Pixel Scroll 7/1/22 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel?

(1) NETFLIX GOES UPSIDE DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apparently, fans of Stranger Things are night owls. When the final two episodes of ST Season 4 were released—at about 03:00 Eastern today—the Netflix streaming site was hammered hard enough to experience scattered but significant outages. “Netflix Down: Streaming Service Outage After Stranger Things 4 Release” reports Variety.

Netflix’s streaming service was unavailable for a brief period early Friday after the highly anticipated release of the final two episodes of “Stranger Things 4.”

According to global uptime-monitoring site Downdetector.com, user reports of problems with Netflix spiked around 3 a.m. ET — when “Stranger Things 4” Volume 2 went live. Complaints about errors with Netflix peaked at nearly 13,000 at the top of the hour, before the situation seemed to be resolved within a half hour.

“Stranger Things 4” already has set the record as the No. 1 English-language series on the service in its first four weeks of release, as reported by Netflix based on total hours watched. The two episodes in Season 4 Volume 2 clock in at nearly four hours of runtime total: Episode 8 is 85 minutes and Episode 9 is 150 minutes.

(2) BOB MADLE DOING FINE AT 102. [Item by Curt Phillips.] I just got off the phone with Bob Madle and thought I’d give you an update. He sounds great, and his daughter Jane told me that Bob’s health is excellent. Neither of them ever caught Covid, and Bob spends a lot of time enjoying beer and baseball. He is, as you might guess, an Oakland A’s fan. He’s been following that team since the 1930’s when they were the Philadelphia Athletics. We spent 45 min or so discussing sf magazines, and Bob’s memory is as solid as a rock. He recalled pulp trivia from 90 years ago as if it happened yesterday. So, 102 years old and going strong. A fannish immortal in every way!

(3) STEPHENSON PROFILE.  In the Washington Post, Theo Zenou interviews Neal Stephenson on the 30th anniversary of Snow Crash.  The interview focuses on Stephenson’s role in tech projects, including founding (with Bitcoin Foundation co-chair Peter Vessenes), Lamina1, “a start-up that will use blockchain technology to build an ‘open metaverse.’” Zenou explains that Stephenson has been involved part-time with tech his entire life, and became employee #1 of Blue Origin after he and Jeff Bezos went to a screening of October Sky in 1999. “Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’ predicted metaverse and hyperinflation”.

…Stephenson’s vision for Lamina1 (meaning “layer one” in Latin) is to empower the creators of these experiences. He explained, “We want to create a structure of smart contracts and other utilities that will make it easier for people who want to build Metaverse applications to do that in the first place, and then to get compensated if it turns out that people like and want to pay for the experiences they’re creating.”…

(4) FIGURING OUT THE ENDING. If you didn’t see Cora Buhlert’s story when we linked to the tweets in May, you can now read “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘The Rescue’” as a post on her blog.

“You had one job, Corporal, one job. Protect Prince Adam, with your life, if necessary. And you failed. I swear, if something happens to Adam, you will be scrubbing toilets for the rest of your life.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Don’t be so hard on the Corporal, Teela. It wasn’t his fault.”

“I know. I should have gone with Adam. Oh Father, what if something happens to him?”

“We’ll find Adam and save him. I promise.”

Meanwhile, in the dungeons of Snake Mountain…

(5) HAVE AN IDEA FOR A SPACE FORCE STORY? C. Stuart Hardwick is editing an anthology for Baen, Real Stories of the US Space Force, and has put out a Call For Submissions. See full details at the link.

The US Space Force has a PR problem. Several, in fact. It was not Donald Trump’s idea. It did not steal its iconography from Star Trek. It is not just a lunatic scheme to expand the military-industrial complex by sending battleships into space. Yet judging from social media, many think all these things and more.

Space has become critical not only to the military but to the economy and all aspects of daily life, and as we stand at the dawn of a new age of space commerce, that’s only going to intensify, and several nations have already developed capabilities  to deny, degrade, and disrupt access to and utilization of space–based assets, whether to degrade US Military capability or as a direct economic attack.

Like it or not, the militarization of space started long ago, threats are already up there, and wherever people and their interests go next, so too will go conflict, intrigue, heroes and villains, everything that comprises good stories….

WHAT WE WANT

Stories that grab us from the start and stay with us for days. Scientifically plausible drama about people facing interesting challenges related to the US Space Force or more generally, the policing and defense of near-Earth space and related issues, now or in the foreseeable future (the next century or so).

Stories don’t have to take place in space, involve the actual US Space Force, or be hard sci-fi, but they should help illustrate in some way how space technology shapes modern civilization in critical, often overlooked ways, how it is now or soon may come under threat, and how it might be defended now and into the future. See this page for ideas and background.

(6) A SEVENTIES LOOK AT FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has added “Minicon 10 (1975)-History of the MFS-Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker” to its YouTube channel.

Minicon 10 (1975) – History of the MFS – Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker & more: 

Minicon 10 was held April 18-20, 1975 in Minneapolis. This panel discussion, orchestrated by Gordy Dickson, majors in history and anecdotes of the 1940s Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS).  Particpants: Kenny Gray, Poul Anderson, Oliver Saari, Gordon Dickson, Grace Riger, Bob Tucker, and Clifford Simak. A high percentage of the MFS members went on to sell professionally to the magazines.

The panel begins with the flowering of MFS after Clifford Simak moved to town, to anecdotes about late night hero-saving plot sessions to the true identity of Squanchfoot (hint: Simak’s City was dedicated to him). 

You’ll hear about the softball games in which many Saaris participated, the origin of Twonk’s disease, how Poul became an MFS member and more. 

There’s silly story writing, an imitation Red Boggs, and a mass induction into the MFS.  For those that live(d) in Minneapolis, and for those that didn’t, this recording provides an affectionate look at the early MFS…Many thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) WHERE DID THE TIME GO. Lincoln Michel tackles the question “Why Does It Take So Long to Publish a Book?” in his Counter Craft newsletter.

… For this post, I’m just talking about the last part: how long it takes to publish a book once you sell it to a traditional publisher. Often, unpublished and self-published authors are baffled at turn around time for books. This discourse was most recently kicked off by a tweet asking authors how they would feel if a publisher offered to publish their book yet it would take 2 years and they’d have to cut 10,000 words. The replies were filled with a lot of unpublished authors saying “that’s way too long!” and/or “that’s way too many words to cut!” and then a lot of published authors saying “uh, this is completely standard in publishing?”

…To be very clear, getting published by a good publisher in no way guarantees you’ll get much attention or sell many copies. Yet if you want any chance of getting those things, your publisher needs a lot of time to pitch your book to distributors and bookstores and to do all of the publicity and marketing.

This—the general publicity, marketing, and distribution—is where much of the publishing time disappears. And it’s the kind of stuff you might not realize if you aren’t a traditionally published author. Things like major bookstore orders (including Amazon) are set long before a book is published. Anticipated book lists and “buzz” begins well in advance, sometimes before books are even finished being written. Review copies get sent to reviewers months before books are published, so that reviews can appear when the book does. And so on and so forth.

In addition to the distribution, marketing, and publicity there are other important steps if you want a professional book, especially editing (big scale stuff), copyediting (line level stuff), proofreading (typos). There are many other steps here too such as getting blurbs and getting cover art but thankfully many of these can be done concurrently with the other steps timewise….

(8) SWIFT DEPARTURE. Deadline reports “‘Tom Swift’ Canceled By CW After One Season”.

Tom Swift has swiftly gotten the boot at CW.

The low-rated, Nancy Drew spinoff only launched on May 31 and has aired six episodes to date. The series, which features a predominantly Black cast, started off as an unconventional backdoor pilot, with only Tian Richards (as Tom) getting an introduction on Nancy Drew last season. The rest of the characters were cast after the project was picked up to series in August.

We hear CBS Studios, which is behind Tom Swift, is trying to extend the options on the cast, which expire today, and plans to shop the series elsewhere.

The CW brass have said that they like the show creatively. The cancellation is said to be performance-based as Tom Swift is among the CW’s least watched series on linear, with 535K viewers in Live+7, as well as on streaming….

(9) THERE IS CRYING IN TV. A show you may not have even known was in the works has also stumbled before making it out of the cornfield:  “‘Field of Dreams’ TV Series Dropped at Peacock”.

A series adaptation of Field of Dreams has struck out at PeacockThe Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Mike Schur-created drama based on the 1989 Kevin Costner-starring baseball-focused film was picked up straight to series in August 2021 but will not stream on the platform, according to a source with knowledge.

Universal Television, where Schur’s Fremulon shingle holds an overall deal, is in the process of talking to interested buyers.

Schur is the creator of NBC’s The Good Place, along with serving as the co-creator of Parks and RecreationBrooklyn Nine-Nine and Rutherford Falls. Among other credits, he is an executive producer on HBO Max’s Emmy-winning Hacks and Freevee’s upcoming Primo….

 (10) 124C41+. Holden Karnosky’s article “The Track Record of Futurists Seems … Fine” at Cold Takes tries to find another way of testing whether it would be a waste of time to put artificial intelligence to work as futurists. One idea was to look at the futures posited by some famous sf writers.

…The idea is something like: “Even if we can’t identify a particular weakness in arguments about key future events, perhaps we should be skeptical of our own ability to say anything meaningful at all about the long-run future. Hence, perhaps we should forget about theories of the future and focus on reducing suffering today, generally increasing humanity’s capabilities, etc.”

