’s strength and self-sufficiency were noted by commentators, while McIntyre’s writing and the book’s themes also received praise.

Hat tip to Kelly Robson for being the first to notice this on Twitter.

The article notes that Dreamsnake wasn’t finished getting award recognition after the Nebula/Hugo/Locus triple win in the late 1970s. It made the shortlist of the Retrospective James Tiptree award in 1995.

In describing the novel’s theme and structure, the article credits one element that’s particularly relevant today:

Gender expectations are also subverted through the character of Merideth, whose gender is never disclosed, as McIntyre entirely avoids using gender pronouns, thereby creating a “feminist construct” that suggests a person’s character and abilities are more important than their gender.

Wikipedians created the article in 2006 and have edited it 521 times since then, including 35 times today. Because contentiousness is part of the site’s DNA, there’s already a new argument on the internal talk page about whether it’s too long.

The article can be cleaned up by removing non-core fragments and listing the main themes. It reads as PHD dissertation by a gushing fan and would benefit from shortening to the main parts.

(4) JOY STILL FELT. Seanan McGuire gives six tips about “How To Be A Hugo Nominee And Come Out Of It Happy About the Honor” in a superb Twitter thread that starts here

(5) CREATING WORLDS. “Building Beyond… an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be” continues in Sarah Gailey’s newsletter with Rick Innis and Shana DuBois joining in to play: “Building Beyond: An Ocean of Resistance”. Gailey winds it up by challenging readers –

What comes after the message on the beaches in your story? What demands are being made? Are they possible to fulfill?

Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.

That’s amazing.

(6) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Bruce McAllister and Nalo Hopkinson via livestream on Wednesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Check the KGB site for the link.

(7) REV. BOB. Chattanoogan.com ran an obituary article about Rev. Bob today: “Hood, Robert Lewis”.

Robert Lewis Hood of Hixson, Tennessee passed away peacefully in his home on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at the age of 50.

He was born on October 29, 1970, the only child of Janet Hood. He graduated from Chattanooga’s McCallie School in 1988 and attended Tennessee Tech University.

Robert loved computers long before they became popular. He quickly moved from playing computer games to modifying them. It wasn’t long before he transitioned to coding. His lifelong love of computers led him to a career in website design.

A kind and compassionate spirit, Robert used his wit on and offline. He had a knack of making people smile and a gift of making people feel cared for. Robert, who was known among his friends as “Bob” or “Rev. Bob,” loved science fiction books, including author Robert A. Heinlein, an American author who emphasized scientific accuracy in his writings. In recent years, Robert channeled his love of books into editing ebooks by various authors, including science fiction and nonfiction author David Brin among others.

Among his friends, Robert was known for being an unapologetic liberal and for his ability to express ideas succinctly and with a touch of humor. He was sharp, quick and gentle, and will be remembered by many as a loyal, caring friend with an easy smile and frequently, a glint of mischief in his eyes. 

…Robert’s loved ones will hold a celebration of life memorial in his honor on Saturday, April 17, at 11 a.m. at Vandergriff Park, 1414 Gadd Road, Hixson, Tn. 37343. This is going to be a casual gathering for anyone to be able to share their thoughts.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Epilepsy Foundation or the American Heart Association….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

A mass sighting of celestial phenomena or unidentified flying objects (UFO) occurred in 1561 above Nuremberg (then a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire). The phenomenon has been interpreted by some modern UFO enthusiasts as an aerial battle of extraterrestrial origin. This view is mostly dismissed by skeptics, some referencing Carl Jung‘s mid-twentieth century writings about the subject while others find the phenomenon is likely to be a sun dog.

broadsheet news article printed in April 1561 describes a mass sighting of celestial phenomena….

