Pixel Scroll 7/5/22 Omnia Scrollia Divisa Est In Pixellae Tres

(1) WORD OF MOUTH BECAME WORD OF EYE. The New York Times analyzes “How TikTok Became a Best Seller Machine”.

…Now one of the commanding forces in adult fiction, BookTok has helped authors sell 20 million printed books in 2021, according to BookScan. So far this year, those sales are up another 50 percent. NPD Books said that no other form of social media has ever had this kind of impact on sales.

The most popular videos don’t generally offer information about the book’s author, the writing or even the plot, the way a traditional review does. Instead, readers speak plainly about the emotional journey a book will offer.

And that, it turns out, is just what many people are looking for, said Milena Brown, the marketing director at Doubleday.

“‘This is how it makes me feel, and this is how it’s going to make you feel,’” Ms. Brown said, describing the content of many of the videos. “And people are like, ‘I want to feel that. Give it to me!’”…

(2) VICIOUS CIRCLES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Dante Alighieri’s 9 rings face some stiff competition from these movies, though they overlap in ways much more complex than mere circles. Plus, columnist Danielle Ryan carefully points out at least one way our reality is worse than each movie. I suppose that means that, climate change notwithstanding, we should all break out our warmest winter gear for the icy lake ahead. “8 Dystopian Movies That Are Better Than Our Current Hellscape” at Slashfilm.

It is not an understatement to say that life in the United States right now is absolutely terrifying for the majority of its population. In 2016, a game show host won the highest seat of power in the country on a platform of lies and hatred, emboldening the worst of Americans to be angrier, louder, and more violent. More than 1 million Americans are dead from a pandemic, lives that could have potentially been saved with proper leadership and planning in public health instead of one president who publicized injecting bleach as a cure and one who can’t seem to make a firm decision on anything. A sneakily stacked Supreme Court has just overturned Roe v. Wade with the potential to go after other landmark civil rights cases, revoking bodily autonomy from more than half of the population. Things are looking pretty bleak, and while sometimes looking to hopeful fiction like “Star Trek” can be a balm, sometimes a person needs to find comfort in a fictional dystopia to remind them of the tenacity of the human spirit and that there is good even in the worst of times. 

Here are some of the best movie dystopias that provide an alternative to our current, real-life one. After all, if we’re going to have to live through corporations owning everything, having no privacy whatsoever, and basically being in a boring version of a William Gibson story, shouldn’t we at least have flying cars by now? 

(3) FIRST IN, LAST OUT. Kevin Standlee’s photos on Flickr show the Tonopah Westercon winding down.

In 2008, Lisa Hayes was the first person who was part of what would become the 2022 Westercon 74 committee to set foot in the Tonopah Convention Center. On July 5, 2022, she was the last member of the Westercon 74 com

First In, Last Out

Kevin Standlee sports his newly-minted Former Westercon Chair ribbon bestowed upon him by past Westercon Chair Patty Wells and other former chairs during the Alien Autopsy Party at Westercon 74 in Tonopah.

Former Westercon Chair

(4) VISIT FROM A SMALL PLANET. Vulture gathers surviving members of the team for “An Oral History of ‘Contact’ the Movie”.

Ahead of Contact’s 25th anniversary, we spoke to nearly two dozen people involved in its making, including Zemeckis, Foster, McConaughey, Druyan, Sasha Sagan, and veteran producer Lynda Obst. They disagreed on several aspects of Contact’s development saga, but settled on some consensus: Contact was a lightning-in-a-bottle project, the kind of thing big movie studios barely made before and would probably never make again — intellectually challenging, emotionally messy, heavy with metaphor, wherein nobody shoots an alien in the face in front of an American flag. “We used to do that,” said Foster. “We used to make movies that were resonant and were entertaining.”…

Ann Druyan: This is 1978. Carl and I are still working on CosmosCosmos: A Personal Voyage is a 13-part TV series written by Sagan, Druyan, and Steven Soter, that first broadcast on PBS in 1980.. At the time, it was popular to say things like, “Well, if men are as smart as women, then how come there are no female Leonardos? No female Einsteins?” This made both of us furious. I had just co-written the part of Cosmos about the Great Library of Alexandria and the fact that Hypatia, who was the leader of the library, was a mathematician focusing on the Diophantine equations that Newton would later become interested in. Her reward for being the great intellectual light of the library in 415 AD was to be ripped from her chariot that she was driving herself and carved to bits with abalone shellsSagan gave Druyan an abalone shell that she says she always keeps with her..

People were throwing everything at Carl then. He was such a phenomenon in the culture, and everybody wanted to do something with him. So we knew we could get a book and a movie contract. We agreed one night, sitting in the pool at our little rented house in West Hollywood, that we were going to tell a story in which not only would a woman be the intellectual hero but, in the great tradition of Gilgamesh, she was going to go on the voyage and the guys would stay home.

(5) UNIQUE HONOR. Author TC Parker’s wish has been granted!

(6) HIS WORLD IS ENOUGH. In the Washington Post, Thomas Floyd interviews Dean Fleischer Camp, who directed Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. Camp discusses how he created the tiny crustacean with Jenny Slate in 2010 and how the shorts, having been viewed nearly 50 million times on YouTube, led to the feature film, which has just been released. “’Marcel the Shell’ made it to the big screen by staying small”.

Crafted out of a hermit crab shell, a googly eye and a pair of pink Polly Pocket tennis shoes, Marcel the Shell leaves an outsize impression that belies his one-inch stature. Dean Fleischer Camp realized as much in the summer of 2010, when the first audience was introduced to the stop-motion character’s trembling timbre and infectious positivity.

After promising he’d make a video for a friend’s Brooklyn comedy show, the filmmaker got his then-partner, “Saturday Night Live” alum Jenny Slate, to riff in character as a minuscule mollusk in a big world. (One quip: “Guess what I do for adventure? I hang-glide on a Dorito.”) Dropping Slate’s voice in Marcel’s roughly sketched mouth, Camp delivered a three-minute mockumentary that played as amusing, absurdist and, to his surprise, delightfully disarming….

(7) KSR. The LA Times interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about his mountain memoir The High Sierra: A Love Story. “Sci-fi master Kim Stanley Robinson on the Sierra and why humans might just ‘squeak by’”

Would the planet be better off without us?

We aren’t that important to the biosphere either way! If we wreck civilization and cause a mass extinction event, the biosphere will be fully reoccupied in a few million years by new species. Life will forge on. Humans, who knows. We are probably somewhat ineradicable — check out the near-extinction event from 73,000 years ago that left only a few thousand humans alive on the planet — that was a close one! And yet without our current capabilities we still squeaked through what appears to have been a decades-long volcanic “nuclear winter” event. So, best not to get apocalyptic about it. Put it this way — it could always get better or get worse, it will never end: So try for better.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1993 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, a film that Mike has actually seen to my surprise, debuted on the FOX network here in the States, 12.01 as it was called. It was written by Richard Lupoff, Jonathan Heap and Philip Morton. It was a time loop affair very similar to Groundhog Day, one of Mike’s favorite films. Mike obviously has great taste in films. 

