Pixel Scroll 7/1/22 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel?

(1) NETFLIX GOES UPSIDE DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apparently, fans of Stranger Things are night owls. When the final two episodes of ST Season 4 were released—at about 03:00 Eastern today—the Netflix streaming site was hammered hard enough to experience scattered but significant outages. “Netflix Down: Streaming Service Outage After Stranger Things 4 Release” reports Variety.

Netflix’s streaming service was unavailable for a brief period early Friday after the highly anticipated release of the final two episodes of “Stranger Things 4.”

According to global uptime-monitoring site Downdetector.com, user reports of problems with Netflix spiked around 3 a.m. ET — when “Stranger Things 4” Volume 2 went live. Complaints about errors with Netflix peaked at nearly 13,000 at the top of the hour, before the situation seemed to be resolved within a half hour.

“Stranger Things 4” already has set the record as the No. 1 English-language series on the service in its first four weeks of release, as reported by Netflix based on total hours watched. The two episodes in Season 4 Volume 2 clock in at nearly four hours of runtime total: Episode 8 is 85 minutes and Episode 9 is 150 minutes.

(2) BOB MADLE DOING FINE AT 102. [Item by Curt Phillips.] I just got off the phone with Bob Madle and thought I’d give you an update. He sounds great, and his daughter Jane told me that Bob’s health is excellent. Neither of them ever caught Covid, and Bob spends a lot of time enjoying beer and baseball. He is, as you might guess, an Oakland A’s fan. He’s been following that team since the 1930’s when they were the Philadelphia Athletics. We spent 45 min or so discussing sf magazines, and Bob’s memory is as solid as a rock. He recalled pulp trivia from 90 years ago as if it happened yesterday. So, 102 years old and going strong. A fannish immortal in every way!

(3) STEPHENSON PROFILE.  In the Washington Post, Theo Zenou interviews Neal Stephenson on the 30th anniversary of Snow Crash.  The interview focuses on Stephenson’s role in tech projects, including founding (with Bitcoin Foundation co-chair Peter Vessenes), Lamina1, “a start-up that will use blockchain technology to build an ‘open metaverse.’” Zenou explains that Stephenson has been involved part-time with tech his entire life, and became employee #1 of Blue Origin after he and Jeff Bezos went to a screening of October Sky in 1999. “Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’ predicted metaverse and hyperinflation”.

…Stephenson’s vision for Lamina1 (meaning “layer one” in Latin) is to empower the creators of these experiences. He explained, “We want to create a structure of smart contracts and other utilities that will make it easier for people who want to build Metaverse applications to do that in the first place, and then to get compensated if it turns out that people like and want to pay for the experiences they’re creating.”…

(4) FIGURING OUT THE ENDING. If you didn’t see Cora Buhlert’s story when we linked to the tweets in May, you can now read “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘The Rescue’” as a post on her blog.

“You had one job, Corporal, one job. Protect Prince Adam, with your life, if necessary. And you failed. I swear, if something happens to Adam, you will be scrubbing toilets for the rest of your life.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Don’t be so hard on the Corporal, Teela. It wasn’t his fault.”

“I know. I should have gone with Adam. Oh Father, what if something happens to him?”

“We’ll find Adam and save him. I promise.”

Meanwhile, in the dungeons of Snake Mountain…

(5) HAVE AN IDEA FOR A SPACE FORCE STORY? C. Stuart Hardwick is editing an anthology for Baen, Real Stories of the US Space Force, and has put out a Call For Submissions. See full details at the link.

The US Space Force has a PR problem. Several, in fact. It was not Donald Trump’s idea. It did not steal its iconography from Star Trek. It is not just a lunatic scheme to expand the military-industrial complex by sending battleships into space. Yet judging from social media, many think all these things and more.

Space has become critical not only to the military but to the economy and all aspects of daily life, and as we stand at the dawn of a new age of space commerce, that’s only going to intensify, and several nations have already developed capabilities  to deny, degrade, and disrupt access to and utilization of space–based assets, whether to degrade US Military capability or as a direct economic attack.

Like it or not, the militarization of space started long ago, threats are already up there, and wherever people and their interests go next, so too will go conflict, intrigue, heroes and villains, everything that comprises good stories….

WHAT WE WANT

Stories that grab us from the start and stay with us for days. Scientifically plausible drama about people facing interesting challenges related to the US Space Force or more generally, the policing and defense of near-Earth space and related issues, now or in the foreseeable future (the next century or so).

Stories don’t have to take place in space, involve the actual US Space Force, or be hard sci-fi, but they should help illustrate in some way how space technology shapes modern civilization in critical, often overlooked ways, how it is now or soon may come under threat, and how it might be defended now and into the future. See this page for ideas and background.

(6) A SEVENTIES LOOK AT FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has added “Minicon 10 (1975)-History of the MFS-Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker” to its YouTube channel.

Minicon 10 (1975) – History of the MFS – Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker & more: 

Minicon 10 was held April 18-20, 1975 in Minneapolis. This panel discussion, orchestrated by Gordy Dickson, majors in history and anecdotes of the 1940s Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS).  Particpants: Kenny Gray, Poul Anderson, Oliver Saari, Gordon Dickson, Grace Riger, Bob Tucker, and Clifford Simak. A high percentage of the MFS members went on to sell professionally to the magazines.

The panel begins with the flowering of MFS after Clifford Simak moved to town, to anecdotes about late night hero-saving plot sessions to the true identity of Squanchfoot (hint: Simak’s City was dedicated to him). 

You’ll hear about the softball games in which many Saaris participated, the origin of Twonk’s disease, how Poul became an MFS member and more. 

There’s silly story writing, an imitation Red Boggs, and a mass induction into the MFS.  For those that live(d) in Minneapolis, and for those that didn’t, this recording provides an affectionate look at the early MFS…Many thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) WHERE DID THE TIME GO. Lincoln Michel tackles the question “Why Does It Take So Long to Publish a Book?” in his Counter Craft newsletter.

… For this post, I’m just talking about the last part: how long it takes to publish a book once you sell it to a traditional publisher. Often, unpublished and self-published authors are baffled at turn around time for books. This discourse was most recently kicked off by a tweet asking authors how they would feel if a publisher offered to publish their book yet it would take 2 years and they’d have to cut 10,000 words. The replies were filled with a lot of unpublished authors saying “that’s way too long!” and/or “that’s way too many words to cut!” and then a lot of published authors saying “uh, this is completely standard in publishing?”

…To be very clear, getting published by a good publisher in no way guarantees you’ll get much attention or sell many copies. Yet if you want any chance of getting those things, your publisher needs a lot of time to pitch your book to distributors and bookstores and to do all of the publicity and marketing.

This—the general publicity, marketing, and distribution—is where much of the publishing time disappears. And it’s the kind of stuff you might not realize if you aren’t a traditionally published author. Things like major bookstore orders (including Amazon) are set long before a book is published. Anticipated book lists and “buzz” begins well in advance, sometimes before books are even finished being written. Review copies get sent to reviewers months before books are published, so that reviews can appear when the book does. And so on and so forth.

In addition to the distribution, marketing, and publicity there are other important steps if you want a professional book, especially editing (big scale stuff), copyediting (line level stuff), proofreading (typos). There are many other steps here too such as getting blurbs and getting cover art but thankfully many of these can be done concurrently with the other steps timewise….

(8) SWIFT DEPARTURE. Deadline reports “‘Tom Swift’ Canceled By CW After One Season”.

Tom Swift has swiftly gotten the boot at CW.

The low-rated, Nancy Drew spinoff only launched on May 31 and has aired six episodes to date. The series, which features a predominantly Black cast, started off as an unconventional backdoor pilot, with only Tian Richards (as Tom) getting an introduction on Nancy Drew last season. The rest of the characters were cast after the project was picked up to series in August.

We hear CBS Studios, which is behind Tom Swift, is trying to extend the options on the cast, which expire today, and plans to shop the series elsewhere.

The CW brass have said that they like the show creatively. The cancellation is said to be performance-based as Tom Swift is among the CW’s least watched series on linear, with 535K viewers in Live+7, as well as on streaming….

(9) THERE IS CRYING IN TV. A show you may not have even known was in the works has also stumbled before making it out of the cornfield:  “‘Field of Dreams’ TV Series Dropped at Peacock”.

A series adaptation of Field of Dreams has struck out at PeacockThe Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Mike Schur-created drama based on the 1989 Kevin Costner-starring baseball-focused film was picked up straight to series in August 2021 but will not stream on the platform, according to a source with knowledge.

Universal Television, where Schur’s Fremulon shingle holds an overall deal, is in the process of talking to interested buyers.

Schur is the creator of NBC’s The Good Place, along with serving as the co-creator of Parks and RecreationBrooklyn Nine-Nine and Rutherford Falls. Among other credits, he is an executive producer on HBO Max’s Emmy-winning Hacks and Freevee’s upcoming Primo….

 (10) 124C41+. Holden Karnosky’s article “The Track Record of Futurists Seems … Fine” at Cold Takes tries to find another way of testing whether it would be a waste of time to put artificial intelligence to work as futurists. One idea was to look at the futures posited by some famous sf writers.

…The idea is something like: “Even if we can’t identify a particular weakness in arguments about key future events, perhaps we should be skeptical of our own ability to say anything meaningful at all about the long-run future. Hence, perhaps we should forget about theories of the future and focus on reducing suffering today, generally increasing humanity’s capabilities, etc.”

But are people generally bad at predicting future events? Including thoughtful people who are trying reasonably hard to be right? If we look back at prominent futurists’ predictions, what’s the actual track record? How bad is the situation?

…Recently, I worked with Gavin Leech and Misha Yagudin at Arb Research to take another crack at this. I tried to keep things simpler than with past attempts – to look at a few past futurists who (a) had predicted things “kind of like” advances in AI (rather than e.g. predicting trends in world population); (b) probably were reasonably thoughtful about it; but (c) are very clearly not “just selected on those who are famous because they got things right.” So, I asked Arb to look at predictions made by the “Big Three” science fiction writers of the mid-20th century: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein.

These are people who thought a lot about science and the future, and made lots of predictions about future technologies – but they’re famous for how entertaining their fiction was at the time, not how good their nonfiction predictions look in hindsight. I selected them by vaguely remembering that “the Big Three of science fiction” is a thing people say sometimes, googling it, and going with who came up – no hunting around for lots of sci-fi authors and picking the best or worst.2

Alan Baumler kept score while reading the article:

  • One (Asimov) who looks quite impressive – plenty of misses, but a 50% hit rate on such nonobvious predictions seems pretty great.
  • One (Heinlein) who looks pretty unserious and inaccurate.
  • One (Clarke) who’s a bit hard to judge but seems pretty solid overall (around half of his predictions look to be right, and they tend to be pretty nonobvious).

(11) MEMORY LANE

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Yes, I know I wrote up Bewitched earlier this year. Or at least I think II did. I do lose track after a while. At any rate, tonight we’ve come to eulogize its ending fifty years ago on this evening. The show aired from September 17, 1964 to July 1, 1972 on ABC for two hundred and fifty-four episodes — seventy-four in black-and-white for the first two years, 1964 to 1966) and one hundred eighty in color for the final three years, 1966 to 1972.

I cannot say that I’ve watched all of the series, but I’ve watched a fair amount of it and it will unashamedly admit that I really do like it. It’s not a complicated series, nor a particularly deep series, but it’s both fun and charming, and it is inoffensive. 

So why did Bewitched come to an end? Was it the ratings? That certainly was part of that problem as by by the end of the next-to-last season the ratings for it had noticeably dropped and the show did not even rank in the list of the top thirty programs. But that wasn’t the actual reason it got cancelled.

That was down to Elizabeth Montgomery who had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on to new roles. Well, they didn’t happen. The only thing she was on Password, a game show where she was a celebrity contestant for nearly ninety episodes. 

She died at aged sixty-two of an untimely diagnosed cancer. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1934 — Jean Marsh, 88. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Whovian affairs. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly StrangerDark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 — David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been  a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he then played the role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few years later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1942 — Genevieve Bujold, 80. We would have had a rather different look on Voyager if things had played out as the producers wished, for Bujold was their first choice to play Janeway. She quit after a day and a half of shooting, with the public reason being she was unaccustomed to the hectic pace of television filming. What the real reason was we will never know.
  • Born July 1, 1952 — Dan Aykroyd, 70. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Raimis though he himself came up with the Ghostbusters concept), Ackroyd actually showed up in his first genre role a year earlier in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprised his role in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. And he was the narrator of the Hotel Paranormal series that just ended.
  • Born July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot, aged, well, 67. Yes, this is this official birthday of the robot in Forbidden Planet, which debuted a year later. Over the years he would also be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune MenThe Twilight ZoneLost In SpaceThe Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was in a 2006 commercial for AT&T. Well very, very briefly. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 58. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best known work. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction where many of his stories have since been published.  Editor for six years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction until February of last year. At the World Fantasy Awards in 2021 he received the Special Award – Professional for editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
  • Born July 1, 1981 — Genevieve Valentine, 41. Author of the superb Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows what would happen if Hollywood added “improvements” to Noah’s Ark. (Which, of course, they’ve already done, but play along with the joke.)

(14) AMAZON PRIME TEASER TRAILER FOR PAPER GIRLS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The comic book Paper Girls — which involves time travel among other tropes, so it’s inarguably science fiction — which I may have stumbled on either browsing my library’s “new graphic novels” or during the year-ish I subscribed to ComiXology’s monthly streaming digital comics service, or a mix, is about to be an Amazon Prime series, per this trailer I just saw:

It looks promising, to say the least.

Want to read ’em first? If your public library (or interlibrary loan) doesn’t have them, you can e-borrow/read issues 1-30 free through HooplaDigital.com — either as Volumes 1-6, or in 3 borrows (remember, Hoopla allows a set # borrows/month) by going for the Deluxe Edition Books (10 issues each), as this search shows.

(I’ve read ’em; recommended!)

(15) USHERING IN THE ATOMIC AGE. Now on the block at Heritage Auctions is Capt. Robert Lewis’ ‘Enola Gay’ logbook documenting the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Bidding was up to $400,000 when last checked.

Captain Robert A. Lewis, the co-pilot of the B-29 Superfortress called the Enola Gay, wrote those immortal words shortly after 8:16 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, moments after he and his crewmates dropped the atomic bomb on the citizens of Hiroshima. The course of history changed at that precise moment: A beautiful day exploded into a blinding bright light, a nuclear fireball leveled a city, at least 100,000 died, and a world war neared its end.

And there, high above it all yet so much a part of the devastation below, was Robert Lewis to chronicle every spectacular and awful moment. He was among the dozen Enola Gay crewmen who delivered the 15-kiloton bomb codenamed “Little Boy” to Japan and the only person aboard who kept a detailed account of the top-secret mission that changed the world.

Lewis’ 11-page chronicle of those few minutes is among the most important documents of the 20th century, a harrowing and oft-heartbreaking account of those very moments between the pre-atomic and post-atomic world – before Hiroshima was struck by the noiseless flash, consumed by fire and swallowed by a mushroom cloud. The public has not seen it since it sold in 2002 during a famous auction of publisher Malcolm Forbes’ American historical documents.

(16) COULD WE DECODE ALIEN PHYSICS? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Matt O’Dowd at PBS Space Time asks “Could We Decode Alien Physics?”

How hard can it really be to decode alien physics and engineering? It’s gotta map to our own physics – I mean, we live in the same universe. We start by noticing that the alien technology seems to use good ol’ fashioned electronics, even if it is insanely complex. We know this because the particle carried by the alien circuitry looks like the electron. We decide this through a process of elimination.

(17) FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch tracked themoviedb.org data to measure “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in June.”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceObi-Wan Kenobi
2Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomFor All Mankind
3Jurassic WorldSeverance
4Spider-Man: No Way HomeTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
5Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessWestworld
6MorbiusStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
7Jurassic ParkDoctor Who
8Ghostbusters: AfterlifeNight Sky
9Crimes of the FutureThe Man Who Fell to Earth
10MoonfallThe Twilight Zone

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

(18) THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTED. Gizmodo takes stock of its accomplishments as “LightSail 2 Mission Poised to Burn Up in Earth’s Atmosphere”.

