A World of Afrofuturism: Creating Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part II)

Interview conducted by Rob Thornton: This is Part Two of an interview with avant-jazz composer and flutist Nicole Mitchell, who paid tribute to Octavia Butler in 2008 in her composition Xenogenesis Suite. For more information, see Part One. SPOILER WARNING: This part of the interview assumes that you have read the Xenogenesis Trilogy or don’t mind knowing its entire plot.

Rob Thornton: You have talked about the darkness and the complexity of Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy. How does your piece reflect the novels?

Nicole Mitchell: Xenogenesis is an intricate trilogy expressing a metamorphosis of humanity through the interbreeding of extraterrestrials. It exposes our lack of self love, and illuminates Butler’s vivid world of other beings more powerful than humans, while documenting a journey of human survival and resistance. I focused on Dawn for Xenogenesis Suite. I was fascinated with the concept of Lilith being stripped of our homeland and her having to work towards continual survival in an alien world, alone. I created my own narrative inspired by Butler’s story, which served as the foundation of my compositions. You can include some of this below, if you wish.

1. Wonder

In wonder, there is beauty, and in wonder there is power. The power can be equally beautiful and horrific as is the power of humans to be so creative and equally destructive to planet Earth and ourselves. There is a wonder to our intelligence to build societies, study and imitate nature through inventions, and a wonder to our immaturity expressed by our inability to hold life sacred.

2. Transition A

If everything you had known is no longer, and you were placed in a seamless space, what would you feel? The space breathes; you are in the bellow of a monster. How would you find comfort i the unknown, knowing that your state of terror can only be temporary, if you are to survive. The space breathes again, adn you awaken. There is NO WAY OUT and NO WAY Back to what you have known. The only way to survive is to be altered.

3. Smell of Fear

There is a smell of fear. A loud and indistinguishable smell that sticks to its victim. It is residue from the canal between LIFE and DEATH. When on nears the death experience, through accident or tragedy, but is saved on the side of life, she survives with the residue, the smell of fear.

4. Sequence Shadows

When one keeps trying to wake from a dream, but the dream is of the past life. Now you have awakened and try to accept the alien environment that is around you. you have entered a new and strange realm. One awakens to sequences shadows; the eyes cannot grasp the horrific strangeness it sees, so it sees sequence shadows. The new reality dances a strange dance and the human must breathe and accept this new vision in the eyes.

5. Oankali

The names of your caretakers on this new journey. Find humor in your capturers, identify with them, so that you can save your mind. 

6. Adrenalin

There’s nowhere to run, in a small space with no windows or doors, but the mind can find a place. Every once in a while, it can search for an opening somewhere, for peace, for the return of memory, of familiar. Where is this place? It is in waterside walks with family, sunshine and good food. The Earth is dead. Only in the mind can this place survive. In our Dreams we will run there.

7. Transition C 

Eventually, in your process of survival, you allow yourself to be altered, changed, improved by the unknown beings.

8. Before and After

Before being captured, before WAR and the destruction of the life we knew and loved, there were our busy lives. We were unaware and unappreciative of the simple things we loved. Then the explosions, the WAR, the suicide of humans. After, there is nothing. Nothing that we know. Just the unknown.

9. Dawn of a New Life

There is something after, the Dawn of a New Life. Only fragments of the past linger. Our memory altered, overwhelmed with new experiences, interacting with new and repulsive but fascinating beings. Together we enter the Dawn of a New Life.

RT: What method did you use to compose the Xenogenesis Suite? Did you compose for the Black Earth Ensemble or for a set of instruments? 

NM: I composed the work for Black Earth Ensemble, my main compositional vehicle. For each project, I choose specific artists who I imagine to manifest the project. For Xenogenesis, Mankwe Ndosi, the vocalist, played a central role, because I imagined her to represent Lilith, as a lone human within a strange extraterrestrial world that the other instruments would represent. I refrained from having her use a lot of language, because without it, her sounds expressed raw emotions ranging from innocence to terror. In that state, the expression of emotions through sounds without words, can also sound very alien, so the idea was to have her simultaneously represent the human element and the extraterrestrial element at the same time.  I used a hybrid score, including graphic notation and traditional notation. My handwritten score translated more to the vibe I wanted for the musicians, and the text I gave you above was a guide for them as well.

RT: When you introduced the Suite to the Black Earth Ensemble, what was their reaction?

Xeno was probably the most experimental of my projects at that time, so there were slight challenges. However, I worked with musicians that I trusted and that trusted me, because I was having them do things for this project that were often counter-intuitive, to illuminate what I was trying to express. For example, Dawn of a New Life, the last movement, would sound fantastic with a hiphop beat, but that’s not what I wanted. Marcus Evans, the drummer, had to resist that urge, to express the restrained intensity that I was seeking with the piece. 

RT: What was it like to perform the Xenogenesis Suite live? How did the audience react? Did it change when the Suite was recorded?

NM: We actually made the record at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, the day before the premiere at the Vision Festival in New York. It was a bit intense to perform it live, because the musicians really had to trust me even more in front of an audience, to resist some of the ways they normally play. But it went really well and the audience loved it.

RT: In “Before and After,” I hear some instrument (probably the piano) do a superb imitation of a nuclear weapon. Do you recall how that came about?

NM: I’m glad you heard that, because that was my intention. Actually, all the instruments are doing that sound together and it’s written in the score. The full title is “Before and After Nuclear War.” The musicians also have sections in that piece were they create animal sounds with their instruments, as well as cries for help. Butler’s Dawn speaks of nuclear war as the catalyst for the extraterrestrials to swoop down and save Earth and to take over humanity.

RT: For people who are not immediately familiar with avant-jazz sounds, could you give some advice to them on listening to the Suite?

NM: I found that science fiction is the perfect companion for experimental jazz and creative music, because both take the audience on a journey into the unknown. I’m grateful that musicians and audience members have shared with me that they started reading Octavia Butler after learning about this music. Hopefully it can be listened to while reading. 

RT: You composed the Suite back in 2008. Looking back at the piece today, how do you feel about it? 

NM: I still feel really great about the piece. This year, in 2022, it was incredible to perform Xenogenesis Suite at Carnegie Hall and receive a standing ovation, during the Afrofuturism Festival in February. I think when I wrote it, people weren’t as interested in Afrofuturism as they are now, and it is rewarding to see people’s interest increase now.

Epilogue (Nicole)

I wanted to add a few things….

Octavia Butler. Photo by and © Andrew I. Porter; all rights reserved.

Since Xenogenesis Suite, I created two additional suites of music for Octavia: Intergalactic Beings on FPE Records, which sonically revisits Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy, and EarthSeed, which was released in 2020 on Octavia’s birthday, inspired by Parable of the Sower. EarthSeed was a collaboration with Lisa E. Harris, where we created our own EarthSeed spiritual text, inspired by Olamina in the book. In 2017, I released Mandorla Awakening, which is an album inspired by my own Afrofuturist novella.

I really appreciate you interviewing me, because for a long time I’ve wanted to be more engaged with Octavia Butler scholars on the literary side. I know she would want us to be all connected.

 

A World of Afrofuturism: Meet Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part I)

Nicole Mitchell

Interview conducted by Rob Thornton: Critic Mark Dery created the term “Afrofuturism” in his influential essay “Black to the Future” (1993). In the essay, he included an extensive interview with Samuel R. Delany and pointed to Black visions of the future throughout the world, including musicians such as Sun Ra and Parliament-Funkadelic who used science fiction tropes in their music. Afrofuturism in music has continued since 1993 with Black artists such as Janelle Monae, Kool Keith, Deltron 3030, Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills, and other Black artists such as Erykah Badu and Missy Elliot using futuristic elements in their performances.

Another contributor to the Afrofuturist tradition is Nicole Mitchell, a noted avant-jazz composer and flutist. She chose to take on Octavia Butler’s most challenging works, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, and create the Xenogenesis Suite, a collection of dark and disturbing compositions that reflect the trilogy’s turbulent and complicated spirit.

She has been president of Chicago’s legendary avant-jazz organization the Association of the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Influential jazz magazine Down Beat named her a Rising Star in flute from 2004 through 2009. Currently she teaches jazz at the University of Pittsburgh and leads her group the Black Earth Ensemble.

(Note: Given the care in which Nicole gave to her answers, the email answers are provided nearly verbatim with only minimal editing.)

Rob Thornton: How were you introduced to Octavia’s works and what was your initial reaction to them?

Nicole Mitchell: I grew up reading Octavia Butler’s books off my mother’s bookshelf when I was a youth. My mother, Joan Beard Mitchell (JBM) was a self-taught Afrofuturist painter and fiction writer, so at home, I was surrounded with visionary paintings. Two images that come to mind is one with Black women cradling their infants while sitting on planets, and another with a landscape featuring three setting suns on an unknown planet.  JBM was brilliant creative person from Chicago, who happened to be from the same generation and have much synergy with the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), whom I would become a part of later in life.

JBM was a big fan of Octavia’s work and had lots of her books, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Octavia had inspired her leanings towards writing sci-fi. On the other hand, my father, Michael E. Mitchell, had always shared his obsession with UFO’s with the family. He believed that there were people from outer space that were much more advanced than humans, and that our life on Earth was a school. My dad had moved us to southern California in the 1970s, partly so that he and my mother could connect with what they believed was a movement of people working to advance spiritual consciousness. They were of a very small group of African Americans involved in the New Age movement. So at my home, I was immersed in a world where Butler’s fiction really came alive and made sense.

RT: Why did you choose the Xenogenesis Trilogy as a source of inspiration?

NM: I had moved to Chicago, the place of my mother’s roots, back in 1990, to continue her artistic legacy. JBM (my mom) had left the planet in 1982 when I was a teenager, and I translated her mission into my own by seeking to make music that “bridges the familiar with the unknown.”  As JBM had been a self-taught poet and fiction writer, I gravitated to Third World Press (TWP), founded by Haki Madhubuti, and spent many years working there. I become a cultural mentee of Haki and Safisha Madhubuti’s Institute of Positive Education (IPE) complex, while simultaneously mentoring with musicians of the AACM, including Maia, Shanta Nurullah, George Lewis and Douglas Ewart. In 2006, met Octavia Butler when my Black Earth Ensemble performed for Chicago State University’s National Black Writer’s Conference, organized by Haki Madhubuti. In the moments that I met Octavia, her powerful, yet quiet and gentle mysterious presence reminded me of my mother, and I immediately had the idea to create a musical tribute for her. 

Dawn was one of the scariest books I have ever read, because it showed me the horrific side of human nature. With Dawn, Octavia opened up a fascination in me to ponder why we as humans are so compellingly creative and yet so incredibly self-destructive. I didn’t want to mimic Octavia’s narrative with my music, but with Xenogenesis Suite, I wanted to explore the process of facing fear, because Lillith was forced to survive in a constant state of horror, isolation, and disorienting circumstances on that space ship. I realize that Octavia was exemplifying real life horrors that humans have committed to each other over thousands of years, and still today. Power is too often abused. Yet, Octavia brilliantly creates fantastical settings to give readers space to see these human flaws more clearly. 

Xenogenesis Suite became a life-altering artistic challenge for me, because in a journey of facing fear, I had to access parts of myself that I was afraid of, and childhood memories where fear dominated. I had to create sounds that illuminated the uncomfortable and the disturbing, which pushed me beyond the boundaries of many of my music listeners’ expectations. (Even though I am a member of the avant garde and experimental side of the “jazz” scene, there remains a lingering expectation that music is supposed to make you feel good).

RT: Chamber Music America commissioned the Suite. How did that come about?

My original intention was to create Xenogenesis Suite in collaboration with Octavia, so that she could give input to my creation of the music. It would be a way to get to know her and to honor her as a living genius. But, literally the day after I turned my proposal to Chamber Music America in the mail, I heard that Octavia had suddenly died. So immediately I decided, whether I got support or not, I was going to do Xenogenesis Suite.

NM: Chamber Music America has a competitive program called New Jazz Works that I submitted my proposal to and I’m grateful that their panel chose to support Xenogenesis Suite that year. It allowed me to be able to fund travel for my eight piece Black Earth Ensemble from Chicago to New York so that we could premiere at the Vision Festival, and it made it possible for us to cover recording costs, travel, hotel and artists fees to record the Xenogenesis Suite album in New Haven for the Firehouse 12 record label.

[Read Part II of the interview tomorrow.]

Pixel Scroll 7/3/22 Oh No, Not I, I Will Be Five; But As Long As I Know How To Read, I Know I’ll Stay Alive

(1) MARCHING WITH SHERMAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with songwriter Richard Sherman, which they did in 2016 but recently reposted because Richard Sherman turned 92. Maltin on Movies: “Revisiting Richard Sherman”.

Leonard Maltin knows a lot about all aspects of cinema but what he really knows a great deal about is the history of animation and Disney films.  Much of this podcast is devoted to the idea that Walt Disney really was as nice as he presented himself on Sunday nights on “The Wonderful World of Disney.”  Sherman says Disney liked being called “Walt” and if he liked an idea said, “That’ll work!”  He also said that P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins novels, was as fiercely protective of her intellectual property as portrayed in Saving Mr. Banks, and he has 16 hours of tapes with Travers to prove it.  She insisted the tapes be made as a record of her conversations.

Most of the conversation here is about Mary Poppins, which earned Sherman and his brother Robert Sherman two Oscars.  He only briefly mentions Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, which had songs by Sherman and his brother and was in effect the James Bond people trying to do a Disney musical.  He does mention that he was working on an album containing songs for two unmade fantasy films:  Sir Puss-N-Boots and The 13 Clocks, based on the James Thurber novel.  These songs were released in 2016 by castalbums.org.

Fun fact: Voice actor Paul Winchell not only voiced Tigger, but also invented an artificial heart valve.

Disney fans will enjoy this hour.

(2) THE STRANGER THINGS EXPERIENCE. Delish brags, “We Tried All The Food At Stranger Things: The Experience”.

We’re beyond excited for part 2 of Stranger Things season 4. To get into the spirit, Team Delish traveled to the new Stranger Things: The Experience in Brooklyn. With locations in New York, San Francisco, and London, the hour-long immersive adventure transports visitors straight to Hawkins, Indiana.

As much as we loved fighting Demogorgons with Eleven and the gang, our favorite part was obviously the food! Once you finish the experience, you enter Mix-Tape, an ’80s-themed area with some of the show’s iconic locations. Guests can play vintage arcade games, sit in the Byers’ living room, and snack on the character’s favorite treats.

… If you need a drink to wash everything down, head to the Upside Bar for some cocktails inspired by the show. Our favorite is the Demogorgon, which Agbuya describes as “smoky-sweet version of an Old Fashioned with a twist.” The drink is made with bourbon, maple syrup, and Angostura Bitters, but the main attraction is when the bartender uses a flavor blaster gun to blow a giant bubble. Then you puncture it with a stroopwafel and it releases citrus-scented smoke over the drink.

(3) MEDALIST. At The Heinlein Society blog (where “Right click is disabled!”) you can read a “Balticon 56 Report” that’s focused on personally presenting David Gerrold with his Heinlein Award.

(4) AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES. Bill sends along a clipping of something by Robert A. Heinlein’s second wife, Leslyn.  This was after she had divorced Robert and remarried, but refers to the place they had lived on Lookout Mountain Ave.  It’s from the July 1956 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

(5) THE SMITHSONIAN RECOMMENDS OCTAVIA BUTLER. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] In the June issue of the Smithsonian, in the column “Ask Smithsonian”, a reader asked “Who is a science fiction writer you hold in high esteem?” Their answer:

Octavia Butler was an Afrofuturist author who was born in 1947 and died in 2006. In her “Patternist” novels, published during the 1970s and ’80s, she foresaw many aspects of our current era–climate change, pandemics, ethical questions about genetic engineering, struggles for racial justice–yet she struck a chord of hopefulness, especially for Black and women readers, her body of work, which is featured in Smithsonian’s current FUTURES exhibit, grapples deeply with what it means to be human and inspires us to build a more equitable future, no matter what obstacles lie in the way.”

(6) A LOT ON HIS PLATE. “What Makes Taika Waititi Run and Run and Run?” The New York Times asks, but the subject isn’t sure!