But are people generally bad at predicting future events? Including thoughtful people who are trying reasonably hard to be right? If we look back at prominent futurists’ predictions, what’s the actual track record? How bad is the situation?

…Recently, I worked with Gavin Leech and Misha Yagudin at Arb Research to take another crack at this. I tried to keep things simpler than with past attempts – to look at a few past futurists who (a) had predicted things “kind of like” advances in AI (rather than e.g. predicting trends in world population); (b) probably were reasonably thoughtful about it; but (c) are very clearly not “just selected on those who are famous because they got things right.” So, I asked Arb to look at predictions made by the “Big Three” science fiction writers of the mid-20th century: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein.

These are people who thought a lot about science and the future, and made lots of predictions about future technologies – but they’re famous for how entertaining their fiction was at the time, not how good their nonfiction predictions look in hindsight. I selected them by vaguely remembering that “the Big Three of science fiction” is a thing people say sometimes, googling it, and going with who came up – no hunting around for lots of sci-fi authors and picking the best or worst.2

Alan Baumler kept score while reading the article:

  • One (Asimov) who looks quite impressive – plenty of misses, but a 50% hit rate on such nonobvious predictions seems pretty great.
  • One (Heinlein) who looks pretty unserious and inaccurate.
  • One (Clarke) who’s a bit hard to judge but seems pretty solid overall (around half of his predictions look to be right, and they tend to be pretty nonobvious).

(11) MEMORY LANE

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Yes, I know I wrote up Bewitched earlier this year. Or at least I think II did. I do lose track after a while. At any rate, tonight we’ve come to eulogize its ending fifty years ago on this evening. The show aired from September 17, 1964 to July 1, 1972 on ABC for two hundred and fifty-four episodes — seventy-four in black-and-white for the first two years, 1964 to 1966) and one hundred eighty in color for the final three years, 1966 to 1972.

I cannot say that I’ve watched all of the series, but I’ve watched a fair amount of it and it will unashamedly admit that I really do like it. It’s not a complicated series, nor a particularly deep series, but it’s both fun and charming, and it is inoffensive. 

So why did Bewitched come to an end? Was it the ratings? That certainly was part of that problem as by by the end of the next-to-last season the ratings for it had noticeably dropped and the show did not even rank in the list of the top thirty programs. But that wasn’t the actual reason it got cancelled.

That was down to Elizabeth Montgomery who had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on to new roles. Well, they didn’t happen. The only thing she was on Password, a game show where she was a celebrity contestant for nearly ninety episodes. 

She died at aged sixty-two of an untimely diagnosed cancer. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1934 — Jean Marsh, 88. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Whovian affairs. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly StrangerDark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 — David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been  a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he then played the role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few years later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1942 — Genevieve Bujold, 80. We would have had a rather different look on Voyager if things had played out as the producers wished, for Bujold was their first choice to play Janeway. She quit after a day and a half of shooting, with the public reason being she was unaccustomed to the hectic pace of television filming. What the real reason was we will never know.
  • Born July 1, 1952 — Dan Aykroyd, 70. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Raimis though he himself came up with the Ghostbusters concept), Ackroyd actually showed up in his first genre role a year earlier in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprised his role in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. And he was the narrator of the Hotel Paranormal series that just ended.
  • Born July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot, aged, well, 67. Yes, this is this official birthday of the robot in Forbidden Planet, which debuted a year later. Over the years he would also be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune MenThe Twilight ZoneLost In SpaceThe Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was in a 2006 commercial for AT&T. Well very, very briefly. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 58. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best known work. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction where many of his stories have since been published.  Editor for six years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction until February of last year. At the World Fantasy Awards in 2021 he received the Special Award – Professional for editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
  • Born July 1, 1981 — Genevieve Valentine, 41. Author of the superb Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows what would happen if Hollywood added “improvements” to Noah’s Ark. (Which, of course, they’ve already done, but play along with the joke.)

(14) AMAZON PRIME TEASER TRAILER FOR PAPER GIRLS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The comic book Paper Girls — which involves time travel among other tropes, so it’s inarguably science fiction — which I may have stumbled on either browsing my library’s “new graphic novels” or during the year-ish I subscribed to ComiXology’s monthly streaming digital comics service, or a mix, is about to be an Amazon Prime series, per this trailer I just saw:

It looks promising, to say the least.

Want to read ’em first? If your public library (or interlibrary loan) doesn’t have them, you can e-borrow/read issues 1-30 free through HooplaDigital.com — either as Volumes 1-6, or in 3 borrows (remember, Hoopla allows a set # borrows/month) by going for the Deluxe Edition Books (10 issues each), as this search shows.

(I’ve read ’em; recommended!)

(15) USHERING IN THE ATOMIC AGE. Now on the block at Heritage Auctions is Capt. Robert Lewis’ ‘Enola Gay’ logbook documenting the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Bidding was up to $400,000 when last checked.

Captain Robert A. Lewis, the co-pilot of the B-29 Superfortress called the Enola Gay, wrote those immortal words shortly after 8:16 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, moments after he and his crewmates dropped the atomic bomb on the citizens of Hiroshima. The course of history changed at that precise moment: A beautiful day exploded into a blinding bright light, a nuclear fireball leveled a city, at least 100,000 died, and a world war neared its end.

And there, high above it all yet so much a part of the devastation below, was Robert Lewis to chronicle every spectacular and awful moment. He was among the dozen Enola Gay crewmen who delivered the 15-kiloton bomb codenamed “Little Boy” to Japan and the only person aboard who kept a detailed account of the top-secret mission that changed the world.

Lewis’ 11-page chronicle of those few minutes is among the most important documents of the 20th century, a harrowing and oft-heartbreaking account of those very moments between the pre-atomic and post-atomic world – before Hiroshima was struck by the noiseless flash, consumed by fire and swallowed by a mushroom cloud. The public has not seen it since it sold in 2002 during a famous auction of publisher Malcolm Forbes’ American historical documents.

(16) COULD WE DECODE ALIEN PHYSICS? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Matt O’Dowd at PBS Space Time asks “Could We Decode Alien Physics?”

How hard can it really be to decode alien physics and engineering? It’s gotta map to our own physics – I mean, we live in the same universe. We start by noticing that the alien technology seems to use good ol’ fashioned electronics, even if it is insanely complex. We know this because the particle carried by the alien circuitry looks like the electron. We decide this through a process of elimination.

(17) FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch tracked themoviedb.org data to measure “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in June.”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceObi-Wan Kenobi
2Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomFor All Mankind
3Jurassic WorldSeverance
4Spider-Man: No Way HomeTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
5Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessWestworld
6MorbiusStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
7Jurassic ParkDoctor Who
8Ghostbusters: AfterlifeNight Sky
9Crimes of the FutureThe Man Who Fell to Earth
10MoonfallThe Twilight Zone

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(18) THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTED. Gizmodo takes stock of its accomplishments as “LightSail 2 Mission Poised to Burn Up in Earth’s Atmosphere”.

For the past three years, a tiny loaf-of-bread-sized spacecraft with gigantic wings has been sailing on sunbeams in low Earth orbit. LightSail 2 has far exceeded its life expectancy and proven that solar sails can indeed be used to fly spacecraft. But its journey around our planet is sadly coming to an end, as Earth’s atmosphere drags the spacecraft downward where it will eventually burn up in atmospheric flames.

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 launched in June 2019 and unfurled its 344-square-foot (32-square-meter) solar sail a month later. Just two weeks after spreading its wings, LightSail 2 gained 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of altitude, making this experiment a success….

(19) NIMOY THEATER UPDATE. A new era for the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA is underway as they continue to develop the UCLA Nimoy Theater. “The Nimoy sets new horizon for the arts community”. You can see an overview of the project here.

Located near the UCLA campus on Westwood Boulevard, The Nimoy is a reimagining of the historic Crest Theater as a flexible, state-of-the-art performance space.

Opening in late March 2023, the intimately-scaled venue is named for artist, actor, director and philanthropist Leonard Nimoy. Shawmut Construction has been working steadily to renovate the venue, which will be equipped with new and green technologies to support the creation and presentation of innovative work. 

The Nimoy will be a home for artists representing a broad diversity of voices, viewpoints, ideas and creative expressions in music, dance, theater, literary arts, digital media arts and collaborative disciplines. The inaugural season will feature a large slate of amazing shows, including new work by the legendary Kronos Quartet, “live documentarian” filmmaker Sam Green, and a collaboration between two essential musical voices of Los Angeles, Quetzal and Perla Batalla. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King asks, “What if Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson got email from spammers claiming to be “sexy women from Moldova?” “Hot Detectives in Your Area”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Curt Phillips, Daniel Dern, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie. Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/22 I Had It, But I Traded It For These Magic Beans

(1) PLANETARY SOCIETY GRANTS. The first-ever winners of The Planetary Society’s Science and Technology Empowered by the Public (STEP) Grants were announced today. These are planetary science and/or technology grants that fit within one or more of The Planetary Society’s core enterprises (Explore WorldsFind LifeDefend Earth). “Announcing the First-Ever STEP Grant Winners”. The two winning projects are a radio SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) citizen science project, and a planetary defense project to use a new technique to study near-Earth asteroids. 

Are We Alone?

We have awarded US$49,980 to a team from the University of California Los Angeles led by Professor Jean-Luc Margot for their proposal “Are We Alone? A Citizen-Science-Enabled Search for Technosignatures.”

