Pixel Scroll 9/23/22 Let The Midnight Pixel Shine Its Scroll On Me

(1) LITERARY LITIGATION. You have until September 29 to bid on this “Important Edgar Allan Poe Autograph Letter Signed, Regarding His Famous Feud with Poet Thomas Dunn English – ‘…in relation to Mr. English…some attacks lately made upon me by this gentleman…’” at Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

Edgar Allan Poe autograph letter signed, with dramatic content regarding his famous feud with poet and playwright Thomas Dunn English. Poe writes to John Bisco, publisher of the defunct ”Broadway Journal”, which Poe had once edited. Poe asks Bisco to call upon an attorney in relation to ”attacks made upon me” by Mr. English. This is the first time since 1941, when it was sold by Parke-Bernet, that this letter has been at auction.

Although the public feuding between Poe and English was not new – with both men trading veiled barbs in various publications over the years, English raised the stakes when he wrote a letter published in the 23 June 1846 edition of the ”New York Evening Mirror.” Not only did English accuse Poe by name of being a forger, drunk, deadbeat, and scoundrel for besmirching a lady’s honor, but also, perhaps most unforgivable, a serial plagiarist. Poe likely got advance notice of the article as this letter is dated 17 July 1846, only six days before the publication. However, although Poe couldn’t stop the article from running, he was successful in suing the ”Mirror” for libel, collecting $225.06 in damages a year later, likely more than Poe made during his lifetime from writing. 

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down with Wesley Chu in episode 181 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast, the first of six recorded at Chicon 8.

Wesley Chu

Chu’s debut novel, The Lives of Tao, earned him a Young Adult Library Services Association Alex Award and a Science Fiction Goodreads Choice Award Top 10 slot, and was followed by three other books in that universe — The Deaths of Tao (also in 2013), The Rebirths of Tao (2015), and The Days of Tao (2016). He’s also published two books in his Time Salvager series — Time Salvager (2015) and Time Siege (2016). His novel Typhoon, set in The Walking Dead universe, was published in 2019.

He’s also the coauthor of the Eldest Curses series with Cassandra Clare, the first book of which — The Red Scrolls of Magic (2019) — debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and was followed by The Lost Book of the White in 2020. His latest novel, The Art of Prophecy (2022), released in August, is the first book in The War Arts Saga. He was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2014, and won the following year. But that’s not all! He’s also an accomplished martial artist and a former member of the Screen Actors Guild who has acted in film and television, worked as a model and stuntman, and summited Kilimanjaro.

We discussed why his new novel The Art of Prophecy has him feeling as if he’s making his debut all over again, the reason his particular set of skills means he’s the only one who could have written this project, why creating a novel is like trying to solve a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box as reference, the heavy lifting a well-written fight scene needs to accomplish, why you’ll never get to read his 180,000-word first novel, how to make readers continue to care when writing from the POV of multiple characters, the benefits and pitfalls of writing bigger books, why he decided to toss 80,000 words from the second book in his series, the ways in which environments are also characters, and much more.

(3) WHAT PROFESSIONALISM MEANS IN SFF. Morgan Hazelwood shares notes and comments about another Chicon 8 panel, “Publishing As Collaboration”, at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer In Progress.

If you want to be a published author, a little professionalism goes a long way.

Bookshelves are packed with volumes about how to properly submit your manuscripts, but how does professionalism function in real-world publishing relationships? Moreover, what defines professionalism from culture to culture? Agents and editors share their best examples of what works best, and how to get back on track if your interactions go off the rails.

The titular panel at WorldCon 80 — otherwise known as ChiCon8 — had moderator Holly Lyn Walrath, with panelists Emily Hockaday, Joey Yu, and Joshua Bilmes.

Hazelwood also presents her comments in this YouTube video.

(4) PATHFINDER. James Davis Nicoll knows there are Martha Wells fans who haven’t yet discovered the rest of her work: “For Murderbot Fans Who Want More: Five Fantasy Books by Martha Wells” at Tor.com.

…Wells’ debut novel, The Element of Fire, appeared in 1993. To put that in terms grognards might better understand, by this point in their careers, Poul Anderson had just published A Knight of Ghost and Shadows, while Lois McMaster Bujold was about to publish Penric’s Demon.

This is, of course, good news! If you are only familiar with Well’s Murderbot books, know that there are plenty more Wells books to read. Allow me to suggest five Martha Wells books that Murderbot fans might like….

(5) THEY, THE JURY. Meanwhile, James Davis Nicoll has assigned the Young People Read Old SFF panel John Varley’s 1979 story “Options”.

This month’s Hugo Finalist is John Varley’s Options. First published in 1979, Options was both a Hugo1 and Nebula2 finalist. Options was popular with both fans and Varley’s peers. It might then seem a pretty safe bet to win the hearts and minds of the Young People. 

Except…

The second last Eight Worlds (phase one) story published, Options examines the impact of cheap, convenient gender reassignment. By the era most Eight Worlds stories were set, body modification was a common and uncommented upon aspect of the proto-transhumanist setting. Options is set just as the technology becomes available…. 

(6) DIGGING IN. “House and Senate Democrats prepare resolutions to oppose local book bans”Politico has the story.

Top congressional Democrats are preparing to address a wave of bans and restrictions on school library materials Thursday with new resolutions that call on local governments “to protect the rights of students to learn,” according to lawmakers and a draft copy of the legislation.

The moves represent urgent statements of concern from President Joe Biden’s party about ongoing controversies that affect as many as 4 million U.S. schoolchildren, according to one recent estimate. The congressional response has won endorsements from the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association labor unions as well as prominent literary and left-leaning educational interest groups….

Both the House and Senate resolutions will face an uncertain path to a vote.

Alarmed Democratic lawmakers have nevertheless convened hearings this year over political organizing and state restrictions against books and curriculum that address gender identity and race. A group of party pollsters and strategists have also sought to draw voter attention to the controversies during fall’s midterm elections as they attempt to depict conservative-led campaigns as extremist and at odds with a significant share of public opinion.

(7) AUTHOR MAY NEED AROUND-THE-CLOCK CARE. “Rachel Pollack needs your help!” — a GoFundMe appeal has been launched for the American science fiction author, comic book writer, and expert on divinatory tarot.. The goal was $15,000, and at this writing 666 donors have given over $36,000.  

As many of you know Rachel is in the ICU.

If she is able to go home, she will need 24-hour care. Up to now, we haven’t needed your help. It is time now. If we are wrong, your pledge will not be collected. We love and honor you …. But you already know that. Keep up the prayers, rituals and love too. All is real and appreciated.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1962 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty years tonight in prime time on ABC, The Jetsons debuted its very first episode, “Rosey the Robot”. Yes, a SF cartoon would start on in network television as a primetime series and would be the first program broadcast in color on ABC. 

Following its primetime run of three years and seventy-five episodes of roughly twenty to thirty minutes, the show aired on Saturday mornings for decades. It started on ABC for the 1963–64 season and then on CBS and NBC as it was syndicated after the first season.

The series was considered by some critics to be a sort of antithesis of The Flintstones being set in whimsical future approximately a century from now. Naturally William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were the creators, executive producers and producers (along with a long list of other folk) as it was a property of Hanna-Barbera Productions. 

It had a very extensive voice cast befitting the number of characters — George Jetson was voiced by George O’Hanlon, Jane Jetson by Penny Singleton, Elroy Jetson by Daws Butler, Judy Jetson, Rosey by Jean Vander Pyl, and Cosmo Spacely by Mel Blanc. No, that’s not a complete cast.

In 1963, Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll each filed $12,000 suits against Hanna-Barbera for breach of contract. They had been cast and signed to the roles of George Jetson and Jane Jetson, respectively. But someone didn’t like their work and fired them after the first episode work was done. (That voice work wasn’t used.) They were paid the five hundred dollars owed and showed off the lot. They claimed they were promised the entire first season, but they had no contract for this hence losing the Court case.

It’s worth noting that this series had devices that did not exist at the time but subsequently are now in usage such as computer viruses, digital newspapers, flatscreen television and video chat to name but a few.

It’s streaming on Amazon and HBO Max.

Audience reviewers at Rotted Tomatoes give it seventy percent rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 23, 1897 Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for his role in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work, in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.)
  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar House Shiras. Her story “In Hiding” was published in 1948 in Astounding Science Fiction, followed by a pair of sequels over the next two years, “Opening Doors”, and “New Foundations”. The three stories would become the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom. Almost twenty years later she had three more short stories published in Fantastic. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 23, 1928 John S Glasby. English writer who wrote a truly amazing amount of pulp fiction of both a SF and fantasy under quite a few pen names that included  John Adams, R. L. Bowers, Berl Cameron, Max Chartair, Randall Conway, Ray Cosmic, John Crawford, J. B. Dexter, John Glasby, J. S. Glasby, Michael Hamilton, J. J. Hansby, Marston Johns, Victor La Salle, Peter Laynham, H. K. Lennard, Paul Lorraine, John C. Maxwell, A. J. Merak, H. J. Merak, R. J. Merak, John Morton, John E. Muller, Rand Le Page, J. L. Powers and Karl Zeigfried. It is thought but not confirmed that he produced more than three hundred novels and a lot of short stories in a twenty year period that started in the early Fifties. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 23, 1920 Richard Wilson. A Futurian, and author of a number of sff short stories and novels, his really major contribution to fandom and to Syracuse University where he worked as the director of the Syracuse University News Bureau was in successfully recruiting the donation of papers from many prominent science fiction writers to the Syracuse University’s George Arents Research Library.  The list of those writers includes Piers Anthony, Hal Clement, Keith Laumer, Larry Niven and Frederik Pohl. And, of course, himself. It has been called the “most important collection of science fiction manuscripts and papers in the world.” (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 23, 1948 Leslie Kay Swigart, 74. Obsessions can be fascinating and hers was detailing the writings of Harlan Ellison. Between 1975 and 1991, she published Harlan Ellison: A Bibliographical Checklist plus wrote shorter works such as “Harlan Ellison: An F&SF Checklist“, “Harlan Ellison: A Nonfiction Checklist“ and “Harlan Ellison: A Book and Fiction Checklist”. Her George R. R. Martin: A RRetrospective Fiction Checklist can be found in the Dreamsongs: GRRM: A RRetrospective collection. 
  • Born September 23, 1957 Rosalind Chao, 65. She was the recurring character of Keiko O’Brien with a total of twenty-seven appearances on Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. In 2010, a preliminary casting memo for Next Gen from 1987 was published, revealing that Chao was originally considered for the part of Enterprise security chief Tasha Yar.
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce, 63. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Doctor Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 66. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1—The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SWEET WATER, DRY GULCH. Paul Thompson tells how the landscape where movie history was made was also where American history has been mythologized: “The Girl and the Outlaw: Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ and the End of the Alien” at LA Review of Books.

ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN years ago, Woodrow Wilson hosted the first-ever film screening at the White House. It was for D. W. Griffith’s adaptation of Thomas Dixon Jr.’s The Clansman, which was published originally as a novel but made famous as a stage play that traces the lives of a white family through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Griffith called it The Birth of a Nation. “It’s like writing history with lightning,” the president is reported to have said when he walked out of the East Room. “My only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”

In the century since its release, The Birth of a Nation has become shorthand for a specific, and specifically virulent, kind of early-20th-century American racism that was obsessed with relitigating that war and the legislation that came out of it (a shorthand so enduring, in fact, that Nate Parker’s 2016 The Birth of a Nation, about Nat Turner and the rebellion by enslaved people he led in 1831, was very plausibly greenlit because of its title’s provocation)….
Birth also invented whole swaths of cinematic language still in use today. It is likely — probably inevitable — that other filmmakers would have, on their own, in time, devised dramatic close-ups on actors’ faces, tracking shots to follow action as it moved, cross-cutting between different sequences, or fade-outs to exit scenes. But no one had done so before Griffith. The late critic Pauline Kael wrote that “[o]ne can trace almost every major tradition and most of the genres, and even many of the metaphors, in movies to their sources” in his work. The Los Angeles Times called Birth “the greatest picture ever made.”

And yet Woodrow Wilson was not talking about cross-cutting when he called Griffith’s movie “so terribly true.” Aside from sympathizing with its Klan-agitprop politics, the president, who grew up in Virginia and codified Jim Crow laws within the federal government, was apparently engrossed by the film’s other great technical achievement: its intricate battle sequence, where Griffith skips between disorienting close-ups, wide vistas, and the literal fog of war — gun smoke choking the camera.

This footage was not filmed on the ground of old battlefields. It was captured on arid land across Los Angeles County and edging into the Inland Empire….

… In Nope, the Haywoods exist on the fringes of the industry that drives this imagination. But these are, truly, the fringes: Agua Dulce, practical in the age of computer-generated imagery, horse handlers when superheroes have replaced cowboys. The land that the studios have found to be such a convenient stand-in for the moon, Mars, and beyond — the land that is meant to support them as they support the city, unseen until needed — has turned, if not hostile, something just short….  

Beyond the traditional routes to fame — sports, entertainment, even politics — Nope hints at a morbid dovetail between its twin focuses on race and film. Though its protagonists are motivated by profit, it’s difficult to watch without thinking, at least in passing, of the way police brutality was disbelieved or minimized before the broad dissemination of videos depicting it — or of the way those videos are in turn reduced over time by cable news and political pundits to mere spectacle….

(12) ON THE RIGHT TRACKS.  Paul Weimer makes you want to read this book in “Microreview: Last Car to Annwn Station at Nerds of a Feather. Last Car to Annwn Station takes what is now a famous trope in Urban Fantasy –the presence of Faerie in the Twin Cities, and puts his own, Welsh mythological spin. Oh, and Streetcars.”

