Pixel Scroll 10/12/23 My Pixel Threw Out All My Old Scrolls And All That’s Left Is This Godstalk

(1) HELL OF A STORY. Jennifer McMahon discusses nine books where “The Devil Made Me Do It” at CrimeReads.

…I was a child of the late seventies. I grew up watching The Exorcist, The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby. Movies that taught me the nature of true evil and terror. While movies were the gateway to this terrifying genre, books go to deeper and darker places still. So light a candle, get out your crucifix, cast a ring of salt around your favorite reading chair and settle in….

One of McMahon’s selections is:

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This is a multi-layered literary horror novel that pays homage to the exorcism story genre and explores big questions about possession, mental illness and reality TV. The story follows Merry, at 23, sharing her recollections about her childhood with an author. When she was 8 and her sister Marjorie was 14, Marjorie… changed.  Their parents were split on whether this was a mental health crisis, or the work of the devil. A local priest became involved, and soon, their family became the center of a reality show called The Possession. Was Marjorie actually possessed? Get sucked into this spellbinding story and see what you believe.

(2) THIS MAKES ME THINK OF SNL’S DAVID L. PUMPKINS SKETCH. “Madame Tussauds and the InterContinental New York Times Square host spooky overnight stays in NYC”TimeOut says it will cost a mere $4K!

This might be the scariest Halloween-themed experience out there at the moment: Madame Tussauds and the InterContinetal in Times Square are offerings folks with a flair for the spooky the chance to stay in a room reminiscent of some of the most petrifying movies in history on the nights of Friday, October 13 and Tuesday, October 31.

The chilling experience for two will cost around $4,000 plus taxes—a hefty price for what will likely be a sleepless night but, alas, some of us just can’t enough of the whole sinister vibe. 

Guests will start off enjoying a three-course dinner and drinks menu delivered by the hotel’s room service staff and inspired by four popular movies: The ExorcistThe Nun, Annabelle and IT. …

…The room you’ll actually sleep in will be an eerie one, decorated like a subway station, yet complete with a fully stocked mini bar (clearly, you’ll need to drink to get through this all)….

(3) SURVIVORS. “’Scavengers Reign’ Official Trailer Released”GlobalGrind is on top of the story.

This week (October 11), Max released the official trailer for its new adult animated series Scavengers Reign. Click inside to check it out!

In Scavengers Reign, the brainchild of visionary creators Joe Bennett and Charles Huettner, the remaining crew of a damaged interstellar freighter ship find themselves stranded on a beautiful yet unforgiving alien planet – where they must survive long enough to escape or be rescued. But as the survivors struggle to locate their downed ship and missing crew mates, their new home reveals a hostile world allowed to thrive without human interference. Featuring lush, visually stunning animation, Scavengers Reign presents a wholly unique view of the consequences of unchecked hubris and humanity’s eternal desire to conquer the unknown….

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Students from nearby school post English language video about the event

This is a nice two minute video where some students from the Hua’ai school just across the lake from the Science Museum talk in English about the event, and some of the related activities they are taking part in.

(I’ve attached 4 PNG screengrabs, filenames prefixed school)

8 Light Minutes Culture: book launches, ribbons, Aldiss and Lukyanenko stamps, and more

An incomplete summary of this mp.weixin.com post:

  • CG render of their booth
  • Launch of volumes 2 and 3 of Chinese SF: An Oral History
  • Limited edition of the Sawyer/Lukyanenko/Liu anthology
  • “The Songs of Space Engineers” hard SF anthology edited by Cixin Liu
  • Pick up a luminous bracelet from their booth
  • Get your books stamped by Brian Aldiss and Sergey Lukyanenko stamps
  • 18-different ribbons; different ones to be available each day from (I think) two different booths.  NB: 8LM has the Chinese licence for Doctor Who books, so the DW ribbons are presumably official merch

Video of official “Kormo” figure

I think this toy was covered along with other merchandise in a previous Scroll; there’s now an unboxing video of what looks like the finished item.

Kaiju Preservation Society, Ray Bradbury and The Culture ribbons and merchandise

Xinxing Publishing House are launching three limited edition sets of merchandise at the con, this Xiaohongshu post says that information about buying them online will come later, although whether that includes international purchases remains to be seen.

  • Kaiju Preservation Society canvas bags
  • Culture “Gravitas” bags  (Google Translate calls these “laser bags”; they seem to have some sort of foil/metallic effect?)
  • There are also ribbons for KPS, The Culture and Ray Bradbury

Secondary market tickets being advertised

I’ve no idea how widespread or successful these are, but here’s a Xiaohongshu user posting a screengrab from some other app/site showing a Chengdu resident advertising a single day “youth” (age 13-25) ticket for Saturday  21st for 500 yuan.  For reference: the sale price for the 5-day youth tickets was 200 yuan, and the individual youth day tickets that were sold more recently were 78 yuan.

Per Google Translate (with minor manual edits) the original ad states:

Youth tickets for the Chengdu Science Fiction Convention on the 21st are available at a premium price.  If you are interested in tickets click [the button] and chat with me privately.

The footer text notes:

There are risks in concert products, please follow the transaction process and do not trade outside the site.

(5) OCTOTHORPE PODCAST. Octothorpe 94 “Satisfying Meat” is now up. Listen here.

John Coxon is eating cinnamon rolls, Alison Scott doesn’t think it’s funny, and Liz Batty has two lists. We discuss the Best Novel finalists for the Hugo Awards. Art by the very lovely Sue Mason.  

John is in the bottom-left, sitting in a chair, wearing a blue shirt and purple trousers, holding a can, and reading an ebook. Alison is in the upper-middle, lying down upside down, wearing a purple shirt and stripy trousers, and reading an ebook. Liz is in the bottom-right, wearing a pink shirt with green trousers, holding a mug of a hot beverage, and reading a physical book. They are surrounded by floating beer bottles, books, the Moon, a mug with a moose on it, and two cats. The word “Octothorpe” appears in scattered letters around the artwork, against a pinky-purple background.

(6) ROYAL ARTIST. The New York Times tells “How the Queen of Denmark Shaped the Look of Netflix’s ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’”.

