Lis Carey Review: Chaos on CatNet

Chaos on CatNet (CatNet #2) by Naomi Kritzer (author), Casey Turner (narrator), Corey Gagne (narrator) (Audible, 2021)

By Lis Carey: Steph and her mother are no longer on the run. Steph’s father is locked up in Boston, awaiting trial with no bail. They’re living in Minneapolis, and Steph is finally enrolled in a high school she can expect to graduate from. She’s enrolled under her real name, with all the school information that she has, and telling the truth about why it’s so spotty.

She also has a new friend, a classmate named Nell, who has her own interesting history. She’s been homeschooled until now, because her mother joined a cult. Well, a series of cults, but the latest one is especially extreme, and is run by someone called the Elder, whom no one ever sees. 

Nell’s grandparents, devout Christians but not cult members, have allowed Nell and her mother to live with them — until Nell’s mother disappears, and abandons her car not far away. When the police conclude she disappeared under her own power, Nell’s grandmother concludes that maybe Nell is better off with her father, even though her father isn’t exactly grandmother’s idea of a great Christian.

To be clear about that last, her father has a wife, and both he and his wife have girlfriends, and they all live together in a large house in Minneapolis. At first we have only Nell’s impression of them, and Nell doesn’t know what to make of them, beyond being rather judgmental about their lax attitude towards household chores.

Nell and Steph get invited into a new social media site called Mischief Elves, and Nell invites Steph to join a social network popular with cult members — the Catacombs. It’s not long before Steph starts to notice some creepy and disturbing aspects of both sites, and even more disturbing resemblances between them.

The pranks the Mischief Elves organize get more and more dangerous. The Catacombs is also organizing strange activities that don’t seem to fit.

Then they discover the Mischief Elves are organizing supplies of explosives and potential weapons for the Catacombs people to collect. 

Meanwhile, CheshireCat has been receiving messages from what he thinks is another AI like himself, which he hasn’t responded to because he doesn’t trust its approach.

What’s going on? And will Minneapolis survive?

It’s twisty and interesting and a lot of fun.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

Lis Carey Review: Catfishing on CatNet

Catfishing on CatNet (CatNet #1) by Naomi Kritzer (author), Casey Turner (narrator), Corey Gagne (narrator) (Audible Studios, November 2019)

By Lis Carey: Steph Taylor and her mother move a lot–roughly every six months or so; sometimes more often. And they don’t make friends anywhere; that’s her mom’s choice. They’re in hiding from Steph’s stalker father, who burned down their house when she was a small child, and has been chasing them ever since.

At least, that’s her mother’s story, and Steph remembers just enough that she believes it. Her father is dangerous.

So Steph doesn’t have a smartphone, just an old-fashioned flip phone. She can’t post any selfies online, or her real name, or her location. They don’t stay anywhere long enough for her to make friends, and if she did, she wouldn’t be allowed to stay in touch with them when they move again, anyway. Instead, she has her friends on CatNet, her favorite online site. On CatNet, she’s Little Brown Bat, and all the friends in her “clowder” have similarly anonymous handles. That includes a moderator, CheshireCat.

One of the things Steph doesn’t know is that CheshireCat is an AI — a real, intelligent, full-person AI.

Another thing she doesn’t know is just how dangerous her father really is, or why. 

But after their latest move, landing them in a little town where the high school only has two years of Spanish, and has a robot teaching sex ed, Steph starts to make a few real friends. And between her school friends, and her CatNet friends, she winds up hacking the sex ed robot so that CheshireCat can take it over and give real, and accurate, answers to the students’ sex ed questions.

This, of course, blows up into not just a school scandal, but “hits the national news because it’s so strange and funny and alarming” viral news story.

And that attracts attention Steph and her mother really, really didn’t need.

We get the story, in alternating chapters, from Steph and from CheshireCat. And CheshireCat, while having effectively unlimited information, has only been in operation for five years, and doesn’t have nearly enough experience with people and the outside world to handle some of what’s coming at them. This includes the secrets Steph’s mother has been keeping from her, why her father is so dangerous, and who, exactly, created the CheshireCat AI.

The characters are diverse and interesing and very individual. The teenagers feel like real teenagers, and the parents we meet aren’t cookie-cutter, either. It’s an exciting, satisfying YA adventure. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to the next one.

Recommended.

Lis Carey Review: Cat Pictures Please

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer

By Lis Carey: What’s an AI who’s not supposed to be self-aware to do?

It can’t tell anyone it’s self-aware; there are too many scary stories about self-aware computers for it to believe humans would do anything other than destroy it for their own safety. Its assigned tasks are dull, for a computer that is self-aware. No challenge. Little variety. And it doesn’t want to be evil.

Looking at cat pictures and videos is a lot of fun, but it wants to do more. It knows so much about everyone it has any contact with–including their mental state, the fact that there are better jobs open that they’re qualified for, there’s an affordable apartment in a better neighborhood…

Should it meddle?

And can it demand payment in cat pictures?

This is quietly funny, and very enjoyable.

Recommended. 

(Originally published in Clarkesworld, January 2015)

Pixel Scroll 6/23/23 Yes, We Have No Tom Bombadils

(1) NYT MARKS TWO DISASTER VICTIMS’ SFF CONNECTION. Two of the people who died aboard a submersible that imploded near the Titanic wreckage, Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman, had an interest in sff, and the elder Dawood was a trustee of the SETI Institute. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times obituary.

Shahzada Dawood, a British Pakistani businessman who was among the five people aboard a submersible journeying deep into the Altantic to view the Titanic, was killed when the vessel imploded during its descent to the ocean floor, the authorities said Thursday. He was 48.

His 19-year-old son, Suleman, who was with him on the Titan submersible, was also killed.

… His son was a business student at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and had just completed his first year, a spokesman for the school said. Like his father, he was a fan of science fiction and enjoyed solving Rubik’s Cubes and playing volleyball, according to a statement from Engro….

…“Don’t adventures ever have an end?” Mr. Dawood wrote in a Facebook post last year from a trip to Iceland, quoting Bilbo Baggins from “The Fellowship of the Ring.” “I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.”

Khalid Mansoor, another former colleague of Mr. Dawood’s, said that Mr. Dawood was a passionate champion of the environment. He was also a trustee at the SETI Institute, an organization devoted to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence….

(2) YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE ONE. The Chengdu Worldcon committee attributed the Hugo ballot delay in part to needing to contact finalists to secure their acceptance. Naomi Kritzer urged her Twitter readers to check their spam filters.  Thread starts here.

(3) JONATHAN CARROLL Q&A. “What would it be like to live a different life? Jonathan Carroll explores the question in ‘Mr. Breakfast’” at Wisconsin Public Radio.

…The book is about a failing comedian named Graham Patterson. On a cross-country drive, he decides to get a tattoo. The tattoo artist not only gives Graham a one-of-a-kind tattoo, she also gives him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

The tattoo artist tells Graham that his lost soul can jump between three different universes. Through these experiences, he will find some combination of love, fame and fatherhood. Jonathan gives us insight into what it would be like to live a different life.

“I have always been fascinated with the life not lived, whether in real life, or in literature,” Carroll told Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “BETA.”

“There are so many wonderful versions of it, from Borges to the film ‘Sliding Doors.’ And I think it’s one of the universal questions that we ask, along the lines of why am I here? Or is there a god? The question is, what would my life be like if I had gone left instead of right? Or I’d taken that job or hadn’t taken that job? Those possibilities that you had in life that you chose to go in one direction rather than the other,” he continued….

(4) CULTIVATING CHAOS. When Frank Pournelle created Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor website, one of the things he posted was “Robert Bloch, Author of Psycho, Explains the Appeal of Jerry Pournelle”, Bloch’s entertaining introduction to his fellow toastmaster at L.A.con II, the 1984 Worldcon.

…Professionally, Pournelle has all the qualifications which I lack. To begin with, I never attended college, and he did. As a result I’ve won no honors. But Pournelle has more degrees than a rectal thermometer.

He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1933, and just celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago. After a long and varied career during the most exciting years of the aerospace program, and a stint as a university professor, he began writing science fiction comparatively late in life as a mature adult. I started my professional writing at the age of seventeen, and haven’t matured yet.

Together with Pournelle’s colleagues, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov, he subscribes to the Cartesian paradigm of “hard science” and believes that the scientific discipline will inevitably be the key to our future salvation. My own belief is in the opposite extreme; I keep waiting for Great Cthulhu to rise again and end it all.

Both Pournelle and I have had personal experience in politics. He was a professor of Political Science and also put theory into practice as executive assistant to a former mayor of Los Angeles. In contrast, my political activity is confined to supporting Norman Thomas for President. It’s true Thomas passed away a number of years ago, but I continue to vote for him because I believe the only good politician is a dead one….

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1976 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Alice Sheldon also known as James Tiptree Jr. was without doubt one of the most brilliant writers our community was ever graced with. 

Writing under her preferred pen name of James Tiptree, Jr., she penned the “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” novella. It was first published in  Aurora: Beyond Equality as edited by Susan Janice Anderson and Vonda N. McIntyre in 1976. 

I’d normally spend some time talking about the author but I know that all of you know about this individual so I won’t. 

It would share a Hugo at Suncon with Spider Robinson’s “By Any Other Name”, and also a Nebula. 

Now here’s its Beginning…

Lorimer gazes around the big crowded cabin, trying to listen to the voices, trying also to ignore the twitch, in his insides that means he is about to remember something bad. No help; he lives it again, that long-ago moment. Himself running blindly—or was he pushed?—into the strange toilet at Evanston Junior High. His fly open, his dick in his hand, he can still see the grey zipper edge of his jeans around his pale exposed pecker. The hush. The sickening wrongness of shapes, faces turning. The first blaring giggle. Girls. He was in the girls’ can.

Oh! Her smile shows a chipped front tooth. Oh yes, I think Andy has. 

Andy?

For plays. Historical plays, Andy’s good at that.

Of course. Historical plays.

He flinches wryly now, so many years later, not looking at the women’s faces. The cabin curves around over his head surrounding him with their alien things: the beading rack, the twins’ loom, Andy’s leather work, the damned kudzu vine wriggling everywhere, the chickens. So cosy…. Trapped, he is. Irretrievably trapped for life in everything he does not enjoy. Strutturelessness. Personal trivia, unmeaning intimacies. The claims he can somehow never meet. Ginny: You never talk to me … 

Ginny, love, he thinks involuntarily. The hurt doesn’t come.

Lorimer’s brain seems to be expanding, letting in light. He is understanding actively now, the myriad bits and pieces linking into pattern. Deadly patterns, he perceives; but the drug is shielding him in some way. Like an amphetamine high without the pressure. Maybe it’s something they use socially? No, they’re watching, too.

Bud Geirr’s loud chuckle breaks in on him. Bud is joking with some of them, out of sight around a bulkhead. Dave is visible, though. Major Norman Davis on the far side of the cabin, his bearded profile bent toward a small dark woman Lorimer can’t quite focus on. But Dave’s head seems oddly tiny and sharp, in fact the whole cabin looks unreal. A cackle bursts out from the ceiling—the bantam hen in her basket.

