Call for Submissions: The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction Volume Two

By Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki: The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction Volume Two anthology is now open to submissions until the end of the year. This next volume of the series is a dual Year’s Best anthology, covering work published in 2021 and 2022. It will be published with a release date of early 2023 under the Caezik SF & Fantasy imprint of Arc Manor, an award-winning press run by Publisher Shahid Mahmud and his Associate Publisher, Lezli Robyn.

GUIDELINES. We welcome submissions of all reprint works of speculative fiction, from any genres and sub genres, including fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction, horror and genre blends, up to 17,500 words, published by Africans or authors of African descent in 2021 and 2022. This means all flash, short story, and novelette fiction is eligible, if the rest of the parameters are met.

Send your submissions as a Word document file with your name, country of origin, email address, word length, first publication date and venue, to yearsbestafricansf@gmail.com

We will be receiving submissions until midnight 31 December 2022, but are already compiling the book—so please get in early so we have more time to consider your work.

If your work is not yet published, but is upcoming this 2022, you can also submit it and tell us the anticipated publication date, so we can consider it early.

This year’s volume will be guest edited by Eugen Bacon and Milton Davis, alongside the series editor, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki.

Authors will be paid 2c per word in USD, up from the past year’s 1c per word for a reprint.

A LITTLE HISTORY. This line of Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthologies was created, for the first time in the genre’s decades-long history, to draw attention to the works of Africans and people of African descent. This was intended to address visibility and other marginalizing barriers that exist for Africans and people of African descent on the global stage.

Volume One took on this task, with some critical success, despite the long line of obstacles that came with publishing on and from the African continent. These obstacles included the pandemic and related vaccine-hoarding policies, the Endsars protests and subsequent Lekki Massacre, and a Twitter ban by the Nigerian government. Slur-slinging racists, harassing trolls, Goodreads review-bombing, an Amazon KDP ban and seizure of funds for country of origin, and the same from Smashwords and Draft2Digital, also matched every step forward with another step back.

Despite all these obstacles, Volume One made the Nerds of a Feather and Locus recommended reading lists. The book and stories were well-received and reviewed by venues and reviewers such as Arley Sorg (co-editor of Fantasy Magazine) in Lightspeed, Brandon Crilly of Black Gate, Matthew Cavanagh of Runalong The Shelves, Mark Walter or Ginger Nuts of Horror, Adri Joy of Nerds of a Feather, Sarah Deeming of British Fantasy Society, T.G Shenoy of Locus Magazine, Fiona Moore of the British Science Fiction Association and many more who helped shine a light on the incredible fiction we had showcased.

A heartfelt thanks goes out to them all, and also to our copy editor Joshua Omenga, and the amazing authors in the anthology itself, including Tlotlo Tsamaase, Sheree Renée Thomas, Tobi Ogundiran, Pemi Aguda, Tendai Huchu, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Craig Laurance Gidney, Eugen Bacon, and everyone else who worked on the project. We are that much closer to our goal for all their efforts.

ACCOLADES FOR VOLUME ONE. The editor for Volume One, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, is a Hugo Award finalist for best editor short form, and is the first Black African finalist for that category. The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction Volume One is also a finalist in the World Fantasy Award, and the first African anthology to be a WFA finalist, in addition to being a finalist in the Locus and British Fantasy awards. The anthology’s cover, by Maria Spada, was a British Science Fiction Award finalist as well.

Volume One is free to download in all formats on the Jembefola Press website. Jembefola Press was founded to publish the first anthology of The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction and other works like it. You can also find the Bridging Worlds Pan-African Non-fiction Anthology free to download in all formats there/here as well.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

EDITORS. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer, editor & publisher in Nigeria. He has won the Nommo award twice, and an Otherwise and British Fantasy award. His novelette “02 Arena” won the Nebula award, and is a Hugo award finalist, making him the first African to be a Nebula best novelette winner and Hugo best novelette finalist. The thought-provoking piece was also a finalist for British Science Fiction, British Fantasy and Nommo awards. He edits The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology series, which he’s the first African Hugo award best editor finalist for Volume One. He’s the first BIPOC to be a Hugo award finalists in fiction and editing categories in the same year, and The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction Volume One anthology he edited and published is also a Locus, British Fantasy and World Fantasy award finalist. His works of fiction and non-fiction have appeared, and are forthcoming, in Asimov’s, Tordotcom, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Galaxy’s Edge, and more. He co-edited the Dominion anthology, Africa Risen anthology, and is a guest of honour at the forthcoming 2022 Cancon and 2023 International Conference for the Fantastic In The Arts (ICFA)

Eugen Bacon

Eugen Bacon is an African Australian author of several novels and fiction collections. She’s a 2022 World Fantasy Award finalist, and was announced in the honor list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships for “doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction.” Eugen’s short story collection, Danged Black Thing by Transit Lounge Publishing was a finalist in the British Science Fiction Association, Foreword Indies, Aurealis and Australian Shadows awards. Her creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award Winning Australian Writing, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. Her books in 2022: Mage of Fools (novel), Chasing Whispers (collection) and An Earnest Blackness (essays). Visit her website at eugenbacon.com and Twitter @EugenBacon

Milton Davis

Milton Davis is an award winning Black Speculative fiction writer and owner of MVmedia, LLC, a publishing company specializing in science fiction and fantasy based on African/African Diaspora history, culture and traditions. Milton is the author of thirty novels and short story collections: his most recent the Sword and Soul adventure Eda Blessed II. Milton is also a contributing author to Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda, published by Marvel and Titan Books, and coauthor of Hadithi and the State of Black Speculative Fiction with Eugen Bacon.  He is the editor and co-editor of ten anthologies; Terminus: Tales of the Black Fantastic from the ATL; Cyberfunk!; The City, Dark Universe and Dark Universe: The Bright Empire with Gene Peterson; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology and Griot: Sisters of the Spear, with Charles R. Saunders; The Ki Khanga Anthology, the Steamfunk! anthology, and the Dieselfunk! anthology with Balogun Ojetade. Milton’s work had also been featured in Black Power: The Superhero Anthology and Rococoa published by Roaring Lions Productions; Skelos 2: The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy, Steampunk Writers Around the World published by Luna Press; Heroika: Dragoneaters published by First Perseid Press, Bass Reeves Frontier Marshal Volume Two, and Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire. Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade won the 2014 Urban Action Showcase Award for Best Script. Milton’s story “The Swarm” was nominated for the 2017 British Science Fiction Association Award for Short Fiction and his story, “Carnival,” has been nominated for the 2020 British Science Fiction Association Award for Short Fiction. His story, “The Monsters of Mena Ngai,” appears in the Marvel Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda anthology. Milton is a 2022 recipient of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention Lifetime Pioneer Achievement Award.

Submissions Website address: arcmanorbooks.com/yearsbestafricansf

Anonymous Blog’s Rankings Draw Protest By Hugo Finalist Short Fiction Editor

Cartoon by Teddy Harvia

When the Hugo voting deadline closes in a lot of bloggers write posts about how they’re filling out their Hugo ballots. It’s some of the most-read material they’ll put out all year.

The SF Insiders began publishing in June, produced by an anonymous “small group of writers who’ve known each other for years”, and most of their posts so far have been about the Hugos, Lodestar or Astounding Awards given at the Worldcon.

Their second post appeared on June 20, “Blogging the Hugos #1 – Editor Short Form”, where they say “With one exception, six of us independently ranked the six finalists in the same order”. Assigned last place was —

6. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Ekpeki is a promising new editor and first-time finalist (and writer-finalist in novelette), but his only work for 2021 was The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction, a reprint anthology showcasing the work of other editors. There is some merit to assembling a reprint anthology, particularly one that shines a light on another part of the world, but all the other editors contributed original fiction they selected and edited.

Jason Sanford tweeted on August 5 that he regards this as a “smear”.

The SF Insiders decided they were being accused of racism: “Being Seen Again”.

…Someone decided they disagreed with the criteria we used for editor short form and, in true Twitter fashion, decided to make insinuations about our character to promote their own choice, which happened to be our last. In short, a white man called us racist….

While the tweets must stand on their own, Jason Sanford, responding to a question from File 770, said these were his reasons for speaking out: “Just saw the post being passed around and discussed in the genre community and figured I’d add my view. In addition, Ekpeki did a ton of hard work to create the first Year’s Best anthology focused on African speculative fiction, and faced obstacles many editors from the USA and Europe don’t have to deal with. So for that groundbreaking work to be dismissed with as merely ‘a reprint anthology’ really rubbed me the wrong way.” 

And in their “Editor Short Form” post the SF Insiders had not been reluctant to compliment the work of a Black American-born editor:

3. Sheree Renée Thomas

Thomas started as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2021 and has previously edited anthologies. Her first year was a step up for the magazine, but a transition year is bound to be a bit uneven and that’s how it felt to us. This is where we had some disagreement. One of us ranked her as #2 simply based on the difficulty of such transitions and how well she’s handled it. All of us have high expectations for the magazine under her leadership.

There still remains the issue of the SF Insiders‘ given reason for ranking Ekpeki last, that in their view assembling a reprint anthology is less worthy of being recognized than editing original short fiction.

Hugo finalist Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki was incensed by this idea and wrote a 3,000-word Facebook post to dispute it. The full text is at the link. A couple of his key points are:

My “only” work was a reprint anthology “showcasing the work of other editors”. All the other editors contributed original fiction they “edited & selected”.

Essentially saying that I didn’t do enough. What I did do, was no work, or not my work. & finally, not really editing.

Do they realize that this discredits the work of respected icons in the SFF editing world? People like Gardner Dozois, Jonathan Strahan Neil Clark, Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Ann & Jeff Vandermeer, & many more who also do reprints & Year’s Bests? It discredits their work. & what is a valid component of anthologies, editing and the genre itself, just to remove from the value of my work. On the other hand, I haven’t heard anyone refer to those other Year’s Best anthologies as showcasing the work of other editors. So what’s different btw me & them?

So that mine is “showcasing the work of other editors?” That’s what reprints & Year’s Best anthologies boil down to now someone’s done the first Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology? Strange And I really really really want to disagree. Strongly but hopefully, coherently. I get that reviewers have to do their thing thing, and we should leave them alone and all that. But all things have limits & exceptions as my fellow Law students who went on to practice will tell you. This isn’t reviewing, so much as redefining.

If you say my compilation is bad, the works I choose don’t work, I have no Introduction, all of which has been mentioned in different tones going from positive inquiry to not so positive, I wouldn’t have made a fuss. But this is redefining what editing work is. And I have to disagree and make known my disagreement, strongly. Because not doing so would be agreeing with this faulty, problematic and dismissive, not to mention undermining, if not sabotaging definition. By editing the Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology I did not “showcase” the works of other editors. The works were created by writers, not editors. That’s the first thing. Editing is its own work of selection and compilation you do whether for originals or reprints. It’s the same thing irrespective of the state of the works.

…So when you say it showcases the work of other editors, you miss the fine point of this. Is it any more rigorous reading an original work than reading a reprint? Are the words easier or harder to read? I don’t get how it’s less work or entirely the original editor’s work.

Does energy leave them every time the work is reprinted so that the reprinting editor loses nothing? Like doesn’t incur costs, charges, spend time, energy, etc? Is all that billable to the original editors so that the reprint merely “showcases” it?

…We need to work on the quality of our allyship in the genre space. Esp white, male, older writers. Generally anyone with a level of privilege. I wish we were more careful about the kind of things we give oxygen to, and unwittingly support. A bit more responsible allyship. Things like not putting out or boosting things that denigrate marginalized people or members of a minority class, vulnerable people. The people we claim to and even actually support in the community. It’s undoing and making nonsense of that work. If you are an authority in the industry, your acquiescence or even silence emboldens or ratifies these people. Is taken as approval. If you can stand by now and watch a member of a minority group be bashed, what says you won’t do the same when it’s a physical lynching?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen reasonable, responsible, kind, cool people we all like posting or sharing or boosting things that deliberately and obviously denigrate or demean me & other marginalized people in a racial or other marginalizing and bigoted way. Society, systems are a makeup of all of us. The way that you are and how you receive issues, react to, respond or don’t respond to them contributes to the society or system we have. So you have to ask yourself what kind of society or system your action or inaction is creating. Not just continue criticizing a system you prop up or contribute unwittingly to creating or sustaining. I am no stranger to criticism. You’ll be surprised the kind of things I’ve heard or had said to and about me. The majority of which I don’t share with anyone because it would make my feed very unpalatable….

Ekpeki has merged a defense of his work as a reprint editor with a counterattack on anyone who “demean[s] me & other marginalized people in a racial or other marginalizing and bigoted way” which indicates what he thinks are the motivations of the SF Insiders.

The SF Insiders wrote a response to Jason Sanford’s tweets (“Being Seen Again”), probably before Ekpeki’s Facebook post went live, for they tried to create division between the editor and his ally:

If the editor in question happens to be reading this, please know we enjoyed your anthology. Congratulations on your nomination! Your supporter, while admirably passionate about your work is, however, misguided and causing harm. We hope you don’t sanction such things. (That’s a criteria too.)

The mysterious SF Insiders like to agitate but sound offended when the inevitable pushback arrives. And while Ekpeki’s work should be respected and he is entitled to be proud of being a Hugo finalist, unleashing a three-thousand-word thunderbolt against a group of anonymous bloggers anoints them with a level of prestige they did not previously have.

Pixel Scroll 8/3/22 We Don’t Need No Pixelcation, We Don’t Need No Scroll Control

(1) HUGO VOTING DEADLINE APPROACHES. Chicon 8 reminds everyone that the Hugo Award voting deadline is August 11. Aiyee!

Remember, you have only over one week left to vote for for the 2022 Hugo Awards, the Lodestar Award for best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer!

All ballots must be received by 11 August 2022, 11:59 pm PDT (UTC-7). Access our website link [above] for information on how to access the voters packet, how to vote online, or how to vote by mail.

(2) APPEAL FOR CWCF. Yesterday the Chicon 8 committee also asked for donations for the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund.

The Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) needs another $5000 to meet the needs of our community! Can you contribute?

The CWCF is a special fund to help defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for non-white fans or program participants, LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants, and local Chicago area fans of limited means.

You can give directly to the fund or even donate a membership you may not use. Even $5 goes a long way!

For donation information or how to apply to the fund, visit our site at the link [above].

(3) REALLY FINISHING A BOOK. Carmen Maria Machado’s newsletter, in “On Writing and the Business of Writing”, considers why authors are tempted to overlook their clear priority.

A very long article about the Jumi Bello plagiarism scandal has come out from AirMail. In brief, if you aren’t familiar with the story: a debut author had her book canceled by the publisher because it contained a significant amount of plagiarism.

The article, which is about what happened and its antecedents and aftermath, is… not great. The journalist focuses on odd, salacious details, fails to draw some obvious points, and misses big questions about the commodification of marginalized identities, the responsibility of due diligence from agents, editors, and publications, how authors often take the fall for systemic industry failures, and the lack of education around the ethics of influence and inspiration1.

