Pixel Scroll 12/23/21 I Get My Sticks On Groot Sixty-Six

(1) THUMB UP. “Paul Krugman on the ‘Dune’ Scene That Won Him Over” in Variety.

… Why does “Dune” matter far more to readers than a thousand other space operas? Partly it’s the richness of the world-building, with its borrowing from many cultures and its stunning ecological prescience. Many science fiction tales are basically Westerns in space; “Dune” draws deeply on Islamic and Ayurvedic tradition instead.

But it’s also the unexpected subtlety: in Herbert’s universe the greatest power comes not from weapons or mystical talents but from self-knowledge and self-control. The gom jabbar tests whether one can override pain and fear; Paul’s ability to do so sets him on his heroic path….

(2) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. At Bradburymedia, Phil Nichols’ latest Bradbury 100 podcast episode is about “The Best Martian Chronicles NEVER Made!”

The book came out in 1950, and The Martian Chronicles immediately became a mini sensation that same year, thanks to the radio drama series Dimension X, which dramatised several stories from the book. Ray knew that there was dramatic potential in his Martian tales, and the late 1950s saw him – by now an established screenwriter, thanks to Moby Dick and It Came From Outer Space – drawing up plans for a TV series to be called Report From Space.

Alas, the series didn’t make it to air, and his attempts to develop The Martian Chronicles further for the big screen also came to nothing. But the scripts are pretty good, and allow us to play a game of what if: 

  • What if Ray Bradbury’s TV series came on air the same year as The Twilight Zone or Men Into Space?
  • What if the producer-director/actor team from 1962’s To Kill A Mockingbird had succeeded in making The Martian Chronicles before 2001: A Space Odyssey (or Star Trek) had come along?

To find out more… listen to the episode…!

(3) FUTURE TANK. Christopher J. Garcia, Alissa McKersie, and Chuck Serface have decided upon the following deadlines and subjects for upcoming issues of The Drink Tank:

  • January 20, 2022: Orphan Black
  • February 15, 2022: The Beatles
  • March 10, 2022: Pre-1950 Crime Fiction

They invite submissions of articles, fiction, poetry, photography, artwork, personal reminiscences . . . you get the idea, as long as it’s related to the above subjects. Send your submissions to johnnyeponymous@gmail.com or ceserface@gmail.com.

(4) POST-RESURRECTION. Emily VanDer Werff surveys the five ages of Matrix: “The Matrix Resurrections: Why the Matrix movies never stopped being relevant” at Vox.

But I’m not talking about the movie’s component parts; I’m talking about how the movie felt. And the feeling of watching The Matrix in 1999 was almost overwhelming. In the minds of Lana and Lilly Wachowski, all of these elements blended and fit together seamlessly. And the movie’s masterstroke was setting its story in a world that felt very like the actual world in 1999, rather than an overtly fictional setting (as was the case with Dark City). The film captured a growing sense that nothing was real and everything was manipulated on some level, a sense that has only grown in the 22 years since the movie came out.

The Matrix has a complicated legacy. It’s probably the most influential American movie since Star Wars came out in 1977 (and it is now almost exactly as old as Star Wars was when The Matrix came out), and it’s by far the most popular piece of art created by trans people. But its sequels were divisive, and its ideas about questioning reality have influenced political reactionaries in dangerous ways. Now, with a fourth film in the series coming out on December 22, it’s time to go back … back to the Matrix, across five eras of the franchise’s history….

(5) GENRE BLENDING. Molly Odintz selects the sf novels that would interest crime fiction readers. “The Best Speculative Thrillers and Mysteries of 2021” at CrimeReads.

The future is here. It’s bright. And it’s terrifying. That’s what these authors seem to think, anyway. As we’ve sleepwalked through the second year of the pandemic, lucid dreaming our way through endless possibilities in the midst of endless isolation, these authors have sought to capture the highs and lows, perils and opportunities, of a changing world. Get ready for clones, underwater high-rises, alternate histories, eco-terrorists, and of course, murders in space, all speaking to the inherent instability of identity and morality in the fraught future and rapidly disintegrating present….

(6) DEEP SPACE LINE. NASA is considering an Interstellar Probe that would go perhaps 10 times farther into space than the two Voyager spacecraft have. A 498-page document discussing the related issues can be downloaded here.

Traveling far beyond the Sun’s sphere of influence, Interstellar Probe would be the boldest move in space exploration to date. This pragmatic near-term mission concept would enable groundbreaking science using technology that is near-launch-ready now. Flying the farthest and the fastest, it would venture into the space between us and neighboring stars, discovering uncharted territory. It would provide the first real vantage point of our life-bearing system from the outside, allowing us to better understand our own evolution. In an epic 50-plus-year journey, Interstellar Probe will explore questions about our place in the universe, enabled by multiple generations of engineers, scientists, and visionaries

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1960 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  Sixty-one years ago, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas-themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words,” And a Merry Christmas, to each and all,” but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.  

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 76. Best known for the Riftwar series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. 
  • Born December 23, 1927 Chuck Harris. A major British fan, active in fandom from the Fifities until his passing. He ran the infamous money laundering organization Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell and was a well-loved British member of Irish Fandom. He was involved in myriad Apas and fanzines. As co-editor of Hyphen he was nominated multiple times for the Best Fanzine Hugo in the Fifties but never won. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 23, 1949 Judy Ann Strangis, 72. She’s one of the leads, Judy / Dyna Girl, on a Seventies show I never heard of, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, which was a Sid and Marty Krofft (H.R. Pufnstuf) live action SF children’s television series from 1976. She had one-offs on Twilight Zone and Bewitched and, and appeared twice on Batman courtesy of her brother who was a production manager there.  She’s also done voice work in The Real Ghostbusters and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born December 23, 1958 Joan Severance, 63. She’s on the Birthday list because she was Darcy Walker, the Black Scorpion in Roger Corman’s Black Scorpion. She then starred in and co-produced Black Scorpion II: Aftershock and The Last Seduction II.
  • Born December 23, 1971 Corey Haim. You’ll most likely remember him from the Lost Boys but he had a long career in genre film after that with roles in WatchersPrayer of the Roller BoysFever LakeLost Boys: The Tribe (no, I’ve never heard of it) and Do Not Disturb. He showed in two series, PSI Factor and Merlin. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 23, 1919 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature.  (Died 2016.)

(9) THESE DON’T REPRODUCE FOR FREE. In “This ‘Star Trek’ enterprise is taking flight”, the Boston Globe profiles a business that sells Tribbles.

…As a child growing up in Washington state, Kayleigha says, her dad showed her classic episodes of the Star Trek TV series on videotape. “I wanted a pet Tribble,” she says. But she didn’t just want a simple stuffed toy — she wanted it to be able to purr when it was happy or shriek when it encountered a Klingon. As an adult, “I finally decided to make one,” she says. “I taught myself to do the C++ coding, and Jay learned how to solder.” They built a prototype in their living room, envisioning it as a smart toy that could be put into different modes with an app. One example: “watchdog” mode, so you can put the Tribble on top of a laptop or another item and it screams if someone tries to move it….

(10) GATISS NEWS. In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Adam Scovell interviews Mark Gatiss about his adaptation of M.R. James’s “The Mezzotint,” starring Rory Kinnear, which will be broadcast on BBC2 at 10.30  PM on Christmas Eve,.

For Gatiss, ghost stories are an essential part of the TV schedule.  “There should be one every year,’ he says.  ‘I’m very happy if it’s me (making them)  but it doesn’t have to be.  I just want them to be on and can’t bear it when they’re not.

Having adapted The Tractate Middoth in 2013, starring Sacha Dhawan, and Martin’s Close in 2019, starring Peter Capaldi, he believes James’s stories are ideally suited to TV.  ‘They were written to be read so they’re already semi-dramatised,’ Gatiss says.  ‘They’re pithy and don’t outstay their welcome. I just want them to be on and can’t bear it when they’re not.’

(11) OCTOTHORPE. The Christmas episode of Octothorpe is online. “Authors Eating John”.

John Coxon is sleepy, Alison Scott is talking to Chinese fans, and Liz Batty went to the Hugos. We discuss site selection at DisCon III before discussing Chengdu in 2023’s victory and then move onto The Hugo Awards before plugging some books we like. Listen here!

(12) CAT FLAP FEVER. Not genre at all. Not even a little bit. In the Guardian: “Tim Dowling: I’m on my hands and knees, teaching our new cat old tricks”.

It is a frosty morning and I am standing in the kitchen in bare feet, holding the door open for the cat. The cat dips its head low, studying the world across the threshold.

“Faster, pussycat,” I say. The cat sniffs at the cold air swirling in from the garden, but does not move. I begin to close the door very slowly, in a bid to create a shrinking decision window. In the space of two months the kitten has grown into a tall-eared, spooky-looking thing that I sometimes find standing on my chest staring down at me in the dead of night, its nose a millimetre from mine. It doesn’t fear the dog or the tortoise, but it’s still pretty wary of outside….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Hailee Steinfeld learns on Comedy Central that despite her Oscar nomination for True Grit, it’s hard work to be part of the MCU!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/4/21 Last Scroll Of The Planet Fileton, Pix-El (The Cousin Clark Doesn’t Talk About)

(1) DOCTOR WHO SEASON BEGINS. Plenty of Radio Timesy-Wimey stuff to start today’s Scroll. First — “Doctor Who series 13 episode 1 review ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’”Radio Times does an episode recap, and beyond this excerpt it’s rather spoilery:

…Flux – Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse gets off to a rollicking start. Mid escapade. High peril. No hanging about. Well, unless you’re Yaz and the Doctor, who, as we join them, are dangling from a “gravity bar” over an ocean of roiling acid. The pace is set for a fast, fun-packed opener, impressively achieved by Chibnall and his team in the face of COVID.

Shorn of former sidekicks Ryan and Graham, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) make good sparring partners, fielding a balance of amity and antagonism, and falling into the trad pattern in which the Time Lord withholds vital information, imperilling the companion’s life, who in turn proves to be plucky and resourceful….

(2) BOX SCORE. And how many watched the kickoff of Season 13? Let Radio Times tell you: “Doctor Who overnight ratings revealed for The Halloween Apocalypse”.

The overnight viewing figures for yesterday’s episode of Doctor Who are in, with the series 13 premiere drawing in almost 4.5 million viewers.

BBC News entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba shared the audience statistics on Twitter, writing that an audience of 4.43 million watched series 13’s first episode – Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse.

While the figures are higher than most of series 12’s overnight statistics, they are lower than those for last season’s premiere, which was watched by 4.88 million.

(3) RAMPANT SPECULATION. Don’t read this if you’re avoiding spoilers: Radio Times returns with the gossip being shared around the TARDIS’ water-cooler: “Swarm Doctor Who regeneration theories – is Swarm a Time Lord?”

… Obviously, there’s a lot to dissect from the episode – but one of the most striking moments had to be the introduction of new (or possibly old) baddie Swarm, who claims to be an ancient foe of the Doctor now wiped from her memory (thanks to events glimpsed in series 12 finale The Timeless Children)….

(4) WORK OF A LIFETIME. Artist James A. Owen has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund an art book retrospective/meditation/collection of illustration, comics, pop culture, and stories celebrating his career: “Illustrations & Illuminations by James A. Owen”. As of this writing, it’s raised $13,421 of the $30,000 goal.

…I envisioned this book as the place where I could collect and display the very best of that work: the color covers and best pages from STARCHILD; the line art, color covers, and process drawings for illustrations from the IMAGINARIUM GEOGRAPHICA books; the drawings I made of J.R.R. TOLKIEN, C.S. LEWIS, and the other Inklings of Oxford from Diana Glyer’s book BANDERSNATCH; the lost graphic novel proposal for Peter Beagle’s THE LAST UNICORN; covers for books by Jeff VanderMeer & Cat Rambo, and Alma Alexander, and Catherynne Valente; illustrations and covers for the emagazine THE INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW; comics adaptations of a song by TORI AMOS and a story by F. PAUL WILSON; unseen art for LOST TREASURES OF THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN; the covers from my periodical WORDS & PICTURES; designs for the magazines ARGOSY and INTERNATIONAL STUDIO; spot illustrations and pinups from every era of my career; and much, much more….

(5) A FINE ROMANCE, WITH NO KISSES. Deadline reports “’Eternals’ Banned In Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain & Oman”.

Eternals was originally scheduled to open in the region on Nov. 11.

While official reasons weren’t provided by either the studio or the local territories, here’s our understanding of what went down:

In Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman, the censors were seeking further cuts beyond any scenes of intimacy and that Disney opted not to make the edits, hence distribution certificates weren’t issued.

Meanwhile in Kuwait and Qatar, the Chloe Zhao-directed super-gods movie was blocked. The issue, we hear, may not solely be the same-sex kiss, but rather that overall these markets have historically had a problem with the depiction of gods and prophets, something they consider blasphemous.

In the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt we understand that a version of the film will be released that removes all scenes of intimacy — be they heterosexual or homosexual. This is generally normal practice for these markets…

(6) ALL THE ANGLES. At A Pilgrim in Narnia, Brenton Dickieson provides a fascinating in-depth review of a recent book about Tolkien’s Chaucer scholarship: “The Doom and Destiny of Tolkien’s Chaucer Research: A Note on John M. Bowers, Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer (2019)”.

Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer is a book about a book that was doomed from the start….

… However, the entire book is really about how the fertile imagination and poetry of Chaucer provides an unceasingly rich bed for Tolkien’s scholarship and mythopoeic work. Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer really does reveal Tolkien’s thinking about words, accents, language development, regional dialects, poetic beauty, storytelling, character development, and moral and creative rooting. It is also an excellent book for showing Tolkien’s process as a thinker and editor. Readers of the Middle-earth histories and other Tolkien archival collections (like Christopher Tolkien’s publication of Beowulf) will recognize the patterns of intensive work, attention to detail, harried productivity, and chronic procrastination endemic to Tolkien’s lifetime at the desk.

When I mention “parallels” between Chaucer and Tolkien, I really mean that this is what the book is about. These parallels are often striking, sometimes surprising, and almost always thoughtful (even when they are peculiar). I wish, as I always do of writers about intertextual influence, that Bowers would have better distinguished the different kinds of probability of influence on a case-by-case basis. Usually, though, the reader can make that decision, deciding if this is a Chaucerian moment in Tolkien or merely a striking coincidence….

(7) MODEL LYRICS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Helen Brown says that Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Major General’s Song” from The Pirates of Penzance (you know, “I am the very model of a modern major general”) has surprising sf resonances because of Tom Lehrer.