For the past three years, a tiny loaf-of-bread-sized spacecraft with gigantic wings has been sailing on sunbeams in low Earth orbit. LightSail 2 has far exceeded its life expectancy and proven that solar sails can indeed be used to fly spacecraft. But its journey around our planet is sadly coming to an end, as Earth’s atmosphere drags the spacecraft downward where it will eventually burn up in atmospheric flames.

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 launched in June 2019 and unfurled its 344-square-foot (32-square-meter) solar sail a month later. Just two weeks after spreading its wings, LightSail 2 gained 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of altitude, making this experiment a success….

(19) NIMOY THEATER UPDATE. A new era for the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA is underway as they continue to develop the UCLA Nimoy Theater. “The Nimoy sets new horizon for the arts community”. You can see an overview of the project here.

Located near the UCLA campus on Westwood Boulevard, The Nimoy is a reimagining of the historic Crest Theater as a flexible, state-of-the-art performance space.

Opening in late March 2023, the intimately-scaled venue is named for artist, actor, director and philanthropist Leonard Nimoy. Shawmut Construction has been working steadily to renovate the venue, which will be equipped with new and green technologies to support the creation and presentation of innovative work. 

The Nimoy will be a home for artists representing a broad diversity of voices, viewpoints, ideas and creative expressions in music, dance, theater, literary arts, digital media arts and collaborative disciplines. The inaugural season will feature a large slate of amazing shows, including new work by the legendary Kronos Quartet, “live documentarian” filmmaker Sam Green, and a collaboration between two essential musical voices of Los Angeles, Quetzal and Perla Batalla. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King asks, “What if Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson got email from spammers claiming to be “sexy women from Moldova?” “Hot Detectives in Your Area”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Curt Phillips, Daniel Dern, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie. Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/22 Our Exorcist Was Able To Dispossess Our Possessed Tesla Before It Got Repossessed

(1) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Please keep File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb in mind on Monday, April 25 when he will be having major heart surgery. He explained to Facebook friends:

…With the impending replacement of not one, but both heart valves … Atrial and Mitral … as well as stopping the continuing dripping of blood into my heart cavity … and stitching back together a hole in my heart … I’m trusting in God, the fates, and the grateful prayer support of so many countless friends and loved ones to overcome this….

(2) DOUBLE-OH. Luke Poling looks at YA James Bond pastiches, including one where the teenage Bond fights a pirate named “Walker D. Plank.” “You Know, For Kids! The History of a Teenage James Bond” at CrimeReads. Even YA horror legend R.L. Stine has written one, Win, Place or Die.

When you think of the British agent with a license to kill, seducing his way around the world, keeping the rest of us safe, you likely don’t think of children. This is probably a good thing since the source novels are most definitely of their era, rife with casual sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia and rape. While the films do a little better in some of these areas, they’re not exactly blameless.

It’s for these reasons that perhaps the idea of a teenage Bond isn’t something that instantly springs to mind as a great idea. Yet, as you’ll see, it’s been a long sought after market that the keepers of the Bond legacy have repeatedly tried to reach, with varying degrees of success….

(3) LE GUIN PRIZE DEADLINE. You have until midnight April 30 (Pacific time) to nominate for this year’s Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. Click here for the nomination form and eligibility criteria. The winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize. The members of the 2022 jury are discussed here.

(4) THE FAN FROM UNCLES. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s tribute to Independent Bookstore Day includes “The return of the Uncles and other good news”.

…And Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstore — the deeply beloved science fiction and mystery store owned by Don Blyly — has found a new home. The “uncles,” as the store is known, burned during the unrest that took place in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd. Now, two years on, the store will reopen at 2716 E. 31st St., just a half-block away from Moon Palace Bookstore….

(5) NOTHING IS CERTAIN BUT DEATH AND TAXONOMY. Rob Thornton has a question about something he noticed at the New York Times Book Review.

They said that the column by Amal El-Mohtar was about ”science fiction and fantasy” but said in a headline that Emily St. John Mandel’s new (and acceptable) novel was “speculative fiction.”

Is NYTBR trying to split the genre into “pulp” (genre) and “literary” branches?

(6) FAN DISSERVICE. Netflix’s financial setback, mentioned here the other day, was only to be expected says The Mary Sue: “No One Is Surprised That Netflix Lost 200,000 Subscribers in The First Quarter”.

In the first quarter of 2022 (Janurary 1 to March 31), Netflix lost a net 200,000 subscribers, making it the first time in over a decade that the streaming service didn’t grow in subscriptions. If this weren’t bad enough, the loss was on the backdrop of Netflix projecting a 2,500,000 subscriber gain. Thier stock dropped roughly 30% in the last 24-ish hours. While Netflix continues to provide a handful of favorably received properties like BridgertonThe CrownSquid Game, and more, this drop was bound to happen. Everyone has beef with the company.

Stacking controversies from platforming bigoted comedians like Dave Chappelle (proud TERF), pay disparities, choosing to cancel fan-favorite content over bland hate-watched content, region-locked content, creepy cover art changes, and consistently colorist casting choices regarding Black women haven’t helped. A whole wiki page (divided into five categories) exists documenting Netflix criticism. To be very clear, not all of these grievances are equal. However, it does show that many people have issues with the company and the content for a broad range of reasons.

(7) I’M NOT THE MAN THEY THINK I AM AT HOME. Short-lived CNN+ is shutting down at the end of the month — not fast enough to prevent Chris Wallace from annoying the world’s most famous sci-fi celebrity: “Shatner Jokes He’ll Kill Chris Wallace Over Rocket Man Clip” at Mediaite.

… Fans of Shatner are probably well-acquainted with Shatner’s dramatic interpretation of “Rocket Man” at the January 20, 1978. Saturn Awards, also called the Science Fiction Film Awards. For the uninitiated:

Mr. Shatner was a guest of Mr. Wallace on the latest episode of the CNN+ series Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace, and had a strange reaction to being confronted with the clip. He joked about torturing and killing Wallace for playing a very brief clip — then made the preposterous claim that he had been unaware the performance was being filmed at the time, even thought there were elements of the performance that couldn’t possibly have been incorporated in a non-televised setting:

MR. WALLACE: I want to explore these spoken word albums, and I get what exactly what you’re saying, it’s not quite singing. It’s not quite talking, but it’s you’re going to kill me for this. Nineteen…

MR. SHATNER: No, I would never kill you…. I’d torture you.

MR. WALLACE: …1978. I’m going to play… Here’s another spoken word album. Take a look. Okay.

MR. SHATNER: (video clip) Rocket Man. Burning out his fuse out here, a. I think it’s going to be a long, long time ’til touchdown bring me round again to find I’m not the man they think I am. Oh no, no, no. I’m a Rocket Man now.

MR. SHATNER: Now your audience is going to watch Chris die, as I kill you. (Wallace laughs) It was an award show…

(8) TOOL TIME. Christopher Barzak invites us to share “A Moment with Ellen Datlow” at Jenny Magazine, the Youngstown State University’s Student Literary Arts Association online literary magazine. In addition to talking about her professional work, Ellen answers questions what she collects. There are many photos of the items.

[CB] It made me wonder if you see the collecting and arrangement of these art objects as a curatorial process in the same way that you essentially collect and arrange stories for anthologies? Do the processes seem similar to you? At heart, is being an editor essentially being a collector or curator?

ED: Wow-you’re much more perceptive than I am. I’ve usually started collecting by discovering one weird/beautiful/perfect object, then deciding I want more of them or more like them. I love antiquing and going to yard/garage sales. The first tool I ever bought was something I found in London’s Jubilee market hall in Covent Garden. I had no idea what it was for and neither did the seller. I didn’t discover its use until more than twenty years after I acquired it, when Kaaron Warren and I collaborated on Tool Tales (a chapbook consisting of photographs of ten of my tools/odd objects and the micro fictions she wrote about each one. A reader was able to match the item on ebay: Antique Nipper- Tool-Pliers-Adjust-Teeth-Saw-Hacksaw.

I prefer to find objects randomly, in-person. I started collecting native American fetish animals while visiting the American Southwest, then alas, discovered ebay and started buying way too many fetishes that way. But it’s not as satisfying. …

(9) ART FOR NEW LOTR EDITION. Artist Alan Lee fills in Literary Hub readers about the challenges: “Alan Lee on Illustrating J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

…I was asked to produce fifty watercolors for the single-volume edition. The question of which episodes I should choose as subjects, which could have occupied me for a good part of the allotted time, was more easily settled; the color plates were to be printed on separate sheets and bound around alternating signatures of text pages, which meant that the illustrations would fall between every thirty-two pages of text.

This limitation turned out to be a blessing; it was important for me that every illustration should relate immediately to the text on the opposite page to create a harmony between story and image, and it also relieved me of the obligation to represent all the dramatic high points of the tale. This meant that I could concentrate more on scene setting and atmosphere building, and creating some quieter moments.

My feeling was that it would be better to add detail and color to those parts which the author had not described in great depth than to try to echo his powerful storytelling. That said, there are very few pages in The Lord of the Rings where nothing remarkable is happening! …

You can admire examples of Lee’s work in a promotional video from The Folio Society at the link.

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

April 23 is Impossible Astronaut Day

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-eight years ago on ABC, Gene Roddenberry’s Planet Earth film first aired. It was intended to be a pilot for a new weekly television series but that was not to be. 

It was written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, who had this point had no genre experience but later on would be the Executive Producer on many episodes of The Greatest American Hero and even wrote a handful of them. 

It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. Yes Dylan Hunt. If you remember, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda series will be fronted by Kevin Sorbo playing Dylan Hunt. Roddenberry was famous, or infamous for reusing almost everything. The previous pilot was Genesis II, and it featured many of the concepts and characters later redeveloped and mostly recast in this film.

So how was it received? Comic Mix correctly noted I think that “As a concept, it’s not bad. The execution, from Samuel A. Peebles’ script on down, is where the pilot film gets into trouble. Peebles’ writing was stiff, and whatever rewriting Roddenberry did, didn’t help. The characters are types, never fully fleshed out, and Cord’s heroic role is blunted by his cold, aloof performance (making him better suited as Airwolf’s Archangel a few years later).” 

And Moria’s Reviews says of it that “Planet Earth tends to represent Gene Roddenberry at his preachy worst. Genesis II, when it came down to it, was only a variant on the basic premise of Buck Rogers (1939) about a man from the present-day waking up in the future and showing people how things should be done with a little 20th Century knowhow and individualism. That is to say, Genesis II was a Buck Rogers with Gene Roddenberry’s social utopianism added to the mix.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a thirty percent rating.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels such as The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. His only Hugo was at Solacon (1958) for his “Or All the Seas with Oysters” short story. During his tenure as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1962-1965) it won the Best Professional Magazine Hugo (1963) and was nominated twice more at Pacificon II (1964) and Loncon II (1965). He was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1986. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 87. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Tor became a subsidiary of St. Martin’s Press in 1987; both are now divisions of Macmillan Publishers, owned by Holtzbrinck Publishers. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field. He also partnered in the founding of Baen Books.
  • Born April 23, 1939 Lee Majors, 83. Here for his role as Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. He reprised the role in The Bionic Woman.  Much later, he had a recurring role in Ash vs. Evil Dead as Brock Williams. In the new version of Thunderbirds Are Go, he voiced Jeff Tracy.  He shows up in Scrooged as himself.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 67. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. His short story, “The Choice”, won a Sturgeon Award, and “Pasquale’s Angel” won a Sideways Award. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction.
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 66. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. And she wrote the screenplay for the television film, Snow White: The Fairest of Them All.
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 60. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well though let’s not talk about it please, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 49. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off Apple Books so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos. It’s since been expanded continued in two more novels, Catfishing on CatNet and the Chaos on Catnet. DisCon III saw her nominated for two Hugos, one for her “Monster” novelette and one for her most excellent “Little Free Library” short story. She also picked up a nomination at Dublin 2019 for her “The Thing About Ghost Stories” novelette. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SUMMERTIME. “Archie Comics Brings a Queer Character to Riverdale” reports the New York Times.

The world of Riverdale, the comic book home of the redheaded Archie Andrews and friends, will expand in June with the introduction of Eliza Han.

The new character, created by the writer Tee Franklin and the artist Dan Parent, is queer and biracial. She meets the Riverdale gang in a summer special comic when she visits Harper Lodge, a cousin of Veronica — for whom she has romantic feelings, something Eliza has in common with Reggie Mantle. Oh, teenage love!

“The best Archie characters are the ones you can drop in and have them create a little fun chaos,” Mike Pellerito, the editor in chief of Archie Comic Publications, said in a telephone interview. “Eliza is another character that you can fall in love with very easily — and there’s a lot more to be revealed about the character besides her sexuality.”

Eliza also has a fuller figure, something new for Archie, Pellerito said, a move to have more characters people can relate to. “Body diversity is something we don’t tackle a ton of,” Pellerito said….

(15) CARTOONIST PROFILED. Eye on Design shows how “The Cartoonist Seth Has Built a Real Life Entirely Around His Fictional Work”.

…Inspired by The New Yorker cover artists of the mid-century, Seth made a name for himself with semi-autobiographical literary comics rendered in that classic style, most notably his Palookaville series, including It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken and the acclaimed Clyde Fans. Perhaps this encroaching modern world is what he’s guarding against in his own home in Guelph’s historic neighborhood, The Ward. Many curtains are drawn, and custom stained glass windows with the words Inkwell’s End and Nothing Lasts set in beautiful hues, with an illustration of the house—pull you deeper into this world as they seal off the one outside.

…The house. Seth sees it as an art project that’s not only directly connected to his work, but to the city of Guelph and the province that runs in his blood. For one, electrical towers are a running theme, depicted in the ironwork outside, in one of the stained glass windows, in the sculptures on the first floor, even in the shower tiles; Seth regards them as a central image of Ontario. Elsewhere, the nearby train bridge and the two towers of Guelph’s basilica can be spotted in cabinetry masterfully crafted by Seth’s father-in-law. 

His comic work lives and breathes here, too. For fans, it’s like walking into a museum of the creator’s mind. In the parlor alone there’s a light-up ceramic sculpture of Kao-Kuk, an Inuit astronaut from his book The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists. There’s a trio of nesting cookie jar sculptures of the titular character from George Sprott (1894–1975), a series he originally created for The New York Times Magazine; he removes the top of one to reveal a younger Sprott within, which is then removed to reveal Sprott as a child. There are dolls of all the characters from Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World….

(16) PLUS ÇA CLIMATE CHANGE. William McKibben’s doom-sounding article “The End of Nature” sounds like it could have been published this week, but The New Yorker first ran it in 1989.

…In other words, our sense of an unlimited future, which is drawn from that apparently bottomless well of the past, is a delusion. True, evolution, grinding on ever so slowly, has taken billions of years to create us from slime, but that does not mean that time always moves so ponderously. Over a lifetime or a decade or a year, big and impersonal and dramatic changes can take place. We have accepted the idea that continents can drift in the course of aeons, or that continents can die in a nuclear second. But normal time seems to us immune from such huge changes. It isn’t, though. In the last three decades, for example, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased more than ten per cent, from about three hundred and fifteen parts per million to about three hundred and fifty parts per million. In the last decade, an immense “hole” in the ozone layer has opened up above the South Pole each fall, and, according to the Worldwatch Institute, the percentage of West German forests damaged by acid rain has risen from less than ten per cent to more than fifty per cent. Last year, for perhaps the first time since that starved Pilgrim winter at Plymouth, America consumed more grain than it grew. Burroughs again: “One summer day, while I was walking along the country road on the farm where I was born, a section of the stone wall opposite me, and not more than three or four yards distant, suddenly fell down. Amid the general stillness and immobility about me, the effect was quite startling. . . . It was the sudden summing-up of half a century or more of atomic changes in the material of the wall. A grain or two of sand yielded to the pressure of long years, and gravity did the rest.”…

…Soon Thoreau will make no sense. And when that happens the end of nature, which began with our alteration of the atmosphere and continued with the responses of the planetary managers and the genetic engineers, will be final. The loss of memory will be the eternal loss of meaning…

(17) WHISKEY BRAVO TANGO. This is what Hollywood might call a successful product placement. “Fort Collins whiskey gets TV cameo, now has unexpected ‘Star Trek’ following” at Yahoo!