The broadsheet describes objects of various shapes including crosses, globes, two lunar crescents, a black spear and tubular objects from which several smaller, round objects emerged and darted around the sky at dawn.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 14, 2010 — On this day in the United States in 2010, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted fifty four percent rating though the critical rating there is eighty five percent. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 14, 1879 – James Branch Cabell.  (“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell.”)  Two dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, poems, nonfiction.  A score of volumes comprise the Biography of the Life of Manuel.  What has helplessly been called C’s droll style can be seen in e.g. the related titles SmirtSmithSmire; a New York judge said of Jurgen, seventh in the Biography, “it is doubtful if the book could be read or understood at all by more than a very limited number of readers”; an admirer has applauded C’s “engagingly haughty use of SF tropes”.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1924 – Leland Sapiro.  Lived all over North America, Canadian provinces, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas.  Did enough for LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) to earn its Evans-Freehafer service award.  Noted for Riverside Quarterly, which in our great tradition of fans and pros mixing it up drew James Blish, Redd Boggs, A.J. Budrys – Ursula LeGuin – Sandra Miesel – Arthur Thomson – Roger Zelazny.  See it here. (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1925 Rod Steiger. Carl in The Illustrated Man which is specifically based on three stories by Bradbury from that collection: “The Veldt,” “The Long Rain,” and “The Last Night of the World.” Great film. Genre wise, he also was Father Delaney in The Amityville Horror, showed up as Charlie on the short-lived Wolf Lake series, played Dr. Phillip Lloyd in horror film The Kindred, was Pa in the really chilling American Gothic, played General Decker in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (really, really weird film), Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Modern Vampires and Peter on “The Evil Within” episode of Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and when need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1933 – Boris Strugatsky.  With and then without his brother Arkady (1925-1991) wrote substantial Russian SF.  Reminiscent of an old jest (“Where were you born?”  ”St. Petersburg.”  “Where were you brought up?”  “Petrograd.” “Where do you live?” “Leningrad.”  “Where do you hope to die?”  “St. Petersburg”) B was born at Leningrad and died at St. Petersburg.  Of more than a dozen novels, plus novellas, novelettes, short stories, plays, by A & B together, three by A alone, two by B after A left, probably the best-known in English is Roadside Picnic; subtler, I think, is Hard to Be a God.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born April 14,1935 Jack McDevitt, 86. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races. He won the Robert A. Heinlein Award six years ago. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 67. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. (It won a Campbell Memorial Award.) Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”. (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 63. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Frances Dorer, age 63.  Half a dozen novels with her mother Nancy Dorer, some under a joint pen name.  Here is one with a Bruce Pennington cover. [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1967 – Steven desJardins, age 54.  In his own words, “Aspiring Hungarian translator.  World traveller.  Vegetarian.  D.C. native.  Have ankylosing spondylitis.”  He has been active for decades in WSFA (Washington, District of Columbia, SF Ass’n), in fanzines, and more widely in person when occasion served, e.g. co-sponsoring two of the remedial motions passed at the Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) Business Meeting.  For a 1995 sample of his fanwriting see here (note to WSFA Journal on World Fantasy Con).  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1969 – Rebecca Shelley, age 52.  Half a dozen novels, four shorter stories for us; twoscore books all told.  “‘Stop whining and keep typing.  I know what I’m doing,’ my subconscious answers.”  Has read The Phantom Tollbooth, two by Jane Austen, LolitaMoby-DickThe Hunt for “Red October”The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 39. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” novella (lovely title that)  won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do the same a short while later. Very impressive indeed. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. (CE)

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY.

  • April 13, 1967 Rogers Cadenhead,54. This Filer is a computer book author and web publisher who served once as chairman of the RSS Advisory Board, a group that publishes the RSS 2.0 specification. He’s still a member of the Board. Very, very impressive. He also gained infamy for claiming drudge.com before a certain muckraker could, and still holds on to it. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon – Daniel Dern asks, does the style remind you of Vaughan Bode? E.g., his Cheech Wizard comics? (There should be a line over the “e” in Bode but WordPress won’t cooperate.)

(13) CALL TO RECAST T’CHALLA. A YouTube video called “The #RecastTChalla Petition To Honor Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther” describes a big petition drive to have the MCU cast someone else as Black Panther eventually rather than killing off the character in the next Black Panther movie.

The petition is hosted at Change.org: “Recast T’Challa To Honor Chadwick Boseman In the Black Panther Franchise”:

In August of 2020, the world mourned the death of Chadwick Boseman. To many, he was known for his on-screen role of Black Panther in the Marvel Universe. While his character of T’Challa was adored by fans, there have been rumors that Marvel will kill off his character in the new movie and for good. 

This is a call for the President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Co-President Louis D’Esposito, and Writer/Director Ryan Coogler to reconsider their decision, and recast the role of “T’Challa” in the Black Panther franchise. If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him. That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well. 