The search for life elsewhere in the universe seeks to answer one of the most fundamental questions: are we alone? One part of this search involves looking for signals from elsewhere in the universe sent by intelligent life. Looking for signals is like searching for a needle in a very enormous haystack. Over the decades, though no confirmed signal from ET has been found, the technology and the techniques have gotten more and more capable.

Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids

We have awarded US$44,842 to a team from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, led by Professor Bojan Novakovi? for their proposal “Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids (D-NEAs).”

Tens of thousands of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) have been found, but we only know the physical properties of a small percentage. Asteroids can range from solid rock to collections of boulders to fluff balls. Understanding these characteristics for individual NEAs as well as entire NEA populations is crucial to not only the science of asteroid evolution and variability, but also to considerations of how to deflect a dangerous asteroid in the future.

(2) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDAL SHORTLISTS. The shortlists for the Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. I couldn’t find any genre works in the mix, perhaps you will be more discerning.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal (alphabetical by author surname):

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)
  • Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)
  • Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber)
  • The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Children’s Books)
  • Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada (Guppy Books)
  • Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle (Andersen Press)
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

  • Drawn Across Borders illustrated and written by George Butler (Walker Books)
  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)
  • Too Much Stuff illustrated and written by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Long Way Down illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff, written by Jason Reynolds (Faber)
  • Milo Imagines the World illustrated by Christian Robinson, written by Matt de la Pena (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Shu Lin’s Grandpa illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Matt Goodfellow (Otter-Barry Books)
  • I Talk Like a River illustrated by Sydney Smith, written by Jordan Scott (Walker Books)
  • The Wanderer illustrated and written by Peter Van den Ende (Pushkin Children’s Books)

(3) NASFIC SAFETY. The Orlando in 2023 NASFiC Bid defends one city in Florida’s LGBTQIA+ record. This is just the beginning:

We’ve seen some of you ask about how friendly Orlando is to the LGBTQIA+ community and whether you will be safe coming to Orlando for the 2023 NASFiC. Those are excellent questions to ask, and we have answers for you.

The short answer: Orlando is one of the most LGBTQIA+ friendly cities in the entire country. You will be welcomed, and you will be safe.

Period.

Full stop.

Have you noticed how people who like the “Period. Full stop” idiom always have so much to say after it?

(4) OPPOSITION TO 2023 WORLDCON IN CHENGDU. Sarah Mughal Rana, organizer of the Open Letter condemning China as host of the 2023 Worldcon, had two opinion pieces about the issue published today.  

The first, at Winteriscoming.net, “Dear World(con): Don’t host the Hugos amidst Uyghur concentration camps”, fleshes out these arguments:

  • The development of Chengdu as a sci-fi and tech center is contributing to genocide
  • Chengdu Worldcon has problematic Guests of Honor
  • Turkic authors, publishers, and intellectuals are persecuted in China
  • Condemning Worldcon is not the result of Western bias
  • Holding Chengdu Worldcon goes against artistic values

The second, at The Bookseller, “Science fiction’s moral reckoning: why we must block Worldcon Chengdu”, says in part —

…As an activist who, only one month ago, organised a protest over the Beijing Winter Olympics in light of the Uyghur genocide, I was stunned by the writing community’s support of the Chengdu 2023 Worldcon bid. It is not rare for authors to get involved in politics, as evidenced by well-known authors such as Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie, Holly Black, and more announcing their intentions not to renew their releases with Russian publishers in support of Ukraine. However, in the case of Chengdu, China – no one resisted.

…Supporting and attending Worldcon 2023 makes us hypocrites. Writers create characters that oppose entrenched power structures, malicious regimes, status quos and utopias. In science fiction, we use our fiction to draw parallels about reality, unchecked uses of technologies, persecution and surveillancing. Our characters work to overthrow cruel empires; they are the heroes that protect their culture and societies against invasion, injustices and genocide. How can one of the world’s most prestigious writing awards celebrate science fiction’s best stories while millions of Uyghurs are subject to severe persecution? How can we celebrate China’s sci-fi scene when artists, writers and intellectuals of its ethnic minorities are interned in camps or in exile, unable to attend?

Among Chengdu Worldcon’s guests of honour are Sergei Lukyanenko, a bestselling sci-fi writer who has constantly defended Russia’s Ukraine policy, and Liu Cixin, an internationally bestselling Chinese sci-fi writer who was recently hired for SenseTime as a director of Science Fiction Planet Research Center – a tech company that is using sci-fi research to develop immersive artificial intelligence. SenseTime—along with four other firms—is responsible for creating mass surveillance AI systems used to identify and police Uyghurs, Tibetans and other Turkic populations in China. The US has even banned investments into SenseTime for its prominent role in the genocide. The advanced systems include facial and voice recognition, DNA sampling, and racial profiling; these factors are directly responsible for widening the scope of the genocide. But SenseTime is not the only company. Chengdu has invested billions in sci-fi research to attract writers, creators, animation departments, and tech start-ups; these same companies create advanced AI that are is being used to persecute China’s Muslim minorities.

Chengdu is an emerging global sci-fi capital of China, but supporting the sci-fi scene there contributes to the genocide and mass policing of ethnic minorities….

(5) STORY TIME. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast Special 4 Year Anniversary Episode is a collaboration with Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine: Simultaneous Times Ep.49 – Michael James & J.W. Allen.

Stories featured in this episode:

“Minimum Sage” – by Michael James; music by Phog Masheeen; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“Systems Strike” – by J.W. Allen; music by RedBlueBlackSilver; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-eight years ago today a very silly film called The Ice Pirates premiered. Yes I am editorializing. That’s why my name is on these essays. It was directed by Stewart Raffill, who co-wrote the screenplay with Krull screenwriter Stanford Sherman. Raffill would also direct The Philadelphia Experiment this year. Sherman wrote quite a few Batman episodes and a few of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

The producer was John Foreman who had already done Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and who would later do what was known in the States as The Great Train Robbery which I essayed here on File 770  several weeks back. (Great film and a rather good book as well.)

The primary cast was Robert Urich, Mary Crosby and Michael D. Roberts; but the secondary cast of Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Bruce Vilanch, John Carradine was rather notable as well. 

It was supposed to have a rather extravagant budget for a film of its sort at twenty million dollars but MGM had just been slapped quite hard by its bankers as it losing a great deal of money just then and all films then in production were limited by the those bankers to just eight million to spend. So the story goes that Raffill rewrote the script from a hard SF film to a comic SF affair to make less it much dependent on SFX. 

So how did it fare with critics? The New York Times said upon its release that “THE ICE PIRATES,” which opens today at the Warner and other theaters, is a busy, bewildering, exceedingly jokey science-fiction film that looks like a ”Star Wars” spinoff made in an underdeveloped galaxy.” (Raffill for the record denies that it was based off of Star Wars at all.) 

And the Sunday Call-Chronicle said of it that “’The Ice Pirates,’ a cross between ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail,’ is amusingly silly through the first box of popcorn. After that, you’re on your own.” Ouch. 

Box office wise, it likely didn’t make money as it grossed only fourteen million against a budget that eventually hit nine million. So I doubt the bankers were very happy. 

It performs decently but not great at Rotten Tomatoes currently with a score of fifty percent among audience reviewers. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1883 Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. Wiki says she was a president of the United Amateur Press Association but I can’t confirm that elsewhere. And she was married to Lovecraft for two years. Her best-known story is “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” which was revised and edited by Lovecraft and renamed as “The Invisible Monster” when it got published in Weird Tales inNovember 1923. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. He shows up in a recurring role as Number Two on The Prisoner in  “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out”. Other genre appearances include Police Inspector McGill in X the Unknown, Bill Macguire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Professor Moriarty in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Voice of Gwent in “The Infernal Machine” episode of Space: 1999. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard of which she said in interviews that was impressed by Haggard’s novel She at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate her. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 16, 1931 Irene Champlin. Though she was short-lived, she’s remembered most as Dale Arden in the Fifties syndicated Flash Gordon series in which she was both intelligent and resourceful. Her entire acting  career was but three years in length, ending with in appearance on I Spy. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 71. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with By Demons Possessed being the current novel. She has dabbled in writing in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague” that was first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. All of the God Stalker Chronicles series are available from the usual suspects. 
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 70. Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. The Rules of Magic was nominated for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award.
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 51. Hoban “Wash” Washburne  in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.)  He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, he voiced a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on HBO Max, and he was a very irritating Mr. Nobody on the Doom Patrol series also on HBO Max.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville jokes about the multiverse.
  • Bizarro injects a moment of horror into the lives of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man family.

(9) THE SPRING BEFORE THE SUMMER OF LOVE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I’m at Galactic Journey today, reviewing Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman, while my colleague Victoria Silverwolf reviews Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak. Victoria obviously got the better deal: “[March 16, 1967] A Matter of Life and Death (Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak; Tarnsman of Gor, by John Norman)”.

(10) BASEDCON. Robert Kroese is organizing BasedCon 2022, following up last year’s event for alt-right sff authors. That said, I found it hard to resist the honesty of this line in his latest message:

…The biggest challenge once again is going to be money. I’m a moderately successful sci-fi author, which is another way of saying that I am poor…. 

(11) MERCIFUL MAUDE. “Disneyland’s Newest Menu Item Is Its Most Divisive Yet” claims The Takeout.

