Pixel Scroll 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Fanac.org fanhistory Zooms are:

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

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

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

  • April 23 — Fandom From Both Sides

Joe Haldeman and Gay Haldeman

2pm EDT, 11am PDT, 7pm London – 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/19 Oh, This Is The Scroll, It’s A Beautiful Scroll, And We Call It Pixela Scrollte

(1) DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist David Thayer and his wife Diana had a close call last night but are unscathed themselves:

A tornado with winds of 165 m.p.h. cut a swath through Dallas just a mile south of our house yesterday evening after dark. A powerful gust snapped the trunk of our 70 ft mesquite halfway up and sent it crashing down into our front yard. The only property damage we sustained was to our yard light. Seeing all the destruction in the news this morning, we are thankful we came through relatively unscathed.

(2) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. Just in case the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs any defense against the negative opinions of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, a couple of well-known figures connected with the MCU have spoken up.

James Gunn:

Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful….

Natalie Portman:

I think there’s room for all types of cinema,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the 6th annual Los Angeles Dance Project Gala on Saturday at downtown Los Angeles’ Hauser & Wirth. “There’s not one way to make art.”

“I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life.”

(3) HOW EAGER ARE YOU? ESPN will be airing the final trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker tonight during Monday Night Football.

(4) NAVIGATING THE ROCKETS SAFELY HOME. In “What happened to the 1944 Retro Hugos?”, Nicholas Whyte asks fans to consider the burden of producing a whole run of trophies when it’s this hard to find homes for them after the ceremony. Of course, the job would have been a little easier if the nominees with accepters had won:

…I’m glad to say that we did have a few designated acceptors in the room on the night. Apart from those noted below, Betsy Wollheim was on hand in case her father Donald won (unfortunately he lost in all three categories where he was nominated); June and Naomi Rosenblum were there for their father-in-law/grandfather J. Michael Rosenblum; Stephanie Breijo was there for her great-grandfather Oscar J. Friend; and Harper Collins sent a rep for C.S. Lewis. So, for 66 finalists, we had acceptors on hand for 10. Future Worldcons might like to bear that in mind when planning whether or not to run Retro Hugo Awards.

This is what happened with the trophies, in increasing order of the difficulty we had in dealing with them….

(5) HOUSE CALL. Can it be that we are about to have a visit from the Doctor and his companion? (No, not that one.)

(6) TARDIGRADES LITIGATION RESUMES. Plagiarism Today’s Jonathan Bailey urges against a court appeal in “An Open Letter to Anas Abdin”

Three weeks ago, it seemed as if the Tardigrades lawsuit was over. Anas Abdin’s lawsuit was tossed decisively and at an early stage, Abdin himself said, “I respect the ruling and I expect everyone to do so,” and there seemed to be little interest in any kind of an appeal.

However, that respect for the decision did not last long. On Friday, Abdin announced that he was appealing the verdict and was launching a GoFundMe to finance the campaign. As of this writing, that campaign has raised more than $17,500 from more than 470 donors and is inching closer to its $20,000 goal….

(7) CONFACTS. Kees Van Toorn announced that all issues of ConFacts, the daily newsletter of ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon, have been uploaded on their archival website in flipbook format.

(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present David Mack and Max Gladstone on November 20,  2019.

David Mack is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. His most recent works are The Midnight Front and The Iron Codex, parts one and two of his Dark Arts trilogy from Tor Books. He currently works as a creative consultant on two upcoming Star Trek television series.

Max Gladstone is the author of Empress of Forever, the Hugo finalist Craft Sequence, and, with Amal El-Mohtar, This is How You Lose the Time War, in addition to his work with short and serial fiction, games, screenwriting, and comics. He has been a finalist for the Hugo, John W Campbell /Astounding, XYZZY, and Lambda Awards, and was once thrown from a horse in Mongolia.

The event starts at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York, NY.

(9) FANFICTION. Sff writer Sara L. Uckelman, Assistant Professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University, issued an invitation: “Anyone interested in the paper behind the talk, my paper ‘Fanfiction, Canon, and Possible Worlds’ can be downloaded here.”

…The study of fanfiction from a philosophical point of view raises a number of questions: What is fanfiction?  What distinguishes it from ordinary fiction? How can we make sense of what is going on when people create and interact with fanfiction?  In this paper, I consider two competing accounts of fanfiction—the derivative or dependent account and the constitutive account—and argue that these competing views parallel two competing ways in which a possible worlds account of fiction can be fleshed out, namely, Lewis’s modal realist account and Kripke’s stipulative view. I further argue that this parallel is not a mere parallel, but provides us with a test of adequacy for the possible worlds accounts: It is worthless to provide a philosophical account of the theoretical foundations of fiction if such an account doesn’t coordinate with the actual practice and production of fiction. 