It came from Richard Lupoff’s short story “12:01 PM” which had published in the December 1973 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It had previously been adapted as the 1990 12:01 PM film starring Kurtwood Smith.

Groundhog Day, which has a similar time loop premise, was released later in 1993. The writers and producers of 12:01 believed their work was stolen by that film. To quote Lupoff, “The story was also adapted—actually plagiarized—into a major theatrical film in 1993. Jonathan Heap and I were outraged and tried very hard to go after the rascals who had robbed us, but alas, the Hollywood establishment closed ranks.” 

Now my question to you is simple: do you recall similar plot lines before Groundhog Day came out? 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 5, 1941 — Garry Kilworth, 81. The Ragthorn, a novella he co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award and the BSFA. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work?
  • Born July 5, 1946 — Joyce Ballou Gregorian Hampshire. A fascinating woman who was way too short-lived due to a long illness with cancer. She was an SF writer, an expert on Oriental rugs, and a horse breeder. She wrote the Tredana trilogy, an alternative world fantasy. She collaborated with her father, Arthur T. Gregorian, and her nephew, Douglas Christian, on a book on Armenian oriental rugs. (Died 1991.)
  • Born July 5, 1948 — Nancy Springer, 74. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riff off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel, and her latest, The Oddling Prince, came out several years ago on Tachyon. 
  • Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 65. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent  MythAdventures series.  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandles series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. Her latest two novels are both written with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
  • Born July 5, 1962 — Marc Gascoigne, 60. Winner of the World Fantasy Special Award—Professional for his Angry Robot press, and later he won the British Fantasy Award in the category Best Independent Press, again for Angry Robot. If you’re a gamer, you’ll be impressed by knowing that he co-wrote Games Workshop’s original Judge Dredd RPG, and wrote the original Shadowrun source book. And yes, I played the latter longer ago than I want to think about. Read more than a few of the novels as well.
  • Born July 5, 1963 — Alma Alexander, 59. Author of three SF series including the Changer of Days which is rather good. I’m including her here for her Abducticon novel which is set in a Con and concerns both what goes on at that Con and the aliens that are involved. Very, very cool indeed!  It is available as a Kindle book. 
  • Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald D. Moore, 58. Screenwriter and producer who’s best remembered for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. He was one of the folks who won a Hugo at Intersection for the Next Generation’s “All Good Things…”, and among the filmmakers nominated for another at LoneStarCon 2 for First Contact. His latest Hugo was won at Interaction for Battlestar Galactica’s “33”.
  • Born July 5, 1972 — Nia Roberts, 50. She appeared in two Doctor Who episodes during the time of the Eleventh Doctor, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. But it’s an earlier role that gets her a Birthday citation just because it sounds so damn cool: Rowan Latimer in the “Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom” episode of the Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible which spoofed shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. Damn that sounds really, really amazing. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has its own theory of evolution.
  • Macanudo shows how a ship in the age of sail dealt with a sea monster.

(11) SEMI-LIVE BEAST COMING IN DECEMBER. “’Beauty and the Beast’ Gets ABC Live Treatment for 30th Anniversary”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Beauty and the Beast is getting the live treatment at ABC to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the beloved animated classic’s history-making Academy Award nomination.

…The Disney-backed broadcast network is making a two-hour, live-action/animated special that will feature a new cast and air Dec. 15 on the broadcast network. Jon M. Chu (In the HeightsWicked) is on board to executive produce the project, which will be directed by Hamish Hamilton. The latter is best known for helming awards shows including the Emmys and Grammys, as well as the Super Bowl halftime show, ABC’s The Little Mermaid Live and a pair of Disney’s quarantine-era sing-alongs. The special will be available to stream Dec. 16 on Disney+. …

(12) ACTORS WITH BIG SECRETS. “Star Wars’ TV Rebellion: ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi,’ ‘Ahsoka,’ and ‘Andor’ Rise” at Vanity Fair.

Diego Luna couldn’t trust the driver. He didn’t think he could trust anybody. And hadn’t he read something about an epidemic of eavesdroppers hacking phones? “That was just my paranoia,” the actor says now. “Not connected to reality.” Still, he pressed his phone so tightly to his ear that it made his face hot, as a voice from thousands of miles away told him secrets from another galaxy. The car was stuck in traffic on the top tier of a double-decker highway in Mexico City. “I was speaking in code words because I was trying not to say too much in the car,” says Luna. The words he was avoiding most strenuously were star and wars.

Luna had played the dauntless Rebel spy Cassian Andor in the 2016 film Rogue One. Now, on the other end of the phone, was Tony Gilroy, who had punched up the movie’s script for reshoots. Gilroy—whose credits include writing the first four Bourne thrillers and writing and directing Michael Clayton—was developing a series that would explore Andor’s backstory, revealing what drew him into the galactic Rebellion and how he evolved from a self-serving nihilist into a selfless martyr. Luna’s call with Gilroy—the first time he heard the full plan for the Andor story—happened more than three years ago. “One thing I remember, from being part of this since day one, is how little you can share of what happens,” says the actor. “I have kids, man. It’s painful for them—and for me.”…

(13) BUG JUICE. HotHardware reports “Bacteria Powered Biofuel Breakthrough Could Lead To Cleaner Space Travel”. Daniel Dern, who sent the link, calls it “Another entry in ‘What could possibly go wrong…?’ (in an sf plot at least).”

A group of biofuel experts have developed a completely new type of fuel using bacteria that could have an energy density greater than most advanced heavy-duty fuels being used today. The new discovery could be used to develop a cleaner and more cost-efficient rocket fuel for NASA and other space agencies….

“The larger consortium behind this work, Co-Optima, was funded to think about not just recreating the same fuels from biobased feedstocks, but how we can make new fuels with better properties,” remarked Sundstrom. “The question that led to this is: ‘What kinds of interesting structures can biology make that petrochemistry can’t make?'”…

(14) THIS IS CERTAINLY HIDEOUS. This is like a horror movie. Beware the visuals when Last Week Tonight with John Oliver displays those “Beach Dolls”.

John Oliver discusses a surplus of dolls which have been mysteriously washing up on the beach in Texas, and, crucially, how they can be destroyed.

(15) HOW DID THEY DO THAT? “Someone Got YouTube Videos To Play on a 40-Year-Old Computer That Can Only Display Green Text” says MSN.com. Thorbjörn Jemander explains in a YouTube video.