The smart-alecky language and precision-engineered rhyme scheme of (W.S.) Gilbert’s original lyrics made their way, via (Tom) Lehrer, into 20th-century science-fiction nerd culture, which made the song a perfect fit for tv shows.  On a 1978 episode of the BBC’s Dr. Who written by Douglas Adams (The Pirate Planet) Tom Baker’s incarnation of the Time Lord sang, ‘I am the very model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer.’  The song was also sung in episodes of Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1992), Babylon 5 (1997), and Star Trek:  Discovery  (2019)… In 2017, the adorably chaotic minions from Universal’s animated film Despicable Me 3 turned the song into giddy gibberish as “Papa Mamma Loca Pipa.” As their helium-high voices tear into lines like ‘toka bocca pissa lalasagnaa,’ you can imagine Gilbert laughing from beyond the grave.

(8) KRUGMAN, PALMER, WALTON & MORE. City University of New York will present “Imagining the Future: Science Fiction and Social Science”, a free virtual event, on November 10 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Reservations required — register on Zoom. (The event will be available a few days later on their YouTube channel.)

What do science fiction and social science have in common? Much in the way economists and political scientists forecast the results of social and economic structures, science-fiction writers envision future civilizations, both utopian and dystopian, through systematic world-building. Paul Krugman, distinguished professor of economics at the CUNY Graduate Center, joins in a conversation about the connection between the social sciences and fantasy fiction, and how they often inspire each other. The panel, including sci-fi novelists and social scientists who often refer to fiction in their writing and interviews, includes: Henry Farrell, a professor working on democracy and international affairs at Johns Hopkins University and editor-in-chief of the Monkey Cage blog at The Washington PostAda Palmer, author of the Terra Ignota series and associate professor of history at the University of Chicago; Noah Smith, who writes about economics at Noahpinion and is a former Bloomberg columnist and assistant professor at Stony Brook University; and Jo Walton, whose many books include Tooth and ClawHa’Penney, and the recent Or What You Will.

(9) SLIME TIME. “Ghostbusters Confidential: Inside The Original Ghost Shop” is an in-person Artist Talk being presented at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, CA on Saturday, November 20 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. If you’re going to be in the neighborhood, tickets are available for $10 at the link. 

To celebrate the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, neon and kinetic sculptor Stuart Ziff returns to MONA to share an entertaining, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the creatures in the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie. As “Head of Ghost Shop,” Stuart managed over 50 artists and technicians to create the film’s iconic monsters and creatures. Stuart will explain the creature-creation process–from concept drawings to filming on set– for fan-favorite creatures including “Slimer”, “Terror Dogs”, and The “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.” 

(10) ONCE A FANNISH MECCA. Daytonian in Manhattan profiles “The Doomed 1919 Hotel Pennsylvania”, a famous NYC hotel remembered by fans like Andrew Porter under its operating name the Statler-Hilton as the site of the 1967 Worldcon, NyCon 3, and other sff events. Porter commented there:

In 1966, a bunch of science fiction fans, myself included, checked out holding our annual World Science Ficrtion Convention at the then-Statler-Hilton. I remember being shown around. Sights included the enormous drained swimming pools, over which were built office space, as well as all the function rooms, some of which no longer exist. We did indeed hold the convention there, with numerous problems, including that the elevator operators were on strike because they were being automated out of existence. I remember the hotel rooms had window air conditioners, but also had hot, cold, and ice water faucets in the bathrooms, from the days before air conditioning was installed. Over the 1960s to 1990s, numerous science fiction, comics and Star Trek conventions were held in the hotel, and I have numerous photos with those facilities behind the people. Or just Google “1967 World Science Fiction Convention” to see reports, photos, etc.

All the hotel fittings were auctioned in September, and the building is expected to be demolished .

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1996 – Twenty-five years ago, DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations” first aired in syndication. A most delightful episode, it blended footage from the original “The Trouble with Tribbles” into the new episode in a manner that allowed the characters from DS9 to appear to interact with the original Trek crew. The story was by Ira Steven Behr, Hans Beimler and Robert Hewitt Wolfe with Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria writing the actual script.

Paramount promoted the episode by arranging the placement of around a quarter million tribbles in subways and buses across the United States. Huh. Critics loved it. Really. Truly. They all turned into fanboys.  And everyone loved that they brought Charlie Brill back to film new scenes. It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 but lost out to Babylon 5’s “Severed Dreams”. I personally think it should’ve won. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 4, 1912 Wendayne Ackerman. Was the translator-in-chief of 137 novels of the German space opera series Perry Rhodan, the majority published by Ace Books. She left Germany before WWII to escape anti-Semitism, working as a nurse in France and London. After the war she emigrated to Israel where she married her first husband and had a son. Following their divorce she moved to LA in 1948, and soon met and married Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 1990.)
  • Born November 4, 1917 Babette Rosmond. She worked at magazine publisher Street & Smith, editing Doc Savage and The Shadow in the late Forties. Rosmond’s first story, co-written by Leonard M. Lake, “Are You Run-Down, Tired-“ was published in the October 1942 issue of Unknown WorldsError Hurled was her only genre novel and she only wrote three short genre pieces. She’s not available at the usual suspects. (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 4, 1920 Sydney Bounds. Writer, Editor, and Fan from Britain who was a prolific author of short fiction, and novels — not just science fiction, but also horror, Westerns, mysteries, and juvenile fiction — from 1946 until his death in 2006. He was an early fan who joined Britain’s Science Fiction Association in 1937. He worked as an electrician on the Enigma machine during World War II, and while in the service, he started publishing the fanzine Cosmic Cuts. The film The Last Days on Mars (an adaptation of “The Animators”) and the Tales of the Darkside episode “The Circus” are based on stories by him. In 2005, two collections of his fiction were released under the title The Best of Sydney J. Bounds: Strange Portrait and Other Stories, and The Wayward Ship and other Stories. In 2007, the British Fantasy Society honored him by renaming their award for best new writer after him. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 4, 1934 Gregg Calkins. Gregg Calkins, Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.”
  • Born November 4, 1953 Kara Dalkey, 68. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of SagamoreSteel RoseLittle Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Otherwise Awards. 
  • Born November 4, 1953 Stephen Jones, 68. Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies edited quite some time ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for eighteen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated HistoryBasil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He’s also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere. He’s won a number of World Fantasy Awards and far too many BFAs to count. 
  • Born November 4, 1955 Lani Tupu, 66. He’d be here just for being Crais and the voice of the Pilot on the Farscape series but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings including the 1989 Punisher as Laccone, and Gordon Standish in Robotropolis. He also had roles in Tales of the South SeasTime Trax and The Lost World. All of which we can guess were filmed in Australia. Lastly he appears in the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series which if you haven’t seen it is quite excellent. I just found it in DVD format several years back. 
  • Born November 4, 1960 James Vickery, 61. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there. His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”.  He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode. And he voiced the character Legolas in a radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) REUBEN AWARD. Ray Billingsley, creator of the comic strip Curtis, won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist from the National Cartoonists Society on October 17. Billingsley is the first Black person to win in the 75-year history of the award. A video of his acceptance speech is here. SVA profiled him in February: “’Curtis’ Creator and SVA Alumnus Ray Billingsley on His Career, His Influences and Representation in Comics”.

(15) STUFFING YOUR CHRISTMAS SCOFFING. The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage enjoys a snarkfest at the expense of an annual UK TV tradition: “John Lewis Christmas advert 2021: this alien girl is here to ravage our planet”.

There are plenty of theories why the John Lewis Christmas ad no longer hits as hard as it once did. You could look at the fortunes of John Lewis itself, which has spent the last couple of years locked in a nightmare of plunging revenues and store closures. You could look at how aggressively every other retailer has attempted to rip off the tear-jerky John Lewis Christmas ad formula, to the extent that sitting through an ITV commercial break in November or December is now exactly the same as suffering through the first 10 minutes of Up on a neverending loop in an abandoned corn silo full of crying children.

But judging by this year’s offering, you might also suggest that John Lewis has run out of ideas. Because this year’s ad is such a straight-down-the-line John Lewis Christmas advert that you can only imagine it was assembled by tombola.

Sweet children? Check. Bittersweet ending? Check. Maudlin cover version of a song you once liked? Check, in this case a version of Together in Electric Dreams that sounds like it was performed by someone who has tumbled down a well and just realised nobody is coming to rescue her…. 

(16) REN FAIRES. Maryland’s NPR outlet produced a segment about “The Timeless Endurance Of Renaissance Faires”. Listen to it at the link. The guests are Eleanor Janega, a guest teacher in women’s history at the London School of Economics and Political Science; host, “Going Medieval;” author, “The Middle Ages: A Graphic History”; Kevin Patterson, executive director, Red Barn Productions; son of the founders of the original Renaissance Faire; and Rachel Lee Rubin, professor and chair of American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Boston; author, “Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture.” There’s also a sizable photo gallery.

The modern Renaissance Faire blossomed from a children’s arts education program in Agoura, California, in 1963.

Now, almost 60 years later, it’s a nationwide industry.

More than 200 festivals operate around the country — complete with jousters, performers, carnival games, vendors selling bespoke costume pieces, and various meats on a stick.

So why has the Renaissance Faire endured, nay, proliferated, all these years later?

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. An Audi is such a powerful car that it lets customers buy scary houses!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, John A Arkansawyer, Bill, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna) riffing off an idea by Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/21 Big Pixel In Little Scroll

(1) KRUGMAN’S RINGING ENDORSEMENT. “‘Dune’ Is the Movie We Always Wanted” says Paul Krugman.  After pausing to tell us why he hates Apple TV’s Foundation series, he tells why he loves the Villenueve Dune adaptation.

… Now on to “Dune.” The book is everything “Foundation” isn’t: There’s a glittering, hierarchical society wracked by intrigue and warfare, a young hero of noble birth who may be a prophesied Messiah, a sinister but alluring sisterhood of witches, fierce desert warriors and, of course, giant worms.

And yes, it’s fun. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would engage in mock combat in which the killing blow had to be delivered slowly to penetrate your opponent’s shield — which will make sense if you read the book or watch the movie.

What makes “Dune” more than an ordinary space opera are two things: its subtlety and the richness of its world-building.

Thus, the Bene Gesserit derive their power not from magic but from deep self-control, awareness and understanding of human psychology. The journey of Paul Atreides is heroic but morally ambiguous; he knows that if he succeeds, war and vast slaughter will follow.

And the world Herbert created is given depth by layers of cultural references. He borrowed from Islamic and Ayurvedic traditions, from European feudalism and more — “Dune” represents cultural appropriation on a, well, interstellar scale. It’s also deeply steeped in fairly serious ecological thinking…

(2) SILICON VOLLEY. Did you have any doubts? “’Dune: Part 2′ Officially Greenlit” reports Variety. But you have to wait ‘til 2023 to see it.

… Legendary Entertainment announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday, ensuring that the spice will continue to flow on screen. Warner Bros. will distribute the film and help finance it, though Legendary is the primary money behind the movie and owns the film rights to the book series. The film is expected to have an exclusive theatrical run, and Legendary will likely make that point iron-clad after “Dune” debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max last week. The unorthodox distribution pattern was a pandemic-era concession by Warner Bros., but one that caused an uproar when it was unveiled in 2020. “Dune: Part 2” will hit theaters on Oct. 20, 2023….

When interviewed by Variety at the Toronto Film Festival, Villeneuve said, “I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously. For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm… As I was doing the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”

(3) DISCON III BUSINESS MEETING DEADLINE. Meeting chair Kevin Standlee reminds all that the deadline for submitting proposals to the 2021 WSFS Business Meeting is November 16, 2021. Any two or more members of DisCon III (including supporting and virtual members) may sponsor new business. Submit proposals to businessmeeting@discon3.org. See “A Guide to the WSFS Business Meeting at DisCon III” [PDF file] for more information about the WSFS Business Meeting.

Reports from committees of the Business Meeting and financial reports from Worldcon committees are also due by November 16, 2021. Send reports to businessmeeting@discon3.org.

(4) RED ALERT. Remember when you had half a year to do all your Hugo reading? Okay, now’s time to panic. DisCon III today posted a reminder that the Hugo voting deadline is just a few weeks away.

(5) 6TH ANNUAL CITY TECH SF SYMPOSIUM. The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and SF has extended the submission deadline of its call for papers until October 29. See full guidelines at the link.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium aims to explore the broad theme of “Access and SF” as a way to understand the relationship between access and SF, identify what’s at stake and for whom, foster alliances between those fighting for access, and discuss how improving access for some improves access for all.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium is a virtual event that will be held online Thursday, December 9 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Eastern at CUNY in New York.

(6) HORROR TRIUMVIRATE Q&A. Goodreads invites fans to “Meet the Authors of Today’s Big Horror Novels”.

Stephen Graham Jones, author of My Heart Is a Chainsaw

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

SGJ: One that changes your daily behavior—makes you afraid of the shower, afraid of the dark, suspicious of the people in your life. One that leaves you no longer certain about yourself or the world you live in. A perfect horror novel is one you forget is a book at all. It’s one that lodges in your head and your heart as an experience, a little perturbation inside you that you only snag your thoughts on when alone. But when those thoughts start to seep blood, you place that cut to your mouth and drink. This is the nourishment you need, never mind how drained it leaves you feeling. Nothing’s for free.

Caitlin Starling, author of The Death of Jane Lawrence

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

CS:  I want to drown in atmosphere. That doesn’t mean I want only slow-moving horror but books that feel like the movies The Blackcoat’s Daughter or A Dark Song—something in that vein. I also want characters that I can live inside, that even if I question their decisions, I don’t just hate or want to suffer. It’s more fun for me to watch a character I enjoy struggle.

Grady Hendrix, author of The Final Girl Support Group

GR: What sparked the idea for your latest book?

GH: Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies, so after Boy Scout meetings when our Scoutmaster took us to the gas station for snacks, I convinced him that I was allowed to buy issues of Fangoria with my snack money instead. I’d pore over Fango’s deeply detailed plot breakdowns and photo spreads so that I could pretend to have seen all these horror movies. The first one I remember was their feature on the opening of Friday the 13th Part 2, in which the final girl from Part 1, played by Adrienne King, gets murdered by Jason. The casual cruelty of that blew my mind. This woman had seen all her friends die, decapitated the killer, and survived, but she still couldn’t let her guard down. I always wanted to write her a happier ending.
(Fun fact: Adrienne King is the audiobook narrator for The Final Girl Support Group.)