Two weeks ago NOCO Distillery founder and master blender Sebastien Gavillet was going about his normal life. Now he’s commissioning custom bottle corks affixed with Star Trek figurines.

Life — and, in Gavillet’s case, some opportune product placement — sure comes at you fast.

It all started April 6, when a bottle of the Fort Collins distillery’s “Bourbon II” whiskey appeared on the latest season of Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Picard.”

The bottle, which was shown during a bar scene in episode six, appeared on screen for a few seconds — just long enough for fans to pause and make out its name, batch, cask, bottle numbers, the distillery’s logo and hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado.

“I was floored,” said Gavillet, who woke up to a flurry of text messages and calls after the episode dropped on the streaming service.

NOCO Distillery had dipped its toes in product placement thanks to Mark McFann, a distillery customer and owner of Cast a Long Shadow, a Fort Collins-based product placement company that’s had placements in everything from “Avengers” movies to HBO’s “Westworld” and, now, “Star Trek: Picard,” McFann said.

Seeing it as an interesting marketing opportunity, Gavillet said NOCO Distillery also pursued small placements on Netflix’s “Lucifer,” the new Ben Affleck movie “Deep Water” and Peacock’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot, “Bel-Air.”

While most of NOCO Distillery’s previous product placements were minor — “if you don’t know it’s there, you don’t really see it,” Gavillet explained — Bourbon II’s extended appearance on “Star Trek: Picard” was “very unique,” he said….

Those who want to order a bottle of the next run are invited to enter their contact info here: startrekpicard (nocodistillery.com).

(18) LANSDALE Q&A. Joe R. Lansdale talks Born for Trouble and more with Michelle Souliere of the Green Hand Bookshop in Portland, Maine. Born for Trouble: The Further Adventures of Hap and Leonard was released March 21.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, 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 4/21/22 And When The File Breaks The Pixel Will Scroll

(1) SDCC REPORTS LOSS; ALSO WARNED BY STATE ABOUT UNFILED RETURNS. Petréa Mitchell at SMOF News broke the story to her readers that San Diego Comic-Con’s nonprofit corporation suffered an $8 million loss in 2020, and has been warned by the state of California the corporation is delinquent in filing some required federal tax returns and reports due to the state, as reported by the Times of San Diego: “Double-Whammy for Comic-Con: $8M Loss and Threat to State Tax Exemption”. The 2020 loss is declared below in the screencap of a California Annual Renewal Registration Fee form they have filed.

Comic-Con is at risk of losing its nonprofit status, the state says, only days after the giant tourism draw signed up with IMG in a licensing deal amid a reported $8 million loss in COVID-stricken 2020….

But last Nov. 18, Comic-Con filed its annual registration renewal fee report, which said it had $3.97 million gross revenue in 2020, when the pandemic forced suspension of Comic-Con. Its gross expenses that year were $11.98 million. (Its total assets were $42.4 million.)

The letter to Comic-Con said it has until May 15 to file a state form. Bonta said that if IRS forms aren’t sent to the state Registry of Charitable Trusts within 60 days of April 7 — or June 6 — two things would happen:

      • His office would notify the California Franchise Tax Board to disallow Comic-Con’s tax exemption. (“The Franchise Tax Board may revoke the organization’s tax exempt status at which point the organization will be treated as a taxable corporation … and may be subject to the minimum tax penalty.”)
      • Late fees would be imposed for each month or partial month for which reports were delinquent. “Directors, trustees, officers and return preparers responsible for failure to timely file these reports are also personally liable for payment of all late fees.”

(2) KGB SHOTS. Ellen Datlow shared her photos from the (in-person!) Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series event on April 20 where Robert Freeman Wexler and Victor LaValle each read form forthcoming work.

(3) FOUR TO DRAW TO. Fanac.org has posted the video of a Minicon 15 (1979) panel “History of the Future” with Ted Sturgeon, Clifford Simak, Lester del Rey, and Gordon Dickson.  

Minicon 15 was held April 13-15, 1979 in Minneapolis. In this recording, four of the most respected authors of their time—Theodore Sturgeon, Clifford D. Simak, Lester del Rey and Gordon Dickson—have a free ranging discussion on topics from earlier science fiction views of the future, to what the literature has “missed,” and the relationship of technocracy to then current society. 

Lester del Rey is at his most opinionated, getting laughs and applause, as well as exhibiting his encyclopedic knowledge of the field. There are discussions of freedom vs governance, the problems of finding information, and, triggered by a question from the audience, a long discussion on education. 

Simak tells a deeply personal story about his son’s experience in the public school system, and the other authors speak of their own experiences with education.  There are predictions, anecdotes, and a few surprising revelations…

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

(4) HER TWIN FROM ANOTHER PLANET. The linked article talks about a science fiction film titled The Day Mars Invaded Earth and how the author, Hal Bookbinder, used his genealogical skills to sleuth out more about the twin actresses in the film: “The Day Mars Invaded Earth” at the JGSCV Newsletter.

While watching old movies. I often Google the film to learn more about it and its cast. “The Day Mars Invaded Earth” was filmed in 1962 and released in 1963. Among its cast are Betty Beall and Barbara Beall who play counterparts in the same scene, shown at the bottom. Betty Beall plays the teenage daughter of a NASA scientist who oversees the landing of a probe on Mars. After destroying the probe, unseen Martians create a duplicate of him to foil further attempts to land a probe. They then create duplicates of his family to cover their tracks. The NY Times panned the picture. Very little is to be found on either Betty or Barbara….

(5) POTLATCH. Ian Frazier shares some humorous confessions with readers of The New Yorker in “The Literature of Cabin Fever”. One paragraph reminds me that once there was an annual convention by this name (and with something of the same gift-sharing philosophy).

…A big excursion for me was to drive to the town of Kalispell, some twenty miles away. I was writing on a brand of paper called Potlatch. Such an interesting name for copy paper—Potlatch. I ran out of my first ream of it, and when I was buying more at an office-supply store in Kalispell I told the salesperson about potlatch—how it was a Native American word that meant a kind of party in which a chief or even just an ordinary person gave away stuff to other members of the tribe. “Giveaway” is a rough translation of the word into English, I told the salesperson. The potlatch was a system for showing status and spreading the wealth downward, I said. As I looked at the reaction on the salesperson’s face, it sank in that I was not in a normal frame of mind….

(6) WHEN AND WHERE DID HUMANS EVOLVE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We all know the basic story, archaic humans and then modern humans evolved in Africa and then migrated to the rest of the world, held SF conventions and went to the Moon (the Americans even did it without Cavorite!).

The problem is, is that the fossil record only provides snapshots.  A fossil tells us that this species lived at this place and at that time.  What it does not do is tell us when that species first evolved: it is very unlikely that a fossil discovered will be the remains of the first representative of a new species.  So, what to do?

“Climate effects on archaic human habitats”, rResearch published today in Nature  has taken a novel approach.  We know from fossils the environment in which archaic and modern human species inhabited.  What the researchers have done is link this into deep-time climate models and in turn linked that into an ecological model.  The idea here is that given a certain geography, location and climate, it is possible to work out the ecology of a locality.

Due to climate change, climate models have really improved the past one-third century and now have a good resolution and are capable of modelling back into glacial times (‘ice ages’ in common-but-inexact parlance). This means we can meaningfully identify when and where certain environmental types arise and wane as climate changes. Knowing the environmental preferences (from where fossils were found and conditions back then) of various human species, it is possible to see when and where the environmental conditions that could sustain these species begin and end.

The bottom line is that the researchers propose the following scenario: about 850–600 ka, H. heidelbergensis, which may have originated from H. ergaster in eastern Africa, split into southern and northern African branches, the latter of which included northern African and Eurasian populations.

The intensified dispersal into off-equatorial regions may have occurred during periods of high eccentricity around 680,000 and 580,000 years ago, which increased habitat suitability in otherwise inhospitable regions. The southern branch then experienced considerable climatic stress in southern Africa which could have accelerated a transition into H. sapiens. The Eurasian populations of the northern branch split around 430,000, possibly giving rise to Denisovans, which populated parts of central and eastern Asia. Inside central Europe, H. heidelbergensis, then experienced strong local climatic stress and gradually evolved into H. neanderthalensis between 400,000 and 300,000 years ago.

Neat, huh?

(7) LIGHTYEAR TRAILER. Disney Pixar’s Lightyear is coming to theaters on June 17.

Check out a new trailer for Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear,” revealing new details about the upcoming sci-fi action adventure. The definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the hero who inspired the toy, “Lightyear” follows the legendary Space Ranger after he’s marooned on a hostile planet 4.2 million light-years from Earth alongside his commander and their crew. As Buzz tries to find a way back home through space and time, he’s joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat, Sox. Complicating matters and threatening the mission is the arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda. A new poster and images are also available.

(8) JEAN COCTEAU REOPENING. George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM will reopen May 6, when people will get the opportunity to “Be the very first members of the public to sit in our new theater seats, hear the new sound system, and enjoy a transformed theatrical experience at the Jean Cocteau!”

It will kick off with a weekend of classic films hosted free of charge by the Jean Cocteau Cinema and Beastly Books, and they’re taking a poll to determine which five films from a curated list of 10 classics, including titles picked by GRRM, will be shown. Vote here. Voting ends Sunday, April 24th.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1976 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] The mark of how good a series is not how great the pilot is but the first episode after the pilot. Forty-six years ago this evening on ABC, the second episode of Wonder Woman aired, a curiosity titled affair called “Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther”. In it she got to take resurgent Nazis on in form of a Nazi spy ring known as the Abwehr who are active again and who are targeting Steve Trevor for imprisoning the Baroness von Gunther, their leader. 

The Baroness Paula von Gunther was created by William Moulton Marston as an adversary for his creation Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics #4, 1942. Though she disappeared during the Crisis on Infinite Earth years, Jim Byrne brought her back in 1988 and made once again the Nazi villainess she once was. 

This episode is based off “Wonder Woman Versus the Prison Spy Ring” in Wonder Woman #1 (July 1942). (The title comes from when it was reprinted later.) In the story, Colonel Darnell informs Trevor that an army transport ship was sunk by a German U-Boat. Believing the Nazis must have had a traitor inside the Army, Darnell orders Steve to interrogate the former head of the Gestapo system in America — The Baroness who is now serving time in a federal penitentiary thanks to Wonder Woman. Note that this episode made Trevor responsible for her being captured. 

So how was it received? This episode ranked twelfth in the Nielsen ratings, shockingly beating out a Bob Hope special which ranked twentieth.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 21, 1911 John Lymington. Between the late Fifties and the mid-Eighties, he wrote twenty-six genre novels, an astonishing number but only a fraction of the estimated 150 books he wrote overall. His short genre fiction is published in his Night Spiders collection. He’s not made it into the digital realm and I’ll admit that I’ve not heard of him, so I’m hoping the brain trust here can tell me about him. E0sF says helpfully that this was the pseudonym of UK author John Newton Chance who wrote a lot of the Sexton Blake thrillers. Come on folks, tell me about him! (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 21, 1922 Alistair MacLean. I’ll admit that I know I read at least a handful of his works when I was much younger. ISFDB lists four novels (Goodbye CaliforniaThe Dark CrusaderThe Golden Gate and The Satan Bug) as being genre though I personally would say they are thrillers with genre elements. Clute at EoSF agrees saying that they are “Cold War thrillers which make use of sf McGuffins”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 21, 1928 Dee Hartford. Miss Iceland, companion of Mister Freeze in two episodes of that Batman series. She also had appearances on Time TunnelLost in SpaceLand of The Giants, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  Yes, she was very pretty and that really counted in that time. She appeared on “The Bewitchin’ Pool” which was the last original episode of The Twilight Zone to be broadcast (though it was not the last one to be filmed). (Died 2018.)
  • Born April 21, 1933 Jim Harmon. During the Fifties and Sixties, he wrote more than fifty short stories and novelettes for Amazing StoriesFuture Science Fiction, Galaxy Science FictionIfThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and other magazines. Most of his fiction was collected in Harmon’s Galaxy. ISFDB says he has just one novel, Sex Burns Like Fire. He’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 21, 1939 John Bangsund. Australian fan from the Sixties through the Eighties. He was instrumental with Andrew Porter in Australia winning the 1975 Aussiecon bid, and he was Toastmaster at the Hugo Award ceremony at that con. His fanzine, Australian Science Fiction Review, is credited with reviving Australian Fandom in the Sixties. And he was the instigator of the term “Muphry’s law” which states that “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.” (Died 2020.)
  • Born April 21, 1965 Fiona Kelleghan, 57. Though an academic to the bone, she has two genre stories “The Secret in the Chest: With Tests, Maps, Mysteries, & Intermittent Discussion Questions” and “The Secret in the Chest”. Of her academic works, I find most fascinating Mike Resnick: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to His Work which last was revised in 2012 for the paperback edition. Wikipedia shows her Alfred Bester, Grand Master: An Annotated Bibliography is a work in progress. 
  • Born April 21, 1971 Michael Turner. Another one who died way, way too young. He was a comics artist known for his work on Witchblade,Tombraider / Witchblade one-off, the Superman/Batman story involving Supergirl, his own Soulfire, and various covers for DC Comics and Marvel Comics. He would die of bone cancer. A Tribute to Michael Turner with writings from people who knew him and a cover done by Alex Ross would be released to cover his medical expenses. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 21, 1980 Hadley Fraser, 42. His first video acting role was Gareth in the superb Tenth Doctor story, “Army of Ghosts”. He’d later be Chris in The Lost Tribe, a horror film, and play Viscount Raoul de Chagny in The Phantom of The Opera, as well as being Tarzan’s father in The Legend of Tarzan. And though not even genre adjacent, I’m legally obligated to point out that he showed up as a British military escort in the recent production of Kenneth Branagh’s absolutely smashing Murder on the Orient Express. Branagh just directed his second Agatha Christie film in which he plays the Belgian detective, Death on the Nile.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hey, I used to sit in a green chair and read to my daughter just like in Hi and Lois. All we needed was a punchline!
  • Dino Comics knows the truth is out there.

(12) HE’S STILL READING. “Samuel R. Delany’s Life in Books” for the New York Times Magazine is a strong series of reminiscences all tied together by the printed page.

…I was brought up with a series called “My Book House,” edited by Olive Beaupré Miller, which I still refer to. Those books introduced me to mythology and history, to the “Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” the “Kalevala,” the legend of Dick Whittington and early stories of Johnny Appleseed. In them, I got my first images of what Shakespeare’s childhood must’ve looked like, and the great wagons on which the traveling mummers rode around and presented their plays. The drawings were wonderful. They were particularly important to me because I was dyslexic, and I got a lot of my education through images. The very first thing I read all the way through was a Bob Kane Batman comic book. My father wanted to stop me because he objected to comics, but my mother said, “No! He’s reading!”…

(13) MEET THE FILMMAKERS. Enjoy this featurette on Everything Everywhere All At Once.

(14) NETFLIX ORIGINAL ANIMATION ON DEATHWATCH. “Netflix kills the Bone show as its Original Animation department pretty much falls apart” reports A.V. Club. Yesterday streaming service Netflix saw its stock price plummet by record amounts in response to a dismal Q1 earnings call.

…Amidst the chaos, The Wrap released a quieter report this afternoon, one focused on the company’s once vaunted Original Animation department—reporting, among other things, that Phil Rynda, Netflix Director of Creative Leadership and Development for Original Animation, had been let go from the company this week, and that several high-profile animated projects, most notably the much-anticipated animated adaptation of Jeff Smith’s beloved comic series Bone, were dead at the service.

The Bone show is a blow, for sure; fans have been waiting for Smith’s all-ages adventure comic, seemingly a natural fit for animation, to get a worthy adaptation for years. But the report, written by Drew Taylor, also delves into Netflix’s overall treatment of animation creatives, who were once lured to the company with promises of creative freedom, and are now frequently tossed stacks of data to justify the company’s limited advertising for, and support of, its animated shows.