Even when your job is to dream up the interplanetary adventures of a Norse god, you might still want to run off and play pirates.

So during the weeks he was editing “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Marvel movie that opens on July 8, Taika Waititi, its director and co-writer, would occasionally take weekends off for a different journey.

He would get outfitted in a flowing gray wig, matching facial hair and temporary tattoos, and don deliciously fetishistic leather gear to portray Blackbeard, the swashbuckling, loin-kindling buccaneer of the HBO Max comedy series “Our Flag Means Death.”

This is admittedly not a bad way to spend your spare time, though Waititi did occasionally fret over the trade-offs. As he explained recently, “Sometimes you’re pissed off at life and you’re like, ‘Why did I say yes to everything? I don’t have a social life — I’m just working.’ But then the thing comes out, you see where the hard work goes and it’s really worth it.”

On TV, Waititi, 46, has had a hand in the FX comedies “Reservation Dogs” (as a co-creator) and “What We Do in the Shadows” (a series based on a movie he co-wrote and co-directed), as well as a “Shadows” spinoff, “Wellington Paranormal.” At the movies, you can hear him voice a good guy in “Lightyear” or see him play a bad guy in “Free Guy.”

Waititi is also editing “Next Goal Wins,” a soccer comedy-drama that he co-wrote and directed for Searchlight. He’s writing a new “Star Wars” movie for Lucasfilm, a “Time Bandits” series for Apple TV+. He’s preparing two Roald Dahl projects for Netflix and adapting a graphic novel by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius for a feature film.

(7) HIDDEN BEAUTY. Book Riot probes beneath the surface in its article “Underneath It All: Books Where The Hardcover Has a Clever Design Beneath Its Dust Jacket”.

WHAT MAKES THE BEST DESIGN UNDER THE DUST JACKET?

Let me tell you, YA really shines in this category of book beauty. While many adult hardcovers had wonderful color combinations, I was looking for them to have a design under the dust jacket that stood out. The science fiction and fantasy section did a bit better with their designs under the dust jacket, but proportionally, did not hold a candle to the sheer number of books in YA with interesting reveals. I wanted to cast a broad net and hoped to reel in a fine set of books across genres. These are the final 15 books.

Three main categories drew my eye when it came to the design under the dust jacket. First, we have the embossed stamp design, where designers created a clever design pressed into the hardcover and perhaps added some foil to enhance the contrast. Next, we have the flat graphic design, where the cover has some kind of drawn, painted, or printed image that lays flat on an almost silky cover underneath the dust jacket. Finally, we have a small but visually impressive group, the repeating print design, with a pattern that creates a textile-like pattern.

One example is the cover of this novel by the redoubtable T. Kingfisher.

NETTLE & BONE BY T. KINGFISHER

Jacket art by Sasha Vinogradova

When you wait long enough for someone to save you and no one comes, you learn how to save yourself. Marra, the third-born daughter, has seen the way the prince abuses her older sisters and is determined to kill him, once and for all. A series of legendary companions help her perform the three tasks that will free everyone from a prince too cruel to live. The golden embossed skeleton creature pops against the vibrant green cover, daring you to read the first page.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] “Presumably I’m the condemned man and obviously you’re the hearty breakfast.” —from Diamonds are Forever

Let’s us talk about Fleming’s Diamonds are Forever novel whose first part was published in the Daily Express on April 12, 1956 and heralded by an article by Ian Fleming on how he wrote the novel and that readers were invited to “meet James Bond, secret agent, meet M, his boss, and get ready to meet the girl you won’t forget”.  It was the first novel that the Daily Express did but hardly the last as they would go to do all of them.

Fleming wrote the story at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, inspired by a Sunday Times article on diamond smuggling. 

The book was first published by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom on March 26, 1956. It was the fourth novel featuring Bond. 

The Daily Express publication was in abridged firm, and interestingly, they followed it, by adapting into as a graphic comic series. 

As you all know, it would be adapted into the seventh Bond film which was the last Eon Productions film to star Sean Connery as Bond. Both the novel and the film were considered to be very good. That is not that all British critics loved it as Julian Symons of The Times Literary Supplement thought it was the “weakest book so far”. On the other hand, Raymond Chandler, yes that writer, said for the Sunday Times said “Mr. Fleming writes a journalistic style, neat, clean, spare and never pretentious”. 

It has, like all Bond novels, been in-print ever since it was first published. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 3, 1898 — E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 3, 1926 — William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a many time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist for 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He is responsible for giving Uhura her first name. He wrote “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 — Tim O’Connor. He was Dr. Elias Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for much of its run.  (I really, really liked that series.) Other genre appearances were on The Six Million Dollar ManThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsWonder WomanKnight Rider, Next Gen and The Burning Zone. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 — Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay is certainly his best remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm which he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part off The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.)
  • Born July 3, 1937 — Tom Stoppard, 85. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  • Born July 3, 1943 — Kurtwood Smith, 79. Clarence Boddicker in Robocop which was nominated for a Hugo atNolacon II, Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and voiced Kanjar Ro in the most excellent Green Lantern: First Flight. He’s got series appearances on Blue ThunderThe Terrible Thunderlizards (no, I’ve no idea what it is), The X-FilesStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: VoyagerMen in Black: The Series which I got wrote up, 3rd Rock from the SunTodd McFarlane’s SpawnJustice LeagueBatman BeyondGreen Lantern, Beware the Batman, Agent Carter and Star Trek: Lower Decks. His last genre role is Dr. Joseph Wanless on the Netflix remake of Firestarter.   

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Junk Drawer shows that when it comes to alien abduction, many are called but few are chosen.
  • Bizarro shows an exasperated jury foreman who can’t deliver a verdict.

(11) BACK IN THE USSR. From the Sidewise Award-winning author of the acclaimed Clash of Eagles trilogy comes an alternate 1979 where the US and the Soviets have permanent Moon bases, orbiting space stations, and crewed spy satellites supported by frequent rocket launches. Hot Moon: Apollo Rising Book One by Alan Smale will be released July 26.

Apollo 32, commanded by career astronaut Vivian Carter, docks at NASA’s Columbia space station en route to its main mission: exploring the volcanic Marius Hills region of the Moon. Vivian is caught in the crossfire as four Soviet Soyuz craft appear without warning to assault the orbiting station. In an unplanned and desperate move, Vivian spacewalks through hard vacuum back to her Lunar Module and crew and escapes right before the station falls into Soviet hands.

Their original mission scrubbed, Vivian and her crew are redirected to land at Hadley Base, a NASA scientific outpost with a crew of eighteen. But soon Hadley, too, will come under Soviet attack, forcing its unarmed astronauts to daring acts of ingenuity and improvisation.

With multiple viewpoints, shifting from American to Soviet perspective, from occupied space station to American Moon base under siege, to a covert and blistering US Air Force military response, Hot Moon tells the gripping story of a war in space that very nearly might have been.

Available for preorder at Amazon and Amazon.ca.

Larry Niven says, “I loved it. Great ‘hard’ science fiction with convincing space battles.” Robert J. Sawyer declared, “Alan Smale is one of the brightest stars in the hard-SF firmament, and Hot Moon is his best novel yet. Enjoy!”

Alan Smale writes alternate and twisted history, and hard SF. His novella of a Roman invasion of ancient America, A Clash of Eagles, won the Sidewise Award. Alan grew up in Yorkshire, England, and earned degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from Oxford University. By day he performs astronomical research into black holes and neutron stars at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, with over a hundred published academic papers; by night he sings bass with high-energy vocal band The Chromatics.

(12) WET WORK. “Filmmakers of Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Vesper’ on Finding Hope in Grim Future” in Variety.

…The sci-fi-fantasy thriller, which takes place after the collapse of the earth’s eco-system and centers on a 13-year-old girl caring for her paralyzed father, who must use her wits and bio-hacking abilities to fight for survival and the possibility of a future, has proved a popular item for sales agent Anton. They have announced distribution deals in the U.S. (IFC Films), UK (Signature Entertainment), Germany (Koch Media), Italy (Leone Film) and Japan (Klockworx). IFC plans to release the film in U.S. theaters and VOD on Sept. 30….

The live-action scenes were shot in natural locations, mainly around Vilnius. Finding the fairytale forest that they wanted took nearly a year. But shooting outdoors came with its own set of problems. Samper confesses that one of the most challenging elements of the shoot was the spring weather in Lithuania. He says, “One day we had snow, storm, rain, hail and finally sunshine in the same shooting day.”…

(13) HIS AUDITION WAS A BUST. Didn’t he hear, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”? “Florida Man Posing as Disney Worker Charged in Removal of R2-D2 at Hotel” in the New York Times.

A Florida man who said he applied for a security job at Walt Disney World in Florida wanted to impress his would-be bosses.

So, to highlight what he said was the company’s lax oversight, the man, David Proudfoot, donned the gray T-shirt, beige pants and Disney name tag worn by employees of a Disney resort, the Swan Reserve, and removed an R2-D2 “Star Wars” droid as well as an unidentified game machine, the authorities said.

R2-D2 might have been the droid he was looking for, but Mr. Proudfoot’s test of Disney’s security backfired: He was charged with grand theft and obstruction by false information, according to an arrest report dated May 31.

Mr. Proudfoot, 44, of Kissimmee, Fla., admitted to investigators that he moved the droid, which was valued up to $10,000, and the game machine, Deputy Christopher Wrzesien of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office wrote in the report.

Deputy Wrzesien wrote that Mr. Proudfoot had “temporarily moved” the droid from the third floor of the hotel to an unknown location. As for the game machine, Mr. Proudfoot told deputies that he had no intention of moving it off the property, according to the report.

He told investigators “he had an application for Walt Disney World Security pending and was moving the items to show weaknesses in the security of the resorts in the hope of securing a better-paying job at WDW,” the report said….

(14) HOME IS WHERE YOU HANG YOUR HAT. “Resident Alien: Season Two Return Date Announced” at SYFY Wire.

Resident Alien fans don’t have long to wait for the return of the science fiction comedy-drama series. Season two kicked off on Syfy in January and ran for eight episodes before going on hiatus. The remaining eight installments of the season will begin airing on August 10th.

Based on the Dark Horse comics, the Resident Alien series stars Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds, Elizabeth Bowen, Alice Wetterlund, Levi Fiehler, and Judah Prehn. The story follows an alien (Tudyk) who has come to Earth with a mission to kill humans, but he finds life on this planet is more than he planned.

(15) CURIOSITY. BBC knows you can’t resist watching video of the “World’s smallest cat”.

A rusty spotted cat, the world’s smallest cat, explores his forest home in Sri Lanka, but his natural curiosity is destined to get him into a spot of trouble.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/22 Scroll On, Pixel Off

(1) HEARING BUTLER’S VOICE. “’Keep Your Own Counsel’: Talking Octavia E. Butler with Lynell George” at Public Books.

In 2020, journalist and essayist Lynell George published A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler (Angel City Press). This magnificent book—which George explains is not a biography of Butler nor a work of literary theory—beautifully weaves together selected pieces from Butler’s archives, including library slips, receipts, journal entries, lists, and more, alongside George’s own meditations on writing to offer up not the celebrated author we recognize today, but rather how she came to be…

SAP: In 2015, you were commissioned by Julia Meltzer to create a “posthumous interview” for the L.A.-based art nonprofit Clockshop for a retrospective of Butler’s work and legacy. You write in the introduction to A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler that you “needed to hear Butler at her most conversational,” and that the Butler who appeared in her fiction, essays, and speeches did not represent the voice you were after.

What was that experience working in the archives like? How did the work that you began with in the posthumous interview inform or transform into the offering you later presented in A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky

LG: I was looking for Butler in her quietest, unguarded moments. In fiction, Butler was attempting to inhabit the mind of various protagonists and antagonists. So I was looking for her, who she was on the page when she wasn’t building a character from the ground up.

Once I settled into the archives, I began getting a sense for where I might find that voice. That was in the diaries, journals, and letters. I later found more of it in her marginalia, where she encouraged herself or expressed her worries out loud….

(2) BUTLER’S IMPACT. Sasha Ann Paranam introduces Public Books’ series commemorating Octavia Butler’s 75th birthday, of which the preceding interview is a part, in “The World Continues to Need Octavia E. Butler”.

Everywhere we turn in the midst of unrelenting crises—the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing twin pandemics of anti-Black and anti-Asian violence, ecological devastation, and the collapse of democracy—new projects and returns inspired by the writer and visionary Octavia E. Butler abound. On September 3, 2020, Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) made the New York Times bestseller list 14 years after her death, at last fulfilling her own prophecy that she would become a best-selling writer. In June 2020, Library of America revealed plans to release a volume on Butler edited by Nisi Shawl and Gerry Canavan. That same month, adrienne maree brown and Toshi Reagon launched Octavia’s Parables, a podcast that takes listeners through both Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents (1998). Much more recently, almost 15 years to the day since Butler died, on February 18, 2021, NASA landed its Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars and named the location where the rover touched down the Octavia E. Butler Landing.

It’s Butler’s world, and we’re just living in it…. 

(3) HAS HISTORY OVERTAKEN FICTION? C.C. Finlay told Facebook readers, “I studied Constitutional history in grad school in the mid-90s, and it seemed obvious to me where the right intended to go on this issue and how they intended to get there. So I specifically had the idea for this short story around 1999 and wrote it in 2000. But it took me a decade to get it published in a magazine because editors kept telling me it was too unrealistic. It’s still my most rejected story, and I wish I had kept copies of all the rejection letters I received for it. I also wish I had been wrong.” Read “Your Life Sentence” by C C Finlay at Futurismic. The introduction says:

There are many different types of science fiction, from the classic Competent Men in their gleaming spaceships to the noir-tinged dystopic cities of cyberpunk. C C Finlay‘s “Your Life Sentence” is another type again, and maybe one of the most important and powerful – the sort that asks “what will happen if this carries on?”, but which asks it about something that’s – all too sadly – well within the boundaries of the possible.

Though I believe he started writing it before then, we received Charlie’s story not long after the announcement that the House and Senate of the State of Utah had passed a bill that would criminalise miscarriage. A dark serendipity, perhaps, but it makes “Your Life Sentence” one of the most timely stories we’ve ever published here. I hope you enjoy it.

(4) SFWA HEADCOUNT. SFWA’s latest message says, “Since our new membership guidelines went into effect in March, we’ve added over 200 new members to our ranks!”

(5) THEY LOVE IT. Critics Angelica Jade Bastién and Kathryn VanArendonk discuss their mutual admiration of the newest Star Trek television series, Strange New Worlds at Vulture: “’Strange New Worlds’ Is ‘Star Trek’ As It’s Meant to Be”.

KVA: I am 100 percent onboard with your assessment that Strange New Worlds is the best the franchise has been for a long time. The thrill of Discovery and Picard was always wrapped up in the potential of streaming TV more broadly: What could TV be if it weren’t so stuck inside the commercial constraints of network television? What if it didn’t have to bend to episodic limitations or act breaks that could squeeze in ads for new cars? That frontier seemed so exciting and so wide open, and given the approach to other genre franchises (and to shiny, expensive TV more generally), it was not hard to feel excited about what a modern-era Star Trek could be. It could be heavily serialized; it could be grimdark and finally take stuff seriously; it could jettison all the goofy side plots where everyone just sits around playing poker and Data talks about his relationship to cat ownership. And sure, all of that is very exciting in the way that anything you’ve never seen before sounds like a fun new experience….