(7) CLASSISM IN SESSION. In “The Potterization of Science Fiction”, The Hugo Book Club Blog decries a prevalent type of sff story, and the distortions it has wrought on the TV adaptation of Foundation.

…One of the fundamentally troubling assumptions behind the born-great protagonist is the anti-democratic idea that the lives of some people simply matter more than the lives of other people. If we accept that Harry Potter is destined to be the only one who can do the thing that’s important, then why should we care about the life of Ritchie Coote? Likewise, if Aragorn is destined for the throne then we have to accept that all other Men of Gondor would be incapable of managing the kingdom (let alone Women of Gondor). There is a direct link between the idea that one person can be born great, with the ideas that underpin racism, classism, and sexism. See also: the equally flawed “great man” theory….

(8) DEATH FROM ABOVE. In the latest episode of Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie’s Science Fiction 101 podcast, “Fly Me To The Moon”, they review The Apollo Murders.

The author, Chris Hadfield, has flown on the Space Shuttle and on Soyuz, worked on the Russian Mir space station, and commanded the International Space Station. You can’t get more astronaut experience than that.

….If you’ve been tempted by The Apollo Murders, listen to our review to see if it’s the kind of thing that appeal to you. But do be warned: here there be spoilers!

(9) FRIENDLY LOCAL GAME STORE DOCUMENTARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Here’s a trailer for an interesting Kickstarter documentary about the largest independent games store on Earth. Now, I might be biased, since I worked there in the 1990s, but Sentry Box is great. One of the best SF book selections anywhere (Gord, the owner handed me my first copy of Lest Darkness Fall … and Steve Jackson and Judith Reeves-Stevens used to visit the store semi-regularly.) 

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1984 – Thirty-seven years ago, The Terminator said “I’ll be back” as the first in that franchise was released.  It was directed by James Cameron who wrote it along with Gale Anne Hurd who also produced it. (She would marry Cameron in 1985.) It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton.  Almost all the critics at the time really liked it, though the New York Times thought there was way too much violence. You think? One critic at the time said it had, and I quote, “guns, guns and more guns.” Huh.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very high score of eighty-nine percent. I was surprised that it did not get a Hugo nomination.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 67. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. 
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 61. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quelled, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. It’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 59. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride which won a Hugo at Nolacon II as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. And no, that’s hardly all his genre roles. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 58. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 50. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his other series, Codex Alera and Cinder Spires? I see he won a Dragon this year for his Battle Ground novel, the latest in the Dresden Files series.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 48. Ok, I confess that I tried watching The Orville which he created and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I will admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield shows we need some better way to handle giant robots. (I imagine Slim Pickens delivering the line in the comic.)

(13) DIOP WINS NEUSTADT. Boubacar Boris Diop is the 27th laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide. Diop is not a genre writer so far as I’m aware, but this major literary award news came out today.

Francophone writer Diop (b. 1946, Dakar, Senegal) is the author of many novels, plays and essays. He was awarded the Senegalese Republic Grand Prize in 1990 for Les Tambours de la mémoire as well as the Prix Tropiques for The Knight and His Shadow. His Doomi Golo was the first novel to be translated from Wolof into English. Toni Morrison called his novel Murambi: The Book of Bones “a miracle,” and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair listed it as one of the 100 best African books of the 20th century.

…The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. Winners are awarded $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver and a certificate.

Boubacar Boris Diop

(14) SCIENCE FICTION IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE PRESENT.  Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s article about the Dune novel and movie’s use of culture is much more nuanced than the headline Slate gives it: “Is HBO’s 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book a white savior narrative?”

…Part of this is also Herbert’s fault. By writing a story in which he intended to critique “Western man,” Herbert also centered Western man. Often when critiquing something, one falls into a binary that prevents the very third option that so many have been looking for since decolonization. Herbert’s greatest shortcoming can be seen in his analysis of T.E. Lawrence and the deification of leaders in an interview he gave in 1969. He said, “If Lawrence of Arabia had died at the crucial moment of the British … he would have been deified. And it would have been the most terrifying thing the British had ever encountered, because the Arabs would have swept that entire peninsula with that sort of force, because one of the things we’ve done in our society is exploited this power.”

Herbert’s shortcoming is not his idea that “Western man” seeks to exploit the deification of charismatic leaders but that Arabs (or any other non-Western) would fall easily for it. This notion, in fact, builds on a stereotype that motivated European powers to fund propaganda among Muslims during the world wars in the hope that they could provoke a global jihad against one another. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, because Islam isn’t a “warrior religion” whose followers are just waiting for the right trigger to go berserk. Islam’s followers are human and are as complicated and multifaceted as other humans. Herbert should have seen that more clearly….

(15) PILE THESE ON TOP OF MT. TBR. CrimeReads’ Rektok Ross recommends some compelling YA horror and sf novels: “9 YA Survival Thrillers To Get Your Heart Pounding This Fall”.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

During a catastrophic natural disaster, high school sophomore Miranda takes shelter with her family in this heart-stopping thriller. After a meteor knocks the moon closer to earth, worldwide tsunamis demolish entire cities, earthquakes rock the world, and ash from volcanic explosions block out the sun. When the summer turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother are forced to hideout in their sunroom, where they must survive solely on stockpiled food and limited water. Readers will find themselves completely riveted by this story of desperation in an unfamiliar world although there are small slivers of hope, too.

(16) UNCOVERED. Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, in “Inspiration: The Reflection”, compares Will Bradley’s 1894 art with the science fictional cover by Mike Hinge it inspired, published by the 1975 fanzine Algol. Editor Andrew Porter commented there —

…This issue was the first with a full color cover. Working with the artist, Mike Hinge, was a challenge. He was a stickler for details, even demanded that his copyright appear on the front cover, in the artwork! This was also the first issue with the covers printed on 10pt Kromecoate, so the image really bumped up.

I forgot to mention that Hinge also did interior artwork, for the Le Guin piece. Also, all the type on the cover, and the headlines inside was done using LetraSet, which I still have dozens of sheets of, though I haven’t used it in decades.

(17) TOCHI ONYEBUCHI AND NGHI VO. At Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron, Nghi Vo and Tochi Onyebuchi joined Alan Bond and Karen Castelletti to talk about their 2021 Hugo Awards nominated works, Empress of Salt and Fortune and Riot Baby.

(18) FAMILY TREE. Joe Abercrombie’s response to Nina Melia’s tweet is, “Holy shit I’m Frodo in this metaphor?”

(19) THE WEED OF CRIME. In the Washington Post, Hannah Knowles says that federal prosecutors have charged Vinath Oudomzine for fraudulently obtaining a pandemic-related Small Businsss Administration loan. Prosecutors charge that Oudomosine spend $57,789 on a Pokemon card, which they did not identify. “Vinath Oudomsine used covid-19 business relief to buy a Pokémon card, federal prosecutors say”.

… On July 14, 2020, according to prosecutors, Oudomsine sought a loan for a business that he said had 10 employees and revenue of $235,000 over a year. The next month, court documents state, the SBA deposited $85,000 into a bank account in Oudomsine’s name.

Court filings give few details about the alleged Pokémon card purchase — such as which “Pocket Monster” it carried — simply stating that Oudomsine bought it “on or about” Jan. 8 of this year.

Collectible gaming cards can fetch big sums — this year, one unopened box of first-edition Pokémon cards sold for more than $400,000.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Halloween Kills Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, which has spoilers, Ryan George says Michael Myers managers to escape from the cliffhanger of the previous Halloween movie, even though he’s “an eight-fingered 60-year-old with smoke inhalation.”  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis, despite her billing, is barely in the movie and about half the script is various characters saying, “Evil dies tonight!”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Jennifer Hawthorne, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, Dann, Gadi Evron, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

Pixel Scroll 9/11/21 TribblePlusUnGood

(1) THE BRONZE TROUSERS. “’Cheese!’: Bronze statue of iconic duo Wallace and Gromit unveiled in Preston by creator Nick Park” reports ITV News Granada.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park unveils the new statue in Preston. Photo credit: PA

A large bronze statue of the iconic, cheese-loving duo Wallace and Gromit has been unveiled in Lancashire.

The bench sculpture is based on the inventor and his loyal pooch as they appeared in short-film ‘The Wrong Trousers’, and now sits pride of place outside Preston Markets.

(2) WORDSMITH. John Scalzi celebrates “30 Years of Being a Professional Writer” with a not-very- shocking admission:

…Thirty years on I do not have the writing career I thought I would have when I started out. I’ve said this before and I think people disbelieve me, but: I had no intention of being a novelist, or, at the very least, I assumed that if I were to write novels, that they would be a nice occasional side hustle. What I hoped for at the time — and what I assumed would be the case — is that I would write for newspapers all my life. The gig at the Fresno Bee would lead to gigs at other newspapers, and eventually I would land up at the New York Times/Washington Post/Los Angeles Times/Chicago Tribune as a daily columnist, riffing off local and world events like idols such as Mike Royko or Molly Ivins. Twenty-two-year-old me fully expected an entire career of daily deadlines and 800-word bursts of opinion.

And, I’m not going to lie, part of me is sad I didn’t get that life. Not too sad, because, well. Hello, welcome to Whatever, which I have been writing at for twenty-three years come Monday…. 

(3) NOUGHTS & CROSSES AUTHOR. Guardian reporter Sian Cain interviews YA SFF writer Malorie Blackman: “‘Hope is the spark’”.

…The last 18 months, however, have been a significant challenge. Having been classed as extremely vulnerable due to a health condition, Blackman has been isolating for most of the pandemic – and it is clear that, as she puts it, she “loves a chat”. “It has been a very strange time,” she says. “I was getting government letters saying: ‘Don’t go out.’ I was trying to live as normal a life as possible, knowing full well it was extraordinary circumstances. But you do what you can, so I focused on my writing. Endgame was a good thing because it felt like I was doing something. I wasn’t saving lives, but I was doing something.

What she was doing is probably the hardest thing an author can do: writing the ending. After 20 years, six books and three novellas, Noughts & Crosses, Blackman’s most famous series, is finished. It is set in Albion, an alternative Britain that was colonised by Africa, where the black population call themselves Crosses (as they are closer to God), while the white are Noughts (poorer, institutionally discriminated against)….

(4) IT’S TIME TO BE SIMULTANEOUS. The good folks at Space Cowboy Books have released Simultaneous Times, Vol. 2.5, a free ebook anthology of stories featured at the Simultaneous Times podcast. One of them is by Cora Buhlert. Here is a book trailer for the anthology: 

(5) KRUGMAN, PALMER & WALTON. CUNY will host “Imagining the Future: Economics and Science Fiction” on November 10 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Register for Zoom webinar access at the link.

What do economics and science fiction have in common? Much in the way economists forecast the results of social and economic structures, science-fiction writers envision future civilizations, both utopian and dystopian, through systematic world-building. Paul Krugman, distinguished professor of economics at the CUNY Graduate Center, joins in a conversation about the connection between the social sciences and fantasy fiction, and how they often inspire each other. Featuring: Ada Palmer, author of the Terra Ignota series and associate professor of history at the University of Chicago; Jo Walton, whose many books include Tooth and Claw, Ha’Penney, and the recent Or What You Will; and others.

(6) FRAMING TOOL. Maybe an algorithm will help make that blank screen less empty: “New tool could help authors bust writer’s block in novel-length works” reports Penn State News.

… Researchers at the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology recently introduced a new technology that forecasts the future development of an ongoing written story. In their approach, researchers first characterize the narrative world using over 1,000 different “semantic frames,” where each frame represents a cluster of concepts and related knowledge. A predictive algorithm then looks at the preceding story and predicts the semantic frames that might occur in the next 10, 100, or even 1,000 sentences in an ongoing story….

The researchers’ framework, called semantic frame forecast, breaks a long narrative down into a sequence of text blocks with each containing a fixed number of sentences. The frequency of the occurrence of each semantic frame is then calculated. Then, the text is converted to a vector — numerical data understood by a machine — where each dimension denotes the frequency of one frame. It is then computed to quantify the number of times a semantic frame appears and signifies its importance. Finally, the model inputs a fixed number of text blocks and predicts the semantic frame for the forthcoming block.

…Authors could use the tool by feeding a part of their already-written text into the system to generate a set of word clouds with suggested nouns, verbs and adjectives to inspire them when crafting the next part of their story.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this date, Wonder Woman put away her lasso for the last time as her series came to end after three seasons. The show’s first season aired under the name of Wonder Woman on ABC and is set in the 1940s, during World War II. The last two seasons aired on CBS and was set in the then-current day late Seventies, with the title changed to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman. It starred Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman / Diana Prince and Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor Sr. There would be fifty-nine episodes and a movie before it ended. Currently you can find it on HBO Max along with everything Wonder Woman that Warner Media has done. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent eighty percent rating.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 11, 1934 — Ian Abercrombie. He played a most excellent and proper Alfred Pennyworth on the terribly well done Birds of Prey, a certain Professor Crumbs in Wizards of Waverly Place, he was Wiseman in Army of Darkness andvoiced Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 11, 1940 — Brian De Palma, 81. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well.
  • Born September 11, 1941 — Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 11, 1948 — Michael Sacks, 73. He’s best remembered as Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five. Given how short his film career was, as it lasted but little over a decade, that’s no surprise. His only other genre role was as Jeff in The Amityville Horror. He’s now in the financial services sector. 
  • Born September 11, 1951 — Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh, Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels in that series and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with the assistance of co-writer Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately like so many of these guides, it was done once part way through the series and never updated. 
  • Born September 11, 1952 — Sharon Lee, 69. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for significant contribution to SF in the spirit of the writer E.E. “Doc” Smith, and they won The Golden Duck, the Hal Clement Young Adult Award, for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born September 11, 1958 — Roxann Dawson, 63. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. Oh and she popped up once on the Seven Days series. She’s long since retired from acting. 
  • Born September 11, 1965 — Cat Sparks, 56. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction.” She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 

(9) NEAR TO THE MADDING CROWD. The DickHeads Podcast – so-called for their interest in Philip K. Dick – makes a side excursion to discuss someone who once gave an opinion about a PKD story: “Judith Merril Roundtable”.

Dick Adjacent is back. And it’s a good one too. The story goes that after David finished reading some of Judith Merril’s stories, he found a scathing review she wrote of PKD’s story Roog, and with that connection made, it seemed only appropriate to gather a panel of experts together and discuss her place in the science fiction universe. Considered a feminist force, she had to bully her way through a male-dominated business to make her voice heard. Incredible person. Incredible story. And a truly accredited panel. So listen in on David, Lisa Yazek, Gideon Marcus, Ritchie Calvin, and Kathryn Heffner as they discuss the legacy of Judith Merril.