By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular, leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy. The #1 way to kill a legend, is to stop telling their story. 

(14) APOLOGY BY SIMPSONS ACTOR. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler says Hank Azaria has apologized for voicing Apu for 30 years on The Simpsons and says he will work with the “anti-racist Soul Focused Group” on issues affecting racism in entertainment. “Hank Azaria apologizes for playing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ for three decades”.

…Initially, Azaria said he didn’t want to “knee-jerk respond to what could have been … 17 hipsters in a microbrewery in Brooklyn.” But he realized he needed to educate himself: “I talked to a lot of Indian people. I talked to a lot of people who knew a lot about racism in this country,” Azaria said. “I took seminars. I read.”

One conversation that particularly resonated with Azaria took place at his son’s school, where the actor spoke with a group of Indian students. One 17-year-old approached Azaria with tears in his eyes. “He’s never even seen ‘The Simpsons’ … but knows what Apu means,” Azaria explained. “It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is this is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”

The student asked Azaria to pass a message along to his industry colleagues: “Will you please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do and what they come up with really matters in people’s lives, like it has consequences?”

(15) NOT READY TO SAY GOODBYE. James Davis Nicoll forwarded the YouTube link below with the note:The context is that popular Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience was cancelled very abruptly. Bitter Asian Dude is Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, one of the lead actors. I thought the issue of having something suddenly cancelled and how people react to it might be interesting to your readers. (ObSF: he’s acted in SF shows, and he defended Hench in Canada Reads.)”

The context is very different than the previous item — even the Canadian Prime Minister complimented the program’s diversity:

…Meanwhile, the airing of the final episode was commemorated with social media posts from members of the cast, celeb fans such as “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy — and even a tweet from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“For years, @KimsConvenience has celebrated diversity and championed inclusion,” wrote Trudeau to accompany a video of “Kim’s Convenience” star Simu Liu discussing the importance of diversity in film and television, both in front of and behind the camera.

“Although the show ends tonight, and we have to say ‘okay, see you’ to @SimuLiu and the entire Kim family one last time, let’s continue to #SeekMore representation in the stories on our screens,” he added.

Here is the “Post KC final episode livestream with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee”.

(16) ERR TAXI. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Another hard-to-verify tech prediction. Hopefully, if they’re wrong (by a noticeable amount/%) they’ll issue a follow-up release…

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:52:08 +0000 (UTC)

Subject: Private equity/eVTOL research: Private equity and VC professionals predict huge growth in the eVTOL market

Please see attached a press release on new research with senior private equity and venture capital professionals, revealing 71% expect there to be more than 160,000 commercial air taxis operating around the world by 2050.    Some 17% anticipate there will be over 200,000.

The research was commissioned by Horizon Aircraft, the advanced aerospace engineering company that has developed the Cavorite X5, the world’s first eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) that can fly the majority of its mission exactly like a normal aircraft. …

“However, investors should be warned that there are over 400 eVTOL concepts around the world being developed, and the vast majority of these will never become commercially viable.  They either won’t meet the requirements needed to secure insurance, or because of their design and operational costs and challenges, they may be too expensive to run.”

(17) SF CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has its latest seasonal edition now up of science and SF news, articles and reviews.

Its seasonal news page includes listings of forthcoming SF as well as fantasy books from several British publishers. Such multi-publisher forthcoming book listings are rare, and though from British publishers, most will also be available in N. America. The seasonal edition consists of:

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2021

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/21 You Say Pixels Go, I Say Here We Scroll

(1) IS CLI-FI PART OF THE PROBLEM? BBC World Service’s The Climate Question asks a panel including Ken Liu “Is science fiction holding back climate action?” (23 minute audio.)

For centuries, we’ve been reading, watching and listening to science fiction. And all too often, it’s pretty pessimistic about our future, especially when it touches on the topic of climate change.

This is leading some to ask whether these doom and gloom stories are doing the climate fight more harm than good – causing us to feel so anxious and powerless that we don’t take action.

So for this week’s climate question, we’re asking: Is sci-fi holding us back?

Graihagh Jackson is joined by: 

Amy Brady, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books, where she writes a monthly column called Burning Worlds. In it she explores how fiction addresses climate change.