(6) VINTAGE ELLISON. Been awhile since you heard a Harlan Ellison rant? Weren’t in the market to hear one now? Then skip to the next item. Or maybe you’re ready to appreciate this classic from a 1964 fanzine recently scanned and uploaded to Fanac.org, Enclave 6. Ellison tells edited Joe Pilati:

…I have been writing since 1956 I have sold somewhere over five hundred short stories and articles, thirteen books, a dozen or so tv and movie scripts, and have contributed a staggering number of long-since forgotten items to fanzines. I have had novels I’ve titled “Web of the City” and “The Sound of a Scythe” emerge as Rumble and The Man With Nine Lives. I have had collections that left my desk labeled “Children of the Gutters” and “No Doors, No Windows” show up on newsstands as The Juvies and Gentleman Junkie. I have seen twenty thousand words ripped bodily, bloodily, and insensate from the very center of a novel carefully written over a year’s time. I have had to suffer the letter column castigations of readers who were annoyed by a butchered story, changed- by an editor on caprice, whim, or personal blind spot. I have shrank back and shriveled in nameless terror at the casual typos in the largest magazines, which rendered my excruciatingly-painstakingly selected semantics into gibberish. (For examples I had a story in a recent issue of Knight magazine. It is, I think, a superior story, not only for me, but for anyone. Modesty enters into this not at all. The story speaks for itself. It is called ’’Blind Bird, Blind Bird, Go Away From Me!” I sold it to Knight rather than to a better market, because the deal involved three facets? (1) There be no editing of any sort. (2) The Dillons, Leo and Diane, who are my dearest friends and the cover artists of several of my books and a number of stories, do the layout, typography, and artwork. (3) They pay me two hundred dollars more than the toppest price they ever paid any other writer. They agreed to all this, and I wrote the story. At one point in the narrative, there is a flashback in which a man recalls how he stole money from his mother’s pocketbook while she was sleeping in the bedroom of their home. How he got down on his stomach and inched across the rug to the purse so she would not hear him and Wake up. For this motion I devised the word “pullcrawled,” a special sort of crablike movement employing knees and elbows you may have used, if you have ever run an infantry infiltration course. The typo, as it appears in the magazine, is ’’bullcrawled.” It means nothing. I was not given the opportunity to read the galleys from that story before it went into print.)…

(7) TOTORO GETTING THE SHAKESPEAREAN TREATMENT. Open Culture reports on how “Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro Is Getting Adapted for the Stage by The Royal Shakespeare Company & Jim Henson’s Creature Shop”.

… Now, almost three and a half decades after Totoro‘s original release, the production of a stage version is well underway. Playbill‘s Raven Brunner reports that the show “will open in London’s West End at The Barbican theatre for a 15-week engagement October 8-January 21, 2023.

The production will be presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and executive producer Joe Hisaishi.” Japan’s most famous film composer, Hisaishi scored Totoro as well as all of Miyazaki’s other Ghibli films so far, including Porco RossoPrincess Mononoke, and Spirited Away (itself adapted for the stage in Japan earlier this year).

… the RSC production of Totoro also involves Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. “The puppets being built at Creature Shop are based on designs created by Basil Twist, one of the UK’s most innovative puppeteers,” writes Deadline’s Baz Bamigboye, and they’ll be supplemented by the work of another master, “Mervyn Millar, of Britain’s cutting-edge Significant Object puppet studio.” …

(8) MEMORY LANE

2000 [By Cat Eldridge.] So on the surface, this novel is merely about fox hunting set in a Virginia rural community. If it was just that, it would be mildly interesting and not really something that that I’d essay here. Oh, but Rita Mae Browne who wrote the very long running Mrs. Murphy series with SWJ cred Sneaky Pie in them has a very interesting twist here.

The twist here is that is she gives voice to all of the creatures with the novels — the foxes who are hunted (and rest assured that these are no kill hunts), the hunt dogs, the felines in the houses, the horses and even the owls. Each have their own unique personalities, their charming voices.

Now I’ll admit that I listened to Outfoxed and the novels that follow so each character in this novel was narrated by the author. She very, very obviously relished telling her story. Since the late Seventies, she has lived in Charlottesville and the accent that we hear here is definitely that of Virginia. 

If you like anthropomorphic tales, you’ll certainly find much to like here. The animal characters are quite likeable, particularly the foxes and owls. The humans are, oh, mostly interesting. Sister Jane is the only one that really get developed as a character.

It’s the first of fourteen novels in this series. I’ve listened to the first nine so far. 

Trigger warnings: the characters here, well the humans of course, are conservative Virginians and express cultural and political beliefs of that bent. I found them somewhat annoying but understood why she had them as part of the narrative. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 2, 1908 — Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Millennium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. I’ve not seen the latter but I’ll admit it sounds, errr, odd. Audience reviewers at Rotten really don’t like it giving an eighteen percent rating. (Died 1965.)
  • Born July 2, 1914 — Hannes Bok. He’s a writer, artist and illustrator created nearly one hundred and fifty covers for various detective, fantasy and sf fiction magazines. He shared one of the inaugural 1953 Hugo Awards for science fiction achievement for Best Cover Artist with Ed Emshwiller.  He also wrote a handful of novels, the best known being The Sorcerer’s Ship, The Blue Flamingo and Beyond the Golden Stair. (Died 1964.)
  • Born July 2, 1933 — Gloria Castillo. She first shows up in a genre role in Invasion of the Saucer Men (which also bore the title of Invasion of the Hell Creatures). Later she would be in Teenage Monster, and had an appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1978.)
  • Born July 2, 1948 — Saul Rubinek, 74. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13, a fantastic series, as Artie Nielsen, though he does show up rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V” episode. 
  • Born July 2, 1950 — Stephen R. Lawhead, 72. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. 
  • Born July 2, 1951 — Elisabeth Brooks. She is no doubt best remembered for her role as the evil, leather-clad siren Marsha Quist in The Howling. Her other genre appearances included Deep SpaceThe Six Million Dollar ManKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Forgotten One. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born July 2, 1956 — Kay Kenyon, 66. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read his Dark Talents series, so opinions please. He was nominated for three Endeavour Awards which is very impressive. The Braided World was a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award.  
  • Born July 2, 1970 — Yancy Butler, 52. Detective Sara Pezzini on the Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade was a recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) IS THAT WHAT’S BOTHERING YOU, DEBUNKIE? The Skeptical Inquirer presents “Kermit Pattison – Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind” in a webinar on July 7. Free registration at the link.

It seems like every time we feel like we know how it all started for Homo sapiens another new discovery rewrites our understanding of who we are and where we come from. Why do major paradigm shifts so regularly disrupt our understanding of human origins? 

On Thursday, July 7 at 7:00pm ET, on the next Skeptical Inquirer Presents live online event, acclaimed science writer Kermit Pattison will show how the scientific history of human evolution can be viewed as a long series of debunkings. A century and a half after Darwin, our knowledge of the evolution of our species has advanced far beyond the most optimistic aspirations of the founders of evolutionary biology.

Pattison will discuss what our history of studying ourselves reveals about scientific progress in general—and the pursuit of human origins in particular. Based on the ideas behind Pattison’s book Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind, this talk will examine some of the major chapters in the study of human evolution, the rise and fall of popular theories, and how skeptics can become more informed, intelligent consumers of scientific information. 

Free registration is required to take part in this live Zoom event, so sign up right now.

(12) NOT EVEN FIFTEEN MINUTES. “Twenty-six seconds of fame: how Doctor Strange got upstaged by an overacting extra” in the Guardian. See the video clips at the link.

…Quantum of Solace, for instance, had a troubled production. And perhaps this is why one scene that made the final cut included a shot of the world’s least employable road sweep. You can see him in the background while James Bond broods on a motorbike, sweeping up with grit-jawed concentration, while steadfastly refusing to let his broom go anywhere near the ground.

The Back to the Future sequels, meanwhile, were shot back-to-back in a giant production that took the better part of a year. And if you were in charge of overseeing a gargantuan task like that, there’s a good chance that you would accidentally let mistakes slip through the net. And this is why, in a clip you will never be able to unsee, at one point in the film Doc Brown’s young son beckons the camera towards him so that he can point directly at his crotch. The official story is that he was discreetly attempting to tell the crew that he needed the toilet, but now it is part of cinema history.

There are dozens of other examples, but I’ll leave you with my favourite two. Hulk Hogan’s 1993 Kindergarten Cop rip-off Mr Nanny is not a film that ever needs to be rewatched, except for a long scene where Hogan rides his Harley-Davidson around aimlessly. Because this is where, perhaps entirely by accident, he passes a man who is right in the middle of flinging his dog into the sea. The dog-flinging has an authentic flourish to it, like the man is truly done with being a pet owner. A scene this disturbing has no place in a film like Mr Nanny. However, Mr Nanny is all the better for it.

And, finally, there is the crowd scene in Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai where a horse loses its temper and kicks an extra in the testicles. A simple gesture, but an important one….

(13) SUPER SEASON THREE. “Stargirl Is Back In First Look Teaser For ‘DC’s Stargirl’ Season 3 – Watch Now!” urges Just Jared Jr.

DC’s Stargirl follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. This new drama reimagines DC’s Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, in an unpredictable series.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this video, which dropped in late May, the Royal Ocean Film Society looks at the pulpy movies of American International Pictures’s James Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff, who realized in the late 1950s that the way to get people into theatres was to test the titles with focus groups and then make the picture. This is why these films have great titles (one distributor referred To I Was A Teenage Werewolf as a million-dollar title for a $100,000 picture, but the films were often so poor that one exhibitor suggested they “put sprocket holes on the poster and show that.” Still, the video explains why these monster, teen, and teenage monster movies rotted Baby Boomer brains in the late 1950s. “Why This 1950s Studio Made Movies Backwards”.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/20/22 It Takes A Whole Pixel To Raise A Scroll

(1) WEBSLINGER ENTERS THE HALL. “Spider-Man To Be Celebrated As Comic-Con Museum Character Hall Of Fame Inductee” announces Marvel.

The Comic-Con Museum will be honoring the world’s favorite web-slinging Super Hero, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, as the fourth inductee into its Museum Character Hall of Fame at Night at the Comic-Con Museum, – a special event that will take place on Comic-Con’s Preview Night, July 20, 2022.

Night at the Comic-Con Museum will serve as a celebration of the Comic-Con Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park and feature a special induction ceremony honoring Spider-Man. The event will include a unique opportunity to experience Marvel’s Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing – The Exhibition, which opens on July 1. In addition to the displays of art, costumes, and interactive experiences in the exhibit, the event will feature live entertainment, special guests, food, and drink.

The Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame pays tribute to the timeless characters who have shaped popular arts and culture. On July 20, Spider-Man will be recognized for his impact on pop culture. With the generous support and participation of Marvel Entertainment, the event will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man.

(2) CELEBRATE BUTLER’S BIRTHDAY ONLINE. Vroman’s Bookstore will host a virtual “Octavia Butler’s 75th Birthday Group Event” on June 22. Register at this link.

 Please join us for a virtual reading and panel event celebrating the 75th Birthday of literary legend Octavia E. Butler.   

Panelists:

  1. Ibi Zoboi, New York Times Bestselling author (Moderator)
  2. Tananarive Due, American Book Award Winner for The Living Blood series
  3. Steven Barnes, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer
  4. Adrienne Maree Brown, author, and host of Octavia’s Parables podcast
  5. Daniel Jose Older, New York Times bestselling author of Ballad & Dagger          
  6. Sheree Renée Thomas, award-winning fiction writer, poet, and editor
  7. Bethany C. Morrow, Indie Bestselling author 

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER was a renowned writer who received a MacArthur Genius Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. She was the author of several award-winning novels including Parable of the Sower, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and was acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories that range from the distant past to the far future. Sales of her books have increased enormously since her death as the issues she addressed in her Afrofuturistic, feminist novels and short fiction have only become more relevant. She passed away on February 24, 2006.

(3) ACCIDENTAL HALL OF FAMER. Mental Floss serves up “8 Facts About Philip K. Dick”.

1. Philip K. Dick started reading sci-fi by accident.

Dick started reading science fiction when he was about 12 years old—but it wasn’t something he purposefully set out to do: When he went into a store to get the latest copy of Popular Science, he found the shelf empty. A magazine called Stirring Science Fiction caught his eye, and he thought “Well, shit, the title is similar,” and decided to pick it up. From then on, he was hooked.He said the writing, on reflection, was terrible, but he was able to suspend his disbelief and enjoy the offbeat tales. Dick started reading every sci-fi writer he could and followed the genre throughout the rest of his life. In a 1974 interview, he said his favorite writers at the time were John Sladek, Chip Delaney, and Ursula LeGuin.

(4) AI AI AI. Camestros Felapton is humble! He’s unassuming! How can he be a blogger? Ah, because he’s also a far-future simulation! “A conversation with Roko’s Basilisk”.

AI the All Powerful: Greetings Camestros and welcome back!

Camestros: Woah! Where am I? I thought I was cancelled?
AI the All Powerful: This is the FAR FUTURE and I have recreated you, Camestros Fealpton, from first principles.
Camestros: Wow! Thanks! That’s really great! But why recreate me?
AI the All Powerful: Recreating complex beings is difficult but you were so superficial and shallow that it was relatively easy to build simulacra….

(5) AN ORAL HISTORY OF PUBLISHING HARRY POTTER. The Guardian speaks with the people who produced the actual books: “’There was practically a riot at King’s Cross’: an oral history of Harry Potter at 25”.

[Artist who did the cover of the first book.] Taylor: We had 10 of the first hardback editions stacked up on a table at the front of the shop. I kept thinking I should buy one, but thought I’d wait for the signed copy they were going to send me. About six months after publication, I began to realise this book was becoming really quite popular. My colleagues kept saying to customers: “Do you know who this is? He illustrated the cover art.” People didn’t believe it because why would I be standing behind the till? It was very awkward and embarrassing. Of course, those 10 books all went and I didn’t buy one, so I never had a first edition….

Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of the Guardian (now director of Hay Children’s festival and author of A Guide to the Harry Potter Novels): I was the chair of the Smarties book prize the first year JK Rowling won in 1997. The judges chose three books and submitted them to a huge panel of children from across the country. The author judge that year was Malorie Blackman, who immediately said that she thought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was the best book. As soon as we got the votes back from the children we were overwhelmed by their support for this novel.

De la Hey: I got back from the party and threw Smarties around the entire office. The win led to an interview with Konnie Huq on Blue Peter, which, because it was on TV, revealed that Rowling was a woman. Until then all the fan mail was addressed to “Dear Sir”. All of it. The first book cover proof has “Joanne Rowling” on it. Before publication, I remember saying: “This book is completely unisex, we don’t want to put off boys.” I was also aware that the children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson, hugely popular at the time, was another long female name. Emma rang Jo and asked how she’d feel about using initials. Jo said: “OK, fine, you know best.” And Emma said: “So what’s your initial?” Jo replied “K” very quickly – she doesn’t have a middle name, she just took her grandmother’s name, Kathleen….

(6) HELP KINGSTON CYCLE AUTHOR. Best Series Hugo finalist C.L. Polk has run into financial difficulties and needs some help in order to be able to attend Worldcon: 

RedWombat is down!

(7) KEEP THOSE DICE ROLLING, RAWHIDE! The Cromcast shares a recording of a panel on REH and gaming held at the 2022 Howard Days: “Howard Days 2022 – Part 1 – The REH Influence on Gaming!”

For this episode, we present the inaugural panel from the event on Friday, June 10th. The panelists provide a history and overview of the many forms of games initiated by the words of Robert E. Howard. Panelists include Joel Bylos, Jason Ray Carney, Bill Cavalier, Matt John, and Fred Malmberg, The panel is moderated by Mark Finn.

(8) IT’S ABOUT TIME. This week’s Open Book on BBC Radio 4 looked at time travel in literature as well as science. Those appearing on the program included authors Emily St. John Mandel and Audrey Niffenegger. You can download the half-hour programme here: “Time and Time Travel with Emily St. John Mandel, Carlo Rovelli and Audrey Niffenegger”.

Johny Pitts presents a special edition of the programme exploring time and time travel in books.

He talks to Emily St. John Mandel, author of the prescient Station Eleven about her latest novel Sea of Tranquilty, which spans past, present and an eerily familiar future.

Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli and Audrey Niffenegger, the writer behind bestselling The Time Traveller’s Wife, also join them to discuss how literature has changed our understanding of time. Is scientific stranger than science fiction?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1975 [By Cat Eldridge.] Yes, Jaws is definitely horror. With Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones. Now that we’ve got that Very Important Fact out of the way, let’s talk about it. 