I’m not going to address any of those points, though I hope someone does because I think they’re important. But I do think there is something hugely instructive to be taken from this incident—something that teachers of writing and emerging writers alike can learn from—about the business of publishing and the fragility of the creative life.

…This is a story about plagiarism, yes, but it’s also a story about something I see so much of—in my capacity as a teacher, a mentor, and just someone who gets asked about publishing literally constantly. That is, how easy it is to let the desire to be published (and by extension obsessed over by name-brand agents, editors, and publishing houses) completely outstrip the act of writing a good book.

… I was lucky. Jesus was I lucky. Because there’s an alternate universe where I was writing a (more obviously) commercially viable book in grad school and agents fought over me and I published something not done, something closer to my thesis, which had the seeds of a good book but was not, in and of itself, a good book. Instead, I was forced to sit with Her Body and Other Parties until it was ready. I am so fucking grateful that I got to write the book I needed to, even if I resisted that process at every turn….

(4) INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR THE FAN The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts has announced the ICFA 44 Guest of Honor and Guest Scholar.

  • Guest of Honor — Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer and editor in Nigeria. He has won the Nommo award for Best Speculative Fiction by an African twice, both for Short Story and Novella, as well as the Otherwise and British Fantasy Awards. He is the first African to have won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette with his climate fiction story “O2 Arena,” for which he is also a BSFA, BFA and Nommo Award finalist, and the first African to be a Hugo Award Best Novelette finalist. He is the first African editor to be a finalist in the Hugo Award Best Editor categories and the first BIPOC editor to be a finalist in both the Hugo Award Editing and Fiction categories in the same year. He is the founder of Jembefola Press and the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award for Disability in Speculative Fiction. He is the first African-born Black writer and the youngest writer to be Guest of Honor at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts.  

  • Guest Scholar – Dr. Isiah Lavender III 

Isiah Lavender III is Sterling-Goodman Professor of English at the University of Georgia, where he researches and teaches courses in African American literature and science fiction. His books include Race in American Science Fiction (Indiana UP, 2011), Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction and Dis-Orienting Planets: Racial Representations of Asia in Science Fiction (UP of Mississippi, 2014 and 2017 respectively), Afrofuturism Rising: The Literary Prehistory of a Movement (Ohio State UP, 2019), and Literary Afrofuturism in the Twenty-First Century (Ohio State UP, 2020), co-edited with Lisa Yaszek. His interview collection Conversations with Nalo Hopkinson is forthcoming from UP of Mississippi in early 2023. He is currently hard at work on The Routledge Handbook of CoFuturisms, co-edited with Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Grace Dillon, and Taryne Jade Taylor as well as his manuscript-in-progress Critical Race Theory and Science Fiction. If you would like to know more about Dr. Lavender, check out https://narrativeencounters.aau.at/how-reading-shapes-us-isiah-lavender/

The title of Dr. Lavender’s ICFA Guest Scholar presentation shall be “Imaginary Amendments and Executive Orders: Race in United States Science Fiction.” 

(5) NOT EXACTLY A BIOPIC. The Hollywood Reporter says “Charlize Theron, Alfonso Cuaron Team for Philip K. Dick Family Movie ‘Jane’”, a project that sounds like it will be based on a reality PKD wished he had inhabited. Which is very PKD, as you doubtless already know.

Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Alfonso Cuarón are partnering for Jane, an Amazon feature project based on the personal life of beloved science fiction author Philip K. Dick from his daughter Isa Hackett.

The genre-bending project is based on the relationship between Dick and his twin sister, Jane, who died six weeks after birth. The death affected Dick personally, and also influenced his creative work.

Jane, according to the project’s description, is “a moving, suspenseful and darkly humorous story about a woman’s unique relationship with her brilliant, but troubled twin, who also happens to be the celebrated novelist Philip K. Dick. While attempting to rescue her brother from predicaments both real and imagined, Jane plunges deeper and deeper into a fascinating world of his creation.”…

“The story of Jane has been with me for as long as I can remember,” said Hackett. “Jane, my father’s twin sister who died a few weeks after birth, was at the center of his universe. Befitting a man of his unique imagination, this film will defy the conventions of a biopic and embrace the alternate reality Philip K. Dick so desperately desired—one in which his beloved sister survived beyond six weeks of age. It is her story we will tell, her lens through which we will see him and his imagination. There is no better way to honor him than to grant him his wish, if only for the screen.”

(6) NEW FROM NEVALA-LEE. Cora Buhlert interviewed Alec Nevala-Lee about his brand-new book Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller for her “Non-Fiction Spotlight” feature.

Biographies of prominent SFF and SFF-adjacent people are quite common on the Hugo ballot and today’s featured non-fiction book is just such a biography.

Therefore, I am pleased to welcome Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller to my blog today….

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

I’ve been interested since high school in Fuller, whom I first encountered in the pages of the Whole Earth Catalog. After Astounding, I was looking to expand the range of subjects that I could cover as a writer, and Fuller was an obvious choice—his life expresses many of the themes that I’ve explored in my earlier work, and until now, there’s never been a reliable biography that covered his entire career using the best available sources. I hoped that writing it would be a real intellectual adventure, and it was.

 
(7) START HERE. Becky Spratford’s post in The Line-Up, “These Six Horror Anthologists Are Masterful Curators of Terror”, kicks off with two books edited by Ellen Datlow, so they’re obviously on the right track!

…Anthologies are books that collect short stories by multiple authors, often under a common theme. Because these volumes contain tales by different voices, the work of the editor is extremely important. Not only does the anthologist have to solicit and select the titles to include, but they also have to edit and arrange said stories into a cohesive tome. The very best anthologists are able to expertly walk that line, offering different voices that when expertly brought together, create a unified whole, a single book that readers will enjoy from cover to cover.

Anthologies are also the best way for readers to survey the landscape of a genre, to see a wide variety of styles and voices writing under one umbrella. They also provide a tasting menu of voices familiar and brand new. And if the editor does their job well, readers will finish the book having learned of a few new writers who will be added to their personal to-read pile….

(8) HOW TO SELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Sarah A. Hoyt is starting a series about cover creation for indie authors at Mad Genius Club: “The Great Cover Up”.

… Which means this year alone, I’ve laid out a thousand for covers I just couldn’t seem to get right. There are now reasonably priced artists and at the end of the series I’ll give you names and contacts. Also places to buy ready-made and/or decent graphics just needing the lettering. But here is the thing: you still have to know what the cover is supposed To do and what it can do. And what in a cover matters or doesn’t

I guarantee 90% of what you think matters in a cover doesn’t. And vice-versa. And you must know what matters and what a cover is supposed to be, because when that artist/designer hands you Hamlet, you’ll have to explain why it won’t sell cornflakes and why he must prostitute his art to give you a jingle….

(9) LIGHTS OUT. Hollywood accounting played a role in the highly-publicized cancellation of two productions. But that wasn’t the only reason: “The Dish: What’s Behind The ‘Batgirl’ & ‘Scoob!’ Discard? David Zaslav’s Abject Rejection Of Jason Kilar’s HBO Max Strategy” at Deadline.

Why did Warner Bros scrap Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt?

The cancellation by Warner Bros of two made-for-HBO Max streaming movies came as a shock to the town. There are several threads here, but the move amounts to an emphatic rejection of past WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s strategy to make original $70 million live-action and animated films directly for the streaming site.

The makers of the live-action Batgirl and the animated Scoob! learned today that those films were being stopped in their tracks. The timing was particularly awkward for Batgirl co-directors Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah. Both are in Morocco for El Arbi’s wedding — some wedding present — and they expected to return to the cutting room and continue work on the film that stars Leslie Grace, J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser and Michael Keaton.

There were initial cries that the scrapping of Batgirl carried bad optics because the title role is played by a Latina. But there were reasons for the move. In both cases, the filmmakers were told that it came down to a “purchase accounting” maneuver available to Warner Bros Discovery because the company has changed hands, and also changed strategy from the previous regime. This opportunity expires in mid-August, said sources, and it allows WBD to not have to carry the losses on its books at a time when the studio is trying to pare down $3 billion in debt across its divisions.

There has been much speculation on why Batgirl was canceled, having to do with it being a bad movie. …

(10) THE SQUEEZE IS ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] An Anonymous Source reveals how hard it is to work on Marvel films. At Vulture: “A VFX Artist Explains What It’s Like Working for Marvel”.

It’s pretty well known and even darkly joked about across all the visual-effects houses that working on Marvel shows is really hard. When I worked on one movie, it was almost six months of overtime every day. I was working seven days a week, averaging 64 hours a week on a good week. Marvel genuinely works you really hard. I’ve had co-workers sit next to me, break down, and start crying. I’ve had people having anxiety attacks on the phone.

The studio has a lot of power over the effects houses, just because it has so many blockbuster movies coming out one after the other. If you upset Marvel in any way, there’s a very high chance you’re not going to get those projects in the future. So the effects houses are trying to bend over backward to keep Marvel happy.

To get work, the houses bid on a project; they are all trying to come in right under one another’s bids. With Marvel, the bids will typically come in quite a bit under, and Marvel is happy with that relationship, because it saves it money. But what ends up happening is that all Marvel projects tend to be understaffed. Where I would usually have a team of ten VFX artists on a non-Marvel movie, on one Marvel movie, I got two including myself. So every person is doing more work than they need to.

The other thing with Marvel is it’s famous for asking for lots of changes throughout the process. So you’re already overworked, but then Marvel’s asking for regular changes way in excess of what any other client does. And some of those changes are really major.…

(11) NECROMANCER RECRUITMENT. The publicity for Tamsyn Muir’s forthcoming novel Nona the Ninth includes the “LOCKED TOMB QUIZ! What Necromantic House Are You??” at Riddle.com.

TLT stans, RISE!

The Emperor needs necromancers, and this is your chance to align with one of the Nine Houses! 

SPOILERS THRU THE END OF HARROW THE NINTH YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Back in in 1995 Charles Vess self-published a biannual series of illustrated ballads entitled The Book of Ballads and Sagas in a series of four chapbooks, through his Green Man Press. In this series Vess illustrated adaptations of traditional Scottish and English ballads written by a variety of contributors, including Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Sharyn McCrumb, Jeff Smith, and Jane Yolen.  

Debbie Skolnik reviewed it for Green Man and she noted there that “The ballads are English and Scottish; the sagas are, as their name implies, Norse in origin. There are more ballads than sagas. Actually, there’s only one saga: Skade. Being enthralled by the English and Scottish ballads myself, I am quite familiar with all the stories. Norse mythology, however, I know very little about, so I did a little bit of quick research to familiarize myself with the basic story.”

I read when it came out as I got them sent to me by Vess before I sent them unto Debbie for review. Of course the illustrations by Vess were stellar as everything by Vess is. (I’m writing this under the artwork for the art for the cover art for de Lint’s A Circle of Cats.) So how were the stories?

If you liked of the tale of Thomas The Rhymer, Ellen Kushner has done an excellent version of the story in her book of the same name. Here she retells the tale in a much-shortened version.

Charles de Lint took up the matter in “Twa Corbies” (Two Crows) which deals with the death of a Knight and the Corbies telling his tale. Twa Corbies will become part of his Newford characters in the firm of Maida and Zia, the Crow Girls who are immortal.

Vess himself does Tam Lin and it is one of the best pieces here. The depiction of the cursed Tam Lin turning into various creatures is quite amazing. 

I have barely scratched the surface of what is offered here. If you like this sort of ballads and sagas, I’m sure you’ll love this.

Debbie notes in her review that “Careful readers will note that Steeleye Span has recorded a version of almost all the ballads in this series of books.” That’s certainly true and Vess has acknowledged that he was strongly influenced by that band in selecting the tales here. 

The chapbooks were later printed in a hardcover edition in 2004 by Tor books with some additional material.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 3, 1861 Michel Jean Pierre Verne. Son of Jules Verne who we now know rewrote some of his father’s later novels. These novels have since been restored using the original manuscripts which were preserved. He also wrote and published short stories using his father’s name. None of these are the major works Jules is now known for. (Died 1925.)
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror?  I really can’t think of anything by him that’s truly horror. (Died 1988.)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. I like authors who can do that. ISFDB lists her as having done a short story called “Murder, 1986” which they say is genre but I’ve not read it. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 82. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie.
  • Born August 3, 1946 John DeChancie, 76, A native of Pittsburgh, he is best known for his Castle fantasy series, and his SF Skyway series. He’s fairly prolific even having done a Witchblade novel. So who here has read him? Opinions please. And no, I didn’t know there were Witchblade novels. 
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 72. He’d make this Birthday List if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which is the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. Neat fact: he was the puppeteer for Grover in The Muppet Movie, and he later played Leonard Winsop in The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 50. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish red headed colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender in one episode), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly Edition, Angel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and she had a run in Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) MR. MEME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna looks at the “Mr. Men” characters created by British illustrator Roger Hargreaves in the 1970s have now become popular memes. “’Little Miss [Blank]’: How a kid-book meme became viral comedy”.

… Fast-forward to this month, when one Instagram account alone — “LittleMissNotesApp” — has attracted nearly 2 million followers by posting the Hargreaves’ characters beneath such captions as, “Little Miss Lexapro,” “Mr. Vape Cloud” and “Little Miss Aggressive Drunk.” The account gives credit to the user “Juulpuppy,” who last spring began posting such art updates as “Little Miss Weed Psychosis.”…

(16) FLAME OFF. CBR’s Jerry Stanford came up with “10 Jokes From The Golden Age Of Marvel Comics That Wouldn’t Be Printed Today”.

Asbestos Was Overused, Making It An Unintentional Joke Years Later.

In the Golden Age, Marvel’s Human Torch seemed unstoppable, so criminals, Nazis, and other villains resorted to asbestos, a material that became popular for its resistance to fire. In the 1970s, it also became known for causing cancer.

While the use of asbestos was not originally played for humor, the best-known example of this is Asbestos Lady, who clothed herself head-to-toe in the carcinogenic material. However, the funniest example comes from All-Winners Comics #11, where a villain known as the Hawk traps the Human Torch and Toro in an airtight, asbestos-lined dungeon. The Torch’s hyperbole call the sealed room “a death trap.” Time has made this an unintentional joke.

(17) INSIDER INFORMATION. “Neil Gaiman Knows What Happens When You Dream”. And he shares that with the New York Times.

For the last five or six years, we’ve been living through what feels like almost unfathomable turmoil, and I think a lot of people see this period as an unprecedented chapter in the human story. But when it comes to stories, I basically believe in Ecclesiastes’ “There is nothing new under the sun.” So my question to you is whether you think we are living in a new story — or is it just new to us? 