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 21, 1977Damnation Alley premiered. Based somewhat on Zelazny’s novel, it starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 34%.  For now at least, it’s on YouTube here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence,  The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered  the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award. At last she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a SFWA Grandmaster, one of the few women writers so honored. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 74. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and in Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes! 
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the forthcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the Moon, The Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 45. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on Grimm but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz makes a nifty dinosaur pun.

(13) UNLIKELY BONANZA. Joseph Hurtgen studies the illustration of an economic system in a Hugo-winning novel: “Gateway – Frederik Pohl: A Critique of Capitalism”.

…Consider the name of the alien space station for which Pohl’s book gets its name: Gateway. In the same way that taking highly random and highly dangerous alien space flights is the gateway to potential wealth, the capitalist system is also the gateway to the extreme fortune of the limited few that have, through luck or pluck, benefited most from the system. But no billionaire earns their riches without exploiting populations. Behind every fortune are the underpaid, the underfed, the forgotten, and the have nothings. The capitalist system, most simply defined, is a system of using the work of others and the work of wealth itself, to gain more wealth. It doesn’t take too much mental work to see that people are a form of capital in the capitalist system. Indeed, within capitalism everything is a form of capital. The best capitalist is the individual that figures out how to make more out of what they have….

(14) MYLNE’S GENRE ART. Artist James Mylne has been in the news lately (see, for instance ITV: “Boris Johnson turns into The Joker in new artwork”) for a political commentary that leans heavily on a genre reference. Filers might, therefore, be interested to know that his work has sometimes borrowed from other genre sources also. Example below.

(15) SOLARIS ON STAGE. Those passing through London between now and November 2 can see the play Solaris (nearest tube/metro/underground is Hammersmith).

On a space station orbiting Solaris, three scientists have made contact with a new planet.

Sent from earth to investigate reports of abnormal activity on-board, Kris Kelvin arrives to find one crew member dead and two who are seeing things that cannot be explained.

When her dead lover appears to her, it seems she too has fallen victim to the mystery of this strange planet. Should she return to reality, or is this her chance to turn back time?

Have the crew been studying Solaris – or has it been studying them?

This psychological thriller asks who we are when we’re forced to confront our deepest fears.

(16) ATWOOD PROFILE. Behind a paywall in the October 12 Financial Times, Horatia Harrod has a lengthy interview with Margaret Atwood.

In Oryx and Crake, Atwood wrote about a world decimated by environmental catastrophe; her understanding of the fragility of the Earth and the rapaciousness of its human inhabitants came early.  “My father was already talking about this over the dinner table in 1955,” says Atwood, who has been committed to raising awareness of the climate crisis for decades (she promised her 2000 Booker Prize winnings to charities dedicated to endangered animals.  “There is so much data and evidence.  But people would rather adhere to a belief system that favours them. So, what view of the climate is going to make more money for me?”

Atwood’s mother, meanwhile, was a tomboy, whose favored pastimes were speedskating, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, not doing housework.  “I can’t think of much she was afraid of. This is a mother who chased a bear away with a broom, saying the following word:  ‘Scat!’” There were other tough female role models:”Inuit women, who have done some pretty spectacular things.  My aunt Ada, who I named a character in The Testaments after, was a hunting and fishing guide, and a crack shot with a .22.”

(17) PLANETARY ANTHOLOGIES MIGRATE. Superversive Press has dropped the Planetary Anthologies line says Declan Finn, whose contribution, Luna, is awaiting publication. (Indeed, a search on Amazon showed Superversive Press books as a whole are now only available from third-party vendors.) However, Finn says another publisher is stepping up.

The Planetary Anthology series is being discontinued.

In fact, even the five anthologies that have been published already have been discontinued. They will no longer be available for sale online from the publisher.

Which is odd for me. Especially after a year where the Area 51 anthology I was in this year was conceived of, edited, and released in 3 months from call for stories to publication.

So, yeah, the original publisher isn’t doing them anymore.

Finn says “the anthologies have all been picked up again by Tuscany Bay Books,” the imprint of Richard Paolinelli whose own unpublished Planetary Anthology, Pluto, will be next to appear. Contributors to these anthologies have included Jody Lyn Nye, Dawn Witzke, Lou Antonelli, Paolinelli, L Jagi Lamplighter, Hans G. Schantz, John C. Wright, Joshua M. Young and many others.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lego In Real Life TRILOGY” on YouTube, Brick Bros. Productions looks at what happens when common household objects turn into Legos.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (please roll him a meatball).]