(10) FLICKS BY THE BRIDGE. The Brooklyn SciFi Film Festival is back for 2021 with 160 sff films from 18 countries. All film selections will be available to stream online September 20-26 with live, in-person screenings to be held in Brooklyn at the Wythe Hotel Screening Room on September 25. Tickets available here. Special recognition in eight categories will be awarded by a panel of jurors and industry professionals on September 25.

This year, the BSFFF will feature all-new exclusive online events, screening parties, and filmmaker commentary. Another addition is the “The Future Sounds of Brooklyn,” which is a compilation of SciFi-inspired music from musicians across the globe. The popular  The Sixth Borough, a curated, BSFFF-developed series, which presents three fantastic science fiction short films united by a common theme each day of the festival, will return for the second year.

(11) A DIFFERENT WAY. Sebastien de Castell’s new YA fantasy Way Of The Argosi is pitched as “The Alchemist meets The Three Musketeers — with card tricks.”

A merciless band of mages murdered her parents, massacred her tribe and branded her with mystical sigils that left her a reviled outcast. They should have killed her instead.

Stealing, swindling, and gambling with her own life just to survive, Ferius will risk anything to avenge herself on the zealous young mage who haunts her every waking hour. But then she meets the incomparable Durral Brown, a wandering philosopher gifted in the arts of violence who instead overcomes his opponents with shrewdness and compassion. Does this charismatic and infuriating man hold the key to defeating her enemies, or will he lead her down a path that will destroy her very soul?

Through this outstanding tale of swashbuckling action, magical intrigue and dazzling wit, follow Ferius along the Way of the Argosi and enter a world of magic and mystery unlike any other.

(12) SAY AGAIN? [Item by David Doering.] Just the thing for the WSFS Business Meeting:

— Which the US Navy is also working on: “A New Navy Weapon Actually Stops You From Talking”. Like having that annoying kid who keeps repeating everything you say…on-demand!

The U.S. Navy has successfully invented a special electronic device that is designed to stop people from talking. A form of non-lethal weapon, the new electronic device effectively repeats a speaker’s own voice back at them, and only them, while they attempt to talk. 

It was developed, and patented back in 2019 but has only recently been discovered, according to a report by the New Scientist

The main idea of the weapon is to disorientate a target so much that they will be unable to communicate effectively with other people. 

Called acoustic hailing and disruption (AHAD), the weapon is able to record speech and instantly broadcast it at a target in milliseconds. Much like an annoying sibling, this action will disrupt the target’s concentration, and, in theory, discourage them from continuing to speak. …

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. First Fandom Experience tells “The Tale of Aubrey MacDermott”, who claimed to be the first active sff fan.

Aubrey McDermott was born in 1909 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and claims to be the first active science-fiction fan. We’ll let Aubrey tell his own story through a letter that he sent to Andrew Porter around 1990…

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

Pixel Scroll 3/21/21 Who Is Commenter #1? You Are, Pixel Fifth

(1) NO MIDWESTCON THIS YEAR. [Item by Joel Zakem.] A message from Bill Cavin on behalf of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG):

Most fans who attend Midwestcon probably won’t be surprised to hear we will not be having the con this year, but I occasionally hear of someone asking the question.  So let this be the official announcement that Midwestcon is on hold until June, 2022.

Until 2020, Midwestcon had occurred every year since 1950.

(2) ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY TRANSPORTER BEAM. “Live Long And Prosper: Boston Dedicates Day For Leonard Nimoy” says the Boston, MA Patch.

Boston is paying a special tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy, who would have turned 90 years old later this month. Mayor Marty Walsh is declaring his birthday, March 26, to be “Leonard Nimoy Day” in the city.

Nimoy, who died in 2015, was born in Boston’s West End neighborhood. He’ll always be remembered for portraying the logical, pointy-eared Spock in “Star Trek,” and embracing the Vulcan character’s “live long and prosper” motto….

(3) MIRROR, MIRROR. E.T. Perry and Will Solomon examine how Star Trek: The Original Series’ view of expansion and “the frontier” clash with its progressive, egalitarian ideals in “New Life and New Civilizations: Socialism, Progress, & The Final Frontier” at Blood Knife.

In “Day of the Dove,” a 1968 episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the crew of the USS Enterprise fights a group of Klingons for control of their Federation starship. The Klingons, led by Kang (Michael Ansara, in seriously questionable make-up), are locked in battle with Captain Kirk and his men. Both sides have become victims of a mysterious alien entity aboard the ship that induces and draws life from emotions of hate, violence, and bigotry. In an attempt to convince Kang’s wife Mara to persuade her husband to accept an armistice, Captain Kirk argues that she accept the Federation’s doctrine of peaceful co-existence, a philosophy that Mara claims is incompatible with the Klingons’ warlike, imperialist way of life. 

“We must push outward to survive,” says Mara.

“There’s another way to survive,” replies Kirk, “mutual trust and help.”

Unspoken in Kirk’s characteristic response is that the Federation actually endures in pretty much the same way as the Klingon Empire—that is, by expansion. They just do it more humanely. But we should not mistake Kirk’s emphasis on decency with a radically different conception of civilization. Both systems are equally dependent on imperialism, on colonialism, on limitless resource extraction to survive. Both, in other words, find themselves unavoidably dependent upon a single concept: progress. 

* * * * *

This tension between the espoused ideals of “mutual trust and help” and the imperialist undercurrent of the Federation’s on-screen actions is an essential dimension of Star Trek, and one that is evident in many of the show’s recurring premises: visiting planets devoted to resource extraction, specifically mining (“The Devil in the Dark”); attempting to establish colonies, promote development, or facilitate “diplomatic relations” (“The Trouble with Tribbles,” “Journey to Babel”); and bartering with aliens for dilithium crystals or other raw materials (“Friday’s Child”). Often these plots occur in the context of competition with the Klingons (“Errand of Mercy,” “A Private Little War”) or Romulans (“Balance of Terror”). And even more often, they result in conflict and battle.

(4) CUT ABOVE THE REST. Variety’s Owen Glieberman makes a compelling case for why the Snyder Cut matters, and why any sequel would be a barometer of Hollywood’s health. “Will Zack Snyder Be Invited to Make a ‘Justice League’ Sequel?”

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has that thing. What is it? You could call it vision, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s also something I would call voice. That’s not a quality we associate with comic-book movies, but the rare great ones have it. And in “Justice League,” Zack Snyder’s voice comes through in ways at once large and small. It’s there in the doomy Wagnerian grandeur, and in the puckish way the movie hones on a seed coming off a hot-dog bun in the bullet-time sequence that introduces the Flash’s superpowers. It’s there in the way the backstories don’t just set up the characters but intertwine their fates, and in the way that Snyder, leaving Joss Whedon’s genial jokiness on the cutting-room floor, replaces it with a sincerity so present it doesn’t have to speak its name. It’s there in the majestic symphonic rigor of the battle scenes, and in how the villains, the glittering-with-malice Steppenwolf and the dripping-with-molten-corruption Darkseid, comprise a threat at once relentless and remorseless.

… Now that that’s happened, to leave Snyder by the wayside seems not merely unjust; it strikes me as foolhardy….

(5) DOES YOUR FANNISH ABODE NEED A CENTERPIECE? Then loosen your money belt: “H.R. Giger’s ‘Alien’ Prototype Is Up for Auction”.

What could be creepier than the drooling, carnivorous monster from 1979’s Alien? How about a translucent version?

The original design from the mind of H.R. Giger for the classic science fiction horror franchise is part of a Hollywood memorabilia sale being offered by Julien’s Auctions on Wednesday, April 28, and Thursday, April 29.

The Xenomorph costume, nicknamed “Big Chap” by those involved with the production, is a milky white and close to the final design. Camera tests were performed before director Ridley Scott opted for a non-translucent version. Long believed lost, it’s expected to fetch between $40,000 and $60,000. Alien collectors, however, are sure to drive up that conservative estimate.

(6) SIGN LANGUAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is another excerpt from Isaac Asimov’s In Joy Still Felt.

In one way, autographing became more and more of a problem for me, since it supplied me with more and more work; partly because the number of my books was increasing steadily, and partly because those books were individually popular.  In another sense, they were not a problem, because I loved autographing.  Some writers cut down on their labors by refusing to sign anything except hard-cover books, but I have never refused anything, and will sign torn scraps of paper if that is what is asked of me.

There is the occasional joker who hands me a blank check.  I just sign it along with everything else, but when the joker gets it back he finds I have signed it, ‘Harlan Ellison.’

(7) KRUGMAN REFERENCES ASIMOV. [Item by Linda Deneroff.] The March 16 edition of the New York Times had an opinion column from Paul Krugman entitled “The Pandemic and the Future City”. The first paragraph discusses Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun and refers back to it again later in the article.

The first paragraph reads: “In 1957 Isaac Asimov published “The Naked Sun,” a science-fiction novel about a society in which people live on isolated estates, their needs provided by robots and they interact only by video. The plot hinges on the way this lack of face-to-face contact stunts and warps their personalities.”

It’s behind a paywall.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1991 – Thirty years ago at Chicon V, The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold which had been published by Baen Books the previous year wins the Hugo for Best Novel. It’s the sixth novel of the Vorkosigan Saga. The other finalists that year were Earth by David Brin, The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, The Quiet Pools by Michael P. Kube-McDowell and Queen of Angels by Greg Bear. It would be nominated for a number of other Awards but this would be the only one it would win. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 21, 1876 – Oshikawa Shunrô.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Pioneer of Japanese SF.  So far I’ve found only his Verne-like Undersea Warship translated into English, first in a very popular series of six.  Also loved baseball.  Wrote detective fiction, some carrying SF.  Co-edited World of Adventure magazine; later founded World of Heroism.  A teacher of mine said “A vice is a virtue gone astray”: too true of heroism, nationalism, patriotism in Japan then, coloring Oshikawa’s work and leading to catastrophe.  (Died 1914) [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1915 Ian Stuart Black. British screenplay writer best known for work on two First Doctor stories, “The Savages” and “The War Machines” (with Kit Pedler and Pat Dunlop) and a Third Doctor story, “The Macra Terror”. He wrote thirteen episodes of The Invisible Man as well as episodes of One Step BeyondThe SaintStar Maidens and Danger Man. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1931 Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 75. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now!  He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the Time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials. (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Terry Dowling, 75. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Midnight which I’ve not read. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but they do have that plus several story collections. (CE) 
  • Born March 21, 1947 – Don Markstein.  Active New Orleans fan whose love of comics ran with a more general SF interest to which he gave full energy.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 11, won the Rebel Award, then two Southpaws (Best Apa Writer and Best Apa Administrator); he was in, among others, SFPA and Myriad.  Just for one sample, he produced, with Guy Lillian, Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (alluding to a satirical book – set in Connecticut! – and its movie) for the Rafael Aloysius Lafferty League of Yeomen.  DM’s Toonopedia, though not seeming updated recently, remains priceless.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1952 – Sue-Rae Rosenfeld, age 69.  I’m baffled by having been acquainted with her for years to the point where I find no notes.  It won’t help you to know she led a Bible study session on Genesis 23:1 – 25:18 recounting the life of Sarah.  She was on the NY in ’86 Worldcon bidding committee with people you do know or know of e.g. Genny Dazzo, Moshe Feder, Elliot Shorter, Ben Yalow; serving egg creams, which have neither egg nor cream, they lost to Atlanta.  “Stu,” she told Stu Shiffman, as he dutifully recounted, “you are a great pain to your friends” – while we were electing him TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 65. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light superb weblog, and back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three fascinating framing pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delhia Sherman and Terri Windling. (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1964 – Lisa Desimini, age 56.  Fifty covers.  Here’s one for her own chapbook.  Here’s Shakespeare’s Landlord– no, not that Shakespeare.  Here is Death’s Excellent Vacation.  Here is This Is Midnight.  [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1970 Chris Chibnall, 51. Current Showrunner for Doctor Who and the head writer for the first two (and I think) best series of Torchwood. He first showed up in the Whoverse when he penned the Tenth Doctor story, “42”.  He also wrote several episodes of Life on Mars. He’s been nominated for a Hugo twice for work on Doctor Who. (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1981 – Lauren Kate, age 40.  Nine novels (Fallen was made into a movie, S. Hicks dir. 2016), eight shorter stories for us; a novel set in 1700s Venice became a top NY Times Best-Seller.  “My ‘blocks’ are generally related to not understanding how a character of mine feels, so … I will write … from the point of view of another character who … can often see things in my protagonist that I cannot.”  [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1982 – Andreas Suchanek, age 39.  Three novels (The Awakening, in English, appeared in January; Queen of Shadows earlier this month), eight shorter stories, starting with Perry Rhodan who or which is some kind of miracle.  Website in English or German; perhaps AS will forgive me for thinking “Multidimensional Characters – Nothing is as it seams” Typo of the Day (it’s just fine in the German, Nichts ist wie es scheint) – my fantastic imagination wishes he’d meant it.  [JH]

(10) ON BOARD. G.T. Reeder looks at how tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder and D&D represent race and disability, where it succeeds, where it fails, and how it could be a tool for better understanding these ideas in the real world: “Ability Score: Tabletop RPGs & the Mechanics of Privilege” at Blood Knife.

Tabletop gaming has experienced a recent surge in popularity to heights never before seen, bringing hordes of new players into close contact with what are frequently decades-old mechanics for the first time. This Great Leap Forward in gaming has brought new and necessary scrutiny on what are in many cases antiquated notions of race, gender, and valor that had been baked into the tabletop RPG landscape over the years.

The result of this has been twofold. First, it’s led to a great “spiritual purge” of the genre, as publishers grapple (or fail to grapple) with issues that had long been overlooked or tolerated within the once-insular tabletop community. This sea change has also opened doors onto new issues and new perspectives, such as transgender characters, race mixing, and questions of accessibility. 

Questions of identity and experience are unavoidable in tabletop roleplaying. After all, a character in an RPG functions essentially as a number of modifiers, either positive or negative, to the dice rolls that propel gameplay. A player can even opt to hobble their character — losing an eye, having less ability in a hand — in exchange for yet more points to spend on positive parts of gameplay. The result is that the in-game privilege of the characters is often tied to the possibilities of the adventure on which they are embarking: games are considered easier (and therefore potentially more fantastical and fun for players) when players are given more points to use while creating their characters, or harder (and therefore more “realistic”) when there are fewer. But in truth, the story of a character with less privilege in their imagined world need not be less fun or less fantastical—indeed, it may be just the opposite.