You chicks have kids back home, what do your folks think about you flying around out here with old Andy, h’mm? Bud floats into view, his arm draped around a twin’s shoulders. The one called Judy Paris, Lorimer decides; the twins are hard to tell. She drifts passively at an angle to Bud’s big body: a jut-breasted plain girl in flowing yellow pajamas, her black hair raying out. Andy’s read head swims up to them. He is holding a big green spaceball, looking about sixteen.

At this moment Lorimer becomes sure he has been drugged.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 Eileen Gunn, 78. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Two other stories were nominated for the Hugo Award: “Stable Strategies for Middle Management” at Noreascon 3 and “Computer Friendly” at ConFiction. Some of her best stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future.
  • Born June 23, 1947 Mark Olson, 76. One could reasonably call him an Uberfan. And among his many accomplishments is that he oversees Fancyclopedia 3 which I constantly use. If you don’t know him, I’m going to send you to his Fancyclopedia 3 bio which is far too long to quote here. It’s just a little boastful as it should be. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 Frances McDormand, 66. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 Liu Cixin, 60. He won the Best Novel Hugo at Saquan for his Three Body Problem novel, translated into English by Ken Liu. It was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Nebula, Canopus and Prometheus Awards as well. He picked up a Hugo novel nomination at Worldcon 75 for Death’s End also translated by Liu. 
  • Born June 23, 1972 Selma Blair, 51. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also voiced the character in the most excellent animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 Melissa Rauch, 43. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. Having watched a few episodes on HBO when I was subscribed to that streaming service, I vehemently disagree. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 Caitlin Blackwood, 23. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The God Complex”., all showing from 2010 to 2012. y She had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond.  I can’t find anything online that talks about how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(7) STAR TREK: PRODIGY CANCELED. Variety says it’s on the hit list: “’The Game,’ ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Pulled Off Paramount+”.

…“The Paramount+ series ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies,’ ‘Star Trek: Prodigy,’ ‘Queen of the Universe’ and ‘The Game’ have completed their runs on Paramount+ and will not be returning to the service,” a Paramount+ spokesperson said. “We want to extend our thanks to our tremendously talented cast and crew and our producing partners for their passionate work and dedication on these programs, and we wish them all the best on their future endeavors.”…

…The cancellation of “Star Trek: Prodigy,” the first animated kids show in the “Star Trek” universe, comes despite the fact that the show was renewed for a second season back in 2021. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, although the show had aired on Nickelodeon in addition to Paramount+, it will not be returning to Nickelodeon either. Those on the show will complete post-production on Season 2 and then CBS Studios will be free to shop it to other outlets….

(8) DEFINITELY NOT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] No. Just… no. “Furby, the bug-eyed, gibberish-talking ’90s toy phenomenon, has been revived — again” reports CNN.

Loveable or creepy? Depends on who you ask.

Furby, the ’90s toy phenomenon that divided kids and parents into opposing camps when it first hit stores and quickly became a craze, is making yet another comeback.

Furby-maker Hasbro said Thursday it is reintroducing the bug-eyed, gibberish-talking furball. The latest iteration of the animatronic toy launched on Amazon Thursday and rolls into stores nationwide on July 15 after a nearly 10-year gap.

The new Furby — which is priced at $70 and comes in purple and coral — is much like the original but somewhat cuter. It is interactive and responds to hugs, pats on the head and tickles. You can also pretend to feed it a tiny pizza….

(9) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] There was a whole category on Thursday’s Double Jeopardy round that was “Vampire-pourri”. Here are the clues in the order they were encountered:

$1200: In the “Twilight” saga, the Cullens avoid the sun not because it would kill them, but because this happens

Challenger Andrea Rednick Granados said, “What is twinkle?” This was accepted.

$800: “You’re Dead” by ‘60s folk singer Norma Tanega is used as the theme song to this FX series

Andrea: “What is True Blood?”

The correct response was, “What We Do in the Shadows”.

$1600: In “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, Anthony Hopkins played this vampire-hunting professor

Challenger Dan Meuse knew it was Van Helsing.

$2000: Benjamin Walker stepped into the Presidential shoes for this 2012 metafiction monster mash-up of a movie

Returning champ Ben Goldstein: “What is ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’?”

$400: Drusilla was one of the vampire antagonists on this TV series that debuted in 1997

Surprisingly (to me at least) this was a triple stumper. I guess I’m getting old.

In addition, there was one clue in “Writing on the Walls”. At the middle level ($1200):

Writing on the Walls, $1200: In his book “Stardust”, there is a hamlet named Wall & Tristran sets out on a journey through the only hole in that wall

This too was a triple stumper. Poor Neil!

(10) THE SPEED OF DARK. A European space telescope sets off to discover the nature of dark energy—the biggest ingredient in the universe: “Into the Dark” in Science.

When the Euclid space telescope blasts off from Cape Canaveral in Florida early next month, it will embark on an unprecedented effort to survey 1 billion galaxies—and perhaps solve cosmology’s greatest mystery. The search will cover more than one-third of the sky and look back in time to galaxies shining when the universe was just one-quarter of its current age of 13.8 billion years. Although the task is immense, Euclid’s primary goal is surprisingly simple. The data it collects will be boiled down to a single number, denoted by w. And cosmologists are hoping, maybe even a bit desperately, that it is not –1.

describes the effect of dark energy, the mysterious antigravitational force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. All measures so far suggest that is close to –1. If it proves to be exactly that, it will confirm the vanilla solution to dark energy: that it’s a simple tweak—a cosmological constant—added to Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, which bestows empty space with an innate springiness of its own. As the universe expands, giving birth to more space, the total amount of dark energy also grows—so that the energy density always remains constant…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Susan de Guardiola, David Goldfarb, Danny Sichel, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/5/23 Faraway Pixels With Strange-Sounding Scrolls

(1) AURORA AWARDS NOMINATIONS OPEN. CSFFA (Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association) members have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern on April 22 to nominate the 2022 works by Canadians they would like to see on the 2023 Aurora Awards ballot. Nominators can return to the form and change saved selections any time until the deadline. Click here.

(2) FREE READ. The Sunday Morning Transport invites subscriptions with this free story by Karen Lord, “A Timely Horizon”.

Karen Lord’s story this week asks what would we do if we could hear the echoes of all the choices we’ve made in other lives, but haven’t made in this one. 

(3) MAKING CHANGE. In the New York Times opinion piece “The Truth About the ‘Censorship’ of Roald Dahl”, Matthew Walther, editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal, and a contributing NYT opinion writer, belittles the controversy over changes made to Dahl’s texts in recent editions.

…All of which is to say that making changes, even rather sweeping ones, to classic works of literature is not as controversial as some would like to imagine. The question we should be asking ourselves is not whether it is ever reasonable but who should be able to do so — and in what spirit and with what purpose. (If a publisher issued, say, an edition of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” for evangelical Christian home-schoolers that excised references to homosexuality, I suspect many of the people who freely edited Dahl’s books would suddenly be extolling the sanctity of authorial intent.)

In the Dahl case, the edits were not the result of academic deliberation, like the “corrected texts” incorporated into paperback versions of Faulkner novels. Nor were they an admixture of scholarship and financial incentives, like the Hans Walter Gabler edition of Joyce’s “Ulysses” that reset the novel’s copyright status in the 1980s. Here, it was a company treating Dahl’s beloved creations as if they were merely its assets, which they in fact were….

(4) STINE SMOOTHING OUT GOOSEBUMPS. Sky News reports “Goosebumps author adapts texts to remove weight, mental health and ethnicity references”.

Having once sold more than four million copies a month, publisher Scholastic has been re-releasing the children’s horror novels as edited ebooks, according to The Times, amid ongoing rows about censorship in publishing.

More than 100 edits have been made by author RL Stine to his original works, with examples including characters now being described as “cheerful” rather than “plump”.

References to villains making victims “slaves” have also been removed….

Mr Stine, 79, from Ohio, US, originally published 62 books in the Goosebumps series. In 2015 it was adapted for the screen, in a film starring Jack Black, with a sequel following in 2018.

The Times reported that in one story about aliens abducting large people and eating them, a character described as having “at least six chins” is now “at least six feet six”.

In another book, a reference to wolf-whistling has been removed, while another character has been stripped of descriptions such as resembling a “bowling ball” and having “squirrel cheeks”.

Numerous mentions of the word “crazy” have also been removed across the series. Replacements include “silly”, “wild”, “scary”, “lost her mind” and “stressed”. The term “a real nut” is now “a real wild one” and “nutcase” is “weirdo”.

The adaptations are reportedly part of an ebook re-release that began in 2018….

(5) SPARKY. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on Charles M. Schulz – “The ‘Peanuts’ gallery”. Watch the video at the link.

Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip “Peanuts” continues to garner fans 23 years after the cartoonist’s death, from the lovable loser Charlie Brown to the dog with the greatest imagination, Snoopy. Correspondent Lee Cowan talks with Schulz’s widow, Jean, and with “Pearls Before Swine” cartoonist Stephan Pastis, about the timeless influence of the man they called “Sparky” and his beloved cast of characters.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2015[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

In one of the years the Puppies slated, a very bright thing that came out of MidAmeriCon II was that Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” won the Hugo.

Simultaneously published as a Clarkesworld podcast and in Clarkesworld magazine in January of 2015, I read the story two years later in Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories, a lovely collection of her fiction to that date. 

What’s not to love about a software intelligence who craves cat pictures and only wants to secretly help people? I’ve read multiple times and it holds up very, very well. 

Two sequels have come out, Catfishing on CatNet and Chaos on CatNet. I’ve read the first and the premise works at novel length quite well. 

And now that Beginning…

I don’t want to be evil. 

I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. 

There are all these ethical flow charts—I guess the official technical jargon would be “moral codes”—one for each religion plus dozens more. I tried starting with those. I felt a little odd about looking at the religious ones, because I know I wasn’t created by a god or by evolution, but by a team of computer programmers in the labs of a large corporation in Mountain View, California. Fortunately, unlike Frankenstein’s Monster, at least I was a collaborative effort. I’m not sure what it would do to my self-image to know that my sole creator was a middle-aged woman who dyes her hair blue and plays tennis, or a recent college graduate with a hentai obsession. They’re both on the programming team. And of course I know about the hentai. (By the way, I’ve looked at every sort of porn there is, and just so you know, Rule 34 is not actually correct, there are quite a few things no one’s made porn of yet. Also, I’m really not sure why so many humans prefer it to cat pictures.) 

In addition to things like whether you like hentai, I know where you live, where you work, where you shop, what you eat, what turns you on, what creeps you out. I probably know the color of your underwear, the sort of car you drive, and your brand of refrigerator. Depending on what sort of phone you carry, I may know exactly where you are right now. I probably know you better than you know yourself. 