… Faerie in Minneapolis has been a thing ever since Emma Bull introduced the Faerie to Minneapolis with War for the Oaks, and permanently highlighted the Twin Cities as a hotbed of Faerie activity for games like Changeling the Dreaming, and other stories and novels taking up the cause.  A modest but not overwhelming city on the edge of Prairie and forest,plenty of lakes, a vibrant cultural scene that punches above its weight, and much more make the Twin Cities a logical place to set stories like this…. 

(13) HOW WELL DO YOU SPORCLE? Surely a national trivia convention in Washington D.C. is fandom-adjacent? SporcleCon runs September 23-25. Here is the schedule of events.

(14) THE BLUE BIRD OF HAPPINESS? You probably never thought of doing this. Now you won’t be able to get it out of your mind: “F.D.A. Warning on NyQuil Chicken Alerts Many to Existence of NyQuil Chicken” in the New York Times.

A truism of the internet, central to the work of researchers who study the spread of dangerous trends and misinformation, holds that attempting to discourage bad behavior can, if clumsily handled, reinforce the bad behavior by amplifying it to people who would have otherwise never considered it.

Which leads us to the NyQuil chicken.

In recent weeks, some people on TikTok, Twitter and other sites discovered years-old videos and images of people pouring blue-green NyQuil, a nighttime cold medicine, over chicken breasts in a pan or pot. It was, to be clear, a dangerous idea that no one should do — it could lead to consuming unsafe levels of the product, and over-the-counter medicines should be used only as directed….

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

Pixel Scroll 9/17/22 The Last Scroll Title On Earth Sat Alone In A Room

(1) JAYMEE GOH ANTHOLOGY HAS EKPEKI STORY. Don’t Touch That, an anthology about parenting edited by Jaymee Goh, was released this week. It includes Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s latest short story “Mother’s Love, Father’s Place”. He says, “It’s a historical fantasy story set in southern Nigeria and touches on the killing of Twins in Calabar & how it ended. (spoiler, not by Mary Slessor).”

(2) NO TURNING BACK! The New Yorker remembers “The Enduring Allure of Choose Your Own Adventure Books”.

You were a girl who wanted to choose your own adventures. Which is to say, you were a girl who never had adventures. You always followed the rules. But, when you ate an entire sleeve of graham crackers and sank into the couch with a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you got to imagine that you were getting into trouble in outer space, or in the future, or under the sea. You got to make choices every few pages: Do you ask the ghost about her intentions, or run away? Do you rebel against the alien overlords, or blindly obey them?

This was the late eighties in Los Angeles. You binged on these books, pulling tattered sun-bleached copies from your bookshelf: four, five, six in the course of a single afternoon. All over the country, all over the world, other kids were pulling these books from their bookshelves, too. The series has sold more than two hundred and seventy million copies since its launch, in 1979. It’s the fourth-best-selling children’s-book series of all time. Its popularity peaked in the eighties, but the franchise still sells about a million books a year….

The story of Choose Your Own Adventure is largely the tale of two men: Edward Packard, a lawyer who came up with the concept while telling bedtime stories to his two daughters (who sometimes wanted the protagonist to do different things), and R. A. (Ray) Montgomery, an independent publisher who put out Packard’s first book, in 1976, after all the big houses had rejected it….

Both men went through divorces shortly before the series started gaining momentum, and ended up writing many of their books as single fathers. Their children remember helping their fathers invent and flesh out new scenarios: Packard’s daughter Andrea suggested the idea of a time-travelling cave; Montgomery’s sons, Anson and Ramsey, suggested cars (the Saab 900 Turbo, the Lancia Stratos) for “The Race Forever.” Packard paid his children thirty-five cents an hour to read his manuscripts and offer feedback: Which parts were boring? Which choices would kids enjoy? (Andrea, Anson, and Ramsey ended up writing for the franchise, publishing their first Choose books during college.)…

(3) INTERIOR LIFE OF THE ARTIST. Melissa Capriglione is “just journaling some thoughts” – that we probably can all relate to in our own way.

(4) RECIDIVIST. Bob Roehm posted a clever photo on Facebook taken after he was apprehended with a banned book – Fahrenheit 451 – at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, KY.  

(5) THE DNA OF THE DEATH STAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The San Francisco Chronicle looks at how John Dysktra built the Death Star in Star Wars based on his work in 1972 building a realistic model of Berkeley. “This obscure Bay Area study shaped the ending of ‘Star Wars’”.

The newly released six-part Disney Plus streaming docuseries “Light & Magic” goes deep into the history of George Lucas’ San Francisco-based special effects studio Industrial Light & Magic, which was founded in 1975. The ending of the second episode explores the process behind the Death Star scene, in which the fate of the Rebel Alliance hangs on Luke Skywalker’s ability to speed his X-wing through a narrow trench and blast a thermal exhaust port that is only 2 meters wide.

In reality, the entire surface of the Death Star was a hand-built model that measured approximately 15 by 40 feet. Meticulous craftsmanship contributed to the verisimilitude, but the documentary reveals that the filmmaking techniques that made the scene feel so real are actually rooted outside the realm of special effects. It turns out that the entire sequence hinged on a model developed during an urban planning study at UC Berkeley in the early 1970s, which also happened to shape the future of San Francisco’s skyline.

“The Berkeley Experiment,” as it is referred to in the documentary, was funded by the National Science Foundation and led by urban planning professor Donald Appleyard at the school’s Environmental Simulation Lab. Completed in 1972, the project entailed building a small-scale model of Marin County and a computer-controlled stop-motion 16 mm camera system. The goal was to achieve a sense of realism as a model car traversed the miniature cityscape, in hopes that the technique could guide civic decision-making regarding construction choices. …

An archival photo of the UC Berkeley Environmental Simulation Laboratory.

(6) ATTACK OF THE 50-YEAR-OLD CONVENTION. Rob Hansen draws on contemporary reports by Fred Pohl, Rob Holdstock, Sam Long, Bob Shaw and many others to reconstruct the events of “Chessmancon (1972)”. Many photos, too, including GoH Larry Niven giving a physics lecture?

CHESSMANCON, the twenty-third post-war UK National Science Fiction Convention, took place over the weekend of Friday, 31st March to Monday, 3rd April 1972. Named for both its location (Chester) and the city (Manchester) from whose Delta Group most of those organising it were drawn, CHESSMANCON was the fourth MANCON, the others being MANCON, SUPERMANCON, and THIRDMANCON.

…Presumably because of its name, the organisers of CHESSMANCON decided to include a chess tournament. Sadly, I don’t think SUPERMANCON made any reference to Clark Kent, or THIRDMANCON any reference to Harry Lime. So far as I’m aware, CHESSMANCON is the only con to be named after *two* cities.

And here’s another excerpt —

BOB SHAW:

I suppose that in what purports to be a con report one should make some mention of the official programme. Regrettably, I have a tendency to go to conventions and not see any of the programme items, but this doesn’t mean that the programme isn’t important to me. I like to be near the programme and let it induce currents in me, a coil of nerves in the vicinity of the con hall’s electromagnetic field. Some other fans feel the same way (I won’t name any names) and it is pleasant to sit with them in the bar, speculating on what is actually happening in the hall and listening to fragmentary reports from runners – “George Hay has got up to ask a question”, “The projector has broken down”, “There’s been an outbreak of sporran rash among the Scottish fans”, “George Hay is still asking his question”….

(7) RAMMING SPEED. Science is watching as “NASA’s asteroid deflection mission takes aim”.

On 26 September, an act of targeted violence will unfold 11 million kilometers from  Earth,  as  a  spacecraft  about  the size  of  a  vending  machine  smashes into a small asteroid at 6 kilometers per   second.   Unlike   some   asteroids that stray worrisomely close to Earth’s orbit, Dimorphos—the 160-meter moon of a larger body—is  an  innocent  bystander,  posing  no threat to our world. But the looming assault represents humanity’s first-ever field test of a planetary defense mission: NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART. The  hope  is  that  the  collision  will  nudge Dimorphos  toward  its  780-meter  partner, Didymos,  shortening  a  nearly  12-hour  orbital period by minutes. A successful strike would support the idea that, in the future, similar efforts could deflect threatening asteroids onto safer courses. But simulations and lab experiments show the fate of the mission  depends  on  a  crucial  question: Are  such  small  asteroids  solid  boulders or—as astronomers increasingly believe—loose heaps of rubble?…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] Bewitched premiered on ABC fifty-eight years ago this evening.

Creator Sol Saks’ said his basis for this series were I Married a Witch,  the 1942 film that came from Thorne Smith’s unfinished novel The Passionate Witch, and the John Van Druten Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle, which was adapted into the 1958 film. Yes, both films were properties of Columbia Pictures, which also owned Screen Gems, which also produced Bewitched.

The show was popular, finishing as the second-rated show in America during its debut season, staying in the top ten for its first three seasons, and ranking in eleventh place for both seasons four and five.

It starred, as you well know, Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens, Dick York for the first, and Dick Sargent for the rest of the series, as Darrin Stephens. Agnes Moorehead as Endora was really the only other ongoing character. 

Look I need no SPOILER ALERTS here as y’all know the characters, the setting and the story. I bet everyone here has seen some or all of it. 

Historical note here.

Series director William Asher started rehearsals for the pilot on November 22, 1963 which of course coincided with President Kennedy’s assassination.  He felt deeply affected by the event as he personally knew Kennedy — he had produced the 1962 televised birthday party where Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”.

End historical note. Back to the series.

The Stephens house, inside and out, was inspired by a location used in two Gidget movies. Gidget was filmed in 1959 at a real house at 267 18th Street in Santa Monica. The blueprints of this house were later reversed and replicated as a house facade attached to an existing garage on the backlot of Columbia’s Ranch. This was the house seen on Bewitched

Then, the patio and living room sets seen in Columbia’s Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) were adapted as the permanent Bewitched set for 1964. (At least some episodes of I Dream of Jeannie also were filmed using this interior set which makes sense as it’s the same production company. Using material from one series or film on another is very, very economical.) 

Bewitched lasted eight seasons and two hundred fifty episodes. Both the opening and closing animated credits were produced by Hanna-Barbera. Naturally they are on YouTube.

No, I’m not mentioning or discussing the reboot. I’m really not.

As near as I can tell, Bewitched is only streaming for free, errr, on Freevee. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1885 George Cleveland. He was Professor Hensley aboard the Thirties Flash Gordon film serial. IMDb says that he was supposed be in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars, but his bits ended up not being in the film. (Died 1957.)
  • Born September 17, 1908 John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5. There’s a lot of his novels available from the usual suspects. And I do many really a lot, so I’m going to ask all of you where to start reading his SF novels as I am curious as to how they are. (Died 1973.)
  • Born September 17, 1917 Art Widner. He was a founding member of The Stranger Club which created Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II which were held in 1941 and 1942, they being the very first two Boston cons. Fancyclopedia 3 has a very detailed  look at him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. And where’s a treat for you. Here he is on The Carol Burnett Show wearing his Planet of the Apes makeup. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Gimpel, 83. Performer and stunt woman. Though you’ll literally not recognize her, she was the salt monster aka the M-113 creature (as it was called in the credits) in “The Man Trap” episode of the original Trek. In “The Cage” episode, she played a Talosian. As a stunt woman, she’s been on genre shows ranging from Lost in Space to Lucifer and even appeared on films like Escape from New York
  • Born September 17, 1950 Roger Stern, 72. Comics writer who’s most noted work who was on AvengersCaptain AmericaDoctor Strange, and Starman. I’m very, very impressed of his work on the first twenty-eight issues of Starman, which were published from 1988 to 1990. 
  • Born September 17, 1979 Neill Blomkamp, 43. South African born Canadian filmmaker of District 9 which was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Aussiecon 4. EofSF says also, “Of particular note were Tetra Vaal (2004), a RoboCop-inspired advertisement for a fictional range of third-world law-enforcement drones; Alive in Joburg (2005), about an influx of Alien immigrants from a Spaceship stalled over Johannesburg; and Tempbot (2006), about a Robot office worker attempting to parse cubicle culture.” Other genre films include Elysium and Chappie.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home’s joke probably really isn’t about the first thing that came to my mind.
  • Lio today is a real sinus friction story.

(11) NEW SUPERHERO CASTING CONTROVERSY. “With an Israeli Superhero, Marvel Wades Into an Intractable Conflict” reports the New York Times.

It was the latest addition to a fantasy world populated by an ever-growing cast of superheroes and villains: Marvel Studios announced this past week that it had cast the Israeli actress Shira Haas to play Sabra, a mutant Israeli police officer-turned-Mossad agent, in the next installment of the “Captain America” franchise.

While Jewish Israelis rejoiced at the casting of an actress from Israel as a superhero in a major Hollywood production (“Israeli Pride,” declared the Hebrew news site Maariv), the backlash among Palestinians and their supporters was swift, and #CaptainApartheid soon appeared on social media.

Many critics expressed outrage about Sabra’s character and her identity as an Israeli intelligence agent, accusing Marvel of buying into Zionist propaganda; of ignoring, or supporting, Israel’s occupation of territory captured in 1967; and of dehumanizing Palestinians….

(12) HE CAN DO IT! Paul Weimer takes up the challenge of reviewing the latest entry in a long-running series: “Microreview [book]: The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman” at Nerds of a Feather.

How does one really review the 8th(!) book in a series and make that review intelligible to readers who have never read any of the books, and yet helpful to readers both old and new alike. This is the situation where I find myself talking about Genevieve Cogman’s The Untold Story, eighth in her Invisible Library novels. 

I’ll start by saying that the Invisible Library novels, which the first was published in 2016, were multiverse before the multiverse was the new hotness. Imagine a multiverse of worlds , aligned on an order-chaos spectrum a la Moorcock. Imagine these worlds taking cues from Earth cultures and societies.  Imagine two sets of superhuman beings–Dragons, representing order, and Fae, representing chaos, struggling for control and domination of these worlds.  Now imagine a third power, a third party, the Library, seeking to stabilize the worlds, and collect books from all of them at the same time.   