…Not only was the PET 600’s screen limited to just displaying characters (letters, numbers, punctuation, etc.) but the machines behind them were impossibly slow, often taking a few seconds to load and display lists of files or other data. There was zero chance a dedicated YouTube app could be developed for Commodore BASIC which the PET 600 ran, so Jemander had to take the long road….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness,” the Screen Junkies say the film is “full of gore that would shock a 13-year-old raised without Internet” and you get “the creepy feeling at hand that Marvel doesn’t know what to do with the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.” But instead of watching this “MCU content slop,” the narrator recommends watching Everywhere Everything All At Once, which he thinks far more entertaining than Doctor Strange 2.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/22 Last And First Scrolls

(1) CHARLIE JANE ANDERS KEYNOTE OPENS EVERY DOOR. In “Children’s Institute 10: Charlie Jane Anders Says ‘Magical Portals Exist, and Adults Aren’t Real’”, Publishers Weekly has extensive details of the author’s talk.

Science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders (Victories Greater Than Death) brought abundant charisma to the stage for her Ci10 keynote. Her hot-pink bob, matching Doc Martens, and neon-confetti-dotted black dress reinforced her energy. She delivered her talk, “Magical Portals Are Real, and I Can Prove It!,” in a conversational and confiding tone, to booksellers who know and recommend her LGBTQ+ fiction.

Alluding to Frank Herbert’s Dune dictum that “the universe is full of doors,” Anders said that we encounter portals in our lives. “I’ve jumped universes three or four times,” she said, acknowledging how she came to recognize her authorial persona and trans identity. “This is definitely not the universe I was born in.”…

(2) FINAL SCORE? Indiana Jones 5 might be it: “John Williams, 90, steps away from film, but not music” – reports the Associated Press.

After more than six decades of making bicycles soar, sending panicked swimmers to the shore and other spellbinding close encounters, John Williams is putting the final notes on what may be his last film score.

“At the moment I’m working on ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ which Harrison Ford — who’s quite a bit younger than I am — I think has announced will be his last film,” Williams says. “So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also.”

Ford, for the record, hasn’t said that publicly. And Williams, who turned 90 in February, isn’t absolutely certain he’s ready to, either.

“I don’t want to be seen as categorically eliminating any activity,” Williams says with a chuckle, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I can’t play tennis, but I like to be able to believe that maybe one day I will.”

Right now, though, there are other ways Williams wants to be spending his time. A “Star Wars” film demands six months of work, which he notes, “at this point in life is a long commitment to me.” Instead, Williams is devoting himself to composing concert music, including a piano concerto he’s writing for Emanuel Ax….

(3) THE DNA OF SFF. Camestros Felapton works out the difference between bounty hunters and Our Heroes in “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew versus bounty hunters”.

…But why, in reality, are bounty hunters so distinctly American? Like many things, once you dig beyond the fiction you run straight into the depressing inevitabilities of US history. There is a complex history behind bounty hunters in the US but looming large in that history are slave catchers. People employed to catch fugitive slaves were not a US invention but the size of the US slave economy (until the Civil War and emancipation) meant that “slave catcher” was both casual work and a profession for some. The powers of slave catchers was further enhanced prior to the Civil War with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Act_of_1850) which codified the ability of slave catchers to act beyond the borders of slave states. Slavery is not the only defining element in the US bounty hunting history but it is such a substantial example in the formative years of the nation that it is hard to imagine that it isn’t key to the lasting influence of the idea in the US.

The attraction of the bounty hunter concept to quasi-libertarian SFF is apparent. The bounty hunter as a character can be simultaneously running a private business and be an arm of law enforcement. As a legitimised vigilante, the bounty hunter as a character can sit in a kind of Lagrange point between the pull of the heroic individualist and the pull of authoritarian imposition of order…. 

(4) SPACEHOUNDS OF THE WSFS, And when Camestros Felapton is finished with the topic above, he chronicles the work of another set of adventurers who are hard at work to disarm “The Hugo Kill Switch”.

The people at The Hugo Book Club Blog (Olav Rokne & Amanda Wakaruk) are on a high-stakes mission to defuse a time bomb. Deep within the WSFS constitution is a hidden switch that is creeping ever closer to hitting some beloved Hugo Award categories. Can a rag-tag team save the Fan categories before the timer reaches zero?!

(5) TO THE EGRESS, AND BEYOND. Arturo Serrano analyzes the special challenges inherent in the audience’s complicated history with the Toy Story franchise and the Buzz Lightyear character and tells why Lightyear doesn’t fly, but it falls with style” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The quest for continued relevance is a preoccupation that the movie assigns to both Buzz and itself. It tries to evoke the feel of the Flash Gordon serials and, of course, both of the big Star franchises. But instead of the now-common practice of attempting to recapture an old moment of wonder via repetition and allusion, this movie gave itself the harder task of pretending to be that first experience. Although the villain’s big plan involves the return to an idealized past, Lightyear is not a case of nostalgia (because anything it could try to revisit is supposed to be provided by this story for the first time), but of pastiche. It may be unfair to cast Pixar as a victim of its own spectacular successes, but Lightyear is certainly not the best that the studio is capable of, and at times it’s a stretch to imagine small Andy being blown away by it….

(6) YES, THE END IS NEAR! The inaugural winner of the first Self-Published Science Fiction Competition will be announced in three weeks.

(7) WHO IN THE MOVIES. Radio Times covers the revelation that a “Doctor Who unmade film script featured two Doctors”.

…However, Subotsky revealed that a second deal was negotiated following production of 1965’s Dr. Who and the Daleks which would indeed have allowed for a third film. “There was a further agreement that was entered into, to give the rights to make a third movie, which of course was never done,” he explained. “It was on the same terms as the original films, so my feeling is… the option lapsed.”

Though a third movie never materialised, Subotsky further revealed that his father did in fact produce a screenplay for the proposed sequel that remains in his family’s possession and was also displayed at the BFI event – this script, however, was not an adaptation of any existing Doctor Who television serial.

“Many years later, maybe 15 years later, it was clearly still on his mind, because he had prepared a script called ‘Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure’ which actually was a repurposed script of a horror film entitled ‘King Crab’… the original title was even worse, it was ‘Night of the Crabs’!

“It was with two Doctors – a young Doctor and an old Doctor – which is an idea that has been returned to.”…

(8) PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE. Polygon’s Joshua Rivera drops a few SPOILERS along the way: “Obi-Wan Kenobi finale review: a Star Wars show as broken as its hero”.

… Across its brief six-episode run, Obi-Wan stopped the spectacle to focus on people — and it mostly resonates as a contrast to how much I’ve missed them in other Star Wars stories.

At the heart of this are Obi-Wan’s two central performances. As Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor plays a broken man in exile, a soldier who knows he lost the war but is still being asked to fight it, keeping constant vigil from afar over the young Luke Skywalker. As befits the character that shares the series’ name, every note of Obi-Wan’s journey rings true, largely thanks to McGregor’s performance….

(9) PHYSICS AIN’T MISBEHAVING. Matt O’Dowd of PBS Space Time whittles away at the question, “Is Interstellar Travel Impossible?”.