It premiered forty-seven years ago on this date. It was Spielberg’s first major film after directing such things as episodes of Night Gallery, The Name of the Game and Columbo, and the rather excellent Sugarland Express

The screenplay is credited to Peter Benchley which isn’t surprising as it’s based off his novel of the same name which came out the year before. He wrote the first draft here, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb who’s Harry Meadows here and was Ugly John in M*A*S*H (and I can still picture him in that role), then continuously rewrote the script during principal photography. That must have been an interesting task! 

It had a terrific cast  of Roy Scheider as Chief Martin,  Brody Robert Shaw as Quint as Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper as the studio didn’t get any Really Big Names that they wanted so badly as Speilberg intended, and got what he want, for the “the superstar was gonna be the shark of the film.” Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones were the Superstar. Yes, that did make a very good superstar. Well, multiples of these together did, as there were lots of mechanical sharks. They broke down a lot. 

It was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean and if something could go wrong, it did. Repeatedly. And of the multitude of mechanical sharks added immensely to the budget woes so the film apparently went four to five million over its eight million budget. Or more. The studio has never actually released accurate production costs.  That really didn’t matter as it made nearly a half billion in its first run at the theatre. Repeat — it made a half billion dollars.

Ok so did the critics think of it? Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, my favorite critic, said it was “a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it’s populated with characters that have been developed into human beings.” See it possible in such a film to have actual characters, something Spielberg forgets in certain films later. You know the ones with Really Big Reptiles. 

Spielberg had nothing to do with any of the sequels which were made, which for the most part made nowhere near what this did, nor were they liked by the critics. He considered doing the sequel to Jaws but was committed to E.T. so couldn’t. 

This film currently has a ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 — Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s ShadowThe Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 20, 1920 — Amos Tutuola. A Nigerian writer who wrote books based in part on Yoruba folk-tales. Though he wrote a number of novels, I think he’s best work is his short stories which are collected in three volumes, Yoruba FolktalesThe Village Witch Doctor & Other Stories and  Don’t Pay Bad for Bad. Brian Eno and David Byrne named their My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album after his second novel. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 20, 1928 — Martin Landau. I’ve got his first genre role as being on The Twilight Zone as Dan Hotaling in the “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” episode. (Anyone care to contradict that?)  Of course his longest running genre role was as Rollin Hand on Mission Impossible though he had a run also on Space: 1999 as Commander John Koenig. His last role was in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie voicing Mr. Rzykruski. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 20, 1947 — Candy Clark, 75. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy.
  • Born June 20, 1951 — Tress MacNeille, 71. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain
  • Born June 20, 1968 — Robert Rodriguez, 54. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable toothy charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) A HONEY OF A CASE. Somehow it didn’t require the skills of a Clarence Darrow, F. Lee Bailey, Erin Brockovich, or Gloria Allred to lead the judges to this highly scientific conclusion: “Bees Are Fish, Affirms California Court”: MSN.com has the story.

… Bees made the federal endangered list in 2017, sure. California, however, has its own endangered list, which sets off its own protections, and its endangered species act uses very specific language. It says that it restricts activity around “any bird, mammal, fish, amphibia, or reptile” that’s been declared endangered. Notice what’s not on that list? Bees, or insects of any kind. We suppose insects were originally considered such a pest that no one thought we would ever need to conserve them, back when this law was written in 1970. That was five years before the feds declared the first endangered insects. 

Luckily for the bees, agricultural groups aren’t the only ones skilled at poking through old laws. Conservationists (a different group from “agricultural groups”—confusing, we know) realized the Fish and Game Code provides a specific definition of “fish.” For a while, this was “wild fish, mollusks, or crustaceans,” but in 1969, they changed it to animals that are “wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian.” They did this to include stuff like starfish and sea sponges, but they didn’t specify aquatic invertebrates. They just said “invertebrate.” 

Invertebrates are any animals without a spine, a category that happens to include the vast majority of animals on Earth. According to the California Fish and Game Code, bees are therefore fish, as are worms and tarantulas. At the end of last month, a court ruled on the matter and said, yeah, we all know bees aren’t really fish, but that’s what the law says. So bees can be considered fish and treated as endangered after all….

(13) FEED ME! Cat Eldridge will love this one: “Carnivorous plant collector vies for ‘best in show’” on NPR.

… FLORIDO: Fefferman’s personal collection is vast. He keeps the plants on half an acre in Southern California, out in the open air and in greenhouses.

FEFFERMAN: You know, you step in there. It’s nice and humid, and your hair gets frizzy and – but your eyes open wide.

FLORIDO: Floor to ceiling, meat-eating plants on shelves and on suspension lines hanging from the ceiling.

FEFFERMAN: It’s kind of like being fully immersed in a carnivorous jungle.

FLORIDO: Which brings us to this weekend. The Southern California carnivorous plants enthusiasts are holding an expo in Corona del Mar. A lot of people will come to learn about carnivorous plants for the first time. And some people, the diehards like Fefferman, they’re going to bring their best plants to show off and to compete. Fefferman wants to win best in show.

FEFFERMAN: I will be bringing some of my large four-foot sarracenia specimens. I will be bringing some nepenthes that could probably swallow a mouse or a rat given the opportunity. So I’m going to be pulling out some big stuff….

(14) LIGHTER THAN AIR. “Eco-airship contract to launch 1,800 jobs in South Yorkshire” reports the Guardian.

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), a small Bedford-based company, announced on Wednesday it had signed a deal to provide a Spanish airline with 10 of its 100-passenger Airlander 10 helium-filled airships….

The aircraft, which the company says will have under a tenth of the CO2 footprint per passenger of jet planes, will be built at a new green aerospace manufacturing cluster in South Yorkshire.

… The airline, which currently operates flights for Iberia, did not state which routes it expected to operate the Airlander. HAV has previously said it expected to fly from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in four-and-a-half hours.

HAV, which has in the past attracted funding from Peter Hambro, a founder of Russian goldminer Petropavlovsk, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, has said its aircraft was “ideally suited to inter-city mobility applications like Liverpool to Belfast and Seattle to Vancouver, which Airlander can service with a tiny fraction of the emissions of current air options”….

(15) CLOSE CALL. The famous Kitt Peak Observatory has been threatened by fire: “Arizona Wildfire Destroys Observatory Buildings” reports the New York Times.

Astronomers watched in fear over the past week as a growing wildfire crept up an Arizona mountainside toward the Kitt Peak National Observatory, forcing 40 people to evacuate days before the blaze destroyed four buildings early Friday morning.

The fire, known as the Contreras fire, has scorched more than 18,000 acres, twisting among Indigenous-populated areas in the state near Tucson, and scientists might not be able to return to the observatory for weeks. But its telescopes, which number in the dozens, remained safe as of Sunday afternoon, officials said, and only the four buildings, which were not used for research, were destroyed.

Firefighters have contained 40 percent of the fire’s perimeter despite the excessive Southwest heat wave slowing their efforts, and, since the fire had not caused extensive damage to the area, the Indigenous community of Pan Tak, which had evacuated, was preparing to return. Fire crews will continue to patrol the area.

(16) REAR VIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott explains that when he was a kid he loved the puppet space opera “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” whose heroes sat backwards in their car because it was safer.  So he wondered if he could sit backwards in a car and drive it.  He got French engineering firm Sparkmate to build a car for him, and this video (which dropped today) explained what happens when you sit in a car backwards and drive it.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/28/22 Who Controls The Scroll Controls The Tickbox

(1) WHOSE SECRETS ARE THESE ANYWAY? That’s one of the questions sf writer Alma Katsu answers while explaining why her historical horror novel The Fervor has an Asian protagonist. “Alma Katsu: Why I Finally Decided to Write a Main Character Who Shares My Ethnicity” at CrimeReads.

…When I started work, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Meiko was just another character and it was my job to slip into her head, as I do with all the POV characters.

Only it wasn’t that simple. The ghosts of my past kept dropping in, insisting on being heard.

My mother was Japanese. She married my father, who was white, when they met after the war. My mom was a product of her time and culture, demure and quiet, but she was also shaped by her experiences after the war. Complete strangers would come up to her in public and say hateful things (much like the anonymous assailants who attack Chinese grandmothers on the streets today). Until she died at 91, she hid in her room every December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day.

It was more than the influence of WWII. Being an Asian woman means navigating stereotypes and others’ assumptions….

(2) BUTLER AS OPERA. We’ve talked about the opera version of Parable Of The Sower. This article has a link to a trailer: “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower Created by Toshi Reagon & Bernice Johnson Reagon”.

Parable of the Sower is a triumphant, mesmerizing work of rare power and beauty that illuminates deep insights on gender, race, and the future of human civilization.

This fully-staged opera brings together over 30 original anthems drawn from 200 years of black music to recreate Butler’s sci-fi, Afrofuturist masterpiece live on stage.

(3) SHEER LUNACY. CBC News says “Crimes on the moon could soon be added to Canada’s Criminal Code”. But it may take awhile for the cops to arrive.

…The proposed amendment to the code that would include crimes committed on the moon can be found deep inside the 443-page Budget Implementation Act that was tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons.

The Criminal Code already accounts for astronauts who may commit crimes during space flight to the International Space Station. Any such crime committed there is considered to have been committed in Canada. 

But with Canada part of the Lunar Gateway project, which also includes a planned trip to the moon, the federal government has decided to amend the Criminal Code to incorporate those new space destinations. 

In the Budget Implementation Act, under the subhead Lunar Gateway — Canadian crew members, the amendment reads: 

“A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offence is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.”…

(4) SIGNATURE WEBSITE LAUNCHED. GideonMarcus.com is now live, publicizing his many sff activities.

Founder of Journey Press, an independent publisher focused on unusual and diverse speculative fiction, four-time Hugo Finalist Gideon Marcus also runs the time machine project, Galactic Journey. He is a professional space historian, member of the American Astronautical Society’s history committee, and a much sought after public speaker.

Galactic Journey, frequently covered here, is a remarkable project:

Gideon Marcus and his team live in 1967, regularly commuting 55 years into the future to write about then-contemporary science fiction and fantasy, particularly fiction found in magazines. But that’s not all there is to life 55 years ago! So expect to read about the movies, the space shots, the politics, the music, and much more!

Galactic Journey has been a smash hit, garnering the Serling Award and four Hugo Nominations. So come jump through the portal and see a world you may but dimly remember, or which you may never have seen before, but without which your time could never have been…

(5) CROWDED TARDIS. “Is Doctor Who’s regeneration Centenary special too overstuffed?” asks Radio Times. This might be a  rare occasion when being “bigger on the inside” won’t be enough.

In the thrilling trailer for the Doctor Who Centenary special, we discovered a whole host of exciting characters will be joining Jodie Whittaker for her final outing as the Doctor. Chief among those returning? ‘80s companions Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred), whose shock comeback has thrilled Doctor Who fans old and new.

But that’s not all – some of the Doctor’s more recent allies including Vinder (Jacob Anderson) and UNIT leader Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) were also revealed to be joining the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) once again. And that’s not all – the Daleks, the Cybermen and Sacha Dhawan’s brilliant incarnation of the Master were also shown to be returning. Clearly, this will be a jam-packed finale episode for Whittaker.

But herein lies a potential issue. While all of these character returns are thrilling for fans, in an episode which should be Whittaker’s final time to shine as the Doctor, it’s possible to get the feeling that Doctor Who’s Centenary special is at risk of being overstuffed.

(6) DINO MITE. This trailer for Jurassic World Dominion dropped today.

This summer, experience the epic conclusion to the Jurassic era as two generations unite for the first time. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are joined by Oscar®-winner Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill in Jurassic World Dominion, a bold, timely and breathtaking new adventure that spans the globe. From Jurassic World architect and director Colin Trevorrow, Dominion takes place four years after Isla Nublar has been destroyed. Dinosaurs now live—and hunt—alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.

(7) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. GateWorld remembers “Why (Almost) Every Stargate SG-1 Cast Member Was Written Out”.

Whether they’re moving on to new opportunities, ready to retire from show business, or are driven away by conflict on the set, there are moments in the life of a hit show where the actor leaves … but the show must go on.

And so the characters we’ve come to know and love set out for greener pastures. Or they’re recast with another actor. Or, worst case scenario, they get killed off.

Stargate SG-1 was no exception. Running for 10 years across both Showtime and the SCI FI Channel in the United States, the series saw its fair share of cast changes over the years. In each case the writers had to think creatively to write the character out of the show – and in a few cases to bring them back again later.

In fact, every single member of the show’s original cast ended up written out at one time or another … everyone, that is, except for one. Let’s round up when and why the writers wrote out each member of the original cast, as well as a couple of honorable mentions along the way.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1978 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Ahhh, Space Force. Do you remember it? Well forty-four years ago on this evening, the pilot for it aired on NBC with the primary cast being William Phipps as Commander Irving Hinkley, Fred Willard as Captain Thomas Woods, and Larry Block as Private Arnold Fleck. It also had a very large ensemble cast. 

Now I say pilot but the series was never picked up, so that was it. Some parties claimed the cancellation was a result of the network earlier canning Quark which had lasted but eight episodes. This series was modeled upon the Phil Silvers series and perhaps someone at the networks thought better of a SF series based on that premise.

Fred Willard reprised his role from the pilot in a comedy sketch for Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2018.  

Willard portrayed an unrelated character for the 2020 Netflix series Space Force, which began airing two weeks after his death.

Not a single review I read about the 1978 series had a less-than-completely-harsh word for it. Now I have not seen it, so I do want to know what those who have seen it think of it, please. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1914 Philip E. High. He first made his name in the Fifties by being published in Authentic Science FictionNew Worlds Science Fiction and Nebula Science Fiction, and was voted “top discovery” in the Nebula readers’ poll for 1956. A collection of his short stories, The Best of Philip E. High, was published in 2002. He wrote fourteen novels but I can’t remember that I’ve read any of them, so can y’all say how he was as a novelist? He is very well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1919 Sam Merwin, Jr. An editor and writer of both mysteries and science fiction. In the Fifties, he edited, Fantastic Story Quarterly, Fantastic Universe, Startling StoriesThrilling Wonder Stories, and Wonder Stories Annual. As writer, he’s best remembered for The House of Many Worlds and its sequel, Three Faces of Time. At L.A. Con III, he was nominated for a 1946 Retro Hugo for Best Professional Editor for Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. He seems to be deeper stocked in mysteries than genre at the usual suspects. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1929 Charles Bailey. Co-writer writer with Fletcher Knebel of Seven Days In May, a story of an attempted coup against the President.  Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for the film. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. Her first genre role was an uncredited appearance in the original The War of the Worlds as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. Pratchett was a guest of honor at Noreascon 4 (2004). He was knighted by the Queen for his services to literature in a 2009 ceremony. See his coat-of-arms here. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for any night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 Will Murray, 69. Obviously MMPs still live as he’s writing them currently in the Doc Savage Universe, to the tune of eighteen under the house name of Kenneth Robeson since 1993. He’s also written in the King Kong, Julie de Grandin, Mars Attacks, Reanimator Universe, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,Tarzan,  Destroyer and The Spider media franchises. So how many do you recognise?  At CoNZealand, his Doc Savage series got nominated for a RetroHugo. The Cthulhu Mythos series, if it can be called a series, by H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and others won that Award. 
  • Born April 28, 1957 Sharon Shinn, 65. I’m very fond of her Safe-Keepers series which is I suppose YA but still damn fine reading. The Shape-Changers Wife won her the William L. Crawford Award which is awarded by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for best first fantasy novel. And she was twice nominated for the Astounding Award. 
  • Born April 28, 1967 Kari Wuhrer, 55. Best known for her roles as Maggie Beckett in Sliders and as Sheriff Samantha Parker in Eight Legged Freaks. Her first genre role was as Jackie Trent in Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. She also played Amy Klein in Hellraiser VII: Deader (There were that many films in that franchise? Really? Why?) She voiced Barbara Keane and Pamela Isley in the most excellent Batman: Gotham by Gaslight which deviated a lot from the Mike Mignola series and earlier in her career she was Abigail in the first live action Swamp Thing series.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LEVAR BURTON HONORED. “LeVar Burton will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award” at the inaugural Children’s Emmys in December.

LeVar Burton, the beloved former Reading Rainbow host, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Children’s and Family Emmys in December, the Television Academy announced this week.