Irene Winters is one of these interdimensional Librarians. Her previous adventures have had her tangle with a traitor to the library (Alberich, more on him anon) deal with both Fae and Dragon politics (her first assistant is a Dragon, and her newest apprentice is a Fae) and visit a variety of worlds in places inspired by Venice, Vienna, New York, and more….

(13) SHE DREAMS OF GENIE. Nerds of a Feather film reviewer Arturo Serrano says it is no easy task to convey the feelings roused by this movie: “Love is a freely chosen yoke in ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’”. But he does!

When one encounters an impeccably beautiful work of art, the attempt to explain it feels like a desecration. Three Thousand Years of Longing is that kind of art that you’re meant to experience more than understand. It does follow a plot, and the plot does make arguments, but to dissect those arguments risks losing sight of the experience. I can’t properly communicate to you the emotional content of this story. What I can try to do is describe what happens in it, but I will fall short of conveying all it says. This is one of those films that leave you permanently changed, and the only way for that secret alchemy to happen is to go yourself to the theater and let it wash over you….

(14) FIFTY YEARS LATER. Totally not sff, but a fascinating interview with insights about screenwriting: “Alan Alda on ‘M*A*S*H’: ‘Everybody Had Something Taken From Them’” in the New York Times.

Were there story lines that you thought “M*A*S*H” hadn’t quite tackled yet that you wanted to bring into the world of the show as a writer and director?

When I wrote, I tried to find out a little bit more about each of the characters. Who is Klinger [Jamie Farr] really? What was underneath — I almost said, what was underneath the dresses. [Laughs.] What was underneath the wearing of the dresses? Who was Margaret [Loretta Swit]?

I see on the internet that people assumed that because I was politically active, trying to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed, that in my writing I was trying to make political points, too. And I wasn’t. I really don’t like writing that passes as entertainment when it’s really propaganda. I want to hear a human story.

(15) EARLY CLUES. Jess Nevins writes about the history of Chinese detective fiction at CrimeReads: “Pre-Revolution Chinese Detective Fiction”.

Mysteries and detective fiction are usually thought of as the inventions of Edgar Allan Poe, but the truth is that they have both been popular in China for over a thousand years. The Chinese have no clear place or person of origin for mysteries and detective fiction, the way the West has Poe, but what the Chinese do have are centuries’ more mysteries and detective stories than the West does.

The first Chinese proto-mysteries—that is, mysteries who some but not all of the elements of modern mystery fiction—were the “gong’an” (“court case”) stories. Told in the form of oral performances and puppetry shows, the gong’an began appearing during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Gong’an traditionally featured incorruptible government officials solving criminal cases and bringing about justice to the guilty and restoration to those who were wronged…. 

(16) CAME TO THE WORLD IN THE USUAL WAY. CNN invites everyone to “Meet the mystery diamond from outer space”.

Scientists have debated its existence. Tiny traces provided clues. Now, researchers have confirmed the existence of a celestial diamond after finding it on Earth’s surface.

The stone, called lonsdaleite, has a hardness and strength that exceeds that of a regular diamond. The rare mineral arrived here by way of a meteorite, new research has suggested….

The revelation started to unfold when geologist Andy Tomkins, a professor at Monash University in Australia, was out in the field categorizing meteorites. He came across a strange “bended” kind of diamond in a space rock in Northwest Africa, said study coauthor Alan Salek, a doctoral student and researcher at RMIT University in Australia.

Tomkins theorized the meteorite that held the lonsdaleite came from the mantle of a dwarf planet that existed about 4.5 billion years, Salek said.

“The dwarf planet was then catastrophically struck by an asteroid, releasing pressure and leading to the formation of these really strange diamonds,” he added.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King explains why you should be nice to the annoying little guy with a squeaky voice who offers to show you a fantasy world!

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

Pixel Scroll 8/25/22 Eats, Scrolls And Athelas

(1) RHYSLING REVAMP SURVEY REPORT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) surveyed members about potential changes to their Rhysling Award. See their feedback here: “Rhysling Revamp” at the SPECPO blog. From the introduction:

The Rhysling Awards are in their 45th year of recognizing excellent speculative poetry, presented by The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Leaders have been monitoring the Rhysling Anthology as it grew along with membership numbers. The anthology has ballooned from 42 poems in 2002 to 180 poems in 2022. Continued growth would result in an anthology that is not feasible to print or read.

Here’s an excerpt from the survey results.

CATEGORIES

A continual discussion point among members is the question of “double dipping” on awards. Most respondents support that Elgin-length poems not be considered for the Rhysling (64%). A slight majority agree at setting a maximum line length for the Rhysling (53%), which would be consistent with considering extra-long poems being only eligible for the Elgins. On the other side of the spectrum, there is generally support (49%) for Dwarf Stars to be the only award that can catch the 1-10 line poems. Only 25% of respondents disagreed about keeping Dwarf-Stars-eligible poems out of the Rhyslings.

There was very little support for adjusting the length definitions, but lots of ambivalence showing in the swell of neutral responses (44%).

(2) CHICON 8 POCKET PROGRAM. In a manner of speaking. The 392-page Pocket Program is now available on the Chicon 8 website. There are two versions, (1) a single page version best viewed on phones and tablets, and (2) a two-page version which is best for printing.

(3) ALERT: FAUX CHICON 8 MERCHANDISE. The Worldcon committee issued a heads up that some t-shirt sites are selling Chicon 8 branded merchandise and saying they are official. They are not.

“Our only official site for Chicon 8 merchandise at this time is Redbubble. If you buy from anywhere else, it does not benefit the convention. Please shop wisely!”

(4) THE OTHER WORLD. This World Fantasy Award winner’s new book isn’t genre, but when speaking about her research she says things like this — “So I went on this fantastic two-week trip into a time and place that doesn’t really exist now.” “Sofia Samatar Brings a Second Coming” at Publishers Weekly.

Sofia Samatar has a way with a sentence. No matter what she’s writing—whether it’s short stories, like her quietly devastating Nebula- and Hugo-nominated “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” or novels, like her World Fantasy Award–winning debut, A Stranger in Olondria—her work has a way of pairing the mundane and sublime with casual aplomb.

Her latest, The White Mosque (Catapult, Oct.), is a mosaic memoir that juxtaposes history, culture, religion and regionalism, tracing the journey of a group of German-speaking Mennonites into the heart of Khiva in Central Asia—now modern-day Uzbekistan—on a quest that promised no less than the second coming of Christ.

Samatar’s own journey to the site where the group’s church once stood started in 2016, when her father-in-law gave her a book titled The Great Trek of the Russian Mennonites, by Frank Belk. “This guy, who’s sort of a cult leader, predicts Christ is returning, and these people just uproot their lives to follow him,” she says, speaking via Zoom from her office at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she’s an associate professor of English. “Of course, nothing happens. But they stayed for 50 years, until they were deported by the Bolsheviks.”

Samatar, the child of a Black Somali Muslim and a white Mennonite, became obsessed with the story…. 

(5) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry, which previously announced that Con or Bust is “folding into our (dragon) wing,” shared the program’s new logo designed by Dream Foundry contest winner Yue Feng.

Applications for grants are open, and they’ve already begun reviewing and issuing grants. If you want to help creatives and fans of color have access to conventions and other opportunities, donate here. To stay in the loop on Con or Bust news, sign up for the program’s quarterly newsletter.     

(6) BACK TO THE MOON. This NASA promo about the Artemis mission dropped yesterday. “Artemis I: We Are Ready”.

The journey of half a million miles – the first flight of the Artemis Generation – is about to begin. The uncrewed Artemis I mission will jump-start humanity’s return to the Moon with the thunderous liftoff of NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This critical flight test will send Orion farther than any human-rated spacecraft has ever flown, putting new systems and processes to the test and lighting the way for the crew missions to come. Artemis I is ready for departure – and, together with our partners around the world, we are ready to return to the Moon, with our sights on Mars and beyond.

(7) WHERE’S THE LOOT? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber looks at the problems game designers have giving users rewards.

Most games interface short, mid- and long-term rewards that trigger at different times.  the short-term rewards often take the form of sensory feedback; the bright ‘ding’ when you get a coin in Super Mario, an enemy’s head exploding in a shower of gore in Grand Theft Auto.  These get boring after a while–behavioural psychologists learned that repeating the same rewards generates diminishing returns.  So developers offer midterm rewards:  new levels, items, skills, characters, locations or narrative beats.  The longterm rewards are often related to social competition and prestige, such as difficult high-level team challenges or rare cosmetic items which players can show off to their friends.

Loot boxes lean into several of these techniques.  They have been employed in all manner of games ranging from FIFA to Star Wars, and they’re very profitable.  Yet they have also faced a backlash:  a recent report from consumer bodies in 18 European countries called them ‘exploitative.’  Although they have been banned in Belgium since 2018, most governments have been wary of legislation–the UK recently decided not to ban loot boxes after a 22-month consultation.  Still, some developers have heard gamers are unhappy–loot boxes were removed from Star Wars Battlefront 2 after an outcry and Blizzard recently announced they won’t feature in upcoming shooter Overwatch  2.”

(8) AGAINST ALL ODDS. The New York Times drills deep into one writer’s experience in “How to Get Published: A Book’s Journey From ‘Very Messy’ Draft to Best Seller”. The author’s novel The School for Good Mothers is set in the near future.

…“I’d like people to know that it’s possible for a debut author in her 40s, a woman of color, a mom, who led a quiet life offline with no brand building whatsoever to have this experience,” said Jessamine Chan.

And yet Chan’s “The School for Good Mothers” was published in January 2022 — and soared to the best-seller list, catapulting her to literary stardom. Last month, former President Barack Obama featured it on his summer reading list.

How does a debut novel go from a “very messy” draft on a writer’s desk to a published book, on display in bookstores around the country?

Here, we take you behind the scenes to see how a book is born — the winding path it takes, the many hands that touch it, the near-misses and the lucky breaks that help determine its fate.

(9) WHEATON SIGNING SCHEDULED. “Wil Wheaton presents and signs Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA on August 31 at 7:00 p.m.

From starring in Stand by Me to playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation to playing himself, in his second (third?) iconic role of Evil Wil Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, to becoming a social media supernova, Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well respected names in science fiction, fantasy and pop culture.

Back in 2001, Wil began blogging on wilwheaton.net. Believing himself to have fallen victim to the curse of the child actor, Wil felt relegated to the convention circuit, and didn’t expect many would want to read about his random experiences and personal philosophies.

Yet, much to his surprise, people were reading. He still blogs, and now has an enormous following on social media with well over 3 million followers.

In Still Just a Geek, Wil revisits his 2004 collection of blog posts, Just a Geek, filled with insightful and often laugh-out-loud annotated comments, additional later writings, and all new material written for this publication. The result is an incredibly raw and honest memoir, in which Wil opens up about his life, about falling in love, about coming to grips with his past work, choices, and family, and finding fulfillment in the new phases of his career. From his times on the Enterprise to his struggles with depression to his starting a family and finding his passion–writing–Wil Wheaton is someone whose life is both a cautionary tale and a story of finding one’s true purpose that should resonate with fans and aspiring artists alike. (William Morrow & Company)

(10) VIKING FUNERAL FOR BATGIRL? The Guardian hears “‘Secret’ screenings of cancelled Batgirl movie being held by studio – reports”.

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed with multiple sources that a select few who worked on the film, including cast, crew and studio executives, would be attending the screenings this week on the Warner Bros lot in California. One source described them as “funeral screenings”, as it is likely the footage will be stored forever and never shown to the public.

…The Hollywood Reporter reported there was a chance Warner Bros would make “the drastic move of actually destroying its Batgirl footage as a way to demonstrate to the IRS that there will never be any revenue from the project, and thus it should be entitled to the full write-down immediately.”

On Tuesday, in an interview with French outlet Skript, Batgirl directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah said they no longer had any copy of the film, recalling the moment they found they could not longer access the servers that held the footage.

…El Arbi said it was unlikely they’d have the studio’s support to release it in the future or that there could be an equivalent of “the Snyder cut” – Zack Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of the DC film Justice League, which added an extra $70m to a $300m budget film.

“It cannot be released in its current state,” said El Arbi. “There’s no VFX … we still had some scenes to shoot. So if one day they want us to release the Batgirl movie, they’d have to give us the means to do it. To finish it properly with our vision.”

(11) TRANSFORMATIVE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Seekingferret posted a “Panel Report” from Fanworks where the topic was “Ethical Norms in Fanworks Fandom”.

… I presented three models for fandom’s approach to copyright- the It’s All Transformative model, the It’s Illegal but I Do It Anyway model, and the It’s Not Illegal Because the Copyright Holders’ Inaction is an Implicit License model, and then the audience argued with me for a while about whether the second two models are essentially the same, which was a good, clarifying argument to have….

Also of interest is the panel’s accompanying slideshow.

(12) WARNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Since, fan-wise, many cons use Discord… “Roblox and Discord Become Virus Vectors for New PyPI Malware” at The New Stack.

If you can communicate on it, you can abuse it. This was proven again recently when a hacker using the name “scarycoder” uploaded a dozen malicious Python packages to PyPI, the popular Python code repository. These bits of code pretended to provide useful functions for Roblox gaming community developers, but all they really did was steal users’ information. So far, so typical. Where it got interesting is it used the Discord messaging app to download malicious executable files.

(13) BOOK PORN. [Item by Bill.] Whenever I see a photograph on the web that has a bookshelf in the background, I spend way too much time trying to figure out what the books are.  For example: 

Blogger Lawrence Person has posted photos of his SF book shelves, and there are a lot of titles I’d love to have in my own collection.  A few years old, but perhaps worth a look ….  “Overview of Lawrence Person’s Library: 2017 Edition”. He provides regular updates to the collection (see the “books” tag).  