(11) HUMMINGBIRD SALAMANDER. Powell’s virtual events include Jeff VanderMeer in Conversation With Karen Russell on April 13 at 5 p.m. Pacific. Register for the webinar here.

Software manager Jane Smith receives an envelope containing a list of animals along with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and salamander. The list is signed “Love, Silvina.” Jane does not know a Silvina, and she wants nothing to do with the taxidermied animals. The hummingbird and the salamander are, it turns out, two of the most endangered species in the world. Silvina Vilcapampa, the woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of a recently deceased Argentine industrialist. By removing the hummingbird and the salamander from the storage unit, Jane has set in motion a series of events over which she has no control. Instantly, Jane and her family are in danger, and she finds herself alone and on the run from both Silvina’s family and her ecoterrorist accomplices — along with the wildlife traffickers responsible for the strange taxidermy. She seems fated to follow in Silvina’s footsteps as she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, why she is now at the center of this global conspiracy, and what exactly Silvina was planning. Time is running out — for her and possibly for the world. Hummingbird Salamander (MCD) is Annihilation author Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy. VanderMeer will be joined in conversation by Karen Russell, author of Orange World and Swamplandia!.

(12)  VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matter’s intro“Sci-fi Saturday: Can We Live In More Than the Present Moment?” warns “Scenes of gruesome suffering so caution re kids.”

The creator of a time machine becomes trapped inside his own creation where he must figure out the timing of his mistakes. PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE, CONTAINED.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, JJ, Kurt Schiller, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Linda Deneroff, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/19 Like A Pixel Lesnerized Upon A Table

(1) YA’S OWN STORY ARC. Slate’s “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” is not specifically about sff, but a lot of the books they talk about (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.) are genre.

As a book publishing phenomenon, young adult literature entered the decade like a lion. At the beginning of the 2010s, a generation that had grown up obsessed with Harry Potter and other middle-grade fantasy series decided it wasn’t that interested in adult literary fiction, with its often lackadaisical plotting and downbeat endings. YA stood ready to supply them with plenty of action, cliffhangers, supernatural beings, mustache-twirling bad guys, and true love. But now, at decade’s end, YA seems to be eating itself alive….

…The impulse that led to these and other worthy enterprises, however, is vulnerable to being twisted to less salutary ends on platforms that foster cliques, vendettas, and self-righteous posturing. In the past two years, online networks of YA authors and readers—mostly female adults—have been convulsed with assorted scandals and controversies that have left many outside observers with the impression that “YA Twitter” is hopelessly “toxic.” Bloggers and Twitter pundits pilloried 2017’s The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, for its purported “racism.” That criticism proved unconvincing—even to teen readers, who made the book a success and reviewed it enthusiastically on Amazon—but few of those weighing in on the controversy bothered to point out instead how listlessly predictable The Black Witch is, with the usual high-born heroine confronting an unjust world while embroiled in the usual bad boy/good boy love triangle. It didn’t quite seem worthy of the energy adult readers devoted to fighting over it….

(2) ADD TO YOUR CINEMA TBR STACK. Leonard Maltin weighs in about a flock of books out this month: “New and Notable Film Books – December 2019”. Here are two of his comments:

THE SHOW WON’T GO ON: THE MOST SHOCKING, BIZARRE, AND HISTORIC DEATHS OF PERFORMERS ONSTAGE by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns (Chicago Review Press)

Abraham and Kearns surely aren’t the only show-biz aficionados who have harbored a keen interest in the stories of entertainers who actually died in front of an audience… but they’re the only ones who have had the gumption to research every urban legend surrounding this topic and separate fact from fiction.

RICK BAKER: METAMORPHOSIS by J.W. Rinzler; foreword by John Landis, preface by Peter Jackson, introduction by Rick Baker. (Cameron & Co.)

This massive two-volume tribute to seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker is a definitive study of his life and career in the world of makeup. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced in a slipcase edition, its quality and thoroughness justify its hefty price. Every page offers wonders and delights, including young Rick’s first correspondence with his hero, makeup genius Dick Smith, and his earliest experiments.

(3) EARLY RETURNS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘The Rise Of Skywalker’ Makes For An Exciting, Exhaustive, Effortful Ending”.

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It’s not about the plates. Not really.

…If we happen to notice one plate starting to wobble, after all, the first thing we do is look away from it, to see if the plate-spinner sees it, too.

We want them to succeed. The whole cheesy novelty act is predicated on this. The sheer skill it takes to keep the plates from falling — the eye, the timing, the light touch — that’s what we’re drawn to, really. The work of the thing.

J.J. Abrams is spinning a great many plates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the third and final trilogy of what we are now apparently supposed to call “The Skywalker Saga.” He’s not simply called upon to end the trilogy he began in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but the whole space-operatic, science-fiction-with-generous-helpings-of-fantasy, embrace-your-destiny, Joseph-Campbell, daddy-issues megillah. He has to land a Corellian light freighter that has been loaded down with everything that got kicked off in 1977…

He nails that 42-year-old recipe dutifully — effortfully, it must be said — but the flavoring’s off. The story doesn’t require him to toss in as many ingredients from earlier films in the saga as he does here, but he dumps them all (callbacks, references, echoes, events, characters) into the mix anyway. The result leaves you feeling not so much bloated — the film moves too quickly and is too much fun for that — but certainly overstuffed….

(4) TWO-MINUTE WARNING. And the Baby Yoda backlash follows right behind as Rolling Stone demands: “It’s Almost 2020, Why Hasn’t the Baby Yoda Meme Died?”.

The Mandalorian, as a whole, is an interesting litmus test of just how successful a giant entertainment conglomerate can be when it comes to wringing a piece of previously existing IP for all its worth. One might measure success in Disney+ views/subscriptions or award nominations — but, in 2019, maybe the measure is whether or not you can proffer up a bit of fan service and hope the Internet latches onto it, turns it into a meme and does all your best viral marketing for you, free of charge.

(5) ECONOMICS IN SPACE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Nobel-prize winning economist, science fiction fan and 2009 Worldcon guest Paul Krugman unpacked the macroeconomic themes of The Expanse in his New York Times column on Wednesday. In specific, he highlights how the story of the Martian economy is a parable about the need for public spending during downturns: 

The emergence of high unemployment on Mars after demobilization and the end of terraforming makes it seem as if the real problem wasn’t technology, it was secular stagnation — a situation in which private spending is consistently too weak to employ the economy’s resources, except during unsustainable asset or debt bubbles.

(6) WE CAME, WE SAW, WE KICKED ITS ASS. Close to the occasion of Ghostbusters’ 35th anniversary, YouTuber and video essayist Ryan Hollinger has published a video analyzing the film’s full legacy and its effect on mainstream belief in the paranormal — “The Real Meaning of GHOSTBUSTERS… Apparently.”

(7) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. “Here Are The Most Popular NYC Library Books Of 2019, By Borough” presented by The Gothamist.

Number 1 Titles By Genre
(Manhattan, Staten Island & The Bronx, from the New York Public Library)

  • Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Comics and Graphic Novels: Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
  • Fantasy: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Horror: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Mystery and Detective: The Chef by James Patterson
  • Romance: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks
  • Science Fiction: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 81. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. 
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. (Died 2002.) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 73. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok, so the quality of the last film wasn’t great…  He’d repeat that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love, followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed, starting a string of so-so to piss poor films,  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 66. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,the X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, Supernatural, Voyager, Star Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 65. Yes I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid-Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on Trek, Star Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work-for-hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 65. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think that’s an exemplary genre cred? Well I will.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 51. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad films. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio meets an Alien in a snowman.  

(10) UNRAVELING THE GRINCH’S DNA. CrimeReads investigates “How Dr. Seuss Gave Us One of the Most Complex, Socially Important Heist Stories Ever”. You need to go waaaay back….

…Geisel, though, had a long history of mixed feelings about Christmas. According to biographer Charles D. Cohen, as a student at Dartmouth College in the 1920s and a writer and cartoonist for the campus humor magazine the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel lampooned the whole affair, specifically citing the greed and materialism he saw in the season in an essay called “Santy Claus be Hanged,” which was mostly about how Christmas mornings are ruined because no one receives the items they truly want. He bemoaned, “Sister wanted silk unmentionables and she gets burlap unpronouncibles. Brother wanted a case of scotch and he gets a case of goldfish.” A few years later, in 1930, he published a humorous essay suggesting that parents should combine Santa Claus, his reindeer, the Bogeyman, the Sand-Man, and the Stork into one home-invasive figure—simplifying the number of flying and/or magical creatures that kids would have to count on entering their homes. And then he drew many cartoons representing classic Christmas hallmarks in weird or comically unpleasant versions.

(11) WHO BLABBED? The Royal Aeronautical Society spills the beans about “The secret history of Santa interceptions”.

For the past 70 plus years, nations around the world have attempted to intercept a mysterious hypersonic, high-flying intruder from the North Pole and learn its aeronautical secrets. Our Lapland aerospace Correspondent CHRIS TINGLE reports on the secret effort to counter these annual airspace intrusions. 

(12) OLD TECH. Some Filers will have read Dava Sobel’s Longitude; the BBC describes a spinoff, “The invention that inspired a New York tradition”.

When the final hours of 2019 arrive, a million celebrants will crowd Times Square in New York. Elsewhere, an estimated billion more will tune in to watch the annual spectacle celebrated across the globe.

…But few will acknowledge the man who really deserves their praise, a deeply religious British Royal Navy officer named Robert Wauchope.

…Wauchope’s goal was to make shipping safer. In the early 19th Century, having the exact time was crucial knowledge for mariners. It was only by keeping a ship’s clock precisely calibrated that sailors could calculate their longitude and accurately travel across oceans.

His ball, first demonstrated in Portsmouth, England, in 1829, was a crude broadcast system, a way to relay time to anyone who could see the signal. Typically, at 12:55, a creaky piece of machinery would raise a large painted orb halfway to the top of a pole or flagstaff; at 12:58, it would proceed to the top; and precisely at 13:00, a worker would release it to drop down the pole.

“It is a clear signal,” said Andrew Jacob, a curator who operates the time ball at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. “It’s easy to see the sudden movement as it begins to drop.”

Before the time ball’s invention, a ship’s master would typically come ashore and physically visit an observatory to check his watch against an official clock. Then he would quite literally bring time back to the ship. Wauchope’s invention let sailors calibrate their shipboard timepiece, called a chronometer, without leaving their boat.

“We’re so used to time being here and available, and that wasn’t always the case,” said Emily Akkermans, who has the enviable title, Curator of Time, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The museum and historic site houses the world’s oldest operating time ball, which since 1833 has dropped daily, barring blustery weather, war or mechanical breakdown.

(13) CHEOPS AHOY. The space-pharoahing probe is on the way: “Europe’s Cheops telescope launches to study far-off worlds”.

The European Cheops space telescope has launched to study planets outside our Solar System.

The observatory will follow up the discoveries of previous missions, endeavouring to reveal fresh insights on the nature of distant worlds: What are they made of? How did they form? And how have they changed through time?

The telescope was taken into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket that set off from French Guiana at 08:54 GMT.

The ride to 700km lasted 145 minutes.

Cheops (short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint endeavour of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (Esa), with Switzerland in the lead.

What’s significant about this mission?

Some 4,500 planets have been discovered since the late 1990s using a variety of techniques. But there is a feeling now that the science has to move beyond just detection; beyond just counting planets. We need to profile the objects in a more sophisticated way. Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.

(14) GENTLEMEN, DON’T BE SEATED. BBC reports “Social media awash with scorn for ‘sloping toilet'”.

A toilet designed to slope downwards slightly, making it uncomfortable to sit on for more than a few minutes, has been pooh-poohed on social media.

The toilet design has an upper surface that slopes downwards at a 13-degree angle.

…The BBC spoke to Mr Gill about the toilet, which has been branded “StandardToilet”.

“It came from my personal experience where I stopped off at the motorway to go to the loo and realised there’s a huge queue,” he explained.

“I wondered what people were doing in there, some were coming out with their mobile phones.”

(15) MAKE UP YOUR OWN FACTS. Discover “The Incalculable Joy of Fermi Questions” at Math With Bad Drawings. Numerous examples in the post.

 … Since Fermi questions are so fun and useful, why aren’t they more widely taught? Why isn’t every middle school student doing one of these per week all year long?

I suspect a prosaic reason: they’re hard to grade fairly. Math education is accustomed to cut-and-dry answers. Fermi work is more like an essay, where there are many plausible answers, and reasoning trumps conclusions.

All the more reason to embrace them, I say!

(16) TRACING ANIMATION HISTORY. Alan Baumler recommends Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s–1970s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2019) in “Princess Iron Fan and the origins of Asian animation”.

… One of the reasons the film is so famous is that Tezuka Osamu the “God of Manga”saw it in Japan as a kid and was profoundly influenced by it. In discussing his version of the Sun Wukong story he said

However, what really opened my eyes , impressed me deeply, and sparked my desire to create today was Princess Iron Fan, the first Chinese animated feature film., which premiered in Japan in 1942. (pg. 58)

… Du gives the background on inspiration for the film (Disney’s Snow White) , but most interestingly, for me at least, deals with how it ended up being shown in Japan and becoming, in some respects, the origin story of Asian animated film. It was the direct inspiration for Momotar?’s Sea Eagles (p.52), Japan’s first almost feature length animated film.

She also deals with what to make of Iron Fan, which was a big issue for the film at the time. It was made by the Wan brothers and a team of 250 artists starting on April 25, 1940. The film opened on Nov 19, 1941, in Shanghai. As you can see below, it was still running on Dec 8, 1941, when Japanese troops marched into the International Settlement and French Concession….

(17) BAD RAP. Who even thinks of stuff like this? “Thanos vs J Robert Oppenheimer” — Epic Rap Battles of History does.

[Thanks to Nina Shepardson, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/19 The Scroll Of The File King From Pixel Gynt

(1) AO3’S HUGO PACKET ENTRY. Archive of Our Own has publicly released its Hugo Voter Packet Submission. The two-page writeup is here [PDF file]. The following intro comes from Firenze to Therum:

AO3 was nominated for a Hugo Award this year for Best Related Work! This is an amazing achievement and we’re overjoyed that Hugo voters have recognised the incredible collaborative work that is the Archive.

Here’s some information about AO3, including its origins, some key features, and the team that makes it all possible. You can also check out the shiny PDF we submitted for the 2019 Hugo packet!