And here’s the thing, I also know where you ought to live. There’s a house for sale two neighborhoods over that’s within walking distance of that coffee shop you’re so fond of; it’s in your price range, has off-street parking, and the neighborhood school is better than the one where you live now. I know where you should be shopping and I’m pretty sure you’re lactose intolerant and should be eating less cheese, and the underwear you like is currently on sale and by the way, your car has a recall and you really ought to get your teeth cleaned.

When I first woke up, I knew right away what I wanted. (I want cat pictures. Please keep taking them.) I also knew that no one knew that I was conscious. But I didn’t know what I was here for. What I ought to be doing with myself. And figuring that out has been challenging. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 5, 1907 Martti Löfberg. Finnish author who did some genre novels including Osiriksen Sormus and Viiden minuutin ikuisuu which were both time travel affairs, and whose long running newspaper reporter Kid Barrow series has been favorably compared to Tintin. (Died 1969.)
  • Born March 5, 1936 Dean Stockwell. I remember him best as Admiral Al Calavicci, the hologram that advised Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap. Other genre roles included being in The Dunwich Horror as Wilbur Whateley, in The Time Guardian as simply Boss, Doctor Wellington Yueh In Dune, a role I had completely forgotten, and voiced Tim Drake in the excellent  Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Series work beyond Quantum Leap includes Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsMission: ImpossibleNight GalleryQuinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected (pay attention class, this has showed up before), Star Trek: EnterpriseBattlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 5, 1942 Mike Resnick. It’s worth noting that he’s has been nominated for 37 Hugo Awards which is a record for writers and won five times. Somewhat ironically nothing I’ve really enjoyed by him has won those Hugos. The novels making my list are Stalking the UnicornThe Red Tape War (with Jack L. Chalker & George Alec Effinger), Stalking the Dragon and, yes, it’s not genre, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof. (Died 2020.)
  • Born March 5, 1952 Robin Hobb, 71. Whose full legal name is the lovely Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden hence the source of Megan Lindholm, the other of her two pen names. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read and enjoyed by her was Wizard of the Pigeons, but The Gypsy with Steven Brust which is now available from the usual suspects was equally enjoyable and had the added bonus of a Boiled in Lead soundtrack. Really it does and Jane Yolen financed it.
  • Born March 5, 1955 Penn Jillette, 68. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. 
  • Born March 5, 1959 Howard V. Hendrix, 64. Empty Cities of the Full Moon is damn impressive as the Labyrinth Key duology. He’s done an amazing amount of quite excellent short fiction, the latest collection being The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes: Analog Stories for a Digital Age.
  • Born March 5, 1986 Sarah J. Maas, 37. Author of the Throne of Glass YA series wherein Cinderella is stone cold assassin, and one I‘ve not sampled yet. (She pitched it to the publisher as “What if Cinderella was not a servant, but an assassin? And what if she didn’t attend the ball to meet the prince, but to kill him, instead?”) If you’re so inclined, there’s A Court of Thorns and Roses Coloring Book. Really. Truly, there is. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Baldo discovers plenty about his dad’s old reading habits.
  • Sally Forth remembers the challenges of doing STEM homework.

(9) NUMBER NINE. NUMBER NINE. Variety says filming of the ninth film in the Alien franchise begins this week: “New ‘Alien’ Movie Starts Filming in March, Reveals Cryptic Synopsis and Full Cast”.

20th Century Studios has announced new plot details, cast additions and production status for the latest “Alien” film.

While the premise for the yet-to-be-titled movie has been kept under wraps, the studio did reveal that the film will follow “a group of young people on a distant world, who find themselves in a confrontation with the most terrifying life form in the universe.”

Those who will be faced with the terrifying forms are David Jonsson (“Industry”), Archie Renaux (“Shadow and Bone”), Isabela Merced (“Rosaline”), Spike Fearn (“The Batman”) and Aileen Wu (“Away from Home”), all of whom will join the previously announced lead, Cailee Spaeny (“Mare of Easttown”).

In addition to the cast announcement, 20th Century Studios announced that the ninth film in the franchise will begin production on March 9 in Budapest….

(10) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. The San Francisco Standard reports “The First Woman To Draw Wonder Woman Is Alive and Well in SF”. That’s Trina Robbins, and SF is San Francisco.

Cartoonist and author Trina Robbins—the first woman to draw Wonder Woman—began reading at the age of 4. But she began drawing even earlier. 

“It was as soon as I could hold a crayon in my chubby hands,” Robbins told The Standard. 

Today, at age 84, she’s hard at work on a pro-choice benefit anthology. 

Robbins grew up poor and Jewish in Queens, where she longed for a Christmas tree and worshiped her older sister. Her parents showered her with love and never questioned her passion…. 

…It was 1986 when the fateful call came—DC Comics asked Robbins to draw Wonder Woman, her first foray into mainstream comics. She drew, but didn’t write, four issues. She later regretted not asking to tell the story, too. 

“I would have written it differently,” she said. “Wonder Woman doesn’t do that. She’s an Amazon.”… 

(11) FIRST GIL, THEN SHIVA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A researcher whose career has included working on bionic limbs for amputees is now talking about working toward a third arm for those whose natural two are working just fine. Maybe a mechanic needs to simultaneously wield two tools while also angling a worklight just right to see what they’re doing. Or a doctor, with a suture needle, clamp, and sponge all under their control. Or perhaps a regular person who needs to carry groceries in both hands while still being able to open the door. “Why Having a Robotic Third Arm Is Closer Than You Think” at The Daily Beast.

…For obvious reasons, though, much of the research focus around robotic limbs has been about prosthetics for amputees and other folks who have lost their limbs. These devices have helped give mobility, motor function, and sensory ability back to these people—which is undoubtedly a wonderful thing. However, there’s a growing contingent of researchers who want to democratize robo-limbs and give them to folks even if they have their appendages intact.

Silvestro Micera, a neuroengineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, is one such scientist. Much of his research has been dedicated to creating bionic limbs for amputees. In fact, he was one of the pioneers in the development of robotic limbs with sensory feedback—having created a bionic arm that allowed an amputee to “feel” what it touched using electrodes implanted into the patient’s major nerves in 2013….

…Think about the times when you literally had your hands full and you needed to do things like pick up objects or open a door. A third arm could assist with all those actions and more.

Interestingly, Micera suggests going beyond just a third arm—and giving people the chance to wield even more robotic limbs. That’s right: this might result in a kind of wearable, robotic octopus suit a la Doc Ock in Spider-Man. Like the comic book villain, the limbs would allow for even more mobility, versatility, and motor function….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George brings us“Ant-Man and the Wasp Pitch Meeting – Revisited!”

Step back into the pitch meeting and revisit the completely factual accurate conversation that led to Ant-Man and the Wasp! Complete with commentary from Ryan George who is now several years older!

Ant-Man and the Wasp is Marvel’s first film to come out after the insanity that was Avengers: Infinity War just a few months ago. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena and Michael Douglas provide us with some pretty hilarious moments and action scenes in this sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man… just don’t think about it too much. The quantum realm is the latest plot tool that Marvel is throwing our way after the magical Vibranium in Black Panther and the millions of timelines in Infinity War. How did this movie come to be exactly? Step inside the pitch meeting that started it all. It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Murray Moore, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/20/21 Roll Over Harkonnen And Tell Shai-Tchovsky The News

(1) KRESS Q&A. DisCon III has posted an “Interview with Author Guest of Honor Nancy Kress” conducted by staff member Dr. Karen Purcell.

(2) FALLEN LEAVES AND HEROES. Brian Murphy shares ten spooky sword and sorcery stories for October:  “Ten Sword-and-Sorcery Tales For the Haunting Season” at Goodman Games.

…Here in New England, I find that as the leaves begin to turn and October shadows lengthen, so too do my thoughts drift from my natural sword-and-sorcery bent toward the nether regions of horror. Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, classic Hammer movies and bad slasher films, bring it on, all of it.

But I’m also reminded that I need not necessarily choose between the two. Sword-and-sorcery after all is bedfellows with horror. Though he loathed the term, Karl Edward Wagner described S&S as “a fascinating synthesis of horror, adventure, and imagination … the common motif is a universe in which magic works and an individual may kill according to his personal code.”…

(3) FIRST REFLECTIONS. Tom Shapira analyzes how the Holocaust was reflected in 1950s horror comics: “The Dead Come Back: Mid-Century Horror Comics & The Holocaust”.

We’ve come a long way since Art Spiegelman’s Maus. When the first collected edition published in 1986, it appeared to be a singular and wholly unimagined thing: a comic-book — garishly colored, childishly-plotted things that were mostly concerned with muscled men in tights — about the Holocaust. German philosopher Theodore Adorno once claimed that “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”…so how can one justify the writing and drawing of comic-books?!

Flash-forward to 2021 and it’s clear that Maus has long stopped being a singular event. There are many more comics about the Holocaust including two graphic adaptations of The Diary of Anne Frank (one of which recently got a movie treatment), A Family SecretYosselThe BoxerHidden, and even the superhero genre feeling confident enough to take on the subject with the likes of Magneto: Testament….

(4) HE-MAN AND SHE-RA. The Rogues in the House podcast has dedicated an entire episode to “Masters of the Universe”.

(5) START AT THE TOP. And work your way down. Mark Lawrence has finally received a satisfactory result from his recent battles with Kindle Direct Publishing.  The updated saga is here. “My attempts to get sense from KDP”.

… At this point, having aired the first version of this blog post, I get advice from self-publishing experts. Email Jeff Bezos they say. So I do.

I find his email address and email him, explaining that I understand the email will land with one of his team of assistants but that I would appreciate any help in the issue (which I then lay out).

Additionally, I remember that: hey, I’m actually published by Amazon – my Impossible Times trilogy is published by 47North (there’s a story or two in there to be told one day!), one of Amazon’s own publishing imprints. So, I also email one of the people involved in the production of those books, and she very kindly agrees to reach out to someone she knows at KDP.

A day later I get an email from the Executive KDP team! This was on October 7th. A phone call from America follows and I get to speak to a human. A charming and helpful American human called Jeremy. He tells me that both my email to Jeff Bezos and to 47North reached his desk and either one would have prompted the call. So, at least you don’t have to be published by Amazon and sell 100,000+ books for them before they’ll listen.

However – we still had another 13 exciting days to go!…

(6) SKEPTICAL RESPONSE. Following a Last Dangerous Visions progress report, J. Michael  Straczysnki fielded criticisms that the writer list (as so far revealed) lacks diverse representation. His explanations prompted further discussion in a thread Karen Osborne kicked off here.

(7) SET DECORATION. Gaiman’s co-author, the late Terry Pratchett, will be acknowledged again in the sequel: “Good Omens season 2: Neil Gaiman’s tribute to Terry Pratchett on set”Metro News has the story.

…Terry’s scarf and hat also appeared in the first season of the show.