Space is pretty deadly. But is it so deadly that we’re effectively imprisoned in our solar system forever? Many have said so, but a few have actually figured it out.

(10) MEMORY LANE

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, the follow-up film to the Twilight Zone series premiered this week. Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis, Twilight Zone: The Movie certainly carried high expectations. This film features four stories directed by Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller. 

Landis’ segment is the only original story created for the film, while the segments by Spielberg, Dante, and Miller are remakes or more precisely reworkings of episodes from the original series.

The screenplay is not surprisingly jointly done by a committee of John Landis, George Clayton, Johnson Richard Matheson and Melissa Mathison as is the story which is by Landis, Matheson, Johnson and Jerome Bixby. 

The principal cast was surprisingly small given that there were four stories, just Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow and Kathleen Quinlan. 

It did quite well at the box office, making over forty million against a budget of under ten million. Some critics like Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Tribune like some of it though he noted that, “the surprising thing is, the two superstar directors are thoroughly routed by two less-known directors” while others such as Vincent Canby at the New York Times hated all of it calling the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth”. 

It was enough of a financial success that the suits at CBS gave the approval to the Twilight Zone series.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great fifty-five percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1908 — Sloan Nibley. Writer who worked on a number of genre series including Science Fiction TheaterAddams FamilyThe Famous Adventures of Mr. MagooShazan, and the New Addams Family. (Died 1990.)
  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 77. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. Her ”Stable Strategies for Middle Management” story picked up a nomination at Noreascon 3 (1989), and “Computer Friendly” garnered a nomination the next year in the same category at ConFiction (1990). She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 65. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon Prime y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 – Liu Cixin, 59. He won the Best Novel Hugo at Saquan (2015) for his Three Body Problem novel, translated into English by Ken Liu. It was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Nebula, Canopus and Prometheus Awards as well. He picked up a Hugo novel nomination at Worldcon 75 (2017) for Death’s End also translated by Liu. 
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 50. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and  Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also  voiced the character in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well which are quite excellent. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 — Melissa Rauch, 42. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. Having watched a few episodes on HBO when I was subscribed to that streaming service, I vehemently disagree. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 22. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The God Complex”. She had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond.  I can’t find anything online that talks about how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY DESIGNS. Paul Weimer will make you want to read the second City Siege novel of KJ Parker: “Book Review: How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with it” at Nerds of a Feather.

…While the first volume had Orban explicitly say that he was not telling the whole truth in the end, here from the beginning we have a professional telling us right from the get go about the power of stories, lies, shading the truth and more in order to tell his story. The first novel was Parker geeking out about engineering and siegecraft and how a determined engineer could frustrate the greatest army the world has assembled. By contrast, this second novel does have concerns regarding the siege and defending it, because Parker does really like to go down his rabbit holes and show it off. (In some ways, I think of him very much like Herman Melville, just enjoying sharing what he has learned and shown off about all sorts of abstruse subjects, interwoven masterfully into the story)….

(14) OCTOTHORPE. With a cover courtesy of DALL-E, Octothorpe 60 is now up! Listen here: “Different Types of Tedium”.

John Coxon is going to brunch, Alison Scott watched a film, and Liz Batty is critical. We discuss what we’d do if we were king of The Hugo Awards for the day, and then we talk about ABBA and other science fiction. And Monster Munch – you love to hear it.

Cover by DALL-E

(15) LIGHT FINGERS. Yahoo! listens as “Taika Waititi admits to stealing equipment from ‘The Hobbit’ set”.

New Zealand filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi appeared Wednesday on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, where he shared a Hobbit-sized secret regarding the second film in the popular franchise directed by fellow Kiwi Oscar winner Peter Jackson.

Waititi shared, “When I did What We Do in the Shadows, when Jemaine [Clement, the film’s co-writer and star] and I were shooting that, we didn’t have much money to do that film, and The Hobbit had just wrapped. And, so, our production designer — man, I don’t know if I should tell this. OK, but I will. Our production designer, in the dead of night, took his crew to The Hobbit studios and stole all of the dismantled, broken-down green screens and took all of the timber, and we built a house.”…

(16) THEY CROSSED THE STREAMS. “The Mandalorian gets mashed up with The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Star Wars/Ghostbusters crossover cosplay” at Ghostbusters News. They draw our attention not only to the clever cosplay, but “the adorable replacement for Grogu, consisting of a miniature version of Stay Puft being seen nestled inside his pram pod.”

(17) IT IS HIS FETA. Gizmodo takes a pretty funny look at “The Weirdest, Goat-iest Thor: Love and Thunder Merchandise”.

Marvel’s latest movie is bringing with it an Asgard Tours boat-load of weird and wonderful merchandise.

(18) REVISITING FILMATION. [Item by Bill.] The 1973-1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series was produced by Filmation.  Recently, Gazelle Animations has done some clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager in the Filmation style:

The animator gives background. And note the Most Important Device in the Universe!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Lightyear Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, the producer learns that the premise of Lightyear–that it’s an action movie Andy saw in 1995 that made him want to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy–he gets excited because that means a producer in the Toy Story universe made money on the film.  But even though it’s supposed to be “a 1990s movie,” fans of 1990s movies that featured “a lot of over the top action and cheese” will be cruelly disappointed.  Toy Story fans who remember that the villain Zurg is Buzz Lightyear’s father will also be very disappointed.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, N., Bill, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/22 This Is The File Primeval, The Murmuring Scrolls And The Pixels

(1) LOOK AT A HUGO NOMINEE. Abigail Nussbaum reviews “She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan” at Strange Horizons.

The twenty-first century has seen a tremendous flowering in the subgenre of epic fantasy. What was once largely a monoculture of vaguely medieval, vaguely Western European settings has seen an influx of writers (or perhaps more accurately, of publishers willing to platform those writers) who look beyond the template set by Middle Earth. From more specific European settings (Naomi Novik, Katherine Arden) to the Middle East (S.A. Chakraborty), and Africa (Marlon James). Perhaps most especially, there have been a slew of epic fantasies set in East Asian-inspired worlds, drawing on the varied cultures of the region and its storied history.

At first glance, Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel, She Who Became the Sun,seems like it would sit comfortably on the shelf beside these works. It is a fantasized, fictionalized account of the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang, the peasant-turned-monk-turned-general who drove the descendants of Genghis Khan out of China and established the Ming dynasty. It is blatantly inspired by the Chinese historical melodramas that have populated our TV screens in recent years. And it features enough battle scenes and political scheming to fill a whole season of Game of Thrones.

On this level, the novel delivers handsomely, and is a thoroughly enjoyable fantasized adventure (though its actual fantasy elements are on the thin side, and not very central to its story). But the further one gets into this gripping, thoughtful novel, the more obvious it becomes that this is first and foremost a novel of character—and that the lens through which it interprets character is that of gender. Not for nothing was Parker-Chan awarded an Otherwise (then Tiptree) fellowship for an earlier draft of this book: at the heart of She Who Became the Sun is an analysis of how two cultures define themselves through—and are weakened by—rigid gender roles, and how specific individuals—by subverting, defying, and most of all queering those roles—can discover an unexpected path to power….