Cheryl Slean is a playwright, filmmaker and educator working with the National Resource Defense Council’s Re-write the Future campaign to increase accurate climate stories in film and television.

Ken Liu is a futurist and author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards. His debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series.

(2) LAWSUIT EVAPORATES. The case has now been dismissed: “Guillermo del Toro named ‘true creator’ of The Shape of Water as plagiarism suit ends” reports Entertainment Weekly. Del Toro had won the lower court decision, which the plaintiff appealed in the federal Ninth Circuit.

Guillermo del Toro and his Oscar-winning Shape of Water team have emerged unscathed from the depths of a copyright lawsuit claiming that the Best Picture winner plagiarized the work of the late playwright Paul Zindel.

In a statement provided to EW, film distributor and production company Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) indicated that the legal action against del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus had been dismissed after the Zindel estate’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, previously cited 69 points of alleged similarities between the 1969 stage play Let Me Hear You Whisper (about a woman who bonds with a lab dolphin) and del Toro’s movie (about a woman, played by Sally Hawkins, who bonds with a humanoid sea creature, played by Doug Jones, in a research facility).

“David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of Let Me Hear You Whisper, acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded,” the statement said. “He acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of The Shape of Water. Any similarity between the two works is coincidental.”

… Both sides were reportedly slated to present additional information this year, and a trial had been set for July before the case was dropped.

(3) HOMETOWN PAPER SALUTES NEW F&SF EDITOR. The Daily Memphian profiles Sheree Renée Thomas: “Memphis writer emerges as a major player in the sci-fi world”.

… She says her family’s gathering and bonding time was spent watching movies and television, and they were big horror fans. And then she would realize that movies that she watched had sometimes been classic books. Then she would read those.

“That’s what I remember getting really excited about early on,” she said. “And then I started reading more science fiction work. And the writer that stood out the most for me, that I enjoyed consistently, was Ray Bradbury.”

Bradbury told stories in clear, sometimes lyrical prose, she said. And he had a great sense for characterization. 

“People came alive in his writing,” Thomas said.

She can’t pinpoint when she moved from reading to writing, too. “I don’t know if it was a conscious thing. I felt like, ‘I’m consuming these other stories, whether it was a movie or I’m reading it, someone sat down to write those and my head was full of thoughts.’”

Thomas recalls that her interest in science fiction waned for a time because of the way Black people were depicted in the stories: “Either we weren’t in the future, or if we were present in the storytelling it wasn’t in a very complimentary light or wasn’t in a way which characters had agency, or operated or moved in ways that you could recognize as having been a person that is part of the Black community or a community at all.”

So she started reading mostly Black literature, specifically Black women writers, from her mother’s shelves and the public library. Reading work by Alice Walker, Gayle Jones, Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison was formative to her….

(4) SECOND SEASON OF PICARD. Paramount + dropped a trailer for Star Trek: Picard, Season 2 which includes the return of Q.

(5) IS IT A PEARL? In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns his readers loose on “All the Seas with Oysters,” a 1958 story that won a Hugo the same year (because those wacky LA fans running Solacon set the eligibility period from July 1957 to July 1958.)

Avram Davidson (April 23, 1923 – May 8, 1993) was (as so often true for authors of his vintage) prolific across an expanse of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, to name a few. His SFF awards include a World Fantasy Life Achievement award, World Fantasy Awards for The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy, and ?“Naples”, and the Hugo Award for ?“All the Seas with Oysters”, not coincidentally the subject of this month’s Young People Read Old SFF.

… Young readers encountering the tale for the first time do so without the rosy patina of uncritical nostalgia concealing whatever issues the story might have. Still, this is a widely loved classic. What are the odds generations of SF readers overlooked something? Let’s find out! 

(6) SECOND LOKI TRAILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not that I wasn’t already psyched to watch this…

Loki’s time has come. Watch the brand-new trailer for “Loki,” and start streaming the Marvel Studios Original Series June 11 on Disney+.

And the first trailer, I believe.

BTW, the TVA (Time Variance Authority) is an established Marvel Comics organization. My main memories are from Walt Simonson’s fabulous run in Fantastic Four with the TVA. (Simonson also brought us Beta Ray Bill, and Thor as Frog, among many, many other delightful creations)

Wikipedia: The Time Variance Authority

The Time Variance Authority (or TVA) is a fictional organization, a group of timeline monitors appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. They first appeared in Thor vol. 1 #372 (October 1986). Created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, the TVA originally paid homage to long-time Marvel writer/editor, and continuity expert, Mark Gruenwald: the TVA staff were all clones of Gruenwald.