This reminds me of something that happened after the Sept. 11 attacks. When we could fly again, I flew to Trieste, Italy, for a conference. I remember going into a display of Robert Capa photographs taken in that area during World War II. Until that moment, I had regarded World War II as being unimaginably distant in time. It was this thing that had happened in history, that had happened to my family — basically all of them were killed; a couple of outliers made it to England — but that was history. That happened then. But there was something very strange about looking at those Robert Capa photos post-9/11, because they made me go, Those people are us. I feel the same way today. History is now. But I’m also getting more obsessive about human beings over huge swaths of time. Part of that came out of being on the Isle of Skye during the serious U.K. lockdown. On Skye, if there’s a rock somewhere, it’s probably because somebody put it there. I realized that the rock that I was using to keep the lid on my dustbin was a stone that had been dragged around. People have been in this place for thousands and thousands of years, and in this bay I’m living in, they’ve left behind rocks! Realizing that about the rocks makes you take the long view. Which is that the human race is mostly people just trying to live their lives, and that bad [expletive] is going to happen. That then moves you into other territory….

(18) THAT DARNED ELUSIVE EARENDEL. Or so the Baroness Orczy might have phrased the news. “James Webb Space Telescope sees Earendel, most distant star” and Space.com shares the image.

The James Webb Space Telescope has caught a glimpse of the most distant star known in the universe, which had been announced by scientists using Webb’s predecessor the Hubble Space Telescope only a few months ago. 

The star, named Earendel, after a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel “The Silmarillion,” was discovered thanks to gravitational lensing in a Hubble Space Telescope deep field image. The star, whose light took 12.9 billion light-years to reach Earth, is so faint that it might be rather challenging to find it in the new James Webb Space Telescope image, which was released on Twitter on Tuesday (Aug. 2) by a group of astronomers using the account Cosmic Spring JWST(opens in new tab). 

The original Hubble image provides some guidance as to where to look through the zoomed-in cut-out. Essentially, Earendel, is the tiny whitish dot below a cluster of distant galaxies. By comparing the Hubble image with that captured by Webb, you can find the elusive Earendel….

(19) KEEP WATCHING THE TREE. “This Mystery Orb From the Sky Has Baffled Us All”, which is saying a lot for something reported on Popular Mechanics.

Social media is awash with theories about the origin and purpose of a strange, smooth, solid object, which landed on a tree in Veracruz, Mexico, the night of July 31.

Isidro Cano Luna, a television meteorologist reporting on the mystery, says locals described the sphere making a sound as it fell, but releasing no fire. He posted several messages to his more than 132,000 followers about the object, along with photos of what appears to be a dull, yellow sphere the size of a large beach ball perched atop a tree.

… Luna describes the sphere in all caps in his posts. It seems to be made of “A VERY HARD PLASTIC OR AN ALLOY OF VARIOUS METALS,” and “APPARENTLY IT HAS AN ANTENNA,” he says. Luna wonders if it could be a former chunk of a Chinese rocket that crashed back to Earth and landed in the Indian Ocean over the weekend. Perhaps it could be radioactive, he writes, warning people who see it not to get too close. There’s no apparent way to get inside the orb, either. It has a a code visible on its exterior, he says in an August 1 post. “NOTICE SMALL HOLES THAT ARE A KIND OF [INDECIPHERABLE] CODES.”

(20) GOING VIRAL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The BBC explains a computer virus in this report from March 1992.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George reveals that a time traveler from 2022 has a very hard time explaining Elon Musk to the people of 1996.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., Michael J. Walsh, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/8/22 Goodness, Gracious, Great Scrolls Of Fur

(1) BIG RESPONSE. The “Send Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki to Worldcon” GoFundMe appeal passed its $7,000 goal in just over a day. A total of $7,460 has been raised from 156 donors at this writing.

(2) WHEN THE MOON HITS YOUR EYE. [By Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it wasn’t as big as the Moon (or even a pizza pie) but the “love tap” that the James Webb Space Telescope received was from an object bigger than expected. “NASA’s new powerful space telescope gets hit by larger than expected micrometeoroid” at The Verge.

NASA expected the JWST to be hit by quite a few micrometeoroids over its lifetime, but also expected them to be typically smaller than a grain of sand. One of the impacts received so far, though, was from an object bigger than that (though NASA hasn’t said just how big). It damaged one of the mirrors enough to cause a “marginally detectable effect in the data.“ Controllers are still working on it, but they feel they can make sufficient adjustments to the mirror to partially cancel the data distortion.

…Since its launch, JWST has already been hit by at least four different micrometeoroids, according to a NASA blog post, but all of those were small and about the size of what NASA expected the observatory to encounter. A micrometeoroid is typically a small fragment of an asteroid, usually smaller than a grain of sand. The one that hit JWST in May, however, was larger than what the agency had prepared for, though the agency didn’t specify its exact size. NASA admits that the strike, which occurred between May 23rd and May 25th, has caused a “marginally detectable effect in the data” and that engineers are continuing to analyze the effects of the impact….

(3) THE DECLARATION OF SWEETWEIRD. Charlie Jane Anders promulgated “The Sweetweird Manifesto” this week. The post names plenty of works she regards as examples and creates a retroactive history of the form.

…And here’s where I should admit that sweetweird isn’t actually a formal movement, and nobody except for me has been using that term. I wrote in my recent writing advice book Never Say You Can’t Survive that I’m burned out on “grimdark” storytelling that revels in nastiness and extreme violence, and instead I’m ready for “sweetweird.”… 

What is Sweetweird?

The core idea of sweetweird is: the world makes no sense, but we can be nurturing, frivolous and kind. We don’t have to respond to the ludicrous illogic of the world around us by turning mean and nasty, or by expecting everyone else to be horrible. At the very least, we can carve out friendly, supportive spaces in the midst of chaotic nonsense, and maybe help each other survive.

Instead of demanding that the universe stop being a farrago, we embrace the strangeness and make it our own. The unrealness of our consensus reality liberates us, because it undermines the fiction of “normality” and creates a space for us to be our authentic eccentric selves. Decency without conformity, joy that doesn’t depend on a false sense of stability. Affectionate silliness….. 

(4) FREE READS. Aliette de Bodard alerted fans that two of her short stories are available to read for free:

“Sword of Bone, Halls of Thorns” at The Sunday Morning Transport is a story about an exorcist, a talking sword, creepy vegetation and how the choices we make haunt us beyond death and rebirth. 

“The Scholar of the Bamboo Flute” is a reprint available in Uncanny Magazine. Basically it’s Utena-inspired sapphic shenanigans set in a 19th Century Vietnamese-esque academy. (if you don’t know the anime Utena, let’s just say it involves magical duelling, a princess and a whole hell of a lot of queerness, and it’s one of my absolute favourites–a formative watch for me). 

(5) ARTIST Q&A. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s SPECPO blog posted “An Interview with Austin Hart, Star*Line 44.3 Cover Artist, by Jean-Paul Garnier (editor)”.

What led you into the visual arts, and what inspires you to create?

I just admired people that could draw from an early age. I had a couple of uncles that were good artists, and my dad is an architect and my mom is good at drawing even though she doesn’t do it much. I remember some kids in my classes in elementary school that were good artists early on and just trying to keep up with them. Marvel and Image comics and trading cards were very popular and I liked drawing characters and weapons from RPGs. I remember finding out about Robert Crumb, and later Frank Frazetta, early on and that raised the bar in my head for what was possible, but I could never be as good as they are. I am more impressed by pros who can do quick lose expressive sketches with very few lines than people who can make a fully rendered drawing or painting. I am very envious of those types of pros.

(6) SFF’S OWN LOST CAUSE MYTH. Camestros Felapton took notes on a 95-minute YouTube chat between host Ethan Van Sciver and guest Larry Correia: “Watching You Tube so you don’t have to: Larry & Ethan edition”.

…What sustained me through what was an extraordinarily dull experience was the question on whether the elephants in the room would get mentioned. Put these guys together and there are two elephants: one quite significant and based in Switzerland and one less so and based in California.

… In short, EVS and LC had a lot in common to talk about! You won’t be surprised to discover that they didn’t talk about it either…

…After that, we get a garbled history of the Puppy campaigns. Events get shoehorned together and the absence of Vox Day from the story looms ever larger. It becomes this big mysterious thing as to why people might think of the Sad Puppy 2 campaign as being racist and misogynistic (hint: Vox Day aside from anything else). The absence of Day from the narrative enables this spin that the pushback against the Sad Puppy campaign from a diversity perspective was wholly irrational…

(7) THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO. DC dropped this trailer for Black Adam today. Only in theaters October 21.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-eight years ago on this day, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, the sequel to the Hugo-winning Raiders of the Lost Ark, premiered. It’s actually a prequel to that film. Once again it’s directed by Steven Spielberg from a story by George Lucas. The screenplay was by the husband and wife team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, best known for American Graffiti which yes involved both George Lucas and Harrison Ford. 

Harrison Ford was of course back along with Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone and Ke Huy Quan. Capshaw would marry Spielberg seven years later and yes they are still married, bless them! 

I’ll admit that Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom was nearly not as fun for me as Raiders of the Lost Ark but critics loved it, with Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review saying it was “the most cheerfully exciting, bizarre, goofy, romantic adventure movie since Raiders, and it is high praise to say that it’s not so much a sequel as an equal. It’s quite an experience.”  

And Kathleen Carroll of the New York Daily Postwas equally exuberant: “Indie, you will be happy to learn, hasn’t changed a bit. Played with gruff determination by the appealingly rugged Harrison Ford, he continues to set quite a pace for himself in Spielberg’s rip-roaring, boldly imaginative sequel to his blockbuster hit.” 

It’s worth noting that It did get banned in India which as one who spent considerable time in Sri Lanka is something I fully understand as there are truly disgusting Indian stereotypes in that film.

It was fantastically profitable as it cost just under thirty million in production and publicity costs and made ten times that at the box office in its initial run! 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are very fond of it, giving it an eighty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.  Author of half a dozen novels, a score of shorter stories like “Who Goes There?” and “Forgetfulness.” For 34 years he edited Astounding, renamed Analog, and a short-lived fantasy companion, Unknown (see Fred Smith’s Once There Was a Magazine). Ushered in the Golden Age of SF. Won 17 Hugos, of which nine were Retrospective, all but one for editing (the exception: Retro-Hugo for “Who Goes There?”). On the other hand, in his ASF editorials he supported many forms of crank medicine, and promoted Dianetics, and specious views about slavery, race, and segregation, all of which was well-known in sf fandom. In the Sixties he rejected Samuel R. Delany‘s Nova for serialization saying that he did not feel his readership “would be able to relate to a black main character.” Focusing on his foundational contributions, his name was put on the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, but after 46 years it was renamed the Astounding Award when a winner called him out for “setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day.” (Died 1971) [OGH]
  • Born June 8, 1915 Frank Riley. He’s best known for They’d Rather Be Right (co-written with Mark Clifton) which won a Hugo Award for Best Novel at Clevention (1955). Originally published in serialized form in Astounding unlike his eight short SF stories that were all published in If. Sadly he’s not made it into the digital realm yet except for scattered stories. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 8, 1917 George D. Wallace. He’s here for playing Commando Cody in the early Fifties Radar Men from the Moon movie serial. He would later show up as the Bosun on Forbidden Planet, and had minor roles late in his career in MultiplicityBicentennial Man and Minority Report. He also played a Star Fleet Admiral in “The Man of the People” episode of The Next Generation. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 8, 1926 Philip Levene. He wrote nineteen episodes of The Avengers including creating the Cybernauts which won him a Writer’s Guild Award, and served as script consultant for the series in 1968–69. He also has three genre acting credits, one as a Supervisor in “The Food” episode of Quatermass II; the second as a Security Guard in the X the Unknown film, and finally as Daffodil in Avenger’s “Who’s Who” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born June 8, 1928 Kate Wilhelm. Author of the Hugo–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo for Best Related Book and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 8, 1946 Elizabeth A. Lynn, 76. She is well known for being one of the first genre writers to introduce gay and lesbian characters as an aspect of her stories. So in honor of her, the widely known A Different Light chain of LGBT bookstores took its name from her novel of that name. Her best known work is The Chronicles of Tornor series. Her Watchtower novel won a World Fantasy Award as did “The Woman Who Loved the Moon” story. 
  • Born June 8, 1947 Sara Paretsky, 75. Best best known for her private detective novels focused on V.I. Warshawski, she has one genre novel in Ghost Country. It too involves V.I. Warshawski and may or may not involve things of supernatural nature. I haven’t encountered it, so I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has. 
  • Born June 8, 1973 Lexa Doig, 49. Cowgirl the hacker on TekWar,the post-Trek Shatner series that he actually made sense in as opposed to Barbary Coast. She was also Andromeda Ascendant/Rommie on Andromeda and Sonya Valentine on Continuum, and the voice of Dale Arden in the animated Flash Gordon series. One-offs in Earth: Final ConflictThe 4400Stargate SG-1, Eureka, V, Smallville, Supernatural and Primeval: New World

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mannequin on the Moon has a wonderful word processing gag.
  • Crankshaft is about someone who hasn’t kept up with the times. (Which it usually is, come to think of it.)

(11) HEAD OUT ON THE HIGHWAY. This bookseller delivers – the entire store! “Rita Collins Drives a Traveling Bookstore Around the United States” at Today.

From May to October, you can find Rita Collins, 70, in the front seat of a white Sprinter van, driving across America. In this era of RVs and #vanlife Instagram photos, Collins’ ride is set apart. Rattling around, in the back of her van, is a fully functional used bookstore.

While stopping in small towns and cities around the U.S., Collins relishes in the wonder that comes across people’s faces when they realize this van is not like any other. Whether she’s parked outside of a book festival, coffee shop or farmer’s market, Collins finds herself having the same conversation, encouraging people to climb the wooden steps and take a peek inside….

Like most traditional bookstores, St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore and Textual Apothecary has floor-to-ceiling shelves organized by genre, overhead lighting and a carpet on the floor. The main difference, of course, is that it’s on wheels. The bookstores’ 600 volumes are set at a 15 degree angle to keep them from falling as Collins drives from state to state — so far, she’s been to 30, and has traveled cross-country three times. 

(12) HERE COMES THE PITCH. “’Ms. Marvel’ directors presented a PowerPoint to Kevin Feige to convince him to include animation, inspired by ‘Into the Spider-Verse’” at MSN.com.

…With past shows like “Moon Knight,” “Hawkeye,” “Loki,” and “WandaVision” taking on a more serious tone, here comes a standout show that’s refreshingly light.

You can give some of that credit to filmmaking duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.

The Moroccan-Belgian filmmakers (known collectively as Adil and Bilall) instantly saw “Ms. Marvel” as a show that should be filled with color, life, and celebration of culture….

Adil and Billal felt animation would make the show pop. So they compiled a presentation with things that inspired them and headed to the Marvel Studios offices to pitch how they would direct the series to studio head Kevin Feige and his team.

“Kevin walked in and I have to admit, I was a little starstruck,” Bilall said. “We did this whole PowerPoint presentation and we told them that this is our influences for the show. ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ was a big one because of the animation.”

“For us, the animation was something we always wanted to put into it,” Adil added. “We wanted to portray that dream world of Kamala Khan and the comic book aspect to it. We were afraid that Kevin would say no because it’s different from the other shows of the MCU.”

(13) THEY ROCK TO THE TREES. A 2015 article at Hollywood.com involving Andy Serkis, The Imaginarium, motion capture, and animation — with a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey — tells how an “Andy Serkis meeting inspired Coldplay’s chimp video”.