(2) AVENGING ECONOMIST. Behind the Financial Times paywall, economics columnist Tim Harford offers his thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.

Thanos fascinates me not only because he’s the best bad guy since Darth Vader–but because the muscular utilitarian is an economist on steroids.

Thanos’s claim to the economists’ hall of fame lies in his interest in scarce resources, his faith in the power of logical analysis, and a strong commitment to policy action–specifically, to eliminate half of all life in the universe, chosen at random…

…Thanos has convinced himself that he’s seen something nobody else can quite understand.  The truth is that he sorely needs peer review.  Like many powerful people, he regards himself as above his critics, not to mention every sapient being in the universe.  He views humans less as free-willed spirits capable of solving their own problems, and more like overbreeding rabbits, needing a cull for their own good.

(3) ENDGAME REVIEW. NPR’s Glen Weldon tells us “Mourning Has Broken Them: ‘Avengers: Endgame'”.

Going into Avengers: Endgame, one would be well-advised to manage both one’s expectations, and — given its three-hour-plus, intermissionless runtime — one’s fluid intake.

…The Russos’ decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they’ve expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large. Got a favorite character from any Marvel movie over the past decade, no matter how obscure? Prepare to get serviced, fan. Because the film’s third and final hour contains extended references to every single Marvel film that has led up to this one – yes! even Thor: The Dark World! I’m as surprised as you are! – and part of the delight Endgame provides to the patient audience member is gauging the size of the cheer that greets the entrance of any given hero, locale or – in at least once instance – item of super-hardware.

Make no mistake: There will be cheers. And boos. And gasps. The final, climactic battle (come on, you knew there’d be one) is legitimately thrilling, because every one of its manifold delights is fueled by (a cynic would say coasting on) the warm familiarity that spending a decade with these characters has engendered….

(4) GLEN WELDON HAS COMPANY. BBC does a roundup of the immediate reaction — “Avengers: Endgame ‘satisfying’ and ‘glorious’, say critics”.

Critics have been left dazzled by the latest Avengers film, describing it as “glorious”, “irresistible”, “intensely satisfying” and “masterful”….

(5) DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, seeing how few award submissions are by writers of color, says “Diversity in science fiction needs action now”.

…Many authors and industry spokespeople have talked more eloquently about the need to address this disparity in publishing than I will ever be able to. But I also suspect more than a few publishers will quietly check their new submissions piles or log into BookScan after reading this, and suggest that in order to affect any real change they need to submit more books by writers of colour.

They may argue, of course, that there needs to be more evidence of sales potential first to get those books past gatekeepers in marketing, finance and other departments. They might (just) have a short-term point, but to me this sounds more like using data to justify a current position – and I think it also misses the bigger publishing opportunity.

Here are four cultural tipping point trends that show what I mean.

  • From the SF&F bookshelves: N.K. Jemisin wins a record-setting third consecutive Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel with the final part of her Broken Earth trilogy (parts one and two having taken the prize in their own respective years).
  • From the ‘respectable’ bookshelves: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad wins the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature.
  • From the Box Office: The Marvel Universe film Black Panther makes over a billion dollars at the box office in record time and gets nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture (it doesn’t win that one though, of course).
  • From an adjacent cultural sector: The Musée d’Orsay in Paris opens their major exhibition Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse, challenging our historic perceptions of French masterpieces by reframing and renaming them to foreground attention on their black subjects, gaining both critical acclaim and a big upswing in first time visits from new audiences (new readers to you and me) along the way.

(6) HOPEPUNK AND HUGOS. Yes! takes a look “Inside Science Fiction’s Compassionate Revolution”.

…In 2018, almost every category of the Hugos were won by women, including N.K. Jemisin, who became the first person ever to win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row. Before Jemisin, no Black person of either gender had ever won the top award.

Then came this year’s historic collection of nominees, which are notable not just for the elevation of a more diverse field of storytellers, but for the specific type of story that many of them represent.

Rowland coined the term “hopepunk” on a whim in a 2017 Tumblr post, having no idea that it would catch on so strongly within the community. She defined it initially as “the opposite of grimdark,” referring to a popular dystopian subgenre characterized by nihilism, amorality, and a negative view of human nature. Hopepunk, in contrast, is optimistic about humanity and sees kindness as “an act of rebellion” against a power structure that benefits from people giving up on compassion.

In an essay for the Winter 2019 issue of The Stellar Beacon zine, Rowland expanded on hopepunk, emphasizing the resistance element. Unlike another subgenre dubbed “noblebright”—characterized by the belief that righteous heroes can and will prevail over wicked villains—hopepunk does not deny the inherent injustices of the real world. However, it also recognizes the potential for justice within humanity. Compassion and empathy are weapons in the eternal fight between good and evil within the human heart. Hopepunk acknowledges that that fight will never be won, but insists on fighting anyway, because, as Rowland wrote, “the fight itself is the point.”

(7) BIZARROCON PERSPECTIVE. Brian Keene interviewed Jeff Burk on a recent episode of The Horror Show With Brian Keene (“Jeff Burk Unchained – The Horror Show with Brian Keene – Ep 215”.)  Part of the discussion centered on the events at BizzaroCon where Chandler Morrison performed a section of one of his works; complete with a dead (toy) baby covered in blood (ketchup) — events covered in File 770 posts “A Reckoning for BizarroCon” and “Changes in Store for Bizarrocon”.

Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these notes —

During the interview, Burk categorically denied having anything to do with abusive/predatory behavior that had been an issue at past cons.  He was incensed at the post-con attempts to tie abusive behavior with himself or Morrison.    Burk suggested that the tone/perspective of comments that he received at the con were decidedly different from what was seen on the Internet in the days that followed.  The people complaining most loudly online had appeared to have substantially different perspectives while at the con.  He also denied that Morrison ever exposed himself during his performance.  A prosthetic/prop was used during the performance.

Burk acknowledged that he had made the mistake of thinking that BizarroCon was an appropriate venue for Morrison’s performance.  Similar (and perhaps more gross) performances have been a long tradition at KillerCon.

Brian Keene indicated that he had acted as a consultant/mediator after the BizarroCon performance, but he had no direct input on Deadite Press’ decision to fire Burk.

Burk indicated that he disagreed with the decision by Eraserhead Press’ decision to terminate him.  But he also said that he is still on good terms with the executives in charge and has a positive opinion of them.

He also discussed his new imprint “Section 31 Productions”.  Star Trek fans will recognize the homage in the company’s name.

(8) DRAGON CHOW. Eater’s article “How Much Do the ‘Game of Thrones’ Dragons Actually Need to Eat? An Investigation” kind of reminds me of the Lilliputians trying to feed Gulliver.

In the Season 8 premiere, Winterfell leather goth Sansa Stark questions her brother Jon Snow’s decision to bring his pushy new girlfriend (and aunt!) Daenerys and her two dragons to the north, wondering out loud what precisely the dragons are going to eat. The Mother of Dragons smugly replies, “Whatever they want.” (Which, judging from past episodes, includes a lot of animal herds and the occasional shepherd boy.)

Later in the episode, two of Dany’s Dothraki footmen inform her that her dragons only ate only “18 goats and 11 sheep” for lunch, a sign that they are losing their appetite as a result of the move up north. Considering that Game of Thrones scribes D.B. Weiss and David Benioff love foreshadowing, we couldn’t help but wonder if the dragon’s dietary needs will play some key role in the upcoming Battle of Winterfell. To better understand the dragon hunger situation and how it could impact the impending war with the Night King, Eater got in touch with a bona fide expert on large reptiles and flying animals, and asked her a few questions about how these aerial beasts might act during the epic battle ahead.

(9) CONNOR TRIBUTE. Graham Connor (1957-2018) co-founded SF² Concatenation at the 1987 Eastercon and remained one of its co-editors until his death in December 2018. Jonathan Cowie and other friends have assembled an illustrated profile of his life in SF and space communications in “A life in SF and space”, an advance post ahead of SF² Concatenation’s summer edition.

Graham was born in the Cumbrian, coastal town of Workington, in the shadow of Windscale (now Sellafield).  1957 was the year of the Windscale nuclear disaster.  And so the scene was set for Graham to potentially have been bitten by a radioactive spider and become a superhero. But, alas, that did not happen….

He did make it to several Worldcons — Brighton (1979), Brighton (1987), The Hague (1990) – he subsequently worked a couple of years for ESA nearby, and Glasgow (1995).  Sadly, chronic illness prevented further attendance beyond the mid-2000s.

(10) BARNES OBIT. From BBC: “Dick Barnes, pioneer behind oldest working computer, dies”. The 98-year-old died April 8.

One of the co-designers of a machine later recognised as the world’s oldest working digital computer has died.

Richard “Dick” Barnes helped to create the Harwell Dekatron, which was first put to use in 1951 by Britain’s fledgling nuclear research establishment.

He was also involved in the 2.5-tonne machine’s restoration, which saw it switched back on in 2012.

…He and two colleagues, Ted Cooke-Yarborough and Gurney Thomas, began their work on the Harwell Dekatron in 1949.

It was initially used by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire, where its tasks involved solving equations used to design the structure supporting the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor at Calder Hall.

…In November 2012 the machine was successfully switched back on after a three-year restoration project.

The revived machine functioned as planned, which is to say, very slowly.

It could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers – but Mr Barnes and his co-designers had wanted a machine that could run continuously, not necessarily quickly, in order to be useful.

Indeed, it was known to calculate continuously for periods of up to 80 hours.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 89. Oh, now he’s credited in directing Superman as making the modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies (really not genre but fun) and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh and the first X-Men film which was superb.
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she was in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise”. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite Martian, Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 73. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2005) covers some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction (2006) and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction (2009) are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 72. Author with Michael Moorcock of, naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 66. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: cute canine involved! 

(12) WILSON FUNDRAISING UPDATE. The “Help Gahan Wilson find his way” GoFundMe is now up to 1300 contributors and just over $60,000 raised. Gahan Wilson is suffering from severe dementia, and the goal is to pay for his memory care.

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, he must move to a memory care unit.

…Gahan will be in our care at the casita, and we will also find him a memory care unit in Santa Fe since he also needs daily medical care.

Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.

That’s what this is all about. Making the rest of Gahan’s days as wonderful as they can be.

(13) OVERLOOKED. In its review of a new sff collection, The Hugo Award Book Club faults “A People’s Future Without Labour”.

…Any author or editor attempting to claim the mantle of [Howard] Zinn’s work has an unenviable task ahead of them. But when SF luminaries John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle — both of whom have produced top-quality works — announced a short story collection whose title is an homage to Zinn, we were very excited. 

Given the provocative and timely premise of A People’s Future Of The United States, we approached the collection of stories with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the collection as a whole failed to live up to the grand ideas described by the editors.

…Questions of race, class and gender are important to explore and have all-too-often been ignored in science fiction. 

We would argue that because science fiction is an inherently political genre, it is of paramount importance to create inclusive futures we can believe in. Some of the stories in this volume do indeed ably tackle topics of race, class and gender. But the topic of labour is almost entirely neglected. 

It is disappointing that an anthology that so explicitly aims to address cultural blindspots has reproduced one itself. 

In comparison, the index to Zinn’s classic history book includes a full page of references to organized labour movements. At a rough estimate, 30 per cent of the book deals with the struggles of traditional union movement organizing, and workers rights are integral to much of the rest of the text…. 

(14) ROBOTS LIKE ME. James Wallace Harris reviews Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me in “Why Should Robots Look Like Us?” at Auxiliary Memory.

McEwan’s story often digresses into infodumps and intellectual musings which are common pitfalls of writing science fiction. And the trouble is he goes over the same well-worn territory. The theme of androids is often used to explore: What does it mean to be human? McEwan uses his literary skills to go into psychological details that most science fiction writers don’t, but the results are the same.

I’ve been reading these stories for decades, and they’ve been explored in the movies and television for many years too, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. Why can’t we go deeper into the theme? Partly I think it’s because we assume AI robots will look identical to us. That’s just nuts. Are we so egocentric that we can’t imagine our replacements looking different? Are we so vain as a species as to believe we’re the ideal form in nature?

…Instead of writing stories about our problems of dealing with facsimiles of ourselves, we should be thinking about a world where glittery metallic creatures build a civilization on top of ours, and we’re the chimpanzees of their world.

(15) POWER VOCABULARY. BBC’s science news “‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech” includes recorded sample.

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people’s minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is “exhilarating”.

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

(16) KRUGMAN’S WORLDCON TALK. At Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman spoke and then took questions. Scott Edelman has posted an audio recording on YouTube.

(17) PROP MAKER. Kenneth Spivey is “The Swordsmith to the Stars”. Great Big Story has a video (just over 3 minutes) about this artist and prop maker who is “working on Hollywood films like the ones he’s always loved—and likely inspiring the next generation.” Chevy trucks are featured prominently since they are the corporate sponsor.

(18) GEMINI MAN. The Hollywood Reporter asks “Can ‘Gemini Man’ Revive the Golden Age of ’90s Sci-Fi?” That is, can it be “an event unto itself?” Will Smith stars opposite a CGI-ed 23-year-old version of himself in Ang Lee’s Gemini Man—a property with a long history of previous stars being attached. The movie opens October 11.

This morning Paramount had us seeing double with the first trailer for the Ang Lee-directed sci-fi/action film Gemini Man, starring not one, but two Will Smiths. The long-gestating film, which began development as a Tony Scott feature in 1997, centers on assassin on the verge of retirement Henry Brogen (Smith), who is forced to combat a younger clone of himself (Smith) in the not-too-distant future. Since the film’s inception in the late ’90s, a number of big names have been attached to star, including Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery. When Ang Lee took over the project in 2017, he cast Smith in the lead role, giving the actor the unique opportunity to play both his current 50-year-old self and his 23-year-old self, who, thanks to the film’s revolutionary technology, looks like he just stepped right off the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If the trailer for the film, which also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong, is any indication, Gemini Man may be just what the science fiction genre needs.

[…] Big-budget original science fiction needs a win, and hopefully Gemini Man can recapture the spirit of the ’90s where a big-name director, producer and actor were an event unto themselves, regardless of preexisting material. Gemini Man looks appealing not simply because of its concept and slick action sequences, but because it looks to simultaneously tap into our nostalgia with a sunglasses-wearing Smith, and also our desire for an original, high-concept property that doesn’t require any prior knowledge. It’s a double threat.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Carl Slaughter, StephenfromOttawa, Jonathan Cowie, Scott Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/14/18 There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Pixel

(1) WHO NOVELIZATION. The Irish Times profiles Dave Rudden, an Irish writer of Doctor Who tie-in fiction: “Meet the Irish author who is reinventing Doctor Who”. The article includes a sweet story about how Rudden dedicated one of the first 13th Doctor stories to an elderly lady and longterm Who fan, who was bullied by the nuns at her school for her love and science and SF.