Though the Disney parks are known for all sorts of innovations, the food continues to be a big draw for many tourists. Some Disney fans go so far as to plan whole trips around sampling as many dishes as possible, and even Florida’s stork population seems to love the food on offer. Disneyland in California, however, has created a dish that might be a little divisive among park guests. I’m having some conflicted feelings about it right now just thinking about it. It’s dessert pasta, and everyone has an opinion.

This peanut butter and jelly pasta is now available at the Nuts About Cheese stand in Disneyland as part of the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival. I want to understand the motivations of whoever created this. Food writer and Takeout contributor Julie Tremaine sampled this new concoction for SFGate and came away with some mixed feelings.

The peanut butter & jelly mac involves macaroni noodles coated in a peanut butter sauce and finished off with a dollop of strawberry jelly, a sprinkle of brown sugar streusel, and a layer of strawberry crackle, which is pretty much just a serving of Pop Rocks….

(12) AFTER HE LANDED. Showtime released a teaser featuring the first five minutes from the new TV series The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on the novel by Walter Tevis and the iconic film starring David Bowie. Deadline reports that the series “will follow a new alien character (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution, and must confront his own past to determine our future.” It debuts April 24 on Showtime.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Free Guy,” the Screen Junkies say the game in Free Guy  is part Grand Theft Auto, part fortnite, and part Nothing at All, because the script was bought in 2016.  And did you know Taika Waititi and Ryan Reynolds worked together in Green Lantern?  Well, they did!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/21 Scrolls, Glorious Scrolls, Fresh Godstalked And Pixeled

(1) FUTURE RACE. Kathryn Finch discusses the way sff uses cross-species “hybrid” characters to discuss racial issues and how those depictions still often fail in “The Kids Aren’t Alright: The Race Essentialism of Sci-fi Hybrids” at Blood Knife.

…Whether it’s the regal elves and (literally) down-to-earth dwarves of the Lord of the Rings or the regal Vulcans and (not-so-literally) down-to-earth Klingons of Trek, world building often relies on generalizations. Race essentialism has been a useful shorthand for some writers, and giving each new race in a populous universe a specific “hat” to wear allows for the appearance of novelty and diversity, without the requirement to actually flesh out individual characters more than the minimum necessary for the purposes of the plot. This does not strike the casual observer as problematic, as the innate foreignness of a creature from another world is much more expected than any sort of familiarity.

And therein lies the problem. In the future, racism is not extinguished, but transformed. A conflict between two completely different species is patently understandable; they are, quite literally, otherworldly….

(2) LAVISH EDITIONS. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] Unsurprisingly, Michael Dirda is living in our libraries. “Critic’s picks: Best illustrated nonfiction books” in the Washington Post.

What do Santa Claus, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a certain Washington Post reviewer and the Lord High Executioner from “The Mikado” all have in common? Give up? Each of us has been known to say, “I’ve got a little list.” This holiday season, though, my list isn’t so little. In fact, it will extend over three weeks. This is the first, focusing on large-sized, illustrated nonfiction….

‘Spider-Man,’ by Roy Thomas (Folio Society, $125)

To complement his three-volume historical sampler of Marvel Comics (“The Golden Age,” “The Silver Age,” “The Bronze Age”), the company’s former editor in chief, Roy Thomas, has begun to assemble additional volumes, each devoted to a major superhero. After last year’s Captain Marvel, this fall’s release showcases everyone’s favorite web-slinger in eight representative Spider-Man adventures, starring either Peter Parker or Miles Morales. Given the ritzy Folio Society treatment, Spidey never looked so good — and that goes for his archenemies, too, including my grandson’s favorites, Venom and Doctor Octopus. So if you know someone enthralled by the Spider-Verse, your shopping is done.

(3) WATCH THIS SPACE. The Planetary Society lists “The Best of 2021” in space exploration. For example:

Most exciting planetary science moment

2021 was quite a year for space exploration firsts, but the one that voters loved best was the Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first flight. On April 19th the little spacecraft took its first leap off the Martian surface, becoming the first aircraft to complete a powered, controlled flight on another planet. 

(4) AFRICAN BOOKS HONORED. Brittle Paper’s list of “50 Notable African Books of 2021” includes several genre works, most notably —

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

(Editor) Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The collection celebrates African speculative fiction at its best, giving lovers of the genre an immersive experience of non-realist worlds. Well-known and new authors offer stories in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more.

(5) DOUGLAS Q&A. Ian Douglas is one of the many pseudonyms for William H. Keith, creator of many sff works. Writer’s Digest has published an interview with him: “Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction”.

What prompted you to write this book?

Alien Hostiles is the second entry in a three-book series, picking up where Book One—Alien Agendas—leaves off and continuing with plot elements introduced there … though it can also be read as a stand-alone work.

My reason for writing the entire series was, I suppose, prompted by my distaste for the extremely bad science and logic behind so many current UFO conspiracy theories, most of which read like very bad B-movie sci-fi. I was at particular pains to weave those theories—those I chose to include, of course—into a seamless whole, a plausible story with at least some reasonable science behind it.

Probably the one idea that was the most important in shaping the entire series has to do with the ubiquitous alien Grays, those big-headed guys with big black eyes and spindly bodies we seem to see everywhere nowadays. It is my contention that the Grays are far, far too human to literally be alien life forms. At several points throughout each of the books, I introduce real aliens, and try to show how different they would be in anatomy, biochemistry, and psychology.

In this way I suppose I follow in the sandal-prints of Poo-Bah, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, as I provide “corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”…

(6) EH? WHAT’S THAT? “Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)” at SlashFilm.

I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood films. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed that percentage has dropped significantly — and it’s not due to hearing loss on my end. It’s gotten to the point where I find myself occasionally not being able to parse entire lines of dialogue when I see a movie in a theater, and when I watch things at home, I’ve defaulted to turning the subtitles on to make sure I don’t miss anything crucial to the plot.

Knowing I’m not alone in having these experiences, I reached out to several professional sound editors, designers, and mixers, many of whom have won Oscars for their work on some of Hollywood’s biggest films, to get to the bottom of what’s going on. One person refused to talk to me, saying it would be “professional suicide” to address this topic on the record. Another agreed to talk, but only under the condition that they remain anonymous. But several others spoke openly about the topic, and it quickly became apparent that this is a familiar subject among the folks in the sound community, since they’re the ones who often bear the brunt of complaints about dialogue intelligibility…. 

(7) PODCAST PEOPLE. Podside Picnic episode 145 features Karlo Yeager Rodriguez and Connor Southard making their “Hugo Predictions Beer Run”. My hearing isn’t good enough to take a listen, which is too bad because there are a couple categories I’m curious to hear them talk about.

(8) SCORING ENCANTO. At Nerds of a Feather, Arthur Serrano’s “I’m Colombian. Here’s what ‘Encanto’ means to me” provides analysis of how the new Disney animated movie makes use of Colombian culture.

…So when I, a Colombian reviewer, draw attention to the significance of Mickey Mouse dancing cumbia at the end of Encanto, I’m absolutely not in any way framing it as our culture being finally worthy of being showcased by Hollywood. The question to ask is exactly the opposite: it’s whether Hollywood is worthy of getting its hands on our culture….

One example of it being deployed effectively:

…Just like in the United States you hear of a divide between the prosperous, educated, productive coastal cities vs. the neglected flyover country, in Colombia we have prosperous, educated, productive mountain cities vs. the neglected coasts and forests. It has become a habitual refrain to say that ruling elites in Colombia live secluded between mountains and oblivious to what goes on elsewhere. In the flashback scene where the matriarch of the Madrigal family loses her husband, bursts into tears and magically creates an entire town (am I the only one getting WandaVision vibes here?) so that she can raise her kids in safety, the most striking image is the rising of the mountains that keep her refuge closed off from the world. This is a symbolic clue to the persistent anxiety that defines this character: she’s afraid of everything outside of her microcosm.

It’s a brilliant move by the film to establish the grandmother’s character flaw in terms of her relation to physical space. It has been pointed out that Encanto is the rare adventure story where the adventure doesn’t leave the home, and there’s a solid reason for that. There’s a certain current in Colombian literature that treats the extended family household as a metaphor for the country…. 

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-six years ago, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space premiered in the USA at theaters though details of where are scant to say the least. It was not released elsewhere in this manner as far I can determine. 

It is about the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, a series akin to Captain Video. And it won’t surprise you that it was intended to pay homage to both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

The cast was Nichelle Nichols as Sagan, High Priestess of Pangea, Ron Perlman as Lord Vox of Vestron, Daniel Riordan as Ty Farrell / Captain Zoom, Liz Vassey as Princess Tyra, Native Leader of Pangea and Gia Carides as Vesper, High Priestess of Vestron. 

