Pixel Scroll 12/8/22 By The Scrolling Of My Thumbs, Something Pixeled This Way Comes

(1) PETER WATTS Q&A. Media Death Cult’s Moid Moidelhoff hosts Peter Watts in “The Big Interview”.

Peter Watts is a Canadian marine biologist who also writes awesome science fiction stories. We talked for about three hours, we will do it again.

(2) KNOW YOUR COMICS. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The most recent LearnedLeague match day had a question that was at least SF-adjacent. 

The DC Comics superheroes Kid Flash, Robin, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl were the four original members of what superhero team, which has included countless other members over the years including (recently) Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy?

The answer is “the Teen Titans”. Get rate was 50%, with the most common wrong answer (7% of answers) being “the Justice League”.

(3) OCTOTHORPE. The confession “I’m Not A Fan In The Way John Is” is the title of the Octothorpe podcast’s 72nd episode. But who’s confessing?

John Coxon isn’t gambling, Alison Scott isn’t reading, and Liz Batty doesn’t care. We discuss semiprozines quite a lot, mostly by accident (we might have to revisit that again sometime.) Oh, and we briefly touch on Andor, but we don’t say much.

(4) THE GAME’S AFOOT. ‘Sherlock Holmes in Oz’ and others’: The Sherlockian Writings of Ruth Berman, published by the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota (December 2022, 110 pages) is available from the Norwegian Explorers, c/o Phil Bergen, 3829 179 Ave NW, Andover MN 55304-1820. $11.00, which includes postage.

The Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota is a “scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, dedicated to keeping green the memory of the Master, Sherlock Holmes, and honoring his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

Berman, an award-winning sff poet, was also a 1968 nominee for Best Fan Writer.

(5) MAJOR STATHOPOULOS PORTRAIT EXHIBIT. Blue Mountains Cultural Center in Australia has put up a webpage for its forthcoming exhibit “The Semblance of Things: portraits by Nick Stathopoulos”, running from February 4-April 2, 2023. It’s always exciting to see his achievements recognized, since along the way Nick’s work for sff publications has garnered 10 Ditmar Awards and a Hugo nomination.

The Semblance of Things is a comprehensive survey of Nick Stathopoulos’ portraits from the past 30 years documenting the evolution of his hyper-real style. The artist delves beneath the painted surface to reveal psychological insights into the subject, beyond the superficial likeness often expected of portraiture.  As well as the curated selection of portraits, the exhibition includes archival photographs, sketchbooks, and video clips. Subjects include celebrities Isla Fisher, David Stratton, Barry Crocker, Shaun Tan, Grahame Bond (Aunty Jack), Mr. Squiggle, and many more. This is the first time these portraits have been exhibited together, with works ranging in scale from the blockbuster Archibald finalists to more intimate and personal work.

(6) RALPH ROBERTS (1945-2021). [Item by Steven H Silver.] Ralph Roberts (b.1945) died on June 24, 2021. Roberts was the author of The Hundred-Acre Spaceship and from 1995-2012 ran Farthest Star Publishing (which mostly seems to have published works by Mike Resnick).

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1952 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robin Hood statue, Castle Place, Nottingham

Continuing our look at statues of fantasy characters, we now have the Robin Hood statue at Castle Place.

The statue was commissioned by local businessman, Philip E. F. Clay to provide a landmark that recognized Nottingham’s connection with the world-famous folk hero. Nottingham-born and resident Royal Academy sculptor James Woodford was chosen to design and cast the statue at a cost of a rather princely sum of five thousand pounds. 

Though it’s not visible to the eye, Robin Hood is actually in eight pieces as a single piece statue would have been way too exorbitant to cast. 

As I just noted, the figure was cast in eight pieces of half-inch thick bronze like the Rudyard Kipling statue we were talking about last Scroll,  and stands in a traditional archer’s pose on a two-and-half ton block of white Clipsham stone.

Extensive research was done by Woodford to understand what historians believed the stocky-built medieval foresters of the period would look like, but he made one change that upset a Hell of a lot of individuals. And still does seventy years later.

They expected Robin Hood to have the triangular pointed hat with a long feather which Errol Flynn had in his film role, so the statue’s authentic headgear of a woodsman’s leather skull cap did not go down well at all. 

They originally planned to place it in the roadway at the top of Castle Road but the realization dawned that that traffic and congestion would be a nightmare as everyone stopped to look at it. 

The statue was officially presented to the city to commemorate the visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on June 28, 1949, during Nottingham’s quincentenary celebrations. Keep in mind that actually it wasn’t actually completed and installed until three years later.

The statue was finally unveiled on July 24, 1952, by the Duchess of Portland on the specially-prepared lawn beneath the walls of Nottingham Castle. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Director of A Trip To The Moon which I know was one of Kage Baker’s most-liked films. It surely must be one of the earliest genre films and also one of the most visually iconic with the rocket ship stuck in the face of the moon. He did some other genre shorts such as Baron Munchausen’s Dreamand The Legend of Rip Van Winkle. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E.C.Segar. Creator of Popeye who of course is genre. Who could not watch Altman’s film and not know that? Segar created the character who first appeared in 1929 in his comic strip Thimble Theatre. Fantagraphics has published a six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928–38. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker,72. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London. So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and Hellboy. 
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 71. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. He won a World Fantasy Award for his editing of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Stories about Stories: Fantasy & the Remaking of Myth.
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind, plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 8, 1957 Laura J. Mixon, 65. She won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Sasquan. She has written a number of excellent novels including Glass Houses and Up Against It which got an Otherwise nomination. She is married to SF writer Steven Gould, with whom she co-wrote the novel Greenwar.
  • Born December 8, 1965 David Harewood57. First genre appearance is the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (Billie Piper plays the lead). He played Tuck in the BBC’s Robin Hood series and showed up as Joshua Naismith in Doctor Who’s ‘The End of Time’ episode. He played two separate characters on Supergirl, J’onnJ’onzz/Martian Manhunter / Hank Henshaw and Cyborg Superman. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Least I Could Do suspects a skill you’re using right now will become extinct.
  • Bizarro has another example of fans getting ahead of creators.  
  • Candorville has a romantic “miss you more” exchange, couched in sff terms.

(10) THREE, NOT FIVE. Camestros Felapton shares his “Review: Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky”. Beware mild spoilers.

Tchaikovsky’s third book in the Children of Time series continues to build up the series about deep time and sapience with another tale of mysterious planets, lost colonies and nature of intelligence and identity.

As with the previous novels, the story is technically a stand-alone story but the depth of the background to the events sits within the previous two stories. Each novel adds to and expands the evolving space-faring culture around whom these stories take place….

(11) BLAST OFF! Dreams of Space takes us back to a Fifties magazine’s answer to “Will your child visit the Moon?” in Women’s Day -August (1953) Part 1”. The article is reproduced at the link.

Women’s Day magazine also got involved in the spaceflight fad in the early 1950s. This 1953 (August) issue had a number of space related articles including: Will Your Child Visit The Moon? The article makes the case to the mothers of America that travel into space and the Moon is possible. It lays out the current development of spaceflight and how it will evolve. Not a lot of illustrations for all this text but a most interesting article in an unlikely place….

(12) OR MAYBE ALIVE IN A DIFFERENT FORM. “Wonder Woman 3 Dead: Patty Jenkins Script Rejected” reports Cosmic Book News.

…The report comes from THR who reports how Wonder Woman 3 is not moving forward as the DC movies have hit a turning point.

Worth a mention is that just yesterday saw Gal Gadot tweet about playing Wonder Woman, which was liked on Twitter by the new co-head of the DCU, James Gunn.

“A few years ago it was announced that I was going to play Wonder Woman. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to play such an incredible, iconic character and more than anything I’m grateful for YOU. The fans. Can’t wait to share her next chapter with you,” tweeted Gadot.

It’s unknown if Gal Gadot knew about Wonder Woman 3 not moving forward prior to tweeting what she said, but it probably does seem likely that she knew about it as did James Gunn, so maybe Gadot is sticking around, as Gadot is rumored to appear in The Flash; however, more on that below….

(13) IN MEMORY YET GREENLAND. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] No, not an SF classic but this week’s Nature cover story.

The cover shows an artist’s impression of the rich ecosystem that existed in parts of northern Greenland some 2 million years ago. The ecosystem is reconstructed from ancient DNA in this week’s issue by Eske Willerslev and colleagues. Working at the Kap København Formation in Peary Land, the researchers gathered sediment samples rich in organic material from 5 different geological sites. By extracting and sequencing DNA from these samples, they were able to piece together a picture of the flora and fauna present around 2 million years ago. The team found evidence of open boreal forest mixed with Arctic species such as cedar, spruce and birch, as well as signs of animals including hares, mastodons, reindeer and geese. The evidence affirms that this part of Greenland, now a polar desert, was 11–17 °C warmer than it is today and suggests it was home to an ecosystem composition that no longer exists anywhere in the world.

 Research paper here. (Open access). 

(14) URGE TO MERGE. “Strange flashes linked to stars merging rather than dying” discussed in Nature.

Brief, intense flashes known as γ-ray bursts appear every day at random locations in the sky. These bursts are classified according to their duration. Short γ-ray bursts, lasting less than one second, are thought to derive from the merging of two neutron stars in a binary system, whereas long γ-ray bursts are active for a few seconds or more, and result from the collapse of a massive star. Four papers published in this issue of Nature by Troja et al.1Rastinejad et al.2Mei et al.3 and Yang et al.4 now challenge this long-standing paradigm, by providing evidence of a long γ-ray burst that seems to have been produced by the merger of a compact binary system.

One of the papers is open access here.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another sff short released this week by DUST, “Eureka!” starring Karen Gillan.

A lazy, uninspired woman is visited by an otherworldly being responsible for giving humanity all its great ideas.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/21 I Will Scroll No Pixel Before Its Time

(1) LISTEN TO THE PICNIC. Podside Picnic is the place hosts Podside Pete, Karlo Rodriguez and Connor Southard engage with and discuss science fiction, fantasy and horror media. In addition to their Patreon subscriber content, they also feature interviews with SFF authors that are available to non-subscribers at Podside Picnic on Soundcloud – sample links below.

Podside Picnic is a show mostly about science fiction and fantasy, but more importantly, it’s about two guys exploring stories. Pete is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy fan with 40 years of ravenous reading under his belt. Connor is a writer and recovering literary snob on a mission to learn about science fiction, fantasy, and all the genres in between.

We like the phrase “literature of the fantastic” to encompass what most interests us, but our interests morph as we continue this journey and learn from each other and from our audience and guests. Much of our focus is on what’s long been called “genre fiction,” especially science fiction and fantasy, but curiosity is more important to us than marketing lingo. We believe the future of storytelling lies in crossing traditional boundaries. 