Other resources:

(7) NYRSF READINGS. Ilana C. Myer will read from the third book in her Harp and Ring Sequence, The Poet King, and will talk will host Amy Goldschlager at the next NYRSF Readings on Facebook on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Viewers can ask questions and comment via the chat channel.  Will be available later on YouTube.

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King. A native New Yorker and longtime Jerusalem resident, she now lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

(8) CONFUSION AFTER ACTION REPORT. Farah Mendlesohn’s writeup about last weekend’s virtual Eastercon (UK) — “ConFusion FM’s con report” [PDF file] – covers the positive and negative con experiences, including how it was to use the Gather Town app, and delivers a withering comments about accessibility issues.

… I am not going to pretend here. I felt utterly betrayed. My sneaking feeling at other conventions that ‘only wheelchair users really mattered’, a feeling for which I’d berated myself, was utterly confirmed. Hearing, sight, neurodivergence, hand or co-ordination issues…. None of these things apparently mattered, yet all of them could have been addressed with good design, a careful choice of discussion platforms, and over and above all with conversation.

I didn’t go to the Feedback meetings because for much of the convention I was too angry. What would I have asked after all; “will the convention chair make a full and unqualified apology for the utter disregard of issues of accessibility in the planning and delivery of this convention?”

In future I will not vote for any bid that does not have a clear statement on access and inclusion. I will not go to a convention that does not support access and inclusion (I began declining conferences for this reason some time ago).

(9) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present via livestream Nalo Hopkinson and Bruce McAllister on April 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back for the link here.

Bruce McAllister

Bruce McAllister has been writing science fiction, fantasy and horror for some decades.  He began as an sf writer but these days writes more fantasy of the uncanny kind. His most recent novel is a little thing called The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic. His Hugo-nominee short story “Kin” launched the new podcast Levar Burton Reads.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian author and maker of objects. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Nebula Award, and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. She authored and co-authored the series “House of Whispers” for DC Comics, set in Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” universe. SFWA recently honored her with the “Grand Master” award for lifetime achievement.

(10) SOVIET LOTR VIDEO AVAILABLE. Ars Technica surprises with news that a“30-year-old Soviet TV adaptation of The Lord of the Rings surfaces on YouTube”.

After 30 years, a TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings long thought lost has resurfaced. The 1991 Soviet television adaptation has been uploaded to YouTube in two one-hour videos.

The film focuses on the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and features many elements that were excluded from the popular global theatrical release by director Peter Jackson, including an extended sequence featuring the character Tom Bombadil—one of the biggest omissions by the bigger-budget 2001 film far more of us have seen.

Originally broadcast on TV in 1991 (and then never aired again), the film was thought lost to time by those who had seen it. But as reported in The Guardian, Leningrad Television successor Channel 5 uploaded the film to its YouTube page with little fanfare, surprising fans who had given up on seeing the production again. It is believed to be the only adaptation of these books produced in the Soviet Union….