Reception was excellent with critics universally liking it. It hasn’t apparently been given a video release, nor does it apparently made it to the streaming services, so it has no rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, was a Hugo finalist at Loncon II and won one of the inaugural National Book Awards, the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included it as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modeled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 Malachi Throne. You’ve likely seen him if you watched genre television on the Sixties and Seventies as he had roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaStar TrekNext GenLand of the GiantsThe Time TunnelMission: Impossible, Lost in SpaceOuter LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. , Batman,  and The Six Million Dollar Man. He provided the voice of the Keeper in Trek’s first pilot episode “The Cage”. Throne was cast in another role in “The Menagerie”, Commodore José I. Méndez, so his voice has altered in his “Cage” role. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 Melissa Jaffer, 85. Likely you best remember her as Utu Noranti Pralatong on Farscape though she was also in Mad Max: Fury Road where she played Keeper of the Seeds. And she was Annie in the Good Vibrations series. And she played Adeline Fitzgerald on Glitch, the Australian paranormal series. It ran for seven seasons. 
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 79. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. (Yes Little, Big did a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV.) Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? 
  • Born December 1, 1962 Gail Z. Martin, 59. Best known for known for The Chronicles of The Necromancer fantasy adventure series. Her single award to date, and it is impressive, is the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy for her Scourge novel. It was the seventh time that she had been a finalist for it. 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 57. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In her World Fantasy Award-winning Tooth and Claw dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other. Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo at Chicon 7 is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. She even won an Aurora Award for her “Nidhog” poem! 
  • Born December 1, 1965 Bill Willingham, 56. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals, and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always quite ambivalent about the Jack of Fables series that he spun off of Fables. Though his House of Mystery was rather good. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SIX-PACK. In “6 Books with Marissa Lingen”, Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer gets to hear what’s on a writer’s shelves, or might be soon.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Megan E. O’Keefe’s Catalyst Gate, which is the culmination of a trilogy that starts with Velocity Weapon. It’s space opera that’s filled with spaceships, alien intelligence, nanites, and shooty-shoot–and also personal relationships and the human heart. The series is full of twists and turns, and I can’t wait to see where it all ends up.

(13) KDRAMA. The Silent Sea comes to Netflix on December 24.

With Earth in ruins, 24 hours on the clock, and the odds stacked against them, a team of space specialists embarks on a seemingly routine mission to the moon. But when things quickly take a turn for the worse, they’ll fight for their lives and uncover secrets that make their mission seem more and more impossible by the minute.

(14) THE MACHINES ARE TAKING OVER. ARE WE READY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for a bit of science culture from the nation that first put someone on the Moon (with the aid of Cavorite;).

A bit of one of the many cultural traditions in Brit Cit are the annual Reith LecturesBaron Lord Reith, in case your memory needs jogging, was the first Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC’s Reith Lectures were instituted in 1948 in his honour. These annual radio talks, with the aim of advancing “public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest” have been held every year since, with the exception of 1992.

This year the Reith Lectures’ topic will be Living With Artificial Intelligence. There will be one lecture per week this month broadcast Wednesdays 09.00 GMT. “The Reith Lectures – Reith Lectures 2021 – Living With Artificial Intelligence”.

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Centre for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of California, Berkeley will be the 2021 BBC Reith Lecturer. He will deliver four lectures this autumn, which will explore the impact of AI on our lives and discuss how we can retain power over machines more powerful than ourselves.

The lectures will examine what Stu Russell will argue is the most profound change in human history as the world becomes increasingly reliant on super-powerful AI. Examining the impact of AI on jobs, military conflict and human behaviour, Stu Russell will argue that our current approach to AI is wrong and that if we continue down this path, we will have less and less control over AI at the same time as it has an increasing impact on our lives. How can we ensure machines do the right thing? The lectures will suggest a way forward based on a new model for AI, one based on machines that learn about and defer to human preferences

The first lecture (already broadcast and online) is entitled What is AI and should we fear it?

In it Stuart Russell reflects on the birth of AI, tracing our thinking about it back to Aristotle. He will outline the definition of AI, its successes and failures, and potential risks for the future. Why do we often fear the potential of AI? Referencing the representation of AI systems in film and popular culture, Russell will examine whether our fears are well founded. As previous Reith Lecturer Professor Stephen Hawking said in 2014, “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” Russell will ask how those risks arise and whether they can be avoided, allowing humanity and AI to coexist successfully.

The lectures will be downloadable as an .mp3 for a month after broadcast. The
first is here.

(15) TOP 10. JustWatch says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the United States in November 2021:

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Free GuyThe Wheel of Time
2DuneDoctor Who
3GhostbustersCowboy Bebop (1998)
4Venom: Let There Be CarnageHawkeye
5Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsArcane
6Spider-ManFoundation
7Spider-Man: Far From HomeRick and Morty
8VenomBlade Runner: Black Lotus
9Spider-Man: HomecomingBattlestar Galactica
10The Amazing Spider-ManInvasion

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica reports “Russia threatens criminal charges against a NASA astronaut”.  (1) This traces back to the August 2018 “hole in the Soyuz” incident. (2) The headline implies criminal charges may be pending. That seems to be an overstatement, based on what is actually written in the article. The article could, however, have left out information that would support the headline.

The Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, said it has completed an investigation into a “hole” found in a Soyuz spacecraft when the vehicle was docked to the International Space Station in 2018.

Moreover, Roscosmos told the Russian publication RIA Novosti that it has sent the results of the investigation to law enforcement officials. “All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft were transmitted to Law Enforcement officials,” Roscosmos said. No further details were provided.

In Russia, the results of such an investigation are sent to law enforcement to allow officials to decide whether or not to initiate a criminal case, which would be akin to issuing an indictment…. 

Since then, the focus has been on what—or who—may have caused the hole. A micrometeoroid strike was soon ruled out. Some Russian media reported that the hole had been caused by a manufacturing or testing defect, and this seems to be the most plausible theory. At the same time, however, sources in the Russian government started baseless rumors that perhaps a disgruntled NASA astronaut had drilled the hole….

(17) MONSTROUS BEHAVIOR. “2022 National Park Monsters Calendar” strikes me as a highly amusing product. However, the seller I ordered it from bit me with an $8.99 “tax” that was not shown to me as part of my order and now I am disputing it. So no link….

Real National Parks; Fake Monsters! It’s the 2022 Alternate Histories Calendar, packed with monsters, aliens, zombies, and other creatures rampaging through America’s National Parks.

(18) ONE HACKER’S OPINION. Behind a paywall at Wired, Andy Greenberg makes the argument that “The Matrix Is the Best Hacker Movie“ ever. Oh, he admits that the actual amount of hacking shown is quite small, but, quoting an early viewer of the movie, Neo understood that “by interfacing with this black screen with glowing green writing on it, he could change the world in ways that it was not necessarily meant to be changed.”

Or, in Greenberg‘s words, “The real hacking in The Matrix is metaphorical. The red-pill lesson Morpheus gives Neo is that a user in a digital system doesn’t have to abide by its terms of service.“

…For years the generally accepted canon of classic hacker movies has been a kind of holy trinity: 1983’s WarGames, with its digital delinquent caught up in Cold War geopolitics; the 1992 computers-and-cryptography heist film Sneakers; and 1995’s teen cyber-hijinks thriller Hackers. With a couple of decades of hindsight, however, it’s well past time to recognize that The Matrix has in some ways eclipsed that triumvirate. As other hacker films ossify, turning into computer cat-and-mouse-game time capsules, The Matrix has become the most abiding, popular, and relevant portrayal of hacking—a brain-plug jacked so deeply into our cultural conception of the genre that we’ve almost forgotten it’s there….

(19) WE HAVE IGNITION. Yahoo! recaps a network TV show which includes a genre Christmas light extravaganza: “Homemade ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ decorations set high bar for Christmas displays”.

The holiday season was in full swing Sunday as ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight returned for yet another year. While there were no large crowds in attendance this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was still a festive celebration filled with thousands of lights and incredibly creative decoration themes. One of the more popular themes from the night was based on the stop-motion holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostbusters: Afterlife Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer pitch that all the fans who were mad at the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot will pay to see a “loving tribute” to the original, including the last third that “follows the third act of the original, beat for beat.”  Also the writer has the producer play “product placement Mad Libs,” which is why we have characters buying a lot of Baskin-Robbins ice cream at Wal-Mart.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/21 Put Another Dime In The Replicator, Baby!

(1) GET READY. It’s happening September 8: “’Star Trek’ Reveals 55th Anniversary Plans With ‘Star Trek’ Day Celebration”, and  Uproxx tells fans what to expect.

Not only is the iconic science-fiction series Star Trek living long and prospering — it’s having a pretty great time while it does. To help celebrate the series 55th year around the sun, CBS has announced the network is hosting a live-streamed Star Trek day celebration on September 8 starting at 5:30 pm PT. According to the description uploaded alongside the event’s trailer, the show will not only be a celebration of Star Trek’s legacy but will also provide fans with some “surprise announcements and reveals” as well as some exclusive new footage.

The Star Trek Day celebration will be hosted by The Next Generation star Wil Wheaton and actress/host/all-around geek icon Mica Burton. Together, the pair will hold “back-to-back in-person conversations” with members of the cast and crew of Star Trek shows, past and present, with particular emphasis on the future of the franchise. The event will also include a live orchestra performance by Jeff Russo, some big reveals, and, you guessed it, a whole lot of panels….

(2) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP AWARDED. Joan Lubin is the 2021 winner of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship sponsored by UO Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon. [Via Locus Online.].

The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight. SCUA is also in the process of acquiring the papers of other key feminist science fiction authors.

Fellowship description: This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2022, $3,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections. The fellowship selection committee will include representatives from the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and selected UO faculty.

(3) HEARING FROM THE SOURCE. Cora Buhlert has unveiled a Fancast Spotlight for So I’m Writing a Novel, an SFF-writing-focused podcast.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Well, as I like to say at the start of each episode:

So I’m Writing a Novel is the show where you join me, Oliver Brackenbury, on the journey of writing my next novel, from first ideas all the way to publication & promotion.