A chance meeting between British rocker Chris Martin and actor Andy Serkis inspired the band to embrace motion-capture technology for a new music video.

The musicians were transformed into chimps in the promo for their new single Adventure Of A Lifetime using techniques pioneered in Hollywood movies such as Avatar and The Lord of The Rings.

It has now been revealed the idea came about after frontman Chris bumped into Andy on a plane, and the pair discussed the actor’s experiences with motion-capture on films such as King Kong and the Planet of the Apes series.

The rockers spent six months making the short clip, and used “full motion performance capture rigs” to transform themselves….

Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime (Making Of Video)

Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime (Official Video) – YouTube

(14) HERMAN, LILY, & GRANDPA, OH MY. ScreenRant invites us to watch “’The Munsters’ Return in First Trailer for Rob Zombie Movie”. The Munsters will premiere this fall on Universal All Access.

…Today, Universal released the first teaser for the film, which is practically a shot-for-shot remake of the original Munsters opening credits, complete with the classic Munsters theme song. It makes it pretty clear that if you were expecting Zombie to turn The Munsters into a stereotypical Rob Zombie movie full of blood and guts, you were mistaken. (Zombie has already said, this is not an R-rated reimagining; it’s a PG-rated tribute.)…

(15) X MINUS TWO. Paramount Plus promises this is “the dumbest science fiction movie ever made!” Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, streaming on June 23,

In perhaps the dumbest space movie ever made, Beavis and Butt-head are sentenced to Space Camp by a “creative” judge in 1998, leading to a trip on the Space Shuttle, with predictably disastrous results. After going through a black hole, they reemerge in our time, where they look for love, misuse iPhones, and are hunted by the Deep State. Spoiler: They don’t score.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King asks, “What happens if you merged King of the Hill and Lord of the Rings?” in “Return of the King of the Hill of the Rings”.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/22 Make Your Own Kind Of Pixel, Even When Nobody Else Scrolls Along

(1) FUND OGHENECHOVWE DONALD EKPEKI’S TRIP TO CHICON 8. Jason Sanford has set up a GoFundMe that will “Send Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki to Worldcon”. Donate at the link.

This year Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki became the first African writer to win the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for his story “O2 Arena ,” with that story also making him the first African writer to be a finalist for the Hugo Award in the same category. In addition, he became the first person from Africa to be a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Editor, Short Form, for his work on the groundbreaking anthology Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction.

 This fundraiser is to allow Ekpeki to travel from Nigeria to attend Chicon 8, the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Chicago. In addition to allowing Ekpeki to attend the Worldcon where he is a finalist for two Hugo Awards, the fundraiser will also enable him to work on building in-person connections at Worldcon between genre fans and professionals from Africa and around the world….

(2) 2024 NASFIC BID. The Buffalo in 2024 NASFiC bid chair Wayne Brown answered File 770’s question about who is on the committee. Says Brown:

We have a small group right now but are looking to add more committee members.  Right now the committee consists of:

  • Wayne Brown (chair)
  • Alex Von Thorn
  • Debi Chowdhury
  • Marah Searle-Kovacevic
  • David Ennis

(3) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. Astronaut Chris Hadfield is one of the shortlisted authors for the 2022 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize worth £10,000.

  • The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield (Quercus)
  • Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian (Bantam Press, Transworld Publishers)
  • The Vacation by John Marrs (Pan, Pan Macmillan)
  • The Plant Hunter by T.L. Mogford (Welbeck Publishing Group)
  • Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo (Virago, Little, Brown Book Group)
  • Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)

The judges discuss their definition of adventure here.The winner of the 2022 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize will be announced at an online ceremony on September 21. 

(4) JUBILEE COVERAGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The weekend has been a blast. If you get a chance catch the “Jubilee Platinum Party at the Palace.” [Note: Can only be viewed in the UK. But there are many short video clips on The Royal Family Channel.]

The next day we had a parade through central London and even the Daleks were well behaved.

(5) PULP FOREVER. Cora Buhlert has an essay about Harald Harst, a forgotten German pulp detective of the Weimar Republic era, in The Drink Tank #439 on page 10:

So-called dime novels or penny dreadfuls are a child of the industrial revolution, when the invention of the rotary printing press made it possible to publish cheap literature for the masses. The dime novel was born in the mid-nineteenth century and in the United States gave way to pulp magazines at the turn of the twentieth century. But in Germany, the dime novel never died….

(6) HE’S BACK. Netflix announced The Sandman will begin airing August 5.

There is another world that waits for all of us when we close our eyes and sleep — a place called the Dreaming, where The Sandman, Master of Dreams (Tom Sturridge), gives shape to all of our deepest fears and fantasies. But when Dream is unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century, his absence sets off a series of events that will change both the dreaming and waking worlds forever. To restore order, Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his vast existence, revisiting old friends and foes, and meeting new entities — both cosmic and human — along the way. Based on the beloved award-winning DC comic series written by Neil Gaiman, THE SANDMAN is a rich, character-driven blend of myth and dark fantasy woven together over the course of ten epic chapters following Dream’s many adventures.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1980 [By Cat Eldridge.] It’s been forty-two years since this film came out and I can’t remember if I’ve seen it. It certainly sounds familiar but that doesn’t mean anything. So let’s get to it.

It was both directed and written by William Sachs who previously had done Secrets of the Gods (re-released in theatres as The Force Beyond in 1977) and The Incredible Melting Man. It was produced by Marilyn Jacobs Tenser who had absolutely no genre background though she did produce Superchick and The Pom Pom Girls

The cast consisted of Stephen Macht, Avery Schreiber. James David, Hinton Lionel and  Mark Smith. And one more individual — Dorothy Stratten.  Now let’s be honest, Dorothy Stratten was Galaxina. Literally. And as she was a Playboy Playmate, she was the only draw for this R-rated SF film which also had a triple breasted alien in it a decade before Total Recall had its triple-breasted Mars whore.

As Jeffrey Anderson said in his review, “Unfortunately, the actual movie isn’t much. Stratten in fact plays a robot and doesn’t do or say much for at least the first half of the movie; and, despite her Playboy status, she keeps her clothes on. Then we’ve got the rest of the movie to deal with: it’s a lazy attempt to spoof the popular sci-fi movies of the day, including Star WarsAlien, and many others, but the jokes are little more than references and they simply don’t work.” 

It was made in less than three weeks on a shoestring budget of about five million and the box office was somewhat less than that. It was never released outside of the States.  

No, the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do not like it, giving it just a twenty-three percent rating.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 6, 1918 Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. He died far too young died of a heart attack at the age of fifty. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 6, 1931 Joan Marshall. She played Lt. Areel Shaw in Star Trek‘s “Court Martial”, a rather excellent affair. Her other major genre other was as Wilma in The Twilight Zone‘s “Dead Man’s Shoes”.  She also had roles in Men in SpaceThe Outer LimitsThe Munsters and I-Spy. The Munsters appearance was in My Fair Munster, the Unaired Pilot as Phoebe Munster. (Died 1992.)
  • Born June 6, 1936 Levi Stubbs. Remember the voice of Audrey in The Little Shop of Horrors film?  (It was nominated for a Hugo at Conspiracy ’87 the year Aliens won.) Well that was this individual who was the lead vocalist of the Four Tops. Cool, very cool.  On the film soundtrack, he performs “Feed Me (Git It)”, “Suppertime” and “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space”. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 75. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in just six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD  to Strippers vs Werewolves. (Really. Truly. He did.)  Versatile man, our Robert. So versatile in fact that he’s on Stranger Things as Victor Creel in a recurring role.
  • Born June 6, 1951 Geraldine McCaughrean, 71. Fifteen years ago, she wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to Peter Pan commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the holder of Peter Pan’s copyright which J.M. Barrie granted them. So has anyone here read it?  By the way, she’s extremely prolific having now written over one hundred and eighty books! 
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 63. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think should be considered one of the best SF series ever made. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and was cast as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash of the 1990 series, and she has a recurring role on the present Flash series as the same character.
  • Born June 6, 1963 Jason Isaacs, 59. Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in the first season of Discovery and also provided the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels, and Admiral Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Oh, and the role of Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film franchise.
  • Born June 6, 1964 Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also extremely entertaining. He won an Astounding Award for Best New Writer and an Endeavour Award for Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection which collects a lot of his most excellent short fiction.  He has two Hugo nominations, one at Noreascon 4 for his “Into the Gardens of Sweet Night” novelette and one at LoneStarCon3 for his “The Stars Do Not Lie” novella. (Died 2014.)

(9) BERLIN IN 1967. Cora Buhlert’s new Galactic Journey article chronicles the point where the peace and love 1960s turned violent in West Germany, namely the protests against the visit of the Shah of Iran to West Berlin and the murder of Benno Ohnesorg in 1967: “[June 6, 1967] Blood in the Streets of West Berlin: The Shah Visit and the Shooting of Benno Ohnesorg”. Content warning for police violence in words and pictures as well as a photo of a body.

… On June 2, the Shah and his wife were due to visit West Berlin. Therefore, the student parliament of the Free University organised a panel discussion about the Iranian regime on the day before. Among those invited to speak at the meeting was Bahman Nirumand. The Iranian embassy in West Germany was incensed and demanded that the panel discussion be cancelled. However, the chancellor of the Free University refused, citing the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. This is not the first time that the Iranian government has tried to suppress criticism in West Germany, by the way. They have also repeatedly invoked a lese-majeste law dating from the days of the Second German Empire (which ended fifty years ago) in order to have unfavourable news articles retracted….

(10) ARTIST KELLY REMEMBERED. Brian Murphy offers a tribute to the late Ken Kelly at DMR Books: “Remembering Ken Kelly: Master of Light and Dark, and the Imagination”.

… I have a hard time writing about artists because their images speak so much louder and more potently than words. Just spend a minute looking at the covers of the Berkley Medallion Conans, and your tribute to Kelly’s passing is paid. Maybe you are lucky enough to have copies with the foldout posters intact. Kelly’s iconic images of Conan alone make him an S&S immortal, and of course they only scratch the surface of his epic 50 year career….

(11) LOVECRAFT: IT’S COMPLICATED. At Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Serbian horror author and scholar Dejan Ognjanović explains what the works of H.P. Lovecraft mean to him: “A Serbian Looks At Lovecraft”.

… In my childhood, in the early 1980s, during my initial investigations into the scarce horror fiction then available in Serbian, Lovecraft was literally unknown. Not a single story by him had been translated by my late teens, i.e. by 1989. Thus my first encounter with him was indirect – it was through the idea of Lovecraft, as re-imagined in an Italian comic series Martin Mystere, the episode “The House at the Edge of the World” (“La Casa ai confini di mundo”, 1982), which I read in the summer of 1986, when I was 13. It was love at first sight: for the first time I encountered the concept of houses haunted not by ghosts or any traditional monster, but by unnamable inter-dimensional entities; it also involved places serving as portals into non-Euclidean spaces, nameless cosmic vistas, alien temples and weird-looking gods/demons…

(12) A SWORD & SORCERY PODCAST. The Rogues in the House podcast talk about their fantasy influences:  “Sweet Nostalgia: A Nerd’s Journey”.

The Rogues are once again joined by Flame and Crimson author, Brian Murphy–this time to discuss the works of fiction most near and dear to their roguish hearts.

(13) NO MORE LICENSE TO KILL. “Seven years, 40 editions and 3117 trained witchers later,” the Witcher School live-action role-play events in Poland has shut down: “’Witcher school’ closes after CD Projekt Red pulls license over political ties” reports Indy100.

A ‘Witcher school’ located in Poland has been forced to close after its licence was abruptly pulled by the game’s publisher.

The reasons for which are currently unclear but organisers have claimed that the decision was due to a staff member’s involvement with an ultra-conservative political group, according to Eurogamer.

[CD Projekt Red pulled the license because of a staff member’s involvement with the ultra-conservative Polish Catholic organization Ordo Iuris, which is anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+, and rejects the idea of gender equality.]

The Witcher School ran live-action role-playing (LARP) events in Poland themed around the popular videogame series with 40 editions of the event and over 3000 “Witchers” taking part.

But after 7 years, the publisher of the hit videogame seriesCD Projekt Red, officially ended the contract with the school in February 2022 with a three-month notice, effectively ending their use of The Witcher’s characters, setting and storylines.

(14) FUNERAL DIRECTOR. Nicholas Meyer talks with Ethan Alter of Yahoo! Entertainment on the death of Spock in this piece about the 40th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan. “’Wrath of Khan’ director reveals how he killed Spock in the 1982 blockbuster” at Yahoo!

It’s been forty years since Spock put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few — or the one — in the final moments of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. With the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s warp drive inoperable thanks to a devastating attack launched by Khan Noonien Singh (Richardo Montalban), Starfleet’s most popular Vulcan officer descends into the starship’s engine room and absorbs a lethal dose of radiation, surviving just long enough to save the day and say goodbye to his closest companion, James T. Kirk. And no matter how many times you’ve seen Wrath of Khan in the four decades since the movie’s June 4, 1982 release, Spock’s passing never fails to trigger tears, whether you’re human, Klingon… or Gorn.

The tears were certainly flowing on the Wrath of Khan set when William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — who had been part of each other’s lives since the 1966 premiere of the original Star Trek TV series — played what was intended to be their final scene together. In his 2010 memoir, The View From the BridgeWrath of Khan director, Nicholas Meyer, described members of the crew weeping as Spock told Kirk: “I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”…

(15) WEBB TELESCOPE. Inverse tells us, “We Finally Know When The Webb Telescope’s First Color Images Will Arrive — Here’s What To Expect”

…On Sunday, July 12, the Webb team will release an unconfirmed number of full-color images based on observations by two of Webb’s four science instruments: the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).

The Webb’s two other instruments, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) and the Fine Guidance Sensor/Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS) don’t capture photo-like images of the universe. Instead, they sort incoming light from distant objects into distinct wavelengths. Scientists can then use these data to measure the temperature and chemical makeup of those objects.

“We will release the scientific data from those observations as well — not just the color JPGs, but also the actual quantitative data — to the astronomical community,” Pontoppidan explains.

What can we expect to see in those first images and data? The Webb team is keeping specific spoilers under wraps, but they’ve offered a few (very broad) hints…

(16) NOSE FOR NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is the first trailer for Disney’s Pinocchio remake, which is not Guillermo del Toro’s version (That’s a Netflix project.)

This reminds me of the version of Pinocchio that sank Roberto Benigni’s career because he stupidly played Pinocchio instead of Geppetto.  “Call the vice squad!” warned Washington Post critic Stephen Hunter.  “It’s a 50-year-old man wearing jammies!”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] David Sproxton and Peter Lord, creators of Aardman Animations, explain how stop-motion animation is done in this excerpt from a 1981 episode of Blue Peter.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Jason Sanford, Hampus Eckerman, 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 Kaboobie.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/22 The Left Hand Of Pixelness

(1) NOBEL MEDAL AUCTION. Heritage Auctions is taking bids for the “Dmitry Muratov 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Medal”, being sold to benefit children and their families forced to flee Ukraine and those internally displaced since the start of the war in February. All proceeds will support UNICEF’s humanitarian response for children in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Dmitry Muratov is the editor-in-chief of the influential Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta. Bidding will conclude with a live auction at The Times Center in Manhattan on World Refugee Day, June 20.