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 5, 1992 — On this day in 1992, Mann & Machine premiered on 1992. It would last for only nine episodes. Starring David Andrews, Yancy Butler and S. Epatha Merkerson, it was a Dick Wolf production, he of the eventually myriad Law & Order series. Yancy Butler would go on to be the lead a decade late in Witchblade. It has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the critic rating there is 20%.  NBC has the pilot available here for your viewing. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 5, 1526 – Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  More than his work as a court painter, like this, his portraits composed of pertinent objects appeal to our fantasy.  Here is the Emperor Rudolf II portrayed as Vertumnus, the god of plant growth and fruit trees.  Here is a librarian.  Here is a waiter.  (Died 1593) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1867 – Helen Stratton.  Illustrator in monochrome and color.  Three editions of H.C. Andersen, three of The Arabian Nights, three of Grimm, The Princess and the Goblin (G. MacDonald), Marie of Romania’s Lily of Life, many more.  Here is The Wild Swans.  This is from “The Tinderbox”.  This is from “The Snow Queen”.  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki Page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended by me. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him that I’ve read the most. He’s not well represented at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 95. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1931 – Al haLevy, age 90.  Chaired Westercon 16 (2nd appearance of B. Trimble’s Project Art Show! rumor – false – that F. Pohl lost Galaxy to B. Bernard at late-night poker!), co-chaired Pacificon II the 22nd Worldcon.  Revived Rhodomagnetic Digest awhile.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1935 – Helen M. Hoover.  A dozen novels for us, two others.  Golden Duck Award.  Two American Lib’y Ass’n Best Books.  Alas, Children of Morrow and Treasures of Morrow are about a person, not a place, although come to think of it one could still tell people “Go to Morrow.”  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1950 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her own series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1955 – Toriyama Akira, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  So successful in manga and animé that he won not only Shogakukan Publishing’s Manga Award, but also the 40th Anniversary Festival Award at the Angoulême Int’l Comics Festival, and was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  Dragon Ball has sold 300 million copies worldwide, plus animé, video games.  See more here. [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1963 – Arthur Adams, age 58.  Artist and writer for Marvel, Legend (Monkeyman and O’Brien still appears here and there), DC, Wildstorm.  Diana Schutz got him to draw Gumby Summer Fun Special 1, so of course he drew this – and won an Eisner.  Front and back covers for Ron Goulart’s Great Comic Book Artists vol. 2.  Frequently in Spectrum.  Inkpot Award.  Here is Wolverine.  Here is Phoenix.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 56. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1982 Hayley Atwell, 39. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire save the first Iron Man and Avengers films being the ones that I’ve flat out enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin. (CE) 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a different opinion about what really happened to Godzilla. (OK, you’re right. That’s not really what it’s about.)

(15) LIVING UNDER A CLOUD. [Item by rcade.] A Brazilian science fiction film that presciently anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic has won the top prize at the Sofia International Film Festival. “Brazil’s ‘The Pink Cloud’ wins top prize at lockdown-hit Sofia film festival” at Screen Daily.

The Pink Cloud, written and directed by Iuli Gerbase, is about a couple whose one-night stand becomes a permanent arrangement when a killer cloud drifts into cities across the globe and forces people to shut their windows and quarantine at home. A film that seems like a painfully obvious metaphor for the pandemic was written in 2017 and filmed in 2019, according to a disclaimer that precedes the opening credits.

Guy Lodge writes in Variety (“’The Pink Cloud’ Review: Brazil’s Effective, Accidental Lockdown Drama”:

It’s not often one sees a film arguing against its own topicality, but that’s what happens at the outset of The Pink Cloud, a subtly fevered quarantine drama that is so of the moment, you all but wonder how they had time to shoot and cut it just last week. But they didn’t …

 Not even sure they like each other to begin with, Giovana and Yago try things out as platonic roommates, friends with benefits and eventually lovers, never comfortable settling into any of those modes. Early in the lockdown, Giovana jokes that their setup is akin to an arranged marriage: It’s a comparison that seems less amusing as weeks turn to months, and months to years.

Public screenings at the film festival were stopped by a new pandemic lockdown caused by surging cases in Bulgaria.

(16) THE WAIT IS OVER. A.V. Club introduces readers to a Korean sff author: “I’m Waiting For You by Kim Bo-Young review: Cosmic tales of love, loss”.

In the title story of I’m Waiting For You, the first of Korean science fiction writer Kim Bo-Young’s works to be translated into English, the unnamed protagonist says he felt he was prepared for solo space travel because he’d once spent a few months without leaving his home. After a year in which so much of the world has experienced an even more extreme version of such isolation, that idea might seem trite. But then the character goes on to explain how wrong he was:

That wasn’t actually living alone. I have never once really lived alone. Someone cleared away the trash I left out for collection, and emptied the septic tank… In another place they boiled noodles and put them in a dish and delivered them… I had never lived alone, not once. How would really living alone even be possible?

“I’m Waiting For You” was originally written in 2015 at the request of a fan who wanted Kim to write a story he could use to propose to his girlfriend. The tale of a man journeying through time and space in an increasingly desperate and unlikely attempt to reunite with his fiancée has taken on new power as we look toward the end of more than a year of isolation that has also produced a newfound understanding of how connected we are to the communities around us….