In which Pete and Connor are joined by a living legend of science fiction, Peter Watts. We discuss his contemporary classic novel Blindsight, but we also discuss love, legal misadventures, life itself… and sea cucumbers

Pete and Karlo are joined by author, Karen Osborne to discuss her novel “Architects of Memory” and how even in the far future, people will try their best and sometimes fail.

In which Pete and Connor are joined by writer Isaac Butler, who wrote this fascinating piece about unjustly forgotten fantasy and sci-fi writer John M. Ford: slate.com/culture/2019/11/john…n-fantasy-books.html

(2) GOTHAM BOOK PRIZE. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a nominee for the inaugural Gotham Book Prize.

As the city comes through COVID-19 and enters a challenging period ahead, recognizing what makes it special and unique is more important than ever. The Gotham Book Prize is awarded once a year to the best book (works of fiction and nonfiction are eligible) published that calendar year that either is about New York City or takes place in New York City. The winner will receive $50,000. Selections will be reviewed by an independent jury with the winner selected by the prize’s co-founders/ funders.

Jemisin’s book and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind are the lone two works of genre interest among the 10 nominees.

(3) THE HELLUO YOU SAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Wikipedia word of the day [24 January GST]  is helluo librorum : (literary, archaic) An insatiable and obsessive bookworm (“avid book reader”). Here’s an example of the term used in a sentence:

[1720, [attributed to Jonathan Swift], The Right of Precedence between Phisicians and Civilians Enquir’d into, Dublin: […] [J. Gowan] for John Hyde […], and Robert Owen […], OCLC 1227582291page 16:

[A] Writers Stomach, Appetite, and Victuals, may be judg’d from his Method, Stile, and Subject, as certainly as if you were his Mess-fellow, and sat at Table with him. Hence we call a Subject dry, a Writer insipid, Notions crude, and indigested, a Pamphlet empty or hungry, a Stile jejune, and many such like Expressions, plainly alluding to the Diet of an Author, and I make no manner of doubt but Tully [i.e.Cicero] grounded that saying of Helluo Librorum upon the same Observation.]

(4) AMAZON ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS. Classaction.org has another rundown on the lawsuit and a link to the complaint: “Amazon.com, ‘Big Five’ Publishers Conspired to Fix Prices for E-Books, Class Action Alleges”.

…Through its most favored nation clauses with the Big Five, Amazon has required, and the companies have agreed to grant, “prices, terms, and conditions equal to or better” than those offered to the defendant’s competitors. Moreover, Amazon mandates that it be notified about such terms, a requirement that serves to restrict discounts to consumers and stifle innovation in the trade e-book market, the suit claims.

“Once notified of the availability of its co-conspirators’ e-books at lower prices, Amazon typically ‘requested’ that they charge the same prices on Amazon. If publishers did not comply, Amazon retaliated or threatened to retaliate by disabling purchases for one or several of the publisher’s e-books on its platform, by excluding the publisher’s e-books from all promotional activity, by removing the pre-order buttons for the publisher’s e-books, or by prominently displaying banners for other publishers’ e-books.”

The contractual requirements laid out by Amazon prevent “actual and potential retail competitors from introducing alternative business models, offering promotional advantages, or offering customers lower prices on their own,” the complaint says, summarizing that the agency price model in which Amazon and the Big Five operate has contractually obligated the publishers to more or less do what Amazon says with regard to setting prices or offering discounts.

Further, whereas one would think readers would benefit from the cost reductions related to the low printing and distribution expenses of e-books when compared to printed texts, the high commissions and other costs Amazon charges to publishers all but wipe out those savings, the complaint summarizes:

“Amazon increases the cost of selling e-books by tying its distribution services (e.g., helping consumers find and purchase e-books on the Amazon platform, processing payments, delivering e-books) to its advertising services, which are designed to optimize the placement of advertisements to consumers on its online platform. Amazon further raises the Big Five’s selling costs by manipulating e-book ‘discovery tools to make a publisher’s books difficult to find without the purchase of advertising or refuses distribution unless the publisher also purchases advertising.’”

(5) RESISTANCE IN RUSSIA. In the Washington Post, Robyn Dixon interviews Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of “a cult dystopian sf trilogy” beginning with Metro 2033, who said he was opposed to the Kremlin’s efforts to murder dissident Alexei Navalny and to suppress all opposition to Putin. “Kremlin warns Russians against pro-Navalny protests, drawing pushback”.

The first novel in Glukhovsky’s dystopian science fiction trilogy, “Metro 2033,” set in the Moscow Metro in a post-apocalyptic world, tells a dark story of fascistic leaders who construct a big lie to fool people to keep them trapped underground after a nuclear holocaust. He said he was not a particular Navalny supporter but that it was impossible to ignore the authoritarian turn after what he called “a chain of murderous poisonings,” not only of Navalny but of other Kremlin critics.

(6) NEXT AT BAT. CNN is getting clicks with this headline — “The man third in the line of presidential succession has been in five ‘Batman’ movies”. He’s Sen. Patrick Leahy.

For as many foes as the superhero fends off, Batman has a formidable team of supporters starting with his sidekick Robin, Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon and his ever-loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

But one of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent supporters lies not in a comic book, but in the US Senate, and he’s known the Bat for more than 80 years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the longest-serving member of the current Senate, is a Batman aficionado who’s turned his fandom into philanthropy. He’s even used the comics to forward his legislative agenda.

Now President pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in the presidential line of succession. Though it’s unlikely he’ll ever have to serve as President, his high-profile position shines a brighter light on his colorful resume — which includes multiple appearances in the “Batman” films….

Leahy’s first foray into screen acting — something he does strictly when Batman is involved — came in 1995, when he appeared in the critically reviled “Batman Forever.” The same year, he voiced a character billed as “Territorial Governor” in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Since then, Leahy has appeared in nearly as many “Batman” films as the Caped Crusader himself. He usually appears as a scowling politician (though in “Batman & Robin,” which his son Mark also had a cameo in, he was allowed to enjoy a raucous party). He even met an explosive end as the curiously named Senator Purrington in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

(7) SIERRA OBIT. Actor Gregory Sierra (1937-2021) died January 4. Best known for non-genre TV roles in Barney Miller and Sanford and Son, his genre credits included TV’s The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Greatest American Hero, The X-Files, and the film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and Honey I Blew Up The Kid. He also appeared in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit scripted by Ray Bradbury.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 23, 1729 – Clara Reeve.  Reading Latin and Greek “at an age when few … of either sex can read their names” (W. Scott, Lives of the Eminent Novelists and Dramatists p. 545, 1870).  Two dozen books, including Plans of Education about women; The Progress of Romance a history of prose; The Old English Baron for us, an early Gothic novel influencing Mary Shelley.  Managed her own career rather than rely on male relations to do it for her.  (Died 1807) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1935 – Tom Reamy.  First-rate fanzines TrumpetNickelodeon.  MidAmericon Program Book (34th Worldcon).  Co-founded first SF club in Texas; with the Benfords, brought first SF con to Texas, Southwestercon VI.  One novel, a score of shorter stories; I have somewhere his collection San Diego Lightfoot Sue (title novelette won a Nebula), just thinking of which still gives me the chills.  Campbell Award (as it then was).  Reviews in Delap’s.  Interviewed by Pat Cadigan and Arnie Fenner in Shayol 1.  Novella sold to Last Dangerous Visions.  Here is his cover for Trumpet 1.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1939 – Greg & Tim Hildebrandt (Greg, age 82; Tim, died 2006).  Did much together, like this and this and this.  Here is their cover for City of a Thousand Suns.  Here is Greg’s Peter Pan.  Here is The Fantasy Art Techniques of TH.  One novel, five dozen covers, six dozen interiors together; forty covers, a hundred thirty interiors by Greg; ninety covers, two hundred sixty interiors by Tim.  Greg, Lifetime-Achievement Chesley; Tim, Best-Artist World Fantasy Award; both, Society of Illustrators’ Gold Medal.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 78. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan-created Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty In Blade Runner, of course, but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the very evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 57. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in Tales from Earthsea. (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 71. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring genre role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well, Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, age 67.  Ray Bradbury suggested he join LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  CM soon earned the LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Equicon ’74, Westercon 28, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon; chaired Loscon 12.  Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 41, Loscon 27 (with wife Genny Dazzo), Baycon 2006, Boskone 55.  With Marv Wolfman co-created and produced Pocket Dragon Adventures.  Memoir of work with Lucasfilms Star Wars Adventures.  Three hundred television writer and producer credits.  Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1962 – Hilary Robinson, age 59.  A Manxman (the suffix -man is not masculine).  Sixty books; radio, television.  Gillard Gold Award for Religious Programming.  Half a dozen short stories for us.  Essays, letters, in Crystal ShipFocusMatrix.  Patron of the Children’s University.  Her story.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1979 – Marko Djurdjevic, age 42.  A Serb living in Germany.  Penciller and concept artist.  Here is The Marvel Art of MD.  Here is a sketch of Batman.  Here is a contribution to Mark Hay’s Poker-Themed Sketchbook.  Here is The Examination.  Here is Kang the Conqueror.  Blogspot.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman has the lowdown on those unexplained sightings.
  • Alley Oop has a joke about quantum theory?
  • The Argyle Sweater has one of the more bizarre Star Wars parenting jokes.

(10) HOW SUPER ARE THEY? The Late Late Show with James Corden challenges Watchmen star and One Night In Miami director Regina King to a game of Superhero or Super Zero, in which she meets a lineup of six potential superheroes. After learning each character’s origin story, Regina must decide which are indeed real.“Which of These Are Real Superheroes? w/ Regina King”.

(11) THE GHOST OF BREAKFAST FUTURE. Delish is haunted by the possibility that “A New ‘Ghostbusters’ Cereal Is Coming Soon”.

… The cereal, which is brought to you by General Mills, hasn’t gotten a secured release date yet, but it has popped up as a listed product on Walmart’s website. Quite similar to the original 1980’s Ghostbusters cereal box, this new rendition—which may not be the finalized version—displays the infamous Ghostbusters logo alongside a bowl of reddish-orange crunchy cereal pieces. And, just like the original version, it includes ghost and Silmer-shaped marshmallow pieces to add more sweet nostalgia to your morning.

(12) HUSH A BOOM. National Geographic is “Remembering the night two atomic bombs fell—on North Carolina”.

… What the voice in the chopper knew, but Reeves didn’t, was that besides the wreckage of the ill-fated B-52, somewhere out there in the winter darkness lay what the military referred to as “broken arrows”—the remains of two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. Each contained more firepower than the combined destructive force of every explosion caused by humans from the beginning of time to the end of World War II….

(13) WORMHOLES. This 2019 Astronomy.com article ponders the question “If wormholes exist, could we really travel through them?”