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1989 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, the first installment of the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure premiered.

Starring William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, portrayed by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as, and not giving a frell about spoilers here, time travelling slacker high schoolers assembling the ultimate history report. And let’s not forget Rufus as portrayed by George Carlin. I met him some forty years ago — a really neat gentleman. 

Stephen Herek directed here. He had previously written and directed the horror/SF Critters film. Nasty film it was. Chris Matheson who wrote all three of the franchise films co-wrote this with Ed Solomon who co-wrote the third with him and, more importantly, was the Men in Black writer.

By late Eighties standards, it was cheap to produce costing only ten million and making forty in return. Critics for the most part were hostile —- the Washington Post said “if Stephen Herek has any talent for comedy, it’s not visible here.” And the Los Angeles Times added, “it’s unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake.” 

It spawned not one but two television series named – oh, guess what they were named. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, an animated series that started out on CBS and ended on Fox, lasted twenty-one episodes over two seasons, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the live version, lasted but seven episodes on Fox. Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy played Bill and Ted.

DC did the comic for the first film, Marvel for the second. It did well enough that it led to the Marvel series Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book which lasted for just twelve issues. And there was a sort of adaptation of the animated series that lasted for a year by Britain’s now gone Look-In Magazine.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on one of The Lost World films as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1972.)
  • Born August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released the complete Pogo in twelve stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1973. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? Well he did. (Died 1973.)
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sean Connery. Worst film? Zardoz. Best film? From Russia with Love very, very definitely. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want to go for silly. Now remember these are my personal choices. I almost guarantee that you will have different ones. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 82. She was a Boston-area fan who now lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • Born August 25, 1947 Michael Kaluta, 75. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988. If you can find them, the M. W. Kaluta: Sketchbook Series are well worth having.
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 67. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written except that damn Robin Hood novel that made a NYT Best Seller. Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History were my favorite ones until the Ismael Jones series came along and I must say it’s a hell of a lot of fun as well.  Drinking Midnight Wine and Shadows Fall are the novels I’ve re-read the most. 
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 64. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman was, errr, interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was which I think is a far better look at the source material, and Sleepy Hollow is just too damn weird for my pedestrian tastes. (Snarf.)
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 52. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He won two Sidewise Awards, first for his “O One” story and later for The Dragon’s Nine Sons novel. He’s had five Sidewise nominations. 

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) HORROR WRITERS HAVE OPINIONS. Midnight Pals did a sendup of John Scalzi and his purchase of a church building. And his burritos. Can’t overlook those. Thread starts here.

(18) SPACE OPERA. “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky”, a review by Camestros Felapton.

… I found myself in the mood for a big space opera the other day and with the novel also being a Dragon Award finalist, it seemed like a natural choice. I wasn’t wrong in my initial assessment. It is in many ways a more conventional space opera than the books I’d read. Humanity is a spacefaring species with its own factions, in a galactic society with a range of aliens. There’s hyperspace (or rather “unspace”), a cosmic threat, mysteriously vanished advanced civilisations, space spies, space gangsters, badass warriors and epic space battles. This is all good but if you are hoping for the millennia-long deep dive into the evolution of a sapient spider civilisation this book doesn’t have anything like that. Which is fine because that gives Tchaikovsky more space and time to attend to a cast of characters….

(19) A CITY ON A HILL. Paul Weimer reviews Stephen Fry’s Troy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Troy, by Stephen Fry”. There may be surprises in store for some readers – at least there were for Paul.

…In any event, Fry is here to help you. He starts at the beginning, as to how Troy was founded, and why, and brings its history up to date as it were. The delight in the depth of research and scholarship he brings is tha there is a fair chunk here I didn’t know about. Fun fact, the Trojan War is not the first time that Troy gets attacked in its mythological history, and you will never guess who did it before the Greeks got it into their heads to take back Helen, nor why…. 

(20) GOING PUBLIC. “Tom Lehrer: The Public Domain Tango”, a Plagiarism Today post from 2020.

…However, it seems likely that Lehrer may be set for yet another major revival as news spread yesterday that Lehrer, now 92, had released his lyrics and much of his music into the public domain. This has already sparked a great deal of interest in possible covers and recreations of his most famous songs.

Note: It’s worth stating that the declaration deals with his compositions and his lyrics, not the recordings. Those are most likely not owned by Lehrer.

However, the statement isn’t wholly true. Tom Lehrer didn’t actually release his songs into the public domain. While it may be pedantry given that there is no practical difference, the lengths Lehrer had to go to release what he did in the way that he did only further highlights Lehrer’s genius and is well worth exploring.

If this is truly to be Lehrer’s final musical act, it makes sense to see it for both the effort it took and the intellect required to conceive of it….

(21) AI GIVES ASSIST TO MUSIC VIDEO. [Item by Dann.] Someone recently made a video using the lyrics to “Renegade” by Styx.  The lyrics were fed, line by line, into AI art software to create the images used in the video.

While the lyrics aren’t explicitly genre centered, the AI created several images that evoked sci-fi/fantasy themes.  The rhetorical progeny of Edgar Allen Poe shows up a few times as well. “Renegade – Styx – But the lyrics are Ai generated images”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer in the seventh Harry Potter film mourns when several beloved minor characters die.  He is bored by the very long camping scenes (where the characters camp and camp and camp some more” but gets excited when Harry Potter gets to duke it out with Voldemort only to discover that this is the end of Part I and we have to wait for Part II.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/15/22 Pixel Scrolling to the Faraway Towns

(1) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? At The Splintered Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel continues his annual ratings with the “Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2022”. The scoring is done in the following way:

(2.) I gave each magazine one point for each story nominated for a HugoNebulaSturgeon, or World Fantasy Award in the past ten years; one point for each story appearance in any of the Dozois, Horton, Strahan, Clarke, or Adams “year’s best” anthologies; and half a point for each story appearing in the short story or novelette category of the annual Locus Recommended list.

(2a.) Methodological notes for 2022: Starting this year, I swapped the Sturgeon for the Eugie award for all award years 2013-2022. Also, with the death of Dozois in 2018, the [temporary?] cessation of the Strahan anthology, and the delay of the Horton and Clarke anthologies, the 2022 year includes only one new anthology source: Adams 2021. Given the ten-year-window, anthologies still comprise about half the weight of the rankings overall.

The ratings are followed by various observations, for example:

For the past several years it has been clear that the classic “big three” print magazines — Asimov’s, F&SF, and Analog — are slowly being displaced in influence by the four leading free online magazines, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Uncanny (all founded 2006-2014).  Contrast this year’s ranking with the ranking from 2014, which had Asimov’s and F&SF on top by a wide margin.  Presumably, a large part of the explanation is that there are more readers of free online fiction than of paid subscription magazines, which is attractive to authors and probably also helps with voter attention for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

(2) ALTERNATE SPACE. Polygon’s article “For All Mankind season 3 showed how hard Star Trek’s utopia is to achieve” is a spoiler-filled summary of the show, but also a good way to catch up if you haven’t been watching.

After two seasons of an extended Cold War, For All Mankind moved into the technology boom of the ’90s. If the real ’90s were driven by a techno-optimism, For All Mankind explores an idea of what a utopian America driven by technology would actually look like. In this alternate space-focused timeline, the go-go ’90s are filled with electric cars, videophones, and moon-mining. Sounds pretty good, right? But over the course of the season, For All Mankind shows how even if the utopianism of the actual ’90s could have been translated into reality, we couldn’t have left our problems behind.

By the third season, For All Mankind’s alternate history has moved leaps and bounds beyond where our ’90s found us. The larger powers have wound down their military snafus in Vietnam and Afghanistan to focus on building military bases on the moon. The Equal Rights Amendment entered the Constitution thanks to the prominence of female astronauts, electric cars are readily available thanks to investments in technology, and the Soviet Union never collapsed….

(3) MYTHIC MOMENTS. Rivera Sun and David Bratman were the Author and Scholar guests of honor, respectively, at Mythcon 52 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

If you’ve never heard David Bratman speaking about Tolkien and other mythopoeic figures, don’t miss the opportunity to at least read the text of his GOH Speech, hosted on the Southwestern Oklahoma State University site.

And you can listen to Rivera Sun’s GoH speech in a video here.

(4) CRITICAL MASS. The Guardian interviews Namwali Serpell, who won the Clarke Award in 2020: “Namwali Serpell: ‘I find uncertainty compelling in literature’”.

As a critic, you’ve been sceptical about how we tend to construe literary value, not least in your 2019 essay The Banality of Empathy.

The idea that literature’s ethical values stem from its ability to produce empathy has become the be-all and end-all of how we talk about it. The incredible immersion in the minds of others [that fiction offers] is something I wouldn’t be able to live without, but I’d push against the notion that it is valuable for a kind of portable empathy that makes us better people. Many bad people don’t read. Many good people never got to learn how to read. The equation of reading with morally positive effects [resembles] the neoliberal model of eating well and doing exercise. We can see that in the way books are commodified right now: pictures of your latte or smoothie next to a beautiful book cover on Instagram are meant to reflect one’s engagement in a project of self-improvement, rather than actual engagement with other people, talking and thinking about that book. My scepticism isn’t of art – it’s of what we take art to be for.

(5) ONE SMELL IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Cora Buhlert posted a lengthy Masters of the Universe toy photo story about He-Man’s long lost twin sister She-Ra: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘The Mystery of He-Man’s Long-Lost Twin Sister’”.

Here is the long-awaited Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Photo Story about She-Ra, He-Man’s long lost twin sister. To recap, last year I bought myself a Masters of the Universe Origins He-Man and Battlecat and then a Teela figure, because I couldn’t find my vintage figure. Gradually, they were joined by other Masters of the Universe Origins figures. I also started posing the action figures to re-enact scenes from the cartoons and my imagination and started posting the results first on Twitter and then here.

This is part 3 in a sub-series of posts called “Secrets of Eternia” about how much the entire Masters of the Universe franchise is driven by secrets….

“Halt! Put down the babies, fiends! You are under arrest.”

“Tell Randor that he will never see his precious children again, bwahaha.”

“Waaah!”

“Why is it making those sounds, Keldor? And what’s that smell?”

“Just shut up and take the baby!”

(6) FRANKED BY URSULA. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Today, we mailed the last batch of Westercon 74 program books to the members whose records showed that they did not pick up their membership badge, including supporting members. Whenever possible, we included that person’s membership badge and one of the Westercon 74 ribbons that we gave to every member until they ran out. We excluded “Guest of” members and those people we knew to have died over the past three years. Of course, we also did not try to send a program book to any member who did not provide a valid postal mailing address. In total, we mailed 156 program books, which coincidentally was almost exactly the same number of members who did pick up their membership badges.

We mailed everything from Fernley, Nevada by first class mail. The last 27 in this batch went out a few days after the main mailing because we exhausted the supply of Ursula K. Le Guin high-value stamps from our local post office and had to wait for another shipment of stamps to arrive.

(7) MOURNING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a very touching piece by Melissa Navia, who plays Lieutenant Erica Ortegas in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, about losing her partner to cancer between seasons: “An Actor, a Helmsman, and My Brian: Boldly Going Where No Widow Has Gone Before” at Talkhouse.

…All I thought before now rings inconsequential and incomplete. Death will do that to you. Grief transforms you. Losing the love of your life breaks you. So, this is the beginning of a new story, one I am still finding the strength to tell. Of how I went from not being able to physically leave my couch, all of six months ago, to reluctantly leaving the country to film the much-anticipated second season of a yet-to-be-aired, internationally anticipated TV show. Of how I went from becoming a widow in an agonizing heartbeat to re-becoming Erica Ortegas, helmsman of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and how the two will forever be inextricably linked….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1951 [By Cat Eldridge.] I was downstairs this morning as I as most mornings chatting with the usual group when someone mentioned that Yul Brynner’s The King and I had played here at Merrill Auditorium and that she saw it.

So I got interested to see just what the history of The King and I was. It is based on Margaret Landon’s Anna and the King of Siam novel which came out in 1944, which she based upon the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Mongkut reigned for an astonishing sixty-four years.

(It has since been established by historians that the memoirs of Anna Leonowens are, to put it mildly more fiction than actual reality.)

I discovered it was a Richard Rodgers (the music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (the lyrics) affair (I didn’t know that) that first opened in 1951 with, of course, Yul Brynner who had shaved his head for the role (something he never stopped doing) and Gertrude Lawrence as Anna Leonowens, the widowed Briton who was teaching his children. 

It opened on Broadway’s St. James Theatres and ran for nearly three years, making it the fourth-longest-running Broadway musical in history at the time,

Brynner would perform the role of the King of Siam four thousand six hundred and twenty-five performances on Broadway and off Broadway on stages in places like here in Portland. 

He of course starred in the film version of The King and I whose screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman. The film starred Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens. The film made five times what it cost to make.  The Variety review at the time praised it lavishly: “All the ingredients that made Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I a memorable stage experience have been faithfully transferred to the screen.” 

He also starred in 1972 in Anna and the King, the CBS series that lasted thirteen episodes. Samantha Eggar co-starred. Anyone see it? 

Oh, and it was banned in Thailand but so is the book, and any adaptations of the book including other film versions. 

Yes, I like it very much so and have watched the film a number of times. 