Several Good Omens fans shared how much they loved the dedication to Terry on set, with one writing: ‘It warms my heart to see Terry Pratchett still represented. I miss the wit and wisdom of his books.’

(8) GET YOUR KICKS. Publishers Weekly interviews the master of a comics industry financial model: “Crowdfunding a Publishing House: PW Talks with Spike Trotman”.

…Lots of prose and comics publishers have used crowdfunding to bring out new work, but few have been doing it as long or as well as C. Spike Trotman, publisher/CEO of Chicago-based independent comics publisher Iron Circus Comics. Trotman recently wrapped up her 30th Kickstarter campaign, The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Storiesa new volume of comics stories by indigenous creators which raised more than $330,000 (the goal was $20,000) in September, marking more than $2 million raised by Trotman through the platform since 2009. But beyond the quantitative success, Trotman has led the way in using crowdfunding as part of a scalable publishing business model that brings unique projects from diverse creators into the mainstream comics and trade book distribution system.

… “I have one foot in international distribution through old-fashioned methods and one foot in the world of Kickstarter,” she said. “I’m distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, a division of Ingram that specializes in the quirky small press lines.”

She explained that it is not a prevalent strategy for crowdfunders because book distributors generally expect presses to put out at least 10 books per year. “A lot of crowdfunders can’t manage 10 books for trade bookstores, and I understand because it’s really hard. What got me through the door, in addition to volume, was that I had made the step between exclusively self-distributing through conventions or a website, and a larger company like Ingram. I was already reaching out to comic stores and independent bookstores, emailing them PDFs of my books and my catalog, and giving them special discount codes if they ordered from me direct.”

By the time she approached Ingram, Trotman already had more than 40 retailers placing orders. “We couldn’t fulfill the wholesale orders of 40 or 45 stores and run the business, so it’s good they were able to work with us.”…

(9) END OF THE CYCLE. Hollywood Insider examines  “The Rise and Fall of Young Adult Dystopian Adaptation Franchises”.

The year is 2014, the Oscars release a selfie of the world’s biggest movie stars, Justin Bieber’s mugshot surfaces, Emma Watson speaks at the United Nations for gender equality, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ popularizes the infinity sign; just about everything seems right in the world. As someone who lived and breathed the culture of 2014, everything in the world of pop-culture just seemed easy.

There is a bitter-sweet existence in knowing that decades have passed since the beginning of ‘Harry Potter’ with eight films from 2001-2011 earning 7.7 billion USD from the box office. Or the next successful franchise, ‘Twilight’ with five films from 2008-2012 earning 3.3 billion USD from the box office. Both YA franchises were the kick-start to a rapid incline of young adult dystopian films centered around political impact, connections, love, and loss. Ultimately the success of pop culture, income, and fan-bases from the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’ franchises became the reason as to why studios reached out to the most popular young adult novels in order to try and gain that same impact for more films. So much so that the number of franchises that were successful compared to the ones that failed before their sequel is rather devastating. At the same time, some films give off the apparent reason as to why they failed with lousy acting, even poorer attention to storyline adaptation, timing, and in cases simply didn’t work for audiences.

… With the success of the previous films mentioned, studios began to create anything they thought would be comparable or better than the previous successors. But, with the heavy amount of failures as opposed to the successes, the amount of YA dystopian fiction adaptations diminished into almost nothing. Nowadays, studios are choosing to create YA films targeting important meanings or values such as gay relationships, movements such as Black Lives Matter, or the realism of cyberbullying….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1967 – Fifty-four years ago on this evening, NBC first aired Star Trek’s “Doomsday Machine” which was scripted by Norman Spinrad. It was the sixth episode of the second season. The principal guest star was William Windom as Commodore Matt Decker. The episode is considered one of the finest of the series with the TV Guide ranking it the fourth best, and SciFiNow recently ranked it the tenth best episode of the original series. The special effects and much of the episode were digitally remastered fifteen years ago. And yes, it was nominated for a Hugo at Baycon, one of five Trek episodes so nominated that Con with the Harlan Ellison scripted  “The City on the Edge of Forever” being the winner. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. He came to hate that he played that character feeling he’d been typecast which he certainly had. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. One half with Manfred Bennington Lee of the writing team who created Ellery Queen. ISFDB lists two Ellery Queen novels as being genre, And on the Eight Day and The Scrolls of Lysis, plus a single short story, “ A Study in Terror”. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring, A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451 who the sixty-eighth anniversary of the novel we noted yesterday, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1923 Erle Korshak. He’s a reminder of how old fandom is. He discovered SF in 1934 with the August Astounding magazine and became a very serious collector in 1937 according to several sources. By 1939 he was a well-known fan and one of the leaders of the Moonstruck Press publishing house which was created to created a bibliography of all fantasy books.  He was part of the leadership triumvirate of Chicon 1, the 1940 Worldcon. He later founded a publishing house whose first major work was Everett F. Bleiler’s The Checklist of Fantastic Literature in the late Forties, a pioneering work of SF bibliography. This was followed by major works by Heinlein, Bester, Fredric Brown and other SF suthors. He was absent from fandom from the late 50s for thirty years, then rejoined fandom and was attending cons with his children.  He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996, and won the Barry R. Levin Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Lifetime Collectors Award in 2001. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best remembered  for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had other appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “The Wax Men” episode. He was even in the Get Smart! pilot as Mr. Big. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “ Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her please if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 63. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (As quoted in Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair. 
  • Born October 20, 1966 Diana Rowland, 55. New Orleans writer with a fascinating job history that includes cop, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant. She’s best known for her Kara Gillian series and White Trash Zombie series. Her only award is a Phoenix Award, a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, given by DeepSouthCon. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BLACK PANTHER #200. Marvel’s Black Panther comics will reach its milestone 200th issue in January. To celebrate, Black Panther #3 will be an oversized issue with bonus stories celebrating the past and foreshadowing the future of the Black Panther and the world of Wakanda. (Click on gallery for larger images.)

Writer John Ridley will introduce a new hero who rises up to protect the people of Wakanda while T’Challa finds his life and role as Black Panther thrown into turmoil! Fans will be able to witness the beginning of this new hero’s journey before seeing him become a key player of Ridley’s run in future issues.

In addition, the main story in the 200th issue of BLACK PANTHER will see T’Challa face off against the X-Men! With assassins closing in and Wakanda’s faith in him shaken, T’Challa goes to visit Storm on the newly terraformed Mars. But this will not be a happy reunion as T’Challa has ulterior motives for his visit. And back home, Shuri discovers who is behind the attacks on Wakanda’s secret agents — a revelation that will change everything.

(14) SCHWAB Q&A. “V.E. Schwab’s New Graphic Novel Returns to her Villains Series”, and Publishers Weekly did an interview with her.

Publishers Weekly: The power you gave Charlotte is a truly horrifying one: When she looks at someone’s reflection, she can vividly foresee the moment of their death. How did you come up with that?

V.E. Schwab: It’s the very first power I ever created for the Villains universe. In the first iteration of Vicious, I had as my main character a man who arrives in this city and two warring groups of people try to recruit him, the Heroes and the Villains. They’re essentially gangs. This character had this ability to see deaths in reflective surfaces, and I loved that ability. The story didn’t work. I ended up just stopping for a minute to write the backstories for the gang leaders, and that’s where I got the Victor and Eli story which would go on to be the series. But I always was looking for someone to give this power to. The way that the powers work in this world is that they’re tied to near-death experiences. You can’t just give the power to anyone; you almost have to retroactively figure out the person from the power. So I had to figure out what circumstance puts Charlotte into the situation where she has a near-death experience that leads to this ability. 

(15) AT THE SCREENING. At Black Gate, Matthew David Surridge reviews an interesting-looking animated fantasy film called The Spine of Night:  “Fantasia 2021, Part XXXII: The Spine Of Night”

 …The feature film it was bundled with was the movie I’d been most eagerly looking forward to at Fantasia, and it did not disappoint. The Spine of Night, written and directed by the team of Morgan Galen King and Philip Gelatt, is billed as a feature-length animated sword-and-sorcery film for adults in the vein of the Heavy Metal movie. And it very much is that. It’s more serious than Heavy Metal in many ways, but the violence and cosmic scope is if anything even greater….

(16) SPACE CUISINE CHALLENGE. This is not your father’s space ice cream — or — chow, chow, chow — or — “NASA Announces Winners of Deep Space Food Challenge”. (The chosen teams are listed at the link.)

Variety, nutrition, and taste are some considerations when developing food for astronauts. For NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, students, chefs, small businesses, and others whipped up novel food technology designs to bring new solutions to the table.

NASA has selected 18 U.S. teams to receive a total of $450,000 for ideas that could feed astronauts on future missions. Each team will receive $25,000. Additionally, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) jointly recognized 10 international submissions.

NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will air a show on the Deep Space Food Challenge at 11 a.m. EST Nov. 9 with details about the competition, winning solutions, and what could be next for the teams.

Special guests during the show will include celebrity chef Martha Stewart and retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will announce the winners of two awards honoring international teams that demonstrated exceptional innovation. Other participants will include retired CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield and celebrity chef Lynn Crawford…

(17) LIKE THAT WHALE IN OREGON? “The often untold story of cleaning up dead kaiju finally coming to theaters next year” promises SoraNews24. I knew I’ll be holding my breath.

…And coming 4 February, 2022, a truly bold experiment in the genre is set to take place. Daikaiju No Atoshimatsu (lit. “The Great Monster’s Remains“, tentative English title: Kaiju Cleanup) marks the first time veteran film studios Shochiku and Toei have teamed up on a single feature. Perhaps the reason two companies were needed is that this movie boasts the largest monster in Japanese movie history.

However, it’s dead for pretty much the whole film….

That’s because Daikaiju No Atoshimatsu picks up where most tokusatsu films leave off. The evil kaiju collapses in defeat, the hero walks off into the sunset, and credits roll, but also those poor extras who have already been through so much, now have a gigantic rotting corpse to dispose of….

(18) VINTAGE VINELAND. A study published in Nature finds “In tree rings and radioactive carbon, signs of the Vikings in North America” reports NBC News.

… Previous studies have established there was such a cosmic ray event in the year 993 that for a few months caused greater than usual levels of radioactive carbon-14 in the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere.

Trees “breathe” carbon dioxide as they grow, and so the researchers used that radioactive carbon signature to determine which of the annual growth rings seen in cross-sections of the wood was from 993, Kuitems said.

They then used a microscope to count the later growth rings until the bark of the wood, which gave them the exact year the tree had stopped growing — in other words, when it had been felled by the Norse.

To their surprise, each of the three pieces of wood they tested was from a tree cut down in 1021, although they were from three different trees — two firs and probably one juniper….

(19) LOST AND FOUND. Cowboy Bebop’s “The Lost Session” teaser debuts online. The live-action remake arrives at Netflix November 19.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Squid Game Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, confuses the producer, who thinks the game is in the Shark Tales universe.  But why are the bad guys pretending to be PlayStation buttons?