Case in point: The company’s slow response earlier this month to the news that Elizabeth Ito’s excellent (and already canceled) City Of Ghosts had won a Peabody Award. Ito was forced to basically launch a single-person campaign to even get the service to acknowledge the victory; this, after Netflix kept her in suspense about whether the show would get another season….

(15) THE HEAT IS ON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Radical emissions cuts combined with some atmospheric carbon removal are the only hope to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, scientists warn.

Further to last week’s research reported in File 770, the UN’s IPCC have upped the ante, as this week’s Nature says: “IPCC’s starkest message yet: extreme steps needed to avert climate disaster”.

Humanity probably isn’t going to prevent Earth from at least temporarily warming 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels — but aggressive action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and extract carbon from the atmosphere could limit the increase and bring temperatures back down, according to the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)….

(16) I GO TO PIECES. “Lego’s Star Wars Day Offerings Include a new 1,890-Piece Ultimate Collector Series Version of Luke’s Landspeeder”Gizmodo has the story. (Or should I say, ad?)

May the 4th is just a few weeks away and just like the Death Star targeting a defenseless planet, there’s nothing you can do to protect your budget against the onslaught of Star Wars merchandise enroute, including a new addition to Lego’s pricey Ultimate Collector Series line.

As with all of Lego’s UCS models, the new Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder puts previous Lego versions of the vehicle to shame with an incredible amount of detail and new parts you won’t find anywhere else…

(17) BRAZILIAN ANIMATION. Speaking of blocks… In Escalade, Luciano Fulgi and Paolo Muppet explain what happens when you want to tower over your neighbors!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, says the producer has forgotten so much about this series he refers to hero Newt Scamander as “Nugget Scaffolding.”  The writer explains many puzzling plot twists in this film (such as how villain Grindelwald, played previously by Johnny Depp, has become Mads Mikkelsen) by saying “magic!” MANY MANY TIMES.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/23/21 The White Witch Has Made It Always Pixelter But Never Scrollmas

(1) S.L. HUANG ON MOVIE GUN SAFETY. [Item by rcade.] S.L. Huang, who won a 2020 Hugo Award for the short story “As the Last I May Know,” has worked in movies as a stuntwoman, gun trainer and gun safety expert (a job with the title of “film armorer”).

She has posted a Twitter thread on the shooting accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins this week. Thread starts here. Here are a few excerpts:

(2) UNRAVELED RAPIDLY. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Earlier this week, a group of six popular YA writers announced that they were co-launching a shared world project which would be called “Realm of Ruin”, and which would involve NFTs and reader submissions and quite a lot of details which hadn’t been properly thought out.

By Friday, the project had been canceled.

@BadWritingTakes tracked the details in a thread that begins here.

(3) RUH-ROH! New episodes of Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? started streaming on HBOMax October 1, and they’ve really upgraded the roster of guest stars — Cher, Sean Astin, Jessica Biel, Terry Bradshaw, Lucy Liu, Jason Sudeikis, and Run DMC.

(4) SID KROFFT, INSTAGRAM STAR? “How Sid Krofft, at 92, became an Instagram Live star and why celebs ask to be on his show” at Yahoo! Either he’s worked with them, or they loved his work when they were kids. He did his 75th show October 3.

…[Sid] Krofft is best known through his collaborations with his brother Marty on TV shows like “Land of the Lost,” “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,” “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” and “H.R. Pufnstuf,” whose 17 episodes from 1969 were a syndication staple through the 1970s and again in the ’90s…. 

Killian says he was 90 at the time, and though they bicker like an old married couple, he reluctantly tried it out. What he found was that his penchant for storytelling helped him connect online like he had with audiences through his puppetry or through TV, and that many people remembered and revered him not only for his work but how it influenced them.

“You just don’t know, after all these years, that the fans still hang out and they know all the songs and everything that you’ve done,” says Krofft.

Those fans include many who are now stars in their own right. Just the other day, according to Krofft, Seth Rogen came to visit him. Why? Because he admired his work.

He says he didn’t know most of the stars he’s interacted with. “They searched me out! A few days ago, Anderson Cooper contacted me. I don’t know Anderson. And Katie Couric. People are reaching out to me that I never knew. I wanted to, but I never met them. Half of the people that I have had on, they reached out to me. I’m floored over that.”…

(5) TRIBUTE TO SF ARTIST POWERS. Scott Robinson’s Higher Powers: a Richard M. Powers Centennial Concert will be staged Saturday, October 30 in Brooklyn, NY.

It is no exaggeration to state that surrealist painter Richard M. Powers (1921-1996) was one of the most startlingly imaginative and prolific artists of the twentieth century. The otherworldly landscapes, perplexing quasi-machines, and extra-dimensional biomorphic forms he produced for countless science fiction book covers of the 1950s and 60s were a powerful early inspiration for composer/multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, who brings his “aRT” trio with Pheeroan akLaff and Julian Thayer to Roulette for this centennial multimedia concert event.

The evening will begin with a pre-concert discussion with the artist’s son, writer Richard Gid Powers, and longtime broadcaster David Garland. Robinson’s short award-winning video, “Powers100,” will also be shown. Following an intermission, the aRT trio will then take the stage for the World Premiere of Higher Powers, an improvisational multimedia piece in which live video feed of the performers will be interactively intermixed in real time with Powers imagery chosen from among his vast output…some of it unpublished, never before seen by the public. The use of monitors for the performers, along with computer technology to blend and meld images on the large screen above, is a method that aRT developed in collaboration with sculptor Rob Fisher in 1991 which allows for full, 360° interactivity. The performers literally enter the work, and become it… and vice versa. Extremely rare instruments from Robinson’s arsenal will be seen and heard, including a sub-contrabass sarrusophone, a Model 201 theremin which was Robert Moog’s very first creation (one of only 20 he made), and one of the world’s largest saxophones. Rare footage of the artist at work will also be shown, and there will be a reception following the performance.

(6) TROPE REJECTED. Slate’s Tyler Austin Harper  says Invasion gets one thing right — “Apple TV+’s Invasion, Tomorrow War, Watchmen: Stop with the fantasy that aliens will fix racism”.

…Yet, despite signaling aspirations to tackle big-picture issues from a global perspective, Invasion’s diversity is largely ornamental, a toothless, paint-by-number multiculturalism of the sort you see on college brochures. It’s as though the show’s creators assumed that simply writing in an immigrant or a person with a disability would magically create compelling television in and of itself—no need for intrigue or conflict or any of the flesh-and-blood details that make an audience care about whether or not a character gets sent off to the alien glue factory.

Yet, for all that, Invasion remains an interesting cultural document because it is doing something different from the great bulk of science fiction out there about what happens when creatures from another galaxy show up on our doorsteps. Namely, it presents a world in which the arrival of space invaders does not magically fix race or class divides by uniting the human race against a common enemy, a trope that has now been a staple of science fiction for more than a century….

(7) PAIZO UNION RECOGNIZED BY MANAGEMENT. Bleeding Cool says the recently-announced union has had a breakthrough: “Paizo Announces Recognition Of United Paizo Workers” reports Bleeding Cool.

Last night, Paizo formally announced that they have officially recognized a union of their own staff which has been named the United Paizo Workers. The company issued the statement and quote from their president below, which revealed they had voluntarily recognized the United Paizo Workers union, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). This is a pretty major step for the company considering their staff announced they were unionizing just a week ago.

Jeff Alvarez, President of Paizo [said:]

“The next steps will involve the United Paizo Workers (UPW) union electing their bargaining representatives and then meeting with Paizo management to negotiate terms for a collective bargaining agreement. We expect this process to take some time, but we are committed to the effort and hope to settle a contract in due course. Until an agreement is reached, the Paizo staff continues to focus on creating amazing Pathfinder and Starfinder products.” 

(8) SAND DOLLARS. Dune set a studio opening day record reports Deadline.

Dune posted the best opening day for a Warner Bros. theatrical/HBO Max day and date title with $17.5M. While Warners is calling the weekend currently at $33M, rivals believes it’s higher, in the high $30Ms range, which would also indicate a record weekend for a Warner/HBO Max title and filmmaker Denis Villeneuve as well.

The industry estimate for Saturday’s drop is around -30%. Hopefully, the HBO Max of it all doesn’t drag the movie further down, as US folks with HBO subscriptions discover they can watch Dune at home for free. Between Thursday and Friday, there was a significant amount of moviegoers who decided to see Dune at the last minute, with 67% of the crowd either buying their tickets the day of, or the day before.

Dune‘s Friday is bigger than that of Villeneuve’s previous sci-fi reboot, Blade Runner 2049, which saw a Friday of $12.6M, and also that of Legendary and Warner Bros. previous reteaming, Godzilla vs. Kong, which saw a Friday of $11.8M, that being the first of the studio’s tentpoles on HBO Max at Easter….

(9) WINDYCON DEAL. Chicago’s annual Windycon is on the brink, financially, and is offering incentives to make its room block:

Windycon is giving away convention memberships with hotel room bookings, if you book a room for two nights by October 25.

Want to see Carlos Hernandez or Seanan McGuire in person? Come to suburban Chicago November 12-14! Help save a venerable fan-run SF convention that, I promise, is taking Covid precautions VERY seriously!

Per the press release:

We all know the last few years have been rough. We had to go virtual with Breezycon last year, and this year we are struggling to provide a safe environment for us to gather. In order to help keep Windycon going, we need to make our room block. We’ve extended our room block deadline to Monday, October 25 but we are still low.

Because of this shortfall we are offering free registration for the hotel reservations that meet these qualifications

If you don’t have a room yet and book 2 nights, or more, you will receive a free registration for Windycon 2022. Book 4 or more and get 2 free registrations for Windycon 2022

If you already have a reservation but extend it for a 3rd night, or more, you will receive a free registration for Windycon 2022. Extend it for 4 and get 2 free registrations for Windycon 2022

If you have booked your room and it’s for 2 nights we will put your name in a drawing for 10 registrations. Plus, as a reward for already booking early, you will qualify for a $10 reduction of your Windycon registration fee next year.

(10) ANOTHER CALL FOR ASSISTANCE. “StarShipSofa Is In Desperate Need of Funds” says Tony C. Smith. Obviously, it has evolved to have a very different model than when it won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 2010.

There’s no getting away from it… StarShipSofa needs a little help in funding. We have been going 16 years now (wow) and I have had this silent goal to take SSS to 20 years, say goodbye one last time then bow out and walk away… or better still – drift into the deep universe and beyond.

Truth is… we won’t get there if our funding keeps reclining. We have lost nearly 200 Patreon supporters since we started and now are stuck financially, scraping together enough funds each month to put out only two shows.

This is such a shame.

Please support via Patreon. Monthly donations are the perfect cure to help me achieve my goal. Let me get to 20 years of StarShipSofa – after that who knows.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1959 – “Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.”

Sixty two years ago, Twilight Zone’s “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” first aired on CBS. It starred Ida Lupino who was the only individual to have worked as both actress and though she was uncredited at the time as a director in the same episode of The Twilight Zone.  She will be credited with directing of “The Masks” which she appeared in. She was thereby the only woman to direct an episode of The Twilight Zone

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 23, 1880 Una O’Connor. Actress who appeared in the 1930s The Invisible Man as Jenny Hall. She had a bit part in Bride of Frankenstein, and a supporting role in the genre-adjacent The Adventures of Robin Hood. Though not even genre adjacent, she was Mrs. Peters in the film adaptation of Graham Greene’s Stamboul. Great novel, I’ll need to see if I can find this film.She’s in The Canterville Ghost, and shows up twice in TV’s Tales of Tomorrow anthology series. And that’s it. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 23, 1935 Bruce Mars, 86. He was on Trek three times, one uncredited, with his best remembered being in the most excellent Shore Leave episode as Finnegan, the man Kirk fights with. He also had one-offs in The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, and Mission: Impossible.  He is now Brother Paramananda with the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles which he joined shortly after ending his acting career in 1969. 
  • Born October 23, 1953 Ira Steven Behr, 68. Best remembered for his work on the Trek franchise, particularly Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, on which he served as showrunner and executive producer. As writer and or producer, he has been in involved in Beyond RealityDark AngelThe Twilight ZoneThe 4400Alphas, and Outlander
  • Born October 23, 1955 Graeme Reavlle, 66. New Zealand composer responsible for such genre soundtracks as  The CrowFrom Dusk Till DawnThe Saint (the 1997 version), Titan A.E.Lara Croft: Tomb RaiderDaredevil and Sin City.
  • Born October 23, 1959 Sam Raimi, 62. Responsible for, and this is not a complete listing, the Darkman franchise , M.A.N.T.I.S., the Jack of All Trades series that Kage loved, the Cleopatra 2525 series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess series and the Spider-Man trilogy. 
  • Born October 23, 1969 Trudy Canavan, 52. Australian writer who’s won two Ditmars for her Thief’s Magic and A Room for Improvement novels and two Aurealis Awards as well, one for her “Whispers of the Mist Children” short story, and one for The Magician’s Apprentice novel.  It’s worth noting that she’s picked up two Ditmar nominations for her artwork as well. 
  • Born October 23, 1986 Emilia Clarke, 35. She’ll be most remembered as Daenerys Targaryen on the Game of Thrones. Her genre film roles include Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys and Kira in Solo: A Star Wars Story. She was also Verena in Voice from the Stone, a horror film. Not to mention Savannah Roundtree in Triassic Attack, a network film clearly ripping off Jurrasic Park.
  • Born October 23, 2007 Lilly Aspell, 14. She’s a Scottish-born performer best known so far for portraying the young Diana in Wonder Woman and its sequel. She voiced the role on DC Super Hero Girls. She was Newschild in Holmes & Watson, and Megan in the alien invasion flick Extinction

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD HELL. Randee Dawn continues the “Halloween Haunts” series at the Horror Writers Association Blog with “Suburbia is Hell” – just as Pohl and Kornbluth foretold.

Suburbs are hell.

This said by someone who grew up on cul-de-sacs, down streets named after Ivy League universities, on parcels of farmland carved up into intentionally bland, vaguely descriptive development names, on land that was almost certainly stolen from the original inhabitants, then re-distributed and tamed. Or attempted to be tamed….

(15) MAKING MAGIC. The CBS Saturday Morning show a few weeks ago featured “Zach King on how his magic tricks reach millions”. Watch the video at the link.

At 31 years old Zach King has already amassed an extensive catalog of accomplishments and compiled a massive catalog of accomplishments. His magic trick videos have reached millions and millions on several different social media platforms. King opens up to Dana Jacobson about how the fun isn’t just making the magic, it can also be found when revealing the illusion.

(16) COUNTING THE DAYS. There’s more than one reason not to let this collectible come in contact with water. “Gremlins Countdown Calendar review” at OAFE.

One of the oddest trends in 2020 was the rise of the geeky advent calendar. You may recall we reviewed the one from Boss Fight Studio, but it was far from the only one available – many were even in normal stores, like Walmart or Target. They began showing up on shelves in late October, which in at least one case was a problem.

This set is based on a horror movie. And it’s got 31 days, not 24 – so obviously this was not meant to be a Christmas calendar, but a Halloween calendar. Not much use on October 20th. But hey, there’s nothing saying it’s only good for a specific year, right? So buy one on post-holiday clearance, and store it away for next October!

(17) ZOOM WITH GRADY HENDRIX ABOUT HAUNTING. Northern Illinois University’s “Future Telling” webinar series features “The Haunted Mind,” a free virtual presentation with Grady Hendrix, author (Horrorstör, My Best Friend’s Exorcism) and Konrad Stump, Local History Associate, Springfield-Green County Library, on Wednesday, October 27, at 6:00 p.m. Central. Register here.

Why do some people believe they have experienced a haunting? Understand the science behind environmental and neurological conditions that shape people’s belief in ghosts or their tendency to experience delusions. Join host Gillian King-Cargile as she talks with author Grady Hendrix (The Final Girl Support Group, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Horrorstör), librarian Konrad Stump, a local history expert and co-chair of Horror Writers Association Library Committee, and other experts in psychology and neurology. Don’t miss this spirited discussion on spooky science.

The goal of the “Future Telling” webinar series is to “introduce writers to bleeding-edge concepts, to invigorate STEM experts with mind-bending views of the future, and to celebrate the connections between STEM and storytelling.”