Pixel Scroll 7/21/19 But He Can’t Be A Fan Because He Don’t Scroll The Same Pixel As Me

(1) CROWDSOURCED SUCCESSES. The appeal to help send Tiptree Fellow Vida Cruz to Dublin 2019, “Help Vida attend the 77th WorldCon in Dublin!”, has raised $1,230 at this writing, slightly more than its target figure.

Con or Bust so generously sent me funds to pay for accommodations and airfare–two large chunks of expenses that make me hopeful that I will be able to attend. In fact, I have already booked the tickets and my AirBnB stay. I need only save up for food, transportation, and other smaller travel expenses.

However, I hit several snags recently. Sudden health issues required medicines and physical therapy. As a freelancer, my biggest contract was recently ended, and so I have been searching for part-time gigs and full-time jobs to not only help me fund this trip and pay GoGetFunding, but to help pay for my daily and medical needs. Your contribution will greatly help toward lessening the amount I need.

And when Brandon O’Brien was trying to round up the last $700 he needed to get to Dublin, look what happened! Jeff VanderMeer put up 7 of the Sub Press Borne signed special editions for $100 each to the first 7 takers. And just like that, he was funded.

(2) IN TIMES TO COME. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Everything Marvel Has Planned for Phase 4:  Natalie Portman Returns As A New Thor, Mahershala Ali Will Be Blade, Angelina Jolie Trains to Be An Eternal, More” has the lineup for the next two years of movies and TV shows Marvel unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con.

Here’s who you won’t see as Phase 4 unfolds between May 2020 and November 2021: Spider-Man, Star-Lord and a new Iron Man. But you will meet what’s easily the most diverse superhero line-up in comic book movie history, including a master of kung fu and a group of eternals. You’ll also welcome back a strange sorcerer, a sharpshooting archer and a sword-swinging Valkyrie. Based on the crowd reaction, the most anticipated reunions are with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who will be returning as a thunder goddess, and that vampire hunter Blade, now played by two-time Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali.

(3) STAR DREAMING. Michael Benson’s New York Times opinion piece declares “Science Fiction Sent Man to the Moon”.

Most major achievements, be they personal or collective, arrive after rehearsals. Some unfold as flights of the imagination. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a great opportunity to examine how an entire branch of speculative fiction — novels, short stories and also feature films — lies behind the first human footprints on another world.

Works of fiction aren’t particularly known for having influenced historical events. Yet some foundational early rocket science, embedded deep within the developmental history of the Saturn 5 — the towering, five-stage rocket that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon 50 years ago this week — was paid for by the budget of the first science fiction film to envision just such a voyage in realistic terms.

Spaceflight as we know it today wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for three extraordinary figures: the borderline-crazy Russian spaceflight visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the hard-right nationalist German-Transylvanian rocketry pioneer Hermann Oberth and the idiosyncratic American rocketeer Robert Goddard. All devised their distinctive strains of rocket science in response to speculative novels, specifically the stories of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells — founders of a nascent genre later to be known as science fiction. Tsiolkovsky and Oberth also had important roles to play in early 20th century film projects depicting trips to the Moon.

… Of the three, only Tsiolkovsky actually wrote science fiction, which he used as a scratch pad for his revolutionary ideas. Living in near-poverty 100 miles southwest of Moscow, he also issued a stream of theoretical papers. In articles published in 1911-12, he came up with the great utopian credo of the space age: “Earth is the cradle of the mind, but humanity can’t live in its cradle forever.”

(4) THAT OTHER 50TH ANNIVERSARY. NPR profiled SDCC: “San Diego Comic-Con Is Turning 50: Here’s Its Origin Story”.

Fifty years ago, a bunch of comics fans in San Diego decided they wanted a way to meet other fans. They were mostly teenagers — okay, and two adults — but what they created became the pop culture phenomenon we know as San Diego Comic-Con.

Today, Roger Freedman is a physics professor, but in 1969 he was 17 years old — and he had no idea what he was about to get himself into. “I think it’s fair to say that if you had come to us and said how Comic-Con was going to evolve, we would have said A) what are you smoking, and B) where can we buy some?”

It all started with a guy named Shel Dorf — one of only two adults involved with that first convention. Dorf had some experience attending and planning conventions, and more importantly, he had connections. He knew Jack Kirby, the legendary co-creator of characters like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. And Kirby was willing to talk to a bunch of kids.