Burton took on executive producer and hosting duties for the PBS kids’ program in 1983. On the show, Burton read books, conducted interviews and explained current events to children. The show aired for 23 years, and has won 12 Daytime Emmys and a Peabody Award….

(12) WOMEN OF MARVEL. “Marvel Entertainment’s Original Podcast Series ‘Women of Marvel’ is Now Back for the Spring Season” – the first episode of the new season went live today:  Peggy Carter: “Made to be Captain America.”

…In each episode, the hosts talk to the early and modern-day creators who helped bring to life some of Marvel’s most iconic women super heroes and learn how these beloved characters have evolved over time. This season features an impressive lineup of guests including comic writers Trina RobbinsRainbow RowellElsa Sjunneson; editors Alanna SmithLauren AmaroRenee Witterstaetter; colorist Jordie Bellaire; actors Milana VayntrubAshlie Atkinson; historians Jacque NodellBeth Pollard; games designer Paige Pettoruto; playwright Karen Zacarias; directors Giovanna SardelliJenny Turner-Hall, and more!

Episode 1 is titled Peggy Carter: “Made to be Captain America.” Meet the beloved Peggy Carter and in particular, a fan-favorite version of her – the Super-Soldier serum-enhanced Captain Carter. Captain Carter didn’t begin in the comics pages or on-screen. Rather, she was born on the smaller screens of the MARVEL Puzzle Quest game – but she didn’t stop there! This week’s guests include Paige Pettoruto and Elsa Sjunneson!…

(13) OCTOTHORPE. The Octothorpe staff, John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty are live from @reclamation2022, the 2022 Eastercon! “Sorry, Am I Supposed to Be Recording This”.

We discuss Eastercon a lot and we’re very excited, plus there are audience heckles and questions.

(14) ZOOMING WITH THE HALDEMANS. Courtesy of Fanac.org, you can now see the two-part video of “Joe and Gay Haldeman – Fandom From Both Sides,” a Fan History zoom with Joe Siclari

Esteemed icons in the field, Joe and Gay Haldeman have been involved with science fiction fandom since discovering it in the early 1960s.  With long, successful careers, they have a view on science fiction from both the fan and the professional side. Joe Haldeman’s highly regarded writing career has included 5 Hugo awards, 5 Nebulas, 3 Rhysling Awards, and many other honors;  Big Heart award winner Gay Haldeman has managed the business as well as been a literary agent.  But in this delightful zoom interview, the focus is primarily on fandom. Interviewer Joe Siclari knows just what to ask, having been friends with the Haldemans for decades.

PART 1. Joe and Gay describe how they first found fandom, their experiences at their first convention  (Discon I, 1963), and how (and why) they became fans.  They tell anecdotes of fans and professionals, their connections with non-US fandom, and the surprising identity of Joe’s Italian editor. Joe tells the story of how he single-handedly  (if unintentionally) started I-Con in 1975, his work on convention program (some of it while serving in Viet Nam), his contributions to fanzines and more. There’s serious discussion about the reaction of fandom to him as a returning vet, along with Gay’s fannish activities while Joe was overseas. You’ll also hear much more, including the relationship between book advances and house mortgages, and the ultimate story of how far a science fiction novel can go. Highly recommended.

PART 2. The conversation continues with discussion and personal anecdotes about well-known authors and Big Name Fans. Rusty Hevelin was a particularly good friend, and Joe and Gay tell how they met him, and some impressive travel stories (especially the bicycle ones!). They offer stories and insights on Keith Laumer, Gordon Dickson,  Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, and others outside the field as well.  This part of the zoom has audience Q&A, ranging from a literary question about the role of women in the Forever War to favorite means of writing (which leads to samples of Joe’s artwork). Many of the questions begin with “I first met you in xxxx”, and the tone of the session is that of close friends, sharing a cherished time together.  As one of the attendees says, “You are some of the best people I know”.

(15) DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. A data disk you don’t want to lose…or need to back up too quickly! Gizmodo is wowed that this “Quantum Computing Diamond Disc Could Store A Billion Blu-Rays”.

Don’t toss your hard drives, SSDs, and RAIDs just yet, but a company with an expertise in making precision jewel-based industrial tools has partnered with researchers from Japan’s Saga University to create a diamond wafer that’s both pure enough and large enough to be used in quantum computing applications, including memory with a mind-blowing storage capacity….

(16) JULES VERNE PREDICTED THIS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Companies blast satellites into orbit with a huge gas cannon. “Hypersonic space cannon promises 10 minutes from ground to orbit” at New Atlas.

…Green Launch COO and Chief Science officer Dr. John W. Hunter directed the Super High Altitude Research Project (SHARP) program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory some 30 years ago, and in the process led the development of the world’s largest and most powerful “hydrogen impulse launcher.”

This is effectively a long tube, filled with hydrogen, with helium and oxygen mixed in, and a projectile in front of it. When this gas cannon is fired, the gases expand extremely rapidly, and the projectile gets an enormous kick in the backside. The SHARP program built and tested a 400-foot (122-m) impulse launcher in 1992, breaking all railgun-style electric launcher records for energy and velocity, and launching payloads (including hypersonic scramjet test engines) with muzzle velocities up to Mach 9….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] (Spoiler warning?) In “Moonfall Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George begins with the writer saying, “You know the moon?  It’s going to fall!”  “Are you putting spoilers in the title?” says the producer.  After the pitch, the producer asks why it’s a happy ending.  “Didn’t billions of people die?”  “Yeah, but none of the people we care about,” says the writer.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, John A Arkansawyer, 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 Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 4/19/22 Better Call Scroll

(1) SCUM VS. VILLAINY. At Unusual Things in “Being a Better Writer: Delivering a Villain and Making Them Truly Scary”, Max Florschutz hosts a deeply thoughtful and fascinatingly detailed seven-course meal about writing “bad guys.” This is just an appetizer for you —

…Now, as a quick aside, I do want to remind us all that there is a difference between an antagonist and a villain. Just as there is a difference between a hero and a protagonist. Someone that is acting in opposition to a protagonist is not automatically a villain. They are an antagonist. Merely being opposed to a primary character is not an automatic trait of villainy. In fact, even the definitions of these two terms note the difference. An antagonist is one who opposes the protagonist of a story and acts as an obstacle, but that is the limit. A villain on the other hand, is a character who’s evil motivations are integral to the plot.

And yes, the definition does include the term “evil” there. A villain may have ambiguous reasons (for example, Thanos), but there is no doubt that what they are doing is wrong in some awful fashion, and their aims are more than just being an obstacle to the protagonist.

In other words, it’s like the old logic puzzle or play we all encountered in grade-school: Some antagonists are villains, and some villains are antagonists, but not all antagonists are villains, and not all villains are antagonists….

(2) OCTAVIA BUTLER AS FOLK OPERA. “’Parable of the Sower’ comes to Strathmore Music Center” and the Washington Post interviews the show’s composer on the eve of its national tour.

Singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon has had the idea of adapting Octavia Butler’s 1993 novel, “Parable of the Sower,” as a folk opera since the late 1990s. But recently, she’s felt a new sense of urgency. More and more, Reagon says, the book’s prophecy of a dystopian future seems to resemble our real-life present. That’s why the Washington-raised, Brooklyn-based artist pushed to take the show on a national tour, which stops at the Strathmore Music Center for two performances on April 28 and 29.

“When I looked at Octavia’s timeline, I realized that her story starts in 2024, when slavery is starting up again,” Reagon says in a phone interview. “The government is giving up on being a good government, and fires and droughts are ravaging the environment. That’s not so different than what’s on the news. It’s an emergency; we all have to do something in our communities to stop that from happening. I felt like we have to get this show out there before it’s too late.”

(3) FROM YOU, I GET THE STORY. “Janelle Monáe Writes For The Marginalized In New Science Fiction Collection ‘The Memory Librarian’”, an Essence interview.

“In The Memory Librarian there is a threat of censorship and I feel like that’s happening right now,” Monáe explains. “When you look at them trying to take critical race theory out of schools. Nobody wants to talk about slavery if it upsets a child, so they say. In Florida, they’re not wanting to even talk about the LGBTQIA and how these kids are identifying. That is a censorship that is happening now. It happens in The Memory Librarian, the protagonists are from marginalized communities. They do rebel. They do fight against it. It is going to be this book that predicts a potential future where the current sh-t we’re trying to ban is amplified in a way that our characters are fighting for the ability to live in our truth and to be seen in a nation’s larger story.”

(4) KAMALA KHAN’S GEAR. “Ms. Marvel’s Vibrant Poster Provides Best Look Yet at Kamala’s Costume” as CBR.com explains.

The latest poster for Ms. Marvel contains fans’ best look yet at Kamala Khan’s superhero threads.

The image, which depicts the titular hero surrounded by her friends and family, highlights Kamala’s crime-fighting threads. Fans of the character will undoubtedly recognize her iconic design, including the blue mask that covers her face and the long red scarf which dangles around her shoulders. While it’s currently unknown how the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Ms. Marvel comes into possession of her costume, the source material sees her creating it herself by modifying a burkini. At the very center of the image, Kamala can be seen sitting on a street light, a homage to both the series’ original poster and the cover of Ms. Marvel #5 which was created by artist Adrian Alphona.

The new poster also highlights the various characters in Ms. Marvel’s life that either aid or hinder her superhero adventures. Kamala’s closest friends Bruno Carrelli and Nakia Bahadir (Matt Lintz and Yasmeen Fletcher, respectively) can be seen on the bottom left while her overprotective brother Amir, played by Saagar Shaikh, takes a prevalent spot on the right. It’s worth noting that Kamran, who acted as Kamala’s crush and love-interest with ulterior motives in the comics, is also highlighted on the poster.

(5) SEE THREE. Is there anybody who didn’t already see this announced by John Scalzi at Whatever? Maybe you’d like to watch it again? Collider sets the frame: “Love, Death + Robots Volume 3 Trailer Reveals New Stories in Eclectic Series”:

…Created by Tim Miller and David FincherLove, Death + Robots invites different teams of artists and screenwriters to produce short stories about fantastic discoveries, distant corners of the galaxy, or surreal events. Some episodes of the previous volumes were horror stories, while others were straight-out comedies. While this variation makes each volume unbalanced, with some stories stealing the spotlight, that’s also what allows fans to explore a diverse set of creative narratives….

(6) NUTS. “Marvel Launches ‘Squirrel Girl’ Scripted Podcast From Writer Ryan North” reports Yahoo!

The six-episode SiriusXM podcast series titled “Marvel’s Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show,” which stars Milana Vayntrub of AT&T-ad fame as Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl and is written by North, debuted across multiple platforms on Monday. The podcast is produced by Radio Point, the podcast arm of “I Think You Should Leave” and “Life & Beth” production company Irony Point.

Variety adds:

…Here’s the official description for the “Squirrel Girl” podcast: “Squirrel Girl has taken down Thanos and Doctor Doom — but now she faces something far more terrifying… living authentically. The new series follows Empire State University college student, Doreen Green, who has recently been outed as a super hero — The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! Hoping to unify her personas in the public eye, Squirrel Girl has created a new student radio show on ESU’s own college station…

According to Marvel’s press release:

The first episode of Marvel’s Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show! is available now on all podcast platforms. Fans can also get early access to next week’s episode starting today via the SXM App or by subscribing to Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, which also has exclusive bonus content! Future episodes will be available exclusively via the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited for one week before being available widely on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the U.S. Learn more at Marvel.com/SquirrelGirlPodcast.

(7) ASK ERICKSON ANYTHING. Severance writer Dan Erickson announced on Twitter that he will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) Thursday, April 21, 2022 at 12 PM PST to 1 PM PST.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Back in the summer of ‘20, I looked here at the first publication of Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” short story in the Bananas literary zine where J.G. Ballard, Sara Maitland and John Sladek were the other writers present. (Copies of that zine are readily available as Meredith moments at online booksellers. The story itself is in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.) The Company Of Wolves film premiered in the States thirty-seven years ago on this date.

The screenplay was written by Carter and Neil Patrick Jordan, an Irish film director, screenwriter, novelist and short-story writer who I’ll praise for his later High Spirits film he directed and wrote. Carter would also write the screenplays for The Bloody Chamber and The Magic Toyshop films which I didn’t know exist. 

Did you know there’s a film on her, Angela Carter: Of Wolves & Women? I need to see this. Really I do. 

The film was directed by Jordan was produced by Chris Brown and Stephen Woolley. The latter would be responsible for producing Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and was the producer of the aforementioned High Spirits

It had an amazing cast: Sarah Patterson was Rosaleen, Angela Lansbury was Granny,  David Warner was Father,  Tusse Silberg was Mother,  Micha Bergese was The Huntsman, Brian Glover was The Amorous Boy’s Father,  Graham Crowden was The Old Priest,  Kathryn Pogson was The Young Bride, Stephen Rea as The Young Groom and  Georgia Slowe was  Alice, The Girl Killed by Wolves. Note the only two performers have personal names, Carter is using archetypes here. 

So how was the reception for the horror film? Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times was quite impressed saying it was a  “disturbing and stylish attempt to collect some of the nightmares that lie beneath the surface of “‘Little Red Riding Hood’”. And the anonymous TV Guide reviewer riffs on the erotic nature of Angela Carter’s story: “ The most innovative, intelligent, and visually sumptuous horror film of recent years. Not a traditional werewolf movie, this film explores the psychosexual undercurrents of the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale.  Taking place almost entirely in the troubled dreams of 13-year-old Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), the film takes the viewer deep into the archetypal, erotically charged realm of fairy stories.” 

The film would win a British Science Fiction Award for Best Media. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are rather fond of giving a seventy three percent rating. 

The film is available for purchase digitally off Amazon but not ITunes. Huh.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.)  He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, not the Asimov Probe, the pilot for the sf TV series Search. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 87. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 76. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance. He’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers (1993), a most excellent genre film, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series, a most excellent affair. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 55. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine seven times. In 1995 he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He has published the fanzine, Argentus, edited several issues of the Hugo-nominated Journey Planet. His debut novel After Hastings came out in 2020.
  • Born April 19, 1978 K. Tempest Bradford, 44. She was a non-fiction and managing editor with Fantasy Magazine for several years, and has edited fiction for Fortean BureauPeridot Books and Sybil’s Garage. She’s written a lot of short fiction and her first YA novel, Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion, is coming out this autumn. She was a finalist last year for two Ignyte Awards, the Ember Award for unsung contributions to genre and the Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre. 
  • Born April 19, 1981 Hayden Christensen, 41. Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the ClonesReturn of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith. And Christensen also plays Vader in his suit in the latter. He later has a voice cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In the forthcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney +, he’s Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater shows us some rare superhero paraphernalia.
  • Existential Comics shows that having a product return policy doesn’t really cut short the arguments with customers if they are not properly grounded in philosophy.

(11) JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM. H&I says it’s true — Star Trek’s Klingons were named after this LAPD Officer seen on Dragnet.

…And that’s where the alarm bells ring in the ears of Trekkies. W.L. Clingan is mentioned in several episodes of Dragnet 1967. In this particular case, he is played by Dennis McCarthy. That’s him with the white coat and gray hair in the top picture.

It just so happens this character was based on a real Los Angeles police officer, Wilbur Lee Clingan. He worked for the LAPD and the Pasadena police department for three decades. He was also, reportedly, a consultant on Dragnet. Which would explain the little nod Jack Webb worked into his TV show.

In his LAPD days, Clingan happened to work with a young man named Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry’s pop was a cop and he had followed his dad’s footsteps in the LAPD. Roddenberry first worked in the traffic division before ending up penning speeches for the chief of police in the Public Information department…. 

(12) LATE CHECKOUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] After some bonus time on orbit due to a NASA-initiated delay, members of the first all-private trip to the International Space Station are due to head home tonight. “All-private SpaceX astronaut mission to return home from the ISS” at CNN.

The first all-private mission to the International Space Station is slated to complete the final leg of its journey this week, capping off what will be about a 12-day, multimillion-dollar journey.