“The editors of Novaya Gazeta decided it was necessary to help those in desperate need,” says Muratov, who in 1993 co-founded the Moscow-based publication that is now the last independent newspaper in Russia. “Everyone understood that we had to help, and the sale of the Nobel medal through Heritage Auctions gave us a powerful opportunity to help Ukrainian refugees. We hope that everyone around the world supports us and contributes to this movement, however they can.”

Muratov shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa. The Norwegian Nobel Committee celebrated their “fight for freedom of expression in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

(2) ORIGINS AWARDS HELD OVER TO 2023. The Game Manufacturers Assocation (GAMA) told Facebook readers:

We are not having the Origins Award this year. We will be bringing them back for 2023 and will have information this fall on categories and submission process.

The awards also were not given in 2021, which prompted this comment from Jason Williams:

Can I ask then what happened to all the physical games which were entered as the awards were open for entry in 2021,(this is for game titles produced in 2020) and publishers did invest time and resources on making entries. Maybe those games which were entered need to have awards in 2023 recognized if there are enough staff available then. The fact that in 2021, submissions were accepted, but no awards were ever given, seems pretty wrong. Especially since titles are only able to be entered for the awards in the year they are published and these titles can never be considered for these awards in the future.

GAMA did not reply.

(3) JASON SANFORD. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Jason Sanford: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Jason Sanford is a fan journalist, reviewer and award-nominated novelist. He is having a busy year with two different streams of his work being recognised in 2022: he was a Nebula Award & Philip K Dick Award finalist for Best Novel with The Plague Birds and he is a Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fan writer.

As well as being a published fiction writer, Sanford is a prolific fan writer with an active interest in news and invents within fandom and genre publishing…. 

(4) NKWETI Q&A. “Nana Nkweti on Writing Cameroonian American Experiences & Crossing Genres” at Open Country.

Nana Nkweti started writing at nine years old. A sci-fi lover even then, her earliest stories saw her in future worlds, going on space adventures. Like most writers, she was a voracious reader, digging through her father’s books, the good fortune of having a home library. She read everything from fantasy to the realist classics, and began to imagine herself and girls who looked like her reflected in those stories.

It is no surprise then that the 10 stories in her collection Walking on Cowrie Shells centre Cameroonian women. The characters share her intersectional identity, as a Black woman, a hyphenated American, an ethnic African. But the stories also speak to the universal idea of people charting next steps, growing and evolving along the way.

The title “Walking on Cowrie Shells” is a play on the English idiom. She deploys it in the book to embody that sense of being in a threshold, in liminal spaces, of teetering between choices, between cultures or identities. Her characters are tentative; they are about becoming and figuring life out, who they are, who they want to be….

(5) BARRIERS TO PUBLICATION FOR AFRICAN SFF WRITERS. The If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast takes up “Publishing in Africa: Publishing Platforms Or the Lack Therof with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”. The cohosts are Alan Bailey, Cat Rambo, Diane Morrison, and Graeme Barber.

In our 3rd audio column about publishing in Africa we chat with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki about how Africans are being deplatformed within the publishing business. We also discuss the The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction. As this episode was recorded before the 2022 Nebulas, we’d also like to congratulate Oghenechovwe on his award.

(6) SAULSON REPORTS ON CONVENTIONS. Sumiko Saulson reports “StokerCon 2022 was like a Black family reunion, but the struggle is far from over” at SF Bayview. Includes quotes from Craig L. Gidney, Steve Van Patten, and L.M. Wood.

…“The best part of going to cons these days is seeing the increase of diverse creators in the community. When I first started going to cons, I was one of a few folks of color. Now I’m one of many. And it feels great!

“I love that there are other Black queer creators out there – such as yourself [referring to Saulson], Kai Ashante Wilson and Marlon James. And even in that cohort, there are immense differences! For years, I wrote my fiction in isolation, collecting rejection slips like some people collect decoder rings. Now, not only is there a readership, there are other authors. It’s a great time to be publishing!” rejoiced Craig L. Gidney, author of the “Nectar of Nightmares.”

Another positive outcome for the new in-person conventions is an increase in POC representation amongst the Guests of Honor. For instance, Floyd Norman, an 86-year-old African American animator, writer, and comic book artist who was the first Black person to be a regular employee on Walt Disney’s animation staff will be the artist guest of honor at WorldCon in Chicago this year….

Saulson also covered the discussion here of SFWA’s removal of Mercedes Lackey from the Nebula Conference:

…In the wake of the incident, the power dynamics remained in play, as older, white authors have flocked to the File 770 article on the situation in defense of Mercedes Lackey, many of them citing Samuel Delaney’s personal lack of offense at the comment in their sometimes mean spirited comments about Jen Brown. Many such comments were removed from the “r/fantasy” Reddit…. 

Many comments weren’t approved for File 770, either, but speaking about the ones that were, including two welcome additions from Saulson, my goal for having that discussion was to let some in the File 770 commenting community who needed to do so alleviate their ignorance, while others came alongside to battle the excuse-makers and set proper boundaries for future discussion. I’ll point to what I said in that discussion:

Introducing the word shibboleth is an unwelcome attempt to ask white people to give intent priority over the clear statements from black people who take offense at the word. Even if Delany or Steve Barnes aren’t condemning Lackey, the status of the word is plain to see.

(7) TIME FOR A ROYAL FLUSH? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Various members of my book club and I have been jabbering away about monarchy in SFF at various points over the past several years. So when we realized that the vestigial monarch of England (and various former vassal states) was marking an arbitrary anniversary of a meaningless ceremony, Amanda and I decided was a good opportunity to talk about the various kings, tsars, emperors, etc. that populate so much SF. So we collaborated with some other folk in pulling this blog post together quickly this week. “The Tsars Like Dust” at the Hugo Book Club Blog.

…Given that there are few places that are still governed by monarchs of anything other than a vestigial variety, it might seem reasonable that few authors choose to engage critically with the consequences of the monarchies they depict. Americans under the age of 244 and British people with no recollection of what things were like before Peterloo don’t have any direct experience with just how truly awful it would be to live in a polity governed by Emperoxes. (Even if there’s a good ruler like Greyland once in a while, they end up being hamstrung by the weight of tradition.) 

Authors seeking to more accurately depict what a space empire might look like should probably look to the few modern-day examples of absolute monarchy that still exist, places like the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Eswatini, and the Kim Family Protectorate of North Korea. To put it bluntly, in the real world there is a strong correlation between the authority of monarchs, and a lack of human rights, and this is rarely depicted in science fiction….

(8) TONOPAH NEWS. The Westercon 74 in Tonopah program schedule is now online. Strangely, it seems to be in alphabetical order by title of the program item – rather than in chronological order.

The Virtual Program schedule is in chrono order.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2015 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seven years ago this evening, on what was ABC Family, the Stitchers series premiered. The premise is simple: Kirsten Clark, who has been recruited into a covert government operation is to be “stitched” with the memories of people recently deceased to investigate murders. 

It was created by Jeff Schechter who as near as I can tell had little genre background other than Strange Days at Blake Holsey High and Animorphs, but I will single him out for the very non-genre series, Transporter: The Series which was off Luc Besson’s Transporter film. 

Kirsten Clark was played by Emma Ishta. In addition, you’ll recognize two other cast members — Salli Richardson-Whitfield from Eureka who is Magritte “Maggie” Baptiste here and Allison Scagliotti of Warehouse 13 who is Camille Engelson in this series. The only other actor worth noting is Kyle Harris as Cameron Goodkin. 

Stitchers was popular enough that it made through three seasons before getting canceled. It did not accrue a lot of episodes, being treated like a British series as each series had only only ten episodes save the first that had eleven.

So did the critics like it? No, they didn’t. 

Variety’s review was typical: “About as slim as a sci-fi-inspired premise gets, ‘Stitchers’ joins a long list of series built around wide-eyed youths with an unusual skill who are recruited to join a save-the-world-type enterprise. In this case, the protagonist is a beautiful and brilliant Caltech student with temporal dysplasia, which means she doesn’t feel the passage of time. Most viewers, however, will likely feel it acutely while wading through this tired and predictable hour, which centers on a secret program that hacks into the brains of the recently deceased to solve crimes. While its heroine might not know it, skipping ‘Stitchers’ will save you time.”

Collider wasn’t any kinder: “The show’s premise thematically belongs to Syfy, and the cast is very CW, but nothing about Stitchers really comes together for ABC Family. Kirsten is described as emotionally void, and the show shares the same fate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t also happen to be brilliant to offset its other faults. The show is all over the place with its story and its tone, portraying Kirsten as a hacker, and then as a super-sleuth. Though there is some potential and humor present with its minor cast, the series pulls together elements of many other series — like CSI and Bones — without improving upon them. A missed opportunity, Stitchers is looking for signs of life, but hasn’t found them yet.” 

Eighty six percent of audience members at Rotten Tomatoes liked it. Good for them.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly is SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.)
  • Born June 2, 1920 – Bob Madle, 102. Helped start his local sf club in 1934, went to what he considered to be the first-ever sf convention in 1936, and attended the first Worldcon (Nycon I) in 1939. Bob Madle named the Hugo Awards. He was the first North American TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to an overseas con (Loncon, 1957). Twenty years later he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1977 Worldcon. First Fandom has inducted him to their Hall of Fame, and given him the Moskowitz Award for collecting. He’s a winner of the Big Heart Award).  This post about his centennial birthday two years ago includes photos and a summary of his fannish life in his own words. (OGH)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, it is said that he met Jules Feiffer who illustrates that work when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth an evening spent reading. He wrote a lot of other works, none of which I recognize. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman. You know she was in Star Trek as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  But did you know she also appeared on the Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsLost HorizonThe InvadersThe Ray Bradbury Theater, and finally Boris and Natasha: The Movie in which she played Natasha Fatale? Quite a genre record, isn’t it? (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 2, 1941 Stacy Keach, 81. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with being The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999 followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, await him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return where The Hollow has a tasteful title which the Man with the Screaming Brain does not provide him. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo.
  • Born June 2, 1965 Sean Stewart, 57. Fantastic author whose Galveston novel that won the World Fantasy Award I highly recommend as well as the Resurrection Man novels. I’ve not read his most recent set of novels, The Cathy’s Book series, but it’s take on augmented reality sounds intriguing.
  • Born June 2, 1979 Morena Baccarin, 43. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in the Deadpool franchise; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham. She also did an exemplary job of voicing Black Canary in Justice League Unlimited
  • Born June 2, 1982 Jewel Staite, 40. Best known as the engineer Kaylee Frye in the Firefly verse. She was Jennifer Keller in Stargate Atlantis, Catalina in the Canadian series Space Cases, Tiara VanHorn in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show and “Becca” Fisher in Flash Forward. Genre one-offs? Oh yes: The Odyssey (twice), Are You Afraid of The Dark (again twice), The X-FilesSo WeirdSabrina: The Animated SeriesThe ImmortalSeven DaysStargate AtlantisSupernaturalLegends of TomorrowThe Order and The Magicians.

(11) DANGER ZONE. Lawyers, Guns & Money’s Robert Farley compares Pete Mitchell (from Top Gun: Maverick) to Luke Skywalker: “Pete Mitchell and Luke Skywalker”.

… As it happens, the distance between Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick is 36 years, while the distance between Return of the Jedi and the Last Jedi is 34 years. In both films those numbers are fully realized; Hammill and Cruise each play characters with the weight of three and a half decades on their shoulders. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the mission in Top Gun: Maverick is modeled on nothing so much as Luke Skywalker trench run against the Death Star in A New Hope. I find it awfully interesting that Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and Luke “Red Five” Skywalker each returned to the screen thirty-five years after the completion of their triumphant 80s arcs. I would not have guessed that the former would have been much more favorably received than the latter, and I think it’s worth investigating why….

(12) SFWA AUCTION RESULT. The second SFWA Silent Auction brought in nearly $18,400. Over 200 items, tuckerizations, and virtual sessions were offered. The funds will go to support SFWA’s ongoing work to promote, advance, and support SFF storytelling.

(13) UNFINISHED SYMPHONY. Paul Weimer delves into “the final, and incomplete, work by a master of science fiction and fantasy” — “Microreview [book]: Aspects by John M. Ford” at Nerds of a Feather. But first he issues a warning:

…If reading incomplete books is not your cup of tea, if the fact that this story does end abruptly without resolution, then, honestly, you probably don’t need to continue on with this book review and can go, read The Dragon Waiting or something else. I admit that it poked and prodded at my brain, but I think the book and what it does, what we have of it, is worth discussing, even in an incomplete stage. Inside baseball, perhaps, but it is akin to being shown the first chapters of a book or part of a novella from a friend writer, asking for what they think of it and what works and what does not….

(14) A NICE WAY TO SPEND 100 HOURS. Joe DelFranco is gung ho about Elden Ring: “Review [Video Game]: Elden Ring by From Software” at Nerds of a Feather.

Elden Ring is a vast, seemingly endless experience, that delivers wonders and death at every turn. A hit in all spheres of the industry, loved by fans and journalists both, not just for its generous amount of content but for its ability to transport the player firmly into the Lands Between without loosening its grip for hours on end. From Software has delivered a game that lets the player go on the adventure that they wish without holding their hand, a rarity in video games nowadays; a risk that paid off….

(15) THEY AIM TO PLEASE. The Corridor Crew wants to show you have different the series would be if Stormtroopers could hit what they shoot at: “We Made Star Wars Stormtroopers Accurate”.

Jordan and Fenner set out to correct the most glaring mistake in the original Star Wars trilogy–the lack of affordable health care for the Stormtroopers.

(16) UNLIKELY HERO RETURNS. Willow is an original series streaming on Disney+ beginning November 30.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says when Dolores Umbridge shows up in the fifth Harry Potter movie, she’s “super-snotty and mean: because she interrupts Dumbledore’s annual speech on the many ways Hogwarts students can die. Also, the vision of Voldemort Harry conjures up is even more terrifying because Voldemort’s wearing a zip-up hoodie!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/17/22 Never Scroll Pixels After Midnight

(1) JEMISIN ON BBC. The BBC World Service’s In the Studio program features “N K Jemisin: Writing new worlds”. (Also available at BBC Sounds.)

New York-based writer N. K. Jemisin is one of the biggest names in modern science-fiction. She’s the first in the genre’s history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards, for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy. 

In conversation with presenter Dr Vic James, Jemisin talks in-depth about world-building. She reveals how the initial idea for Broken Earth came to her in a dream. This then led her to a NASA writing residency and a trip to Hawaii, flying over its volcanoes in order to accurately visualise the trilogy’s setting: a super-continent called The Stillness that is ravaged by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

Jemisin reflects on how it all came together, how she gives voice to the oppressed, and why she thinks these books have resonated with so many people around the world. 