In this one-man-reality show I’ll share with you my ever evolving thoughts and feelings on how I write, being a writer, and everything that entails at each stage of the process. I’ll also answer listener questions and, sometimes, interview people who write fiction.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to learn how things are made, and get to know the people making them, then this is the show for you.”

The novel is a sword & sorcery short story cycle, meaning it’s a bunch of short stories following a fifteen year period in my protagonist’s life. Each story can stand alone, but readers are rewarded for reading from first to last.

Similarly I do my best to make each podcast episode work in isolation, providing short recaps as necessary, but starting from the beginning and working your way up will yield greater rewards.

(4) EMMY AWARD WINNERS. “’Love, Death, and Robots’ Season 2 Animation Goes Deeper” at IndieWire.

…In Season 2 of Neflix’s “Love, Death & Robots,” the adult animated anthology from executive producers David Fincher and Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) continued its embrace of survival and immortality in strange dystopian environments. However, there were eight shorts instead of 18 and a greater emphasis on philosophizing, with some directors stepping out of their comfort zones.

Indeed, the sci-fi anthology, produced by Blur Studio for Netflix, so impressed the TV Academy that it was awarded four juried prizes on Wednesday: Robert Valley, production designer (“Ice”); Patricio Betteo, background artist (“Ice”); Dan Gill, stop-motion animator (“All Through the House”); and Laurent Nicholas, character designer (“Automated Customer Service”)….

(5) TIME FOR PLAN B. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg says that Reminiscence is yet another failed movie about climate change and if Hollywood wants to deal with climate problems they should film Kim Stanley Robinson’s novels. “’Reminiscence’ highlights Hollywood’s inability to address climate change effectively”.

“Reminiscence,” a recent science fiction movie starring Hugh Jackman, takes place in a future Miami that has been transformed by rising sea levels into a new Venice. And yet, “Reminiscence” isn’t really about climate change or the response to it. Instead, the movie fixates on an addictive machine that lets users travel back into their memories. It’s about escape — not adaptation.As such, “Reminiscence” is a great illustration of how strangely passive and defeatist an industry full of Prius early adopters has been about the biggest challenge of our time….

(6) LEARN ABOUT LIGHTSAIL. Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye and members of the LightSail 2 mission team will do a Q&A following the Sailing the Light premiere event on Saturday, August 28, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific on YouTube.

Sailing the Light tells the story of the LightSail mission, a crowdfunded space science project from The Planetary Society. This groundbreaking mission showed that solar sailing — using the sun’s light to push a spacecraft through space — is a viable propulsion technology for CubeSats. These small, standardized spacecraft are part of a global effort to lower the cost of space exploration. Our LightSail 2 spacecraft, launched 25 June 2019, uses sunlight alone to change its orbit, and is currently operating under an extended mission to further advance solar sailing technology.

(7) DREAM FOUNDRY VIDEOS. More videos from this year’s Flights of Foundry have been released on the Dream Foundry YouTube channel.

(8) ON THE SPOT. In “Maggie’s World 093: Credit” for Comic-Con International: San Diego, Maggie Thompson tracks down the original, non-Disney art that illustrated a story she remembers from long ago:

I was 13. Mom used to buy Woman’s Day magazine (7 cents! cheaper than a comic book!) at the grocery store, and at some point I’d read her copy. The June 1956 issue cover-featured Danny Kaye—but there was also a cover notice about a serial starting in the issue: “Part 1 of a new novel: The GREAT DOG ROBBERY.”

I enjoyed the heck out of that first part—and the three that followed. However, when the novel was later published in book form, I noticed that the pictures I’d loved were missing and that the copyright page had this notice: “The Hundred and One Dalmatians appeared in serial form, with different illustrations, as ‘The Great Dog Robbery’ in Woman’s Day.”

What I didn’t know was who that original artist had been or why the art wasn’t in the book….

Thompson sent these notes along with the link to her post:

Disney’s animated version of Cruella first appeared in 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, in which she is voiced by Betty Lou Gerson and animated by Marc Davis who together crafted her into an iconic and memorable character. Disney based its version of Cruella on the personality and mannerisms of Tallulah Bankhead, and her long, lanky physical design came from Mary Wickes, who served as her live-action model.

When it came to Cruella, one of the only characters to ever be completely controlled by a single animator, Davis claimed his greatest inspiration was the vocal performance of Betty Lou Gerson.[16] Gerson commented in an interview how Davis incorporated her high cheekbones into Cruella’s face and how closely she had to work with him to perfect “the laugh.”

Marc Davis was the sole animator on Cruella De Vil. During production, Davis claimed her character was partly inspired by Bette Davis (no relation), Rosalind Russell, and Tallulah Bankhead. He took further influence from her voice actress, Betty Lou Gerson, whose cheekbones he added to the character. He later complimented, “[t]hat [her] voice was the greatest thing I’ve ever had a chance to work with. A voice like Betty Lou’s gives you something to do. You get a performance going there, and if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re off your rocker”.[20] While her hair coloring originated from the illustrations in the novel, Davis found its disheveled style by looking “through old magazines for hairdos from 1940 till now”. Her coat was exaggerated to match her oversized personality, and the lining was red because “there’s a devil image involved”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1957 – Sixty-four years ago, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss was published. The story was published as a book by Random House, and at approximately the same time in two issues of Redbook. The book has been adapted many times, first as an animated film narrated by Boris Karloff who also provided the Grinch’s voice. Eleven years later, a Halloween prequel titled Halloween Is Grinch Night aired with the Grinch voiced by Hans Conried better known as Snidely Whiplash in Jay Ward’s Dudley Do-Right cartoons.  Since then, there’s been the film starring Jim Carrey, a musical, an animated film with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing him, and a live television adaptation of the musical starring Matthew Morrison. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1904 Christopher Isherwood. I’ll first note, though not genre, that he wrote Goodbye to Berlin, the semi-autobiographical novel which was the inspiration for Cabaret. Genre wise, he co-wrote Frankenstein: The True Story with Don Bachardy, The Mortmere Stories with Edward Upward, and one short story in the Thirties, “I am Waiting.” (Died 1986.) 
  • Born August 26, 1904 Peter Lorre. Genre appearances included roles in the Verne-inspired movies Around the World in 80 Days, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Five Weeks in a Balloon. In the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film he was Comm. Lucius Emery, and in an Americanized version of Casino Royale done as a Fifties episode of the Climax! he played LeChiffre. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Shudder!)  He was in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s  best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 26, 1940 Peter Cave, 71. Author of three New Avengers novels (House of CardsLast of the Cybernauts and Hostage) and an Invasion: Earth novel as well, The Last Echo
  • Born August 26, 1958 Wanda De Jesus, 63. She’s Estevez in Robocop 2, a film that had its moments but rarely, and she has two other film genre roles, Lexie Moore in Captain Nuke and the Bomber Boys, and Akooshay in Ghosts of Mars. Series wise, she has a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Tales from The DarksideSeaQuest DSVHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and voicing a character on one of the Spider-Man series.
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 51. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m much more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Naomi Kritzer’s Hugo Award winning “Cat Pictures Please” premise.  (And we are not talking about The Happytime Murders in which she was involved. No, we’re not.) 
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 41. James T. Kirk in the current Trek film franchise; also Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman film franchise as well as voicing Jack Frost in Rise Of The Guardians. He was Peter Parker / Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which won a Hugo at Dublin 2019.

(11) BRITISH PROZINE COVER ART. Downthetubes.net shows the book will have a dynamic cover and plenty of fine interior art – as soon as the author figures out how it will be published: “Sneak Peek: Rayguns and Rocketships! a new book by Rian Hughes celebrating the cover art of 1950s and 60s SF”.

Heading to bookshops, soon, hopefully, from Korero Press is Rayguns and Rocketships, a celebration of 1950s and and 1960s British SF paperback cover art, compiled by ace artist, designer and author Rian Hughes.

Although the book has been listed on several booksellers web sites, Rian tells us the project that publication schedule is still to be decided, and may be the focus of a Kickstarter – more news to follow as we get it.

(12) JOCULARITY. Aaron Starr is “Treading Carefully” at Black Gate. So is this supposed to be an example of a successful or unsuccessful lighthearted send-up of a familiar set of social media concerns?

…“Well,” she responded, “what you did write, however well-intentioned, is almost certain to come off as condescending and simplistic to the people in question.” My representative snorted dismissively at this, rolling his eyes silently as she continued. “Many of these cultures rightly feel misrepresented, and might see this as cultural appropriation.”

“I can appreciate that,” I said carefully, as my representative shook his head in open disbelief at her words. “I do try to find a way to have people of the cultures I write about review a later draft, to clear up the biggest mistakes.  But I’m also writing in a world that isn’t exactly ours, so there are bound to be cultural differences anyway, right?” Her look was dubious, but she cut off her own retort and listened as I continued.

“Even a fantasy story in the most stereotypical medieval European setting is usually full of inaccuracies. Ask any historian. And even they don’t fully agree on lots of specifics. So it’s not just vastly different cultures from around the world that writers get wrong. It’s the roots of their own culture, as well. I’m going to bet that writers all over the world do the same thing. We’re writing fantasy and science fiction here, not historical textbooks.”…

(13) ORIGIN STORY. This trailer for The King’s Man dropped today, and has a red band for swearing and gore. It can only be viewed at YouTube.

As a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man must race against time to stop them. Discover the origins of the very first independent intelligence agency in The King’s Man.