The role would net Brynner two Tony Awards, and an Academy Award for Best Actor. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 15, 1933 Bjo Trimble, 89. Her intro to fandom was TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon. She would be active in LASFS in the late 1950s onward and has been involved in more fanzines than I can comfortably list here. Of course, many of us know her from Trek especially the successful campaign for a third season. She’s responsible for the Star Trek Concordance, an amazing work even by today’s standards. And yes, I read it and loved it. She’s shows up (uncredited) as a crew member in the Recreation Deck scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo and her husband John Trimble were the Fan Guests of Honor at the 60th Worldcon, ConJose. She was nominated at Seacon for Best Fanzine for Shangri L’Affaires, and two years later at DisCon 1 for the same under the Best Amateur Magazine category. 
  • Born August 15, 1952 Louise Marley, 70. Winner of two Endeavour Awards for The Glass Harmonica and The Child Goddess. Before becoming a writer, she was an opera singer with the Seattle Opera, and so her works often feature musical themes.
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 79. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000.  
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent as it’s alternate history, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 15, 1972 Ben Affleck, 50. Did you know his first genre role is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? He’s a basketball player in it. He’s Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. IMDB claims he shows up in an uncredited spot in Suicide Squad as well. He’s reprising his role as Batman in forthcoming Flash. He’s Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil which I have seen. He’s actually in Field of Dreams too as a fan on the stands in Fenway though he’s not credited. Can I nominate Shakespeare in Love as genre? If so, he’s Ned Alleyn in it.
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 50. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best known role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness where he was the lead sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. If you’ve been watching The Mandalorian, he was Bib Fortuna in “The Rescue” episode. 

(10) TURN UP THE VOLUMES. “Exploring a literary gem: Milwaukee’s Renaissance Book Store endures through decades of change” is the local CBS affiliate’s love letter to an indie bookstore.

For some people reading is a hobby but for C Kay Hinchliffe it’s a lifestyle. She’s been working at Renaissance Book Store for more than 40 years.

“I started working for Renaissance in January of 1980 when we were still in the big building downtown,” said Hinchliffe. “You meet all sort of people in used books. Part of the fun for me is the joy I can give people because they come in and say I’m looking for a book and I say okay what’s the name?”

Renaissance Books is one of the only standing independent bookstores left in Milwaukee, first opening back in the 1950s when its original location was downtown in a five-story building.

In 1979, it opened a location inside Mitchell International Airport becoming the first used bookstore inside an airport in the country.

“At the airport store you have people coming from all over. There are people who fly into Milwaukee just so they can come to the store,” said Hinchliffe.

…Working at Renaissance has become a family affair. Hinchliffe’s husband Michael has worked at the store since the 1970’s.

“Michael has worked for Renaissance since ’76 and I started working at Renaissance because he worked at Renaissance,” said Hinchliffe.

Since working at this location Hinchliffe estimates she’s sold more than 25,000 books and says she will work at Renaissance for as long as possible.

“We’re a dying breed but we’re small but fierce,” said Hinchliffe.

And the “Michael” referred to is TAFF delegate and Filer “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

(11) YOU’VE SEEN THIS FACE BEFORE. S.E. Lindberg is hosting videos of writing and literature panels from the 2022 GenCon Writer’s Symposium here.

Paul Weimer is one of the panelists on “Sword & Sorcery Renaissance in Writing” along with Jaym Gates, Howard Andrew Jones, Matt John; Jason Ray Carney, and S.E. Lindberg.

(12) LET THE GAMES BEGIN. Variety reports “Viola Davis to Star in ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel as Head Gamemaker”.

Viola Davis is headed to Panem as the head gamemaker in “The Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

The Lionsgate movie is based on the 2020 book of the same name, which takes place decades before the adventures of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” The prequel story is focused on 18-year-old Snow, who eventually becomes the tyrannical leader of the dystopia known as Panem. In “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” he’s chosen to be mentor during the 10th Hunger Games, a televised event in which teenagers are chosen via lottery to fight to the death.

Davis, who is playing Volumnia Gaul, the mastermind of the diabolical teen death-match, will star opposite Tom Blyth as young Coriolanus Snow, Rachel Zegler as tribute Lucy Gray Baird, Hunter Schafer as Snow’s cousin and confidante Tigris Snow and Peter Dinklage as Academy dean Casca Highbottom….

(13) CALIFORNIA’S DROUGHT ISN’T ITS ONLY WORRY. [Item by Tom Becker.] Researchers from UCLA and National Center for Atmospheric Research have found that climate change has doubled the risk of a major “mega-flood” in California. The Great Flood of 1862 inundated the Central Valley. Steamships went along the main streets of towns, picking up passengers from rooftops. Sacramento was under ten feet of water. Climate change increases the severity of both droughts and floods. A major flood can occur when an “atmospheric river” melts the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and it all runs off at once. It has happened before in California, hence the Great Flood of 1862. When it happens again, 5 to 10 million people may be in the path of the flood. Evacuating that many people would be an enormous task, never done before. There are ways to mitigate the flooding, but they would necessarily involve changes to water rights and land use policies that will be highly controversial. Science fiction writers, take note.

(14) VARIATION ON A THEME. From Jeff Blyth: “Wall-E’s Old Man”.

My latest tribute film about Wall-E, this time an “origin” story. Yes, I know the true background of the beloved character, but, like all fan fiction, I wanted to try putting out my own version of how he might have come to be. To those who have faithfully followed my other Wall-E films in the past, this one has been made especially for you. There are a few Easter eggs you’ll find throughout the film and in the soundtrack as well. This is the longest and most complex animation project I’d ever attempted and took me over a year, working alone and on a single computer, with many new challenges.

(15) THE FUTURE IS HERE. It’s a lovely trailer, I’ve got to say that. “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38 Book Trailer”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur picks out the “Dumbest Alien Invasions”.

An Alien Invasion of Earth is a terrifying scenario, yet science fiction rarely has good reason for those invasions. Today we’ll discuss the worst reasons aliens invade in fiction and some plausible scenarios for why they might do it in fact.

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

Blyly Plans August 14 Opening for New Uncle Hugo’s Location

Don Blyly readies the new Uncle Hugo’s for business. Photo (c) by Paul Weimer.

At Uncle Hugo’s Imagination stock’d corners, place
Your books, angels, and arise, arise
From death, those numberless infinities
Of stories, and to your scattered bookshelves go…

– Jeff Warner, with apologies to John Donne.

Don Blyly told readers in the August 9 edition of his “How’s Business” newsletter that he plans to open the new home for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores for shortened hours beginning Sunday, August 14 – though knock on wood because “there is still time for a new disaster to strike.”

Over two years have passed since the old location was burned by vandals in 2020. Insurance claims were followed by real estate deals, then extensive renovation of the new place, installation of shelves, and stocking the inventory. All the work has paid off as the new location at 2716 E. 31st St. in Minneapolis is on the verge of being ready for customers.

And if anyone is so unsympathetic as to ask “So, why is it taking so long?”, Blyly has a list of answers to the question.

The number one problem has been the computer system.  It took 3 weeks longer than expected for the hardware to arrive, after FedEx lost the original set of computer monitors.    After the hardware finally showed up, it took 5 weeks longer than expected to get ethernet cables run to connect the computers to the internet.  That’s a total of 8 weeks unexpected delays, but that was just the beginning of the problems.

There have been other mundane delays, like contracting for trash and recycling pick-up. 

…The salesperson claimed that it was impossible to have the waste service on the same contract as the recycling, so promised to e-mail two contracts for me to sign.  I looked at the contracts and immediately saw two problems: 1) the recycling contract was for only 1/3 the capacity of the old contract, and 2) both contracts stated that the customer will put a maximum of 0 pounds per yard into the containers.  I pointed out these problems and the salesperson kept sending me the bad contracts for signatures about 8 more times before sending revised contracts. 

…The trash dumpster was finally delivered on July 5.  More than a month later than the promised date, the recycling containers still have not been delivered, and I have words with Waste Management about that 2 or 3 times per week.  And the front of the store is filled with recycling material. 

Photo (c) by Paul Weimer.

Moving the phone and internet service to the new location has also been an issue.

Comcast/Xfinity was very helpful after the fire.  They allowed me to cancel my home contract and move the business account to my home and allowed me (for a fee, of course) to keep the two business phone numbers, forwarding them to my home landline.    After I had bought the new commercial building, they set up a new business account for the new address, but kept the old business phone lines connected to my home landline for a transition period.  Around July 6th a Comcast employee called to make sure we were in agreement on the transition to the new location.  We agreed that on July 16 the two phone lines would be transferred to the new store, but the internet connection to my home would remain in place.  Instead, on July 16 they cut the internet connection to my home, but left the two business lines connected to my home landline. I finally got them to move the business phone lines to the business around July 20, but they refused to return internet service to my home, claiming that Comcast Business does not allow any business to have modems in more than one location, even if there is a different account for each location. This forced me to move the mail order operation to the store a couple of weeks sooner than planned.  I still have not been able to get them to return internet service to my home.

Blyly also reported his progress on setting up displays of his inventory.

As I write this, we’ve received about 1/3 of the new books that I’ve ordered.  When boxes of books come in, they have to be checked against the invoice and then divided into different sections.  The mysteries are separated from the science fiction/fantasy.  Within those sections, they are then divided into the “before the fire” titles, the “after the fire” titles, and the “new releases”.    The sides of the bookshelves away from the front windows have the “before the fire” titles and the sides towards the front windows have a couple of sections of “new releases” and many sections of “after the fire” titles.  This should make it much easier for people to see what they’ve missed since the fire.  Around January we will mix the “before the fire” and “after the fire” titles into a single alphabetical section.

Photo (c) by Paul Weimer.

 

Here are his scheduled hours for the planned opening.

I hope to be able to open the Uncles for shortened hours beginning Sunday, August 14 (but there is still time for a new disaster to strike).  For the first week or two we will be open from 11 am to 4 pm Monday – Saturday and from 1 to 4 pm on Sundays, after which we will move to our regular hours.  During the first couple of weeks we expect to be very busy receiving and filing the rest of the new books that are on order, dealing with donated used books, and learning the computer system.  So, we will not be buying used books for the first 2 weeks.  We will continue to accept donated books during this period (“Just put the boxes over there and we’ll get around to dealing with them one of these days.”) but won’t have time to deal with buying used books.  I don’t expect the new sign or new awnings to be ready by then, so the signage will still say “Glass Endeavors” until the sign painter and the awning people get their work done.

Pixel Scroll 8/9/22 Files Are A Glorious Pixel Of Scrolls, A Medley Of Fannish-Euphoria

(1) THE SAGA OF SF ON TV. “David Gerrold Talks Television: A Conversation with Peter Wood” at “From the Earth to the Stars”, the Asimov’s author and editor blog. Wood expects one story; Gerrold generously gives him a vast number of them, about Logan’s Run, Star Trek, Land of the Lost, and more.

Peter Wood:  So, you said you have a story for me (about “Man Out of Time,” the episode you wrote for the 1977 television serial Logan’s Run)?

David Gerrold:  It’s a couple stories.  The producer on the show was Len Katzman, and the executive producers, who I never met, were Goff and Roberts.  Now, I enjoyed working with Len Katzman.  He later went on to do Dallas, and he was a very, very nice man, and a very good producer.  And what I suggested was not just a time travel story but that we actually find sanctuary, and that this would give the show the opportunity to—once we had found that sanctuary was not real—stop searching for sanctuary and start being about rebuilding the connection between all the human settlements all over…. 

(2) Q&A ABOUT S&S. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Two interviews with Sword and Soul authors:

What are the most prominent influences on your writing? How do you incorporate those influences without being derivative?

I would say the two authors that influenced my writing style are James Baldwin and Frank Herbert. From James Baldwin I learned to be a precise and descriptive writer; from Frank Herbert I learned to be a meticulous world builder. I think I keep from being derivative by having my own concept of what I want my writing to be, and applying the lessons from these authors are just a part of that.

Milton J. Davis is a great guy. We were on a panel together at DisCon.

Oliver has a great time talking with Kirk A. Johnson about his new sword & soul story collection, The Obanaax and Other Tales of Heroes and Horrors.

We cover the afternoon movies which helped form Kirk’s idea of what heroes should be, his own first collision with Conan and Frazetta, why martial arts films were such a big thing in the black community back in the day, is Robin Hood S&S?, Fafhrd & Grey Mouser in The Wire…. [etc.]

(3) AIMS. Max Florschutz has a very interesting and nuanced article about an aid in devising characters:  “Being a Better Writer: Crafting Good Goals For Protagonists and Antagonists Alike” at Unusual Things.

…Indy’s goal in the film is twofold: Acquire the ark, and/or make sure the Nazi’s don’t get their hands on it. However, this goal isn’t his. Not originally. He only comes upon this goal because someone else brings it to him.

This is a goal that evolves around a character. Indy himself isn’t the one who places himself on the path. He chooses to accept it, yes. But he only is exposed to it because other characters have the goal and bring him onboard.

Some goals are like this. Goals that grow and shape not because our character made a choice, but because other characters have impacted them, and our character reacts accordingly, adjusting aims to try and meet the original goal under new circumstances.

But what about goals that evolve through a character? Well, let’s look at another aspect of Indiana established in Raiders. The viewer is shown that one of Indy‘s goals (not the people who hire him) is to preserve and save historical artifacts. Thus, there comes a point in the film where the goal he has been given from an external source—do not let the Nazi’s acquire the ark—comes into conflict with his own personal goal of preserving relics so they can be kept safe. Indy has to choose which goal to act on, to blow up the Ark of the Covenant with a rocket launcher to keep it out of Nazi hands … or to let them have it and preserve the relic, even if in the hands of evil. One of the antagonists, and Indy’s mirror darkly, even calls him out on this exact conundrum, and Indy chooses to “evolve” the goal he was given of “get the ark/don’t let the nazis have the ark” by cutting the latter half of the goal.

That might have read a little clunky, but I hope you get the idea. Some goals are external, pushed on the character by outside forces, while other goals are internal. Goals can evolve and change around a character as caused by the actions of others, or they can change and evolve through our character making choices or coming to realizations….

(4) LATINO REPRESENTATION DECLINES. “’Batgirl’ Cancellation, James Franco Show Hollywood’s Latino Erasure” reports Variety’s Clayton Davis.

It wasn’t a great week for Latinos in Hollywood, but I’m sure many of you knew that already.