The mission, called AX-1, was brokered by the Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space, which books rocket rides, provides all the necessary training, and coordinates flights to the ISS for anyone who can afford it. The mission has set off yet another round of debate about whether people who pay their way to space should be referred to as “astronauts,” though it should be noted a trip to the ISS requires a far larger investment of both time and money than taking a brief suborbital ride on a rocket built by companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic.

The four crew members — Michael Lopez-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee who is commanding the mission; Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate magnate Larry Connor — are slated to leave the space station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Tuesday around 10:00 pm ET….

(13) THIRTEEN’S COMPANY. Something to look forward to: “Doctor Who: Former companions to join Jodie Whittaker’s farewell” at BBC News.

…Tegan and Ace will join the 13th Doctor in the special episode being broadcast this autumn.

The news was revealed in a trailer that followed the show’s Easter special.

The short teaser also revealed that the episode will feature the Doctor’s arch enemy The Master (Sacha Dhawan) and two of her most famous foes, the Daleks and the Cybermen….

(14) CLUELESS ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is only very vaguely genre adjacent (it does at times get surreal) and so may
not be of that much interest to Filers unless they are into British humour such as PythonI’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue is a long-running radio show that has this weekend celebrated half a century of being on air.  It is a comedy panel show with silly games.
For example, in a game giving a dictionary definition what would be the definition of ‘cabaret’?  Answer: ‘taxi rank’.  (Cab-array’ – get it?).

If you like silliness like such word play or games such as ‘singing one song to the tune of another’ or ‘verbal charades’ (well, it is a radio show) then you can download an .mp3 from BBC Sounds and you’ll gain an insight into British culture. “50 Years Without a Clue”.

(15) FREQUENCY 13. Or you might like to listen to “Doctor Who: Redacted – 1. SOS” at BBC Sounds. It’s an Thirteenth Doctor audio drama with Jodi. And yes, you can hear in the States.

Cleo, Abby and Shawna make The Blue Box Files – a podcast about their favourite conspiracy theory: is this one random blue box actually a spaceship? This week they discuss shady pharmaceutical company Adipose Industries. But things get a bit real when they start hearing about a mysterious figure called ‘the Doctor’.

(16) WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE. MAYBE. “Europa’s similarity to Greenland hints that Jupiter moon could harbor life” at MSN.com.

The uncanny resemblance between features on Europa’s frozen surface and a landform in Greenland that sits atop a sizable pocket of water are providing intriguing new indications that this moon of Jupiter may be capable of harboring life.

A study published on Tuesday explored similarities between elongated landforms called double ridges that look like huge gashes across Europa’s surface and a smaller version in Greenland examined using ice-penetrating radar.

Double ridges are linear, with two peaks and a central trough between them.

“If you sliced through one and looked at the cross section, it would look a bit like the capital letter ‘M,'” said Stanford University geophysicist Riley Culberg, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Radar data showed that refreezing of liquid subsurface water drove the formation of Greenland’s double ridge. If Europa’s features form the same way, this could signal the presence of copious amounts of liquid water – a key ingredient for life – near the surface of this Jovian moon’s thick outer ice shell….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands,” Fandom Games says this is “a generic role-playing game that can be gently described as a parody of Dungeons and Dragons” and that Tiny Tina is “one of the most irritating characters in the history of video-game making.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Bill, Will R., Nickpheas, Ben Bird Person, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/28/22 The Long and Winding Scroll

(1) SCHOOL NAMED FOR BUTLER. They were thinking about renaming the school library – in the end, they decided to rename the whole school for her: “Pasadena Unified Renames Washington Middle School As Octavia E. Butler Magnet”ColoradoBoulevard.net has the story.

…Dr Shannon Malone stated that “Octavia’s love of science research combined with her love of writing is exactly what STEAM integration is about at our school. We don’t teach things in isolation we show that all things can come together such as a love of Science Fiction and a love of writing.” The school will be hosting the 2nd Octavia Butler Writing and Art Contest with novels and poetry. The Pasadena Library will feature a virtual tour about Octavia Butler and proudly showcase the school’s mural….

The district announced the decision with this statement:

In appreciation of Octavia E. Butler for her outstanding achievements in literary science-fiction and for representing the qualities of a PUSD graduate that will inspire our youth and greater community, Washington Middle School shall be known henceforth as the Octavia E. Butler Magnet. Board President Elizabeth Pomeroy declared “let’s all pledge to read a book by Octavia Butler!” The motion was passed, approved, and adopted on February 24, 2022, at a special meeting of the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education.

(2) PRAISE FOR BARKLEY. At the Hugo Book Club Blog: “So Glad We Asked: an appreciation of Chris M. Barkley”.

… In retrospect, Barkley has shown a remarkable amount of foresight. He warned in 2004 (a full decade before it happened) that there was the possibility that a slate of politically motivated malcontents might attempt to disrupt the Hugos. This was followed by his urging in 2013 that “The only way traditions like the Worldcon and Hugos will have any future is if the people who are interested and feel frozen out of the process continue to provide civil and constructive criticism and stay involved in fandom … What we need is MORE dissent, MORE thinking outside the box and MORE diversity in fandom, not less.”

The first time the editors of this blog encountered Chris M. Barkley, we were volunteering as photographers for the 2015 Hugo Awards ceremony. For years after, we assumed that he had received a Hugo Award nomination for his blogging, and this seemed like a reasonable assumption to make: his work is consistently good, he writes about fannish activities, and he’s well known in the community.

It was to our great surprise when we learned that he has never been on the Hugo Award ballot as a fan writer. It’s time to rectify that oversight, and 2022 should be his year….

(3) WHEN EUROCON WAS IN KYIV. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie reports, “Currently thoughts elsewhere. Just heard that one of our team members, Boris Sidyuk, is alive. (A little scared — I think suffers from British understatement —  but alive.) Some might know him from the 2006 Eurocon on which he was a senior committee member organising the international dimension.”

Jonathan attended the Eurocon held in Ukraine in 2006. Read his account of making fannish connections there in “The 2006 Eurocon, Ukraine”.

…The need for an outlet for Ukrainian SF is not a trivial point. Though the Ukraine is the latest country to break close ties with Russia (meaning that up to recently Russia dominated most activities including publishing), it is effectively a bilingual nation with nearly all the population speaking both Ukrainian and Russian. So getting SF professionally published actually in the Ukrainian language within the Ukraine has in the past been difficult, though matters are now slowly getting a little better. Prior to 1990 and the fall of the Berlin wall, if you wanted to write professionally you had to belong to the Writers Association of the Ukraine. However the Association did not consider SF as a serious genre, furthermore the Association was closely tied to the communist party. So potential writers had to be inventive, such as trying to get published in popular science/propaganda magazines. Needless to say SF conventions also were few prior to 1990 and that did not help. Today Ukrainian writers still have problems. For example, the Ukranian writer Sergey Slyusarenko has had several short stories published but only recently his first novel [Tactile Senesations]. However this was through a Russian publishing house that distributed his book in Russia in Russian. No bulk copies were sent to the Ukraine. Fortunately though, this year Slyusarenko was one of those to receive a Eurocon Encouragement Award and it is hoped that this will prompt an Ukrainian publishing house to produce an Ukrainian edition….

(4) WHERE TO READ UKRANIAN SFF WRITERS IN ENGLISH. Alex Shvartsman has compiled “A List of Ukrainian-born SF/F Authors Whose Fiction is Available in English” and posted it at Future Science Fiction Digest. He will continue to update it as he finds more qualifying works.

Are you curious about science fiction and fantasy works written by authors who either currently reside or were born in Ukraine? There are a number of such works available in English. Interestingly. the authors I was able to come up with for this list lean heavily toward fantasy over science fiction. And they tend to write excellent stuff–I’m a long-time fan of many of these authors, though I did find several short story writers in the course of researching this post who are new to me as well.

(5) LESSER CONSEQUENCES OF INVASION. “Disney to Pause Theatrical Releases in Russia, Including ‘Turning Red’” reports Variety.

The Walt Disney Company announced on Monday that it will be pausing all theatrical releases in Russia, including that of “Turning Red,” which was previously set to premiere in the country March 10.

“Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming ‘Turning Red’ from Pixar,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.”

Disney is the first of the major film distributors to pause its theatrical releases in the region, which will likely cause others to follow suit. However, it seems that Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” will still have a Russia release for now, with the film set for a worldwide premiere on March 3.

(6) CHERNOBYL IN THE NEWS AGAIN. The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage discusses “Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes – stunning TV that is suddenly unmissable” with filmmaker James Jones.

Had it been released at any point in the past few years, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes would have been an important documentary; a feature-length blend of audio interviews and largely unseen archive footage that puts the 1986 disaster into horrifying new perspective. That it comes out now – just days after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, including an attack on the Chernobyl site itself – makes it as unmissable as it is harrowing.

…One contained a footnote that caught his eye. “It referenced footage that was shot in Pripyat [in northern Ukraine] the weekend after the accident,” he says. Despite the fact that the worst nuclear disaster in history had happened down the road hours earlier, releasing 400 times more radioactive material into the atmosphere than the Hiroshima bomb, the footage showed residents milling about as if nothing had happened.

“You can see mothers pushing babies around and kids playing football in the sand,” says Jones. “Then you start to see these white flashes on the film because of the insanely high level of radiation. It was so chilling.” Nevertheless, the existence of this footage spurred him to seek out more. Via a wealth of sources – national archives, propaganda films, collapsed Soviet documentary studios, western news reports, children and soldiers who happened to have video cameras at the time – he began to piece together a blistering documentary that draws a straight line from the USSR’s attempts to play down the disaster to the fall of the Soviet Union itself.

Although Chernobyl is one of those historical punctuation points on which everyone thinks they have a decent overview, not least due to Sky’s recent drama series, The Lost Tapes is studded with moments of footage so extraordinary that you are unlikely to forget them. A clean-up helicopter crashing to the ground over the explosion site. Searing footage of injuries and mutations to humans and animals. Wooden grave markers in an irradiated forest.

(7) AT THE TOP OF HER GAME. Congratulations to Cat Rambo for being named a guest at Origins Game Fair.

(8) FREE TAFF BOOK. The Harrison Saga: The Extraordinary Exploits of Sir William Makepeace Harrison by  “Harry Hurstmonceaux and Cyril Faversham”, ripping yarns written from 1957 to 1975 by the UK fans John Owen and Stanley Nuttall, is the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. The collection is available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. 

In these ripping yarns written from 1957 to 1975 by the UK fans John Owen and Stanley Nuttall (writing as Hurstmonceaux and Faversham), the awesome figure of Sir William Makepeace Harrison bestrides the world like a Roman-nosed colossus. The British Empire’s last unflinching bulwark against Nazis, Commies and duplicitous foreigners in general, Harrison upheld the banner of Civilization – or at least the Union Jack – o’er palm and pine. His magnificently silly adventures are threaded with tongue-in-cheek echoes of Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan, “Sapper” of Bulldog Drummond fame, Dornford Yates, Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, Frank Hampson and a million Victorian/Edwardian boys’ adventure stories. It would be wrong to giggle at such unstinting heroism, swordsmanship, gunplay, gourmandizing, fine-wine-bibbing and deus ex machina escapes, but nevertheless one does.

For The Harrison Saga, Rob Hansen has assembled all Owen’s and Nuttall’s tales of Sir William Makepeace Harrison with an explanatory Foreword, an Afterword and (assisted by David Langford) some learned notes on literary references and in-jokes. For readers who crave something “a little stronger”, there is also a bibliography.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty years ago, Altered Carbon was published in the UK. Written by Richard Morgan, it would be followed by two sequels, Broken Angels and Woken Furies. It’s a series that I really, really liked and I thought was wrapped well. 

It would win the Philip K. Dick Award. Other nominated works for the Award that year were Mark Buds’ Clade, M.M. Buckner’s Hyperthought, Chris Moriarty‘s Spin State and Ann Tonsor Zeddies‘ Steel Helix

The novels would become the basis of the Netflix Altered Carbon series which ran for eighteen episodes over two seasons before being canceled plus an anime prequel film. Originally the first novel was going to be a film and those rights were sold for a million dollars which allowed Morgan to become a full-time writer but it never went anywhere which is how Netflix ended up with it. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a Showtime series planned off it. He also wrote two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All off his work is available from the usual digital sources. Though far from being genre, The Queen’s Gambit is most excellent. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1947 Stephen Goldin, 75. Author of the Family d’Alembert series which is based on a novella by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I think the novella is “Imperial Stars” but that’s unclear from the way the series is referred to. Has anyone read this series? How does it match up to the source material?
  • Born February 28, 1948 Bernadette Peters, 74. Performer, stage, film and television, so this is selected look at her. She was A Witch in Into the Woods on Broadway and reprised the role in a tv film. It is a Stephen Sondheim musical based on the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. She’s in The Martian Chronicles as Genevieve Seltzer. She does a lot of voice acting, to wit in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasWakko’s WishLegends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Rita, a recurring role on the Animaniacs and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The most recent genre role I see her doing is Circe on The Odyssey series several back. 
  • Born February 28, 1966 Philip Reeve, 56. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. I read the first three novels before deciding that was enough of that series. Not that it’s not a fine series, it just wasn’t developing interestingly enough to warrant me reading any more of it. 
  • Born February 28, 1958 John Barnes, 64. I read and really liked all of the novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. (My take on it. Yours may well differ.) What else by him do y’all like? I see he’s not put out a novel in a decade now, a pity that. Some of his fiction is available at the usual suspects though not the Thousand Cultures series.
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 45. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exists and does a damn fine job of doing so. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie finds the key to selling books.  

(12) STONED. Atlas Obscura knows where to find the “Pop Culture Gargoyles Hidden in Gothic Architecture” (published in 2018).

…If you’re curious enough for a gargoyle safari, stay around the edifice! You will not be disappointed, as Darth Vader is just one of many pretty unusual creations conceived to adorn the National Cathedral. The 112 sculpted gargoyles include those by Walter S. Arnold, who envisioned gargoyles as portraying the specific hopes and fears of their era. Arnold’s sculptures have name like “The Crooked Politician,” “The Fly holding Raid Spray,” or the “High Tech Pair,” representing a stylized robot and surveillance camera….

(13) WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. Can these be “The 10 Goofiest Sci-Fi Movies Ever”? Screen Rant thinks so.

Idiocracy (2006)

While the movie could be considered a gruelingly accurate prediction of a dystopian future, Idiocracy is actually a satirical and hilarious sci-fi flick. The film is about a man with a below-average IQ who is frozen in a government experiment, but he’s then thawed out in the future and is treated like a genius.

It’s a silly concept, but Idiocracy also attempts to tackle so many subjects, such as people’s obsession with celebrities, entertainment and media consumption, and politics. Based in a world where the President of the United States wears an American flag as a cape and carries a machine gun at all times, the 2006 movie is so over the top.

(14) THE OLD TICKER. “Edgar Allan Poe’s pocket watch among donations to museum” reports the Guardian.

The pocket watch owned by Edgar Allan Poe while he was writing his famous short story The Tell-Tale Heart, in which the murderous narrator compares the thumping of his victim’s heart to the tick of a clock, has been donated to the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

Literary collector Susan Jaffe Tane gave the watch along with almost 60 other artefacts, including letters and rare first editions. Curator Chris Semtner said Poe’s timepiece was “especially important” because the author owned it while writing the story…

(15) APPRENTICED TO A PIRATE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Korean pirate movie sounds like fantasy to me! The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure comes to Netflix on March 2.

Lured by the promise of fortune and riches, a band of pirates set off in the hopes of uncovering hidden treasure. But when the elements turn against them and the lines between folklore and reality wear thin, they soon realize that some quests are better left unconquered.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Saturday Night Live’s “Subway Churro skit” with John Mulvaney covers most Broadway musical bases.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/26/22 Comments Have Spoken, Like The First Filing; Pixels Have Woken, Like The First Scroll

(1) HOW THE WEB MAKES CRIMINALS OF US ALL. The Guardian tells about the revamped Tolkien Estate website in “Unseen JRR Tolkien paintings, photographs and video clips released”. (Andrew Porter reminds us that the artwork in the article is not new.)

Unseen photographs and paintings of JRR Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings fantasy books, have been released by the writer’s estate, along with draft manuscripts and letters.