(14) USE THE STIX, LUKE. Buzzfeed’s “29 Things For The Ultimate Star Wars Party” is just an excuse to make a post out of advertising, but I do like this item:

3. A pair of lightsaber chopsticks that’ll have your guests all aglow when dinner is served.

This set includes two lightsaber chopsticks. The “force” is strong with these (i.e., batteries are included).

Promising review: “These are the coolest chopsticks I have ever seen. The instructions for use and cleaning were clear and concise and the light that they give off is amazing!”

(15) MARCH OF TIME. “How a little shell tells us the day was 23½ hours long, once upon a time”, a 2019 article in The Indian Express.

…Today, Earth’s orbit is not exactly 365 days, but 365 days and a fraction, which is why our calendars have leap years, as a correction. In the new study, the most accurate estimate that can be made is in a whole number of days a year, said lead author Neils de Winter, a geochemist from Vrije Universiteit Brussel,

“We are pretty sure this number (372) is very accurate because of our new method of looking at multiple chemical records and multiple years. However, the exact number could be, for example, 372.25 or 371.75, just like it is approximately 365.25 days nowadays (when we count the leap days),” de Winter said, by email….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This episode of How It Should Have Ended about Black Widow (with Batman as guest star) dropped yesterday.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Miles Carter.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/21 Oh Scroll, Won’t You Scry Me An Einstein-Lorentz

(1) A LEGEND REMEMBERED. Russell Seitz reigned in 1970s fandom as “the world’s sixth nuclear power,” having bought all the parts needed to build a Titan II missile for under a thousand dollars from junkyards on the East Coast. At L.A.con (1972) he famously dueled Larry Niven beside the pool by firing corks from champagne bottles. “And we drank the propellants,” ends Niven’s version in Playgrounds of the Mind. Seitz is obviously the unnamed student in the opening anecdote of American Scientist’s article “The Forgotten Mystery of Inertia”.

In days of yore, at a World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, a Harvard graduate student polished his reputation as a brilliant mad scientist by roaming the convention halls, brandishing what at first glance appeared to be a rather peculiar steel bowling ball. Portholes perforated its surface, providing a glimpse of electronic hardware inside; tangled wires sprouted from the same holes, and a gear train surrounded the mysterious object’s equator.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

“It’s the gyro platform for an intercontinental ballistic missile,” he replied. “If you put it on a Titan rocket, it will fly to Kiev.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s an inertial guidance system, stupid. It knows where Kiev is.”

“I know how inertial guidance systems work, but how do you know it knows where Kiev is?”

“Oh, that. It was stamped on the box.”

This sorcerer’s apprentice had discovered that for $900 you could buy a surplus intercontinental ballistic missile, 10 years before the electronics were declassified. His Titan was delivered on two railway cars, “Kiev Titan Missile” stamped on the crates. He junked the body, donated the engines to an art museum, and saved the electronics for his research. A tall tale? Sounds like one, but the gyro platform was there for all to see….

(2) PERSEVERANCE ARRIVES TOMORROW. “NASA Rover Attempting Most Difficult Martian Touchdown Yet”U.S. News has the story.

Spacecraft aiming to land on Mars have skipped past the planet, burned up on entry, smashed into the surface, and made it down amid a fierce dust storm only to spit out a single fuzzy gray picture before dying.

Almost 50 years after the first casualty at Mars, NASA is attempting its hardest Martian touchdown yet.

The rover named Perseverance is headed Thursday for a compact 5-mile-by-4-mile (8-kilometer-by-6.4-kilometer) patch on the edge of an ancient river delta. It’s filled with cliffs, pits, sand dunes and fields of rocks, any of which could doom the $3 billion mission. The once submerged terrain also could hold evidence of past life, all the more reason to gather samples at this spot for return to Earth 10 years from now….

(3) PLANETARY SOCIETY’S FREE WATCH PARTY. “Mars Perseverance Rover Landing Watch Party” with Planetary Society President Bill Nye and special guests and will cheer on the landing of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Begins: February 18 at 11:30 a.m. PT / 7:30 p.m. UTC! The stream and chat window will begin at 11:15 a.m. PT / 7:15 p.m. UTC.

(4) YOUR NAME THERE. If you put in your name for NASA to send to Mars, you can get a freebie tomorrow: “Krispy Kreme Has A Mars Donut In Honor Of The Perseverance Rover”Delish has the story.

The Perseverance is landing this Thursday, February 18, in Mars’ Jezero Crater, so that’s when the donut will be available in shops. The rover will also be carrying the names of almost 11 million people who participated in NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” program and Krispy Kreme has an exciting surprise for those people. In addition to your name being in SPACE (how cool are you, by the way??), Krispy Kreme will also give you this Mars donut for FREE. All you have to do to get one is to show your NASA-issued Mars 2020 Perseverance “boarding pass” to redeem.

(5) MATHIS OBIT. [Item by Edmund Schluessel.] Jazz vocalist Nicki Mathis died December 28, 2020 at the age of 84. An established singer who built her career in the northeastern US, genre fans may know Mathis best for an otherwise-obscure accomplishment made at the age of 30 in El Paso, Texas: singing the songs “Forgetting You” and “Love Inside This Magic Circle” on the soundtrack to Hal Warren’s no-budget horror film Manos: the Hands of Fate. The film became infamous when it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the show’s fourth season. Mathis received no credit for the performance but cult horror fans reconnected with her when the movie gained notoriety and she rerecorded both tracks for the Manos Returns soundtrack in 2018. In addition to her achievements as a musician Mathis also earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. Mathis’s songs from Manos Returns can be heard on Bandcamp here.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 17, 1990 — On this day in 1990, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.  It was the fifteenth episode of the third season, first airing in syndication. It marked the return of Tasha Yar and gave her the heroic death that she didn’t get the first time. It had the third highest rating of the entire series. Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric A. Stillwell Wrote the story with the teleplay being done by Ira Steven Behr, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler and Ronald D. Moore. Critics and audience reviewers alike agree that this is an outstanding episode. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 17, 1896 – Charles R. Tanner.  Co-founder of the long-time and much-loved Cincinnati Fantasy Group, which hosted Cinvention the 7th Worldcon; CRT was chairman.  Charter member of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), co-edited The National Fantasy Fan.  A score of short stories.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born February 17, 1903 Kenne Duncan. He’s got a number of genre credited starting with the 1938 Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars serial where he was the Airdrome Captain. He’d play Ram Singh, the butler to the Spider, in The Spider’s Web and The Spider Returns serials, and he’d be Lt. Lacy in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. Several years later, he’d be Cheney Hencheman Barnett in The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial. You can see him in the first chapter of Spider’s Web serial here, (Died 1972.) (CE)
  • Born February 17, 1911 – Margaret St. Clair.  Eight novels, a hundred thirty shorter stories, some under other names; also detective fiction.  I’ve a soft spot in my heart for “The Wines of Earth”.  Memoir in M. Greenberg ed., Fantastic Lives.  Library & Archives Canada published a Compendium last year.  “Unlike most pulp writers, I have no special ambitions to make the pages of the slick magazines.  I feel that the pulps at their best touch a genuine folk tradition and have a balladic quality which the slicks lack.”  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with some fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born February 17, 1930 Ruth Rendell. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her mysteries down the decade but am not familiar at all with the three listed as genre by ISFDB (The Killing DollThe Tree of Hands and The Bridesmaid). Who of you is familiar with these? (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born February 17, 1931 – Johnny Hart.  Fantasy abounds in both of his fine and possibly great comic strips B.C. and The Wizard of Id (with Brant Parker), both being continued after JH’s (and BP’s) death.  Fantasy in a strip featuring a wizard goes without saying – oops.  In B.C. one of my favorites is the ability of well-nicknamed Clumsy Carp to make water balls.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born February 17, 1939 Kathy Keeton. Founder and publisher of Omni. It was founded by her and her partner and future husband Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse. It would publish a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata”, Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” “and “Johnny Mnemonic” and George R. R. Martin’s “Sandkings” to name a few of the stories that appeared there. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born February 17, 1947 – Bruce Gillespie, age 74.  Outstanding fanziner, pre-eminently with SF Commentary, a zine physically handsome, thoughtful (which doesn’t mean I agree with everything said in it, how could that be?), dauntless.  Three Ditmars (one an Atheling for criticism), two FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. Fan Guest of Honour at Aussiecon Three the 57th Worldcon.  Through a Bring Bruce Bayside fund attended Corflu 22 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable), Potlatch 14.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born February 17, 1958 – Lynda Williams, age 63.  Nine novels, three shorter stories in her Okal Rel universe, to which others have also contributed; two more stories.  Founded British Columbia journal Reflections on Water.  [JH]
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 50. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. She’ll be a few years later Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She’s been announced as playing Victoria Darw in the recent Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove. (CE) 
  • Born February 17, 1974 Jerry O’Connell, 47. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind-the-broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League Dark, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent. (CE)
  • Born February 17, 1987 – Emilie Léger, age 34. Four covers, a dozen interiors for us; others too.  Here is Brins d’éternité 36 (French, “strands of eternity”).  Here is Solaris 217.  Here is Soleil de glace (“Ice Sun”).  Here is Asian Sun.  Here is Au-delà des lumières (“Beyond the Lights”).  “I have often observed the sky and I may be in the sky of someone else observing.”  [JH]

(8) HIGHSMITH CENTENNIAL. Thriller writer Patricia Highsmith was born a hundred years ago in January, which prompted this tribute from Punk Noir Magazine: “Patricia Highsmith at 100 by K A Laity”.