(18) CINEMATIC INSPIRATION. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Bugboss did this piece based on the 1973 movie Fantastic Planet

(19) NETFLIX ALL-TIME MOST-WATCHED SHOWS. [Item by David Doering.] More evidence we won the Culture War: Netflix announced last week their All-Time most watched shows. Their #2 and #3 shows globally were SF/F. “’Bridgerton’ tops Netflix’s list of most watched TV shows ever, while ‘Extraction’ leads among movies”.

“Bridgerton,” a period piece about 19th century British royalty produced by Shonda Rhimes, premiered in December. French series “Lupin: Part 1? and season one of “The Witcher,” a fantasy series starring Henry Cavill, tied for second on the list, with 76 million accounts.

Naturally, as an anime fan I consider “Lupin” part of our genre. Some could even argue that Bridgerton has an element of “fantasy” to it as well.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Diablo II Resurrected,” Fandom Games says this game is a barely revised version of Diablo, but Blizzard Games didn’t want to face “the righteous anger of one billion nerds” by offering something gamers wouldn’t already be used to.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, rcade, Cassy B., Rob Thornton, Rich Lynch, Chris Barkley, Nancy Sauer, Ben Bird Person, David Doering, Danny Sichel, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/21 Or I Will Scroll Thee In The Gobberfiles With My Pixelcruncheon, See If I Don’t!

(1) WORKING FOR THE MAN EVERY NIGHT AND DAY. Yesterday’s Scroll picked up The Mary Sue’s report that “Marvel Fired Joe Bennett After Alleged Anti-Semitic Cartoons”. Today Bounding Into Comics reports Bennett is now working for Vox Day’s Arkhaven Comics: “After Being Blacklisted By Marvel Comics, Joe Bennett Joins Arkhaven Comics”. That obviously wasn’t a hard decision for Bennett.

…In a press release, Arkhaven Comics notes they “did not hesitate to take advantage of Bennett’s unexpected availability, and promptly signed the former DC and Marvel illustrator as its lead artist on two series being written by legendary comics writer Chuck Dixon.”

Not only was Bennett the artist for Immortal Hulk, but his resume also includes Savage Hawkman, Deathstroke, and Arrow Season 2.5 among others at DC Comics. 

…Dixon, who has also been subject to a Marvel Comics blacklist since 2002, welcomed Bennett to Arkhaven Comics stating, “It’s a sign of where the American comic industry is at the moment that they would let a powerhouse talent like Joe Bennett go because his personal politics are not in line with their own.”

“I’m looking forward to working with Joe on both of the projects we have in motion at Arkhaven,” he added….

(2) BARBARIAN AT THE GATES. Funcom has purchased the Cabinet Group, which currently holds the trademarks to Conan and most other Robert E. Howard characters. This mainly affects comics and videogames, since there apparently are no movies, TV shows or new books in the works, although they say a game is in development. “Funcom Acquires Full Control of Conan the Barbarian and Dozens of Other IPs”.

…Funcom CEO Rui Casais said he has high ambitions for the IPs and noted at least one unannounced project is already in development. 

“We are currently overseeing the development of an unannounced game which will combine many of the characters in the Robert E. Howard universe,” said Casais. “And if you combine Funcom’s knowledge of games with Heroic Signatures’ knowledge of the TV/entertainment, publishing, and licensing industries, it makes us perfectly placed to take this venture to the next level. It’s exciting times ahead for us and for fans of the IPs.”… 

(3) BES&ST, Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia offer an overview of the best sword and sorcery fiction past and present at the Washington Post“Let’s talk about the best sword and sorcery books”.

Lavie: I love the original “Witcher” stories by Andrzej Sapkowski, collected in English as “The Last Wish” in 2007 and translated by Danusia Stok. They were originally published in the Polish magazine Nowa Fantastyka. I got to read “The Last Wish” in proof before it even came out, but I don’t know that anyone then expected it would become as big as it did. For a time, it was nearly titled “The Hexer” but, hexer or witcher, Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia is a worthy successor to its earlier influences….

(4) HE CALLED IT. Goodman Games has a post on Fritz Leiber and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser by James Maliszewski: “Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Origin of Sword-and-Sorcery Stories”.

In the May 1961 issue of the fantasy fanzine Amra, future stalwart of Appendix N, Michael Moorcock, wrote a letter to the editor in which he proposed the term “epic fantasy” for the literary genre pioneered by Robert E. Howard in his stories of Conan the Cimmerian. In the July issue of that same year, however, Fritz Leiber offered another term in reply, writing, “I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story.” Leiber elaborates a bit on his coinage, adding that this term “accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element,” as well as being useful in distinguishing these stories from other popular pulp genres….

(5) WHAT BELONGS IN THAT BOX? Also at Goodman Games, — now that we have a name for these stories, how do we define sword and sorcery? Brian Murphy discusses the problem in “Sifting Through a Sword-and-Sorcery Definition”.

…But, in the same essay Moorcock began refining these broad parameters, focusing on a subset of fantasy stories “which could hardly be classified as SF, and they are stories of high adventure, generally featuring a central hero very easy to identify oneself with …. tales told for the tale’s sake… rooted in legendry, classic romance, mythology, folklore, and dubious ancient works of “History.” These were quest stories, Moorcock added, in which the hero is thwarted by villains but against all odds does what the reader expects of him….

(6) RACISM IN S&S. This isn’t new, but Charles R. Saunders’ famous essay “Die, Black Dog, Die” about the latent and not so latent racism in sword and sorcery and fantasy in general from the 1970s is available again online here: “Revisiting ‘Die, Black Dog!’” at Reindeer Motel. (It’s posted as a single image file, so no excerpt here.)

(7) BACKSTAGE TO THE FUTURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Back To The Future: The Musical, which recently opened in London.  Roger Bart, who played Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, plays Doc.

“As in the film, restless teenager Marty McFly escapes his humdrum home life by hanging out with doc and ends up taking the wheel of the DeLorean for an early voyage.  But he gets more than he bargains for when that voyage lands him back in 1955 and in the hugely awkward position of meeting his teenage mum–who promptly develops a crush on him.  Gale’s script gleefully replicates the film (with a few wise excisions, such as the Libyan terrorists), while relishing the irony that from 2021, 1985 looks like old hat and that, for many in the audience, the whole show is an exercise in nostalgia–coupled with curiosity to see time travel on stage…

…A mix of pastiche and sincerity characterises the show.  The songs (Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard) channel the periods–such as a peppy Fifties number in praise of gasoline and DDT–and there’s a nice streak of self-mockery.”

The website for the show is Back to the Future the Musical.

(8) SUPER-OVERRATED. James Davis Nicoll has decided there are “Five Superpowers That Just Aren’t As Fun as They Sound”.

Who among us has not dreamed of having superpowers? We are urged thereto by the avalanche of comics, movies, novels, and roleplaying games featuring abilities beyond mortal ken. Yet not all superpowers are created equal. Some superpowers require secondary superpowers to survive.  Other abilities have disquieting consequences for their possessors.

I’m not going to talk about superhumans with powers that would kill them or their friends if exercised. No one dreams of being any of the following:

  • X-Bomb Betty (can self-detonate, producing a 150 million megaton explosion (once))
  • Hazmat (lethal radioactive aura)
  • Absorbing Man (can duplicate the properties of materials he touches; see footnote)

I’m talking, here, about powers that appear on their surface to be useful but later reveal themselves to be harmful to, or at least extremely alienating for, those who wield them. Below are my musings about five such examples…

(9) NOW, THE NEWS. Also, James Davis Nicoll recommends this comedy sketch on Tik-Tok as an interpretation of “the Canadian election seen through the lens of the Matrix”.

(10) GIANT PEACH OF A DEAL. Netflix now owns the rights to Roald Dahl’s stories. Roundup at Adweek: “Netflix Acquires Roald Dahl Story Company, Plans Extensive Universe”.

The U.S. streaming giant announced Wednesday it has bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the rights to the British novelist’s characters and stories. It comes three years after Netflix signed a deal to create a slate of new animated productions based on the works of Dahl. (CNBC)

Under the previous deal, Taika Waititi is working on Roald Dahl animated series projects for Netflix, covering Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. That’s in addition to two different versions of Matilda, including a film version of Matilda the Musical and an animated series, plus plans to make a BFG cartoon. (The Verge)

(11) 1001, A FACE ODYSSEY. “What About the Heroine’s Journey?” asks the New York Times in its review of Maria Tatar’s The Heroine With 1,001 Faces.

…[Joseph] Campbell’s ideas have rippled out in the culture for decades — especially after a popular series hosted by Bill Moyers in 1988 — but he has long demanded a feminist response. It would be hard to conjure up a more suitable person to provide one than Maria Tatar, the Harvard professor who is one of the world’s leading scholars on folklore.

Her new book, “The Heroine With 1,001 Faces,” out this month from Liveright, is an answer to Campbell, though she is careful not to frame it as an assault. “Even though my title suggests that I’m writing a counternarrative, or maybe an attack on him, I think of it as more of a sequel,” Tatar said in a video interview from her home in Cambridge, Mass.

She is stirring what J.R.R. Tolkien once called the “cauldron of story” in search of the girls and women, some silenced and some forgotten, some from the Iliad and some from Netflix, who live in Campbell’s blind spot. The reader jumps from Arachne’s battle with Athena to the escape of Bluebeard’s trickster wife to Pippi Longstocking and Nancy Drew and even to Carrie Bradshaw typing away on her laptop.

(12) LIGHTEN UP. Sarah Gailey is joined by Sophie Lee Mae and Jaxton Kimble to play with this new writing prompt in “Building Beyond: That’s Just Super” at Stone Soup:

Exposure to fluorescent lights gives people a 98% chance of developing a superpower under conditions of duress.

(13) J. RANDOLPH COX (1936-2021). Randy Cox died in a nursing home on September 14 reports Mysteryfile.com. Cox edited The Dime Novel Round-Up for over 20 year. He wrote several books including Man of Magic & Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson, about the man who created The Shadow; Flashgun Casey: Crime Photographer, co-authored with David S. Siegel, about the character originally created for Black Mask by George Harmon Coxe; Masters of Mystery and Detective Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography;  and The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. He received the Munsey Award at PulpFest in 2014.

(14) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1964 – Fifty-seven years ago on NBC, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. premiered. It was created by Sam Rolfe who was responsible for Have Gun, Will Travel and Norman Felton who directed All My Children, the first daytime soap which debuted in the Forties. It starred Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll. It would last four seasons of one hundred and five episodes, most in color. Harlan Ellison scripted two episodes, “The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair” and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” A reunion film, Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. with the subtitle of The Fifteen Years Later Affair with Vaughn and McCallum reprising their roles with Patrick Macnee replacing Leo G. Carroll, who had died, as the head of U.N.C.L.E. There was a film reboot recently that was very well received. 

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 — Samuel A. Peeples. Memory Alpha says that he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Star Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek lore, “[Gene Roddenberry] got ‘Wagon Train to the stars’ from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, ‘Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?’” (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 22, 1952 — Paul Kincaid, 69. A British science fiction critic. He stepped down as chairman of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in April 2006 after twenty years. He is the co-editor with Andrew M. Butler of The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology. He’s also written A Very British Genre: A Short History of British Fantasy and Science Fiction and What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction. His latest publication is The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest.
  • Born September 22, 1954 — Shari Belafonte, 67. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well known genre performance. 
  • Born September 22, 1957 — Jerry Oltion, 64. His Nebula Award winning Abandon in Place novella is the beginning of the Cheap Hyperdrive sequence, a really fun Space Opera undertaking. Abandon in Place was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 (2013). The Astronaut from Wyoming was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. 
  • Born September 22, 1971 — Elizabeth Bear, 50. First, let’s all wish her a speedy recovery from her cancer surgery which was this week. Her first sff series was a superb trilogy, which might be considered cyberpunk, centered on a character named Jenny Casey. She’s a very prolific writer; I’m fond of her Promethean AgeNew Amsterdam and Karen Memory series. She won an Astounding Award for Best New Writer, a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and a Hugo for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. One of only five writers to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the Astounding Award! Very impressive indeed! It is worth noting that she was one of the regular panelists on now sadly defunct podcast SF Squeecast, which won the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards for “Best Fancast”. (CE)
  • Born September 22, 1981 — Maria Ashley Eckstein, 40. She’s voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She even has a voice only cameo as Ashoka in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. And she voiced the character in the audiobook of E. K. Johnston’s Star Wars: Ahsoka.
  • Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper, 39. Best remembered as the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played the dual roles Brona Croft and Lily Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful. She played Veronica Beatrice “Sally” Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in The North.
  • Born September 22, 1985 — Tatiana Maslany, 36. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the Orphan Black which won a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) at the  73rd World Science Fiction Convention for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried“ episode. She received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards. She’ll be playing Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk in the upcoming Marvel She-Hulk series.

(16) SHARP POINTY TEETH. Of course it’s a vampire movie. Was there ever any doubt? Night Teeth coming to Netflix on October 20.

(17) IT CANNOT BE DENIED. From a book review in today’s New York Times:

“(Turid is among those names, like Shakespeare’s Titus, for which it is crucial, when spelling, not to omit the second vowel.)”

(18) DANGEROUS HISTORY. A genre study titled Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985 edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre is available for pre-order from PM Press.

…It starts with progressive authors who rose to prominence in the conservative 1950s, challenging the so-called Golden Age of science fiction and its linear narratives of technological breakthroughs and space-conquering male heroes. The book then moves through the 1960s, when writers, including those in what has been termed the New Wave, shattered existing writing conventions and incorporated contemporary themes such as modern mass media culture, corporate control, growing state surveillance, the Vietnam War, and rising currents of counterculture, ecological awareness, feminism, sexual liberation, and Black Power. The 1970s, when the genre reflected the end of various dreams of the long Sixties and the faltering of the postwar boom, is also explored along with the first half of the 1980s, which gave rise to new subgenres, such as cyberpunk.

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds contains over twenty chapters written by contemporary authors and critics, and hundreds of full-color cover images, including thirteen thematically organised cover selections. New perspectives on key novels and authors, such as Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, John Wyndham, Samuel Delany, J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, Judith Merril, Barry Malzberg, Joanna Russ, and many others are presented alongside excavations of topics, works, and writers who have been largely forgotten or undeservedly ignored.

Here’s a sample page that was posted to the book’s Kickstarter site:

(19) THE QUICK SAND AND THE DEAD. Juliette Kayyem remembers a hazard much on the minds of young TV viewers back in the day:

Her tweet inspired E. Gruberman to round up a zillion YouTube links to relevant scenes from old shows of TV heroes up to their hips in quicksand.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Transformers:  Age of Extinction Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says in the fourth Transformers movie, Sam Witwicky disappears without an explanation because Shia LeBouef didn’t want to be in Transformer movies anymore. The writer explains that the Transformers are powered by “transformium,” “which can change into any product placement we want.” but the third act will be “our usual visual mess” but will feature “guns, boobs, America, victory.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/19/21 The Duplicated Enchanter

(1) YOU COULD BE HEINLEIN. Once upon a time, in 2011, there was a role playing game called The Big Hoodoo. You might recognize some of the PC’s –

… The Big Hoodoo is Lovecraftian noir in 1950s California with a ripped-from-history plot centered on the explosive death of real-world rocket scientist, science fiction fan, and occultist Jack Parsons in a garage laboratory in 1952. The investigators are iconic figures active in the science fiction scene at the time of Parsons’ death, and their inquiries lead them from the mean streets of Pasadena to the edge of the Mojave Desert and the mountains of southern California as well as the beaches of Los Angeles.

Play sci-fi great Robert Heinlein, his ex-Navy engineer wife Virginia, renowned editor and mystery writer Tony Boucher, or a young Philip K. Dick as they confront the lunatic fringe in La-La Land, and find themselves caught in a charlatan’s web of chicanery, mendacity, and deceit-laced with a strong strand of mythos menace.

The adventure includes brief biographical hooks for the PCs to orient players to their investigators as well as suggestions for alternate and additional investigators. Brief rules for a magic system intended to evoke the Enochian “magick” invented by John Dee and Edward Kelley, adopted by Aleister Crowley, and passed on to Jack Parsons are appended, and are used in the adventure. It can be played as a convention one-shot, or serve as the basis for a slightly longer set of episodes covering two or three evenings of entertainment.…

In 2012, Jasper van der Meer told “Geeklists for The Big Hoodoo” readers a better way to play the game.