“I think we thought comic creators lived on some comic book Mount Olympus and couldn’t be approached by normal mortals like us,” says Mike Towry, who was 14 when he got involved with the convention committee. “And then to find out that we could actually meet them and talk to them one on one, and then have a convention where they would come and we would get to hang out with them was just kind of mind-blowing.”

(5) THE POWER OF TRANSLATION. Nathaniel Isaacson authors “Dispatches from the Future of a New China” for the LA Review of Books.

…It’s not hyperbole to say that without Ken Liu and his Herculean efforts in translation, Chinese SF would not exist — or at least it would not exist in its current state. When Ken Liu’s 2014 translation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (2008) won the Hugo Award in 2015, not only was it the first Chinese work awarded the honor, it was the first work in translation from any language to be lauded so. At some point in the past decade, Chinese SF went from “having a moment” to “enjoying its golden age,” and if 2015 wasn’t the exact moment that shift happened, it was certainly when the translation heard round the world was sounded. The Three-Body Problem’s award signaled the significance of Chinese SF to many Anglophone readers for the first time, but equally important was its reaffirmation of Chinese SF for local readers. Liu’s translation has in turn been the source for the novel’s translations into other languages, putting Liu at the vanguard of Chinese SF’s march toward the world. Within hours of the award announcement, domestic internet searches and sales of both the first book and of Liu Cixin’s whole 2008–2010 trilogy increased more than tenfold. Publishing houses and state institutions like the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China redoubled their efforts using SF as a vehicle for promoting China’s “peaceful rise,” and have identified SF as a key aspect of their propaganda and publicity campaigns.

In the same issue, Virginia L. Conn discusses Ken Liu’s earlier work: “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Finding and Losing Oneself in ‘Invisible Planets’”.

Just as, when pressed, Calvino’s Marco Polo claims that “[e]very time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice,” every story in Invisible Planets is saying something about the author’s own position — but that may or may not be the China we know (or think we know). Invisible Planets is not only the spiritual successor to Calvino’s Invisible Cities: it evinces the same magic without following the same formula, creating a panoply of possible worlds that may or may not be our worlds, and which may or may not be true.

(6) BRAZILIAN INVITATION. Canadian sff author Craig Russell received multiple items of good news recently.

First, “an incredibly kind” review of his novel Fragment written by Brazilian literature professor, Dr. Zélia M. Bora and published in The Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Ecocritics.

Some of the comments, translated from Portuguese:

  • “Craig Russell’s clever and captivating novel captures the sensitive reader’s attention from the beginning to the end of the narrative, in a balanced way between the real and the imagined.”
  • Fragment is undoubtedly one of the most important ecocritical fiction works written in this millennium.”

Russell has also received an invitation to speak about the novel at the 2020 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (Brazil) conference in the city of Curitiba, Brazil (pending travel grant funding approvals.)

(7) STALKER. BBC has more information about the tragedy — “Kyoto Animation fire: Suspect ‘spotted in area’ days before”.

The man suspected of carrying out a deadly arson attack on a Japanese animation studio may have visited the area before, local media reported.

Neighbours spotted a man resembling Shinji Aoba near the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) office before Thursday’s fire.

Mr Aoba, 41, who suffered severe burns, is in police custody and has been transferred to a hospital in Osaka.

On Saturday, a man died in hospital from his injuries, bringing the death toll from the attack to 34.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 21, 1911 Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed quaint. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 21, 1921 James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.)
  • Born July 21, 1939 John Woodvine, 80. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man
  • Born July 21, 1948 G. B. Trudeau, 71. Not precisely genre or even genre adjacent, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out.
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook, The Fisher King, Bicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 21, 1960 Lance Guest, 59. An American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in the “Fearful Symmetryepisode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode.
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 43. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood

(9) DRIVE AROUND THE BLOCK AGAIN. Referring to the second tweet below — You never know who you’re going to wish you’d run into at Comic-Con.

(10) YEAR 6 IS IN THE BANK. The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is clicking along, too. Year 6 is funded, and they’re in hot pursuit of their second stretch goal already, with 24 days remaining.

(11) ON THE HORIZON. The “Strange Horizons 2020” Kickstarter has also passed its $13,000 goal with 9 days to go in the campaign.  