(2) MAY THE FOURTH ETC. National Public Radio celebrates the day: “On May the 4th, let’s remember the time NPR had a ‘Star Wars’ radio drama”.

On this May the 4th, we want to take you back to 1981, when NPR turned its attention to Star Wars. That’s right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas’ original three movies.

NPR figured it could maybe get more listeners by reviving the radio drama, which had been out of fashion for some 30 years. So the network called Richard Toscan, then-head of the theater program at the University of Southern California. He remembers asking a colleague for advice on what story to dramatize: “There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘Create a scandal.’ “

Toscan was at a loss. Then he mentioned the problem to a student. “And he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you do Star Wars?’ ” Toscan recalls. “There was the scandal.”

See, Star Wars was a commercial juggernaut. And as Toscan puts it, “Folks working at NPR thought, ‘Oh good grief, we’re selling out to Hollywood.’ “

But if this was selling out, it sure came cheap. George Lucas had graduated from USC and was a fan of the campus NPR station. So after a little prodding, he gave away the radio rights to Star Wars for $1 — a public radio budget if there ever was one….

(3) BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WHAT A BARGAIN. “‘Star Wars’ Icon James Earl Jones Only Made $7,000 to Voice Darth Vader in ‘A New Hope’” recalls The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor also says when he first read the script for ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ he thought for sure Vader was lying to Luke Skywalker about being his father.

James Earl Jones was paid only $7,000 to voice Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope — but the actor says for him at the time, it was a huge score.

To celebrate Star Wars Day, The Hollywood Reporter looked back at some interviews Jones gave through the years, in which he talked about voicing the legendary sci-fi villain….

(4) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Disney Plus dropped this Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer for Star Wars Day.

The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. The series stars Ewan McGregor, reprising his role as the iconic Jedi Master, and also marks the return of Hayden Christensen in the role of Darth Vader.

(5) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Grady Hendrix and Alex Irvine on May 18.

Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix is a New York Times bestselling novelist and screenwriter who makes up lies and is mean to babies. He has written terrible books like My Best Friend’s ExorcismThe Final Girl Support GroupThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and Paperbacks from Hell. Currently, he has an unhealthy fixation on gothic romances.

Alex Irvine

Alex Irvine would write nothing but short stories if he thought he could get away with it, but in this fallen world he has also written novels, comics, games, and various forms of interactive narrative. Recent work includes Anthropocene RagThe Comic Book Story of BaseballNew York Collapse, and stories in F&SFAsimov’s, and Tor.com. He lives in Maine.

IN-PERSON at the KGB Bar on May 18, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.  KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(6) THE COLOSSUS OF BED BATH AND BEYOND. There’s a story that explains how it landed here: “The Captain America Statue at Brooklyn’s Bed Bath & Beyond” at Untapped New York.

Shoppers going in to grab one of the innumerable home products on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond or discount fashion garb at the Saks Off 5th outlet may be surprised to see a 13-foot-tall bronze Captain America statue upon entering Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Industry City, Brooklyn. Captain America is so tall, his shield reaches into the mezzanine level of the building’s atrium. He holds his iconic star shield aloft with his left hand, with his right hand clenched into a fist. On the top of the bronze plinth are the words “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn,” a line from the 2011 film Captain America: The First AvengerIn this modern era, it seems rare for any statue to arrive without controversy and this one was no different….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Remember that fan letter I just wrote to Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo? Well certain films have the same effect upon me. Such is true of The Mummy and the first sequel, The Mummy Returns. (I shall not mention the third film in the series in pain of, well, something horrible happening to all of us. Yes, it is that bad a film.) Both are perfect popcorn films worthy of repeated viewing which I’ve certainly done in the last two decades. 

I know I saw the first one in the theater not long after it came out. It was directed by Stephen Sommers who wrote the screenplay and it claims to be a remake of a 1932 American pre-Code horror film called, errr, The Mummy. It’s out of copyright and you see it here. Boris Karloff was The Mummy.

The 1999 version stars what I think is one of the great movie pulp couples of modern times in Brendan Fraser as Rick O’Connell and Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan. A librarian? Huh?  Are they completely believable in their roles? Well no, but they look like they’re have a lot of fun in a really absurd undertaking and that counts for quite a lot. John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan is just the right amount of comic relief. The secondary characters, good and bad, are great characters  — Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep, Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay and even Patricia Velásquez as Anck-su-namun add a great deal to the film.

The production values are very high and the look of the film, be London or the pulpish Egypt they create is quite amazing. The original script was a Terminator-style Mummy but no one was interested in that. Clive Barker wrote a screenplay next that was so dark and violent everyone cringed. (I want to see that one!) Sommers is, well I can’t count that high, the Director who eventually found a screenplay that worked.

The studio needed a hit after a series of film failures so they gave Sommer an actual budget and turned him loose, one of eighty million dollars. The film would make four hundred and twenty million dollars in its initial showing. Not bad at all. (The first director was offered ten million dollars as his budget.) And of course it gout a Sequel (yes I capitalized that), The Mummy Returns which earned just over four hundred million against a budget of a hundred million. 

Now let’s see how it was received by critics. 

You know I really, really like the reviews of Roger Ebert who wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times so let’s start with his rather nice summation: “There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased.”

Next up is David Hunter of Variety who was more ambivalent: “Far more ambitious than its predecessors but a notch or two below the unique event-movie experience it might have been, Universal’s The Mummy is undermined by weak writing. Overall, though, it should erect pyramids of moola and not sink into the quicksand when Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace opens 12 days into its run.”

Finally let’s end with these words from Bob Graham of the SF Gate: “This comic horror movie emphasizes the comic, and Brendan Fraser is in his element. With his exaggerated features — big eyes, big nose, big lips — Fraser already looks like a comic-book hero. More importantly, he’s got the flair and know-how to bring it off.  “The Mummy” digs up both laughs and chills from timeworn material.     From the gilded bodies of ancient priests about to die — they are going to be “mummified alive” — to the hokey subtitles in the prologue — what do they think they are speaking, anyway, old Egyptian? — this looks as if it’s going to be big-time fun. It is.”

It has an excellent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers of seventy five percent.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. I’m not seeing any of them being available at the usual suspects. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1926 Christine White. Forever known for appearing in one episode of the Twilight Zone, to wit “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” alongside William Shatner as Bob Wilson. She played Julia Wilson, his wife. She, like Shatner, had appeared on the Twilight Zone earlier, though not with him; she had the lead as Kitty Cavanaugh in “The Prime Mover”.  I’m reasonably sure that her only other genre appearance was on One Step Beyond as Nancy Lloyd Chandler in “The Haunting” episode. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 79. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Still does the event calendar for Asimov’s. Do tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 73. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 – James Bacon, 47. He’s a 16-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately, he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 46. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. And let’s not overlook Souless getting a nomination for BSFS’s Compton Crook Award’s Best First Novel. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 27. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here. It’s by far the best film I saw while in-hospital that year for fifty days straight and I urge you to go see it now. Yes, I know it deservedly won a Hugo at Dublin 2019.  And the sequel is coming up soon! 