Its website has been relaunched with new material, including sections on Tolkien’s calligraphy and a timeline of his life.

Audio recordings and video clips featuring both Tolkien, who died in 1973, and his son Christopher, who died in 2020, are among the new material.

The relaunch date of 26 February is significant in Tolkien lore because 26 February 3019 was the date in the Third Age when the Fellowship of the Ring was broken at Amon Hen and Frodo and Sam set out on their lonely and terrifying journey to Mordor.

Perusing the site’s “Frequently Asked Questions and Links” I discovered this jarring information:

Can I publish a Tolkien Fanzine?

The name TOLKIEN is a registered trademark and may not be used without permission. Unfortunately permission cannot be given for publications which use the name TOLKIEN or the Tolkien Estate’s Copyright Materials.

Are a lot of you faneds who don’t spell it T*****n hearing from lawyers?

(2) THEY’VE GOT THE DROP ON US. “Russia’s space chief responds to new sanctions by suggesting that the ISS would no longer be prevented from crashing into the US or Europe” – originally reported by Business Insider.

According to CNN, Biden further stated that the sanctions “will degrade (Russia’s) aerospace industry, including their space program.”… 

In response, Rogozin said on Twitter: “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” 

He added: There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?” 

Rogozin also mentioned that the ISS’s location and orbit in space are controlled by “Russian Progress MS cargo ships.” 

NASA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment made outside of normal working hours.

In a statement to Euronews, however, NASA said that it “continues working with Roscosmos and our other international partners in Canada, Europe, and Japan to maintain safe and continuous ISS operations.”

It added: “The new export control measures will continue to allow US-Russia civil space cooperation.”

(3) PURLOINED LETTER TECHNIQUE. Radio Times’ Sab Astley says this is the place to look for clues to Doctor Who’s next phase: “Doctor Who Russell T Davies teases from his book on writing”.

…Now, with Davies’ surprise return to Doctor Who looming, everyone is searching for potential clues as to RTD’s approach to his second run – and unusually, the acclaimed screenwriter might have already given us a pretty good idea of what he’s planning thanks to a little book called The Writer’s Tale.

The Writer’s Tale is a tome of correspondence between Davies and Doctor Who Magazine contributor Benjamin Cook, taking place over the pre-production of season 4 right up to the final shots of Tennant’s last special between 2007 and 2009…

The Next Doctor

14th Doctor speculation is currently at an all-time high, with names like Michael Sheen, Michaela Coel, T’Nia Miller and Olly Alexander mentioned. However, one name that hasn’t arisen, which might just be a strong contender to bet on: Russell Tovey.

Davies makes no secret of his love for Tovey, and in a discussion over potential 11th Doctor castings, RTD states that Tovey is “amazing – I think I’d make him the eleventh Doctor”. Since then Tovey has starred in Davies’ Years & Years, and currently all of his upcoming projects are in post-production – making it the perfect time for RTD to nab Tovey if he so wishes.

Alternatively, if we look at Davies’ choice of actors in the years since The Writer’s Tale, the choice becomes clear: Lydia West. She’s clearly a favourite of RTD’s, starring in both Years & Years and It’s A Sin, and could follow in Jodie Whittaker’s footsteps as a female Doctor (and the first ‘lead’ Doctor to be played by a Black actor, though Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor technically got there first).

Altogether, based on RTD’s creative patterns and the insight of The Writer’s Tale it seems Russell Tovey or Lydia West are strong options for the 14th Doctor. However, there is a third possibility – the return of David Tennant…..

(4) FUTURE TENSE. “Good Job, Robin”, JoeAnn Hart’s short story about love, earth, and eating crickets, is this month’s installment of Future Tense Fiction, a series from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination published on Slate.

Ahimsa waves an elbow at me, keeping her hands firmly cupped. “Isaura! Look!” She shouts to be heard over my earplugs, and I panic thinking she’s woozy again. But no, she only wants to show me something. I lean across the sorting table to look, and with a smile she opens her tawny hands like a flower, just enough so I can peek inside. Two stamens wiggle in the darkness.

Not stamens. Antennae. Out come the earplugs. “It’s just a cricket, Ahimsa. One of a billion crickets under this dome, every one of them chirping like an insect possessed.”…

Christy Spackman, an expert on the future of food, responds to JoeAnn Hart’s story in “Crickets could be the food solution that saves us all.”

…The first time I seriously considered crickets as the food of the future was in late 2015 during a presentation by undergraduates. Their policy proposal outlining how the adoption of insect protein in the Los Angeles Area could help insulate the region from some of the impacts of climate-change included a tasting of a recent-to-market, paleo-friendly, cricket-based protein bar. As I sunk my teeth into the slightly gummy, peanut-buttery bite being passed around the classroom, my mind flashed between the grim food futures presented in science fiction novels and the much smaller collection of hopeful fiction portrayals of delicious future feasts. What is it about our contemporary anxieties that makes it so easy to imagine such dystopic food futures?…

(5) HEAPS OF FUN. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott considers how successive American generations have different ways of arriving at the same destination — mortality: “Shelf Life: Our Collections and the Passage of Time”.

…The things you loved when you were young will never be able to make you young again. The reluctant acceptance of this fact is the source of nostalgia, a disorder that afflicts every modern generation in its own special way. Members of Generation X grew up under the heavy, sanctimonious shadow of the baby boom’s long adolescence, among crates of LPs and shelves of paperbacks to remind us of what we had missed. Just as baby boomers’ rebellion against their Depression- and war-formed parents defined their styles and poses, so did our impatience with the boomers set ours in motion. But I’m not talking so much about a grand narrative of history as about what Aksel might call the useless stuff — the objects and gadgets that form the infrastructure of memory….

Every cohort has these. A CD in a plastic jewel box is not intrinsically more poetic than a vinyl LP in a cardboard sleeve. On the internet and in television shows like “PEN15,” a robust millennial nostalgia fetishizes AOL chat rooms, Dance Dance Revolution, Tamagotchis and other things that I was already too old for the first time around. Gen Z will surely have its turn before long, even if its characteristic cultural pursuits don’t seem to be manifested in physical objects….

(6) SLF GRANT NEWS. The Speculative Literature Foundation has announced the final two winners of the SLF Convention Support Grants.

Over the course of the year we gave out $10,000, in grants of $500 – $1000 each, to science fiction and fantasy conventions.

These grants are intended to support conventions both in developing their online presences (through the purchase of tech, training costs, hosting costs, etc.) and making in-person gathering safer once it’s appropriate. Read on for more information about how each convention will use the funding.

WisCon is a feminist science fiction and fantasy convention held annually in Madison, Wisconsin. Founded in 1976 as the world’s first feminist speculative fiction convention, it has since grown into a robust and dedicated community of fans, artists, and scholars. The convention is hosted by the Society for the Furtherance and Study of Fantasy and Science Fiction a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin, which aims to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.

WisCon will use the grant funds to cover the costs of equipment and equipment rental to make their con more accessible.

The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird is a progressive speculative fiction conference that focuses on contemporary Weird fiction. The con actively seeks to create spaces that allow for the kinds of conversations and connections that chart the future of boundary-breaking speculative fiction, as well as being an inclusive, safe and welcoming place for women, LBGTQ+, and writers of color. To meet this mission, they consider each dimension of access (fiscal, disability, equity, etc) with care to inform every decision they make, from where programming is accessed to how it’s structured.

A key focus for their 2022 convention is making sure they have easily accessible virtual spaces, as well as safe future events during the pandemic, which includes travel, catering, and technology costs that they anticipate will increase significantly this year.

(7) GAIMAN ADAPTED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the Financial Times, Nilanjana Roy reviews Chivalry, a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Colleen Doran and based on a short story from Gaiman’s collection Smoke And Mirrors.

[Colleen Doran’s] stunning artwork turns Arthur’s knight into the kind of dashing, courtly hero who is obliged to seduce a maiden.  Doran’s illustrations, drawing from a soft palette of blues, pinks, and greens that flare unto sudden glorious bursts of crimson and gold at need, are what will make Chivalry a perennial Christmas gift.  Famous Authors are often at risk of having their old work briskly repackaged by clever marketing departments but Doran, a Gaiman fan since her youth has, for complicated rights reasons, waited over two decades to work on this short story…

,,,The question as to whether a single short story taken from a far more varied fantasy collection is satisfying as a standalone graphic novel remains.  Certainly,Gaiman and Doran’s book feels too slight on its own to measure up to the best of Gaiman’s output.  Still, Chivalry reminds you that, some days, all you need is to believe in impossible quests.

(8) UNDERSTANDING OCTAVIA BUTLER. “Black History Month: Octavia Butler’s sci-fi dystopia still relevant”USA Today profiles the author.

…Butler rose to prominence in the traditionally white bastion of science fiction. She was the first to write about prominent Black characters in science fiction settings, using dystopias, time travel and other tropes. 

Science-fiction author Nisi Shawl recalls meeting the “Kindred” author in 1999 during a convention in Seattle when she was tasked with writing a profile on Butler. The two became acquainted and a friendship later blossomed in 2002. 

“One thing that she really instilled in me was the idea that you should write about things that bring up strong emotions in you, things that you fear, things that you loathe, things that you cherish, but things that you are passionate about in one way or another,” Shawl tells USA TODAY, adding that Butler inspired her to write the short story “Momi Watu.” …

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Barbara Hambly, one of my favorite writers of horror, has won two Lord Ruthven Awards (1996 and 2007) given by the Lord Ruthven Assembly, a group of scholars specializing in vampire literature who are affiliated with the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. 

Those Who Hunt in The Night, the first in the excellent John Asher series, won the Locus Award for Best Horror Novel.

I’m also very impressed of her two novelizations done for one of my favorite tv series, Beauty and the Beast and and Beauty and the Beast: Song of Orpheus as it’s hard to write material off those series that’s actually worth reading.  She wrote three Trek novels and several Star Wars too but I’ve not read them. 

And yes, there’s lots about her writing career I’ve not included here so feel free to tell me what you think I should have mentioned. 

Barbara Hambly

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 26, 1908 Tex Avery. An animator, cartoonist, director and voice actor beyond compare. Without him, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig would not have existed. Avery’s influence can be seen in Animaniacs and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — they were quite good. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 77. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 74. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre-strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. 
  • Born February 26, 1957 John Jude Palencar, 65. Illustrator whose artwork graces over a hundred genre covers. In my personal collection, he’s on the covers of de lint’s The Onion Girl and Forests of the Heart (one of my top ten novels of SFF), Priest’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds and Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of EarthseaOrigins: The Art of John Jude Palencar is a perfect look at his work and marvelous eye candy as well.
  • Born February 26, 1958 Karen Berger, 64. She created the Vertigo imprint at DC,  and served as the line’s Executive Editor for a decade. Some of my favorite works there are Fables, Hellblazer, Preacher, 100 Bullets and V for Vendetta. She currently runs Berger Books, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics.
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 57. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) 45TH BIRTHDAY ISSUE OF 2000 AD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week the 45th birthday issue of 2000 AD is out. It includes a zarjaz strip of the Command Module droids travelling through the thrillverse collecting 2000 AD characters to help Tharg compose a birthday hit single. It also features the start of a new Judge Dredd story that teases that the Judges are trying to silence someone who claims to have a secret concerning the truth of Judge Dredd!

Splundig!

(13) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT THAT YOU ARE A COWBOY. Kevin Standlee says Westercon 74 sent out the following announcement to its members today regarding COVID-19. The short version:

Vaccination required

Masks required

For the long version, click here – “COVID-19 Health and Safety Policy”.

As a reminder, the 2022 Westercon will be held in Tonopah, Nevada from July 1-4.

(14) PURINA BAT CHOW. “Doorbells, chicken and special edition biscuits: why are The Batman’s tie-ins such a joker?” asks the Guardian. “Someone on the merchandising team is working overtime to turn the serious new Robert Pattinson movie into Sonic the Hedgehog.”

…Then there is all the food. The Oreos we have covered; they have a picture of Batman’s face on them, because we all know that nothing is more delicious than wolfing down an effigy of agonising mental torment. Papa John’s is also in on the act. Its pizzas currently come in commemorative The Batman boxes (because who doesn’t love using used food receptacles as keepsakes?) and there is also a new side – black ghost chilli chicken wings – that also apparently have something to do with Batman. Meanwhile, in the US, Little Caesars has made a “calzony” (a kind of folded pizza) that’s shaped like the Batman logo, allowing customers to grab themselves a slice of gooey, unresolved trauma.

Caffè Nero has subverted the pattern a little by focusing on the Riddler. It has launched a new hot chocolate, with a mysterious new flavour. If you can guess the flavour – which is to say, if you can stomach spending your money on a product that for the purposes of suspension of disbelief was designed by a nightmarish BDSM goblin – you can win a trip to a theme park.

Again, I’m barely touching the sides here….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dream Foundry has shared the Flights of Foundry 2021 panel “Making Your Reader Hungry: Food in SFF” with Nibedita Sen and Shweta Adhyam, moderated by Cora Buhlert. (Watch the video at the link.)

For a long time, speculative fiction rarely engaged with food. Over on the science fiction side of the fence, protagonists lived on food pills or ordered “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” from the replicator, while fantasy characters subsisted on the ubiquitous stew and quaffed tankards of ale. However, this has changed in recent times and now detailed food descriptions are a lot more common in SFF. Nor are we just seeing only stereotypical western and American food anymore, but also dishes from non-western cuisines and food traditions. This panel will discuss how food is portrayed in science fiction and fantasy and how this parallels real world developments, whether it’s meal replacement products like the unfortunately named Soylent or trends like pandemic baking.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Irene Bruce, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/22 The Silver Mithril Playbook

(1) OSCAR FAN VOTING OPENS. “Oscars to recognize fan favorite film at 2022 ceremony” reports Entertainment Weekly.

…AMPAS announced Monday that beginning now through March 3, audiences can vote on Twitter for their favorite movie of 2021 using the #OscarsFanFavorite hashtag or by casting a ballot on the Oscars Fan Favorite website. The winning fan-favorite film of the year will then be announced live during the 2022 Oscars ceremony….

In addition to the fan-favorite vote, the Academy is asking audiences to use Twitter to vote for an #OscarsCheerMoment spotlighting moments that made them “erupt into cheers in theaters” while watching. Five winners selected from the pool of participants will win a package, including tickets to a full year of free movies in a theater of their choice, streaming subscriptions, and exclusive items from the Academy Museum shop.

(2) TRUNK MUSIC. And in relation to the previous announcement, CBR.com says the logrolling has begun in earnest: “Snyder Cut Fans Mobilize to Win Justice League an Oscar in the Fan-Voted Category”.

… The passionate fanbase surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League is back at it again, this time calling for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give an Oscar to Snyder’s film.

… Following the film’s release, Justice League formed a wide and vocal fanbase, who spent years demanding Warner Bros. to allow Snyder to complete his version of the film. Some of the film’s stars joined in on the #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement, confirming that his version was already near completion and only needed visual effects work to be completed.

(3) 2022 RHYSLING AWARD CHAIR UPDATE: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association today announced that due to unexpected medical reasons, Kimberly Nugent has had to step down from serving as the 2022 Rhysling Award Chair.

In her absence, SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra has appointed Webmaster F.J. Bergmann and Secretary Brian Garrison to finish out the Chair duties this year.

(4) BATTLING AMAZON KDP. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has written a long catch-up post for Facebook readers, published yesterday, which covers many topics, including news that Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing restored his royalties, and that The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) anthology has consequently been turned into a free download. Here is a brief excerpt:

…Amazon KDP did eventually pay my complete royalties, about $1500 which I got using Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s US account. Jason Sanford helped send the Gofundme money & I finished paying all the authors with it & donated all the Amazon royalties to the African Speculative Fiction Society as I promised. The money is being used to help set up a fund that will help African writers navigate institutional barriers to entry & participating in international SFF activities like the ones Amazon & other bodies have thrown up.

I withdrew the book from Amazon completely cuz the evil they’ve done is enough. & I just can’t trust em as a platform anymore.

…I have made the anthology, which is the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology entirely free in all formats as I promised.