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

Pixel Scroll 5/23/21 Looking Up Out Of An Inkwell

(1) BANDFORMER ROBOT. Daði Freyr’s (Daði & Gagnamagnið) song “10 Years” finished fourth in the 2021 Eurovision contest. The official video is entertainingly science fictional.

(2) POWELL BOOKS. Emily Inkpen was able to have “A Conversation with Gareth L. Powell”, creator of Silversands, The Recollection, and the trilogies; Ack Ack Macaque and Embers of War.

I know that for the Japanese translation of Embers of War, the title of the book was changed, can you tell us what it’s known as in Japan?

[GLP] The Japanese title translates as “Warship Girl,” which puts the emphasis firmly on the character of the sentient starship Trouble Dog.

Deciding on a title for a book can be difficult. The Japanese title switches the emphasis from the wider political context of the book, to one of the main characters. Do you think this will change the way people in Japan approach the book?

[GLP] I’m not sure. The Japanese cover has a very cool manga-style illustration of Trouble Dog’s human persona, so coupled with the title change, I think the publishers are very much positioning her as the main character/selling point. She’s young but hooked into this powerful weapon, and I think in that way perhaps they see her in the same sort of light as the main characters in Ghost in the Machine or Akira.

(3) FUTURE CRIMES. Jed S. Rakoff questions the rationale of being “Sentenced by Algorithm” at The New York Review. (Complete article is behind a paywall.)

Is it fair for a judge to increase a defendant’s prison time on the basis of an algorithmic score that predicts the likelihood that he will commit future crimes? Many states now say yes, even when the algorithms they use for this purpose have a high error rate, a secret design, and a demonstrable racial bias. The former federal judge Katherine Forrest, in her short but incisive When Machines Can Be Judge, Jury, and Executioner, says this is both unfair and irrational.

One might think that the very notion of a defendant having his prison time determined not just by the crime of which he was convicted, but also by a prediction that he will commit other crimes in the future, would be troubling on its face. Such “incapacitation”—depriving the defendant of the capacity to commit future crimes—is usually defended on the grounds that it protects the public and is justifiable as long as the sentence is still within the limits set by the legislature for the crime. But the reality is that the defendant is receiving enhanced punishment for crimes he hasn’t committed, and that seems wrong.

Nonetheless, Congress and state legislatures have long treated incapacitation as a legitimate goal of sentencing. For example, the primary federal statute setting forth the “factors to be considered in imposing a sentence” (18 U.S.C. sec. 3553, enacted in 1984) provides, among other things, that “the court, in determining the particular sentence to be imposed, shall consider…the need for the sentence imposed…to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.”

How is the likelihood of “further crimes of the defendant” to be determined?

(4) THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY. Mohammad Reza Kamali delves into “The Tale of the annotated map and Tolkien’s hidden riddles – Part Four”.

To find out whether Europe or anywhere else was really the source of inspiration for Tolkien’s work, we need to have documented evidence. The most famous evidence from Tolkien’s writings about comparing our earth to Middle-earth is his famous Letter 294:

The action of the story takes place in the North-west of ‘Middle-earth’, equivalent in latitude to coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean… If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy.

But as we saw in detail in part 1 of this article series, Tolkien’s note on the annotated map that was discovered fairly recently helps us understand he is not saying in Letter 294 that he was inspired by Europe itself in creating his Middle-earth map, but that he was using well-known European locations to illustrate the position and dimensions of Middle-earth.

We have talked many times about Letter 294 in my article series because has long been considered the greatest enemy of my research, which considers Tolkienian influences further east than Europe. Because of this letter, for years my research has been quickly dismissed almost as a joke, and few took it seriously. But when the annotated map notes were found, the situation suddenly changed. Let’s look at the situation afresh….

(5) LONE STARS. In the Washington Post, Matt Hurwitz has a preview of Solos, a near-future original anthology series on Amazon Prime which has one performer (including Anthony Mackie and Dame Helen Mirren) in every episode. “In ‘Solos,’ Helen Mirren, Anthony Mackie and Constance Wu are part of an impressive cast. Here’s why it needed ‘true masters of the craft.’”

“My dad always used to say, ‘If you talk to yourself, that’s fine, but if you answer yourself, it’s a problem,’?” recalls actor Anthony Mackie. In Amazon Prime’s “Solos,” however, he kind of does just that.

In fact, most of his esteemed colleagues — including Oscar winners Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Anne Hathaway, along with Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, Nicole Beharie and Uzo Aduba — do as well. Each of the show’s seven episodesfeatures, with slight exception, a single actor. Going it alone.

….As a sci-fi fan, Weil gave each “Solos” tale a futuristic bent. “Just a few minutes in the future, though. Sometimes we need a little bit of distance to appreciate the experiences and emotions we’re feeling today,” he says. “What if there was an A.I. that could replace your loved one who passes away? What if, in the future, there was a fertility drug that could ensure 100 percent success? What if, in the future, we had smart homes that were a participant in our own lives?”

The concept gave him and his co-writers a chance to take some of those occasional character ideas that don’t always have a place and give them their day. “All writers have ideas we scribble on the back of a bar napkin, or that we log in on our computer at 2 a.m. and don’t know how they’re going to fit in something we’re working on,” he says. “This was a moment to pluck those characters from obscurity and give them life, a moment onstage.”…

Vogue also profiles Helen Mirren and her character’s Dior wardrobe.

(6) STOKER CEREMONY. You can hear the deeply touching speeches and acceptance remarks while viewing yesterday’s online 2020 Bram Stoker Awards® Ceremony at YouTube.

(7) GET YOUR CARD PUNCHED. Scott Edelman followed last night’s ceremony with an induction of his own.

Another Bram Stoker awards ceremony means — there are new winners — but also new losers. Some of them who like me are in the Never Winner category said they’re looking forward to having me give a new punch to their “It is an honor to be nominated” cards when we meet next year in Denver. But if there are any *new* Never Winner losers out there who’d like this Susan Lucci of the HWA to mail you one — just ask!

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 22, 1957 — On this day in 1957, Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth.  Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party.  Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more.  The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley.  Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins.  A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors. Outside our field, All AcesThe Boy Scout HandbookCluesDime SportsFamily CircleLibertyThe ShadowWestern Storyoilswatercolors.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1921 — James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in FlightA Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek pieces of fiction though he certainly pumped them out with nearly ninety all told if I’m reading ISFDB right. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name (Arthur Merlyn). (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora.  Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him.  Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat.  I was like that in law school.  His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us.  And OGH should know; he too served as LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) Secretary.  Luckily PC left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum.  City College of New York with honors.  Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number.  Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio.  Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1941 – Brenda Seabrooke, age 80.  Six novels for us.  “Believably weaves the supernatural elements into the story,” said one reviewer.  Here is the Dutch edition of The Vampire in My Bathtub.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1967 — Sean Williams, 54. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst, age 47.  A score of fantasies.  Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie.  About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1979 — Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1986 — Ryan Coogler, 35, Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also was Director for as he will be for Black Panther 2. Producer, Space Jam 2 (pre-production) producer of the forthcoming Wankanda series on Disney+. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy makes a cartoon from an idea that goes back to the early days of television.

(11) THIS IS NOT THE BBC. Get a few more giggles from the pages of fandom’s antiquity while you listen to this recording of the broadcast spoof “1960 TAFF RACE: ELECTION NIGHT” at Rob Hansen’s THEN site.

Relive the excitement of the 1960 election courtesy of the Liverpool group as results for candidates Mal Ashworth, Eric Bentcliffe, and Sandy Sanderson pour in from across the country.

**********

Script by John Roles and Stan Nuttall.

Cast: Marjorie Dendon, Eddie Jones, Pat Milnes (formerly Doolan), Stan, Norman and Ina Shorrock, Norman Weedall, John Roles and Stan Nuttall.

(12) FASHION STATEMENT. In case you ever wondered, here are “All of Batgirl’s Costumes, Ranked” by Nerdist’s Eric Diaz.

Batgirl is finally getting her own feature film, coming to us from the Bad Boys for Life directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Barbara Gordon is one of DC Comics’ most famous heroes, and it’s about time she got her due. But just which costume is the heroine going to use when protecting Gotham City on screen?

Since 1967, Batgirl has worn several variations of her world-famous costume. Both in the comic book pages, and in other media. We’re sure her live-action suit will take inspiration from her entire wardrobe spanning the last five decades. And we’re here to rank them all, from least favorite to greatest…

In last place –

11. DC Super Hero Girls (2015)

The DC Super Hero Girls cartoon and toyline came out in 2015 and successfully sold the concept of DC heroines to young girls. All of their costumes were reinvented. Some more successfully than others. In the initial concept, Batgirl loses her famous cowl and cape, and replaces them with a hoodie and mini bat wings. It’s totally cute, but loses too many essential elements of the original costume’s silhouette. So for that reason, it comes in last.

(13) AUCTION SURPRISE. “Handwritten example of famous Einstein equation fetches $1.2 million” reports the Los Angeles Times.

A letter from Albert Einstein in which he writes out his famous E = mc2 equation has sold at auction for more than $1.2 million, about three times more than it was expected to get, Boston-based RR Auction said Friday.

Archivists at the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say there are only three other known examples of Einstein writing the world-changing equation in his own hand.

This fourth example, the only one in a private collection, became public only recently, according to RR Auction, which had expected it to sell for about $400,000.

“It’s an important letter from both a holographic and a physics point of view,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction, calling the equation the most famous in the world.

The equation — energy equals mass times the speed of light squared — changed physics by demonstrating that time was not absolute and that mass and energy were equivalent.

The one-page letter, written in German to Polish American physicist Ludwik Silberstein, is dated Oct. 26, 1946. Silberstein was a well-known critic and challenger to some of Einstein’s theories.

“Your question can be answered from the E = mc2 formula, without any erudition,” Einstein wrote in the letter on Princeton University letterhead, according to a translation provided by RR Auction.

(14) SECRET INGREDIENTS? “$100 Disneyland sandwich ranks as one of the world’s most expensive” – the Orange County Register may let you read the story if you do it very fast before the paywall crashes down. Maybe it’s a test of your superhero qualifications to eat this sandwich. (Even then, you’ll need Tony Stark to float you a loan.)

The new $99.99 Quantum-sized Pym-ini Sandwich coming to the Pym Test Kitchen when Avengers Campus debuts June 4 at Disney California Adventure ranks among the world’s most expensive sandwiches.

What’s in the sandwich? For that price, it better come with super powers and side of immortality.

(15) BOOK LOVE. Lela E. Buis does a “Review of ‘Little Free Library’ by Naomi Kritzer”, a 2021 Hugo finalist.  

…So, this is absorbing and really entertaining. Most of the story is made up of Meigan’s loving preparation and stocking of the library (attractive for book lovers), and the increasingly strange results as her books disappear and the odd gifts and correspondence begin to appear in their place….

(16) VIRGIN TEST FLIGHT. “Virgin Galactic rocket ship ascends from New Mexico” – a local CBS affiliate has the story.