…Around the time the princess turned 30 — and after she had earned a diploma in prehistoric archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and had studied at Aarhus University in Denmark, the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics — she read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” It inspired her to start drawing again.

Not long after, upon her father’s death in 1972, the princess was crowned as queen: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, to be specific.

Margrethe, now 83, celebrated 50 years on the throne in 2022. But in assuming the role of queen, she did not abandon her artistic passions. As a monarch she has taken lessons in certain media, has taught herself others and has been asked to bring her eye to projects produced by the Royal Danish Ballet and Tivoli, the world’s oldest amusement park, in Copenhagen.

Her paintings have been shown at museums, including in a recent exhibition at the Musée Henri-Martin in Cahors, France. And her illustrations have been adapted into artwork for a Danish translation of “The Lord of the Rings.” (They were published under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, and the book’s publisher approached her about using them after she sent copies to Tolkien as fan mail in 1970.)

Margrethe recently notched another creative accomplishment: serving as the costume and production designer for “Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction,” a feature film that debuted on Netflix in September and has wardrobes and sets based on her drawings and other artworks.

The film is an adaptation of the fairy tale “Ehrengard” by Karen Blixen, a Danish baroness who published under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Set in a fictional kingdom, the story is loosely about a woman named Ehrengard who becomes a lady-in-waiting and foils a royal court painter’s plot to woo her.

(7) IT’S ALL GREEK TO THEM. “Of Snakes and Men: ‘Krapopolis’ Monstrous Transformations”: Animation World Network takes a look (and doesn’t turn to stone.)

While most people find solace in reading fiction novels, Pete Michels gets his kicks from history and archeology books. So, when Dan Harmon, who Michels had worked with previously on Rick and Morty, reached out with a proposal for a parody series on Greek mythology, Michels jumped at the opportunity… 

…In the series, Ayoade voices Tyrannis, the mortal son of a goddess and benevolent King of Krapopolis, who tries to make do in a city that lives up to its name. Waddingham plays Deliria, Tyrannis’ mother, goddess of self-destruction and questionable choices. Deliria is as petty as she is powerful, and only seems interested in defending civilization if it means she’ll get more worshipers out of it than her frenemies up on Mt. Olympus. Berry is Shlub, Tyrannis’ father, a mantitaur (half centaur [horse + human], half manticore [lion + human + scorpion]). He’s the self-described “life of the orgy,” and a true pleasure seeker. Murphy voices Stupendous, Tyrannis’ half-sister, daughter of Deliria and a cyclops. Trussell plays Hippocampus, Tyrannis’ half-brother, offspring of Shlub and a mermaid, and a hot mess, biologically speaking….

(8) PULPFEST. “2023 PulpFest Convention Report, by Martin Walker” at Mystery File.

…This year, though, Walker [Martin] did attend but managed to catch Covid while there, and while he’s doing much better now, it took him a while to recover, and he never did manage to write up a report. As you may have surmised, “Martin Walker,” whose report follows, is a pseudonym, but I can guarantee the facts he relates are 100% accurate. Bill Lampkin, whose photos I used is real, however, and I thank both him and our anonymous reporter for this year’s annual PulpFest report, at last!

Here’s a snippet from the report:

…There was more buying and selling on Friday, August 4. Competing for attendees’ attention were a couple of afternoon presentations. Chris Carey and Win Scott Eckert discussed “Doc Savage — The Man and Myth of Bronze.” Part of PulpFest’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of “The Man of Bronze,” it was also this year’s FarmerCon presentation. Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention that began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Philip José Farmer….

(9) AUDIO ALARM. “Spotify’s new audiobook streaming could have ‘devastating effect’, says Society of Authors” – the Guardian has the story.

The Society of Authors (SoA) has said it is “deeply concerned” about Spotify’s new audiobook provision. The industry body cited “the devastating effect that music streaming has had on artists’ incomes”, and expressed its fear that authors may suffer in a similar way.

“The streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales and is even more damaging than music streaming because books are typically only read once, while music is often streamed many times,” a statement from the SoA read.

At the beginning of October, the Bookseller reported that “all of the major book publishers” had agreed limited streaming deals with Spotify. Since 4 October, Spotify Premium subscribers in the UK and Australia have been able to access to up to 15 hours of audiobook content per month, from a catalogue of more than 150,000 titles.

“As far as we are aware, no authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licences, and authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms,” the SoA said. “Publishing contracts differ but in our view most licences given to publishers for licensing of audio do not include streaming. In fact, it is likely that streaming was not a use that had been invented when many such contracts were entered into.”…

(10) KEITH GIFFEN (1952-2023). Keith Giffen, whose 47 years in the comics business were heavily SF-themed, died  October 9 at the age of 70. The veteran writer and artist’s work included DC’s Lobo and the Jamie Reyes version of the Blue Beetle and Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon. The full details of his career are in his Wikipedia entry.

(11) PHYLLIS COATES (1927-2023) Phyllis Coates, known as TV’s first Lois Lane, died October 11 reports Deadline.

Phyllis Coates, who became television’s first Lois Lane when she was cast in the classic Adventures of Superman series starring George Reeves, died yesterday of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. She was 96.

In 1951, Coates was invited to audition for the role of Lois Lane in the low-budget feature film Superman and the Mole Men. Starring Reeves as Superman, the film was a de facto TV pilot, and by the end of the year both Reeves and Coates were asked to join the upcoming TV series.

Coates stayed with the series for only one season – 1952-53… Until her death, Coates was the last surviving regular cast member of the classic superhero series.

Though best remembered for Superman, Coates would build an extensive roster of TV and film credits in a career that lasted well into the 1990s. She appeared in the now-classic monster movie I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and … later, one 1994 episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in which she played the mother of Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Mystic. Charlatan possibly. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he later turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1956 Storm Constantine. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 58. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine, but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1966 Sandra McDonald, 57. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse.  Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. 

(13) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos of last night’s Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with David D. Levin and Matthew Kressel.

(14) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dine on oxtail stew with Lauren Beukes in Episode 209 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lauren Beukes

At this year’s Readercon, my first guest of the weekend was Lauren Beukes, who I first met at the very start of her novel publishing career — at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, where Angry Robot Books held a launch party which included Moxyland. That party also debuted the first novel of previous guest of the podcast Kaaron Warren, who was launching her own book Slights.