(2) GET YOUR IMAGINARY PAPERS. Imaginary Papers is a quarterly newsletter about science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

Imaginary Papers Issue 10 features an essay by writer, editor, and scientist Pippa Goldschmidt on the 2014 short film Afronauts, and humanities scholar Paul Cockburn on Ignatius Donnelly’s 1890 novel Caesar’s Column and its vision of a gridlock-free New York City. There’s also a writeup of UNICEF’s Imagining Health Futures project.

(3) SFF IS WHERE YOU FIND IT. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] Finally made it back to Mongolia, and here’s pictures of two of the recent SF translations in a local bookstore.

(4) STAND BY FOR NEWS. The Guardian takes a teasing tone as it communicates that Russell T Davies is back in charge of Doctor Who, and changing everything – with the trans actor Yasmin Finney playing Rose Tyler and David Tennant returning, too: “Two Doctors, and a trans actor playing Rose? How Russell T Davies is mixing things up in the Tardis all over again”. The article ends —

A black Doctor? A trans Rose? This is political correctness gone mad. You’re right. There is no way on earth that a shapeshifting ancient alien god and an interdimensional explorer trapped in a parallel dimension should be played by anything other than a white British guy and the woman from I Hate Suzie respectively.

This isn’t the Doctor Who I am used to. But it is. The transgender actor Bethany Black had a role on Doctor Who in 2015. In an episode in 2006, Jack Harkness said that he had a trans co-worker. If you factor in the audio episodes, you’ll find yourself inundated with trans characters, actors and writers.

Wait, so I’m the one who’s wrong? Exactly right. Stop watching. The rest of us will have a blast.

Do say: “It’s great that Rose Tyler is being played by a trans woman.”

Don’t say: “Oh God, does this mean I have to start watching Doctor Who again?

(5) HEAR FROM THREE LEADING FANTASY WRITERS. Waterstones Bookshops offers “Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark in conversation” on Monday May 30 at 18:30 British Summer Time — livestream tickets for £5. (The in-person component is sold out).

Join us for what promises to be a brilliant evening of conversation with bestselling fantasy authors Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark.

Masters of sapphic fantasy literature, these three authors will be talking about their most recent books: Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel She Who Became The Sun (publishing in paperback this June), Tasha Suri’s epic fantasy The Jasmine Throne and C. L. Clarks’s political fantasy The Unbroken.

(6) REWARDS FOR ADVENTUROUS READERS. Simone Heller, in the fourth installment of “Speaking the Truth with Oghenechovwe Ekpeki”, asks the Nigerian author about the intricacies of writing from a complex multilingual background for a global audience. 

Your stories are usually set in a (futuristic) Nigeria. Do you include bits and pieces or even chunks from the languages surrounding you? And if so, is it accepted by international editors and readers?

Well, there’s a bit of truth telling to my writing. Chunks of my reality mixed in with it. Set in Nigeria as you observed, my themes usually touch on issues that are relevant here, and this is also reflected in my language. The dialogue of my characters shifts between pidgin English and regular English as a speaker in my position would. The subject matter, humour, delivery of the conversation also aims to reflect the way we communicate. It’s as I said, your culture and identity are reflected in your language. So it does come across as unfamiliar or odd to Western or other readers removed from that culture and identity. It’s definitely created a difficulty in publishing sometimes, it’s led to odd and overediting requests and an inability to connect or be properly appreciated by readers and reviewers who are not open to these diverse tongues and see everything different as inferior. But I suppose that is the price for speaking my truth with the tongue in my mouth in a world that sees the other as inferior. So yea.

(7) A COUPLE OF MIDWESTERNERS. Hear John Scalzi fielding questions on the “Page Break with Brian McClellan” podcast.

Brian’s guest this week is science fiction author John Scalzi. John is known for a massive variety of work, including his early career as a reviewer and columnist, his bestselling breakout novel Old Man’s War, his time as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and his well-known blog, Whatever.

John and Brian talk about paradigm shifts in their industry, being a longtime public figure, and his well-publicized thirteen-book contract with Tor. They also talk about living and working in the Midwest, and the real nature of professional jealousy.

(8) STUDIO 54. Rich Horton shared on Facebook a post with his picks for “potential Hugo awards from the year 1954 (that is, alternate 1955 Hugos, since two of the 1955 Hugos went to stories from 1955, and the one winner from 1954 is widely regarded as the worst Best Novel Hugo winner of all time. Short version: I actually came up with what I think is a quite strong list of novel nominees…”

(9) PROTACTILE. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] The New Yorker reports ways that “DeafBlind Communities May Be Creating a New Language of Touch”. Being an SF fan of a certain age, I can’t help think of John Varley’s “Persistence of Vision.”

…Protactile is full of a kind of tactile onomatopoeia, in which a hand resembles the feel of the thing it’s describing. In what the linguists call “proprioceptive constructions,” the speaker recruits the receiver’s body to complete the word, say, by turning her hand into a tree (five fingers as branches) or a lollipop (fist as candy). At one point, I asked Nuccio where she was from, and she told me to make my hand into a fist, which represented the globe. “You and I are in America, over here,” she said, touching my first knuckle. “And this is the ocean.” She traced a finger to my wrist to find the country where she was born, Croatia. She accomplished all of this in a series of movements that Edwards said followed consistent grammatical rules. At another point, Nuccio described how difficult her life had been when she’d worked as a technician in a genetics lab as she went blind. She had me point my finger up, and told me that it was now the flame of the Bunsen burner that she’d used in her lab. She demonstrated how to adjust the flame on one of my knuckles, and how delicate the apparatus was. I was astonished by the precision of this tactile illustration, which felt, in the moment, more vivid than any verbal description could have….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, Man from Atlantis: The Killer Spores aired on NBC. It was the third of four pilot episodes that preceded the regular Man from Atlantis television series which only lasted thirteen episodes. Calling them pilot episodes is I think just a bit disingenuous — they were full blown episodes of the series. 

The extended episode, I hesitate to call it a movie, was directed by Reza Badiyi and written by John D.F. Black. Badiyi is best known for directing episodes of shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Phoenix and Deep Space Nine. Black was associate producer on ten episodes of Trek including “The Man Trap”, “Mudd’s Women” and “The Corbomite Manuever”. 

It of course starred It Patrick Duffy as Mark Harris and Belinda Montgomery as Doctor Elizabeth Merrill. 

Just in case, someone here hasn’t seen it, I won’t discuss the story which was actually a damn good SF one. Unfortunately the series itself was doomed as it has very high production costs and an audience that dropped way too fast, so NBC didn’t pick up its option after the first thirteen episodes were made. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 17, 1913 Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter output was as he did work on The Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the LostBattle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, which warrants his being noted here. (Died 1983.)
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his first genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire film very thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! He followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. No, I didn’t like it. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. Would you?  (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 76. I’ve read, let me check, oh about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone here finished them off, and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? He’s won five Prometheus Awards for Best Libertarian SF Novel, very impressive indeed. 
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 72. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s ‘Commando Cody.’ Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as Bill Higgins says here, their MT VOID is one of the longest published fanzines still going. 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 68. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. Greenland’s The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. And yes, he won the Clarke Award for that Take Back Plenty novel.
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 68. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows, plus the screenplays for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
  • Born May 17, 1956 Dave Sim, 66. Did you know there was a Cerebus radio show at one point? Well there was. Need I say that I read the entire run of Cerebus. The three hundred issues ran from 1977 until 2004. It was created by Sim, written and drawn by him and remained solely his undertaking until background artist Garhard joined up with sixty-fifth issue. As Cerebus continued, it incorporated more and more of Sim’s very controversial views, particularly on women, feminism and the fall of Western Society from those factors. Collected Letters: 2004 and Dave Sim’s Collected Letters 2 contains his responses to the letters he got criticizing him but not the letters themselves. 
  • Born May 17, 1967 Michael Arnzen, 55. Winner of four Bram Stoker Awards, one for his Grave Markings novel, another for Goreletter and yet another for his poetry collection, Freakcidents. Very impressive indeed. Not to mention an International Horror Guild Award for Grave Markings. 

(12) GODDESS HISTORY. Read an extract from Queens of the Wild by Ronald Hutton at the link.

Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Witch, returns with Queens of the Wild, a history of the goddess-like figures who evade both Christian and pagan traditions, from the medieval period to the present day.

In this riveting account, Hutton explores the history of deity-like figures in Christian Europe. Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, literature, and history, Hutton shows how hags, witches, the fairy queen, and the Green Man all came to be, and how they changed over the centuries.

Looking closely at four main figures—Mother Earth, the Fairy Queen, the Mistress of the Night, and the Old Woman of Gaelic tradition—Hutton challenges decades of debate around the female figures who have long been thought versions of pre-Christian goddesses. He makes the compelling case that these goddess figures found in the European imagination did not descend from the pre-Christian ancient world, yet have nothing Christian about them. It was in fact nineteenth-century scholars who attempted to establish the narrative of pagan survival that persists today. In this extract, Hutton focuses on the how the goddess-like figure of Nature develops during the Middle Ages and early modernity….

(13) PARANORMAL CRIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I didn’t know there were people who collected “haunted dolls!” “Haunted Dolls, Curses, and a True Crime Voodoo Cold Case” by Susan Furlong at CrimeReads.

In writing my crime novel What They Don’t Know, I wanted my lead character to have an unusual relationship with her collection of dolls. As a psychological thriller, what better than to include haunted dolls? Not knowing a lot about haunted dolls and wanting to learn more, my research took me to Alabama where I met with Kevin Cain, ghost hunter, haunted doll collector, and author. There we discussed real doll-infested crimes, proving once more, that reality is sometimes stranger than fiction….

(14) WHERE TO GET YOUR GEAR. The Octothorpe podcast – John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty – have unfurled a logo short at the Octothorpe Fans shop.

Octothorpe the Podcast

The shop has quite a few other things for sale. I laughed out loud when I saw this quote on a pillow: “Dave Kyle says You Can’t Sit Here“.

(15) A START TO YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST. Meanwhile, others of you may need this “Edward Gorey Sterling Cat Reading a Book Pin”.

This sterling silver pin is adapted from a drawing by Edward Gorey that is part of a series of renderings of fanciful cats engaged in unusual activities. Here a casually seated cat is reading a book with obvious delight. Edward Gorey’s initials are engraved on the back. 

(16) THIS SIDE UP. Thanks to David Dyer-Bennet linking to this on FB I learned today “Why do refrigerator magnets only stick on one side?”. EngineerDog.com explains Halbach Arrays.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Moon Knight” the Screen Junkies say that having used up its A team, its B team, and its C-team, Marvel was down to either doing Moon Knight or Hellcow. “Are you ready for action?” the narrator says.  “Moon Knight isn’t.  When danger strikes, he blacks out.”  There are so many blackouts in this series “that it reminds me of when Four Loko was legal.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Ferret Bueller, Rob Thornton, Joey Eschrich, Andrew (not Werdna), Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/3/22 Click HERE For A Witty, Never-Before-Seen, Cleverly Referential Scroll Title, Generated Possibly By A Million Hamsters Running On Top Of Discarded BlackBerries

(1) A BIT OF HISTORY. The Finnish Postal Museum is looking for letters from Tove Jansson. “Have you received or are you in possession of a letter written by Tove Jansson?”

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was a prolific letter writer all her life. She also wrote short stories and other texts throughout her life and became known for her books about the Moomins. She devoted the last decades of her life almost entirely to literature aimed at adults.

During Tove Jansson´s lifetime letters were a natural way for people to keep in touch as electronic media either did not exist or was expensive to use. When translations of the Moomin books were published in different parts of the world in the 1950s and 1960s, Tove Jansson’s number of contacts increased and her correspondence became international.

… In the first phase of this project, we will explore the kinds of letters in existence. We will then decide on the basis of the material whether it would be possible to produce an exhibition or publication of Tove’s letters….

(2) POD PERSON CAMESTROS. He speaks! Camestros Felapton was interviewed by Eric Hildeman of the Milwaukee Science Fiction League on their podcast Starship Fonzie, as he explains in “My Podcast Debut”. Camestros shyly says:

I haven’t listened to it yet because I then had a long day at work and also I find my own voice too weird. But if you want me to say “umm” and “ahh” and talk over the host too much (that’s what I recall of what I said) then now is your chance!

Does Camestros jump the shark? Find out here: Starship Fonzie #15.

(3) SF IN HUNGARY. [Item by Bence Pintér.] Csilla Kleinheincz, an influential author/translator/editor of Hungarian SFF, does a Q&A with Guest Editors Vera Benczik and Beata Gubacsi at SFRA Review: “Interview with Csilla Kleinheincz”.

Guest Editors: How does the Hungarian fantastic incorporate and/or subvert the themes and tropes of Anglo-American fantastic tradition? Do you think there’s a pressure to follow international trends?

Csilla Kleinheincz: …What Hungarian SF can offer is its own unique blend of the fantastic that could be written only by Hungarian authors, reflecting on our own cultural and historical influences and leaning on our own surroundings. Hungarian weird fiction is especially strong nowadays, perhaps because our history and our present are so rich in grotesque and dystopian elements and also because a small but very active creative community has formed around the main publisher of weird fiction, The Black Aether….

(4) PROFILE ON A HUGO FINALIST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In their Special Issue on Contemporary African Literature, Open Country profiles Hugo finalist Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s Curation of African Speculative Fiction”.

“A lot of people were pleasantly perplexed,” Ekpeki says of the initial reaction. “Almost every review had a phrase like ‘this is unusual speculative fiction based on unusual cultures,’ so they still find African speculative fiction unusual. There is still a lot of ground for us to cover, it would seem.”

(5) AND THE VOTERS SAY! When the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM reopens this weekend, here are what poll respondents picked as the “Upcoming Events” from 10 options offered by theater owner George R.R. Martin.

Thank you to the nearly 300 folks who voted in our audience poll to choose the movies for the Jean Cocteau Cinema’s grand re-opening weekend! Unveiling the top 5 films, the first films to play in the newly renovated theater, May 6-8th:

Spirited Away 
Beauty & the Beast (1946)
Forbidden Planet
War of the Worlds (1952)
Cabaret

All screenings will be seated FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED. Theater doors will open 20 minutes before showtime. Anyone who isn’t able to get a seat is most welcome to hang out with a cocktail in the lobby bar, or a coffee over at Beastly Books!  

(6) NOT QUITE TRUE NORTH. At Grimdark Magazine, Matthew John reviews “The Northman”.

The Northman is a film that should not exist–not at its scale, not in this day and age. It is an unflinching epic of fire and ice, of burning love and cold-served vengeance. It is a story rooted in legend, but most viewers will probably be familiar with the bones of this tale from Hamlet, the Lion King, or Conan the Barbarian. Our protagonist, Prince Amleth, must avenge the death of his father and rescue his mother from the clutches of his uncle (or so he thinks). How director Robert Eggers managed to convince a studio to pay northward of a hundred million dollars so he could adapt this legend into an R-rated, ultra-violent, artistic yet historically-accurate viking film is beyond this reviewer’s ken. But man…am I glad he did!…

(7) USE THE VOICE, LUKE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This tweet by Mark Hamill suggests that there will be a second season of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which was probably the most pleasant TV surprise of the year for me last year: 

The fact that there may be a second season is itself another pleasant surprise, since I feared the show would fall victim to toxic fanboys complaining that Teela having muscles ruined their childhood or some such thing as well as to Netflix ditching its entire animation department to focus more on soap operas about rich people in pretty dresses.