Ugh, I didn’t run this game, but I’m glad I didn’t. The Keeper had prepared diligently for a Classic Trail of Cthulhu game. We, as players, shifted this scenario to a Pulp mode of play in pretty short order, then ran it off the road into the desert for a third mode of play: Fiasco.

To start our traffic accident, my pre-generated Robert Heinlein P.C. snatched an autographed copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics from a fan boy, then smacked him in the face with it, asking, “Why are you with this grifter’s cult, son? Nothing good will come from that snake oil salesman. I’m taking his book away from you. You’ll thank me later.”

From there, we swerved a bit between lanes, then launched off the shoulder of the road into insanity. Heinlein’s wife, also a P.C., engaged in a catfight with Heinlein’s ex-wife, flicking a lit cigarette into her eye to get a brawl at a prominent Satanist’s funeral rolling. Phillip K. Dick, another P.C., knocked back a lady cultist’s hip flask of space mead. He was tripping pretty hard, blowing through stability. The silliness didn’t stop. We piled on the antics like we were playing Fiasco Classic.

After five hours of play, three of the four pre-generated P.C.s died and did not die well. The sole survivor would go on to author a large catalogue of science fiction by way of trying to come to terms with what happened to him.

(2) WITH SIX YOU GET INSIGHT. In “6 Books with Adrian Tchaikovsky” at Nerds of a Feather, the author makes substantial and fascinating comments about a half dozen choices to curator Paul Weimer.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?

Gene Wolfe – The Shadow of the Torturer

So I bounced the hell of this when I was about 15. I saw rave reviews and I went in with great expectations and just could not get any of it. The language was opaque and the plots just seemed to go nowhere and basically just what the hell, man?

Fast forward to now: Wolfe is most definitely one of my all-time favourite authors. I just hit him too young, and with all the wrong expectations. He doesn’t write the sort of straightforward narrative I was anticipating, and there are puzzles within puzzles hidden in the story for the reader to disentangle – to the extent that I’m sure that there’s plenty in Book of the New Sun that I haven’t ever clocked, despite reading it multiple times. But that’s fine, because even those strata that I have exposed tell such a remarkably rich story on multiple levels. There is all the complexity of Severian and his own rather suspect take on events (Wolfe is the master of the unreliable narrator), and there is the incredible world built through Severian’s travels and reminiscences and chance mentions. Then again there’s a profound burden of philosophical speculation woven through the text, much of which I suspect has passed me by.

From a pure worldbuilding perspective, the New Sun books are a real education. Because you can build a world through saying too little and you can build a world through saying too much, and both ways can go wrong. Wolfe somehow manages to do both without it going wrong at all. There is a vast, living, breathing world in those books, seen through Severian’s fleeting attention and obsessions, so that we’re dragged hither and yon by his stream of consciousness. The overall impression, once you settle into the way the story is being told, is of a vastness of creation beyond the details on the page. And because, when Severian does want to give us a deep dive into some small aspect of his world, he really goes deep, the implicit assurance is that the same level of detail is waiting invisibly in absolutely everything else, even those aspects that he gives only the briefest mention of. 

(3) DAVIDSON UPDATE. Amazing Stories’ Kermit Woodall gave a progress report about Steve Davidson’s recovery from heart surgery:

Steve is doing well at the hospital, will probably be discharged into a local extended-stay inn until he’s cleared for travel home.

(4) IT’S A FORD. Reviewers ooh-ed and ahhed when they found this book available on Netgalley. Tor Books will release it on September 21.

 (5) NATIONAL THEATRE NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 14 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming discusses After Life, which will open at the National Theatre on June 2.  The play is by Jack Thorne, who wrote Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,

If you had to choose just one memory to live with through the whole of eternity, what would you choose?  That’s the nigh impossible question posed in After Life, the new play that will reopen London’s National Theatre this summer.

Based on Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-ada’s beautiful 1998 film of the same name, After Life is set in a post-life institution, where a group of strangers grapple with this dilemma, sifting through their lives for the moment they want to preserve forever…

…The setting honours the low-key nature of the memories–a moment on a park bench; a cool breeze on a tram journey–and looks like the sort of half-remembered building you visit in dreams.  For stage, the creative team has sought to preserve that quality.  The play–a co-production with Headlong theatre company–is not a straight adaptation of the film but draws on the teams personal memories and a very British version of humdrum bureaucracy.

(6) SHREK. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary of a film franchise: “‘Shrek’ at 20: How a Chaotic Project Became a Beloved Hit”.

… Key to the film’s success was the unforgettable comic voice work delivered by a cast that included Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Cameron Diaz as the princess.

…Casting was still an issue when she [the director] came onboard. Diaz and Murphy were in place, but who would play the title character was up in the air. The former “Saturday Night Live” star Chris Farley was originally cast and had recorded many of his lines when he died at the age of 33 that year.

Jenson said she and her colleagues were big fans of “S.N.L.” and Mike Myers. “It kind of took a little selling to the studio because he was still breaking in, but he wasn’t the huge name that he is now,” she said. 

(7) ANOTHER LOOK AT LOKI. Marvel dropped this teaser for Loki today.

The clock is ticking. Marvel Studios’ “Loki” arrives in three weeks with new episodes every Wednesday starting June 9 on Disney+.

(8) EVIL TRAILER. Netflix will begin streaming Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness on July 8.

The landmark survival horror video game series Resident Evil has shipped over 110 million copies worldwide. Popular characters Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield appear in this CG serialized drama, the first in series history! Don’t miss this new epic entertainment on a scale more spectacular than ever before!

(9) LIVINGSTONE OBIT. Actor and writer Douglas Livingstone died April 19 at the age of 86 reports The Guardian. Their tribute praises his primary genre credit:

His compelling six-part small-screen adaptation of The Day of the Triffids (1981), a rare excursion into sci-fi, remained faithful to John Wyndham’s novel, apart from re-setting the story from the 1950s to the near-future. One critic described it as “the most effective TV realisation of Wyndham’s writing”.

(10) GRODIN EULOGIES. Miss Piggy tweeted an appreciation of Charles Grodin who died yesterday.

Also:

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 19, 1901 – George Pendray.  Early rocketeer; co-founded the American Interplanetary Society (its successor Am. Inst. Aeronautics & Astronautics gives the Pendray Award); invented the time capsule, for the 1939 World’s Fair; coined the word “laundromat”; helped establish Guggenheim Jet Propulsion Center at Cal. Tech., Guggenheim Labs at Princeton Univ., U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n.  Wrote SF as science editor of Literary Digest, e.g. “A Rescue from Jupiter”.  Co-edited The Papers of Robert H. Goddard.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1920 – Walter Popp.  Prolific pulp illustrator for e.g. Amazing, Fantastic, Startling, Thrilling; see here.  Also Gothic-romance fantasy, see here, some becoming limited-edition prints for fine-art galleries, see here.  Outside our field, true-crime and men’s-adventure magazines, paperbacks including Popular Library; toy and sporting-goods manufacturers; greeting cards.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1921 – Pauline Clarke.  Children’s fantasy The Twelve and the Genii won the Carnegie Medal and the Kinderbuchpreis.  The Pekinese Princess has talking animals and trees.  Thirty novels for various readers; Warscape, for adults, “lurches into the future”, says a remarkable 4,300-word Wikipedia entry.  (Died 2013) [JH] 
  • Born May 19, 1937 Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer, then he was Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And of course he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh and he played a very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens, before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of all-time favourite films. Also an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 73. Singer, best known for a song about looking for a parking spot (link here), but also acts. In addition to other genre roles, she was a companion of Conan in Conan the Destroyer and a Bond Girl in View to a Kill.  (AB) (Alan Baumler)
  • Born May 19, 1948 – Paul Williams.  Created Crawdaddy!  Literary executor of Philip K. Dick, co-founder of PKD Society, biography of PKD Only Apparently Real; worked with David Hartwell on Age of Wonders – also The Int’l Bill of Human Rights; edited vols. 1-12, Complete Works of Theodore Sturgeon; also The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits (including Winnie-the-PoohThe Little PrinceGod Bless You, Mr. Rosewater), four on Bob Dylan, twenty more.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1955 – Elise Primavera, age 66.  Author and illustrator of children’s books, some fantasy: The Secret Order of the Gumm Street GirlsFred & Anthony Meet the Heinie Goblins from the Black Lagoon (as Esile Arevamirp), Marigold Star.  Here’s a book cover.  [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 55. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Woman, Volume 3  and  Wonder Woman: Love and Murder).  She also has a most excellent two-volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1981 – Kiera Cass, age 40.  Seven novels, five shorter stories, many about the Selection in Illéa, which in KC’s fiction was once the United States.  Among 100 things she loves: being married; elephants; paper; the sound of water; Japan; dipping her fingers in melted wax; not walking up but looking at a beautiful staircase; small forks; voting; reasons to make wishes.  [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1996 Sarah Grey, 25. Before DC Universe cast the present Stargirl Brec Bassinger for that series, Legends of Tomorrow cast their Stargirl as this actress for a run of three episodes.  The episodes (“Out of Time”, “Justice Society of America” and “Camelot 3000”) are superb. I’ve not see her as Alyssa Drake in The Order but I’ve heard Good Things about that series. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds a mundane moment in a fairy tale courtship.
  • Bliss shows it could matter what lunar explorers don’t find.

(13) AVENGERS SUIT UP. In partnership with Bandai Spirits of Japan, Marvel Comics will release a brand-new Avengers comic series this August: Tech-On Avengers. This collaboration will be a tokusatsu-inspired action-adventure comic series featuring stellar new armor designs for some of Marvel’s most iconic heroes and villains. Tech-On Avengers #1 is out August 11.

When the Red Skull wields a strange new power that strips heroes of their powers and threatens the entire world, the Avengers turn to Tony Stark’s experimental new technology to save us all. Here come the Iron Avengers — TECH ON AVENGERS! Sleek high-tech power suits bristling with energy and amped-up attack power face off against super villains enhanced to match. It’s mechs and mayhem in the Marvel Mighty Manner!

 Check out the cover by famous Japanese manga artist Eiichi Shimizu who contributed new character deigns for the series as well some action-packed interior artwork by Chamba.

(14) BIG NAME PRODUCERS REBOOT BIG NAME SUPERHEROS. “New Batman and Superman Animated Series Coming to HBO Max”Yahoo! Life has the story.

The two greatest heroes of the DC Universe are coming back to long-form television at last. DC and Warner Bros. Animation, along with HBO Max and Cartoon Network, have announced two brand-new series based on Batman and Superman. And they both have incredible pedigree among their creative teams. A new animated era will soon begin for the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.

HBO Max and Cartoon Network have greenlit a straight-to-series order for Batman: Caped Crusader. This is an all-new animated series and reimagining of the Batman mythology. It’s told through the visionary lens of executive producers Bruce Timm, J.J. Abrams, and Matt Reeves. The series is jointly produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Bad Robot Productions, and 6th & Idaho….

(15) JUST ONE THING GOT IN THE WAY. Leonard Maltin wrote a tribute to the late actor who recently died at the age of 106: “Remembering Norman Lloyd”.

… He graciously welcomed my daughter Jessie and me into his home in 2018 to record an episode of our podcast. (click HERE to listen.) For Jess and many others her age, his role in Dead Poets Society is the first performance that comes to mind. And while he spoke of possible projects to take on he confessed, “I tell you what blocks me from really finding a property: the ball game every day. The ball game comes on and everything stops. In my ancient age, my trainer says, ‘You’ve got to walk so much every day. You’ve got to do these physical exercises’ and so forth. And I think that’s very good advice… And then the ball game comes on.”

(16) NOT WHO SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS. Paul Weimer gets readers fired up in “Microreview [book]: Floodpath by Emily B Martin” at Nerds of a Feather.

… The other classic Martin touch is to be willing to “blow up Vulcan” and show a ground floor change in the status quo, as Tamsin’s vocal disability leads her to a way to use her voice in a way that is hitherto unknown in this world. If the spread and the use of Tamsin’s clever idea is maybe a little faster than it might be in reality, the power of the story of such a revolutionary change, especially since the consequences and advantages only come to mind with time, feels accurate and right. I suspect that the invention, which delighted me when I realized what Martin was doing (and I desperately do not want to spoil) is going to have permanent and long lasting impacts on her entire world. Martin’s world is not a static one where things remain the same without change for generations–inventions, ideas and the actions of people can and do make a difference and a lasting difference. 

(17) CHEETOS PROSPER. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Licks his wounds, find they’re delicious… The Los Angeles Times reports “Richard Montañez book a go despite Flamin’ Hot investigation”.

The publisher of Richard Montañez’s upcoming memoir, “Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise From Janitor to Top Executive,” is moving ahead with the book after a Los Angeles Times investigation found Montañez was not involved in the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

“During his 40+ years at Frito Lay, Richard Montañez repeated the story of his involvement with this product hundreds of times, in speeches, books, and media interviews,” Adrian Zackheim, president and publisher of Portfolio Books, said in a statement Tuesday. “Only now, just as his book is announced, are we suddenly hearing an alternate narrative about the development of this product, which seeks to diminish Richard’s contribution and to question the details of long-ago events.”

Zackheim says the book’s June 15 release date still holds.

“We are proud to stand with our author,” he continued. “Richard Montañez embodies the entrepreneurial spirit; we salute his dedication to inspiring people to own their own stories no matter what their circumstances.”

Parts of the memoir that recount Montañez’s story about inventing the product do not align with the archival record, which indicates that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos had already entered the market and were distributed to stores before the events Montañez describes. Frito-Lay conducted an internal investigation that concluded Montañez was not involved with the 1990 debut of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay wrote in a statement to The Times. “We have interviewed multiple personnel who were involved in the test market, and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate Richard,” the statement read, “but the facts do not support the urban legend.”

(18) HISTORY THROUGH DVDS. “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree begins a commentary series about “History of Sci-Fi — Movies of the Eighties — Part One!”

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Objects are much smaller than they appear! “Flying Baby Yoda – Building The Hover Pod from The Mandalorian”.

This is my second build from the Mandalorian, which has become one of my favorite bits of Star Wars in a long time. The project is based around figure from the 6 inch scale Black Series line. I used the electronics out of an old Fast Lane quad I had in my parts bin, and some upgraded motors and props. The shell is formed around the pod/egg from the new Mission Fleet line, and everything is packed carefully inside. This build tested my patience, and vision, at times trying to get all the electronics to fit into the tiny shell. I eventually broke out the magnifying gear when it was time to solder up the motors. The completed model weighs less than one ounce and is only about an inch wide!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/11/21 Pixelai Filevanovich Scrollachevsky Is His Name. Hey!

(1) MACHADO ON BOOK BANS. Carmen Maria Machado has an op-ed in today’s New York Times: “Banning My Book Won’t Protect Your Child”.

… Book bans in America are nothing new. As long as there have been writers, there have been reactionaries at their heels. (Boston held its first book burning in 1650.) Today in the United States, books that feature characters who are Black, Latinx, Indigenous, queer or trans — or are written by authors who identify that way — frequently make up a majority of the American Library Association’s annual list of the top 10 books most often censored in libraries and schools. These book bans deprive students of a better understanding of themselves and one another. As a writer, I believe in the power of words to cross boundaries at a time of deep division. Now more than ever, literature matters.

Those who seek to ban my book and others like it are trying to exploit fear — fear about the realities that books like mine expose, fear about desire and sex and love — and distort it into something ugly, in an attempt to wish away queer experiences.

They do not try to hide their contempt, or their homophobia. They accuse teachers who want to assign my book of “grooming” students, language that’s often used to accuse someone of being a pedophile and a common conservative dog whistle when it comes to queer art. They want to shield their children from anything that suggests a world beyond their narrow perception.

As anyone can tell you — as history can tell you — this is ultimately a fool’s errand. Ideas don’t disappear when they’re challenged; banned books have a funny way of enduring. But that doesn’t mean these efforts are without consequences.