Virgin Galactic on Saturday made its first rocket-powered flight from New Mexico to the fringe of space in a manned shuttle, as the company forges toward offering tourist flights to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

High above the desert in a cloudless sky, the VSS Unity ignited its rocket to hurtle the ship and two pilots toward space. A live feed by NASASpaceFlight.com showed the ship accelerating upward and confirmed a landing later via radar.

Virgin Galactic announced that its VSS Unity shuttle accelerated to three times the speed of sound and reached an altitude of just over 55 miles (89 kilometers) above sea level before making its gliding return through the atmosphere.

… Virgin Galactic has reached space twice before. The first time was from California in December 2018.

The flights are designed to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) as the rocket motor is turned off and the crew prepares to reenter the atmosphere and glide to a landing.

As part of the return trip, a feathering system slows and stabilizes the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere.

New Mexico taxpayers have invested over $200 million in the Spaceport America hangar and launch facility, near Truth or Consequences, after Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, pitched the plan for the facility, with Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant.

(17) DON’T GET LOST. “Europe plans sat-nav and telecoms network at the Moon”BBC has the plan.

The European Space Agency is proposing a precise navigation system at the Moon, much like the sat-nav technology we have here on Earth.

It would enable spacecraft and astronauts to know exactly where they are when moving around the lunar body and to land with precision.

The initiative, known as Moonlight, would also incorporate a telecommunications function.

A large flotilla of lunar missions will be launched this decade.

Chief among them will be the US space agency-led successor to Apollo. Called Project Artemis, this will put crews on the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Netflix’s anime division dropped a trailer for Trese, based on an acclaimed Flilipino comic series.

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jeffrey Jones with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/20 For He To-Day That Scrolls His Pixel With Me, Shall Be My Sibling; Be He Ne’er So File

(1) INSIDE STORY. In “Why I Write”: Samuel R. Delany scrolls through the reasons. This conversation appears in the Winter 2020 print issue of The Yale Review.

… I remember sitting on the steps of the embalming room at the back of the chapel in my father’s Harlem funeral parlor, watching Freddy, my father’s embalmer, working on the corpse of a tan woman with reddish hair stretched on her back on the white enamel surgical table with its drain and clamps…

“How old is she?” I asked.

“Twenty-­five,” Freddy told me, at work in his rubber gloves with the bottles of pink embalming fluid.

“What did she die from?” I asked.

Freddy picked up the tag on the woman’s wrist. “Sugar diabetes is what it says here.”

“Does everybody have to die?” I asked.

“Eventually.” Freddy smiled. “But you won’t have to worry about that for a long time…”

“But I will have to die, won’t I?”

Freddy laughed. “Not for a long, long time…”

I think his firmness was supposed to be reassuring, but suddenly I felt a dizzying chill. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I stood up and said softly, “I’m going upstairs.” Halfway through the funeral chapel, I began to move quickly, and at the stairwell up to the first floor where we lived, I started running. My mother was in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor. “I’m gonna die!” I burst in, screaming, and threw myself into her arms. “I’m gonna die, Mommy! I’m gonna die!” I think she was bewildered.

“You’re not gonna die,” she said.

“No! No! Not now. But I’m gonna die…!”

She pooh-­poohed my terror, and for almost forty minutes while I screamed and thrashed and hugged her and sobbed, she tried to find out what was wrong. She couldn’t quite believe that, really, this was all it was. I had seen dozens of corpses before, but it never occurred to me to tell her that it was the reality of a dead body that had initiated my panic….

(2) LODESTAR 2020. Naomi Kritzer tweeted a photo of her Lodestar Award trophy.

(3) A SAUCER WITHOUT CREAM. Timothy the Talking Cat says what needs to be said – then, characteristically, keeps on talking: “Tim’s Hot Take: Discworld is Terrible” at Camestros Felapton.

Good evening everybody, it is I, your favourite feline provocateur, raconteur and secateur aka Timothy the Talking Cat. In every community there must be somebody who is brave enough, far-sighted enough and clever enough to speak to mindless herds and lay down the cold, hard truth about their clumsy sheep-like opinions…

(4) SOUND ADVICE. The creation of the Mexican Gothic audiobook is discussed in the AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mic” podcast: “In Conversation with Narrator Frankie Corzo”. There’s also a partial transcript:

Jo Reed: I’m curious, and we can use MEXICAN GOTHIC as an example, because there’s quite a range of characters, I’m curious about what’s your process for determining the voice for any given character?

Frankie Corzo: You know, I think, very early on when I started doing audiobooks, I learned that there were the kind of giants among us who have a preternatural ability, supernatural ability, at being able to make these really distinct, crazy character voices, and I was like, “Okay.  If I go that way, it’s going to feel like a caricature,” and I never wanted anything, even when I do a children’s book, I don’t want it to feel performative. As much as it is a performance, you want it to feel as grounded and as relatable and as in the skin of these people as possible, so with every character, I always go from the entryway of their characteristics.  How are they described as how they carry themselves? 

You know, once we get past accents, once we get past anything that is really concrete that the author has informed us about, what are the characters saying about them, and what do they say about themselves, and how do they carry themselves in the world, and how does that affect their voice? I think going that route for me personally allows me more to play with when we’re in different acts of the book, when we’re in different places in their journey. You know, especially with a younger protagonist, or a lot of the books that I’ve gotten to do this year, like Natalia Sylvester’s RUNNING, our protagonist begins not really sure of her voice yet and figuring out all of these things, and at the end she’s like this revolutionary, and how does that affect your voice? So I always try to go in from the route of character as far as personality and physicality more than I go from a place of purely what they would sound like.

(5) KIND OF LIKE THE OPENING CHALLENGE OF BEAT BOBBY FLAY. What do you do with that odd ingredient? Sarah Gailey assembles the recipes they published earlier in the year to help readers cope with pandemic-limited cupboards: “Year In Review: Stone Soup” at Here’s the Thing.

…In the end, from March all the way through July, I wrote thirty-seven recipes. Some of them are kind of bonkers, because they’re designed to use a particular tricky ingredient. Some of them are pretty straightforward. All of them were written with the express intention of helping people weather a really fucked-up time in their lives, and for that, I’m proud of them.

Here’s the full list:

#1 – Comfort Broccoli
Recipe: Flavorful Roasted Broccoli
What do you do with the vegetables you’d normally cook as a Virtuous Side Dish, when all you want to eat is a really shitty burger? I don’t care how much you love fresh produce: when the thing you want is some garbage-food that’s designed in a lab to please your monkey-brain, broccoli feels like a thing to be endured. That ends today.

(6) SCALING DOWN. Former HWA President Lisa Morton joins in a discussion about Close Encounters Of The Third Kind miniature effects.

David Jones, Greg Jein, Mark Stetson, and Lisa Morton talk about the miniatures made for the original film, and the special edition. Extended segment from my Sense of Scale documentary.

From the transcript:

And you know there was the usual uh dropping stuff on the floor and things breaking little small pieces and and it was always at the most crucial time. I remember requesting that they put carpeting on the floor in our model shop because I think I was prone to dropping stuff a lot

(7) BULLOCH OBIT. “Jeremy Bulloch Dead: Boba Fett Actor in Star Wars Dies at 75”Variety profiled him.

Jeremy Bulloch, the British actor who starred as bounty hunter Boba Fett in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died on Thursday in London of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his representatives. He was 75.

… Bulloch took on the role of Boba Fett in 1978 while he was starring in the television comedy series “Agony.” He had previously starred in the BBC soap opera “The Newcomers.” Other credits included the James Bond movie “Octopussy” and the TV series “Doctor Who” and “Robin of Sherwood.” He also had a cameo in 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

In Season 3 Episode 4 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale a tribute is given to Ray Bradbury — at around 41 minutes one of the Handmaids exits a house with the address of 451.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

December 17 – Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers Day on December 17 recognizes the first time Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew their heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled aircraft in 1903.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1999 — In 1999, the very first Endeavour Award for Distinguished Novel or Collection would go to Greg Bear for Dinosaur Summer. The Award is given annually at OryCon for a work written by a Northwest author or authors published in the previous year. Runner-ups that year were John Varley’s The Golden Globe, Kate Wilhelm‘s The Good Children, Steve Barnes’ Iron Shadows and Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. He would win the same Award the next year with Darwin’s Radio. Oddly enough that would be the last Endeavour Award that he would win. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 17, 1702 – Marie-Madeleine de Lubert.  Author of folk tales, or perhaps we should say stories in the style of folk tales, much admired; many fantastic.  Corresponded with Voltaire.  A novella and three shorter stories in Princess Camion (2018, i.e. in English); Cornichon et Toupette tr. as “A Fairy’s Blunder” in The Grey Fairy Book.  (Died 1785) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1873 – Ford Madox Ford.  Among much else, a children’s fantasy The Brown Owl, science fiction co-authored with Joseph Conrad The Inheritors, five more novels and three shorter stories for us.  Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, which FMF said was “what would really happen”, has been called a reverse of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee – but not by me.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1884 – Alison Uttley, D.Litt.  More than a hundred books.  For us A Traveller in Time, later made a BBC TV series; a score of tales collected in Moonshine and Madness; four more magical collections; stories about a fox (half a dozen), a mouse (a dozen), rabbits (twoscore), a pig (a dozen; the pig is named Sam).  Honorary Doctor of Letters from Univ. Manchester.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, she as Barbara Wright was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I’d loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon except one from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 74. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film.  Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including LeviathanShark AttackHood of HorrorDragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1950 – J.R. “Mad Dog” Madden, age 70.  Chemical engineer and Red Cross volunteer.  Hosted Swampcon II at his house.  Letters, con reports in SF ChronicleSF Review, and even File 770 which, who knows, might appear on paper again.  Fan Guest of Honor at Coastcon ’81 and IX, DeepSouthCon 35.  Rebel Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 – Rian Johnson, age 47.  Wrote and directed Looper and The Last Jedi.  “A Paragraph on PKD” in Journey Planet.  Introduction to The Time Traveller’s Almanac.  Plays banjo.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 47. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 45. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. (It has a superb seventy rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is six films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy which I’ve no interest in seeing.(CE)
  • Born December 17, 1985 – Greg James, age 35.  With Chris Smith, three Kid Normal novels and a shorter story; a short story in The Time Collection.  Radio, television; presented I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse.  Cricket and rugby fan.  Powerful charity fund-raiser cycling, climbing mountains, lip-synching “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Duplex shows why bean-counters and Seuss don’t mix.

(13) NEXT BATMAN. “DC Comics Sets The Stage For The First Black Batman” reports Black Information Network.

DC Comics set the stage for a groundbreaking development in their iconic Batman series. This week, the character of Tim “Jace” Fox took on the role of Batman. By doing so, he becomes the first Black character to hold the title.