(10)  RETAILING SCIENCE. [Item by Bill Higgins.] Many’s the time I’ve toured a museum along with fellow SF fans, so when we get to the gift shop, we usually find ourselves exchanging views on the merchandise offered there. In “Outer Space in the Museum Shop,” Dr. Eleanor Armstrong, an expert on space science communication and museums, contemplates messaging, merchandising, and visitors’ experiences. “Outer Space in the Museum Shop” from EASST Review Volume 41(1) 2022 (that is, the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology).

…Purchasing an item from the shop at a science museum will make that object part of the visitor’s everyday science learning, both at the time of purchase and after the museum visit[…] n this instance, the item comes home from the museum with the visitor, bringing science learning into a different sphere of a visitors’ life, and arguably allowing the item to influence secondary communities, such as family members and larger school groups. Science (and by extension, everyday science learning) never happen in a vacuum, but instead reflect and magnify broader social and political issues in the society in which the museum sits….

(11) LEGENDS BUT NO TOMORROW. CBR says “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Proved Taking Risks Can Pay Off”. It’s going away anyhow.

…While many of the CW shows — and superhero shows in general — stick to that single format, Legends of Tomorrow created entirely new scenarios that existed throughtout time. Seeing the team track down an alien in the 1930s or fight with magicians in the Wild West helped to make each episode special. The show allowed fans to experience their heroes in so many different eras that the plotlines were continually refreshed.

…While fans are upset to see the end of the series — especially with the cliffhanger ending to Season 7 — they can be happy with the impact it had. Legends of Tomorrow evolved from a show featuring other series’ guest characters to one of the longest-running Arrowverse series. The actors, writers, and directors all worked tirelessly to provide a different superhero experience, and it was those risks and differences that kept the series on the air for the better part of a decade.

(12) CARTOONIST KEEPS GOING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Nathan Fitch profiles New Yorker cartoonist George Booth, still active at 95.  This dropped about a week ago.

(13) EDGAR ALLAN POE NEWS. This 2008 adaptation of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” starring Carrington Vilmont, is directed by Robert Eggers, whose current feature is The Northman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Bill Higgins, Michael Toman, 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 Danny SIchel.]

Pixel Scroll 3/9/22 And A Scroll Will Never Need More Than 640K Pixels

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s March/April 2022 cover art is by Mondolithic Studios, illustrating “Dancing Litle Marionettes” by Megan Beadle.

(2) LUCKY SEVEN. Martha Wells discusses “The Nebula Nomination Decline” at My Flying Lizard Circus. By dropping out she actually pulled two extra finalists onto the ballot.

So Fugitive Telemetry did have a Nebula finalist spot for Best Novella, which after a phone conversation and email with Jeffe Kennedy, the president of SFWA, I decided to decline. Basically because The Murderbot Diaries has had three Nebula finalist spots and two Nebula wins (for Best Novella and Best Novel) in the past four years. (Plus the four Hugos.) So it just seemed like someone else could use this nomination better than I could.

Jeffe had to check and see what would happen if I declined (it’s not like the Hugo longlist where if someone drops out everybody just moves up one). If it just meant there was going to be four novellas on the ballot instead of five, I would have kept the nomination. So when she told me there was a three way tie for sixth place so if I dropped out, three more novellas would be on the ballot, that seemed like a really good deal. 🙂

(3) BY GEORGE! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, John Kelly reports on predictions British writer W.L. George made in 1922 about life a century in his future.  Kelly finds George was accurate in predicting improvements in transportation and communications, but he also thought people in 2022 would live on pills and homes would have papier-mache walls which would be peeled off it they got dirty. “W.L. George’s 1922 predictions of the future have stood the test of time”.

… George felt the world wouldn’t change as much between 1922 and 2022 as it had between 1822 and 1922. “[The] world today would surprise President Jefferson much more, I suspect, than the world of 2022 would surprise the little girl who sells candies at Grand Central Station. For Jefferson knew nothing of railroads, telephones, automobiles, aeroplanes, gramophones, movies, radium, etc.”

He began with technology. Planes would replace both steamships and long-distance trains. Trucks would probably replace freight trains. Communications technologies such as the telephone would go “wireless.” Wrote George: “the people of the year 2022 will probably never see a wire outlined against the sky.”…

(4) FRANKE STILL WITH US. Austrian scientist, artist, and SF writer Herbert W. Franke, age 95, suddenly appeared on Twitter yesterday. A major science fiction writer in the German language, he was a guest of honor at the 1970 Worldcon. He also is a computer graphics pioneer.

Enthusiasts of both SF and computer art responded with well over a hundred messages of welcome.

His career on Twitter is just getting started.  Here’s his follow-up message:

Why now?

The Internet Science Fiction Database says he’s been busy over the past seven decades or so. The SF Encyclopedia can fill you in about his career here.

(5) MY ONLY HOPE. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” begins streaming on Disney+ on May 25.

The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. The series stars Ewan McGregor, reprising his role as the iconic Jedi Master, and also marks the return of Hayden Christensen in the role of Darth Vader. Joining the cast are Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell and Benny Safdie.

(6) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? The only show to answer that question,“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” starts streaming on Paramount+ on May 5.

STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS is based on the years Captain Christopher Pike manned the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The series will feature fan favorites from season two of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock.

(7) EARLY WITHDRAWAL PENALTY. “Black Panther director Ryan Coogler arrested after being mistaken for bank robber” reports the Guardian.  

Black Panther director Ryan Coogler was mistaken for a bank robber and arrested after trying to withdraw money from his bank account. Coogler confirmed the incident, which happened in January, to Variety after TMZ first reported it.

According to a police report obtained by TMZ, Coogler, who is currently filming the Black Panther sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Atlanta, Georgia, entered a bank in the city and handed the cashier a note reading: “I would like to withdraw $12,000 cash from my checking account. Please do the money count somewhere else. I’d like to be discreet.”

The transaction triggered an alarm, according to the report, and bank staff called the police. Coogler and two other people with him were arrested, and later released.

Coogler told Variety: “This situation should never have happened … However, Bank of America worked with me and addressed it to my satisfaction and we have moved on.”

(8) TRAVELER FROM AN ANTIQUE LAND. Fanac.org is doing another Fan History Zoom on March 19. To RSVP, send a note to fanac@fanac.org.