…Wormholes, thus, are the perfect way to bypass Einstein’s speed limit, and get your heroes and villains to travel the galaxy in a reasonable time frame. Plus, they allow for the element of time travel to enter the story, all without breaking any laws of physics.

So, the real question is: Can actual people take advantage of wormholes too? The answer is… maybe?

Wither Wormholes?

The first problem for any explorer determined to survey a wormhole is simply finding one. While Einstein’s work says they can exist, we don’t currently know of any. They may actually be impossible after all, forbidden by some deeper physics that the universe obeys, but we haven’t discovered.

The second issue is that, despite years of research, scientists still aren’t really sure how wormholes would work. Can any technology ever create and manipulate them, or are they simply a part of the universe? Do they stay open forever, or are they only traversable for a limited time? And perhaps most significantly, are they stable enough to allow for human travel?

The answer to all of these: We just don’t know.

(14) WORMS WHO MAKE WORMHOLES. “Mysterious, 20-million-year-old tunnels in the ancient ocean floor came from 6-foot-long carnivorous worms, a study found”Yahoo! has the story.

Scientists in Taiwan noticed odd, L-shaped burrows in a set of rocks eight years ago. Since the rocks once sat on the Pacific Ocean floor, they thought the tunnels had been made by shrimp, or perhaps octopuses. But the shape and structure of the burrows didn’t match those made by such creatures, and the mystery lingered.

Now, it’s been solved: The architects behind the tunnels were 6-foot-long worms that lived about 20 million years ago, according to a study published this week. Fossil evidence helped the study authors figure out how these predators hunted and built their undersea lairs.

According to their research, the ancient marine worms would lay waiting under the sand for unsuspecting prey; then when fish passed by, the worms would lunge out of their burrows, snag the swimmers in their gaping maws, and drag the victims under the seafloor…. 

(15) HINDSIGHT HISTORY. Here’s a video curiosity – the cast of the 1945 Armed Forces short “Time To Kill” [YouTube] about the educational benefits offered by the Armed Forces Institute includes George Reeves, plus DeForest Kelley and Betty White making their film debuts.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “First Look:  Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Web Slingers” on YouTube is a preview of a new Spider-Man ride coming to Disney’s California Adventure whenever the park is allowed to reopen.

[Thanks to Jeff Smith, John King Tarpinian, Elspeth Kovar, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer, with an assist from Orson Welles.]

Pixel Scroll 10/14/20 Don’t Need A Pixelman To Know Which Way The File Scrolls

(1) BALLOTS TO BEAM UP. The Guardian takes notes as “Biden campaign targets Trekkies with star studded Star Trek event”.

They did indeed boldly go.

Politicians are fond of telling the electorate that “every vote counts”, and Joe Biden’s campaign went far out on Tuesday night when it held a virtual rally targeting the Star Trek voting bloc.

Hosted by Democatic politicians Stacey Abrams, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, “Trek the vote to victory!” was an unusual campaign event – featuring a raft of Star Trek stars including Patrick Stewart, Mulgrew and George Takei, and apparently aimed firmly at Trekkies.

The rally offered the latest example of how Biden has attracted celebrities to his campaign, and it also provided a chance for whoever runs the Biden campaign Twitter account to do a joke.

…It was Yang, who ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination, who opened up the event, the self-professed “math nerd” proving himself to be a keen trekker.

Things didn’t go immediately to plan, however, when one of the Star Trek actors – 19 cast members, from five iterations of the show, appeared at the event – immediately praised a policy idea that Yang had championed, and that Biden has ignored.

“I just want to say thank you for bringing the idea of universal basic income into the mainstream of political conversation,” Will Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: Next Generation, told Yang.

“It’s super important and there’s no excuse for that not to go forward.”

Universal basic income – the idea of the government giving every adult a regular stipend – was Yang’s key issue during his presidential campaign, but it is not a part of Biden’s plans for government.

The awkwardness continued as Marina Sirtis, aka Counselor Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, used the Biden event to offer very faint praise for the Democratic nominee.

“I mean I lean very left,” Sirtis said. “But this time we had to just find someone who can beat Trump.”…

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLE’S. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune keeps shaking up foot-dragging bureaucrats who stand in the way of efforts to rebuild on the lot where Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore stood. “In Minneapolis, a parking dispute delays Chicago Avenue rebuilding project”.

… City officials did not reverse course until a Star Tribune reporter inquired about the stalled project. On Thursday, Barbarawi received an e-mail informing him that he can use the slab for parking, at least on a temporary basis.

“I apologize for the confusion,” wrote Brad Ellis, manager of zoning administration and enforcement for Minneapolis….

… Over the summer, Barbarawi struck a deal with Blyly to buy the bookstore property. With three large concrete slabs, the parcel offers ready-make parking for as many as 10 cars. But the plans hit a roadblock when Barbarawi shared his proposal with a city inspector, who insisted that all of the slabs be removed immediately.

[Steve Poor, the city’s director of development services] said the project was stopped because the Minneapolis City Council limited parking in the neighborhood years ago. Though Barbarawi’s building would normally be allowed to have up to 15 parking spaces, the code change brought that down to 12.

Barbarawi was told he could seek city approval for a new parking lot once he finalizes his expansion plans, but he and Blyly objected since it would cost another $25,000 to remove the slabs and meet the city’s other requirements, and even more money to rebuild the parking lot.

“It’s such a waste of resources that doesn’t need to be spent,” said Andy Ristrom, the project manager at Bolander who has been overseeing the demolition work.

Poor, who approved the temporary parking arrangement for Barbarawi, said the city will likely struggle with other rebuilding projects.

“We recognize that people need assistance to guide them through the government,” Poor said. “And right now we just have a lot more new and novel problems to try and address. I am not sure anybody was prepared to make this kind of pivot that we’ve all had to make in the last six months.”

Blyly said he’s glad the city found a way to compromise, but he’s not sure he will be rebuilding in Minneapolis. He’s considering a move to St. Paul or Richfield.

“It would be more convenient for me and a lot of my customers if I stayed in Minneapolis, but Minneapolis has felt very unfriendly toward businesses — especially after the riots,” Blyly said.

(3) STICK A FORK IN IT. LA Comic Con is now officially cancelled says SYFY Wire. While this seemed inevitable, they had announced plans to run in December. The con’s now rescheduled for September 24-26, 2021.

…”Last week on Oct. 7, Gov. Newsom finally gave an update on reopening plans for theme parks, which most people thought would precede event and convention guidelines,” reads the L.A. Comic-Con website. “In his announcement, the Governor said he had decided NOT to provide reopening guidelines yet for theme parks, and by extension, events. Without guidelines, there is no way for L.A. County, the City, or event organizers like us to know if the plans and changes we made to be safe will be right, or enough. So with that new direction from the State, we are rescheduling.”

(4) REMEMBERING A SFF PIONEER. Czech diplomat and sff fan Jaroslav Olsa Jr. commemorated the anniversary of Miles J. Breuer’s death (3 Jan 1889 – 14 Oct 1945) today by posting an excerpt of his forthcoming article “Pioneering Sf Writer Of Gernsback´s Amazing Stories Has Died Exactly 75 Years Ago”. “But do you know he was Czech? And do you know that he wrote many of his science fiction stories originally in Czech?”

…For its first nine issues, Amazing Stories [founded in 1926] contained classics from the likes of Verne, Wells and Edgar Allan Poe, supplemented by more modern works from speculative fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs and fantastic fiction writer Abraham Merritt, both of whom were already publishing their works in pulp magazines.

Only in subsequent years did Amazing Stories feature a new generation of writers. In 1928, Jack Williamson, whose career as a science fiction writer would span three-quarters of a century, published his first story in the magazine. A year earlier, Amazing Stories featured a story by David H. Keller, one of the pioneers of early technological “scientifiction”. However, the very first writer in this wave is the now largely forgotten Miles J. Breuer. His story “The Man with the Strange Head” was published by Gernsback in the January 1927 issue – as soon as the serialization of Wells’ The First Men in the Moon concluded.

Breuer was born in Chicago, studied in Texas, became a doctor in Nebraska and died in Los Angeles. At the turn of the 1920s and 30s, Breuer’s readers viewed this author, who was supposedly “discovered” by Gernsback, as a major star of the science fiction genre. However, Breuer’s career as a writer did not begin with Amazing Stories. Rather, his first genre tale had already been published almost two decades prior. Indeed, writing under the Czech version of his name as Miloslav J. Breuer, the author had already published numerous stories in the Czech language (which were subsequently published in English in early science fiction magazines)….

(5) FANS ON THE BOARDS. UK fanhistory site THEN host Rob Hansen has added a page listing “Dramatic Presentations By Fans At UK Conventions”.

…While produced by fans and sometimes including fannish references, the majority of these productions are not actually *about* fandom the main focus in most cases being the parody of other works, hence the FAN and SF/PARODY distinction. The line between the two is often a fine one, however, and some may disagree with the side of it on which some of these have been placed.

Most of these productions were humorous. The few that were serious have been labelled DRAMA. You’ll notice that one – and only one – production was also labelled ‘BALLET’. This was performed to the strains of ‘Danse Macabre’ and featured several male fans in panto drag, including Ted Tubb! Sadly, only two photos of this ‘ballet’ are known to survive….

Hansen adds: “I also recently discovered a pile of production photos the Liverpool Group took while filming ‘May We Have The Pleasure?’ in 1957. These can be found via the link on the above page.”

(6) MEADOWS OBIT. TeleRead’s main contributor Chris Meadows died today. He was 47. He had been seriously injured in an electric bike accident last week. TeleRead’s tribute is here.

…Chris has been ebooking since the late 1990s and, except for some time at The Digital Reader, has been writing for us since 2006. He has also run his own blogs, including That’s All I Have to Say, full of miscellaneous essays as readable as his TeleRead posts.

An SF fan, Chris is author of The Geek’s Guide to Indianapolis: A Tour Guide for Con Gamers and Other Visitors, well-received by Kindle readers.