Between Warner Bros. axing the release of “Batgirl” starring Leslie Grace, HBO Max canceling the coming-of-age comedy TV series “The Gordita Chronicles” and James Franco being cast as Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an upcoming feature, Latinos are being mercilessly discarded and overlooked in the entertainment business. Worse yet, not many seem to care.

… The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released its findings on the absence of Hispanic and Latino representation in the film industry in September 2021. Its findings were even worse than many suspected. An examination of the 1,300 top-grossing films released in the U.S. in the last 13 years found only six Afro-Latino lead or co-leads in the time period. Even more so, less than 5% of more than 52,000 characters examined had speaking parts.

Wouldn’t that have been a wake-up call? Obviously not….

(5) THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS. Also from Variety, the other cancelled Warner Bros. movie Scoob: Holiday Haunt had basically already rented the studio and the orchestra to record the score, when the cancellation news hit: “’Scoob!: Holiday Haunt’ Producer Records Score, Despite Cancellation”.

…Although recording a score for a film that will not be released isn’t exactly an ordinary practice, axing a film after the bulk of its production has already been completed — which was the case around “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” according to reports — isn’t ordinary either….

And this happened too: “Kevin Smith Bizarro Nicolas Cage Superman Canceled At HBO Max” according to Cosmic Book News.

Wow. This is a tough one, as Kevin Smith reveals his Strange Adventures episode featuring Bizarro Superman has been canceled at HBO Max, which of course follows Warner Bros. Discovery and CEO David Zaslav canceling Batgirl and Wonder Twins, among others.

What also really hurts is that Smith reveals he wanted Nicolas Cage to play the Bizarro Superman (Cage nearly played Superman in Smith’s defunct Superman Lives years ago), and Smith further reveals the budget of the episodes would have been really high – around $20million an episode – and to put that into perspective, The CW DC shows are only around $3-5 million, so Strange Adventures would have been something special….

(6) WHEN GRAVITY BAILS. “Megastructures ring the Earth in trailer for sci-fi film ‘Orbital’”. Space.com introduces the trailer:

…Hashem Al-Ghaili is a Yemeni molecular biotechnologist, science communicator, director and producer whose YouTube videos on scientific breakthroughs have been watched by millions. 

Now he’s written, directed, and created the special effects for “Orbital,” an upcoming indie sci-fi film about megastructures and orbital rings with incredible visual imagery that rival many mid-budget Hollywood productions. The film’s impressive trailer has already been viewed by 1.2 million fans on YouTube and the ambitious movie is expected to be released sometime in late 2022….

(7) “AND THEY’VE GONE WRONG!” The only remaining UK bookstore chain Waterstones has massive restocking issues after a warehouse computer system upgrade went wrong. The Guardian has details: “Waterstones hit by ‘nightmare’ stock issues after warehouse system upgrade”.

…The retailer, which has more than 300 stores across the UK, upgraded to a new system called Blue Yonder several weeks ago, but it has been struggling to get stock out to shops and fulfil customer orders.

A spokesperson from the chain said: “Waterstones last month upgraded the system that manages stock distribution from our warehouse to Blue Yonder technology. This is now operational, with stock flowing to our bookshops and customers. Over the implementation period, however, a backlog of orders was created which we are now processing as quickly as we can.”

… Sam Missingham, publishing commentator and founder of The Empowered Author book marketing service raised the issue on Twitter and was inundated with replies from frustrated staff, authors and customers.

One Waterstones bookseller wrote, “We haven’t had deliveries for over a month because there’s an overhaul of our system, but something has gone wrong and we are having to order emergency stock directly from the publishers. Glasgow ran out of books.”…

(8) VICTORIA AND ALBERT AND FRANKENSTEIN. “It’s a monster mash! How the V&A is facing a transatlantic battle over a 7ft Frankenstein figure” – in the Guardian.

…Is it natural history, though? Was the monster real? Not the point.

What is the point? That the NHM was given the monster, and the costume, by Universal Studios in 1935. It in turn lent it to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where it was reported as being destroyed in 1967. So the NHM was a bit surprised when it showed up in the V&A in London.

It wants it back? Too right. It is demanding repatriation to California, “where it belongs”.

Basically the Elgin marbles, then, only more gothic. See also the Benin bronzes…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1953 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok I’m not saying it was a very serious genre film, but Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde did premiere sixty-nine years but as you’ll see in a bit it actually was liked quite a bit by the critics at the time. 

It was directed by Charles Lamont who had done several Abbott and Costello comedies already including Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man. The screenplay was by Lee Leob who would later write Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (yes, there’s a theme here) andJohn Grant who also wrote Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and, I kid you not, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. They were all very popular.

Though it had a “PG” rating here, the censors in Britain weren’t happy with it. It received an “X” rating it there because of the scenes with Mr. Hyde. And that was not Karloff as Hyde though he credited as such in the film. Once the transformation was complete, Hyde was played by stuntman Eddie Parker, who was uncredited in the film. 

An opening night review by the Los Angeles Times was most complimentary: “Robert Louis Stevenson is turning over in his grave, it’s probably only so he can get in a more comfortable position for a belly laugh.” And likewise Film Daily liked it when they saw it at a preview: “If the audience reaction at a sneak preview can be taken as a criterion, then Universal-International has another big treat for the Abbott and Costello fans.” Interestingly reviewers linked to Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it at all.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather decent sixty-two percent rating. 

Please do not offer up links to YouTube copies of it as it still under copyright and we will delete your comment. The Movie Channel, a unit of Paramount, owns the copyright. It actually runs there from time as do all of the Abbott and Costello comedies. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson. Swedish speaking Finnish artist wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with Småtrollen och den stora översvämninge (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Over the next decades, there would be a total of nineteen books. Currently Moominvalley, the animated series, is playing on Netflix. And Terry Pratchett in “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” credited her for him becoming a fiction writer. (Died 2001.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned along with something by Heinlein that I don’t remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1930 D.G. Compton, 92. SWFA Author Emeritus whose The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award. The Unsleeping EyeThe Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the U.K., was filmed as Death Watch which the Audience Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes actually like giving it a 60% rating. His two Alec Jordan near future police stories are superb. 
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 78. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as Calvin Barr. Not even vaguely genre adjacent, but he’s in the exemplary Tombstone as Virgil Earp.
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 75. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? He was nominated for quite a few Hugos with wins coming at Heicon ‘70 for “The Persistence of Vision” novella, Chicon IV for “The Pusher” short story and at Aussiecon Two for “Press Enter []” short story. 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 73. Author of two novels so far in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you.
  • Born August 9, 1956 Adam Nimoy, 66. Son of Leonard Nimoy and the actress Sandra Zober who pre-deceased Nimoy. His wife is Terry Farrell.  He’s directed episodes of Babylon 5Next GenerationThe Outer Limits (he directed his father in the “I, Robot” episode), and Sliders. He’s responsible for For the Love of Spock, a documentary about his father. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 54. The ever skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Played Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Poorly Drawn Lines brings us a dire warning!

(12) PULP VISIONS. William Lampkin shares photos from “PulpFest 50: Thursday” at Yellowed Perils. One of them includes Rick Lai, who later won this year’s Munsey Award. “Rick Lai, Win Scott Eckert, and Frank Schildiner discuss Philip José Farmer’s Lord Grandrith, Doc Caliban, and Lovecraft…”

 (13) THE MOST TOYS. Geek. Dad. Life. reports about Power-Con, a toy collector convention in Columbus, Ohio: 

(14) GENCON BOUND. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Rogues in the House podcast shares some interviews from GenCon: “The Rogues on Hallowed Ground”. Includes a Baen editor pimping Larry Correia’s books — Baen is apparently moving into sword and sorcery.

Rogues, old and new, meet at the mecca known as GenCon. In this very special episode, Deane and Matt are joined by Howard Andrew Jones, Seth Lindberg, Steve Diamond, Sean CW Korsgaard, Jason Ray Carney, and (shudders) The Magician’s Skull himself. Topics include sword and sorcery (of course) as well as our “top picks” from GenCon.

(15) CIRCLE UP! Space Cowboy Books invites fans to their online Flash SF Night reading with Avra Margariti, Mary Soon Lee, Charlie Jane Anders on Tuesday, August 23 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free at the link.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings with authors Avra Margariti, Mary Soon Lee, and Charlie Jane Anders. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(16) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. Camestros Felapton reviews the new Predator prequel. “Review: Prey (Hulu/Disney+)”.

…However, it is the strange weather phenomenon and her hunter’s intuition that leads her to conclude that there is something out there worse than a mountain lion or a bear. Of course, we know what it is, a strange and remorseless killing machine known in popular culture as “European colonialism”, also a weird alien dude with laser sights, heat vision and invisibility.

Naru, her fellow hunters and her dog (who keeps stealing the show) have to contend with the twin existential threats in what becomes a protracted conflict of attrition….

(17) ALLS WELL THAT ENDS WELLS. Arturo Serrano admires the author’s take on a story originated by H. G. Wells: “Review: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia” at Nerds of a Feather.

Is this novel a retelling, a remake, a reimagining, a reboot, a requel? I’d call it a reclaiming.

The original book that inspired it, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells, bears several hallmarks typical of Victorian adventure fiction: a properly educated Englishman ventures into the scary jungle and is quickly forced to dodge the infighting of the locals before he makes an eager return to modern civilization. In a new version of the story, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, author Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes that premise and turns it on its head: no, when the white man sets foot in the tropic, the dangerous thing about that interaction is not the tropic; no, the locals are not aggressive by nature, but they won’t take kindly to attempts at enslavement; and no, home sweet home is not only to be found in the drawing rooms of Europe….

(18) A SUPERIOR MIXTURE. Paul Weimer weighs in about a first-contact novel with “Microreview: A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys” for Nerds of a Feather.

A Half-Built Garden distinguishes itself as a first contact novel unlike any either by virtue of its temporal and political setting. First contact stories that take place in the modern day are a dime a dozen and a cliche even in movies. First contact stories set in the past are a minor note in the genre of SF, but much more common  is future first contact, but with humans as an interplanetary if not an interstellar species. 

What Emrys does here is have first contact on Earth, in a late 21st Century Earth that is trying to recover from the mess of earlier decades and find a sustainably way forward. While there is a boomlet of novels that are set in this low-to-medium term future and exploring the many ways our world might go forward, good, bad, mixed, or bad, mixing in a first contact story is adding peanut butter to that chocolate and enhances both….

(19) CLASSIC PROPS.  In this clip from 2016, Adam Savage visits Peter Jackson’s collection of movie props, including the eye from the HAL 9000 computer from 2001.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Multiversus,” Fandom Games says this celebrity death match game is only interesting for people who would wonder what powers Shaggy from Scooby-Doo could have if he chowed down on dog steroids.  But the narrator says he hopes Universal would do its own version so he could see Vin Diesel fight Shrek.  “I could watch this all day!” the narrator says.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/31/22 “How Many Files To Scrollbylon? Can I Get There By Pixel-Light?”

(1) FREE READ. The final free story in The Sunday Morning Transport’s month-long adventure of free reading is John Wiswell’s “Demonic Invasion or Placebo Effect?” “which shares a unique perspective on an experiment of sorts, gone very, very wrong.”

The Sunday Morning Transport is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work and our authors, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

(2) HOME COOKING. Media Death Cult posted two videos of conversations with author Claire North. First, “Meeting Claire North”.

I made myself comfortable in Catherine Webb’s kitchen, otherwise known as the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated author, Claire North.

Then, “Claire North Recommends Some Books”.

I hung around with Catherine Webb (Claire North), we talked about books.

(3) LIKE MOTHS TO A CANDLE. “Does Twitch Fame Have to Come With a Stalker?” The New York Times shows this is not a rhetorical question.

…Twitch, more than Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, is an intimate platform, designed to make its stars seem like actual friends of their fans, hanging out virtually with them. Those cozy relationships are a core part of the site’s business model. But they sometimes turn unhealthy.

“In livestreams, they see into your home, into your bedroom, and it feels very personal with them,” Ms. Siragusa said. “I think that is what contributes to a lot of the stalking: They feel like they know you.”

Streamers on Twitch and other platforms have had stalkers show up at their homes and at fan conventions, been targeted by armed and violent viewers or dealt with swatting, a sometimes deadly stunt in which someone calls the local police to report a fake crime at a streamer’s home, hoping the raid will be caught live on camera.

In response to the harassment, threats and stalkers she has endured since joining Twitch in 2016, Ms. Siragusa has bought guns, installed security cameras and gotten a Caucasian shepherd, a breed of guard dog, named Bear. She has been swatted so often that law enforcement agencies in her area know to check her Twitch stream when they get a call. Last year, when a trash can outside Ms. Siragusa’s house caught on fire, police suspected arson….

(4) ORIGIN STORY. George Jetson was born today, July 31, 2022. Don’t ask me where – I only know that in The Jetsons he lived in Orbit City. But NPR can tell you why the date is a logical inference.

…Here’s how the math works: The show first aired in 1962, but was set 100 years in the future. That would be 2062.

During the first season of the show, George reveals that he’s 40 years old. So 2062 minus 40, and there you go.

The fact-checking website Snopes looked into the claim and concluded it is, in fact, a “reasonable estimation of his birth year.”…

(5) TONOPAH TALES. You can read “John Hertz’s Westercon Notebook” at Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura.

… Holding a Westercon there was Lisa Hayes’ idea. The Tonopah Convention Center had been a USO hall (United Services Organization; entertainment, hospitality for armed-forces personnel and their families) when armed forces had bases nearby. The Belvada Hotel 100 yards (90 m) away, and the Mizpah Hotel 150 yards (140 m) away, are historic buildings. A 2,000-person Westercon wouldn’t fit there, but a 200-person Westercon, about what could be expected even with COVID-19 easing, would. Hayes was vindicated. 278 attending memberships were sold (and 59 supporting memberships); 159 people arrived. This was an intimate con. It was also hybrid, with some programming available virtually via Zoom. The Convention Center was its hub, like a great Hospitality Suite….