The high school seniors affected by this action are on the cusp of adulthood, if not already there. Soon, they will go into the world. They will date and fall in love and begin relationships, good and bad. I understand that for a parent, it’s almost unthinkable to imagine that your child could experience such trauma. But preventing children from reading my book, or any book, won’t protect them. On the contrary, it may rob them of ways to understand the world they’ll encounter, or even the lives they’re already living. You can’t recognize what you’ve never been taught to see. You can’t put language to something for which you’ve been given no language.

Why do we not see these acts of censorship for what they are: shortsighted, violent and unforgivable?

(2) WISCON PLANS. This year’s WisCon substitute, although still online, will be different from last year’s virtual convention: “Visioning WisCon”.  

This spring (unlike last spring) has gone fast, but we’ve found the time to be sad about the lack of a WisCon this year as much as we have been hearing you are missing it. But we looked at our energy levels (sadly low) and our virtual-event-expertise levels (also pretty low), and we had to conclude that we weren’t going to be able to do a second WisCONline.

… We will be asking folks to register, so we can send you the information you need to attend. Our base ticket price is FREE! Tickets priced at $10 help us make the next in-person convention happen; $60 tickets go to our Member Assistance Fund, helping folks attend in 2022; the $200 tickets help assure that WisCon can keep happening past 2022. The program space will be open 4pm to 11pm Central time, Saturday May 29 & Sunday May 30.

(3) WRITERS GETTING PAID – WE HOPE. At BookRiot, Sarah Nicolas takes a crack at answering “How Much Do Authors Make Per Book?”

…When I teach classes and am asked how much do authors make, people tend to be deeply unsatisfied with my “it depends” answer. There is no way to predict how much a book will make, but I spoke with 15 authors of all stripes to demonstrate the variety of options. I spoke with self-published authors and traditionally published authors who have made less than they spent on expenses, authors of both paths who easily make a living off their writing, and everyone in between.

While there are many author earning surveys done by a variety of organizations, they are self-reported and only reach the sphere of influence of the organization. Much like with this article, mega bestsellers -— think Stephen King or James Patterson — don’t participate in those surveys. I would also like to caution against reading any kind of “data” on author earnings from websites that are also trying to sell you author services. I ran across many of these in my research and the numbers they present are incredibly skewed and intentionally misleading.

Many of the quoted writers have not let their real name be used. But here’s one you’ll recognize:

…Popular science-fiction author Jim C. Hines has been publishing his income reports every year since 2007. He’s never hit a bestseller list, but his last five books have been lead titles for his publisher. He made $31,411 in 2020, including $13.5k from a Kickstarter. In 2016, he also published a survey of almost 400 authors’ income, which resulted in an average of $114,124, but a median of $17,000, meaning a handful of high-earning outliers were bringing that average up….

(4) HEAR FROM THE HISTORIC TRIMBLES. Fanac.org’s next Zoom fanhistory session will host An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble on May 22 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. For reservations, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organizers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. They were also involved in the SCA and costuming, receiving a lifetime achievement award from the International Costumers Guild in 1992. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more.  For reservations, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

(5) REASONS TO JOIN. “Recruiting the Millennials” on Facebook is a long post about what it takes to get people under the age of 30 interested in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Is any of the experience transferable to your activities?

…Gulf Wars is where I fell in love with the SCA. It got me hooked. I would meet people at Gulf Wars in 2013 who would quite literally change my life, and what got me addicted to the society, what finally set the hook, was being introduced to someone my own age. This seems like such a simple, easy arbitrary thing, but it mattered. You see, before I was introduced to someone my age the SCA felt intimidating, a bit unobtainable in it’s scope and culture. Seeing someone my own age thriving in the society, fighting, with a group of friends also within my age-group was welcoming and showed me that someone so comparatively young can come to fit in here.

Since those days I have made lots of friends my own age in the SCA, most tell a story not to dissimilar to my own. You see the antiquated recruitment methods of the SCA are simply not working. The old pitch “I get to hit my friends with a stick, and have a beer with them later.” is corny, it made me cringe when I first heard it and it makes me cringe now when I hear someone deliver it to someone new like it’s the golden ticket to a life-long member. I am a heavy fighter in the SCA, fighting was a huge draw for me. I grew up on video games and I wanted to be the hero of my own story. That journey is a hard one, and it takes time and dedication. Not everyone is going to have the discipline to stick with it to get to the level of fighting that they want out of themselves, and that’s ok. Some may join wanting to be a fighter, and end up taking up in metalwork or bardic. They may simply fall in love with the culture of the SCA, and do a little bit of everything, and that’s ok too….

(6) IN MEMORY YET GREEN. Coming to theaters July 30: The Green Knight.

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger.

(7) UP FRONT ADULTING. “Netflix Drops a New Red Band Trailer For Love, Death + Robots Volume 2” and SuperHeroHype points the way.

Last month, Netflix finally revealed the first look at the highly-anticipated second season of Love, Death + Robots. The trailer featured footage from brand new animated shorts. However, it didn’t exactly showcase the adult-oriented tone that the series was praised for when it debuted in 2019. Thankfully, Netflix has provided a simple fix to that problem. A new red-band preview for Love, Death + Robots Volume 2 has found its way online, this time offering a better look at what grown-up viewers can expect from the new season.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 11, 1955 — On this day in 1955, Ed Wood’s Bride Of The Monster had its original theatrical premiere in Hollywood, California.  It was produced by Ed Wood and written as well by him with assistance by Alex Gordon. The film starred Bela Lugosi in his last film and Tor Johnson as well. Most critics panned it, though a few thought it was almost decent by his low standards. Not so with the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who definitely didn’t like it at all and gave it a twenty-eight percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. Along with William Strunk Jr. he is the co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1904 – Salvador Dalí.  Two Basket of Bread paintings twenty years apart – The Persistence of Memory between them – show he could be realistic if he felt like it.  Having said “The difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad,” he told a group of Surrealists “The difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.”  He put an unfolded tesseract in Crucifixion; created in 1950 a Costume for 2045 with Christian Dior; drew, etched, sculpted; illustrated The Divine Comedy and The Arabian Nights.  Memoir, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1918 – Richard Feynman.  He had a gift for looking from the abstract to the concrete: hence Feynman diagrams; plunging a piece of O-ring material into ice water at a hearing on the Challenger disaster; winning a Nobel Prize and teaching undergraduates. Kept a notebook Things I Don’t Know About.  A curved-space lecture handout had a bug on a sphere: “the bug and any rulers he uses are all made of the same material which expands when it is heated.”  Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman reviewed by Alma Jo Williams in SF Review.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1930 Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1935 Doug McClure. He appeared in Seventies SF films The Land That Time ForgotThe People That Time ForgotWarlords of the Deep and even Humanoids From The Deep. Genre-wise, he also appeared in one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Out of This WorldAirWolfAlfred Hitchcock PresentsFantasy Island and Manimal. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1952 Frances Fisher, 69. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on MediumX-Files, Outer LimitsResurrectionThe Expanse and had a role in the Watchmen series. (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1952 Shohreh Aghdashloo, 69. Best known genre role is Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse series. (I’ve not seen it, but have listened to all of The Expanse series.) She also had a recurring role as Farah Madani on The Punisher. She was also in X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Kavita Rao, but her role as The Chairman in The Adjustment Bureau didn’t make it to the final version. She was Commodore Paris in Star Trek Beyond, and she had a recurring role as Nhadra Udaya in FlashForward. (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1960 – Irwin Hirsh, age 61.  Early co-editor of Thyme.  Compiled The Incompleat Bruce Gillespie for the Bring Bruce Bayside Fund which brought Gillespie to Corflu 22 (fanziners’ con) and Potlatch 14.  GUFF delegate (northbound, Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund; southbound, Going Under Fan Fund).  Maintains an Australian Fan Funds Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1979 – Alice Lewis, F.N., age 42.  Made the logograph for First Night at Noreascon IV the 62nd Worldcon; you can see it on the First Night program sheet here.  Designed thirty NESFA Press books, like this (Tim Powers) and this (Roger Zelazny).  President of Harvard animé club while a senior there.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Now designing for Viz Media.  [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1981 – Erin Hoffman, age 40.  Three novels, a score of shorter stories, half a dozen poems.  Co-edited The Homeless Moon.  Game designer.  She’s read Moby-Dick, two Austen novels, Treasure Island, four Shakespeare plays, Borges’ Ficciones, a Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, The Hunt for “Red October”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A VISIT TO MILLARWORLD. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Scottish comics writer Mark Millar, whose strips Kick-Ass and The Secret Service have become films and whose company, Millarworld, was bought by Netflix and whose new show “Jupiter’s Legacy” is the first part of his production deal.  Millar explains how Netflix’s deal with Marvel to develop second-tier superheroes broke down and how Netflix is counting on Millar to supply superheroes to compete with Disney Plus and HBO Max. “Mark Millar’s ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ kicks off Netflix’s new superhero universe”.

… “I’ve always avoided having a job. Like most writers, the idea of a job horrifies me. They knew I was never a guy who was going to come in and sit at a desk all day,” he said of the company. But his new arrangement “basically makes me feel as if I’m still running my own show, which is a perfect environment. You don’t feel like you have a boss watching everything you’re doing. It’s a very relaxed and chill environment.”

On a normal work day in his native Scotland, Millar spends most of his morning and afternoon writing, while he waits for Los Angeles to reach a Zoomable hour for calls with producers. Millar was a huge fan of Netflix’s “Daredevil” and was thrilled to have its originalshowrunner, Steven S. DeKnight, on “Jupiter’s Legacy” (even though DeKnight eventually exited)….

(12) WELL SPOKEN. The Rite Gud podcast says it’s also important to “Talk Gud: A Dialog About Dialog”

In this irregular episode, audio gremlin Sid Oozeley talks shop with returning guest Mario Coelho about fantasy and science fiction’s long-standing vendetta against dialogue writing.

Why is it frequently so stilted and stiff? Why are American writers so averse to local flavor? Why do so many grown adults still try to write like Joss Whedon? Just how far off-topic can Sid take a conversation? What the hell is verisimilitude, exactly?

Our boys get to the bottom of all of this and more on this unusual episode of Rite Gud.

(13) COUNT TO 19. The Los Angeles Times discovers that “Dracula’s castle proves an ideal setting for COVID-19 jabs”.

At Dracula’s castle in picturesque Transylvania, Romanian doctors are offering a jab in the arm rather than a stake through the heart.

A COVID-19 vaccination center has been set up on the periphery of Romania’s Bran Castle, which is purported to be the inspiration behind Dracula’s home in Bram Stoker’s 19th century gothic novel “Dracula.”

Every weekend through May, “vaccination marathons” will be held just outside the storied 14th-century hilltop castle, where no appointment is needed, in an attempt to encourage people to protect themselves against COVID-19.

“We wanted to show people a different way to get the [vaccine] needle,” Alexandru Priscu, the marketing manager at Bran Castle, told the Associated Press….

Those brave enough to get a Pfizer vaccine shot receive a “vaccination diploma,” which is aptly illustrated with a fanged medical worker brandishing a syringe….

“Besides the diploma, people benefit with free entry to the [castle’s] torture rooms, which have 52 medieval torture instruments,” Priscu noted.

(14) OVERTIME. James Davis Nicoll names “Five SF Novels That Take the Long View of History” for Tor.com readers.

You might think that it would be hard to make such books interesting. (I don’t think that anyone has ever described The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a cracking thrill ride: “Could not put it down!”) The following five novels show that it is possible to write interesting works that take the long view….

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)

Doctor Kern did not personally terraform the nameless world twenty light-years from Earth but she plans to shape its destiny. Kern intends to seed what she dubs Kern’s World with monkeys infected with a nanovirus. The virus has been designed to force the monkeys along a deterministic path towards a new and better species, one far superior to disappointing humanity. Alas, her bold vision has failure points. Points which doom it.

The monkeys die on their way to the surface. The nanovirus, on the other hand, makes planetfall. Lacking its intended host, the nanovirus abandons Chordata in favour of Arthropoda. Kern’s World is ruled by generation after generation of very bright, surprisingly social spiders. Humans will one day make their way to Kern’s World, where they will either find some way to deal with the spiders or perish.

(15) THE RED, GREEN, AND BLUE PLANET. Adam Mann, in The New Yorker article “Is Mars Ours?”, asks “Should we treat other planets like natural resources or national parks?”

Last year, about a month into the pandemic, I reached for something comforting: the 1992 science-fiction novel “Red Mars,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. I’d first read it as a teen-ager, and had reread it a handful of times by my early twenties. Along with its two sequels, “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars,” the novel follows the first settlers to reach the red planet. They establish cities, break away from Earth’s control, and transform the arid surface into a garden oasis, setting up a new society in the course of a couple hundred years. On the cover of my well-worn copy, Arthur C. Clarke declared it “the best novel on the colonization of Mars that has ever been written.” In my youth, I considered it a record of what was to come.

It had been a decade since I’d last cracked open the book. In that time, I’d become a journalist specializing in space, covering its practical, physical, biological, psychological, sociological, political, and legal aspects; still, the novel’s plot had always stayed with me, somewhere in the back of my mind. It turns on a series of questions about what we owe to our planetary neighbor—about what we are allowed to do with its ancient geological features, and in whose interests we should be willing to modify them. In Robinson’s future, a disgruntled minority of settlers argue that humanity has no right to alter a majestic place that has existed without us for billions of years; they undertake ecoterroristic acts to undermine Martian terraforming efforts and, in the end, succeed in keeping parts of Mars a wilderness. I used to think it sensible that their opinion was relegated to the margins. Reading the novel again, I wasn’t so sure.

“It seemed to me obvious,” Robinson told me, over the phone this winter, when I asked him how he’d come to place that particular dilemma at the center of his trilogy…. 

(16) HONEST TRAILER. In “Mortal Kombat (2021),” the Screen Junkies say the new Mortal Kombat film is “a martial arts movie that takes itself way too seriously” and features “four real martial artists but you’d never know it from all the quick cuts.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., JJ, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, Joe Siclari, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

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

Netflix Answers Senators’ Letter About Three-Body Problem Series

2017 book signing: Liu Cixin. Photo by Daniel Dern

A Netflix executive has replied to the letter from five Republican senators challenging the company’s plans to produce a series based on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem because the author, in a 2019 New Yorker interview, defended Chinese repression against the Uighurs. Netflix denies there is any connection between the projected series and Liu Cixin’s opinions that needs to be addressed.

Deadline published the full text of Netflix’s answer.

September 25, 2020
Senator Marsha Blackburn
Senator Rick Scott
Senator Kevin Cramer
Senator Thom Tillis
Senator Martha McSally
United States Senate

Washington,
DC 20510

Dear Senators Blackburn, Scott, Cramer, Tillis, and McSally:

Thank you for your letter from September 23, and your interest in the upcoming Netflix series adaptation based on The Three-Body Problem.

First, we’d like to note that Netflix does not operate a service in China.
We address your questions and concerns below:

Q: Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?

A: Absolutely. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights (which China has signed) states “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Q: In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?

A: Mr. Liu is the author of the books, not the creator of this series. Mr. Liu’s comments are not reflective of the views of Netflix or of the show’s creators, nor are they part of the plot or themes of the show.

Q: Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.

A: Mr. Liu is a Chinese citizen living in China – he is the author of the books, not the creator of this Netflix series. The creators are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, and Alexander Woo, executive producer/writer on the series True Blood.

Q: Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publicly or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

A: Netflix judges individual projects on their merits. Mr. Liu is the author of the book – The Three Body Problem – not the creator of this show. We do not agree with his comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show.

Sincerely,

Dean Garfield
Vice President, Global Public Policy
Netflix

Pixel Scroll 9/17/20 Hey, You Scroll That Hoopy File Prefect? There’s A Frood Who Really Knows Where Their Pixel Is

(1) IGNYTE AWARDS. Voting for FIYAHCON’s inaugural Ignyte Awards has closed. 1,461 ballots were submitted, of which 1,431 were valid. The winners will be revealed Saturday, October 17 at 5 p.m. (GMT -4:00).

(2) DELANY. “WHY I WRITE”. Samuel R. Delany’s Windham-Campbell Lecture has been posted to Vimeo.