(8) DEFLECTING THE CUT DIRECT. “Sony Refuses Chinese Demand to Delete Statue of Liberty from Latest ‘Spider-Man’” reports National Review, and the studio ultimately did not release the film in China.

Chinese authorities asked Sony to delete the Statue of Liberty from the climactic sequence of Spider-Man: No Way Home before distributing the movie in China, Puck reported on Sunday citing multiple sources.

The climactic sequence of the movie features an action sequence of over 20 minutes in which characters battle amid scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty.

When Sony refused to delete the statue from the movie, Chinese authorities asked if the company could diminish the statue’s presence. Sony considered the request, the sources told Puck, but ultimately decided against editing the movie and did not release it in China. It’s unclear whether Chinese censors blocked the movie’s release or if Sony preemptively opted against releasing it….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-six years ago, Forbidden Planet opened in New York City in general release, following a March debut at a science fiction convention and a limited release elsewhere.  

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack, and directed by Fred M. Wilcox. The screenplay was by Cyril Hume who had previously written several Tarzan films from a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler.  (A year later, he’d write The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) which had Robbie the Robot as one of the characters. No, I’ve never heard of it. Here’s the poster for it.) 

It had a primary cast of Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius, Anne Francis as Altaira “Alta” Morbius and Leslie Nielsen as Commander John J. Adams. Les Tremayne was the Narrator. And no, I’ve not forgotten Robbie the Robot which had Frankie Darro as the Robot and Marvin Miller as the voice of the Robot. I could write an entire essay on Robbie the Robot and if I remember correctly I have.

Forbidden Planet was released to film theaters during 1972 as one of MGM’s Kiddie Matinee features with some six minutes of film cut to make it receive a “G” rating from the MPAA, including a Fifties-style nude scene of Anne Francis swimming sans a bathing suit. (It’s debatable if she was actually nude.) 

So what was the reception for it upon its release? Well it turned a very modest profit of eight hundred thousand over its budget of two million. 

Critics were generally impressed with it. The New York Times critic said he “had a barrel of fun with it. And, if you’ve got an ounce of taste for crazy humor, you’ll have a barrel of fun, too,” while Variety proclaimed “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the Nicholas Nayfack production a top offering in the space travel category.”

And let’s give the Los Angeles Times the last word: “a more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a spectacular eighty-five percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 3, 1928 Jeanne Bal. In Trek’s “The Man Trap” episode, she played Nancy Crate, a former lover of Leonard McCoy, who would be a victim of the lethal shape-shifting alien which craves salt. This was the series’ first-aired episode that replaced “The Cage” which the Network really didn’t like. She also had one-offs in Thriller and I-Spy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the Nineties, and was the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement, which makes him there when Ed Brubaker’s amazing Gotham Central came out.  He himself has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas. He also did a rather brilliant DC Comics Shadow series with Michael Kaluta as the artist. A police procedural series from Matt Reeves was in development, to be set in the same continuity as The BatmanGotham Central was very seriously being considered as the name for the series. It unfortunately will not happen. (Died 2020.)
  • Born May 3, 1949 Ron Canada, 73. He’s one of those actors who manages to show up across the Trek verse, in this case on episodes of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He also showed up in the David Hasselhoff vanity project Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD as Gabe Jones, and had further one-offs on The X-FilesStar Gate SG-1ElementaryGrimm and The Strain. He has a recurring role on the Orville series as Admiral Tucker.
  • Born May 3, 1958 Bill Sienkiewicz, 64. Comic artist especially known for his work for Marvel Comics’ Elektra, Moon Knight and New Mutants. His work on the Elektra: Assassin! six issue series which written by Frank Miller is stellar. Finally his work with Andy Helfer on The Shadow series is superb.
  • Born May 3, 1965 Michael Marshall Smith, 57. His first published story, “The Man Who Drew Cats”, won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. Not stopping there, His first novel, Only Forward, won the August Derleth Award for Best Novel and the Philip K. Dick Award. He has six British Fantasy Awards in total, very impressive indeed. 
  • Born May 3, 1985 Becky Chambers, 37. My last encounter with her was the most excellent The Galaxy, And The Ground Within. Her Wayfarers series won the Best Series Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. A Closed and Common Orbit was a finalist at WorldCon 75 for Best Novel but lost out to another exemplary novel, N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk GateRecord of a Spaceborn Few would be on the ballot at Dublin 2019 but lose out to yet another exemplary novel, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars. (A digression: The Wayfarers are the best series I’ve listened to in a long time.) “To Be Taught, if Fortunate” was a finalist at ConZealand in the Best Novella category but lost out to “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.
  • Born May 3, 1986 Pom Klementieff, 36. In the MCU film universe she plays Mantis and first she’s up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but then is in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game and two films in production, Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Plus forthcoming on Disney +, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It’s amazing what a pair of very, very cute antennae will do! (Also been in Black Mirror, Westworld, and voiced characters on The Addams Family.)

(11) AUTHOR PUSHES BACK. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This isn’t SFF, but I think there is a lot of audience crossover. Luke Jennings, author of the novels that the TV show Killing Eve was based upon, speaks out regarding the controversial finale of the TV series (which killed off a major lesbian characters) and says that he does not feel bound to what the TV show has done: “’Villanelle will be back!’ Killing Eve’s author speaks out over the catastrophic TV finale” in the Guardian. Beware spoilers!

…When Phoebe Waller-Bridge and I first discussed Villanelle’s character five years ago, we agreed that she was defined by what Phoebe called her “glory”: her subversiveness, her savage power, her insistence on lovely things. That’s the Villanelle that I wrote, that Phoebe turned into a screen character, and that Jodie [Comer] ran with so gloriously.

But the season four ending was a bowing to convention. A punishing of Villanelle and Eve for the bloody, erotically impelled chaos they have caused….

(12) INCOMING. No one goes unsplattered in Raquel S. Benedict’s latest bid for attention, “The Sterility of Safe Fiction: Who Are We Protecting?” at Seize the Press. This circular accusation kicks off the piece:

…And yet an influential faction of authors, editors, publishers and critics within contemporary sci-fi and fantasy speaks as though safe is the greatest quality a work of art can aspire to. Fiction must be safe, they say. If it’s not safe, then it might cause harm. What kind of harm? Who are we harming? That’s not important. The important thing is to avoid harm by making your fiction as safe as possible. By making our fiction safe, we will make the sci-fi/fantasy community safe….

It’s an introduction, but not to what follows the immediate three-asterisk break. In the next section Benedict’s new topic is that there’s trouble my friends, right here in the sff genre, and apparently anybody who pays to attend one of the workshops in the field is to blame for whatever that ill-defined trouble might be. Benedict recites the dollar costs involved in attending Clarion West and the Odyssey Writing Workshop and judges:

…But those who can pay the gatekeeper get to determine what it means to be safe. And so our notions of safety are shaped by bourgeois sensibilities…. 

(13) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson Simon tells BBC Live Breakfast in 2012 that his grandfather would not have liked any film that depicted his imaginary world and “my grandfather knew what an elf looked like, and it did not look like Orlando Bloom.”

(14) WEIRD TRAILER. Is the world ready for Daniel Radcliffe as…Weird Al Yankovic? Coming this fall to the Roku Channel. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”.

(15) MINI SERIES. According to Slashfilm, “Rebecca Romijn Insisted On Wearing A Starfleet Dress On Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”.

The original “Star Trek” series remains spellbinding for its forward thinking science fiction ideas. But it remains equally spellbinding for being a show so firmly entrenched in the ’60s that all female crew members on board the USS Enterprise wear short miniskirts while the men get to strut around in far less revealing uniforms. And while “Trek” has gone a long way in the decades since to make Starfleet uniforms work for all genders and body types (“The Next Generation” even featured male officers in the Starfleet minidress, or “skant,” uniform), that classic short-skirt look has at least one major fan: “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” star Rebecca Romijn. 

Una Chin-Riley, better known to Captain Christopher Pike and “Star Trek” fans as “Number One,” rocks the Starfleet dress look throughout the first five episodes of “Strange New Worlds,” with the tough-as-nails first officer of the Enterprise making a strong case for this seemingly outdated look to make a major comeback. And you can consider this mission accomplished for Romijn, who not only requested that Una wear a Starfleet dress, but that she actively wear it during action sequences…

(16) SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientists are describing a theoretical new telescope that could be used to image exoplanets. It would use the gravity of the sun as the objective lens.

Positioning the telescope proper in a line with the Sun and the exoplanet in question would take significant advances in space propulsion. The telescope would have to be positioned many times further away from the Sun than any of the planets & moved around to line up the shot. It would then need to be repositioned for the next planet of choice.

The paper, “Integral Field Spectroscopy with the Solar Gravitational Lens,“ was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

“Scientists describe a gravity telescope that could image exoplanets” at Phys.org.

In the time since the first exoplanet was discovered in 1992, astronomers have detected more than 5,000 planets orbiting other stars. But when astronomers detect a new exoplanet, we don’t learn a lot about it: We know that it exists and a few features about it, but the rest is a mystery.

To sidestep the physical limitations of telescopes, Stanford University astrophysicists have been working on a new conceptual imaging technique that would be 1,000 times more precise than the strongest imaging technology currently in use. By taking advantage of gravity’s warping effect on space-time, called lensing, scientists could potentially manipulate this phenomenon to create imaging far more advanced than any present today.

In a paper published on May 2 in The Astrophysical Journal, the researchers describe a way to manipulate solar gravitational lensing to view planets outside our solar system. By positioning a telescope, the sun, and exoplanet in a line with the sun in the middle, scientists could use the gravitational field of the sun to magnify light from the exoplanet as it passes by. 

(17) JUSTWATCH – TOP 10S IN APRIL. JustWatch – The Streaming Guide says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in April 2022.

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeSeverance
2The BatmanMoon Knight
3Sonic the HedgehogHalo
4MoonfallFrom
5Ghostbusters: AfterlifeDoctor Who
6Venom: Let There Be CarnageOutlander
7DuneStar Trek: The Next Generation
8Spider-Man: Far From HomeThe Walking Dead
9Spider-Man: HomecomingStar Trek: Picard
10Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseGhosts

*Based on JustWatch popularity score

(18) YOU WILL BELIEVE A DOG CAN FLY. Just because they’re super – doesn’t make them heroes. In theaters July 29, “DC League of Super-Pets”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostwire: Tokyo,” Fandom Games says this game is very good at describing Japanese folklore, but “feels like an anime you really have to convince people to watch.”  SJWs will like the cat who runs a convenience store, but another plot point is a character who’s really constipated.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, Olav Rokne, Bence Pintér, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/22 Those Who Cannot Remember Past Pixel Scrolls Are Doomed To Re-File Them

(1) CAT RAMBO AT FUTURE TENSE. The new entry from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives. Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to Be Trees” at Slate.

“For someone like me,” Nefirah’s client said, “it’s not a question of whether or not I’ll be remembered. The question is precisely how.”…

Tamara Kneese, an expert on the digital afterlife, delivers a response in her essay “Is a Lasting Digital Memorial to a Dead Person Even Possible?”

I’m a death scholar and a sustainability researcher at a major tech company, so Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to be Trees” hit home. In the story, a death care worker is asked to memorialize clients in innovative ways, using cutting-edge technologies to blur the boundaries between life and death, and between humans and the natural world. For the past 15 years, I have been researching how people use technology to remember and communicate with the dead. My forthcoming book, Death Glitch: How Techno-Solutionism Fails Us in This Life and Beyond, explores the fundamental incompatibility between dreams of technologically mediated life extension and the planned obsolescence of material technologies…. 

(2) AUTHOR MAGNET. The inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will take place May 20-23, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, NM. The authors who are scheduled to appear include Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, Joy Harjo, Anne Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Phil Klay, Jon Krakauer, Emily St. John Mandel, George R.R. Martin, N. Scott Momaday, James McGrath Morris, Douglas Preston, Rebecca Roanhorse, Bob Shacochis, Colson Whitehead and Don Winslow.

Besides author readings and book signings, the festival will feature meals during which chefs and food writers will talk about the food they’ve prepared, their work and their books; Walk & Talks, during which attendees and authors will together explore parts of Santa Fe; and Tea & Tequila, featuring tea and tequila tastings. On Monday, the last day of the festival, attendees will be able to go on literary day trips in Santa Fe and nearby areas in northern New Mexico.

(3) FRESH VIEWPOINT. Artists & Climate Change’s “Wild Authors: Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki” is a Q&A with a 2022 double-Hugo-nominee and editor of The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

In your short story “Mercy of the Wild,” you wrote from the viewpoint of a lion. What inspired that story?

“Mercy of the Wild” was a point of experimentation for me. I love to experiment with forms and styles or speculative fiction, and that was one such experiment that I was delighted to follow up on. The story was inspired by an almost childlike, wide-eyed curiosity about what goes on in the minds of the creatures we share the planet with. What if we heard their story, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Or as the Igbo proverb says, “Until the lion learns to tell its story, the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” This got me wondering, what if the roles were reversed? Its telling impresses on me the need for people of diverse cultures to champion and find spaces for their stories to thrive in the world of today.

(4) GREAT LEAP FORWARD.  Cora Buhlert was a guest on the Dickheads podcast (as in Philip K. Dick) and discussed “‘The Big Jump’ – Leigh Brackett” with Grant Warmack and host David Agranoff.

In the first episode of this podcast, Solar Lottery, David said he would someday do this episode. So four years later, in January of this year, he sat down with a couple of colleagues and discussed the lesser-known novel The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett. The pair of talents he was privileged to have here are newcomer to Leigh Brackett writer/music manager/tarot reader Grant Wamack and long time ‘Bracketteer’ teacher/translator/writer and three time Hugo nominee Cora Buhlert. Enjoy.

(5) S&S: Here is more about the nascent New Edge sword and sorcery movement: “New Edge S&S Guest Post: Oliver Brackenbury” at Scott Oden’s blog.

[Scott Oden:] I put out the call, a few days ago, for a few guest posts relating to the New Edge of Sword & Sorcery. And here is our first victim . . . er, participant. Oliver is a podcaster, a screenwriter, and a novelist; he’s also one of the organizers of the whole New Edge movement. Oliver, you have the floor . .

[Oliver Brackenbury]: …I’ve been in conversations like that before, in other scenes and settings, and I thought “Wouldn’t be nice if all this energy was directed at really changing the situation?”. So I proposed an open, yet specific question – “What could we do to get more young people into this genre we all love?”.

Now, I can take credit for asking the question, but I cannot take credit for the incredible amount of energy I unwittingly tapped into by asking it. The conversation that took off was galloping and enthusiastic and good-natured and productive and WOW!