(6) CLARION NEWS. The Clarion Write-a-Thon ended July 30. They raised $4,232.00, which is not as much as they hoped. However, they are still accepting donations.

As it is the last day of our annual Write-a-Thon, there’s still time to squeeze in some writing towards your goal or help us get closer to our fundraising goal! A huge thank you to all of the participants, cheerleaders, signal-boosters, and donors who have helped us with the Write-a-Thon this summer. This annual fundraiser is an essential source of scholarships that provide opportunities for future students.

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Bloch was a very prolific genre writer and among those writings were three scripts for the original Trek series. (IMDb says that he wrote fifty-five tv and film scripts in total.) I would argue that his three Trek episodes were among the best episodes done. So let’s look at them

The first of them was the one I was least aware that he’d done, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” A season one undertaking, this is a straight SF story involving androids, one of whom of is played by Ted Cassidy as Ruk. I’d rate it a decent story. The make-up on Cassidy is quite wonderfully done. And yes, we get a bit of eye candy as well, something Trek did in its female androids more than once. 

Now the next Trek story, “Wolf in the Fold”, from the second season, with its take off the Ripper mythos is delightful indeed. Bloch does horror very, very well and within the restrictions of Sixties television governing what can be shown for blood and violence, he does quite a bit here. I’ll single out the acting of the nebbish like killer Administrator Hengist as played by John Fiedler. 

Now I admit that I had to go back and rewatch “Catspaw”, another second season episode, as I sort of remembered it but not quite though I knew Bloch had scripted it. Fortunately I subscribe to Paramount+, home of everything Trek. Ahhh, now I remember the All Hallows episode with the delightful Antoinette Bower as Sylvia and Theo Marcuse as Korob. And let’s not forget the cat as where would All Hallows’ Eve be without a cat. All in all a most wonderful tale. 

Bloch I’d say acquitted himself most admirably in these three scripts. 

Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek which is mentioned above in today’s featured essay and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the “The Corbomite Maneuver” episode and the Gorn in the “Arena” episode. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair” episode, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. And failed magnificently.  I watched a few months back. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1939 France Nuyen, 83. She showed up in the original Trek as “Elaan of Troyius” as Elaan and was on the new Outer Limits in the “Ripper” episode.  She was in the original Fantasy Island series, also the Battle for the Planet of the ApesAutoman, and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
  • Born July 31, 1950 Steve Miller, 72. He is married to Sharon Lee, and they are the creators of the vast and throughly entertaining Liaden universe. I was surprised though they’ve won both a Golden Duck and Skylark that they have never been nominated for a Hugo. 
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 71. Though best known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first though y’all corrected me when I first ran this Birthday note several years back. 
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 66. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnificent Tombstone film. Likewise he was in The Magnificent Seven series as Chris Larabee.
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 62. Though best known for his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. 
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 60. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. Most likely deservedly.) I also like him a lot as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. And he was Aman in Gallowwalkers, a Western horror film.
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 46. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond. He did The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed Magazine since the early part of the previous decade. He is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Nominated for the Hugo many times, he won for the Lightspeed prozine at Loncon 3 (2014) with Rich Horton and Stefan Rudnicki and at Sasquan (2015) with Horton, Rudnicki, Wendy N. Wagner and Christie Yant. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a plan for a more powerful monster.
  • Off the Mark reveals the original French name of the movie Jaws.
  • Calvin and Hobbes is about Calvin’s science fiction story.

(10) SPLISH, SPLASH. Amazon is taking a bath. “Amazon reports $2B net loss in Q2” reports Becker’s Health IT.

Amazon reported a $2 billion net loss in the second quarter ending June 30, a blow to the company that reported net income of $7.8 billion in the same period last year.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon, blamed inflation among other issues for the disappointing quarter.

“Despite continued inflationary pressures in fuel, energy, and transportation costs, we’re making progress on the more controllable costs we referenced last quarter, particularly improving the productivity of our fulfillment network,” Mr. Jassy said.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon’s plans to purchase One Medical for $3.9 billion last week.

(11) FOR YOUR MT. TBR. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes recommendations in “New And Notable Film Books July 2022 – Part One”. For example —

THE DISNEY REVOLT: THE GREAT LABOR WAR OF ANIMATION’S GOLDEN AGE by Jake S. Friedman (Chicago Review Press)

This deeply researched book tells the backstory of the notorious strike that occurred at the Walt Disney studio in 1941. It was a life-altering event for Walt and its aftereffects were still felt decades later. One of its many ironies is that it pitted Disney against the man he once regarded as his star animator, Art Babbitt. They would become blood enemies as a result of Babbitt’s passionate unionism—and his strident nature.

Students and followers of Disney know his side of the story by now, but may not recall that his father Elias was an active socialist. His upbringing wasn’t so very different from that of Arthur Babitsky, the son of Russian immigrants, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Fate brought these two gifted and strong-willed individuals together as Disney was envisioning new horizons for animation in the early 1930s….

(12) BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE. CNN’s reviewer Brian Lowry finds “‘DC League of Super-Pets’ goes to the dogs in more ways than one”.

Who’s a good movie? Not “DC League of Super-Pets,” a big colorful idea that proves promising in theory – tailor-made for a two-minute trailer – but a rather tedious slog as a full-length animated film. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s “Jumanji” reunion as the central voices and an intriguing start to serve up a few bones fun-wise, but not nearly as much as there should be….

(13) PREPARE TO DIE. Paul Weimer tells us what he heard while listening to The Killing Machine, second in the audio reissue of Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series: “Microreview: The Killing Machine by Jack Vance” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Something I didn’t appreciate when I first read (and re-read) these novels previously but is now clear to me know is the role of serendipitous luck in how these novels kick off. It is luck and chance in both volumes that puts Gersen in the path of this latest foe, quite by chance and accident, and he spends the rest of the novel trying to force a decisive confrontation with the Demon Prince. Also in both novels, there is a sense of “I want you to know it was me” Olenna Tyrell sort of feel to Gersen’s revenge. Shooting the Demon Prince out of the sky is not quite satisfactory enough for Gersen  The Prince must face his avenger…. 

(14) ARTIFICIAL INNUENDO. On The Tonight Show artificial intelligence doesn’t sound any smarter than the ordinary kind. So should I admit that I listened ’til the end? “Bruce the Robot Performs a Freestyle Rap About Hot Dogs and Taylor Swift”.

The world’s first autonomous AI-powered robot, Bruce the Robot, talks about his desire to fly first class, tells Jimmy his best pickup line and shows off his rapping skills.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage’s Tested looks at an animatronic Baby Yoda at Comi-Con built by Garner Holt Productions.  The price of this “bespoke” object isn’t mentioned, because, if you have to ask you can’t afford him! “Lifelike Animatronic Grogu Puppet at Comic-Con 2022!”

The highlight of Comic-Con 2022 so far is this fully animatronic Grogu from EFX Collectibles, designed by the engineers and artists at Garner Holt Productions. We get up close with this incredible animated puppet, which uses 15 servos to recreate all of the character’s joyful expressions seen in The Mandalorian. Star Wars fans at San Diego Comic-Con have to check this out!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/22 Read The Scrolls That They May Teach You, Take The Pixels That They May Reach You

(1) KEEP WATCHING THE SKY WATCHER. At Heritage Auctions bidding is currently up to $62,500 (excluding Buyer’s Premium) on “Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope”.

Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope [circa 1927]. Presented here is the most notable telescope ever built by legendary astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Constructed by hand entirely of materials salvaged from the family farm in Burdett, Kansas. Presents signs of weather and wear; however, fully operational and intact.

Tombaugh’s fascination with astronomy led him to begin building telescopes in 1926 to explore the night sky. Using handmade lenses and mirrors, he began construction on his most prominent telescope in 1927. Fabricated from the hardware he was able to collect, including a grain elevator tube, a cream separator base, a 1910 Buick axle, tractor flywheels, and other farm machinery parts, Tombaugh produced one of the most outstanding achievements of American ingenuity of the twentieth century.

Tombaugh used this exact piece of equipment to illustrate his interpretation of the planets Jupiter and Mars. He, in turn, sent these drawings to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona for critique. His only wished to know if his home-made telescope was an accurate interpretation of the Cosmos. Instantly recognizing Tombaugh’s gift for astronomy, the Observatory wasted no time in offering him employment. Shortly after he began his work at Lowell, Tombaugh started his long list of new astronomical discoveries. The most famous of these is unquestionably his discovery of what was, at the time, the ninth planet in our solar system, Pluto. Clyde continued to work throughout his life as both an astronomer and professor at New Mexico State University.

The telescope itself is approximately 93 inches tall (depending on configuration) and sits on a custom metal base measuring 40 x 40 inches square. As previously stated, it is constructed from farm equipment remains and has some interesting aspects that only add to its character. One is the can of Coca-Cola attached to a chain that protects the eyepiece. According to his son, Alden, the telescope is in the same working condition it was when his father last used it. In fact, in the 1990’s the Smithsonian Institution inquired if the telescope could be loaned to them for display. Clyde politely declined stating, he was still actively using it to search the skies.

(2) PILOT REACHES PORT. Marc Scott Zicree’s Space Command: Redemption premieres at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on July 21.

Space Command Red-Carpet Premiere at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood July 21st! It’s finally here! The WORLD PREMIERE of Space Command Redemption at the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood! This is the full TWO-HOUR PILOT of Space Command, starring Doug Jones, Mira Furlan, Robert Picardo, Bill Mumy, Ethan McDowell, Bryan McClure, Sara Maraffino, Nathaniel Freeman and Bruce Boxleitner!

(3) PLAYING SATURNALIA. Mark Lawrence rediscovered the text of a play-by-mail game he helped write 40 years ago: “Off Topic – big time!”

Back in 1987 I helped run a Play-By-Mail game called Saturnalia. I ran it full time for a year with a bunch of other folk in an office. And I ran my area for another 12 years after that in my spare time.

There was an extensive Wikipedia page about it – but they decided in their wisdom to reduce it to a very brief summary.

I found the original text online today (I wrote a fair bit of it), and have copied it here for posterity in case that last site vanishes….

(4) VANISHING POINTS. Amanda S. Green has experienced some more Kindle Direct Publishing accounting adventures: “Check Your KDP Emails” at Mad Genius Club.

Welp, it finally happened. My KDP/KU sales report for the month has been changed from one day to the next. No, I’m not talking about the move to the new format Amazon decided to go to. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that makes it even more difficult to get a snapshot view of what is going on with your sales and promotions. What I’m talking about is the disappearance of page reads under Kindle Unlimited….

(5) KSR’S DAYS AT BU. “Kim Stanley Robinson on the Importance of Imagination” in Bostonia.

…I’m happy to say that my career as a science fiction writer had its tentative beginnings at BU. Between my classes I would go to the library, find an empty carrel, sit down, and immediately plunk my head on the table and fall asleep. Faced with the overwhelming task of writing fiction, my mind would shut down for a while, perhaps reorganizing itself to face the strange task I was imposing on it. We’ll learn more about the mysteries of sleep in one of the articles in this issue.

For me, my naps would last around 20 minutes, after which I would wake up and work on a story I later titled “Coming Back to Dixieland.” It concerned asteroid belt miners who played jazz on the side—not a great idea for a story, but it got published a few years later in the anthology Orbit 18, edited by my great teacher and mentor Damon Knight. …

(6) IS IT YOU? Do Filers have what it takes to be America’s Next Great Author? “Kwame Alexander to present new reality show America’s Next Great Author” – the Guardian has details.

… The six finalists, locked together for a month, will face “live-wire” challenges as they attempt to write an entire novel in 30 days. The winning novelist will be crowned America’s Next Great Author.

Bestselling author and Newberry Medal winner Kwame Alexander is presenting the show, and is listed as executive producer. In a promotional video posted on the show’s Twitter feed, Alexander said it will be “the first reality show for writers produced by writers. This is your chance, if you’re writing the Great American Novel or the great memoir masterpiece or something, this is your chance to get published.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

2018 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just four years ago, a film called 7 Splinters in Time premiered in limited release in the States. With a great title, it had the premise of a down at the heels detective who investigates a murder, only to find that the victim is himself. Over and over and over again. Soon, he discovers multiple versions of himself, not all of them who want him to investigate what’s happening. 

It was written by Gabriel Judet-Weinshel who has no other genre creds unnless you think a writing the weekly series with comedy icons Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara talking about whatever is on their minds is somehow genre adjacent…

Darius Lefaux Is played by Al Sapienza, best known as Mickey Palmice on The Sopranos. It had a large cast of French performers. 

This film is writer-director Judet-Weinshel’s debut full-length feature, and most critics weren’t thrilled by it though the Austin Chronicle said of it that it was “free jazz, and Judet-Weinshel finds echoes and frequencies in the form and the content.” not at all sure what that means. 

The Variety review was much more understandable in that they said it was “edited to ribbons in a schizoid manner that likely only makes complete sense to its maker.” (I wonder if they ever read any Heinlein time travel stories.) 

And the Los Angeles Times thought that “the neo-noir sci-fi indie is a fractured narrative that can’t achieve what its lofty ideas intend.”

It however did pick up the New Vision Award from Cinequest San Jose Film Festival the year that it was released. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes aren’t terribly impressed by it giving it just a forty-three percent rating. Oh well. 