Traveling Ghiants, Fan Funds from the Days of Mimeo to the Days of Zoom

with Geri Sullivan (m), Lesleigh Luttrell, Justin Ackroyd and Suzle Tompkins

Date: March 19, 2022
Time: 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT, 8pm London, 7am AEDT (Melbourne)

Fan Funds evolved to bring together in person fans from different regions who only knew each other long distance, and on paper. In these days of virtual conventions, we still long for connection. Our panel are Fan Fund winners all, representing TAFF- the Transatlantic Fan Fund, DUFF – the Down Under Fan Fund, and GUFF – the Get-Up-and-Over Fan Fund (or the Going Under Fan Fund). In addition to the travel part of being a Fan Fund winner, there’s an entire administration and fundraising side that most of us don’t even think of. Join us to hear from those in the know how Fan Funds have changed, their secret rules, and the impact of plagues and modern society on this traditional fannish charity. Expect some traveler’s tales too!

To RSVP, or find out more about the series, please send a note to fanac@fanac.org.

(9) GROWING OLD IS NOT FOR SISSIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook contrasts the approach that Star Wars and Star Trek movies have taken toward aging actors playing aging characters.  Does one let characters age along with the actors, or does one fire up the computer networks and plaster CGI versions of youth over various visages? “Star Trek and Star Wars’ Different Approaches to De-Aging Tech”.

There’s a moment in the climax of Star Trek: Picard’s season two premiere when Q, the omnipotent bane of Jean-Luc’s life, appears in the latter’s humble French estate. He has had, like so many returning figures of classic pop culture of late, the process of time smoothed out by CG, to give us a semblance of the Q we once knew all those years ago. But, he realizes: Jean-Luc Picard has gotten old. So why shouldn’t he?

“Oh dear, you’re a bit older than I imagined,” Q jokes. “Let me catch up.” In a trademark click of his fingers, and a bright flash of light, the CG-enhanced Q becomes just regular old contemporary John de Lancie. It’s a perfect way to bring Q and Picard together again, decades after they last crossed paths in the finale of The Next Generation—but it’s also emblematic of an approach contemporary Star Trek is taking to its aging heroes….

(10) ODDLY IT HAS NO BIKE PATH. But who needs a bike path when your bike can fly? “’E.T. Park’ in Porter Ranch could become official” – the LA Times has details.

A City Council committee on Tuesday backed a proposal to rename Porter Ridge Park as E.T. Park. The proposal now goes to the full council.

Director Steven Spielberg sought out the tract-house setting of the Valley for “E.T.” because it reminded him of the Phoenix suburb where he grew up, The Times reported in 1985 .

The Porter Ranch park is featured in a scene in which a group that includes E.T. and Elliott, the boy who befriends the alien, escapes federal agents. One of the park’s climbing structures — a caterpillar with big eyes — can be seen in the film.

Other San Fernando Valley locales featured in the movie include White Oak Avenue in Granada Hills, where Elliott, E.T. and others escape on bikes, and a Tujunga residence, where Elliott and his family live.

City Councilmen John Lee and Bob Blumenfield, who represent Valley neighborhoods, introduced the motion to change the park’s name.

“I think the whole community refers to it as E.T Park, and this is just making it official,” Lee said at Tuesday’s committee meeting. “Mr. Spielberg has given us the permission to use it, that name.”…

(11) KOURITS OBIT. Ukranian fan Leonid Kourits died of a stroke reports Marcia Kelly Illingworth on Facebook. He attended several Worldcons and UK Eastercons. Borys Sydiuk says he was the organizer of the first truly international SF convention in the USSR in the Koblevo, Nikolaev region in 1988. David Langford’s amusing encounter with Kourits at the 1997 World Fantasy Con is described in Cloud Chamber 79.

(12) STEWART BEVAN (1948-2022) Actor Stewart Bevan, who appeared on Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, has died reports the Guardian. Other genre credits include the horror films Burke & Hare and The Flesh and Blood Show (both 1972), and The Ghoul (1975)…

… He featured in the long-running series Doctor Who, in 1973’s The Green Death, remembered fondly by viewers as “the one with the giant maggots”. The departure of popular companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) called for someone special to lure her away from third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, and to this end the charismatic Welsh eco-warrior Professor Clifford Jones was conceived.

Michael Briant, the director, was having trouble casting this part but was reluctant to interview Bevan because he was Manning’s fiance at the time. He finally relented and discovered that Bevan was exactly what he was looking for: handsome and with the requisite crusading zeal and lightness of touch.

Bevan’s obvious rapport with Manning also helped to make her departure one of the series’ most memorably tear-jerking. Bevan himself was an empathic anti-capitalist vegetarian, guitar player and writer of poetry – all of which contributed to making Jones a believable character….

(13) CONRAD JANIS (1928-2022) The actor who played Mindy’s father in Mork & Mindy, Conrad Janis, died March 1 at the age of 94. The New York Times tribute is here. He also was a KAOS agent on Get Smart and a space station resident on Quark.

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1976 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Forty-four years ago this weekend, The Amazing Captain Nemo aired. It was based quite loosely off Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It was written by way too many screenwriters which included Robert Bloch. Scripts by committee in my opinion rarely work. (Your opinion may of course differ.) Robert Bloch and his fellow writers fleshed producer Irwin Allen’s premise that after a century of being in suspended animation, Nemo is revived in modern times for new adventures. It was intended as the pilot for a new series which didn’t happen, another project by Irwin Allen widely considered as an attempt to follow-up on the success of his Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series. 

It had a very large cast but in my opinion the only performer that you need to know about is José Ferrer as Captain Nemo. He made a rather magnificent if hammy one. Of course, a few years later he get to chew on scenery again in Dune where plays Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.

It was aired over three nights with Bloch largely responsible for the finale. Later the miniseries would get condensed, rather choppily, into a film called The Return of Captain Nemo which generated one of the best review comments: “Best line in the film was when Hallick says Captain Nemo was a figure of fiction, and Ferrer says that Jules Verne was a biographer as well as a science fiction writer. From there get set for some ham a la mode.”

It was not particularly well received by either critics or the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes with the latter giving a very bad twenty percent rating. 

Let’s give IGN the final word: “If one comes to an Irwin Allen-produced adventure seeking a thoughtful, challenging film, they’ve come to wrong place.” 

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Batman, Captain America, Captain Marvel and Superman. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman” (co-written with Howard Browne), “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 9, 1939 Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. Damn, another one who died far too early. If we count Sesame Street as genre as we should, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it somewhat but not that much as Muppets are genre, aren’t they?  Ok, how about as Aram Fingal in Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in the superb Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series by having a diner in the Nightside called the Hawk’s Wind Bar & Grille. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 67. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. The Nebula winning Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. Her “Rachael in Love” story won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and was nominated for Best Novelette at Nolacon II. She won a World Fantasy Award for her “Bones” novella which got her a Hugo nomination at Chicon V. Her space opera version of The HobbitThere and Back Again, is I’ve been reminded, a great deal of fun. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects.
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 57. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child ThiefThe Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest.  His latest, Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery, riffs off witchcraft in colonial New England.
  • Born March 9, 1959 Mark Carwardine, 63. In 2009, he penned Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. This is the sequel to Last Chance to See, the 1989 BBC radio documentary series and book which he did with Douglas Adams. In 2009, he also worked with with Stephen Fry on a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See. This also called Last Chance to See
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 44. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon fascinating weirdness. Quite fascinating as I said. And well worth the reading time. 