In addition to Moxyland, Beukes is also the author of the novels Zoo City (winner of the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award), The Shining GirlsBroken MonstersAfterland, and her newest novel, BridgeThe Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer and the survivor who turns the hunt around is currently an Apple TV+ series with Elisabeth Moss. She’s also the author of the short story collection, Slipping, plus a pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past.

Beukes has worked also in worked in film and TV, as the director of Glitterboys & Ganglands, a documentary which won Best LGBTI Film at the Atlanta Black Film Festival, and as showrunner and head writer on South Africa’s first half hour animated TV show, Pax Afrika, which ran for 104 episodes on SABC. Her comics work includes the original horror series, Survivors’ Club with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly, and the New York Times best-selling Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom, a Japanese horror remix of Rapunzel with artist Inaki, as well as “The Trouble With Cats,” a Wonder Woman short set in Soweto with Mike Maihack.

We discussed why the genre community is like a giant amoeba, how her choice of D&D character is in perfect sync with the way she writes, the reason she only recently realized she has ADHD (and why her new novel Bridge is definitely an ADHD book), why AI can never replace writers, the ways in which the protagonist of her new novel is different from all her other protagonists, the importance of authenticity readers, why acquiring editors at publishing companies are like restaurant critics, the importance of art in helping us find our way through the darkness, the reason you shouldn’t be so hard on your younger self, how she uses the Tarot to get unstuck, and much, much more.

(15) PLANT EXTINCTION RISK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 45% of all flowering species of plant are at risk of extinction, is just one of the sobering statistics in the Royal Botanic Gardens latest State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023 reportThe fifth edition of State of the World’s Plants and Fungi, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), focuses on the latest knowledge on the diversity and geographical distribution of plants and fungi.

Now, for the first time, scientists have used models to predict the extinction risk of every flowering plant species and identify the uncertainty level of each prediction. The report looks back at all the plant species known to us and there threat of extinction classification. Further, it looked at when each species was discovered and its extinction threat. The researchers found that the earlier a species had been discovered, the lower its extinction threat: recently discovered species were more at risk. Extrapolating this into yet-to-be-discovered species, the conclusion is that these would be even more prone to extinction. The report says that there are 77% undescribed plant species are likely threatened with extinction. And there are many species yet to be discovered. Taking flowering plants alone, the report estimates that potentially tens of thousands of flowering plant species have yet to be scientifically named.

Since 2015, a project to have all tree species assessed for the IUCN (the UN’s International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List, has so far found that 31% of tree species are at risk of extinction. And this does not include tree species yet to be discovered for whom the extinction risk is higher.

But there are notable black holes in the data. Given the history of fungal species discovery, it is estimated that 92% and 95% of fungi have yet to be scientifically described. Since the beginning of 2020, more than 10,200 fungal species have been described as new to science.  (See Antonelli, A. et al (2023) State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023. Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, Middlesex, Great Britain.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Orphan Black: Echoes Teaser Trailer”.

#OrphanBlackEchoes, starring Krysten Ritter and Keeley Hawes, premieres in 2024 on AMC, BBC America, and AMC+.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge Scott Edelman, John Coxon, Danny Sichel, Ellen Datlow, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Ersatz Culture  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You really ???? it . . .?” he said.

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

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

Within the week Tim came down to dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/30/20 The Master And Margaritas

(1) THE DC COMICS SALE TO END ALL. Comicbook.com says “Sotheby’s Selling Most Complete DC Comics Collection Ever Featuring Rare Batman and Superman Comics”.

Today Sotheby announced that is will auction DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection, a comic book collection that includes every comic book published by DC Comics from 1935 through 2016, including complete runs of SupermanBatmanAction Comics, and Detective Comics. The collection includes more than 40,000 comics that also feature Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Justice League. The collection is available to view now on the Sotheby’s website. Sotheby’s chose today to start the private sale as it marks the 81st anniversary of the release of Detective Comics #27, which included the first appearance of Batman.

It’s a private sale, which means there is no public auction, just negotiations between Sotheby’s specialists and one or more private buyers.* Bids are being taken starting today – here’s the Sotheby’s link. Download the catalog here [PDF file]. A quote about how the collection was assembled, from the auction house’s article —

For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked, and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet and dealer, advisor, and author of The Comic Book Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition, which would essentially be impossible to replicate. In 2010, Levine’s paramount, unique collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen’s monumental publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.

(2) ASK THE EXPERTS. The Boston Globe asks futurists and SF writers to look ahead: “It actually may be the end of the world as we know it”. Beware paywall.

…ANNALEE NEWITZ, science-fiction and nonfiction author, podcaster

I have a couple of scenarios I’ve been batting around in my head, which both feel equally plausible at this point.

Scenario One: As more people hunker down at home, more of our most vital and personal activities will have to go online. Lots of people are learning how to have serious meetings remotely, and how to work as teams in group chat.

Then there’s the arguably more psychologically vital stuff: I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my gamer group using videoconferencing, and watching TV with a housebound, high-risk loved one by hitting play at the same time on a TV episode and videochatting with him at the same time.

I’m not alone. A lot of us are cut off from our loved ones right now, and online connection is all we have. Suddenly “online” doesn’t feel like a fantasy realm. It’s our social fabric. The online world is going to become a fully robust public space, and we won’t want to see garbage and detritus everywhere. We will finally start to see social media companies taking responsibility for what’s on their platforms — information will need to be accurate, or people will die.

…Scenario Two: The pandemic rips through the population, aided in part by contradictory messages from state and federal governments, as well as misinformation online. As social groups and families are torn apart by disease and unemployment, people look increasingly to social media for radical solutions: violent uprisings, internment camps for immigrants and other “suspicious” groups, and off-the-grid cults that promise sanctuary from death.

(3) HAS THE JURY REACHED A VERDICT? James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel considers “Rediscovery: Of All Possible Worlds, Rosel George Brown”.

This is the second Brown featured in Rediscovery. As mentioned last month, Brown was a promising author whose career was cut short by her death in 1967. I don’t have much to add to that, except to wonder if my Young People will enjoy this story more than they did the previous one.