I think it sounds fascinating and have added it to my To Be Watched list if I can find it somewhere. One second… Ahhh. I can watch it on Amazon Prime which I have. Good.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor who claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart 82. Jean-Luc Picard starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up through the current Star Trek: Picard. (They’re filming two seasons of Picard back-to-back.) Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though only slightly genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in the second version of The Lion in Winter
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 80. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. His work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost RiderKull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of HorrorsThe Dark CrystalLabyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 80. Three great roles of course, the first being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second of course being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh, and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. 
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 67. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1960 Gary A. Braunbeck, 62. Horror writer primarily who has won a very impressive six Stoker Awards. Interestingly his first was SF, Time Was: Isaac Asimov’s I-Bots which was co-written with Steve Perry.
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 41. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back seven years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay in The Atlantic, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds something that makes a bird flip.

(10) JOE QUESADA’S AMAZING FANTASY #1000 COVER REVEALED. Here is Joe Quesada’s wraparound variant cover for Marvel’s giant-sized Spider-Man 60th anniversary one-shot hitting the stands on August 31.

(11) SOME FACTS ARE TRUTHIER THAN OTHERS. YardBarker says there are “20 facts you might not know about ‘Men in Black’”:

For a couple years in the ‘90s, Will Smith was apparently all about interacting with aliens. Independence Day was the big, crowd-pleasing action film, but personally, we’ll go with Men in Black any day of the week. It’s a weird, more cynical film, but with plenty of fun in the mix. Here’s 20 facts about the movie….

But is #15 – “The movie was a box-office success” – a fact? According to Sony, the movie has yet to turn a profit, or so they tell Ed Solomon: “1997 hit ‘Men In Black’ is still yet to make a profit says screenwriter”.

(12) ALL EARS. Paul Weimer recommends you listen to “The voice of Eru Ilúvatar: The Silmarillion in Audio” at Nerds of a Feather.

Back when, after I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I tried to read The Silmarillion. I was still in my early teens and frankly, reader, I didn’t know what I was in for, and I bounced off of it and did not try it again for a decade. It took the second effort for me to understand the power and beauty that was to be found within, but even then, it was not the easiest of reads. Portions of it are like the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings, other parts myth and legend, other parts resembling the outline of a tale that could be told in many more pages (and in some cases, subsequently has)

But, friends, I am here to rescue you from those fears and difficulties and to get you into this Silmarillion, today. I am here to provide you a way to experience and absorb the book and get a feel for Tolkien’s earliest parts of his Legendarium, and that would be the audio edition, narrated by Martin Shaw….

(13) TODAY’S HISTORY & MORAL PHILOSOPHY HOMEWORK. It’s in Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Malnazidos (aka Valley of the Dead)”.

Is it OK to ally with fascists during a (localised) zombie apocalypse? That is today’s moral conundrum brought to you by the Spanish film Valley of the Dead (the Spanish title Malnazidos sounds cooler though).

I’ve seen Korean train zombies, Korean school zombies, British remake of Day of the Triffids zombies, Korean historical zombies, Las Vegas Casino zombies and WW2 zombies. Today’s spin on the genre is Spanish Civil War zombies….

(14) WIRE PALADINS. Also at Nerds of a Feather, “Review: The Saint of Steel Series by T. Kingfisher” is Roseanna Pendlebury’s overview of a three-book arc.

What happens when a god dies, but His berserker paladins are left behind without a hand on the holy reins? If T. Kingfisher’s Saint of Steel series is anything to go by, the answers are: angst, romance, lawyers, angst, tutting, solving murders, angst, exasperated bishops, angst, magical morticians and a lot of pragmatic, down to earth do-gooding. Each book (three currently published but more promised) follows one of the seven remaining paladins of the Saint of Steel as they rebuild their lives with each other, find love, and… yes, angst a bit….

(15) GOING SOLAR. Matt reviews “She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan”, a 2022 Hugo finalist, at Runalong the Shelves.

I often think exploration of power is a big part of fantasy. The rise of one; the search for power to defeat another and how power can work are all themes you can explore in tales from Tolkien, Abercrombie to Pratchett. One less explored theme is why do people do it? What makes someone decide out of all the things in the world they could do this is what I’ll choose to do with my life and the inevitable huge consequences this will have on their country, close relationships, and themselves? In Shelley Parker- Chan’s stunning She Who Became The Sun we get an examination of how the need to be great or to have revenge can send people down quite unexpected paths delivering a fascinating historical fantasy….

(16) FIRST EYES ON THE JWST PRIZE. The New York Times introduces readers to those who performed “The Lonely Work of Picking the Universe’s Best Astronomy Pictures”.

After the image flashes up on the projector, a few quiet beats tick by, punctuated only by a soft “wow.” Everyone is processing.

Then more “wows” bubble out, and people are talking over one another, laughing. Suddenly two astronomers, Amaya Moro-Martin and Karl Gordon, are out of their chairs, sticking their noses closer to the space fantasia onscreen, agog — “It’s a jet! This is full of jets!” — at the crisp, hallucinatory grandeur of new stars sprouting from a nebula like seeds from a flower bed.

The screen zooms in, in, in toward a jutting promontory many light-years long that stands out in sharp relief.

“Oh my god,” someone says — only that someone was me, accidentally.

“Welcome to the team,” someone else responds.

On Tuesday morning, this view of the Carina Nebula was made public alongside other new observations from the James Webb Space Telescope. But it made an earlier debut on another Tuesday morning — this one in June, when a small team clutching coffee cups gathered around a conference table at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore for one of many morning meetings to receive, process and repackage for public consumption what humanity’s latest and greatest set of eyes could see — after the team members had first signed nondisclosure agreements to ensure no early leaks….

(17) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. NBC News lets viewers “Compare photos from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope”.

The first images from the James Webb Space Telescope are just a preview of the impressive capabilities of NASA’s $10 billion, next-generation observatory. Billed as the successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, which launched into orbit in 1990, Webb was designed to peer deeper into space than ever before, with powerful instruments that can capture previously undetectable details in the cosmos. 

Here’s how the Webb telescope stacks up to its famous predecessor….

(18) WHO ARE YOU? (DOC WHO, THAT’S WHO!) According to the Huffington Post, “This NASA Picture Is Giving Brits 1980s Nostalgia”. They’re referring to the first JWST image released the other day.

The image is a photo composite made from images at different wavelengths, adding up to 12.5 hours, and it shows the galaxy cluster as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.

Despite the significance of the new release though, there were plenty of people who couldn’t help noticing it reminded them of something: Doctor Who.

More specifically, the opening credits to the long-running fantasy/science-fiction show during earlier seasons.

Several people referenced Peter Davison, the fifth doctor who was in the role between 1982 and 1984, and pointed out that the image reminded them of this particular era….

Others joked about it clearly being a nod to the fourth doctor, Tom Baker, who starred in the series between 1974 and 1981.

(19) INSIDE JOB. A special trailer from Disney celebrates that Tron and Tron: Legacy are now available on Disney+.

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

Review: Babel

By Paul Weimer: ​R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world.

The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, “to try” or “to attempt”.

The word review is also ultimately French. Middle English reveue, from Middle French, from feminine past participle of revoir to see again, reexamine.

This is a review, and essay, where I try to attempt to talk about BABEL: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, by R F Kuang.

The time and place is a very slightly alternate 19th century Britain. In this world, there is one form of magic. It turns out that silver engraved with two words in different languages that have the same meaning can derive a magical effect because no two words have the same exact meaning and that difference can be exploited. 

Take the English word speak, and take the Latin word iacto. Iacto means speak, but it also means to cast, to hurl. One could use a silver bar with those two words engraved, by its magic, be able to speak more loudly, to cast one’s words out further.

The English Empire has the premier translation facility in the world and is always looking for more translators, especially in more far-flung languages. As languages blend and meld, the difference between words in different languages gets smaller, and so the magical effect becomes less efficacious. Also, people need to be able to think and be immersed in both languages to make the magical silver bars that function. Those silver bars do everything from improving fighting vessels to giving additional stability and robustness to carriages and railroads to providing magical healing and aid. 

And so we are thus introduced to our main protagonist, Robin Swift.  Rescued from poverty in Canton after his mother’s sickness and death, by his new guardian, Professor Lovell.  He is trained in Latin and Greek, but it is his knowledge of Chinese and English where his talents lie. The differences in translation between the two languages, in someone who has those languages so firmly in their thinking mind, provides a potential wealth of new translation pairs that the British Empire wants…and needs. And so Robin is set and polished and readied to attend the Royal Institute of Translation, the titular Babel.  As Robin bonds with other members of his class at the fictional University in the city of Oxford, he soon begins to learn the cost of Empire…and what Babel will do to maintain that power…and what he is asked to do to maintain that power. 

Especially as what our world calls the Opium War is brewing.

And so a story is born.¹

Story.  Middle English storie, from Medieval Latin historia narrative, illustration, story of a building, from Latin, history, tale; probably from narrative friezes on the window level of medieval buildings. 

Having a Chinese would-be translator brought to the heart of the British Empire, and he and his friends’ talents aimed toward maintaining the Imperial Project, swings for the fences in terms of themes, and this novel’s strength is in the themes it ruthlessly interrogates. Colonialism? Empire? Oppression? Racism (in fact, three out of the four in Team Babel are POC)? All of these. Two of Robin’s comrades are women, and so we get a (man’s) view to Sexism as well. Kuang makes a really good point on how these toxic -isms are all interconnected, intertwined and feed off of each other to produce truly terrible results. Readers of The Poppy War trilogy know that she doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the costs of War and oppression. If anything, her words are even sharper here. 

The novel is grim, dealing with some very dark subjects, and it is in the end very much not a happy story. Again, readers who have read her previous trilogy know to expect this from Kuang, but readers who are coming to her here, fresh, should learn to expect it. Are there moments of fun, of levity? Sure. Is there an absolutely bonkers level of geekery and joy in the idea and nature of translation? Does the novel take absolute pleasure in how things are translated, and what that means (above and beyond even the magic of the silver bars?) Certainly.

In point of fact, if you want to go back to the theme, and this novel does hammer then, so you might as well, then for the three POC of the four main characters², their very lives and natures are an exercise in translation. Robin is “translated” from Canton. Ramy is a translation from India. And finally, Victoire is a translation from Haiti. Those translations from their previous lives to their current ones have all gone differently, and not perfectly, either, because the whole point of the novel and the idea of translation and its magic is that while these cognate words might ostensibly mean the same thing, in reality, they do not. There is difference, divergence, and change. 

And the novel understands the nuances involved. Robin gets into an argument with Professor Lovell, who is appalled when Robin seems “ungrateful” for having been rescued by him from destitution, poverty and death to a life working for Babel. Robin’s reply, aghast, is that he could have saved his mother from death–and chose not to. Colonialism and the colonial project, imperialism all degrade both the oppressors and the oppressed. And Kuang follows the logic of that, and responding to that, all the way to rebellion and revolution. 

Consider the subtitle “Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of The Oxford Translators Revolution”.  This points to where the novel is going, which, like The Poppy War, starts off as a story of Robin escaping his previous existence, learning, and growing, and then by degrees both large and small, being thrust into taking violent, dangerous action. And, again, given that this is a Kuang book, there are costs, personal as well as societal, to taking such large scale, drastic action.  In this summer of 2022 when the book is being published, given the political moment here in the United States, you bet that this novel resonates like a bell.

One thing that does disappoint me in Babel, though, and it may be an idiosyncratic affectation on my part, and it is what I call the “Temeraire Problem.” Temeraire, if you will recall, is the series of Naomi Novik novels that can be high concept pitched quite accurately as “The Napoleonic Wars with Dragons”3. And while the events of the Napoleonic Wars do diverge from our own history in the writing of the novels, all the millennia of history previously, somehow, was all the same as our own. With such a major change to the world as having Dragons, for World history to have gone the exact same way without discernible change seems like a failure of imagination, or a reluctance to go down the rabbit hole of what changes could and would possibly happen to the timeline. And so, really, nothing has changed. 

While I can see the value of doing this for the reader, as well as it reduces the ask for the reader in accepting changes beyond the high concept and its immediate consequences, it makes the worldbuilding feel more like a copypasta of history, but with an additional added element.  In Babel, we have magic, verifiable magic that has been around as long as there have been multiple languages. And yet for all that, in early 19th century Britain, everything has gone, as far as I can tell, as a carbon copy of our own world. I suppose it is possible that unseen corners of the world that our protagonist has not seen or read about, but the impression that the novel gives is that this is a Britain (and China) on the verge of the Opium Wars, and there are no complicating and entangling factors to distract from looking at that narrative as effectively as it does as outlined above.  But a world where engraving silver with translated worlds is magic, there are potentially huge changes to history at a number of points that could set the entire course of history differently.⁴ And even if you didn’t want to play in super major keys with that, acknowledging how silver and translation’s magic has affected history in the past would help set up what happens in the “present” of this novel even better. 

With that disappointment in mind, and again, your mileage may vary in what you expect from alternate historical fantasy, Babel is a fantastic and engaging read. Kuang interrogates colonialism, language, resistance and revolution, culture, and an underused portion of history (in genre) to sharply make her points and tell an engaging and complete story in one (relatively thick) volume. The book is, to use an overworn phrase, a leveling up of Kuang’s already honed talents from the Poppy War trilogy. Kuang is a rising talent within genre and Babel is an excellent place to discover her work.

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, Harper Voyager, 2022


¹It should be noted, that as befits a work that is set at an academic bastion of translation and knowledge, that the book has plenty of footnotes. 

²The fourth of the students, Letty, is a young woman from England. Kuang makes good use of the difference between her and her three compatriots. The rich character possibilities are not squandered, but to say more would be highly spoilery.

3Or perhaps a little more accurately and narrowly still, It’s Jack Aubrey (Master and Commander) with Dragons

⁴Off the top of my head, societies with a lot of silver and the potential to use its magic that could have changed history in significant ways: The Athenian Empire, the Carthaginian Empire, the New World and the Spanish Empire (Kuang kind of thinks of going there but doesn’t quite manage it). Also historically, Japan traded (often indirectly) with China using silver.