Scott Oden’s own thoughts about the movement appear in “Putting a NEW EDGE on an Old Blade”.

A genre can grow dull. The accretion of old social mores — the misogyny, racism, and homophobia of bygone eras — can oxidize a genre, making it seem as graceless as a barnacle-encrusted hunk of metal drawn from the sea. A genre’s founders can (and will) die, leaving less-invested imitators to tease out only the surface tropes while its deeper meanings are lost to the ages. And, over time, that genre starts to become irrelevant to the world at large.

In today’s fiction market, this is largely the fate of sword-and-sorcery. Mainstream publishers are loath to market a work as S&S because they consider it a dead end market. Readers less concerned with genre labels use the term nowadays to describe any book with swordplay and magic, from Tolkien to Pratchett — and they’re unaware that it has (or had) a very specific meaning. In short, the term sword-and-sorcery has lost its edge. It has rusted, and is stuck in a very old and problematic scabbard.

There is, however, a nascent movement that has started in the small press sphere to remove that blade from its sheath, to clean the rust from it, sharpen it on a grinding wheel, and fashion a new scabbard — one free from the old problems of the genre. That movement is called the NEW EDGE of S&S….

(6) SUBGENRE GETS NEWSLETTER SOURCE. There’s now also a free weekly sword and sorcery newsletter with the delightful name “Thews You Can Use” from Sword & Sorcery News. It just started.

This week’s Roundup will be a little different—not that you’d know, since it’s the first. Rather than covering the week in S&S news, I’ll go back over the last couple months. Here’s a quick roundup of S&S news from February through April…. 

(7) MURDERBOT AND POLICY. The New America website will hold a gathering of its Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club to discuss All Systems Red on June 1 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the next, we have selected All Systems Red by Martha Wells.

The novel explores a spacefaring future in which corporate-driven exploratory missions rely heavily on security androids. In Wells’ engaging – at times funny – tale, one such android hacks its own system to attain more autonomy from the humans he is accompanying. The result is a thought-provoking inquiry into the evolving nature of potential human-robot relations.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 1 to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).

(8) SPACE FORCE OFFICIALLY GROUNDED. I hadn’t realized the show wasn’t already canceled. Well, it is now: “Netflix cancels Steve Carell sci-fi comedy ‘Space Force’” reports SYFY Wire.

…In addition to Carell as General Mark Naird, the show also starred an A-list supporting cast of John Malkovich (Dr. Adrian Mallory), Ben Schwartz (F. Tony Scarapiducci), Tawny Newsome (Captain Angela Ali), Lisa Kudrow (Maggie Naird), and Diana Silvers (Erin Naird). 

That group is chock full of talent, which may have been part of its downfall — according to THR, the show’s large budget was reportedly in part because of the actors’ salaries, with Carell getting over $1 million per episode. That much built in spending, along with mixed reviews for both seasons, apparently resulted in a failure for Space Force to (ahem) launch into a third season…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1938 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Not his official appearance as Bugs Bunny that will happen in “A Wild Hare” on July 27, 1940. But a preliminary version of the character we now know as him first showed up in “Porky’s Hare Hunt” eighty-four years ago today. The Looney Tunes cartoon was directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway (do note his name) and an uncredited Cal Dalton. It stars Porky Pig as a hunter whose quarry is a rabbit named Happy. Yes, Happy.

Oh, I well know that most Bugs Bunny fans will tell you that July 27 is the day that he was created as that is the anniversary of the 1940 debut of the familiar rabbit and his adversary, Elmer Fudd. In that July debut people also heard for the first time Bugs’s famous line, “What’s up, Doc?”

But today is the real anniversary of the creation of this character.  He first appeared on the theater short called as I noted above “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” Perhaps the reason people don’t recognize, or indeed want to credit him as that rabbit, is Bugs in that early cartoon was credited as Happy Rabbit. And admittedly it really looks pretty much like any rabbit save the smirking face, doesn’t it? Or does he? 

It’s been uploaded to YouTube so go watch it. It may not look like him but it acts like him and it sounds like him. Several sources state that Mel Blanc voiced him here but the cartoon itself has no credits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 30, 1930 Bill Buchanan. A musician who was not a filker but might have been. Really. Truly. His most famous composition took place in 1956, when he and Dickie Goodman created the sound collage “The Flying Saucer”.  They then did “The Flying Saucer Goes West” which is a lot of fun. A short time later, they would do “The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)” / “Meet The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)”. With other collaborators, he did such works as “Frankenstein Of ’59/Frankenstein Returns”.  Checking iTunes, quite a bit of what he did is available. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 84. One of my favorites author to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version as you know since I wrote an essay on them. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me. 
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 54. Son of Jane Yolen. One time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. (Which I just discovered has not released a recording in a decade. Damn.) He was the lead vocalist for Songs from The Gypsy which was based on The Gypsy, the novel written by Steven Brust and Meghan Lindholm. A truly great album.  With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are well worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as quite engaging.
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 49. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novelwhich won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome. She has a number of Hugo nominations starting at Nippon 2007 for His Majesty’s Dragon, then next at MidAmericaCon II for Uprooted, The Temeraire series at Worldcon 75. No wins yet which really, really surprises me. She’s twice been a finalist for Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book with A Deadly Education at DisCon III for  and this year at Chicon 8 for The Last Graduate.
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 40. Her first genre role was as Claudio in Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise, voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode!
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 37. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production Death on the Nile which is quite lovely but not genre adjacent, but I really don’t mind as they’re lovely mysteries. Oh, and she’s playing The Evil Queen in the forthcoming Snow White film.
  • Born April 30, 2003 Emily Carey, 19. Yes, nineteen years old. She has had a lot of roles for her age. First she played the twelve-year-old Diana in Wonder Woman followed by playing  the fourteen-year-old Lara in the rebooted Tomb Raider.  And then she’s in Anastasia: Once Upon a Time in the lead role of Anastasia.  She’s Teen Wendy Darling in the forthcoming The Lost Girls. She was in the genre adjacent Houdini and Doyle as Mary Conan Doyle, and finally she’s in the not-yet-released G.R.R. Martin’s House of the Dragon series as the young Alicent Hightower. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CHALK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Pasadena Chalk Festival returns June 18-19 at The Paseo.

The Pasadena Chalk Festival began in 1993 after a summer intern at the Light Bringer Project attended a street painting festival in Paris and brought back her amazing pictures and observations. The first “Chalk on the Walk” took place at Centennial Square at Pasadena City Hall with over 150 visual artists participating in the first Los Angeles-area event. All proceeds went toward community arts programs and HIV/AIDS resources.

In 2010, The Pasadena Chalk Festival was officially named the largest street painting festival by the Guinness World Record, welcoming more than 600 artists using over 25,000 sticks of chalk and drawing a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors in one weekend. 

Below is an hour-long video of last year’s Chalk Festival. And here is File 770’s roundup of sff art from the 2019 festival via Twitter.

(13) DON’T SAY PAY. The Florida legislature’s move to punish Disney for publicly opposing the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill fails to conform to other requirements of state law says the corporate giant: “Disney’s special tax district suggests its repeal is illegal” in the Miami Herald.

As Florida legislators were rushing through passage of a bill to repeal the special district that governs Walt Disney World last week, they failed to notice an obscure provision in state law that says the state could not do what legislators were doing — unless the district’s bond debt was paid off. Disney, however, noticed and the Reedy Creek Improvement District quietly sent a note to its investors to show that it was confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district operating the 39-square mile parcel it owned in two counties violated the “pledge” the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal. The result, Reedy Creek told its investors, is that it would continue to go about business as usual.

The statement, posted on the website of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on April 21 by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is the only public statement Disney has supplied since lawmakers unleashed their fury over the company’s vocal opposition to the “Parental Rights in Education” law, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill. The statement, first reported by WESH 2, quotes the statute which says, in part, that the “State of Florida pledges…it will not limit or alter the rights of the District…until all such bonds together with interest thereon…are fully met and discharged.”

… In essence, the state had a contractual obligation not to interfere with the district until the bond debt is paid off, said Jake Schumer, a municipal attorney in the Maitland law firm of Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand, in an article for Bloomberg Tax posted on Tuesday and cited in a Law and Crime article.

The law passed by the Republican Legislature on a largely party-line vote, and signed into law by the Republican governor, either violates the contract clause of the Florida Constitution, or is incomplete, Schumer told the Herald/Times on Tuesday. If the Legislature wants to dismantle the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it has more work to do.

(14) FLY YOU FOOLS! J. Michael Straczynski would like to tell you about the worst musical he ever saw. Thread starts here.

(15) DO TOUCH THAT DIAL. Tor.com’s Robert Repino beggars the imagination by reminding readers about “Six Bizarro Made-for-TV SFF Movies That Actually Exist”. Such as —

Gargoyles (1972)

Not to be confused with the prematurely canceled ’90s cartoon of the same nameGargoyles starred B-movie tough guy Cornel Wilde (from The Naked Prey). The opening voiceover raises the stakes pretty high: In the aftermath of the war between God and Satan, a race of creatures climbs out of hell to terrorize mankind every few centuries. In the modern age, the gargoyles are relegated to myth and statues, leaving humans completely unprepared for their next onslaught.

Whoa. That sounds serious. Until you notice that the gargoyles reemerge in a desert that is surely within driving distance of the studio. And it takes only a handful of armed townsfolk to quell the apocalyptic uprising. But those minor details aside, this movie remains a guilty pleasure for my generation, in part because of the Emmy-winning makeup wizardry of Stan Winston. The gargoyles aren’t that scary, but they look pretty darn cool, and some of them even fly. And by “fly,” I mean “slowly lift off the ground with a barely concealed cable.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King meets the evil emperor, who wonders why the people don’t love him!

What do you do when you’ve seized power and/or purchased a large social media company? You monologue.

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

Announcing the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction

By Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki: The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction aims to award disability in speculative fiction in two ways. One, by awarding a writer of speculative fiction for their representation or portrayal of disability in a world of speculative fiction, whatever their health status; and two, by awarding a disabled writer for a work of speculative fiction in general, whatever the focus of the work may be.

Each of the two awards will come with a cash prize of $250USD. For the moment, the awards will be awarded only to writers of short fiction, but in the future may grow to encompass other lengths and forms of speculative writing. These awards were born out of a need to provide assistance for disabled speculative fiction writers struggling with various maladies, and to encourage the representation of disability in speculative fiction.

While not exactly a fortune, the hope is that these funds will assist the winner(s) yearly to be able to cater to small needs that help them manage their ailments (like insulin and other medications) or simply provide self care of any kind they choose.

ADMINISTRATION

The awards will be given by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, the awards administrator, with special recommendations from writers and editors like Mazi Nwonwu of Omenana, Lezli Robyn of Galaxy’s Edge, M L Clark, Ross Showalter and others I will indicate. And there will be a spreadsheet for all to make recommendations of works they would like considered.

The awards will be given to works up to 25,000 words, and there will be a honor list of five works in both categories. The announcement will also come with a promotion of ways for readers to offer financial support to all the finalists in both categories.

Authors or publishers recommending works currently for sale or behind a paywall for consideration can email a copy of the work if they would like to provide a free copy for consideration, to jembefolastories@gmail.com

TIMELINE

The awards will be given for works published in the previous calendar year. The awards administrator will be taking recommendations from the special recommenders from now until May 31, 11:59PM (West African Time). In that time, anybody can also add works they deem fitting and deserving to the spreadsheet here as well. After this consideration period, the selected winners and shortlist will be announced, and the winnings disbursed accordingly.

Note: the use of “disability” here is loose and includes all ailments and conditions that make it difficult for a writer to pursue their creative tasks, even if their financial or social situation is such that they can cater to that difficulty better than others in different contexts. Historically, self-identification in publishing has been a site of traumatic public contention, which this award will not perpetuate. No candidate will be expected to produce proof of their disability and its impact. We begin the work of dignifying and uplifting each other by acting in good faith, and on the honor principle.

EMEKA WALTER DINJOS

Emeka Walter Dinjos, for whom the award is named, was a disabled Nigerian speculative fiction writer, editor and founder based in Awka, Anambra. He passed away at the age of 34, on Wednesday the 12th of December 2018, due to health complications from diabetes.  His short fiction was published in prominent venues like Space & Time, Stupefying Stories, Bourbon Penn, Writers of the Future Volume #33, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Deep Magic, Galaxy’s Edge, Lamplight Magazine, Abyss & Apex. Dinjos was the first Nigerian to win the Writers of the Future Contest, though he was unable to attend the event due to visa issues. He was the founder of Subsaharan Magazine, a speculative fiction magazine at the time. And he wrote about speculative fiction, literature and pan-African culture and life on his Medium page. You can read more about Dinjos’s works there and on his Goodreads page, and about his passing on Future SF.

FOUNDER’S NOTE ON THE PROJECT: THE “WHY” OF THE AWARD

Emeka Walter Dinjos was an active voice in writing and publishing on the African continent, and his works inspired a great many speculative fiction creatives on the continent, myself included. Being disabled, too, and knowing other disabled speculative fiction writers on the continent, in the course of my editing several anthologies, con running and a host of other pan-African speculative fiction activities I have been involved in, and are privy to the difficulties that persons suffering health maladies in a place with poor to no healthcare can face, especially when limited financially. I have also enjoyed some success in the world of short fiction publishing, having sold works to venues like Galaxy’s Edge, Asimov’s, Apex, and Tordotcom. So, I understand how long a way even these little payments can go in keeping a disabled or ailing writer well, active and even alive. Thus, I saw the need for these awards: not just to give a grant, or assistance, but to celebrate these writers for the herculean efforts I know it takes to create while ailing. It is not enough to aid them. We must celebrate them as well.

Walter was a pioneer. I admired and followed him, and tried to walk in his footsteps, especially as he was ailing. I felt a kinship with him even at a distance, for I was opportuned to interact with him only once, before he passed. And ironically, to empathize at that time, while he was ill. Disability was one of the strong lines that connected us, but not the only one. I have also enjoyed some success with awards and “firsts”: the first African writer to be nominated for the Nebula and Hugo awards in their novelette categories, the first African-born Black writer nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards at all, and the first writer of colour nominated in both prose and editing categories of the Hugo awards in one year. My climate fiction novelette, “O2 Arena,” which earned me the above nominations and firsts, is also about disability, and dedicated to Walter Dinjos, Voke Omawunmi Stephen and ailing Africans, including artists. I donated the proceeds for the reprint of “O2 Arena” to a charity organizing cancer treatment for Nigerian women. But I wanted to do more for the writers still here. The dreamers still struggling, and excelling.

For me, this award is a dual opportunity: to honour the brilliant and impactful young man who did so much for us in the genre, and to give back to the community and the most vulnerable people in it. This desire impelled me to reach out to Dinjos’s family and ask permission to name this award after him. This is the reason for the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award for Disability In Speculative Fiction.  And I hope that this award will grow in prize money and categories, as we try to institutionalize not only the assistance but also the celebration of disability writing in the genre.