(17) HISTORIC WARNING. “Ghosts of the Future: A Conversation with Larry Achiampong” is a Critierion Channel Q&A with the maker of the Relic film series.

The London-based, British Ghanaian artist and filmmaker Larry Achiampong explores race, class, and history in a multidisciplinary practice that, as described in the biography on his website, seeks to “examine his communal and personal heritage—in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position.” First devised in 2016, partially as a response to the sociopolitical shock of Brexit, Achiampong’s Relic Traveller is an ambitious project that has manifested as performance, sound installation, moving image, prose, and a remarkable public commission in which Achiampong reimagined London Underground’s iconic roundel in Pan-African colors—green, black, and red—that spoke symbolically to various African diasporic identities.

A central pillar of the project is a suite of four science fiction–inflected short films—Relic 0, Relic 1, Relic 2, and Relic 3—now streaming on the Criterion Channel.

… Clearly, these films engage deeply with long, painful histories and would be resonant at any time. But in the past few years, particularly in the UK, there’s been a real resurgence of empire fetishism, and seemingly more reluctance than ever among the media and ruling classes to address the reality of this history. To what extent are the films a reaction to that context?

For me, the films represent a warning to the West about its negligence, ignorance, mythical approach to history, omission of the histories and legacies of empire, slavery and colonization, and how those things affect the way that we live today: the way that Black people are still disenfranchised. They’re a stark warning that the West will undo itself as a result of the lies it has celebrated, taught, and disseminated for a while. It’s almost as if it will eat itself unless an understanding of the truth—or what has not been allowed to be revealed as the truth—is opened up….

(18) CURB APPEAL. SYFY Wire says “We might need to see the Earth like aliens would if we intend to find them”.

Suppose there really are aliens out there who are creeping around on the surface of some faraway planet and have managed to survive everything space has thrown at them so far. How could we find out they exist?

The answer might lie in how they would (hypothetically) see us. We may never know whether there really are intelligent beings who have spotted our planet as it passed by the sun, but observing it from their perspective could help us see through extraterrestrial eyes. This is the objective of the Earth Transit Observer (ETO) mission concept. Led by a research team from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), ETO will watch Earth in transit as if it was a spacecraft sent out here by other intelligent beings.

Researchers Noam Izenberg and Kevin Stevenson, who will be the project leads if this mission becomes reality, and co-led a study recently presented at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and Laura Mayorga, who also co-led the study, believe that observing Earth from the perspective of a being who never knew it existed could give us new insight on how to look for habitable—and possibly inhabited—planets….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla vs. Kong Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George’s screenwriter tells the producer, “We’re just going to keep cutting to monsters punching each other so that no one has time to digest the mumbo-jumbo we use as explanation” for why Godzilla and King Kong fight each other. SPOILER WARNING.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, N., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Daniel Dern, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, John Hertz,John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Nina Shepardson, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Clarion West’s Class of 2021

Clarion West is returning as a virtual workshop in 2021. The faculty for the Clarion West Six-Week Summer Workshop will be Andy Duncan, Eileen Gunn, Tina Connolly, Caroline Yoachim, Nalo Hopkinson, Sheree Renée Thomas, and Ted Chiang.

Following the postponement of the 2020 workshop due to Covid-19, Clarion will be welcoming these new writers into their community this summer —

Fawaz Al-Matrouk (San Francisco, California, USA)
Jana Bianchi (São Paulo, Brazil)
December Cuccaro (Miami, Florida, USA)
Daniela L. Guzmán (Guadalajara/Pachuca, Mexico)
Joel Donato Ching Jacob (Bay, Laguna, Philippines)
Serena W. Lin (Bay Area, California, USA)
Clara Madrigano (Rio de Janeiro/Curitiba, Brazil)
Lue Palmer (Toronto, Canada)
Alex Payne (Portland, Oregon, USA)
Shakirah Peterson (Los Angeles, California, USA)
Stefan A. Slater (Los Angeles, California, USA)
Amanda Song (USA/China)
Yilin Wang (Sichuan, China/Vancouver, Canada)
Sagan Yee (Toronto, Canada)
Joule Zelman (Seattle, Washington, by way of New Jersey, USA)

This year’s workshop, scheduled from June 20 to July 31, will be held virtually to prioritize the health and safety of students, instructors, staff, and community.

[Based on a press release. Thanks to Michael Toman for the story.]