Over the years Chris also left some fearless comments here, not the least being the time he called on me to furnish “A bit more precision in your writeup, please.” Something I probably need to be reminded of nearly every day.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty five years ago at Intersection, Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold would win the Best Novel Hugo. It would also win the Locus Award for Best SF novel, and was on the long list for a Nebula.  It was the ninth published novel in the universe of the Vorkosigan Saga.  It was published by Baen Books the previous year. Runner-ups were Mother of Storms by John Barnes, Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress, Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop and Towing Jehovah by James Morrow. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 14, 1829 – August Malmström.  Collected motifs from Norse mythology.  Professor at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, later its manager.  Bequeathed 650 watercolors and drawings, 26 sketchbooks to the Nordic Museum on Djurgården.  Here is Dancing Fairies; see this one too.  Here is King Heimer and Aslög.  (Died 1901) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1877 – Grace Wiederseim.  Pioneering woman cartoonist.  Invented the Campbell Soup Kids.  Also Dolly Dingle dolls.  Cartoonist for Hearst (first woman cartoonist he hired) drawing e.g. Dolly Dimples and Bobby Bounce).  For us e.g. Molly and the Unwiseman Abroad.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1893 – Lois Lenski.  Author, illustrator (of others’ work too, e.g. first ed’n of The Little Engine That Could; Hugh Lofting’s Twilight of Magic which puts her with us).  Prose, poetry, lyrics, plays, paper dolls.  Newbery Medal, two Newbery Honors; Regina Medal; three honorary doctorates.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1894 – E.E. Cummings.  (In fact he wrote his name with capital letters.)  Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Harvard, how do you like them apples, hey?  Master poet.  Distinctive, inimitable style (proof, many have tried and failed).  A nice question whether his poetry or Shakespeare’s is more attractive or more substantial – answer, yes.  Anyone wondering what he has to do with us may read this.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1910 – Marian Place.  A tireless researcher, a strong opinionated woman.  Fifty books for children and adults.  Four Golden Spur awards.  For us e.g. The First Astrowitches.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1926 1953 — Richard Christian Matheson. Son of fiction writer and screenwriter Richard Matheson. He is the author of over 100 short stories of psychological horror and magic realism which are gathered in over 150 major anthologies and in his short story collections Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks, Dystopia and ZoopraxisBest known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)  (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, one hundred and eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau! (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1935 – Dennis Hamley, 85.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories for us (including “Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick”).  Other fiction and nonfiction.  His first book was three medieval Mystery Plays in modern versions for schools, so a few years later he imagined a boy led back into the 14th Century.  DH talks about his life and work at his Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 74. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE)
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 67. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes. Shatner was in it. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”. (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1956 Martin Millar, 64. Among his accomplishments was the novelization of the Tank Girl film. Apparently it’s even weirder than the film was! He won the World Fantasy Award for best novel with his book Thraxas, and the entire Thraxas series which are released under the name Martin Scott are a lot of not at all serious pulpish fun. (CE)
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 56. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced Livewire in the DCU animated shows. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) RINGO FAN FAVORITES. The winners in the 2020 Ringo Award Fan Favorite categories, sponsored by Rocketship Entertainment, were announced today.

FAN FAVORITES

Favorite Hero: Clove from SubZero (WEBTOON)

Favorite Villain: John from unOrdinary (WEBTOON)

Favorite New Series: Fangs

Favorite New Talent: Sinran

Favorite Publisher: Tapas

The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards will be presented virtually on October 24 as part of The Baltimore Comic-Con streaming presentation (baltimorecomicconlive.com).

(11) FAN ADAPTATION OF WATTS HUGO FINALIST. At Tor.com, Andrew Liptak urges readers to “Watch This Superb Fan Adaptation of Peter Watts’ Blindsight.

Peter Watts’ Blindsight looked at first contact with aliens in a different way when it was first published in 2006, and it’s been one of those books that friends have fervently recommended in the years since.

One fan [Danil Krivoruchko] has taken it upon himself to adapt as a short film, which he released this week: a short CGI short that looks absolutely stunning….

“Danil reached out to me pretty close to the start of the process,” Watts commented. “They were in the ‘Let’s make a tribute fan site’ phase, which as I understand it fell somewhere between the ‘let’s do a couple of CG illustrations for the rifters gallery’ and ‘Let’s blow off the doors with a trailer from an alternate universe where someone made a movie out of Blindsight’ phases.”…

(12) CAN’T SLEEP? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I’m not sure where “The 52 Stages Of Insomnia” by Marco Kaye at McSweeney’s fits in the File 770 categories but it’s definitely fannish!

(13) RIDING THE CIRCUIT. It’s looked cool in comics – will it look cool on you? “New Technology Allows Circuits To Be Printed Directly On The Skin”.

Sensors printed directly on the skin have been inching closer to commercial reality in recent years. The dream of highly sensitive sensors could have a wide array of applications, from robotics to medicine, but the field has been limited by its method of circuit printing. Currently, printing circuits directly on the skin requires a lot of heat – something the skin isn’t generally fond of.

Now, researchers believe they may have solved this problem. A team from Penn State University have developed a method of fabricating high-performance circuitry directly on skin without heat, according to a study published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

While flexible sensors already exist and have applications in future physiological monitoring, applying that technology to the skin has remained an issue for scientists. If this process is viable on a large scale, it may pave the way for the technology to help patients with various conditions. 

(14) CHANGE OF SHIFT. “Russian, US astronauts launch to International Space Station” – ABC News has the story.

A trio of space travelers has launched successfully to the International Space Station, for the first time using a fast-track maneuver to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours.

NASA’s Kate Rubins and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled Wednesday morning from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

…“We’re planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA,” Rubins said.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Scream” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the 1996 film, from a more innocent time when people didn’t lock their doors and a cop could ask a teenager, “What are you doing with this cellular telephone, son?””

[Thanks to Howard Beale, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Rob Thornton, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14/19 Gort Pixel Barada Nikscroll

(1) ONE QUESTION. The Hollywood Reporter is there when “‘Rise of Skywalker’ Cast Answers Questions About Final Film, Baby Yoda on ‘The Late Show'”.

 “Hey Daisy, how did you figure out how to do alien accent?” another staffer asked.

“You mean this British accent?” Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, responded.

After a staffer asked what he would do with the Force, Billy Dee Williams (who plays Lando Calrissian) mimicked a choking action like the one used by Darth Vader in the Skywalker saga. The staffer then pretended to be choked.

(2) ANOTHER SECRET THEY KEPT. Entertainment Weekly checks in with Lawrence Kasdan in “‘I am your father’: The Empire Strikes Back writer looks back on iconic twist”.

Filming the scene was made even more challenging by the use of loud wind machines. Hamill not only couldn’t hear Vader body actor David Prowse say his lines, but couldn’t even hear himself and had to go off visual cues of Prowse moving in his suit. In fact, Hamill says that one of the biggest Star Wars original trilogy secrets is that more than half the dialogue was recorded in post-production due to all the intrusive noises from smoke and wind machines, prop effects, and even clunking robots. “C-3PO doesn’t sound like metal, he sounds like fiberglass,” Hamill notes.

After filming the scene, the fake twist — that Obi-Wan killed Luke’s father — leaked to a British tabloid. “These newspapers were offering 20,000 notes for anybody that got a good Star Wars leak,” Hamill says. “We couldn’t even keep that [the fake twist] a secret for a week. I was secretly delighted.”

(3) CUBISM. Learn “How ‘Missing Link’ Filmmakers Blew Up an Ice Bridge in Stop-Motion Animation” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…The sequence starts with an encounter on the bridge that was shot mostly in camera with puppets and full-scale components of the bridge built on a soundstage (one of roughly 110 miniature sets, including a full miniature bridge, that were constructed for the movie). The bridge was built of clear casting urethane resin in order to achieve the look of the ice without its turning yellow, explains production designer Nelson Lowry.

As the pursuit heats up, the bridge collapses. There were 64 individually rigged ice blocks that could be independently controlled for the shot in which the bridge begins to break. The actual destruction of the bridge was digitally created in the computer, and the puppets were composited into the action. Before it’s over, some are dangling from a rope, trying to gain safe footing. Butler says this was one of the toughest scenes Laika has ever tackled, and the artistry and heart-racing story have garnered Laika a slew of nominations, including multiple Annie Awards and a Golden Globe.

(4) WATTS ASSEMBLAGE. Tachyon Publications offers “The complete PETER WATTS IS AN ANGRY SENTIENT TUMOR previews”, from a collection of the author’s blog posts. The previews include:

(5) DECADE’S TOP SFF PICTURES. The Daily Dot picked only one Marvel production for its list of “The 10 most important sci-fi films of the 2010s”, leaving plenty of room for less obvious selections like this one –

6) High Life (2018)

Want to feel disturbed and alarmed? Well, High Life is the film for you. Acclaimed French indie director Claire Denis ventured into sci-fi territory for her English language debut, casting Robert Pattinson as the lead in a gut-churning thriller about a group of convicts in a claustrophobic spaceship. Pattinson plays the convict Monte, co-starring with Juliette Binoche as the ship’s creepy and sexually aggressive doctor, along with an ensemble cast including Andre 3000, Mia Goth, and a baby. Although if you sign up for this film based on the posters showing Robert Pattinson hanging out with an adorable toddler, you’ll be in for a nasty surprise. This gripping drama features sporadic but intense violence, explicit sex, and a dread-inducing descent into certain death. Both a commentary on incarceration and a straightforward space thriller, High Life riffs on the tropes of other trapped-in-a-spaceship movies like Alien and Event Horizon, while still feeling thoroughly memorable in its own right.

(6) #ET TOO. At CrimeReads, Damien Angelica Walters explored “How Women Authors Are Reshaping the Horror Genre” — “The boogeyman in the closet isn’t an amorphous shape in the dark—It’s someone we know and trust.”

The Monsters We Pass on the Street

I mentioned earlier that more than half the women killed in 2017 were murdered by their intimate partners or family members. Not a day goes by where I don’t see an article about a woman being abused, assaulted, or killed. It’s terrifying and what’s even more frightening is how commonplace it is. Violence against women by men is the backdrop to countless books, television shows, both fictional and not, and movies.

In My Sister, The Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite turns this on its head, creating feminist catharsis with her unexpected reversal. Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, is beautiful and charming. She also has a penchant for killing her boyfriends, relying on Korede to help her clean up the mess. Korede doesn’t have to fear Ayoola, but she protects her. Until the doctor Korede works with and is secretly in love with meets and falls for Ayoola, forcing Korede to make a choice: do you stand by the monsters when they’re one of your own?

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Shoot, this was a big day for sff in 1984!

  • December 14, 1984 1984 premiered in limited released in the art house circuit. It would get a general circulation release the next year. Starring John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton  and Cyril Cusack, critics loved it with Ebert calling saying Hurt was “the perfect Winston Smith”.  It currently has a 71% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 14, 1984 Runaway premiered. Starring Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes and Gene Simmons, it faired quite poorly as it was up against The Terminator, The Search for Spock, and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. It got not so great reviews from critics and garnered a 44% rating from reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 14, 1984 Dune premiered. Directed by David Lynch of later Twin Peaks fame, starring Francesca Annis, Linda Hunt, Sting, Kyle MacLachlan and a cast of thousands, it did poorly at the box office and was treated badly by critics. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes however give a 66% rating. It would place in fourth in AussieCon Two voting with 2010: Odyssey Two winning that year.
  • December 14, 1984 — John Carpenter’s Starman premiered. Starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, it did very well at the box office and critics loved it as well.  Bridges earned was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, making this the only film by Carpenter to receive an Academy Award nomination.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge *yay*]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction — has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books, particularly her historical fiction which involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 90. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly no one saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. 
  • Born December 14, 1960 Don Franklin, 59. He’s best known for his roles in seaQuest DSV as Commander Jonathan Ford, Seven Days as Captain Craig Donovan, and as one of The Young Riders  as Noah Dixon. No, the last isn’t remotely genre but it was a great role.
  • Born December 14, 1964 Rebecca Gibney, 55. She was in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and was also in King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes mini-series. She also had one-offs in Time Trax, Farscape and The Lost World, all of which were produced either in Australia or New Zealand, convenient as she’s New Zealand born and resident.
  • Born December 14, 1965 Theodore Raimi, 54. Though he’s known for being in whatever his brother Sam Raimi has done including a fake Shemp in The Evil Dead, a possessed Henrietta in Evil Dead II, and Ted Hoffman in the Spider-Man film franchise, I remember rather him from him being Joxer on Hercules and Xena, a role I wasn’t that fond of. 
  • Born December 14, 1966 Sarah Zettel, 53. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld goes Christmas shopping with a bookworm at The Guardian.