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? John King Tarpinian has already ordered “Classic Monster Aloha Safety Mask”. Get yours for a mere $9.95. More styles here. And they sell matching shirts for some of them — Daniel Dern says “I’ve got the first two in that were shown in this post.”

Introducing Aloha Safety Face masks!! Hawaiian Printed Masks that are fashionable , fun, and made in the USA!!

And just like that, my shirt factory has shifted production, retooled, and is making much needed face masks for hospitals and clinics. We are all proud to be part of the effort to in the corona-virus fight and provide protective gear to Doctors, Nurses, and hospital staff, who in my eyes are the front line soldiers in this global pandemic.Due to the unprecedented demand for masks, healthcare system completely lacks the needed supplies and we are on a mission to outfit them. 

While they are our priority so is  the safety of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen. Many people with elderly parents, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, are at high risk, or want to protect their families have reached out. I know it’s hard to find masks of any kind anywhere.

(5) NEW ZEALAND. This year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand, has already announced they’re going virtual. The need for the decision can only be reinforced by the Prime Minister’s statement today: “Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern warns border restrictions will exist for some time”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders should get used to border restrictions in New Zealand and overseas, saying they’re likely to be in place “for some time”.

She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop. 

“We will be having to manage covid-19 for months, until of course there is a vaccine and that will be many months,” she said.

Ardern told RNZ: “I’m anticipating border restrictions for some time.”

(6) WRITING THEIR WAY OUT. Melinda Snodgrass, Robert Vardeman, and Walter Jon Williams answered the Albuquerque Journal’s questions in “Science fact & fiction: Three New Mexico authors see parallels between the genre they write and the current world situation”.

Life as it is now – with most of us confined to home, getting out only for a walk in the sunshine or a quick trip to pick up mail, prescriptions, another bottle of water, an extra loaf of bread – is something we might have read about in a science fiction novel, seen on TV or at the movies but never before experienced personally to the extent we are dealing with now.

“I feel like I’m in what (science fiction author) Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe,” said Walter Jon Williams, a writer of science fiction and fantasy who lives in Belen. “We have clothing, shelter, enough food in the fridge to last a month, and everything works. But everyone is gone. We just don’t see people. I went for a walk to the park today and saw one person.”

(7) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Publishers Weekly boosts the signal as “Authors Guild, AAP Outraged by IA’s ‘National Emergency Library'”.  

The outcry from publisher and author groups has been swift and furious after the Internet Archive announced last week the launch of it’s National Emergency Library, which has removed access restrictions for some 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century books in the IA’s Open Library initiative, making the scans available for unlimited borrowing during the Covid-19 Outbreak.

“We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” reads a March 27 statement from Association of American Publishers president and CEO Maria Pallante, adding that publishers are already “working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.”

The Authors Guild said it too was “appalled” by the program. “[The Internet Archive] is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors,” reads a March 27 statement. “It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.”

In a statement on March 24, Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the National Writers’ Union ‘s book division also accused the IA of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse” to redistribute copyrighted works without permission or payment.

“So much for authors’ incomes in a time of crisis. Do librarians and archivists really want to kick authors while our incomes are down?” Hasbrouck writes. “The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.”

The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the closures of libraries during the Covid-19 crisis, building upon the Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” program. …

(8) MANDEL OBIT. Playwright and screenwriter Loring Mandel died March 24. His 1959 script ”Project Immortality” for Playhouse 90 got him his first Emmy nomination: “Key defense scientist Doner has cancer. Schramm is assigned to code Doner’s thinking into a computer. He gets to know him as a friend, a husband and father. The project is successful, but he now knows identity is not programmable.”

He was the screenwriter for Countdown, released in 1967, the year before the first Moon landing: “Desperate to reach the moon first, N.A.S.A. sends a man and shelter separately, one-way. He must find it to survive. He can’t return until Apollo is ready.” The movie starred James Caan and Robert Duvall.

However, as The Hollywood Reporter tribute notes, he was more famous for non-genre work: “Loring Mandel, Screenwriter and ‘Advise and Consent’ Playwright, Dies at 91”. “Mandel earned five Emmy nominations during his career, winning twice: in 1968 for his work on an installment of CBS Playhouse and in 2001 for penning the BBC-HBO telefilm Conspiracy.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 30, 2013 Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in the USA and Space in Canada. Starring Tatiana Maslany as the clones, it run for five seasons and fifty episodes. It would win a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Sasquan for “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series that ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1927 Greta Thyssen. Labeled Queen of the B-Movies she appeared in a number of genre films such as The Beast of Budapest,  Creature from Blood Island andJourney to the Seventh Planet. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot a similar Heinlein would. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey, it is genre of a sorts. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1943 Dennis Etchison. As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, MetaHorror and The Museum of Horrors. As a writer, he’s best remembered as a short story writer of quite tasty horror. Talking in the Dark Is his personally selected collection of his stories. (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 62. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 30. Nova Clarke in the Sharknado film series alongside Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (2013–2018). And one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM COMIC BOOKS TO HISTORY BOOKS. “Overlooked No More: Kate Worley, a Pioneer Writer of Erotic Comics”. The New York Times says “Worley, who wrote Omaha the Cat Dancer, about a feline stripper, ‘injected a woman’s point of view’ that helped the comic stand out from others in the 1980s.”

…At the heart of the series was the writer Kate Worley, who gave the comic its distinctive voice and helped cultivate its wide-ranging fan base.

The character Omaha, created by the writer and artist Reed Waller, made her debut in 1978 as part of a fanzine. She eventually found her way into her own comic book, beginning in 1984. But then Waller got writer’s block.

“He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue,” Worley wrote in an introduction to a 1989 collected edition of Omaha. So she offered some suggestions. “I chattered for some time about possible plot directions, new characters,” she said.

When she was finished, Waller asked, “Would you like a job?” Worley took over as the writer, while Waller continued to draw the comic.

(13) A CLASSIC AGES GRACEFULLY. Tor.com’s prolific James Davis Nicoll goes monster hunting: “Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet”.