(12) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Hugo Dramatic Presentation Long Form Finalists: “Hugo Reading (Viewing) 2019: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”. Coming in last place —

6) Avengers: Infinity War

This was the Big Superhero Showdown Marvel’s been aiming towards for ten years, but when I saw it, it felt a bit….underwhelming. With so many characters tossed into the mix and so much to do, there wasn’t time for any of them to make much of an impression, with the possible exception of Thor and Rocket. Also, if I’d been Chris Pratt, I would have been ticked off by the way my character was forced to wield the Starlord Stupid Stick, not once but twice. If Peter Quill had only killed Gamora in the beginning, like she asked him to do and he agreed, Thanos would never have found the Soul Stone. Of course, then we wouldn’t have had a $2 billion-plus grossing movie…..

(13) WIDENING GYRE OF HUGO COVERAGE. Steve J. Wright has completed his Campbell Best New Writer reviews + Pro Artist Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews.

(14) THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Gizmodo reveals the final selling price of those newsworthy tapes: “Former NASA Intern Scores $1.82 Million for Moon Landing Tapes He Bought at Auction”

Former NASA intern Gary George sold off three of the agency’s videotapes of the Apollo 11 moon landing for $1.82 million at auction house Sotheby’s on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the event, CNN reported.

Sotheby’s claims the videos have not been enhanced, restored, or otherwise altered and are the “earliest, sharpest, and most accurate surviving video images of man’s first steps on the moon,” CNN wrote. George paid $217.77 in 1976 (approximately $980 in today’s dollars) for 1,150 reels of NASA magnetic tape at a government auction while he was a Lamar University student interning at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

(15) CREDENZAS FOR CREDENTIALS. The Washington Post says these are the cat’s meow: “Custom wood kennels and memory foam beds: Welcome to the wild world of modern pet furniture”. (With photos.)

…For discerning pet owners who treat their cats and dogs like family — in some cases better than family — designers are creating stylish, even glamorous, furniture. Witness the new $5,000 Crystal Clear Lotus Cat Tower by the Refined Feline, with three platforms for lounging and a hideaway cubby at the bottom lined in white faux fur. (You can see one at the trendy Los Angeles cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.) And now you and Buddy can catnap or watch DOGTV on matching tufted Chesterfield-style Wayfair Archie & Oscar sofas; his is a $399 miniaturized version of yours in faux-leather scaled with similar nailhead trim and turned legs.

(16) IT WAS ALL A DREAM. Or maybe Archer was just pining for the fjords for three seasons. Anyway: “FX’s Archer renewed for surprise season 11, reveals major changes”. Entertainment Weekly interviews the showrunners.

FX’s Archer has some huge changes coming for season 11. The first piece of news is that there is going to be a season 11 (creator Adam Reed has previously suggested the show might end after the current 10th season). The second revelation is — as Archer producers just revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego on Friday — that Sterling Archer is going to wake from his three-year coma in the upcoming finale as the show plans a return to its spy agency roots next season. But there’s a lot more to it than just that.

EW exclusively spoke to executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis about their season 11 shakeup. We got the scoop on the show’s major story line for next season, how long Archer has been in a coma, the future involvement of Reed on the show, and more.

(17) NEW STONE AGE. NPR reports “Notre Dame Fire Revives Demand For Skilled Stone Carvers In France”

A little over three months after Paris’ Notre Dame caught fire, French officials say the cathedral is still in a precarious state and needs to be stabilized. Ultimately, they aim to restore the monument, a process that will take years.

When that work begins, there will be a new demand for experts who have the same skills required to build Notre Dame 900 years ago. In the workshops of the Hector Guimard high school, less than three miles from the cathedral, young stone carvers are training for that task.

In an airy and light-filled workshop in the north of Paris, a handful of students chip and chisel away at heavy slabs of stone. Each works on his or her own piece, but all are sculpting the same project: the base of a Corinthian column. The students are earning a professional degree to hew the stone pieces needed to maintain and restore France’s historical monuments.

…”In the beginning, it was my own parents who were surprised when I left my architecture studies to do this,” says Marjorie Lebegue. “But most everyone who finds out I’m studying to be a stone carver says, ‘Wow, what a beautiful profession.'”

Luc Leblond instructs the aspiring stone carvers.

“There’s no reason this should be a masculine profession,” he says. “Men have more physical force, but as a professor, I see the women have a sharpened sensitivity for the more detailed work. So it’s complementary.”

(18) GOOD PLACE BLOOPERS. Shown at Comic-Con –

(19) EVEN BIGGER BLOOPER. ComicBook.com covers the hottest cosplay at Comic-Con:

Los Angeles Times correspondent Benjamin Crutcher wound up going viral at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con by cosplaying as the infamous coffee cup that appeared during an episode of the final season of Game of Thrones.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Simpsons:  Russian Art Film Version” on YouTube is what the opening of “The Simpsons” would be like in a gloomy Soviet apartment complex.

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