(10) SEQUELS. Mental Floss challenges “Can You Match the Classic Book to Its Not-So-Classic Sequel?”. I hit only 8 out of 14 of these. You’ll do much better.

(11) WALL TO WALL BOOKS. Brick bookshelves, but not the kind you may have had in your first apartment.“LEGO unveils its latest Creator Expert set, a 2,500-piece modular bookshop” – get the lowdown from 9to5toys.

While in the most recent few years LEGO has strayed from the theme’s roots with unique garage and diner builds, this year the company is going back to the basics for a delightful multistory bookstore. Comprised of 2,504 bricks, this model was inspired by houses in Amsterdam, bringing the European aesthetic into brick-built form in a distinct way.

Doubling down on the modular nature, this set features to independent buildings that can be rearranged throughout your city. Fittingly for this LEGO kit’s namesake, the bookstore is the larger of the two Creator Expert models. It sports a brick-like brown facade complemented by stonework accenting.

(12) GROOVE TUBE. “The London Underground’s logo gets an inspired redesign”FastCompany has photos.

London’s underground transit system, known as “The London Underground” or “The Tube,” started running in 1863. Its iconic symbol, a patriotically colored bar-and-circle roundel, was first plastered on the city’s subterranean walls in 1908 and has gone through several iterations since. Until now, each new draft of the logo has been a variation on the same theme—all solidly red and blue, with only slight changes to the proportions and weight of the letters. Recently, however, British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong has reimagined the traditional transit symbol to reflect the rich and diverse African diaspora that makes up roughly 44% of London’s population.

This large-scale logo redesign is a public commission from Art on the Underground, a visual arts showcase funded by Transport for London, which “seeks to consider the possibilities of alternate histories,” according to a statement. “Pan African Flag for the Relic Travellers’ Alliance” exists as a part of the showcase’s 2019 program “On Edge,” which encourages artists to create works that explore themes of unity, utopia, and belonging, inspired by the United Kingdom’s likely departure from the European Union…

(13) TRUE GRIT. Where else would you look for science fiction news than Men’sHealth? — “Oscar Isaac Says Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Movie Will Be ‘Shocking’ and ‘Nightmarish'”.

…Dune takes place on a desert planet called Arrakis, one of many feudal worlds ruled over by galactic stewards, and the only natural source of a highly valuable substance known as “spice.” Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) will also star as Isaac’s on-screen son Paul Atreides, while Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) will play his concubine Lady Jessica. The wider ensemble cast will include Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Josh Brolin (Endgame), Zendaya (Euphoria) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman).

“There are some things that are — for lack of a better word — nightmarish about what you see,” Isaac continued. “There’s just this kind of brutalist element to it. It’s shocking. It’s scary. It’s very visceral… And I know that definitely between Denis and myself and Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as the family unit, we really searched for the emotion of it. I’m beyond myself with excitement. I think it’s good to feel cool, unique, and special.”

(14) HO HO HO. “Longleat Safari Park chipmunks sent hundreds of socks” – BBC explains why.

A wildlife park has been inundated after putting out an appeal for “chipmunk worthy socks” to help keep the rodents warm over Christmas.

The family of chipmunks at Longleat Safari Park, in Wiltshire, use the socks to nest in during the winter.

Following an appeal on Facebook, the park has received hundreds of pairs from as far afield as New Zealand.

Longleat’s Alexa Maultby said: “There’s now a sock mountain and we’re looking for other uses for them.”

(15) TOHO DID IT BETTER. — But they used effects: “Octopus and eagle square off at Canadian fish farm” (BBC video).

The duelling animals were found floating in the waters off Quatsino, British Columbia. Crews freed the bird from the clutches of the sea creature.

(16) FEAR ITSELF. FastCompany shares a flashback to the computer Armageddon writers warned about: “The weird, wonderful world of Y2K survival guides: A look back”.

For a brief period in the late 1990s, it was one of the busiest categories in book publishing.

As the decade wound down, more and more people became agitated about the Y2K bug—also known as the millennium bug and the year 2000 problem–which stemmed from programmers having conserved precious bytes by storing years as two digits. (For instance, “80” instead of “1980.”) When 1999 turned into 2000, aging software reliant on such space-saving dates wouldn’t be able to tell the new year from 1900. And that raised the specter of much of the code that ran the world failing—possibly, the theory went, in disastrous ways. Power grids might be knocked out. Banks could fail. Food shortages and mass unemployment might lead to riots. Any semblance of normalcy could take years to return.

Enter a profusion of books dedicated to helping people plan for this techno-doomsday….

(17) CLASSIC COVERS. See “The Avon Fantasy Reader Covers – A Gallery” at Darkworlds Quarterly.

The Avon Fantasy Reader was an important Pulp reprint anthology (taking its contents from Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder, The Blue Book, Adventure and Wonder Stories) that ran for eighteen issues from 1946 to 1952. It had a Science Fiction companion that ran for three issues before both were combined into The Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader for two more final issues. Edited by Donald A. Wolheim, it featured many Sword & Sorcery tales by Robert E. Howard and others. It also ran Cthulhu Mythos Horror and Space Opera style Science Fiction. For Complete Contents.

The covers for the series were also important, as they were some of the best Fantasy art to appear besides the original Pulps….

(18) BEHIND THE GOLD MASK. Bill Bradley, in “Anthony Daniels On That NSFW ‘Star Wars’ Image And Why He Wanted C-3PO To Die” on Huffington Post, has an interview with Daniels, who gives his thoughts on Baby Yoda, the naughty C-3PO trading card, and how he’s satisfied but of course can’t explain what happens to his character in Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker.

Since you were around when Yoda was originally created, what are your thoughts on Baby Yoda?

Ah, Baby Yoda. It had to happen. It had to happen just before Christmas. Baby Yoda is the thing, maybe the toy of the month, the year, whatever. Yoda is such an adored character created by Frank Oz, and obviously now we are looking back at origins.

Do we need a smaller wookiee? I don’t know. I love the inventiveness with “Star Wars,” the creative inventiveness that “Star Wars” has fostered over the years, whether it’s with the technicians or with fans. And of course, some of the fans now work on the movies because their abilities are so great. Baby Yoda is cute, gorgeous, but I would warn the public that Baby Yoda is not just for Christmas. It’s a responsibility.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Santa Claus” is an episode of Good Bad Flicks where they revist the 1959 classic Mexican film where Santa lives in a castle in outer space, has Merlin as his sidekick, and beats Satan by shooting him in the butt with a dart from a blow gun.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/13/19 This IrrePixel-able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-produced Crime

(1) THINGS FALL APART. T.J. Martinson, in “The Death of the Superhero: The Crime of Killing Off Good & Evil” at Crimereads, notes that comic book publishers periodically kill off superheroes to boost sales of titles, but “when superheroes die, we are left without a moral compass.”  He sees similar problems happening in crime novels where a private eye dies.”

…The death and resurrection of Superman engendered what might be considered a comic book renaissance, one that hasn’t yet run out of steam—for example, in Captain America #25 (2007), Captain America was assassinated in only to later reappear after it was revealed he’d merely been stuck in a time loop involving, you guessed it, an ancient Inuit tribe. Ever since Superman paved the way into and out from the grave, the superhero’s death and resurrection has become an almost-ubiquitous plot-line in otherwise faltering and overstretched narrative arcs. Superheroes are practically falling from the sky like house flies (Infinity Wars, anyone?). The superhero’s death and return has reached such a critical mass that comic books themselves present a meta-commentary on the phenomenon; In DC’s Infinite Crisis (2005-2006), Batman quips to Superman, “the last time you really inspired anyone…was when you were dead.”

But what is it about superheroes that we—readers living outside of Metropolis’ city limits—are so desperate to see resurrected time and time again that we’re willing to weave our suspension of disbelief into tantric knots in order to welcome superheroes from the dead? One answer would be that, in a world of uncertainty and complexity, we yearn for simplified categories (e.g., good and evil) that superheroes boldly represent. But how are to make sense of a world in which the binary logic the superhero embodies is questioned?

(2) REMEMBER THE SPARTANS. Myke Cole analyzes “How the Far Right Perverts Ancient History—And Why It Matters” at Daily Beast.

It may seem silly to argue about the interpretation of events that unfolded thousands of years ago, to fret and hand-wring over people millennia in their graves. Some may argue it is harmless for the likes of Hanson to strut his toxic revision of ancient history across the stage. Just another blowhard shouting at the ocean, after all.

But this notion is having life-and-death consequences in America today. I worked at the NYPD during and following the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA where Heather Heyer was killed and more than two dozen other people were injured. In August 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent us its report on the flags and symbols used during the rally, including the vexillum of the Roman Republic (SPQR for “Sen?tus Populusque R?m?nus,” “The Senate and the People of Rome”), the ancient sun wheels of Germanic tribes, the Greek lambda (“?” or “L” for “Lakedaimon,” the Spartans called themselves “Lakedaimonians”) falsely believed to have been painted on ancient Spartan shields, and now used by the far-right Identitarian movement.

Last of all was the flag of the American Guard, violent hardcore nationalists who sport crossed meat-cleavers as a rallying symbol. Above them stretched a black cannon blazoned with the clarion call of pro-gun advocates from the NRA to militia groups across the country—“Come and take it.” The phrase is from the Greek “molon labe,” (????? ????), Plutarch’s words put in the mouth of the Spartan king Leonidas in 480 BC, when he defied the Persian king Xerxes’ demand that he lay down his arms. Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly invoked the same phrase

(3) HOPEPUNK. Behind the Wall Street Journal paywall, Ellen Gamerman’s article “‘Hopepunk’ and ‘Up Lit’ Help Readers Shake Off the Dystopian Blues” quotes Becky Chambers and mentions one of Cat Rambo’s classes.

Cat Rambo, in “Hopepunk Thoughts Plus A Reading List”, blogged her own thoughts on the subgenre and told readers where to find examples. 

Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human. In today’s world, being kind is one of the most radical things you can do, and you can see society trying to quash it by prosecuting those who offer food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and shelter to those in need.

Is it something new? No, it’s something that we’ve always celebrated in stories. Think about the moment in the Lord of the Rings when acts of kindness — first on Bilbo’s part, then on Frodo’s — lead to the moment where Gollum enables the ring’s destruction when Frodo falters and is on the brink of giving up his quest. Or go even further back, to Ovid’s Baucis and Philemon, who are rewarded for offering hospitality to strangers who turn out to be gods

(4) FREE DOWNLOAD. Arizona State University has published The Weight of Light, a collection of short science fiction, art, and essays about human futures powered by solar energy, with an upbeat, solarpunk twist. The book features four original short stories, by Cat Rambo, Brenda Cooper, Corey S. Pressman, and Andrew Dana Hudson.  It can be downloaded in HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple Books.

The Weight of Light emphasizes that the design of solar energy matters just as much as the shift away from fossil fuels. Solar technologies can be planned, governed, and marketed in many different ways. The choices we make will profoundly shape the futures we inhabit. The collection features stories by award-winning science fiction authors, working in collaboration with illustrators, graphic designers, and experts in policy, ethics, climate science, and electrical, environmental, civil, and aerospace engineering.

  • Stories by: Brenda Cooper, Andrew Dana Hudson, Corey S. Pressman, Cat Rambo
  • Essays by: Stuart Bowden, Ed Finn, Wesley Herche, Christiana Honsberg, Samantha Janko, Darshan M.A. Karwat, Lauren Withycombe Keeler, Joshua Loughman, Clark A. Miller, Esmerelda Parker, Dwarak Ravikumar, Ruth Wylie

(5) SLADEK COLLECTION. David Langford told readers New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek is on course for launch at the UK Eastercon in April.

Chris Priest, in his awesome capacity as agent for the Sladek estate, is very pleased with the early proof copy he’s seen; I hope to have a big pile of trade paperbacks in good time for Easter. Paperbacks and ebooks will also be available for order online, from Lulu.com and Ansible Editions respectively.

(6) FINAL BATTLE. Gail Gygax says her life is in danger: “Fantasy’s Widow: The Fight Over The Legacy Of Dungeons & Dragons” .

In December of last year, Gail Gygax contacted Kotaku through her agent. She wanted to tell us about all of the many dangers—both physical and psychological—she says she’s been dealing with since the death of her husband Gary Gygax, who is widely considered to be the father of the tabletop role-playing game, in 2008. Break-ins. Death threats. Estranged children. Visitations from her late husband’s spirit. Predatory businesspeople. And lawsuits—five of them in total, with one brought by Hollywood producer Tom DeSanto for $30 million. Eleven years after the death of Gary Gygax, there are still battles over who will control his legacy—the rights to his name, his biography, his memorial, his intellectual property, and the future of countless other priceless artifacts, among them Gary Gygax’s original dungeon, the maps to an 11-level magical castle where he prototyped a fantasy role-playing game that 8 million people play every year.

(7) NOT A BLANK SLATE. Andrew Liptak’s “Wordplay: This year’s awards scuffle and influence in the SF/F world” compares the motives behind the 20BooksTo50K slate and the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates, among other things, and how hard it is for groups administering the top sff awards to keep pace with change.

There has been a lot of commentary from all sides about how this is a war of old-verses-new, but I don’t really think that that’s the case. I think it’s more that established institutions like SFWA and the Hugo Awards simply aren’t equipped to handle some of the rapid changes that we’re seeing in the publishing industry and how fandom organizes itself, with the help of platforms like Facebook or Twitter. I think it’s also less “old man yells at cloud,” and more not recognizing potential issues or reacting quickly before they become a problem. The traditional “Fan” community doesn’t really turn and adapt quickly. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 13, 1781 — The planet Uranus was discovered by English astronomer Sir William Herschel.
  • March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell was born

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Except for Pluto’s discoverer, above, birthdays are on hiatus. Cat Eldridge is having the elbow surgery he mentioned in comments.]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) RETRO REPORT. While researching an article I rediscovered Peter Watts’ account of the 2010 Worldcon “Worth the Price”. One of the many good bits —

…and the sheer joy of dealing with Australian border guards.

I am not being ironic. I would almost be tempted to purchase an Expedia vacation package that consisted entirely of going back and forth through Australian Customs for a few days straight. Yes, I got rerouted to Secondary (they pretty much had to, given the check mark in that little “Are you a felon?” box), but the whole lot of them were friendly and welcoming even so. Mostly they spent my wait time chatting with me about the kind of books they liked to read. (I mean, just imagine: literate border guards. Not a species you’re gonna find anywhere in the US, I’m betting.) And finally, when they waved me through and I pointed to the big sign saying Your Luggage WILL be X-rayed and wondered why they weren’t doing that to mine, the nice lady’s response was “Would you like me to?” She was willing to go out of her way to be extra intrusive, just to make me feel at home.

(12) LEGO IDEA. Sort of like looking for a much richer version of Waldo.

(13) BRITNEY GOES GENRE? That’s what BBC heard: “Britney Spears’ feminist jukebox musical is going to Broadway”.

The hits of pop icon Britney Spears are heading to Broadway in a new jukebox musical with a feminist message.

Titled Once Upon A One More Time, the comedy will tell the story of a book club attended by fairytale princesses.

Their lives are changed when a “rogue fairy godmother” brings them a copy of The Feminine Mystique, the landmark feminist book by Betty Friedan.

It makes them question whether there’s more to life than marrying Prince Charming and singing with animals.

Scriptwriter Jon Hartmere told The New York Times: “Cinderella is having an existential crisis, and she has a posse of famous princesses, and her stepmother is the main antagonist.

(14) LAST PAGES. Associated Press gives perspective on how a “Decline in readers, ads leads hundreds of newspapers to fold”.

…Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri’s Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

(15) TOLKIEN RESOURCE. You have to join to have access, but they’re available now: “Earliest issues of Tolkien Society publications digitised”.

The Tolkien Society’s earliest publications have been digitised and are now available for members to download.

Last year, through the British Library, the Society completed the first stage of its digitisation project, resulting in the digitisation of the majority of back issues of Amon Hen and Mallorn, respectively the bulletin and journal of The Tolkien Society. Not all back issues were digitised at the time due to gaps in the British Library’s collection.

Members now have access to the Society’s earliest publications, dating back to 1969 (the year the Society was founded) and the 1970s. This not only includes the missing issues of Amon Hen, but its forerunner publications, The Tolkien Society Bulletin and Anduril. All issues of Belladonna’s Broadsheet, the Society’s oldest publication, has also been digitised.

(16) ON THE MENU AT CHEZ RAMBO. Guest posts on Cat Rambo’s blog in recent weeks include:

What if prose were written like music? What if, instead, of a common world, stories in an anthology were steps on a share emotional path? Those are the questions the upcoming anthology Score is attempting to answer.

GOURMET RECIPE: VERMIH IN PLABOS SAUCE

There are three complementary sides that determine a phril personality: gastronomy, politics, and romance. The rest represents salads or pickles to fill the mundane.
I will start naturally, with food for the gourmet side of the phrilic spirit, presenting to you, my dear reader, an absolutely genuine Recipe….

(17) WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO JACK KIRBY?WhatCulture Comics remembers “8 Times The Marvel Vs. DC Rivalry Turned Ugly.”

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

2018 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015, 35 of the novellas published in 2016, and 46 of the novellas published in 2017 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

The result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza and the 2017 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 4 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Tor.com, Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, Book Smugglers, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tachyon bringing out a multitude of works, along with the traditional magazines Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2018 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Read more…

The Revolution Will Be Incrementalized: Peter Watts and The Freeze-Frame Revolution


By JJ: Imagine being groomed from birth for a role on an galactic construction ship, on an endless journey to build a cosmic superhighway of wormhole transport gates for humans to use in the far future. Imagine being awakened by the ship’s AI for a few days, as part of a team to assist with a gate build, then spending millennia in cryogenic sleep before being awakened again to work with a different team of people – an endless cycle broken only by the occasional appearance of a strange lifeform as the ship exits at hyperspeed from a newly-constructed gate. Imagine the boredom, the isolation, and the devastating realization of the personal futility of being near-immortal, yet never getting to live a full life. Imagine the anger and resentment at realizing that you’ve been sold a bill of goods about this being your “noble destiny”.

Imagine trying to coordinate a rebellion with your co-workers, when you’re only awake for a few days every several thousand years – with an omnipresent artificial intelligence which has been programmed to protect the ship’s mission at all costs watching your every move, and hearing every word that you say.

This is the premise behind Peter Watts’ Sunflowers series and the just-released novella* The Freeze-Frame Revolution**.

Sunday Ahzmundin is one of 30,000 “spores” – diasporans who were groomed from birth to be sent out on the Eriophora, a cryosleep ship powered by a singularity and accelerated up to one-fifth of lightspeed, on a mission to prepare the way for a future humanity to travel the stars once their technology has advanced to the point where such travel would be possible. But their ship was a last-ditch effort made by a race of troubled people on a poisoned planet, whose survival was far from assured. And the ship left Earth more than 60 million years ago: the spores have no idea whether there are even any humans other than themselves still left alive in the galaxy. They have come to realize that they are living only shallow imitations of real lives – and they’ve discovered that their ship’s AI has been lying to them… about something.

It’s clear that the full story of this universe is something which Watts has had in development for at least a decade, because the worldbuilding in the novelettes “The Island” (which won a Hugo in 2010), “Giants” (2013), and “Hotshot” (2014) is solidly intertwined with that of The Freeze-Frame Revolution. And it is a wonderfully-rich, hard science fiction universe, filled with big concepts and unique imagery woven together in a plausible execution.

I was just as blown away by this fantastic story as I have been by all of his other works. The Freeze-Frame Revolution has earned a place at the top of my Hugo Novella nomination ballot next year – and I will be very surprised if I read anything this year to displace it from its Number 1 spot.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is available right now on Kindle in both the U.S. and the UK, and will be released in paperback on June 12 in the U.S., and on June 28 in the UK.


* the cover says “A Novel”, but the story is 41,300 words, and Watts considers it a novella

** I received a free e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 4/6/18 The Scroller You Tick, The Pixeler You File.

(1) ARGUMENT AGAINST COLORBLINDNESS. Chesya Burke now has set to “public” her analysis of the lack of diversity in anthologies generally, and in the horror genre particularly.

Some of the arguments I’ve seen mentioned excusing the exclusion of diverse writers:

  1. Editing is hard. Many anthos are put together as an “afterthought,” editors are forced to simply search out writers they “like.”