…United Planets cruiser C-57D, under the command of Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was dispatched to Altair IV to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent out twenty years earlier. As soon as the starship arrives in orbit, C-57D receives a transmission from the surface. There is at least one survivor of the earlier mission. To Adams’ surprise, the survivor, scientist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) doesn’t want to be rescued. Indeed, he warns the craft to go away if it wants to save its crew.

(14) HAULING THE FREIGHT. SpaceX has been selected as a contractor to deliver supplies to NASA’s Lunar Gateway station. “NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services”.

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface. 

(15) HE AM IRON MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever decide to reboot, we may have found our new Iron Man…

(16) BEWARE THOSE DARNED SPOILERS. The Guardian’s Stephen Kelly doesn’t sound like a fan of the show: “Star Trek: Picard is the dark reboot that boldly goes where nobody wanted it to”. And did I mention, this article HAS SPOILERS?

It is the year 2364, and Jean-Luc Picard – the revered captain of the USS Enterprise – has just come face to face with three humans who have been frozen in time since the late 20th century. By this point in the story – the 1988 finale of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – he has met Klingons, Romulans, a pool of black goo, but nothing is as alien as these greedy, selfish relics.

This is Star Trek, after all: the pop-culture behemoth built on the idealistic future envisioned in the 60s by its creator Gene Roddenberry. “A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Picard tells them. “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

Or have we? Revisiting the character 30 years later in Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart’s grand return to the role at the age of 79, it seems the world has not progressed as much as we were led to believe. Set during a time in which the Federation – a union of planets with shared democratic values and interests – has turned isolationist in response to a terror attack, it has proved to be a divisively dark, gritty and morally bleak take on the Star Trek universe….

(17) TAKE IT IN STAGES. Harvard’s School of Public Health concludes that “On-again, off-again looks to be best social-distancing option”.

With global coronavirus cases heading toward half a million, Harvard infectious disease experts said recent modeling shows that — absent the development of a vaccine or other intervention — a staggered pattern of social distancing would save more lives than a one-and-done strategy and avoid overwhelming hospitals while allowing immunity to build in the population.

The work, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, also shows that if strict social distancing such as that imposed in China — which cuts transmission by 60 percent — is relaxed, it results in epidemic peaks in the fall and winter similar in size and with similar impacts on the health care system as those in an uncontrolled epidemic.

“We looked at how it would affect the thing that matters most — overwhelming the critical-care unit,” Grad said.

The problem, the researchers said, is that while strict social distancing may appear to be the most effective strategy, little population-level immunity is developed to a virus that is very likely to come around again.

(18) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS. A lot of genre figures are getting in on the act – we learned about these three from Comicbook.com:

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Stay safe out there.

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[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. (* )Thanks to Bill Burns for the assist. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/19 And What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Come Round At Last, Crowdfunds Towards Dublin, To Be Scrolled?

(1) SKIPPING OVER THE SAND. Judith Tarr tells why she’ll be passing on a Bene Gesserit tv series with an all-male creative team. Thread starts here.

(2) KAIJU-CON. On Saturday June 14, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is holding a one-day “Kaiju-Con”.

In conjunction with Kaiju vs Heroes, JANM is hosting a day-long Kaiju-Con that will include a vendor hall, workshops, panel discussions, and demonstrations all related to kaiju and Japanese toys. The day will culminate in a special free outdoor screening at 8:30 p.m., on JANM’s plaza of Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964.

The museum’s exhibit “Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys” continues through July 7.

… After the war, the United States closely monitored the types of industries allowed to revive in Japan. The toy industry was one of the first to be enabled to reinvent itself, and the kaiju films and television shows helped fuel it. Additionally, the toy industry helped stimulate Japan’s economy during the early postwar reconstruction period. These new artistic and economic factors fused with kaiju and hero characters to set the stage for a golden age of Japanese popular culture—one that Nagata first became enamored with as a nine-year-old boy.

Nagata’s pursuit of these Japanese toys took him on an unexpected journey that brought new realizations about his cultural identity as an American of Japanese ancestry….

(3) DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. Gizmodo assures us that “Half the DNA on the NYC Subway Matches No Known Organism”.

The results of a massive new DNA sequencing project on the New York City subway have just been published. And yup, there’s a lot of bacteria on the subway—though we know most of it is harmless. What’s really important, though, is what we don’t know about it.

The PathoMap project, which involved sampling turnstiles, benches, and keypads at 466 stations, found 15,152 life-forms in total, half of which were bacterial. The Wall Street Journal has created a fun, interactive microbial map of the subway out of the data, showing where on the lines the bacteria “associated with” everything from mozzarella cheese to staph infections was found.

(4) GUNN RETROSPECTIVE. Dark Matter Zine is revisiting the work of the late Hugo-winning fanartist Ian Gunn: “Giant man-baby. A silly illo by Ian Gunn”.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some movie cliches that Ian Gunn drew. Today’s, obviously, is the giant man-baby walking in slow motion. Although the drawing is at least 20 years old but did Gunn foresee the Trump Baby resistance balloons, banners etc? I wonder if the giant Trump Baby acts in slow motion too?

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. John Boston doesn’t pull his punches when he’s slugging the prozines of 1964 for Galactic Journey: “[June 12, 1964] RISING THROUGH THE MURK (the July 1964 Amazing)”.

Can it be . . . drifting up through the murk, like a forgotten suitcase floating up from an old shipwreck . . . a worthwhile issue of Amazing?

You certainly can’t tell by the cover, which is one of the ugliest jobs ever perpetrated by the usually talented Ed Emshwiller—misconceived, crudely executed, and it doesn’t help that the reproduction is just a bit off register.

(6) CLONE ARRANGER. ComicsBeat brings music to fans’ ears — “ORPHAN BLACK returns in new serialized novel and audio adaptation”.

The Clone Club is reconvening. Variety reports that Orphan Black, the hit BBC America sci-fi series that ended in 2017, is set to return as a serialized novel, with accompany audio narration, later this year. The new story is produced by publishing startup Serial Box, and will feature original series star Tatiana Maslany providing the audio narration.

(7) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Eater says the promotion is really quite simple: “Burger King’s New ‘Stranger Things’ Special Is Literally an Upside-Down Whopper”.