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) LEAPBUSTER. SYFY Wire reveals that “NBC Quantum Leap reboot casts Ernie Hudson”.

An OG member of the Ghostbusters crew is making his way into the world of Quantum LeapPer Deadline, NBC’s upcoming reboot of the classic sci-fi series has tapped Ernie Hudson, best known for portraying Winston Zeddemore in the Ghostbusters film franchise (he recently reprised the spirit-fighting hero in Jason Reitman’s Afterlife), for a key role in the pilot episode.

This is the second bit of major casting news in the last few days after Raymond Lee was cast to lead the revival as Dr. Ben Seong last Friday. Hudson is set to play Herbert “Magic” Williams, a Vietnam War vet and seasoned leader of the Quantum Leap time travel project. “Using a bit of politicking and his military know-how to keep the Pentagon at bay, Magic buys the team some time to rescue Ben, but expects answers once he’s back,” reads the synopsis of the character provided by Deadline….

(18) MORE HAPPIER TIMES. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Another pic from a time long ago in a place far, far away… During the 2006 Eurocon in Kyiv some local members of the SF community provided domestic hospitality.

Seen here (from left) a Romanian fan, Imants Belogrivs (of the Eurocon Award-winning Hekate publisher in Riga, Latvia), a Latvian fan(?), Martin Untals (Latvia), Jean-Pierre Laigle (France), Jonathan Cowie (SF2 Concatenation), Sergei Lussarenko (former Ukrainian SF author now living in Minsk and apparently a Putin supporter.) Photo by Roberto Quaglia (Italian fan and occasional author).

(19) WISDOM FROM MY INTERNET. Declann Finn will be blessing Upstream Reviews with his recommendations for “The Dragon Awards, 2022”. In his first post there is one and only one science fiction novel on his radar screen.

…To begin with, we’re not not nominating anyone who already has an award. Most of those who have won already have the attitude of “Oh, I don’t need more dust collectors.” We’re leaving out Big Name Authors. Frankly, if you’re Jim Butcher or a Baen author, you don’t need our help. If we don’t have any other viable alternative, then yes, then BNAs are applicable….

Best Science Fiction Novel

White Ops— to my knowledge, this is the only eligible science fiction work that Upstream Reviews has covered. More will be added to the nominations as we go along….

And who is the author of White Ops? It’s Declann Finn!

(20) VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET. Bloody Disgusting has learned that the “Predator Prequel Movie ‘Prey’ Will Be Set in the Great Plains in 1719”.

… From 20th Century Studios, the return of the Predator franchise is directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), and it’s positioned as a prequel to the original that will tell the tale of the Predator’s first journey to our planet. Amber Midthunder (“Legion”) stars as a Comanche woman who goes against gender norms and traditions to become a warrior….

“It goes back to what made the original Predator movie work,” producer John Davis previously told Collider. “It’s the ingenuity of a human being who won’t give up, who’s able to observe and interpret, basically being able to beat a stronger, more powerful, well-armed force.”

As for tone, Davis reveals that “[Prey] has more akin to The Revenant than it does any film in the Predator canon,” further adding: “You’ll know what I mean once you see it.”…

(21) COOL DISCOVERY. “At the Bottom of an Icy Sea, One of History’s Great Wrecks Is Found”: the New York Times tells how Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, lost in 1915, was found in the waters off Antarctica.

The wreck of Endurance has been found in the Antarctic, 106 years after the historic ship was crushed in pack ice and sank during an expedition by the explorer Ernest Shackleton.

A team of adventurers, marine archaeologists and technicians located the wreck at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula, using undersea drones. Battling sea ice and freezing temperatures, the team had been searching for more than two weeks in a 150-square-mile area around where the ship went down in 1915.

Endurance, a 144-foot, three-masted wooden ship, holds a revered place in polar history because it spawned one of the greatest survival stories in the annals of exploration. Its location, nearly 10,000 feet down in waters that are among the iciest on Earth, placed it among the most celebrated shipwrecks that had not been found.

…Shackleton never made it to the pole or beyond, but his leadership in rescuing all his crew and his exploits, which included an 800-mile open-boat journey across the treacherous Southern Ocean to the island of South Georgia, made him a hero in Britain.

Shackleton was tripped up by the Weddell’s notoriously thick, long-lasting sea ice, which results from a circular current that keeps much ice within it. In early January 1915 Endurance became stuck less than 100 miles from its destination and drifted with the ice for more than 10 months as the ice slowly crushed it….

(22) IN BLOOM AGAIN. Deadline reveals “’Bloom County’ Animated Series From Berkeley Breathed In Works At Fox”.

…Bloom County first appeared in student newspaper The Daily Texan before becoming nationally syndicated in the Washington Post. It ran between 1980-1989, and Breathed brought it back on Facebook in 2015.

Breathed said, “At the end of Alien, we watched cuddly Sigourney Weaver go down for a long peaceful snooze in cryogenic hyper-sleep after getting chased around by a saliva-spewing maniac, only to be wakened decades later into a world stuffed with far worse. Fox and I have done the identical thing to Opus and the rest of the Bloom County gang, may they forgive us.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s story adds:

…In 2015, Breathed started posting new Bloom County strips on Facebook, a move that was at least somewhat inspired by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who Breathed regularly mocked in the strip during its original run. “He is the reverse canary in America’s gilded gold mine: When Donald Trump gets up from the dead and starts singing, you know you’ve reached toxic air,” Breathed said at Comic-Con in 2016. “He signifies something that I didn’t want to be left out of.

(23) WHEN MONTANA HAD AN OCEAN. Yahoo! declares “Octopus ancestors lived before era of dinosaurs, study shows”.

Scientists have found the oldest known ancestor of octopuses – an approximately 330 million-year-old fossil unearthed in Montana.

The researchers concluded the ancient creature lived millions of years earlier than previously believed, meaning that octopuses originated before the era of dinosaurs….

The creature, a vampyropod, was likely the ancestor of both modern octopuses and vampire squid, a confusingly named marine critter that’s much closer to an octopus than a squid. Previously, the “oldest known definitive” vampyropod was from around 240 million years ago, the authors said.

The scientists named the fossil Syllipsimopodi bideni, after President Joe Biden.

Whether or not having an ancient octopus — or vampire squid — bearing your name is actually a compliment, the scientists say they intended admiration for the president’s science and research priorities.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Gordon Van Gelder, Bill Higgins, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Hard drivin’” Dern.]