Putting together anthos as an afterthought is the first redflag. It’s shocking that anyone would think this is a good idea or will yield good results. An editor who does not have a strong grounding of current writers in the genre is a second. White editors who only choose writers they “like” is the final straw. You’re literally editing white boy escapism at that point. Let’s call it what it is.

  1. Just mentioning race is racist.

Since when is simply mentioning race racist? That’s absurd. Some people are white, some black and many others. There is nothing racist about pointing this out. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Ignoring someone’s racial identity is racist, because the default is white. There’s all kinds of research on this, it’s called colorblind racism.

  1. Editors just want the best stories, expecting them to publish writers who don’t deserve it is reverse-racist and sexist. Having black only or women only anthos is “cringy.”

There are LOTS of anthos with only white men writers filling the ToC, especially in the horror genre. It is irrelevant that they didn’t put out a call for only white men, because the outcome is the same. White men have, as we’ve seen, been the default. This is why claiming “I don’t read black or white writers, I just want good stories” upolds the status quo. But never once in the history of ever have you heard a white man writer say that he felt “cringed” because he was published because he was a white man, at the expense of writers of color and women. Because this is what happens, don’t fool yourself.

Burke launched a good discussion, both from people who unintentionally provided examples of the problems, and others talking about the work it takes to overcome them. Among the latter, The Dark Magazine’s Silvia Moreno-Garcia:

Silvia Moreno-Garcia Here’s some free advice for those who may be like but there’s nothing I can do to build diversity and I’m an editor. I funded Innsmouth Free Press paying a penny a word and managed to get POC and women to write in a very male dominated sub genre, Lovecraftiana and Weird fiction. I did this by actively recruiting writers and convincing them my efforts were worth. Writers who had their first credits with me include Daniel Jose Older, Nadia Bulking and Molly Tanzer. I worked out hard, talking about how women and POC were welcome, and then *showing* it. Over time people have come to understand I’m an editor who values work from women and POC, and they sub to me. Because I want to encourage more authors to submit, I just ran a successful Kickstarter for THE DARK, where I’m an editor. I’ve done this and more starting with a penny a word and my friend Paula to support me. Because I truly wanted to be a better editor and give a place to women and POC. And I’ll continue that with the help of The Dark, Sean Wallace and hopefully future authors reading this.

(2) BEEB. Jonathan Cowie of Concatenation did these links in dialect: “First (and forgive me if you’ve already covered) today in Brit Cit we have the start of a mini-series of Mielville’s The City and The City on B Beeb Ceeb 2.”

RadioTimes invites you to “Meet the cast of The City And The City”.

(3) PETER WATTS IN CONCATENATION. And Cowie also informs they have, “advance-posted (that is it is up but not yet on our index and what’s new pages) an article on SF author and biologist Peter Watts scientists that have inspired him. This is part of an on-going series with previous contributors including SF authors
and scientists (different disciplines) Paul Mc Auley, Ian Stewart, Andrew Bannister, and Tony Ballantine. Most people use .rss or the regularity of our seasonal postings to keep tabs on us. But a very few follow us on Twitter for advance alerts only (no chat). For this dedicated few we have just tweeted an advance alert:”

Peter Watts’ post begins:

It’s taken me nigh on two years to compile this list. Perhaps half that time was spent fuming over the demand that it be ten scientists long? I mean, what if I don’t find that many twentieth-century scientists inspirational? What if my pop-culture recognition of Fermi and Feynman doesn’t really rise to the level of inspiration, what if the scientists who did inspire me did so on a purely personal level, without achieving rock-star status? What if the people who inspired me aren’t even real scientists, huh?

Concatenation’s full summer issue is expected online April 15.

(4) CAMERON’S SF HISTORY. A Syfy Wire writer is impressed: “James Cameron joins Spielberg, Lucas for AMC’s ‘Story of Science Fiction’ series”. I’m still waiting to see some writers’ names on these lists:

How exhaustive is Cameron’s trip into the genre’s storied past?

“Throughout each episode of the six-part television series, [Cameron]… explores science fiction’s roots, futuristic vision, and our fascination with its ideas through interviews with A-list storytellers, stars, and others whose careers have defined the field,” says AMC, “including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, and Sigourney Weaver, among some 100 other series participants.”

Whoa — now that’s a lineup that definitely has our attention. To check out more video previews of the one-on-one talks Cameron will be sharing with some of the genre’s biggest luminaries, head on over AMC’s landing page.

(5) SNAPSHOT. Another cat snoozing in the vicinity of SFF:

(6) SFF ART WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIPS. Artists have until April 12 to apply for the two scholarships being offered to the Muddy Colors 2018 Illustration Master Class being held in Amherst, MA from June 11-17.

Arnie Fenner notes, “I think it’s something around $2800 to participate so it’s a pretty sweet give-away.”

The IMC is a 7 day workshop focused on making you a better artist with the help of some of the best illustrators and fine artists in the world. All disciplines (traditional or digital) and skill levels are welcome. Old or young. Novice or pro. Anyone may apply for this scholarship.

Full guidelines at the link.

(7) TAKAHATA OBIT. Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata has died at the age of 82.

Mr Takahata was nominated for an Oscar in 2015 for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya but is best known for his film Grave of the Fireflies.

He founded Studio Ghibli with iconic director Hayao Miyazaki in 1985.

It became a world-renowned animation studio, producing blockbusters such as Castle in the Sky, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Mr Takahata started his career in animation in 1959 at Japan’s Toei studio, where he met Mr Miyazaki, who is usually seen as the face of Studio Ghibli.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 6, 1967 Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever” first aired.
  • April 6, 1968 — Stanley’s Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey makes its debut in movie theaters.

(9) HAL ORNAMENT. And the anniversary makes this io9 story more timely than it would have been: “Hallmark Has a Talking, Glowing HAL 9000 Ornament Headed for Your Christmas Tree”.

Hallmark is continuing its celebration of the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey right to the end of 2018 with a new keepsake ornament that lets you hang a miniature version of the film’s HAL 9000 computer on your Christmas tree, complete with its menacing, glowing, red eye.

The ornament doesn’t exactly scream “happy holidays,” of course; HAL did kill most of Discovery One’s crew. But as bad guys go, the computer, with its perpetually calm voice, remains one of the most disturbing antagonists in film history, and that certainly earns him a branch on my Christmas tree.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY LANDO

  • Born April 6, 1937 – Billy Dee Williams

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian discovered the Wizard of Id having a kind of entmeet….
  • JJ admits Incidental Comics’ “Stages of Work” isn’t genre. In case you have a strict rule about that sort of thing.

(12) LOST IN SPACE. It’s time to “Meet Dr. Smith.”

(13) GUARDING THE GUARDIANS. Karl Urban is back says The Hollywood Reporter:

Karl Urban is returning to the small screen.

The Star Trek and Lord of the Rings actor has landed the starring role in Amazon Studios’ straight-to-series superhero drama The Boys.

The Boys takes places in a world where superheroes embrace the darker side of their massive celebrity and fame, and centers on a group of vigilantes known informally as “the boys” who set out to take down corrupt superheroes with no more than blue-collar grit and a willingness to fight dirty.

(14) PORTION CONTROL. Walking With Giants demos its “Mini Bacon and Eggs.” You might need to order seconds.

(15) HOW THE JURASSIC ERA WOULD REALLY END. Brandon Carbaugh’s thread breaks down how today’s social media would dispose of Jurassic Park.

Includes:

(16) THE BEES KNEES. Camestros Felapton showed me once more why he’s a Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee in his instant filk about the robot bees story linked in yesterday’s Scroll.

(13) To the tune of Yesterday

Robot bees, were tired of flying into trees,
Now they live were there ain’t no seas,
Oh Mars is fine for robot bees

Suddenly, the bees aren’t where they are supposed to be,
There at the poles digging furiously
Oh robot bees teraformingly

Why they had to fly
To the poles
And nearly freeze?

They found, something bad
Now I’m sad
For robot bees

Robot bees, fighting ancient martian zombie fleas
Trapped for eons in a polar freeze
Oh robot bees are hard to please

Monster fleas wiould conquer Earth quite easily
But they can’t defeat a robot bee
Our last defence is an apiary

Why they fight so tough
Is it enough,
To kill the fleas?

They sting twice as hard
They’re battle scared
Those robot bee-ee-ee-ee-ees

Robot bees, fought on Mars apocalyptically
They went and saved humanity
Oh robot bees beat zombie fleas
robot bees beat zom-bie fleas….

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Stuart Gale, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Arnie Fenner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Cramer Asks Readercon to Investigate Age Discrimination Charge

Kathryn Cramer announced on Facebook that she has asked the Readercon board to investigate whether its program organizers engaged in age discrimination while culling their program participants list and violated the convention’s own Code of Conduct.

Several older white male writers who have been on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook that they were notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. The wording of the notice sparked resentment —

Allen Steele’s reaction was typical:

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

Whether writers/editors/artists who have been on a convention’s program in the past are owed the courtesy of being formally notified that they are not going to be on the current year’s program, or a con should let silence speak for itself, is worthy of discussion in its own right, however, Readercon made the former choice.

Even more important than the careless language of the letter (“PASTPRO”), some writers who received it say they suspect that Readercon’s effort to churn its roster of panelists has been done entirely at the expense of older writers.

A few days ago Jeffrey A. Carver added his name to the list of writers who have gotten the letter: “Readercon Says, ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!’”

I worried I was getting old when I turned 50 and started getting mail from AARP. And then, when I wasn’t looking, I suddenly became eligible for senior discounts. (No, that can’t be right. My parents were seniors, not me!) And now…

Readercon, once one of my favorite conventions, has decided that—well, let’s let them tell it in their own words: “You won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29. We’re deeply grateful to you for your years of participation at Readercon… but…” But so long, and thanks for all the fish!

They go on to say that they’re making room for fresh, young writers—which, if I thought that were the real reason, would at least be understandable. The truth, of course, is that Readercon has always been welcoming to new writers. I was one myself once, and Readercon always gave me a place at the table, as they did others. In fact, one of the things I liked about it was the yeasty mix of writers of all kinds, all ages, genders, creeds, etc. It made for great conversations. I guess the newer team of organizers are aiming for a new shape for their demographics. Either that, or they think they’re comping too many memberships to program participants.

I’m not the only one to receive this letter, of course. A number of older, white male writers (including my friend Craig Shaw Gardner) have received the same email. I don’t know if any female writers have received it or not. I’d be interested in knowing. (Update: I’ve received a secondhand report that a woman-writer friend of mine, also in my age group, got a similar boot to the backside.)