At the invitation of the franchise’s custodians at Puffin and the BBC, he has written a new anthology of Doctor Who stories for kids (he has no idea why he was chosen beyond hypothesising that someone must have felt he would do the franchise justice). Get even the tiniest detail wrong – he is, of course, confident he hasn’t – and the internet will emit a mighty howl of outrage.

“I know I am stepping into an established canon,” says Rudden. “People have a preconceived notion as to what a Doctor Who short story should be. And I am little nervous about that. There are people who will say, ‘that’s not how [iconic Fourth Doctor] Tom Baker would speak . . . I hope I get it right. If not, I’ll take the criticism on board.”

Doctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping represents another feather in the cap of a writer who has built a fanbase with his Knights of the Borrowed Dark fantasy saga (a TV adaptation is in the works). The collection also makes a small piece of sci-fi history. It’s the first Dr Who book to feature Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor, rainbow braces and all.

(2) EMOTIONAL LIVES OF WRITERS. Peter M. Ball returns to the subject of “Writing and Shame” at Man Versus Bear.

…I’ve written about the connections between writing and shame before–the first time back in 2010, when I talked about the connection between shame, writing, and money, and more recently in 2013 when I pondered the narratives of shame that come with the gig of writing. I found myself hinting at it yesterday, talking about cohorts, and it comes up again and again when I start looking at my recurring anxieties.

I often talk about the fear inherent in being a writer, but often it should be phrased as shame: so much of the fear is a consequence of being ashamed at what’s achieved, or more often, what is hoped for.

It starts early, the moment you decide to start writing and the world conspires to tell you that decision is wrong. The terms by which your work will be valued are laid out for you in the rhetoric you hear as a constant refrain: There is no money in writing. Can i buy your work in a bookstore? You should try writing the next Harry Potter. Oh, what have you had published? 

(3) NO PREMIO MINOTAURO IN 2018. Ediciones Minotauro has issued a statement that the XV edition of the Minotauro Award will be given in 2019.

The Minotauro Award has been awarded since 2004, and is the one with the highest endowment among fantastic genre awards in Spanish. In 2004, the winner (León Arsenal , with Mascaras de Matar) was awarded 18,000 Euros, although, due to the crisis, that amount was reduced to 6,000 that Pablo Tébar won in 2017 with Nieve en Marte.

(4) ‘TIS THE HWA SEASON. The Horror Writers Association blog is counting down to Halloween. Here are a few highlights:

One of the main things to remember when world building, especially for horror, is to strike a balance between the suspension of disbelief and logic. If you’re creating a serial killer or monster with supernatural powers, for instance, there should be some limitations on what they can and can’t do so their victims have somewhat of a fighting chance, even if the odds are never in their favor.

“My name is Victoria Winters and my journey is beginning…a journey that will take me to a strange, dark house, high atop Widows’ Hill.  A house called Collinwood…”

So begins the first episode of “Dark Shadows” (DS), a popular 1960’s soap opera featuring an otherworldly cast of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches and other spooks germane to the Halloween season.  As each episode opens with a monologue to set the scene, so it opens with a view of “Collinwood,” the sprawling chateau where the show’s action unfolds.

The image of Collinwood, with its tower, dormers, and multiple chimneys, is as iconic as the vampire Barnabas. Although the interiors of the great estate were stage sets, the exterior of the house and the grounds belong to Seaview Terrace, a mansion in Newport, RI, where I have been privileged to spend Halloween in the company of other DS fans.  This Halloween will be our tenth in the house.  Over time, party attendance has grown from two-dozen people to nearly 100.

Before there were TV horror hosts, haunted houses, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, there were spook shows. Now a nearly forgotten bit of Americana, these once incredibly popular shows toured around the country on the movie theater circuit from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. In some ways the last vestige of vaudeville, they featured comedy, spooky magic, a little burlesque and often a séance. A half-century before it was a term, the spook shows were also on the cutting edge of “immersive” theater. The climax of every show was a “blackout sequence,” in which the audience was placed in total darkness, surrounded by supernatural phenomena they could see, hear and feel. They had all kinds of tricks to make that happen.

(5) HEAR KRUGMAN. Tyler Cowen interviews Paul Krugman in an episode of the “Conversations With Tyler” podcast — “Paul Krugman on Politics, Inequality, and Following Your Curiosity (Ep. 51)”.  The episode has a lot of sfnal content.  Krugman talks about a paper on interstellar travel he wrote in the early 1990s, and answers the question of “Star Trek or Star Wars?” by saying he doesn’t particularly like either show, but likes some of the speculation in Star Trek.  Krugman also discusses his love of Isaac Asimov, and said he became an economist because he wanted to be a psychohistorian, and then explains why Asimov’s psychohistory won’t work.  Finally, he says his favorite contemporary sf writer is Charles Stross, and his favorite Stross series are the Merchant Princes novels, which he says is “a type of development economics.”

(6) DEATH BY CHOCOLATE. Adweek promises “These Brazilian Candy Ads Are Undeniably Dark Yet Surprisingly Entertaining”.

“Chocolate World” for the Lacta 5Star bar is a series of ads where this community of confection is under siege by a raft of cookies, cocoa and caramel, the three ingredients in the candy. All of the spots grab your attention pretty quickly and, despite their graphic nature and dark storylines, are compelling to watch—but be forewarned, this might not be the candy advertising you’re used to.

In one ad, asteroids, in the form of delicious cookies, destroy everything in sight, resulting in rivers of caramel.

In another, an astronaut attempts to flee a massive baked boulder to no avail as a planet explodes into celestial caramel goodness.

And, in probably the most graphic spot in the set, a skier tries to outmaneuver an angry squirrel, only to have his head snipped by a tree before falling into a lake of caramel.

 

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 14, 1926 — A. A. Milne’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh, was published.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 14, 1891 – Dorothy McIlwraith, Editor from Canada. She was the third editor of the long-running horror fiction and fantasy fiction venue Weird Tales, one of the earliest pulp magazines, and was responsible for buying some of the first published stories by Fritz Leiber and some of the earliest covers and interior art by Hannes Bok. She edited Weird Tales for more than fourteen years, starting in 1940 until the end of its publication in 1954. She also edited Short Stories magazine, an adventure-oriented pulp magazine. She was a finalist for the 1941 Retro Hugo for Best Short Form Editor.
  • Born October 14, 1916 – Jack Arnold, Actor and Director, best known as one of the leading filmmakers of 1950s science fiction films, whose works included Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula, the Hugo-winning adaptation of Richard Matheson’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, and the Hugo-nominated It Came from Outer Space, for which the screenplay by Harry Essex was derived from an original treatment by Ray Bradbury (screen legend says that Bradbury wrote the screenplay and Harry Essex merely changed the dialogue and took the credit). He also directed several episodes of the TV series Science Fiction Theatre and It’s About Time. In 1985 he was given a special Saturn Award, the President’s Award, for his career contributions to science fiction cinema.
  • Born October 14, 1944 – Udo Kier, 74, Actor from Germany who emigrated to England, has appeared in more than 200 films, and has become a well-known face in genre movies (especially of the vampire variety), frequently cast as the villain. Some of his more notable appearances include Johnny Mnemonic, Blade, End of Days, Shadow of the Vampire, BloodRayne, Barb Wire, and Grindhouse. He has also done considerable voice work in animated series including recurring roles in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated and Beware the Batman.
  • Born October 14, 1946 – Katy Manning, 72, Actor from England, later Australia, who appeared in 77 episodes in three years playing Companion to the Third Doctor, a role she reprised with the Eleventh Doctor in 2010 in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor”.
  • Born October 14, 1947 – David Day, 71, Writer and Artist from Canada known for numerous illustrated reference works in the Tolkien domain. Don’t where Tolkien falls for JJ but for me, he is a creature of Autumn, and I love the reference works about him and his fiction, so here’s an academic to my liking and here’s a few of his works: The Hobbit Companion (which I highly recommend), An Atlas of Tolkien, and his newest work, The Dark Powers of Tolkien.
  • Born October 14, 1953 – Richard Christian Matheson, 65, Writer of both horror fiction and screenplays, including the film Nightmare Cinema, the TV series Splatter, and a thankfully-unproduced miniseries of The Chronicles of Amber. He has had dozens of short fiction works published, and his only genre novel was nominated for a Stoker Award.
  • Born October 14, 1953 – Greg Evigan, 65, Actor and Singer who played the lead in William Shatner’s TekWar TV films and series, and had genre roles in the movies DeepStar Six, House of the Damned, Cerberus, and Journey to the Center of the Earth, and in episodes of the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Born October 14, 1963 – Lori Petty, 55, Actor, Writer, and Director probably best known within the genre for her turn as the eponymous character in Tank Girl; she has an extensive genre acting history, including films Dead Awake, Route 666, Cryptid, and Bates Motel, guest roles in TV series The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, Star Trek: Voyager, Gotham, and Freddy’s Nightmares, and voice parts in several animated series.
  • Born October 14, 1974 – Itoh Keikaku, Writer from Japan whose breakout 2007 novel Genocidal Organ won a Nihon SF Taisho Award (the Japanese equivalent of the Nebula) and is considered one of that country’s best SF novels of the last decade. Harmony, the sequel, won a Seiun Award and its English translation was a finalist for a Philip K. Dick Special Citation; the translation of his novella The Indifference Engine was a Shirley Jackson finalist; and his novel The Empire of Corpses won a Seiun. All three of his novels were adapted into anime films. His early promise was cut short by his death from cancer in 2009 at the age of 34.
  • Born October 14, 1980 – John Edgar Browning, 38, Writer, Editor, and Critic. It being that month, I’ve got an academic who focuses on the horror genre and vampires. He’s edited nonfiction anthologies of reviews and essays, such as Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race, and Culture, and Graphic Horror: Movie Monster Memories, and co-written the work Zombie Talk: Culture, History, Politics.

(9) RUN AWAY! Mashable issues a warning with this news item — “Jon Favreau teases his Star Wars TV series with an alarming set photo”.

It’s time to pack it in, my fellow Star Wars fans. The atrocious(ly amazing) Holiday Special is officially canon.

Jon Favreau treated Instagram followers to a teasing visual nugget tied to his upcoming TV series, The Mandalorian. You might look at the photo and think, “So what? It’s just a funky Star Wars blaster, right?”

Right. And wrong. This image contains multitudes. Look upon it and weep, Star Wars faithful.

That’s not just any blaster, you see. That blaster contains multitudes. It bears a striking resemblance to the one an animated version of the notorious bounty hunter carried around in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, a made-for-TV assault on the senses driven by hilariously bad writing and excessive holiday schmaltz.

(10) MIB. SYFY Wire boosts the signal — “Tessa Thompson shares photo from new Men in Black set”.

With the sneak peeks Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth are giving us of the upcoming Men in Black film, we have to hope no one with a neuralyzer shows up at our door any time soon. The two have been doing an excellent job of teasing the film, from sharing their travels from the set to that of Avengers 4 to giving us an initial image of themselves as MIB agents. Now we have an even better idea of what the two will look like in the movie thanks to a photo Thompson shared on Instagram Friday from the set.

View this post on Instagram

Buds in Black. @chrishemsworth ?: @cidneyrenee

A post shared by Tessa Thompson (@tessamaethompson) on

(11) SCREAM QUEEN. Leonard Maltin interviews “Jamie Lee Curtis on Her Return to Halloween.

At one point, she recalls making a conscious effort to leave the horror genre behind. Then the son of late producer Moustapha Akkad, who launched the Halloween films, convinced her in 2011 to attend an event to benefit a children’s charity called sCare dedicated to corralling horror fans, and stars, to fight poverty and homelessness among America’s youth.

She agreed and met her fans en masse for the first time. It made her realize she’d made the right decision, movie-wise, and that being scared could, indeed, be a good thing, with very positive vibes.

“I had a bucket,” she recalls. “People would come up with a hundred bucks and say, ‘I believe in what you’re doing. Thank you for those movies.’ It was crazy. It was fantastic. What I ended up getting back from that group is love—pure, beautiful love of the genre. Love of Laurie, love of the story, love of it all.”

(12) REFASHIONING SCI-FI. Dazed, in “New zine Vagina Dentata is exploring sci-fi through a feminist lens”, speaks to founder Smin Smith “about the importance of representation, reclaiming science fiction from the cis, white hands of Hollywood and how minorities are biting back in a post-Trump world.”

Hey Smin, can you start by telling us a bit about where you interest in sci-fi and fashion came from?
Growing up, I didn’t watch any science fiction or fantasy, but I loved designing as a child and would watch Alexander McQueen catwalks on YouTube, so this probably all stems back to the Plato’s Atlantis collection. I was 15 at the time and can remember having it in every sketchbook at school, finding a way I could incorporate it into every project – that’s how I discovered science fiction.

I went on to study at UCA (Epsom) and one of my first projects at university was a zine inspired by film culture, so I drew my favourite characters in collections from that season – Tom Ripley in Commes Des Garçons, Barbarella in Vivienne Westwood and Princess Leia in McQueen. Science fiction, fashion, and feminism have always been the biggest influences upon my creative practice (whether as a stylist or writer), and the concept evolved over the next few years and became the much more collaborative and photographic zine that you see today.

So what was your mission when launching Vagina Dentata Zine?
I wanted to explore the symbiotic relationship I saw between science fiction, fashion and feminism. Recent theories like Xenofeminism have proposed a shift in technology production away from white, cis men, and into the hands of minorities. This feels particularly poignant when you realise that sci-fi film employs less women than any other film genre (both in front and behind of the camera). The zine provides a platform for those excluded by Hollywood (women, LGBTQIA+, POC and non-binary creatives) to interact and engage with science fiction – so it’s both a love letter and a burn book to the genre that shaped me.

(13) BARREL OF LAUGHS. “Whisky Wonka-style tour creates a boozy wonderland” – the Calgary Herald tells an LA story.

… Hidden behind a Queen of Hearts painted wall where the eyes rotate to see who is walking into the warehouse-come-distillery in the heart of the Los Angeles Arts District is a wonderland of amusements and whisky….

…As we continue our journey, we enter the vast lab to hear about “Project One Night Stand.” In the middle of the room sits a lonely nightstand made in the 1880s from a now-extinct American chestnut. The team of beakerheads are trying to recreate a whisky that was aged in barrels matured in that American chestnut. To do that, they scour antique stores to find old furniture to chip into the reactor.