With the premiere of Stranger Things Season 3 just a few weeks away, Netflix and Burger King are teaming up for a fast food stunt that seems aimed at the die-hard fans, only: At 11 locations across the country, the chain is adding an “Upside Down Whopper” to the menu, which is literally just a Whopper served upside down. No special Demagorgon sauce, Eggo bun, or Hopper’s bacon crumbles. It’s just an inverted hamburger in Stranger Things-branded packaging.

The YouTube caption assures viewers —

pro tip: you can’t get eaten by something in the upside down if you’ve already eaten the upside down whopper. served upside down at select bk locations on June 21:

(8) MILES OBIT. Actress Sylvia Miles has died at the age of 94 reports the New York Times.

Sylvia Miles, who earned two Academy Award nominations (for “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely”) and decades of glowing reviews for her acting, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 94.

Ms. Miles began her career as a stage actress; [she] was a witch in “A Chekhov Sketchbook” (1962). She described her character in the 1977 horror film “The Sentinel” as “a mad dead crazed German zombie lesbian ballet dancer.” Her other film roles included … Meryl Streep’s mother in “She-Devil” (1989).

Her final TV appearance was in 2008, on the series “Life on Mars.” Her last screen appearance was in “Old Monster,” a 2013 short based on the epic “Beowulf.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1892 Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1893 Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
  • Born June 13, 1929 Ralph McQuarrie. Conceptual designer and illustrator. He worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, the first Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars Holiday Special, Cocoon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nightbreed, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home andE.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 Malcolm McDowell, 76. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film, that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Remember the Will Smith starred Wild Wild West film? Here is the same premise with John Hex instead. 
  • Born June 13, 1945 Whitley Strieber, 74. I’ve decidedly mixed feelings about him. He’s written two rather good horror novels, The Wolfen which made a fantastic horror film and The Hunger. But I’m convinced that his book Communion about his encounter with aliens is an absolute crock. 
  • Born June 13, 1949 Simon Callow, 70. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well, he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the latter. How are they? He was The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander
  • Born June 13, 1953 Tim Allen, 66. Jason Nesmith in the beloved Galaxy Quest, winning a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. (What was running against it that year?) it actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in that film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 Audrey Niffenegger, 56. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House. 
  • Born June 13, 1981 Chris Evans, 38. Captain America in the Marvel film franchise. He had an earlier role as the Human Torch in the non-MCU Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I think this makes him the only performer to play two major characters in either the DC or Marvel Universes. 

(10) ROBOCOMICS. The New York Times looks at a marketing solution: “Like Comic Books? This Platform Picks Titles for You”.

Comic book fans have multiple digital options to choose from these days, with apps for independents, manga and political cartoons as well as libraries from giants like DC and Marvel. But the fractured nature of the business means readers have to visit several platforms to fill their needs.

Enter Graphite, a free digital service from Graphic Comics that begins Tuesday and hopes to put them all under one roof.

The impetus for the company was a simple one, said Michael Eng, Graphite’s chief executive: “There is no solution right now that serves comics in all its forms.”

The goal of the service is to offer digital comics from all formats, including the work of independent creators as well as major publishers, and make it all free. The content will include ads, but an ad-free service is available for a $4.99 monthly fee. Graphite also hopes to expand the audience of comics readers by offering material in 61 languages. But its biggest bet is on artificial intelligence, which will suggest content to readers based on their taste.

(11) HIDDEN NO MORE. BBC: “Hidden Figures: Nasa renames street after black female mathematicians”.

The street outside Nasa’s headquarters has been named “Hidden Figures Way”, in honour of three African-American women whose work helped pave the way for future generations at the space agency.

(12) A LARK IN THE VACUUM. The Atlantic’s Rebecca Boyle has her own estimate of “The True Price of Privatizing Space Travel”.

…NASA’s decision to open up the space station is in some ways a natural next step for space exploration. Earlier, earthbound vessels all experienced a similar transformation. Transoceanic ships, railroads, and airplanes spawned cottage industries to enable their spread and wide adoption, and each eventually reached the masses. And in widening access to space, NASA is actually behind the Russians, whose space agency has transported a few space tourists through a company called Space Adventures.

But space is different. Space, as they say, is hard. To get there, you have to strap yourself to a bomb, and sometimes those bombs malfunction.

Personal space exploration is also hard to justify….

…Handing tourists the keys to the ISS reflects a much broader shift in space exploration, one that prioritizes resource extraction and commercial profit over pure research and collective scientific efforts. It’s a step toward making space more mundane, a travel destination defined by money and vacations, rather than discovery and glory.

(13) ONE OF EVERYTHING. Joe Sherry does a fine job of tackling these finalists in “Reading the Hugos: Related Work” at Nerds of a Feather.

Related Work is a bit of a catch-all category. It’s for work that is primarily non fiction and that is related to science fiction and fantasy, and which is not otherwise eligible elsewhere on the ballot. This is how you can have an encyclopedia compete against a folk album against a podcast against a collection of essays about movies (this was in 2012 when the Fancast category had not yet been created. That particular lineup of finalists can’t happen today. You may also note that albums and songs have been included in Dramatic Presentation – because the two Clipping albums in question are narrative driven whereas Seanan McGuire’s Wicked Girls was not.). There may also be a single blog post competing and winning in the category. Or a series of blog posts focusing on the women of Harry Potter. In the case of this year there is a four way biography, a series of interviews, a three part documentary, a collected essay series about the Hugo Awards, a recognition of the work done by a website, and the experience of bringing together Mexicanx fans and creators to Worldcon. Related Work is an interesting cross section of another side of the genre and another side of fandom.

(14) HUGO NOVELLAS. James Reid continues his “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Novella”.

I feel like this category has undergone a bit of a renaissance with digital publishing: when I was growing up, I thought of Novellas as either the anchor of a short story collection, 1 or works that flesh out a larger series.2  Without the pressure of meeting mass market paperback length however, novellas can be sold as free standing works, which then can lead to series of novellas.  Fully half the slate fall into this category,3 and not only are they sequels, but they are sequels to previous nominated works.

In all three of these series, I liked the original novella,4 but the two sequels that were in the ballot last year, Binti: Home and Down Among the Sticks and Bones were both marked by precipitous drops in quality.  Given this, my big questions going into the ballot this year are can Artificial Condition avoid this sophomore slump, and can either of the threequels pull out of their series nosedives?