Kathryn Cramer tried to bring the matter to a head and tweeted Readercon a question —

Cramer also criticized a comment left on FB by Readercon program chair Emily Wagner:

…Speaking as the widow of a Readercon 13 GoH, I take exception to your complaints about past program participants’ “longevity.” You may find this whole matter “hilarious” (as per screen shot). I do not. Readercon has a code of conduct. I suggest you read it. And if you still think it is hilarious that you have given offense to many of the writers you have written such things to, and if you still think other peoples’ impression that you are engaging in age discrimination is hilarious, then I suggest you politely submit your resignation to the Readercon committee and find another hobby.

(This page lists 150 program participants from the 2017 Readercon – how Wagner’s 700 figure relates to that is unclear.)

Cramer has made a public request that the Readercon Board get involved.

I have just sent the following letter to [email protected]: To the ReaderCon Board:

In light of letters from Emily Wagner, writing as program Chair, recently received by older writers and professionals disinviting them from future participation on the ReaderCon program based their “longevity”, offering a discount code of “pastpro,” I formally request that the Board open an inquiry into whether Emily Wagner has committed age discrimination and whether she has, in the process, violated ReaderCon’s published Code of Conduct as pertains to age. Since Emily Wagner also sits on the Board, it would be appropriate for her to recuse herself from this inquiry.

I further request that the ReaderCon board publicly release the age demographics of the list of people to whom such letters were sent. And further, should these demographics demonstrate that all or nearly all such letters were sent to writers over age 50, I request that Emily Wagner be removed as Program Chair of ReaderCon and removed from the ReaderCon Board.

Ms. Wagner has posted on Facebook that she finds these allegations of age discrimination on her part “hilarious.” Age discrimination is not hilarious.

Further, should the Board determine that age discrimination has, in fact, taken place – which is to say that all or almost all of those disinvited are over 50 – I request that the Board take appropriate action to remedy the situation.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer

Several other well-known writers have added their protests. Peter Watts ended a comment on the subject:

Readercon, you suck.

Barry Longyear chimed in:

So, the Readercon “Dump-the Old” program is still in effect. It makes me think there ought to be two new categories in the Hugo Awards at the World SF Con: Best Science Fiction Convention, and a booby prize for that convention committee deemed as “doing the absolute least to promote science fiction and fellowship surrounding the literature of science fiction.” Designs for the Fucktard Award are currently being solicited.

David Gerrold made a more substantial comment on Cramer’s announcement:

About ten years ago or so, the Writers Guild of America won a major lawsuit on age discrimination. The studios paid out $70 million, some of which was distributed to writers who had proven they had been discriminated against, the rest to establish protections for the future.

Age discrimination is real — it’s pernicious, it’s vile, and in venues where there are laws prohibiting it, it is illegal.

For it to occur in the science fiction community is appalling. This is a community that has prided itself on inclusion. The rule in fandom is that “the ceiling constitutes an introduction.” That is, we’re all in the same room, we’re all fans, we’re here to have fun celebrating what we love.

So for any convention to knowingly violate the trust of the community, to disinvite the experienced and respected members of that community — this doesn’t just punish the authors, it punishes the fans who want to hear from those authors.

I’ve always wanted to attend a Readercon. I’ve only heard good things about Readercon — but now I suspect that I am too old to be considered worthy to contribute to Readercon.

I hope that this is a momentary glitch that the Board of Directors will address quickly. Otherwise, Readercon’s good reputation will be soiled for a long time to come

Canadian SFF Authors’ Quest to Help Homeless Man

For months Canadian fantasy author Caitlin Sweet and her husband, sf writer Peter Watts, had a homeless man living in the ravine behind their house in the east end of Toronto.

Last week Sweet shared their experience on Steve Paikin’s nightly TVO program, The Agenda, viewable on YouTube. (Air date: December 15.)

City living includes all kinds of unexpected encounters. But it doesn’t usually include having someone take up residence in your backyard. That is what happened to novelist Caitlin Sweet, giving her a glimpse into the world of those in this city who regularly navigate Ontario’s very complicated mental health and shelter system. The Agenda welcomes Sweet to learn more about her experience.

 

Sweet also wrote a long article for the TVO website — “What to do about Kevin: Demons, little fires, and the man who lived in my ravine”.

For months, he lived behind my house. He was friendly and well-educated. He loved his cat, Blueberry Panda. He shouted at demons and started fires. I wanted to make him get help—shelter, medication, support. But this is Ontario

We call 911 on a rainy night in October. Kevin’s in our yard again, though he promised us he wouldn’t be. He shouts that he’s alone with Blueberry Panda (his cat) on the surface of a giant sun, and nothing else exists in time or space and only he, almighty, can harness the power of this sun for the purposes of destruction.

The paramedics arrive after five minutes, and the first police car a couple of minutes after that. Others follow. Just like two weeks ago.

Six officers, all with flashlights, tromp along the narrow, overgrown path that leads to the back of the yard at our house in the east end of Toronto. Kevin’s hunkered down with his sodden sleeping bag over his head, rocking, looping, round and round.

“Kevin—let’s get you up,” one of the officers says. “Let’s get you somewhere dry.”

“No,” he snaps, briefly free of the loop. Then he resumes: “You are not speaking English. Blueberry Panda and I are in an unknown location because we are the only creatures in all of time and space. Blueberry Panda and I are in an unknown—”

“Kevin.”

No.”

He’s standing now. His wild, curly hair and beard look even wilder in the glow of the flashlights; his brown skin looks grey.

In the end he goes with the officers quietly.

…. At 3 a.m., long after Kevin leaves with the cops, the phone rings. It’s a frontline worker from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; she tells us Kevin has just been sent away in a taxi, having not been assessed or medicated. He was lucid again by the time someone at the ER had spoken to him. He answered their questions. He got in the cab. He’s supposed to end up at a shelter.

He’s back at our place six hours later, calling for Blueberry Panda.

…The first time Kevin was taken away, I thought everything was going to get better—I was convinced that professional and qualified people would be looking after him from then on. That was before I learned about Ontario’s rules for involuntary admission.

It works like this: Someone (typically a police officer) sees a person exhibiting signs of mental illness and decides they should be taken to hospital. At hospital, that person is examined and assessed. If various criteria are satisfied, the examining doctor can fill out a Form 1—that is, an application for psychiatric assessment—which allows the hospital to hold the person for up to 72 hours, without legal review.

…Back in September, Kevin started shouting in the middle of the night. He explained later that he could see the demons most clearly after dark. Shouting was how he banished them. So we’d lie in bed, listening to him shout the demons away.

One night, he sang instead: first Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” then Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” Another night, we looked out the window and saw flames: Kevin had made a fire. For a few moments the flames leapt high, toward the rain-soaked trees.

We didn’t call the police; we wanted to avoid involving law enforcement, if at all possible, as we’d read too many stories about Toronto cops and their sometimes violent interactions with mentally ill people. So who were we supposed to contact?

I sent our city councillor a long, wordy email that boiled down to: Help. We don’t want anything bad to happen to this man, but he’s mentally ill and now he’s making fires in our yard and he won’t go anywhere without his cat and please help. I got a response from a staffer a few minutes later: she said she’d refer the issue to someone from the city’s Streets to Homes program. She thanked Peter and me for being such caring people.

Five days later, I’d heard nothing more, so I emailed our councillor again, and again I received a quick reply: she’d follow up with the city. She’d keep me in the loop. Thanks again for all we were doing.

I didn’t hear from the councillor’s office again, and I never heard from the city….

Peter Watts also blogged about it – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”.

A few nights back I found myself standing out in the rain at 2 a.m., peering through the fence to see if the fire Kevin had lit was in danger of burning down our shed or setting the ravine alight. It wasn’t; but obviously the guy needs help. I just don’t know if the current system can give him any. In terms of mental health this place has gone to shit ever since the government decided to cut costs by classifying everyone as an outpatient. It’s a lesser-evil sort of thing.

Gateway guy has made no progress; Big Cop (Officer Baird, I learn later) approaches me and says, “I think we got off on the wrong foot. You don’t know me, you’re judging me by the uniform. I’m honestly trying to help this guy; you say you have a relationship with him? Maybe you could try talking to him?”

“Well, sure,” I say, suddenly feeling like kind of a dick.

We go back to Kevin’s tent— my tent, until I gave it to him on the condition that he stop screaming death threats in the middle of the night (or at least that he make it really clear that those death threats were not aimed at us). I remember he smiled when I said that, looked kind of rueful. Now that I think back, though, I realize he made no promises.

He’s originally from Trinidad. Speaks with this cool accent. Back in the nineties he earned a degree from the University of Toronto: dual major in chemistry and philosophy. How cool is that?

Now he huddles half-naked in the woods, and rages against monsters at three in the morning….

Sweet and Watts were actually able to get Kevin into the only shelter that allows pets, by incredible persistence. Sweet wrote on her blog —

November 1

There’s room at the inn. I’ve called every couple of hours, as the front desk person told me to weeks ago. And at last, at last, a bed at the Bethlehem United shelter for Kevin, and a place for Blueberry Panda with him.

I’m at work. Peter hurries to the ravine and tells Kevin. Peter rents a Zipcar and hurries to pick it up at a Canadian Tire sort of near our house. When he gets back, Kevin is starting little fires. There’s no Blueberry in the carrier. “She got upset,” Kevin says. “She ran away. I can’t go without her.”

Peter yells at him—articulately, I’m sure. He convinces Kevin to put his stuff in the trunk and himself in the front seat. Drives him to Bethlehem United, way north-west of our place. He tells me later that Kevin was conversational.

He drops Kevin off at the shelter. Promises to bring Blueberry Panda as soon as we can wrangle her (which will be hard; she gets skittish when Kevin’s not around). We don’t catch her that day or the morning of the next—but that’s OK, because Kevin comes back, of course, swearing he’s going to get her into that carrier this time; swearing he’s going back to the shelter. He’ll be gone before 4 p.m., he tells Peter, who tells me that he doesn’t believe him. But when Peter goes out onto the porch at 4, Kevin’s stuff is gone. The carrier’s gone. He calls the shelter; yes, Kevin showed up, carrier in hand.

We call for Blueberry one more time that night, as we put out kibble. Just in case.

November 3

I wake up at 5 because I think I hear him across the fence. “Did you hear that?” I whisper. “Yes,” says Peter. But in the morning there’s no sign that anyone’s been there.

If people wish to support the only pet-friendly shelter in Ontario, click the link — Bethlehem United Shelter.

Several years ago, Fred Victor and Street Health presented a photo-journal study at a national conference on homelessness in Toronto on the role pets play in the lives of people living on the street.  They called the study, Paws for Thought.  We found out how important it was for people to stay connected to their four-legged friends when everything else seemed to have been taken away from them.

So, when, Fred Victor got involved in opening a new shelter in northwest Toronto (Caledonia and Lawrence), everyone agreed that pets should be welcomed into the shelter with their owners.  It is the only pet-friendly shelter in Toronto.  By creating this unprecedented access, Fred Victor has kept close to its mandate of meeting the needs of people who would otherwise spend a night on the street.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]