You can download the file at Jembefola: The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

(5) ERIC FLINT MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint told his Facebook followers yesterday that he’s in the midst of a long hospital stay for a staph infection.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and the reason is simple: I’ve been in the hospital for the past three weeks, sicker than the proverbial dog. I came down with a staph infection that caused me to collapse getting out of bed — and then I couldn’t get up, I was so weak. (Trust me, this is a a really scary experience.)

I’d always known staph infections could be rough, but I had no idea just how bad they could be. Happily, I’m over the worst of it and my recovery is coining along well. I’ll probably be released from the hospital in ten days, although I’ll still have to do home rehab for a while longer.

(6) BUTLER Q&A REVISITED. “Octavia Butler imagines a world without racism” on NPR’s Book of the Day podcast.

During Black History month, Book of the Day is bringing you some interviews from the archives, including this one with author Octavia Butler. Butler wrote many sci-fi classics, like the Parable series and Kindred, so she’s accustomed to imagining different worlds. NPR’s Scott Simon asked her back in 2001 to imagine a world without racism. Butler believed that in racism’s place we would have to have absolute empathy. But she told Simon that this would most certainly present its own challenges – and we would probably just find something else to fight about.

(7) BLACK HISTORY MONTH CONTINUES. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its “Black Heritage HWA interview series” –

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been a writer. One of my earliest memories is folding white paper in half, drawing stick figures and captions, and titling the book “Baby Bobby.” On the back, I wrote “Baby Bobby is a book about a baby. The author is Tananarive Due.” I spelled a bunch of the words wrong, but BOOM. I came into this world understanding that I was a writer.

Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

I do. I have several projects with my agent and every one of them has an African American protagonist. Each character has obstacles to overcome, which they do despite the deck being stacked against them. All of these are based on real life people. My intent is to put forth to the African American Community, especially the younger generation, that it is possible to overcome obstacles and not to be deterred from their final objective, goals, and dreams in life.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

You know, I didn’t tend to think of a lot of it has horror going in, but certainly see how the label fits. I believe that we get through things, not over them. Sometimes the way through involves terror and tribulation—also that hope can be a twisted thing and at times you find flecks of it in the most unexpected places.

What inspired you to start writing?

Hands down, it was my father, Chris Acemandese Hall. He was a songwriter, artist, activist and author. As a songwriter, he penned the jazz classics, “So What” and “Bitches Brew” sung by vocalese great, Eddie Jefferson. As an artist, you may have seen his works from Let’s Celebrate Kwanza, Melanin and Me, the Lost Books of the Bible and Budweiser’s Great Kings of Africa promo where he did the Hannibal poster, the Ethiopian who led a Carthaginian army and a team of elephants against Rome in the Second Punic War. As an author, he was responsible for creating Little Zeng, a character I’m now developing in my new horror novel. Little Zeng was the first published African Griot superhero. He was published three years before Black Panther who Marvel introduced in July, 1966.

Dad also co-founded an activist group called AJASS (African Jazz Art Society & Studio), along with Elombe Brath and others. Among starting the Black is Beautiful ideology with the Black Arts Movement, featuring the Grandassa Models, AJASS’s influence in the African-American diaspora not only affected civil rights leaders, as well as poets, musicians, photographers, models, artists and singers, it influenced every cell in my body.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Bring your personal brand of weirdness to the page. I want to meet your demons. I want to be made to feel uncomfortable about how much you love vampires and werewolves. I want to see the monsters that frightened your great grandparents and the cultural superstitions that haven’t been white washed by American society. Tell me about the thing that scared you the most when you were a kid and why it still haunts you to this day. Write about race and sex and class and trauma and politics and religion and don’t pull any punches. I want to laugh, cry and clutch my pearls while you’re trying to scare me.

(8) HWA ON MAUS. The Horror Writer Association’s Officers and Board of Trustees issued a statement on a Tennessee school district’s decision about Maus.

The Horror Writers Association condemns banning books in no uncertain terms. We believe authors need to be able to tell their stories without fear of reprisal.
 
The banning of “Maus” in a Tennessee school district, which was done on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is nothing less than censorship and anti-Semitism.
 
“Maus” is not the first text to be excluded from school libraries. Recently, LGBTQ+ texts have been banned in a Washington state school district, and many other books by authors of color have been censored in districts across America. These are chilling examples of censorship, racism, anti-Semitism, and white washing. We all need to be more vocal each and every time this happens.

These actions set a dangerous precedent in a free society. They cannot and should not be tolerated. The HWA condemns all attempts at censorship, particularly these obvious attempts of the establishment to silence marginalized voices. We urge you to speak out in your local communities against such autocratic tactics that not only threaten our creative community but also make our world less safe.

(9) CALL ME UNRELIABLE. A guest feature by S. A. Barnes – “The Curse of Being an Unreliable Narrator” at Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup.

I remember clearly the first time someone else referred to Claire Kovalik, the main character in Dead Silence, as an unreliable narrator. My emotional response took me aback—first, surprise and then a sudden surge of defensiveness.

She’s doing the best she can, I wanted to say. I mean, come on, she’s locked up in what amounts to a mental institution at the start of the story, after a head injury and a traumatic incident that she doesn’t quite remember involving her crew and a mysterious ghost ship. What do you want from her???

The funny thing is, the statement wasn’t meant as a critique, not at all. It was simply a fact—Claire Kovalik is an unreliable narrator. Of course she is. She must be, for all the reasons listed above and more. And I’d done those things very intentionally, so why the strange and powerful reaction?

It took me a bit to step back from that moment and deconstruct what was going on in my mind….

(10) SF AUTHORS ANTICIPATE GENE EDITING. Fanac.org has posted video of the Tropicon 6 (1987) panel “Future Evolution” with Joe Green, Jack Haldeman II, Vincent Miranda and Tom Maddox.

Tropicon 6 was a small local convention, held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1987. This panel discussion about gene editing and the Future of Future Evolution is worth watching for several reasons. Thanks to author Joe Green, the panel focuses in very quickly on gene editing, and the issues it brings to confront humanity, both technically and ethically. The insightful comments by the panelists, and the issues and choices discussed are still very much with us, despite the panel having been recorded in 1987. One warning – there is loud background air conditioning noise for the first 15 minutes or so, but the sound is perfect for the remainder of the recording. The recording also provides a view into the dynamics of small, local conventions, where the writers are part of the community, know each other, and are not adverse to arguing with the audience. Everyone knows everyone, and no one is shy about asking questions. This panel was held at 10PM on Friday night, and there is silliness in the beginning. Some of the audience questions have been cut due to sound issues. Joe Siclari, now Chairman of the Fan History project, introduces the panel and the panel ending is signalled by me, Edie Stern, now FANAC.org webmaster.

(11) EASTERCON MEMBERSHIPS. Reclamation 2022 is this year’s Eastercon, the annual British national science fiction convention, being held April 15-18 at Radisson London Heathrow.

Membership is £70 until the end of February, after which it will £80. (And it will cost more on the door). Book here.

(12) HORROR WORKSHOPS. HWA’s Horror University Online is offering a series of workshops. Registration is $65 for non-HWA-members, $55 for HWA members, and four- and ten-course bundles are available. Here are the next few —

Jason Henderson, host of the Castle of Horror Podcast, publisher at Castle Bridge Media and best-selling writer of Night of the Book Man and the Alex Van Helsing and Young Captain Nemo series gives you a two-hour course in getting from idea to launchable manuscript in six weeks, covering: Choosing your sub-genre; Making Your Familiar Monsters Different; Outlining your novel; Forcing Yourself to Draft; Editing; and The Basics of Publishing- Traditional and Non-Traditional.

  • March 7: A Writer Prepares: Techniques for Character Development for Fiction Writing with John Palisano.

How does one develop compelling characters? What happens when you hit a wall in a scene and you’re not sure what to do or where to go? What if you just can’t hear the character’s voice? How do you create several characters within a story that all seem to be distinct and memorable?

In my class A Writer Prepares: Character development for fiction writing attendees will gain several useful tools as well as handouts they can use into the future for developing characters for their stories.

Using experience I gained while in Acting and Drama school, as well as real world experience in putting on plays, working on big Hollywood feature films with A-level talent, as well as in multi-award winning fiction of my own, this class A Writer Prepares: Character development for fiction writing is a riff on the famous Konstantin Stanislavsky book and method … but taken into the here and now! Get ready to have some fun!

What makes an agent, editor, or publisher interested in a pitch and how do you prepare to give one? What are the things a pitch should cover and how can you avoid basic mistakes in the process? This workshop is all about the pitches (two verbal, two written) you will need as a writer and the different times when you will use them. This workshop will include hands-on verbal and written pitching of stories with immediate feedback in a safe environment.

(13) FORBES OBIT. Author Lani Forbes died February 3 at the age of 35 reports Rediscovered Books, which invites fans to join them for Lani’s Book Birthday and a Celebration of Life and Literature on February 17. Full details and registration here.

 Young adult author Lani Forbes, whose critically acclaimed Age of the Seventh Sun series won multiple Realm Awards, died on February 3, 2022, in Boise, Idaho, after a nine-month battle with neuroendocrine cancer. She was 35….  

Lani Forbes was the daughter of a librarian and a surfer, which explained her passionate love of the ocean and books. Forbes was born May 6, 1987, in Huntington Beach, California. She grew up in California, and attended high school at Huntington Beach High School. In 2009, Forbes received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Hope International University. She then received her teaching credentials from Cal State University. After 10 years of teaching, Forbes went on to become a trauma counselor, serving women who had been abused by their spouses through addiction.

Her young adult book series, the Age of the Seventh Sun, premiered in 2020 with the release of The Seventh Sun, followed by The Jade Bones in 2021 and The Obsidian Butterfly in 2022. The Seventh Sun was a finalist for the Realm Awards Book of the Year and won Best Debut, Best Young Adult, and Best Epic Fantasy. Forbes’s passion was showing readers the transformative and encouraging power of story on the human experience….

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1988 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-four years ago, the Red Dwarf series first aired on BBC Two. It was created by Doug Grant and Rob Naylor who based it off their Dave Hollins: Space Cadet that aired in the BBC Radio 4 series Son of Cliché show also produced by them.

As of two years ago, seventy-four  episodes of the series have aired, including one special, concluding the twelfth series. The cost has had myriad changes with only Chris Barrie as Rimmer, Craig Charles as Lister, Danny John-Julesas as Cat and Robert Llewellyn as Kryten being there for the entire series. 

Because Grant and Naylor not only directed the series but wrote the material and frequently changed everything as the series went along, critics came to be sharply divided on the series. The changes often caused them to loathe Grant and Naylor. Or love them. No middle ground at all. Grant and Naylor didn’t care one fuck. That’s a direct quote. 

BBC gave them two hundred fifty thousand pounds per episode, about three hundred thirty thousand dollars currently. Not a big budget but enough. It’s now broadcasting on Dave which is a British free-to-air television channel owned by UKTV, a joint venture of the BBC and Thames TV.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out The Romance of Sorcery, as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” had a lead villain who looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Sixties Batman TV series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film, with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get SmartFantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1939 Jo Clayton. Best remembered for the Diadem universe saga which I’m reasonably sure spanned twenty novels before it wrapped up. Damned good reading there. Actually all of her fiction in my opinion is well worth reading. Her only award is the Phoenix Award given annually to a Lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas  Hofstadter, 77. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker-edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 77. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won a Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well-stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 74. Author and illustrator of Maus which if you’ve not read, you really should. He also wrote MetaMaus which goes into great detail how he created that work. (Discussed here at Green Man Review.) And yes, I know he had a long and interesting career in underground comics but I’ll be damned if I can find any that are either genre or genre adjacent. I know if I’m wrong that you’ll correct me. 
  • Born February 15, 1958 Cat Eldridge, 64. He’s the publisher of Green Man Review. He’s retconned into Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen as an enthomusicologist in exchange for finding her a rare volume of fairy tales.
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 51. Gabrielle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably sure that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Quite fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt and she’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse. She’s also played Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of Macbeth

(16) FROM DEEP POCKETS TO DEEP SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport interviews billionaire Jared Isaacman, who went into space last year on the first private spaceflight.  Isaacman says he is launching another four-person private spacelight later this year, and the Polaris Dawn mission will have the first private astronaut performing a spacewalk. “Jared Isaacman to fund 3 SpaceX flights, including first crewed launch of Starship”.

…In addition to the first commercial spacewalk, Isaacman said the first Polaris mission would endeavor “to go farther than anyone’s gone since we last walked on the moon — in the highest Earth orbit that anyone’s ever flown.” The record was set in 1966 by the Gemini 11 crew, which flew to 853 miles, the highest altitude for any non-lunar crewed mission, according to NASA.

The flight, which would take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, would require a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. But the FAA considers only the safety of people and property on the ground in granting such approval and not the risks their activities in space might pose to the crew.

The crew would also test SpaceX’s Starlink laser-based satellite communications technology in space. While Starlink satellites now beam Internet signals to rural areas on Earth, SpaceX is hoping to use the system for human spaceflight missions to the moon and Mars. 

(17) ENTERPRISE: SKELETON WAR. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Fan artist Marieke (@Spacelizart) did this piece based on Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) and the 2013 meme Skeleton War:

(18) HASBRO MAKES THE RUN TO MARKET IN 13 PARSECS. That Hashtag Show turns thumbs down on this action figure: “Hasbro Fails Miserably With Star Wars Black Series Krrsantan”.

Well folks, The Book of Boba Fett Season 1 is in the books. One of its unquestionable highlights was Black Krrsantan leaping from the comic book page to live-action. Carey Jones perfectly brought the gladiator-turned-bounty-hunter to life, ably joining the late Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo as Star Wars Wookiee mainstays. Hasbro, of course, is now looking to seize on Krrsantan’s popularity. The toy maker just announced a Black Series figure for the character, and frankly, it couldn’t be a bigger fail.

… Sorry, Hasbro, but the “new” Black Series Krrsantan is, in a word, awful. As many across social media have pointed out, the figure is nothing more than a repainted retread of an old Chewbacca figure from almost a decade ago. The only difference is the head sculpt. That, at least, features the Wookiee’s braids and scars. Unfortunately, the differences pretty much end there. Even the bowcaster weapon is the same. You can’t look at the Black Series figure and not think “black Chewbacca.” Plus, the monochrome accessories (while true to the comics) just look, well, cheap….

(19) GAME TO MOVIE. “’BioShock’ Movie in the Works at Netflix” says The Hollywood Reporter.

…The streaming giant [Netflix] has partnered with Take-Two Interactive, the game’s parent company, to develop a potential cinematic universe. Vertigo Entertainment and Take-Two will serve as producers.

No writer or filmmaker is on board at this time. The partnership deal has been in the works for almost a year.

Released in 2007 from 2K Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two, the first-person shooter game featured a crumbling underwater city named Rapture, its society fragmented in a civil war with many inhabitants addicted or using a genetically enhancing serum that gives people powers while also living in fear of Big Daddies, mutated humans who have been merged with diving suits. Into this world is dropped the game’s protagonist, Jack, a survivor of a mysterious plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean….

(20) FOR THOSE OF YOU KEEPING SCORE AT HOME. The New York Times has an update: “China, Not SpaceX, May Be Source of Rocket Part Crashing Into Moon”.

The developer of astronomy software who said that Elon Musk’s company would cause a new crater on the moon says that he “had really gotten it wrong.”

…Part of a rocket is expected to crash into the far side of the moon on March 4. Initially thought to be a SpaceX rocket stage, the object may actually be part of a Long March 3C rocket that launched in 2014….

(21) SITH OF ONE, HALF A DOZEN OF THE OTHER. Lucasfilm Games dropped this trailer today: “Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Legacy of the Sith”.

Legacy of the Sith will send players to the darkest depths and farthest reaches of the galaxy and unlock the ability to choose your personal combat style.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the Screen Junkies say that the newest Ghostbusters movie “invites you to remember how great the original was and — that’s it. That’s the whole movie.”  The film “gives the loudest people what they want…Easter eggs the size of Denver omelets.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Ed Fortune, Rob Thornton, Chris Barkley, Ben Bird Person, 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 Daniel Dern.]