We move on to taste more spirits in a tent with first edition novels by H.G. Wells lining the walls, then to another room to drink from ornate tea cups. But then, the tour takes a spin. Serious … we spin on a carousel where someone in the dark starts reciting that creepy Willy Wonka Tunnel song … ”there’s no way of knowing … which direction we are going …” As it borders on creepy, the curtain opens to a new land and, yeah … more booze and it’s tasting better all the time.

(14) BURNING BOOKS. Carolyn Kellogg finds the mystery irresistible: “Who started the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Library? Susan Orlean investigates in her new book” in the Los Angeles Times.

Hundreds of L.A. firefighters fought the devastating fire.at downtown’s Central Library on April 29, 1986. Thousands of people contributed to the Save the Books campaign afterward. Millions heard the news that the library was burning and then that it was caused by arson. But more than three decades later, only Orlean was asking who did it and why, and wondering whether anyone today should care. In a reverse “Fahrenheit 451,” Orlean took a fire and turned it into a book.

Titled — aptly and ingeniously — “The Library Book,” it tells the story of the mysterious fire that burned 400,000 books while also tracing Orlean’s love of libraries, from trips with her mother to taking her son….

Tapping a concrete wall, she explained where the fire had started, in the stacks. Built as two secure concrete chutes within the original 1926 building, the stacks held hundreds of thousands of books and were connected by a catwalk for librarians. After the fire started — leaping across the catwalk from the first stack to the second — the chutes served as dual furnaces, books trapped inside with the fire.

“Their covers burst like popcorn. Pages flared and blackened and then sprang away from their bindings, a ream of sooty scraps soaring on the updraft. The fire flashed through fiction, consuming it as it traveled,” Orlean writes in her book. “It reached for the cookbooks. The cookbooks burned up. The fire scrambled to the sixth tier and then to the seventh. Every book in its path bloomed with flame.”

(15) SUPERHERO SPECTRUM. Here’s an interesting concept – where else would you find Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan, the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin, and Sadness from Inside Out teamed together? “This Artist Sorted Famous Characters By Color And Here’s What She Found Out” at deMilked.

The artist said she tried to classify these pop culture characters to see how different shades and tones interact in a group of characters of supposedly the same color. “Unlike humans, fictional characters are very different from one another – they have different, sometimes very odd, forms, they are made of different unearthly substances, and lastly, they are, undeniably, different colors – even when they seem the same. Is the blue color of a Smurf the same as Megaman’s? I don’t think so,” said Linda about her project.

Check out the color-coded characters in the gallery below!

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Pixel Scroll 10/20 Hugo, we have a problem

(1) David Brin urges everyone to make a fashion statement for Back To the Future Day:

Okay so October 21 is “Back to the Future” Day,” when movie houses all over will be holding special showings of BTTF-II, to commemorate our crossing that particular frontier — when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived at the ‘future’ of 2015 from the year 1985. Here is a rundown of ways the film was eerily on target… and another… if you set aside hover boards and flying cars and hydrated pizzas. And Mr. Fusion, alas. Hey, everyone wear a DOUBLE TIE that day!  I haven’t heard anyone else pushing that meme, so pass it on starting here!

Mockfry(2) Jim C. Hines’ Icon report includes a photo of a group posed around the “Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk” monument in Riverside, Iowa. Hines is there with Ann Leckie, David Gerrold, Joe and Gay Haldeman, and some others I should probably recognize.

(3) Amanda S. Green considers possible outcomes of Amazon’s new move against fake reviews in “To Pay or Not to Pay”.

I can’t speak for Amazon but I have a feeling what we will see happening is that a number of reviews will simply drop off the site. These reviews will either be directly tied to the sites Amazon has suspicions about or will have key phrases that are oft repeated across other reviews. It is easy enough to code a data crawler to find such similarities. It is basically the same sort of tool that schools use to determine if a paper contains any plagiarized parts.

Amazon might go one step further. Right now, if you look at Amazon customer reviews, you will see some from verified purchasers and then those that aren’t. A verified purchaser is someone who actually purchased the item from Amazon. The only problem with this is it doesn’t reflect those who borrowed a book or short story under the Kindle Unlimited program. This may be the point where Amazon needs to add that as one of the descriptors. I know a number of authors, and readers alike, who have been asking Amazon to do just that. At least that way, people who look at reviews before buying something would have an idea if the reviewer actually put down money on the book in question.

There is always the possibility that Amazon will require you to have purchased an item from them before you are allowed to review it. I’ll admit to being torn about this option. That would keep reviewers like Shiny Book Review from posting reviews on all sales sites. It would kick out reviewers who receive free copies of books unless Amazon has them register as reviewers. This is a path I’m not sure I want to see them go down.

Right now, Amazon gives more weight to reviews written by verified purchasers. As they should.

(4) The Tiptree Award is looking for recommendations. Got one? Click and fill out their form.

Most of the books and stories that Tiptree Award jurors read to pick a winner are nominated by authors and readers. We need your suggestions. If you’ve read a work of science fiction or fantasy that explores or expands our notions of gender, please tell us about it by filling out the recommendation form below. If you have more than one, just fill out the form again with a new recommendation and submit it until you’ve told us about them all.

Recommendations close on the 1st of December, 2015.

(5) Fans and everyone seeking eyeballs for their blog are busy mining the newly-released Star Wars trailer for provocative material like – Who dies in the movie?

The first full-length trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave fans plenty to speculate wildly about, but one moment in particular is causing widespread panic across the galaxy — or at least, the Internet. Towards the end of the trailer (watch it here!), there is a one-second shot of heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) sobbing over what looks like a dead body. So who dies?

(6) Geeks Are Sexy has photographic proof that Canada’s Newest Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is a member of the Rebel Alliance. Eh?

trudeau

(7) Catherynne M. Valente delivers The Big Idea today at Whatever. You were warned!

Radiance doesn’t have a big idea at its heart.

It has about six. It’s a decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller. With space whales.

Over-egging the pudding, you say? Too many cooks going at the soup? Gilding that lily like it’s going to the prom? I say: grab your eggs and hold onto your lilies because I am cannonballing into that soup FULL SPEED AHEAD.

(8) Brandon Kempner assesses the chances of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora getting a Hugo nomination.

The Hugo is a murkier award in 2016, given the turbulence surrounding it. 2312 took third place in 2013, and was also third in the nominations. Given the campaigns that are sure to take place in 2016, 3rd place is probably vulnerable to being pushed out. Add in that 2016 is a strong Hugo year (former Best Novel winners Robinson, Stephenson, Leckie, Walton, Bacigalupi, Scalzi, and Liu are all fighting for 5 spots, and that’s not even factoring in Puppy campaigns or buzzy authors like Novik). As a result, I think Robinson will miss the ballot, but a strong year-end push could definitely grab Robinson a spot.

As for metrics, as of mid-October 2015, Aurora has 2,535 Goodreads ratings with a 3.79 score and 264 Amazon ratings with a score of 3.7. Those aren’t great but they aren’t terrible. It’s a rare thing to see the Goodreads score higher than Amazon, but I couldn’t tell you what that means. I think around 1500 Goodreads / 100 Amazon is the cut off to be competitive, so KSR is well above that. Score doesn’t seem to matter for either the Hugos or Nebulas; VanderMeer won a Nebula last year with a 3.62 Goodreads score.

(9) Tobias Buckell is losing readers right and left. Mostly right. “Today’s passive aggressive fan mail: reader will not read more of my books because I don’t speak English English as my first language”

(10) Peter David “Just when boycotts couldn’t get any more stupid: Star War VII”

When the first “Star Wars” film came out in 1977, it was criticized for the overall whiteness of it. The one major black actor, James Earl Jones, wasn’t even given voice credit (his choice). This was answered with the introduction of Lando in the very next film, but still, mostly white.

So now the new film prominently features a black hero and there are actually idiots who are declaring it should be boycotted because of that? I mean, I knew there are people for whom Obama can do no right because of his skin color, but this is quite simply insane.

(11) But Gary Farber says it’s a fake boycott trolled by 4chan.Here’s one of those claiming credit.

(12) Meanwhile, in the interests of being fair and balanced, we bring you the A.V. Club’s post “Conservative pundit bravely comes out in support of the Galactic Empire”.

Star Wars’ Galactic Empire tends to get a bad rap. Oh sure, Emperor Palpatine started the whole thing by manufacturing a phony war to scare people into supporting a leader who would slowly take away their freedom in exchange for “safety,” the entire organization is suspiciously stocked with almost exclusively white human men, and there was that one time it destroyed an entire planet full of innocent people just to prove that it could, but is any of that stuff objectively evil? Conservative pundit Bill Kristol doesn’t think so, according to a tweet he posted this morning in response to a joke about how the Star Wars prequels encouraged conservatives to root for the Empire….

(13) Today In History:

  • October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House makes its theatrical debut.

(14) Today’s Birthday Boy:

  • Born October 20, 1892 – Bela Lugosi. As they say at IMDB:

It’s ironic that Martin Landau won an Oscar for impersonating Bela Lugosi (in Ed Wood (1994)) when Lugosi himself never came within a mile of one, but that’s just the latest of many sad ironies surrounding Lugosi’s career.

(15) Today’s Birthday Book:

The Return of the King, being the third part of the novel, was released on 20 October 1955, completing the publication of the tome that had begun on 29 July 1954 with the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. The Return of the King had originally been planned for release much earlier in the year, but Tolkien delayed it due to working on the book’s appendices, to the annoyance of readers (yet another epic fantasy trend begun by the Tolkmeister).

(16) Belfast-born writer C.S. Lewis is to be honored in his native city with a series of new sculptures depicting characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe reports the BBC.

Belfast City Council has commissioned six new pieces of public art, including Aslan the Lion and the White Witch.

They will be erected in a new civic square, currently under construction, at the Holywood Arches in east Belfast.

…As well as the lion and the witch, the six pieces of art also include sculptures of Mr Tumnus, Jewel the unicorn, Mr and Mrs Beaver and the Stone Table

(17) Belfast is also where the third C.S. Lewis Festival takes place from Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 November 2015, marking the 52nd anniversary of the death of the author, theologian, academic and creator of the incredible Chronicles of Narnia series.

Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.   There will be something for everyone with many magical and free events offered; it’s definitely worth checking out.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. The C.S. Lewis Festival will recognise and celebrate both his life and his legacy to the world.   Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.

(18) Free lifetime memberships for trying it! One of the best book cataloging sites. LibraryThing launches in iPhone app.

We’re thrilled to announce the official LibraryThing iPhone App!

What it does. This is our first version, so we’ve limited it to doing the most basic functions you’ll need for cataloging on the go:

  • Browse and search your library.
  • Add books by scanning barcodes. Scanning to add is VERY FAST!
  • Add books by searching.
  • Browse and upload covers, using the iPhone camera.
  • Do minor editing, such as changing collections and ratings. Major editing sends you to LibraryThing.

(19) Wait, you mean it isn’t fake? “This Software Lets Someone Else Control Your Face”

Researchers created expression transferring software that projects mouth, eye, and other facial movements onto another face in real time.

(20) “Life on Earth likely started 4.1 billion years ago – much earlier than scientists thought” reports Phys.org.

“Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously,” added Harrison, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. “With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly.”

The new research suggests that life existed prior to the massive bombardment of the inner solar system that formed the moon’s large craters 3.9 billion years ago.

“If all life on Earth died during this bombardment, which some scientists have argued, then life must have restarted quickly,” said Patrick Boehnke, a co-author of the research and a graduate student in Harrison’s laboratory.

Scientists had long believed the Earth was dry and desolate during that time period. Harrison’s research—including a 2008 study in Nature he co-authored with Craig Manning, a professor of geology and geochemistry at UCLA, and former UCLA graduate student Michelle Hopkins—is proving otherwise.

“The early Earth certainly wasn’t a hellish, dry, boiling planet; we see absolutely no evidence for that,” Harrison said. “The planet was probably much more like it is today than previously thought.”

The researchers, led by Elizabeth Bell—a postdoctoral scholar in Harrison’s laboratory—studied more than 10,000 zircons originally formed from molten rocks, or magmas, from Western Australia. Zircons are heavy, durable minerals related to the synthetic cubic zirconium used for imitation diamonds. They capture and preserve their immediate environment, meaning they can serve as time capsules.

(21) A New York Comic Con panel on the economics of Star Trek  gathered Trek writer Chris Black; Manu Saadia, author of the book “Trekonomics”; Annalee Newitz, founding editor of the culture site io9; moderator Felix Salmon, of Fusion; Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist; and Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

“Gene Roddenberry tried to paint our future,” said DeLong, noting that we’ve gone far down that road. “We’re now, in fact, approaching post-scarcity in food and products.”

But, as Newitz pointed out, because “Trek” is a future where money no longer exists, people work because they want to but are therefore supported by other economies. To prove her point, she cited as an example “Measure of a Man,” an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that centered on the character of Lt. Cmdr. Data, an android.

Even though Data is a crew member of the starship “Enterprise,” unlike his fellow crewmates, he’s a robot. But does that make him a person or Starfleet property?

“We’re constantly being reminded that slavery and low wages support the comfortable, ‘Enterprise’ living,” Newitz said….

Salmon, the panel’s moderator, pointed out that in 2016, “Star Trek” will turn 50 and Thomas More’s book, “Utopia,” will turn 500. He then asked the panel if there is anything utopian about “Trek.”

“We are problem-solving, puzzle-solving, status-seeking creatures,” DeLong said.

Krugman responded by saying: “People have an amazing ability to be unhappy. The problem with utopia is not the lack of scarcity — it’s people.”

[Thanks to Will R., Steven H Silver, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

 

Colbert Farewell Number Doesn’t Bomb

George Lucas, Sir Patrick Stewart, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Elijah Wood, J.J. Abrams and Smaug represented sf and fantasy in the musical finale of The Colbert Report , coming to an end so its host can replace Letterman on CBS.

An army of celebrities emerged from the wings to join Colbert in singing “We’ll Meet Again,” beginning with his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart, then Willie Nelson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Kissinger and dozens of others — the full array of cameo appearances is listed here.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

Others of genre interest for one reason or another, scientist Francis Collins, economist Paul Krugman, an astronaut on the International Space Station and Marvel Comics’ Joe Quesada.

Even “We’ll Meet Again” is an sf reference — it’s the song played at the end of Dr. Strangelove while the nukes are going off.