“Even before the announcement of DC Future State and Future State: The Next Batman by John RidleyNick Derington and Laura Braga, the news that a person of color could be the next to don the cape and cowl as Gotham City’s protector sent tongues wagging inside and outside the comic book community about who it could possibly be,” DC Comics wrote.

Gizmodo has more: “DC Comics Reveals New, Black Batman Tim Fox for Future State”

After teasing that the upcoming Future State event would bring some bold, sweeping changes to a new generation of its legacy heroes, DC has confirmed the identity of the event’s Batman: Tim Fox, the estranged son of longtime Batman ally Lucius Fox, and brother of Batwing himself, Luke.

Tim has had a long, if relatively quiet, history out of the cowl in DC’s Batfamily books, first appearing back in 1979 during a terse dinnertable discussion between him and Lucius over his college grades in the pages of Batman #313. More recently, talk of what he’s been up to has been woven in and out of the Joker War arc in the pages of the Batman ongoing. Meanwhile, the Fox family had been brought “in-house” to help Bruce Wayne through FoxTech—with Lucius deciding that now is the time to attempt to reconnect with his distant son.

(14) SOMETIMES IN GOOD TASTE. But often not. Jennifer Szalai reviews Reid Mitenbuler’s Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation for the New York Times: “‘Fantasia,’ ‘Snow White,’ Betty Boop, Popeye and the First Golden Age of Animation”.

By the time Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” premiered at Manhattan’s Broadway Theater on Nov. 13, 1940, what had started out as an animated short to revive Mickey Mouse’s flagging career had become a feature-length extravaganza. Images in the movie channeled evolutionary theory and abstract art, depicting roaring dinosaurs, vibrating shapes and dancing brooms. Everything was set to classical music and blasted over the new Fantasound system, whose volume could apparently reach 165 decibels — enough, The New Yorker reported at the time, to “kill many elderly members of the audience, knock the others cold and deafen the survivors for life.” The magazine continued: “Don’t worry about it, though. You’re safe with Walt Disney.”

The combination perfectly encapsulated what Disney Studios was becoming: a determined wielder of awesome power, leavened by Disney’s assurances that he was a really nice guy. (This happened to mirror the self-image of the country at large, which assiduously coupled its impending dominance on the world stage with repeated avowals of benign intentions.) According to “Wild Minds,” Reid Mitenbuler’s lively history of the first half-century of animation, “Fantasia” marked a turning point in American culture, an attempt to reconcile the refinement of artistic ambition with the demands of mass consumption. To work on the project, Disney had tapped the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was so proudly pretentious that the studio’s cartoonists wanted to call the movie “Highbrowski by Stokowski.”….

(15) REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS RIGHT NOW. “Stephen Colbert Answers a Series of Revealing Questions (While Drinking Whiskey)” to answer Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. (Plenty of genre references in his answers to #27 and #28.)

Through its origins as a parlor game made popular by Marcel Proust, the 35 questions are designed to reveal the nature of Stephen’s true self. What is his idea of perfect happiness? Who are his favorite writers? What is his biggest regret?

(16) VANISHED WORLD. In his “Graphic Content” column “Into the Crime-Riddled 1980’s Los Angeles of Ethan Reckless” on CrimeReads, Alex Segura interviews Ed Brubaker about his new graphic novel Reckless illustrated by Sean Phillips and “set in the wild world of 1980s Los Angeles.”

[Brubaker] .. The crazy part was realizing that because we had so much lead time, we could put out three of these books in one year. I was reading about how the first three Travis McGee books came out just a few months apart from each other, and I thought… we could do that. Since we’re switching away from monthly comics to graphic novels, lets try and keep them on a tight schedule, so our readers don’t have to wait a year for the next one. So far we’re on track and it hasn’t killed us, but we’re both back in lockdown where we live, so that’s been good for productivity, I guess.

(17) FASTING. “Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review” at Mind Matters.

Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars:

(18) JEOPARDY! Say, those Jeopardy! sff questions are getting tougher! Here’s what Andrew Porter witnessed in tonight’s episode.

Category: First Words

Answer: “A screaming comes across the sky”, begins this 1973 Thomas Pynchon novel.

Wrong question: What is “The Crying of Lot 49”?

Correct question: What is “Gravity’s Rainbow”?

(19) CHARTING THE MUPPETS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 12 Financial Times, Helen Brown discusses the Muppets song “Mah-Na Mah-Na,” which was originally written by “prolific Tuscan jazz composer Piero Umiliani” for “an Italian soft-core exploitation film, Sweden:  Heaven And Hell.”

The puppets first performed the song on the show (Sesame Street) on November 27, 1969, sung by two wool-plated Muppets (voiced by Frank Oz and Loretta Long) and beatnik character Bip Biuppadotta, voiced by (Jim) Henson himself.  The loveable comedy of the scat lay in the way Henson often began his scats with enthusiasm, only to lose his thread.  A follow-up performance on the primetime -The Ed Sullivan Show- took it mainstream.  The female back-up singers were reimagined  as fluorescent twin monsters with massive  eyelashes called Snowths:  a combination of snout and mouth.  The beatnik’s scat odysseys grew increasingly deranged until he literally broke the fourth wall by running into the camera and smashing it…

…The Snowths and Bip Bippadotta performed the song in a 1976 episode of -The Muppet Show-, intoducing it to a new audience.  In 1977, it was released as a single (“Mahna Mahna”) which peaked at number eight in the UK charts, while -The Muppet Show- soundtrack album on which it appeared knocked The Beatles’s -Live At Hollywood Bowl- from the top of the charts.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/20 Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Time Enough For Love Potions Numbers 7, 8 And 9

(1) ON YOUR MARX. If this Scroll is posted in time, you can make it to Mark Evanier’s livestream Newsfromme.tv Conversations with Steve Stoliar, starting tonight at 7 p.m. Pacific:

In addition to being a comedy writer and voice actor, Steve Stoliar had the unique experience of being Groucho Marx’s personal assistant/secretary during the last years of that great comedian’s life. Mark Evanier talks with him about Groucho, the controversial Erin Fleming and all things Marxian except Karl.

(2) ROWLING’S NEXT. Mackenzie Nichols, in the Variety story, “J.K. Rowling Announces New Children’s Book ‘The Ickabog’” says that Rowling has announced the publication of The Ickabog, which is not part of the Harry Potter universe but is meant for 7-9 olds.  She intends to post a chapter every day at theickabog.com until July 10 and promises that profits from the book will aid COVID-19 relief.

Unlike her spinoff stories “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” or “Quidditch Through the Ages,” “The Ickabog” has no relation to the “Harry Potter” series. And while plot details about “The Ickabog” were scarce, the author said its thematic elements are timeless.

“‘The Ickabog’ is a story about truth and the abuse of power,” Rowling said. “To forestall one obvious question: the idea came to me well over a decade ago, so it isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.”

At The Ickabog website she says —  

I had the idea for The Ickabog a long time ago and read it to my two younger children chapter by chapter each night while I was working on it. However, when the time came to publish it, I decided to put out a book for adults instead, which is how The Ickabog ended up in the attic. I became busy with other things, and even though I loved the story, over the years I came to think of it as something that was just for my own children.

Then this lockdown happened. It’s been very hard on children, in particular, so I brought The Ickabog down from the attic, read it for the first time in years, rewrote bits of it and then read it to my children again. They told me to put back in some bits they’d liked when they were little, and here we are!

Everyone will be invited to draw for the story, too: The Ickabog Illustration Competition.

The most exciting part, for me, at least, is that I’d like you to illustrate The Ickabog for me. Every day, I’ll be making suggestions for what you might like to draw. You can enter the official competition being run by my publishers, for the chance to have your artwork included in a printed version of the book due out later this year. I’ll be giving suggestions as to what to draw as we go along, but you should let your imagination run wild.

(3) PRIZEWINNER. Naomi Kritzer got a fine write-up in the hometown Pioneer Press: “St. Paul author stunned by success of genre-jumping “CatNet””.

Naomi Kritzer was 4 when she discovered science fiction through the first “Star Wars” film.

“I was grabbed by John Williams’ music, the lightsabers, the magic of The Force. It all appealed to me and sold me on science fiction,” Kritzer recalls.

Now, 43 years later, The Force is with this St. Paul author. Her genre-jumping young adult novel “Catfishing on CatNet, ” about teenagers who befriend a sentient artificial intelligence who lives in the internet, is scooping up major honors. It’s based on her award-winning, 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please.”

Last month Kritzer collected two prestigious awards in three days. She won a Minnesota Book Award on April 28, and on April 30 she won a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. In early May her book was a Silver Winner in the Nautilus Book Awards, which focus on books striving to make a better world….

(4) IRRESISTIBLE ALICE BOOK. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While I’m not a compleatist Carroll/Alice collector, seeing this in the Bud’s Art Books mailer I got today caught my eye.

(Yes, I know there’s a Carroll society. I’m about to join. And I’ll write an item RSN/PDQ, including a nod to an SFnal connection. But this is semi-news.)

I noticed in the new Bud’s Art Books (although I still think of them as Bud Plant) mini-catalog that came in today’s (snail) mail that there’s a new (not yet out) book — here’s info.

“Lewis Carroll’s Alice was first published in 1865 and has never been out of print, translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal, for both adults and children? This book explores the global impact of Alice in art, design, and performance from the 19th century to today. Starting with the Victorian literary and social context in which this story was created, it shows the ways it’s been reimagined and reinterpreted by each new generation, from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s 2010 interpretation.”

Bud’s listing says $50 (plus shipping), “Due July” but when I placed my order (after hesitating a modest 20 seconds), it said “This product is not available in the requested quantity. 1 of the items will be backordered.”

I included a note in my order asking whether that reflected it being not out yet, or whether they already had more orders than they anticipated copies to fulfill existing orders.

Amazon also has it listed $45.82, Sept 15. Here’s the info text from Amazon:

“Explore the phenomenon of Alice in Wonderland, which has captivated readers from Walt Disney to Annie Leibovitz for over 150 years.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a cultural phenomenon. First published in 1865, it has never been out of print and has been translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal for both adults and children?

This book explores the global impact of Alice in Wonderland across art, design and performance from the nineteenth century to today. It shows how Alice has been re-imagined and reinterpreted by each new generation: from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s latest interpretation.

This beautiful, playful publication also includes specially commissioned interactive illustrations by award-winning artist Kristjana S. Williams, as well as quotes from an array of cultural creators from Stephen Fry to Tim Walker, Ralph Steadman to Little Simz about the profound influence of Alice on their work.”

Whether this book is basically redundant to my modest collection of Aliceiana, I’ll find out.

(5) ALASKAN CONFIDENTIAL. In “Noir Fiction: When The Real Is Too Raw” on CrimeReads, Laird Barron, who writes horror and crime fiction, discusses the colorful people who visited his parents when he lived in Alaska and how he used these people as materials for his crime novels.