(15) CANNED. “Star Wars’ Mark Hamill Reveals He Got Fired From Jack in the Box for Doing a Clown Voice”Comicbook.com has the story.

Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is still full of stories that will surprise and delight fans – as he recently proved during an appearance on The Late Show with James Corden. Corden and Hamill were talking about the road to fame (and all the detours it an take); when they got to the topic of Hamill having worked as a waiter (like so many struggling actors), we got this great anecdote:

“I tried. I always was trying to find the theatrical aspect of it. You know, I worked right down the street at Jack in the Box. And I was in the back all the time, making shakes and minding the grill, and I always aspired to work the window… The one chance I had at it, it never occurred to me not to be in character as the clown, as the Jack in the Box clown! Who would want to hear [Robot voice] ‘What is your order?’ I wanted to hear [Clown voice] ‘Whats your orderrrrrrrrrr?” My manager didn’t think it was very funny: He told me to go home and never come back. I got fired! Fired for being in character! Why you… [Shakes fist] I’ll show you: One day I will be The Joker and then you’ll be sorry!”

(16) BIG FAMILY IS WATCHING. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature notes some past fiction has become science fact with the rise of the surveillance state — “Eyed up: the state of surveillance”

In the 1998 Hollywood thriller Enemy of the State, an innocent man (played by Will Smith) is pursued by a rogue spy agency that uses the advanced satellite “Big Daddy” to monitor his every move. The film — released 15 years before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on a global surveillance complex — has achieved a cult following. It was, however, much more than just prescient: it was also an inspiration, even a blueprint, for one of the most powerful surveillance technologies ever created…

This is the basis for the new book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019).

(17) A SEMI-MOVING PICTURE. Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation – “I was not aware we needed this”: “‘Playmobil: The Movie’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Once they’re transformed into animated characters, Charlie soon winds up prisoner in a Gladiator-like kingdom ruled by the evil Emperor Maximums (Adam Lambert), prompting Marla to team up with a hipster food truck driver (Jim Gaffigan, providing vague comic relief) and a ridiculous secret agent (Daniel Radcliffe) to get her bro back. Along the way, she runs into tons of other merchandise, although it’s uncertain at this point whether the figure of Glinara (Maddie Taylor) — basically a female Jabba the Hut decked out in a sleeveless leather dress — was something already made by Playmobil or a creature the filmmakers invented for the hell of it.

Otherwise, everything goes exactly where you expect, from the live-action scenes bookending the cartoon to the nonstop chases and thundering soundtrack to all the attempts at humor that mostly miss their mark. To the director’s credit, the animated sequences are richly rendered, making the most of the rather stiff and plain-looking originals (though, if you want to get nitpicky, an early gag poking fun at the fact that Playmobil legs are unbendable is soon forgotten) and offering up a plethora of settings that help compensate for the lack of good writing.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, John King Tarpinian, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the reference detecting Randall M.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27 So Long, and Thanks for All the Fifths

(1) ORPHAN BLACK TEASER. BBC America says Orphan Black Season 4 has started production and will be shooting in Toronto through March.

Tatiana Maslany returns to her Emmy®-nominated role as multiple clones in 10 new episodes in Spring 2016.

Season 4 of the drama will see leader-of-the-pack, Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

 

(2) UNDERSTANDING CONTRACTS. Fynbospress provides a wide-ranging introduction to contracts for creators in “When do you need a contract?” at Mad Genius Club, a post that does much more than merely answer the title question.

This isn’t just for court; this is when you’ve submitted a rough draft to a copyeditor and found out they only did the first third of the book and the last chapter , or when you paid a cover artist $500 and they returned one proof of concept, then stopped answering emails. This is for when the small press gives you a horrid cover, no release press, and you have some real doubts about your royalty statements. This is for when you’ve agreed to turn in a sequel, and you find out your spouse has cancer, and nothing’s going to get done that’s not medically related. It’s for when you get the avian flu and aren’t going to make your slot with your editor, and aren’t sure you could make a pushback date, either, or the house washes away in a flood and you weren’t even thinking about when your cover artist finished her painting and wants paid.

(3) NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Lela E. Buis in “Safe spaces and personal self defense” conflates safe spaces with the convention antiharassment policies of which she disapproves.

Reading through the proposed convention policies, safe spaces apparently mean that no one can annoy you. When some evil lowlife approaches and says something that disturbs or upsets you, then you should be able to just say “no, go away” and they are required to do so. It means that you can cruise through the convention experience without worrying about anything. If anyone fails to do what you ask, then all you have to do is complain to management and they’ll take care of the lowlife who’s bothering you, pitching him/her out on the street. This is really an ideal situation, where nobody ever has to hear things they don’t want to hear, or deal with situations they don’t want to be in.

However, when you always depend on management to protect you, then you’re not taking personal responsibility for your own well-being. You end up with no self-defense skills….

(4) CHROMIUM SÍ IN AMERICA. “Here’s How Captain Phasma Got Her Silver Armor” explains Andrew Liptak in an intro to a video at io9.

Gwendoline Christie has certainly made her mark in the Star Wars universe as the silver-armored Captain Phasma. This short video shows where that armor came from, and it’s hilarious.

(5) NO SPOILERS. Joe Vasicek’s spoiler-free first impressions of the new Star Wars movie at One Thousand and One Parsecs.

Was it campy? Yep. Was it rife with scientific inaccuracies? Oh heck, yes! Were parts of it over the top? Yeah, probably. But these were all true of the original Star Wars, too. The stuff that really mattered was all there: good writing, solid plot, believable characters, awesome music, and that grand sense of wonder that drew us all into Science Fiction in the first place.

(6) SPOILERY AND FUNNY. Emma Barrie’s “The Confused Notes of a Star Wars Newbie Who Felt Compelled to See The Force Awakens” is a high comedy journal of watching The Force Awakens.  Paragraph two only spoils the original Star Wars trilogy, so that’s safe to quote….