‘Why I Write’ is the theme of this annual lecture celebrating the recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. Due to Covid-19 this year’s lecture by Samuel R. Delany was pre-recorded and posted on the date and time it would have been delivered in person, September 16, 2020 at 5 PM.

(3) DELANY’S UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR. On Facebook today, Delany related a celebrity brush from his early days in New York. (I bet you can guess before the excerpt ends how this story finishes!)  

…I also gave myself a present: In the narrow four-story house in which we lived (in 21 Paddington St., beside Paddington Park), there was an Indian Restaurant on the ground floor, an African business office on the second floor, we lived on the third, and someone moved into the top floor shortly after we got there. Whoever it was brought a piano, and began to during the day. It was really beautiful music–and a couple of times I went upstairs and simply sat outside the door and listened. The second or third time I did so, I waited till player was almost finishing a piece. Then I stood up and knocked.

The player came to the door and answered. “Excuse me,” I told him. “I’m your downstairs neighbor. I just wanted to say, you play beautifully.”

“You really ???? it . . .?” he said.

“Yes, I really do. My name’s Chip Delany and I live with my wife downstairs.”

“My name’s Tim Curry,” he said. “I’m an actor, actually. But I also compose . . .”

Within the week Tim came down to dinner.

A couple of weeks later, Marilyn and I went to see Tim in a show Upstairs at the Royal Court, where he had a very small part doing a black-out parody of Enoch Powell in a very forgettable part. A few months after that, I saw him on the stairs and asked him how things were coming. Yes, he had another part–this was in a play at the Kings Road Theater, just across the street, it turned out, from the sprawl of the Kings Road Market.

Tim suggested we come to the second or third performance so that the show, which had rehearsed somewhere else, could settle into the space. I believe he even gave us the tickets….

(4) FACE OF THE ARCHIBALD PRIZE. Australian portrait artist Nick Stathpoloulos, a 1999 Hugo nominee and 10-time Ditmar Award winner, has once again had his work picked to represent the Archibald Prize exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where Nick’s “Ngaiire” is one of the 2020 finalists.

Born in Sydney in 1959, Nick Stathopoulos is a self-taught artist known for his hyper-realistic style. Now a six-time Archibald Prize finalist, he won the 2016 People’s Choice with a portrait of Sudanese refugee lawyer Deng Adut. This year, his subject is Papua New Guinea-born, Australian-based singer-songwriter Ngaire Laun Joseph, who is known by the stage name Ngaiire.

The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers’ House where Ngaire was the 2019 composer-in-residence is just a couple of doors away from Stathopoulos’ studio. He approached Ngaire after seeing her perform live. ‘What an astonishingly powerful, emotive voice! She was wearing this elaborate headdress and make-up and I was captivated and started painting her in my head. After the performance, she happily consented to a portrait.

(5) UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED. Entertainment Weekly tells how “Diana Rigg once ‘stormed off’ the set of Game of Thrones – and inspired costars”.

The great, late Diana Rigg was an inspiring and intimidating force both on and off camera as the Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell.

As detailed in the upcoming book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon – the first uncensored behind-the-scenes story of the making Game of Thrones – Rigg was not only formidable as the crafty House Tyrell matriarch across five seasons of the HBO fantasy series, she could be fierce backstage as well.

The Royal Shakespeare Company veteran, who died earlier this month, was 74 when she was offered a recurring role in the series by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss in 2012. “We had tea with her,” Benioff recalls. “Dames don’t audition for you; you audition for them. We loved her, she was funny, she was bawdy, she was everything we wanted for that character.” Adds Weiss: “She said with a big smile, ‘There’s an awful lot of bonking, isn’t there?'” of the show’s R-rated content.

Then Rigg impressed the producers by arriving at her first table read having already memorized all her lines for the season, showing some of the less experienced cast members how a seasoned pro prepares for a job.

… One time Rigg tried – and succeeded – in mischievously getting away with shortening her duties to perform a brief scene in season 6. It was the scene where Olenna discusses strategy with Ellaria Sand and famously cuts short Sand Snakes Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene by snapping, “Oh do shut up … Let the grown women speak.”

“She walked onto the set, and she went, ‘I’m ready now!'” recalls Jessica Henwick, who played the whip-snapping Nymeria Sand. “A cameraman came over and went, ‘Well, okay, but we haven’t finished setting up.’ She interrupted him and said, ‘Roll the cameras!’ And she just started doing her lines. She did two takes, and then the guy came over and was like, ‘Great, now we’re going to do a close-up.’ And she just stood up and she went, ‘I’m done!'”

“Now, she can’t walk fast. She has to be helped. So basically we just sat there and watched as Diana Rigg effectively did her own version of storming off the set, but it was at 0.1 miles per hour. She cracked me up. I loved her.”

(6) APPLYING TO BANKS.  David Polfeldt offers “Iain M. Banks: An Appreciation” at Grand Central Publishing.

…Twice in my life, I reached out to Iain Banks, and to my astonishment and perpetual pride, he replied on both occasions with a personal, type-written and signed letter. In one of the chapters of The Dream Architects, I briefly refer to one of these memories. At the time, my future was looking pretty bleak, and I had reached out to Banks in a desperate attempt to convince him to write for a sci-fi-themed game which I (naively) hoped would inexplicably get funded by the European Space Agency. “No thanks” Banks replied after a few weeks. The letter felt like an extraordinarily polite rejection, but nevertheless I was thrilled! I thought: What if the letter had been written on the same typewriter as the Culture novels?! Although the message was just a considerate version of “farewell”, I took it differently. The presence of Banks warmth and wit in an actual tactile object that had somehow ended up in my hands turned the moment into a symbol of comforting hope, and as a result, the letter spurred me on. Maybe the world was enchanted after all?

(7) NETFLIX CHALLENGER DOCUSERIES. Too soon for me – maybe not for you. “‘Challenger: The Final Flight’ Is A Tragedy About How Nasa Thought It Was Too Big To Fail” at Mel Magazine.

Before 9/11, the biggest national expression of grief in my lifetime took place on January 28, 1986. That was when seven astronauts, including a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, boarded the space shuttle Challenger, took off and, about a minute later, died in a horrible fireball explosion. National tragedies aren’t all the same, though, and in subsequent years, that disastrous launch, although not forgotten, seems to have receded from the cultural memory. Partly, that’s probably because of more recent events like the 2001 terror attacks. But I also suspect that Challenger permanently changed how a lot of people felt about NASA, and space travel in general. Suddenly, neither of them seemed so alluring.

The Netflix docuseries Challenger: The Final Flight looks back at the events that led up to that explosion and its aftermath…. 

(8) TERRY GOODKIND DIES. Terry Goodkind (1948-2020), author of the epic fantasy series The Sword of Truth, died September 17 at the age of 72. He also was known for the contemporary suspense novel The Law of Nines (2009), which has ties to his fantasy series.

The Sword of Truth was adapted into a television series called Legend of the Seeker, which premiered in November 2008 and ran for two seasons.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — At Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest would win the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. It would also win the Nebula Award for Best Script.  It was directed by Dean Parisot with the screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon; the story was written by David Howard. The other finalists were The Matrix (which was just three votes behind it in the final count), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 17, 1917 – Betsy Curtis.  A dozen short stories; fanzine, The Cricket with husband Ed.  Early Pogo fan i.e. from 1949.  B & E parents of Maggie Curtis Thompson of Comics Buyer’s Guide.  B is in Pam Keesey & Forrest J Ackerman’s Sci-Fi Womanthology.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1920 Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. If we accept Gilbert & Sullivan as genre adjacent, she was Grace Marston in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1930 – Tom Stafford, 90.  Commanded Apollo 10 and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight.  Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, then chosen by lottery for Air Force; brigadier general at the time of Apollo-Soyuz, so first general officer to fly in Space.  Memoir We Have Capture.  Space Medal of Honor, Russian Medal for Merit in Space Exploration.  Explorers Club.  [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1928 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he superbly voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Lee Gimpel, 81. In Trek’s “The Cage”, she played a Talosian. That led her to being cast as the M-113 creature in “The Man Trap”, another first season episode. She actually had a much larger work history as student double, though uncredited, showing up in sixty eight episodes of Lost in Space and fifty seven of The Bionic Woman plus myriad such genre work elsewhere including They Come from Outer Space where she was the stunt coordinator. (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1947 – Gail Carson Levine, 73.  Children’s fiction; a score of novels, half as many shorter stories, a nonfiction book about how.  Many of her tales are retellings, e.g. The Princess Test of The Princess and the PeaThe Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep of Sleeping Beauty (“I give the prince a real reason to kiss Sonora even though, after 100 years, she’s covered with spider webs”).  [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1951 Cassandra Peterson, 69. Definitely better remembered as Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, a character she played on TV and in movies before becoming the host of  Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation in LA in 1981. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. (CE)
  • Born September 17, 1956 – Shauna Roberts, Ph.D., 64.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Earlier, nonfiction, mostly medical.  Plays recorder and harp.  Likes Renaissance and Baroque, Turkish, folk music and blues.  [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1961 – Vince Docherty, 59.  Co-chaired Intersection and Interaction the 53rd and 63rd Worldcons.  Interviewed in StarShipSofa 153.  Co-edited Journey Planet 38 celebrating forty years of SF cons at Glasgow, composed front cover from Bill Burns’ collection.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  At Opening Ceremonies of Interaction, appearing onstage in Scots full dress, said “Remember I told you there’d be no tartan tat?  I lied.”  Enter pipers. [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1973 Jonathan Morris, 47. SFF television series are fertile grounds for creating spinoff book series and Doctor Who is no exception. This writer has only written four such novels to date but oh the number of Big Finish audiobooks that he’s written scripts for now is in the high forties if I include the Companions and the most excellent Jago & Lightfoot spin-off series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 17, 1991 – Morgan Bolt.  A fantasy trilogy and a stand-alone science fiction novel, all achieved in a few years.  Contracted and killed by a rare form of cancer.  Insisted it did not shake his faith.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 17, 1996 Ella Purnell, 24. An English actress best remembered as Emma in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children film. She’s also in Kick-Ass 2 as Dolce, she’s Natalie the UFO film that stars Gillian Anderson, and she was the body double for the young Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan. In a genre adjacent role, she was Hester Argyll in Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows 2020’s most dangerous science fair exhibit.

(12) A GENERATION OF COMIC BOOK ARTISTS. Michael Gonzalez leads his CrimeReads post “On The Art And Life Of Jeffrey Catherine Jones” with a log reminiscence of the 1977 Creation Comic Book Con. Tagline: “In 1970’s New York City, Jones and a few artist friends reinvented what comic art could be.”

…Whereas most fantasy artists of that era drew in a macho style, Jones painted with sensitive strokes. His work was visual Emo, the dreamy visual equivalent of Pink Floyd and Kate Bush. “Jeff’s paintings had something else,” former protégé George Pratt wrote in a 2019 essay. “Hard to describe. Hard to nail down. But they lived in a different space that was emotionally deeper, for me at least. They were rich in self-reflection, a mood at once quieter, contemplative, and more viscerally honest.”

(13) TODAY’S FEATURED ARTICLE. In the Wikipedia: Infinity Science Fiction.

(14) FROM BLACK TO GREEN. Joe Otterson, in “‘She-Hulk’ Disney Plus Series Casts Tatiana Maslany in Lead Role” in Variety, says that Maslany (Orphan Black) will play Bruce Banner’s cousin in a series currently in production for Disney Plus.

The series centers on lawyer Jennifer Walters (Maslany), cousin of Bruce Banner, who inherits his Hulk powers after she receives a blood transfusion from him. Unlike Bruce, however, when she hulks out Jennifer is able to retain most of her personality, intelligence, and emotional control.

… “She-Hulk” is one of several Marvel series in the works at Disney Plus, with several others set to feature stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision” are on deck first for debuts later this year, followed by “Loki” in early 2021. Marvel Studios is also developing the shows “Hawkeye,” “Ms. Marvel,” and “Moon Knight” as live-action shows.

(15) BUT. In his article “H. P. Lovecraft Is Cancelled” for Crisis Magazine (“A Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity”), Charles Coulombe thinks it should be possible to compose people’s respect for Ray Bradbury into a shield for H.P. Lovecraft – but if not, threatens that Bradbury will go down the memory hole next. The World Fantasy Award trophy and S. T. Joshi also get entered in evidence, as you might expect, but somehow so do George R.R. Martin, John W. Campbell, Jr. and Jeannette Ng.

Was Lovecraft a racist? He was indeed, in the manner of H. L. Mencken, H. G. Wells, and any number of noted scientificists of his day. As were they, he was also an atheist, and disliked all of the immigrants who, in his mind, were destroying the purity of Yankee New England: Italians, Poles, and my own French-Canadians (although his views of the last-named altered radically after visiting the Province of Quebec; one wonders what would have happened had he been able to journey to Poland and Italy). As with the change of his views regarding the French-Canadians, he was also amenable to altering his opinions and, according to those who knew him, never allowed them to affect his treatment of individuals. Indeed, despite his expressed anti-Semitism, he married a Jewish lady.

All of that aside, however—and despite the fact that I find his religious views abominable, as I do those of Mencken and Wells—it does not diminish either his intense talent nor his great literary achievement. Were I to discount him on the basis of his views, I should have to do so with the vast majority of writers in the English canon. But not too surprisingly, Bradbury had a handle on what is coming to fruition now decades ago. Asked in 1994 if he thought Fahrenheit 451 stood up well at that time, he replied: “It works even better because we have political correctness now. Political correctness is the real enemy these days. The black groups want to control our thinking and you can’t say certain things. The homosexual groups don’t want you to criticize them. It’s thought control and freedom of speech control.” Now, of course, it is being applied retroactively, and I shall not be surprised if his legacy too comes under attack…..

(16) DON’T CRUSH THAT DWARF. Today’s Nature witnesses “A planet transiting a stellar grave”.

In the past few decades, the number of planets discovered beyond our Solar System has increased rapidly, and current estimates are that around one-third of all Sun-like stars host planetary systems1 . Given that the Milky Way contains around ten billion Sun-like stars, there are likely to be billions of planets in our Galaxy. All of these planet-hosting stars will eventually die, leaving behind burnt-out remnants known as white dwarfs. What becomes of the stars’ planetary systems when this happens is unclear, but in some cases it is thought that planets will survive and remain in orbit around the white dwarf2 . On page 363, Vanderburg et al.3 report the discovery of a planet that passes in front of (transits) the white dwarf WD 1856+534 every 1.4 days. Their work not only proves that planets can indeed survive the death of their star, but might offer us a glimpse of the far future of our own Solar System.

(17) FOR THE FRIEND WHO HAS EVERYTHING. Here’s a holiday gift shopping idea — “A 67-million-year-old skeleton belonging to a Tyrannosaurus rex named Stan is going up for auction in October”.

What do you get for that friend who has everything? How about a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Christie’s will be selling the skeleton of a T. rex named Stan on October 6 at its “20th Century Evening Sale,” according to a release from the auction house. It’s among the most complete T. rex skeletons ever found.

“There simply aren’t T. rexes like this coming to market,” James Hyslop, head of the auction house’s science and natural history department, said in a statement. “It’s an incredible rare event when a great one is found.” 

Stan, who was unearthed in 1987, is named after his discoverer, Stan Sacrison. It’s unknown what name his parents gave him, if any.

(18) MORE ABOUT VENUSIAN GAS. See the primary research about phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus at Nature Astronomy.

…Studying rocky-planet atmospheres gives clues to how they interact with surfaces and subsurfaces, and whether any non-equilibrium compounds could reflect the presence of life. Characterizing extrasolar-planet atmospheres is extremely challenging, especially for rare compounds1. The Solar System thus offers important testbeds for exploring planetary geology, climate and habitability, via both in situ sampling and remote monitoring. Proximity makes signals of trace gases much stronger than those from extrasolar planets, but issues remain in interpretation.

(19) UNDERGROUND ART. Take a fantastic subway trip in this Adobe Photoshop commercial – view it at DailyCommercials,com.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Floaters on Vimeo, Karl Poyser and Joseph Roberts explain what happens when a spaceship is busted by the space traffic cops.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, N., John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Jeff Smith, SF Concatenation’s Janathan Cowie, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]