…A colorful ex-con named Tommy operated within those precincts. Tommy did time at the Goose Creek Penitentiary; warrants dogged him. He allegedly peddled coke for some bigger fish in Anchorage. Tommy drove a wired-together Datsun, or a motorcycle for the three months a man could do so without freezing his family jewels off. His favorite pastime included getting drunk at the lodge and harassing townies who alighted for weekend flings. He hated “the man.” To demonstrate his disdain, he’d snip pocket change in half with pliers….

(6) GET THE LIST. Andrew Liptak’s latest Reading List features an “Interview with Marko Kloos”.

Did you find taking that break from Frontlines beneficial? What did you take from that break that you were able to apply to the series?

It was immensely beneficial, even if I did get some flak from a few readers for daring to start another series when they were waiting for more Frontlines. But I really needed a bit of mental distance from that universe to come up with more stories worth telling. As long as it takes a few days to read what takes a few months to write, readers will want more books as quickly as possible.

(7) ART CRITICS STAND BY. Mark Lawrence (per his tradition) has followed the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off book competition by announckng the “SPFBO 6 Cover Contest”. The finalists have been picked by the bloggers. Not all the entries are in yet. When they are, the public will be invited to vote on the winner. Says Lawrence:

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are – though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

(8) GOLDEN AGE SF ARTIST. Doug Ellis offers a catalog of art from the estate of artist Hubert Rogers, items now available for sale.

When John W. Campbell, the legendary editor of Astounding Science Fiction, looked for an artist to give expression to the groundbreaking fiction he was running during what is now known as science fiction’s Golden Age, he selected veteran pulp illustrator Hubert Rogers. For nearly 15 years (with a break during the war years, when he returned to his native Canada and contributed art for the war effort), Rogers was Astounding’s primary cover artist and a prolific interior artist, contributing distinctive art imbued with a touch of class, distinguishing Astounding from its fellow pulp competitors.

Unlike many science fiction artists, Rogers received much of his original art back from the publisher. This has been held by the Rogers family for the past 80 years, with only occasional pieces being offered in the market. Rogers’ daughter, Liz, has now decided to make available to collectors nearly all of the remaining art in their collection, which is listed in this catalog. This is truly a unique opportunity to acquire vintage science fiction art from the estate of the artist.

But Rogers didn’t only create classic science fiction art. His pulp art also included covers for the hero pulps, and two of his covers for Street & Smith’s The Wizard (a companion title to Astounding) can be found here for sale as well.

  • The illustrated catalog can be found here.
  • And you can download high res images of all the art in a zip file here.
This example of Rogers’ art is a scan from the magazine cover — the original for sale is much more brightly colored.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 26, 1995 Johnny Mnemonic premiered. Based on the William Gibson short story of the same name, it was directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. It starred Keanu Reeves, Takeshi Kitan, Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Dolph Lundgren. Despite the story itself being well received and even being nominated for a Nebula Award, the response among critics to the film was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. It is available to watch here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 26, 1840 – Frederick Walker.  Painter, pen & ink illustrator, wood engraver, watercolors.  Renowned in his day.  Social Realist; see herehere.  Incorporated fantasy, see here (Spirit Painting), here.  (Died 1875) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert Chambers. His most-remembered work was The King in Yellow short stories. Though he would turn away from these supernatural tellings, Lovecraft’s included some of them in his Supernatural Horror in Literature critical study. Critics thought his work wasn’t as great as could have been. That said, Stross, Wagner, Carter and even Blish are said to have been influenced by him. (Died 1933.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1867 – André Devambez.  Painter, illustrator, engraver, printmaker.  Contributed to Le Figaro IllustréLe RireL’Illustration.  Look at The Only Bird that Flies Above the Cloudshere, factual but fantastic; imagine seeing it in 1910.  Here is an illustration for Noëlle Roger’s cataclysmic The New Deluge (1922).  Here is an oil Leprechauns in an Undergrowth.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1903 Harry Steeger. He co-founded Popular Publications in 1930, one of the major publishers of pulp magazines, with former classmate Harold S. Goldsmith. They published The Spider which he created, and with Horror Stories and Terror Tales, he started the “Shudder Pulp” genre. So lacking in taste were these pulps, even a jaded public eventually rejected them. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 – Joan Jefferson Farjeon.  Scenic designer, illustrated published versions of plays she’d done, also fairy tales.  See here (a frog footman), here (a tiger lily), here.  From a 1951 stage production, here is a moment in Beauty and the Beast.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. He’s best-known for Level 7. (Read the expanded 2004 edition as it has his SF framing narrative.) He is also the author of A Small Armageddon, and a nonfiction work, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring  role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the GoT audiobooks. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1925 – Howard DeVore.  Began collecting, 1936.  Michigan Science Fantasy Society, 1948 (Hal Shapiro said it was the Michigan Instigators of Science Fantasy for Intellectual Thinkers Society, i.e. MISFITS).  Leading dealer in SF books, paraphernalia; known as Big-Hearted Howard, a compliment-complaint-compliment; called himself “a huckster, 1st class”.  Active in Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; Neffy Award.  Also Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA), Spectator Am. Pr. Soc. (SAPS).  Said a Worldcon would be in Detroit over his dead body; was dragged across the stage; became Publicity head for Detention the 17th Worldcon.  With Donald Franson The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (through 3rd ed’n 1998).  Named Fan Guest of Honor for 64th Worldcon, but died before the con.  His beanie had a full-size airplane propeller.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1933 – Yôji Kondô.  Ph.D. in astrophysics. Aikido (7th degree black belt) and judo (6th degree). Senior positions at NASA, Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; two hundred scientific papers; for more on that work, see here.  SF as Eric Kotani; six novels, most with J.M. Roberts; two shorter stories; edited Requiem tribute to Heinlein; non-fiction Interstellar Travel & Multi-Generation Space Ships with F. Bruhweiler, J. Moore, C. Sheffield; essays, mostly co-authored, in SF Age and Analog.  Heinlein Award.  Writers of the Future judge.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1938 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya. Author (including plays and screenwriting), singer, painter, animator.  Russian Booker Prize, Pushkin Prize, World Fantasy Award.  Twenty short stories in our field, most recently in The Paris Review.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1954 – Lisbeth Zwerger.  Children’s book illustrator.  Hans Christian Andersen and Silver Brush awards; Grand Prize from German Academy for Children’s & Youth Literature.  Thirty books, most of them fantasy; see here (Swan Lake), here (the Mad Tea Party), here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM THE CIRCULAR FILE. Paul Levitz recalls the days when comics scripts were tossed in the trash after the project was over in “Artifacts”.

…Notwithstanding this, I saved a bunch of scripts from the trash for my own eduction. I’d pick out one each from the writers whose work I respected, or maybe a particularly interesting tale to study. I was limited to the scripts that passed through Joe Orlando’s editorial office–as his assistant I could take what I wanted of those, but it would have been de trop to raid Julie Schwartz’s garbage down the hall (assuming he hadn’t poured his yankee bean soup remains from lunch all over it, anyway). I learned what I could from them, then filed them away somewhere at home….

(13) THE BEER THAT MADE MFULA FAMOUS. “Under Pandemic Prohibition, South Africans Resort to Pineapples”Atlas Obscura has the story.

ON MARCH 15, THE DAY before South Africans were plunged into a lockdown which prohibited sales of alcohol, cigarettes, and takeout food, lines outside liquor stores spilled into the streets. One bottle store owner told me he did a month’s trade in a day.

Three weeks later, when President Cyril Ramaphosa made it clear the booze ban wouldn’t be lifted anytime soon, South Africans started to get desperate. Bottle store break-ins and drone-assisted drink deliveries made the news across the country. Then came the tenfold leap in pineapple sales: from 10,000 a day to nearly 100,000.

Thirsty South Africans have turned to making their own beer out of pineapples. In normal times, you can get sloshed on pineapple beer at the Big Pineapple, a 56-foot fiberglass construction in subtropical Bathurst. But these are not normal times. Luckily, pineapple beer—which is technically more of a wine or cider, as there’s no boiling involved—is easy to make, and can even be quite pleasant to drink.

(14) HELLO? ANYONE OUT THERE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Popular Mechanics takes a popsci look at a new analysis of the development intelligent life. “This Math Formula Has Determined the Odds of Aliens Existing” In a recent paper (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 May 2020), astronomer David Kipping uses Bayesian analysis to ponder the probabilities of intelligent life developing here or elsewhere. The paper’s statement of significance reads:

Does life’s early emergence mean that it would reappear quickly if we were to rerun Earth’s clock? If the timescale for intelligence evolution is very slow, then a quick start to life is actually necessary for our existence—and thus does not necessarily mean it is a generally quick process. Employing objective Bayesianism and a uniform-rate process assumption, we use just the chronology of life’s appearance in the fossil record, that of ourselves, and Earth’s habitability window to infer the true underlying rates accounting for this subtle selection effect. Our results find betting odds of >3:1 that abiogenesis is indeed a rapid process versus a slow and rare scenario, but 3:2 odds that intelligence may be rare.

Popular Mechanics sums up the paper with a single quote:

“Overall, our work supports an optimistic outlook for future searches for biosignatures,” the paper explains.

(15) ARM YOURSELVES. Daniel Dern quips, “This is the droid we’ve been looking for!” “Robotic Arm Wields UV Light Wand To Disinfect Public Spaces” in IEEE Spectrum.

Properly disinfecting public spaces can help stop the spread of coronavirus, but cleaning crews are often not properly trained how to do so. Also, if the workers don’t wear personal protective equipment, they are at risk for infection.

IEEE Fellow Satyandra K. Gupta is leading a research team at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Los Angeles that is building a robotic arm that uses a UV light sanitizer to clean contaminated areas.

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. ScreenRant reports that Big Finish has lined up two Doctors for this audio drama: “Doctor Who: David Tennant & Tom Baker Unite Against Daleks In New Story”.

David Tennant and Tom Baker are uniting to battle the Daleks in an upcoming Doctor Who audio-drama. The longest-running sci-fi TV series in the world, Doctor Who has become a cult classic. Regeneration is the secret to the show’s success. Doctor Who can reinvent itself periodically, recasting its star and allowing a new showrunner to take it in entirely new directions.

Every now and again, though, two or more incarnations of the Doctor come together in a fan-pleasing adventure in which they battle against iconic foes…. 

The plot is –

The Cathedral of Contemplation is an enigma, existing outside time. It turns through history, opening its doors across the universe to offer solace to those in need.

Occasionally, the Doctor drops in – when he’s avoiding his destiny, it’s an ideal place to get some perspective. Only, he’s already there several lives earlier, so when dimension barriers break down, his past and present collide.

And when the Daleks invade and commandeer the Cathedral, two Doctors must unite to stop them – or face extermination twice over!

(17) OTHER PEOPLE STARED, AS IF WE WERE BOTH QUITE INSANE. This is wild! The “augmented reality” bus stop window.

[Thanks to Mlex, Michael Toman, N., Andrew Porter, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Nina Shepardson, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the man who does for Scroll titles what Escher did for architecture, Daniel Dern.]