Even as a member of the uninitiated minority, I did know some basic stuff about Star Wars, because how could I not? My birthday is May 4, so there’s that. I knew Darth Vader is bad and has the voice of Mufasa. I knew Han Solo is a person (though I thought it was Hans Solo). I could definitely pick Chewbacca out of a lineup. Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher (whom I primarily associate with hating that wagon-wheel table in When Harry Met Sally). She has those Cinnabon hair swirls and at some point wore a gold bikini (info gleaned from Friends). Lightsabers are kind of like fancy swords. Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.

(7) SPOILERY AND SERIOUS. David Brin was greatly relieved to find things to complain about in “J.J. Abrams Awakens the Force” at Contrary Brin.

Okay we saw it.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SW:TFA), on Christmas Eve.  And although I am lead author — and “prosecuting attorney” — of the book Star Wars on Trial, and hence a leading critic of the series, I must admit that:

(1) The newest installment of the franchise — directed by J.J. Abrams under Disney management — has none of the deeply objectionable traits of Episodes I, II, III and VI that I denounced in that controversial tome. Abrams and Disney shrugged off the lunacies George Lucas compulsively preached in those vividly colorful-yet-wretched flicks….

(8) SPOILERY TROLLING. Nick Mamatas is like one of those basketball players who in the parlance can create his own shot. If there was nothing in The Force Awakens to complain about, Nick would not be inconvenienced in the slightest. His review is at Nihilistic Kid.

Like any Star Wars film, it makes little sense. I’m not even talking about the inexplicable political economy of the galaxy that has both intelligent robots and people hanging out in tents with dirt floors, or the horrifying reactionary theme of an entire galaxy being held a prisoner of fate by about a dozen closely related individuals.

Is that last part so unrealistic, Nick? Think of Queen Victoria’s family ties.

(9) A FAN OF PEACE. I thought Hank Green was a science fiction fan (among other things) yet he exhibits a practically unfannish lack of interest in quarrelling with his fellow fans about Important Genre Definitions.

(10) FIVE IS ALIVE. At The Book Smugglers, “Jared Shurin’s Five Terrific 2015 Titles That’ll Tie Awards in Knots”  actually contains seven titles. Did he think nobody would count? Or was he worried File 770 wouldn’t link to his post without a “fifth” reference? Never fear, Jared, your praise for “A Small, Angry Planet” deserves to be shared.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

It lurked (and won The Kitschies) as a self-published work at the start of 2015, but as far as the ‘stablishment is concerned, this utterly glorious, brilliantly progressive and undeniably joyous space opera didn’t exist until the UK release in February and the US release soon after. It has been on multiple ‘Best Of’ lists (Waterstones, Guardian, Barnes & Noble), and hopefully that translates to even more well-deserved recognition. The awards scene is dominated by a) Americans and b) traditional publishing, so this book’s… er… long way… to market should hopefully pay off with further acclaim.

(11) SMACKIN’ WITH THE PUPPIES. George R.R. Martin finally froze comments on “Puppies at Christmas” after two days spent duking it out with trolls. Martin’s last entry in the discussion might also be taken as a reply to the coverage here the other day:

When people behave badly (in fandom or out of it), or do things that I find immoral or unethical, I reserve the right to speak out about it, as I did about Sad Puppies 3 last year.

When, on the other hand, I see behavior I regard as positive, I am also going to speak out about that… regardless of whether my words are going to be “spun” to suit someone else’s narrative. So far, what I am seeing on the Sad Puppies 4 boards is a step in the right direction… a spirited literary discussion that includes everyone from Wright and Williamson to Leckie and Jemisin. That’s good.

If it turns into something else later, well, I’ll revise my opinion or raise objections. But I am not going to deal in hypotheticals. Right now what I see is people talking books.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904Peter Pan by James Barrie opens in London.
  • December 27, 1947 — The first “Howdy Doody” show, under the title “Puppet Playhouse,” was telecast on NBC.
  • December 27, 1968 — The Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — returned to Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times.

(13) RESTATE OF THE ART. “How Weinstein Co. Distribution Chief Erik Lomis Rescued 70MM Cinema For Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’” at Deadline Hollywood.

Lomis had an 18-month lead before Hateful Eight would hit the screen, and he promptly began scouring eBay and interfacing with film warehouses and antique collectors across the country “pulling the equipment, checking it and Frankenstein-ing it together. Configuring the lens took six months alone. They needed to be adjusted to today’s stadium auditoriums, which from the booth to the screen have a shorter throw versus the lens on the older machines which had a longer throw due to the sloping floor auditoriums,” explains Lomis. For the first six months, Lomis was picking up 70MM projectors at affordable prices, but once word slipped out that it was for a Tarantino film, collectors tripled and quadrupled their asks.  Essentially, to make three solid working projectors, one needed to pull parts from as many as five projectors.  Gears, shafts, bearings and rollers were the typical replacements. At times, these parts were manufactured from scratch off original blueprints. On average, Schneider Optics made a lens a day during production to restore this antiquated technology.

(14) SIR TERRY. Rhianna Pratchett  in The Guardian“Sir Terry Pratchett remembered by his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett”.

…The reaper came for my father much earlier in his life in the form of Death from his world-famous and much-loved Discworld novels. Death was a towering, cloaked and scythe-wielding skeleton who had a penchant for curries, a love of cats and TALKED LIKE THIS. We got a number of tear-inducing letters from fans who were nearing the end of their lives and took great comfort in imagining that the death that came for them would be riding a white horse called Binky. Dad had done something with more success than anyone else – he made Death friendly.

For me, as for many of his fans, it was his gift for characterisations like this that made his books pure narrative gold. Dad was a great observer of people. And when he ran out of actual people, he was a great imaginer of them. Both his grannies come through in his witch characters, while there’s a fair chunk of me in Tiffany Aching and Susan Sto Helit, Death’s adoptive granddaughter. …

(15) THE JAVA AWAKENS. “Designers Create Star Wars-Themed Coffee Concept” at Comicbook.com.

Graphic designer Spencer Davis and product designer Scott Schenone have come up with “Dark Brew Coffee House,” a concept that imagines what a Star Wars-themed coffee shop would look like.

(Lots more thematic imagery displayed at Dark Brew Coffee House.)

Dark Side coffee

(16) DARK OUTSIDE. Then could we change this to the Darthburger?

[Thanks to DLS,and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Shao Ping.]