One hundred years ago the Cottingley Fairies were brought to the public’s attention by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… 

One hundred years ago today Patricia Highsmith was born to a mother at best ambivalent and a father who was already heading out the door of their Texas home…. 

The Cottingley Fairies were adorable and sweet, something people longed to see. Highsmith is everything opposite to that, and yet just as arresting and memorable one hundred years later because she captured something no one wants to see, but knows lurks in the mind or heart of people who kill. She found her killers likable, but feared and hated people who made noise….

(9) BOB LEMAN REVISITED. Andrew Porter sent me the link to “Lesser-Known Writers: LEMAN Bob” and when I reached this paragraph I remembered why I recognized his name, even though this all happened long before I got into fandom —

…Probably the most brilliant writing in The Vinegar Worm was Leman’s championing of the forgotten writer Dorcas Bagby (1883-1963), for whose novel The Moswell Plan (1905) Leman makes a strong case for it being “the greatest novel of the supernatural ever written.”  Of course it was a hoax: Miss Bagby and her novel existed only in Leman’s imagination, but it was kind of Leman to share this wonderful conception of an imaginary writer and her oeuvre with the world.

(10) SCIENCE AND FICTION. Pocket revisits the massive mouse experiment of the Sixties and its literary spinoff: “The Doomed Mouse Utopia That Inspired the ‘Rats of NIMH’”.

…But there was one person who paid attention to his more optimistic experiments, a writer named Robert C. O’Brien. In the late ’60s, O’Brien allegedly visited Calhoun’s lab, met the man trying to build a true and creative rodent paradise, and took note of the Frisbee on the door, the scientists’ own attempt “to help when things got too stressful,” as Calhoun put it. Soon after, O’Brien wrote Ms. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH—a story about rats who, having escaped from a lab full of blundering humans, attempt to build their own utopia. Next time, maybe we should put the rats in charge.

(11) HERE SPOTS. Disney dropped a trailer for Cruella, the 101 Dalmatians prequel.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  The Medium” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this Polish game features a medium who “suffers from plot-convenient amnesia.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Edmund Schluessel, John Hertz, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Todd Mason, David Doering, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, rcade, Contrarius, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/13/20 There’s A Right Way To Pixel, A Wrong Way To Pixel, And There’s The Scroll Way To Pixel

(1) BLYLY IN STAR-TRIBUNE AGAIN. Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore owner Don Blyly, who made the front page in Minneapolis yesterday, was back in the news today when the city announced it has reversed a policy that has made it hard to get demolition permits: “City removes tax demand that was blocking rebuilding of riot-torn Minneapolis”.

Minneapolis officials will no longer require property owners to prepay the second half of their property taxes in order to start removing rubble from sites damaged in the May riots.

Mayor Jacob Frey announced the change Thursday after the Star Tribune reported on the controversy.

…Minneapolis property owners have complained that the policy was slowing the pace of recovery and turning piles of debris into public safety hazards. The situation is different in St. Paul, which has been issuing demolition permits without requiring the prepayment of the second half of 2020 property taxes, which are due in October.

…“This will remove one small roadblock, but I am not sure how much it will actually speed up the entire rebuilding process,” said Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores in Minneapolis, which were destroyed in the riots. “You are still going to have the problem of a whole lot of demolition permits being handled by people who are working at home because of COVID-19.”

Blyly, who hired a contractor to remove the rubble from his lot a month ago, still doesn’t have his demolition permit, even though he paid his taxes last week.

Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson said he will introduce legislation at Friday’s council meeting that would require city officials to expedite the approval process for riot-damaged properties and waive all administrative fees.

“We should be processing their applications first, in front of everyone else’s, and they shouldn’t be subject to any unnecessary steps that are slowing stuff down,” Johnson said. “We need to bend over backward and do everything possible to help them with rebuilding.”

(2) F&SF COVER. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Sept/Oct 2020 cover art is by Bob Eggleton for “The Shadows of Alexandrium” by David Gerrold.

(3) QUITE A FASCINATING ARTICLE. In “My First Thriller: David Morrell” on CrimeReads, Rick Pullen interviews Morrell, who explains that sf writer and Penn State English professor Philip Klass not only inspired Morrell to find the path he needed to complete First Blood (whose protagonist was John Rambo) but also introduced Morrell to his first agent.

…He read the show’s credits, noting that Stirling Silliphant was the creator. His local library found the address for the “Route 66” production company (the beginning of Morrell’s love affair with libraries). He mailed Silliphant a hand-written letter, saying “I want to be you.” Surprisingly, Silliphant wrote back with a single-spaced, two-page letter within the week. (The framed letter now hangs in Morrell’s office.)

“I wish I had some specific advice for you or encouragement,” wrote Silliphant, “but what I have to say is certainly not new. Keep writing…eventually if you have something of promise to say, someone will help you or hire you.”

…While at Penn State, he met science fiction writer Philip Klass, better known by the pseudonym William Tenn, who taught the basics of fiction writing.

“It was astonishing that a university would hire a real writer. He did not have a degree. He was the backbone of their creative writing department…I couldn’t get into his classes. They filled up right away. So Klass agreed to meet me during office hours.”

To test Morrell, Klass instructed him to turn in a short story every week, and every week he did.

Eventually Klass summoned Morrell to his office and begged him to stop writing fiction. “You’re terrible,” he said.

“He was right,” Morrell says. “I was writing bad Joyce and Faulkner.”

From Klass, he learned “every writer has a dominant emotion.” Morrell’s was fear. Maybe if he wrote honestly about fear, Klass told him, he would stop writing all of his horrible imitation fiction.

“I took him at his word.”…

(4) HELP NEEDED. Filer Lenora Rose hopes someone can lend a hand:

I have a writer’s issue to do with language — specifically semi-Nordic language — and I think this might be the right place to ask for help?

So I’m dealing with a fantasy setting that is used for the course of at least three books. One of the countries major characters come from speaks something I have been rendering, for the purpose of getting through the rough drafts, as quasi-Nordic — sometimes actually looking up words in Swedish or Norwegian or Icelandic and picking the one that sounds the least like English, and also going a Germanic style take two or three words and squish them together. It didn’t help that I decided they were the culture where the names of humans mostly translate to other nouns (Snow, Willow, etc) and the names of the non-human sapient race are usually those Germanic-style squished-together compounds (Bright Witty Magpie is one, as is Stream in Spring Flood). The protagonist is a multi-linguist and cares about this stuff.

Well, the story is now getting into final draft stages in every other way, and the placeholder language is still something that would almost certainly give any linguist or speaker of any of the related Scandinavian languages creeping horrors.

It certainly bothers me, because in the “I don’t know what I don’t know” way, I’m terrified I am going to end up, (as one author did when inventing names she thought sounded Welsh), naming someone a slang term for women’s hygiene products or something similarly terrible.

So basically I need a consult with someone who speaks a related language and would be willing to make non-painful translations or naming suggestions, or a linguist to do the same. *I am assuming this is something where I should pay for their time in some way*, at least if it goes past an initial consultation.

If anyone is willing to help, please relay your email through OGH – mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

(5) HUGO RIPPLES. The KPBS website keeps the story alive: “Criticism Of 2020 Hugo Awards Spotlights A Lack Of Inclusivity In Literary Fiction World”.

….With 2020 seeing the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, leading to many conversations about inclusivity, [George R.R.] Martin’s mispronunciations have taken on a deeper meaning.

“The backlash is absolutely justified,” said Hugo award winner and British fantasy author Jeanette Ng. “But I am sometimes frustrated that it gets reduced down to an anger about him mispronouncing names rather than this deeper tension between competing visions of the genre and the award…Whilst the mispronunciations matter, they are ultimately a symptom of that deeper disconnect of what the [awards are meant to do].”

(6) ASFA SPONSORS BIPOC MEMBERSHIPS. The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists is offering “Sponsored Memberships For BIPOC”. Donations have raised the number available to 15.

In recognition of systemic biases against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & other People of Color)  both within the Speculative Fiction & Fantasy communities and without, the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists intends to sponsor memberships in the organization for BIPOC artists. These sponsorships will be open to up-and-coming artists as well as established artists, and each membership will convey voting rights in the annual Chesley Awards in addition to periodic opportunities to exhibit in shows with other ASFA artists. Additionally, ASFA encourages its BIPOC members to participate in our Board elections, as candidates for Board positions and as voters, to ensure that the organization’s representatives are truly representative of our membership and our aspirations for the community overall.

If you are interested in receiving one of these memberships please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/YF23aYPvMPe4mob86

(7) MARK ON HISTORY. “NASA wants nuclear-contaminated Santa Susana site to be made a historic landmark”. I guess that this is the first time I ever heard about the meltdown is inherently explained by the cover-up. But I grew up at the other end of the San Fernando Valley feeling the earth tremble when they used to test rockets over there.

The site of America’s first nuclear meltdown — and subsequent cover-up — in the picturesque hills of Ventura County may soon join Hearst Castle, the cable cars of San Francisco, and the Santa Barbara Mission as an official landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.

In what some have described as a cynical attempt by a U.S. government agency to avoid a long-promised cleanup of toxic and radioactive contaminants, NASA has nominated the Santa Susana Field Laboratory for official listing asa traditional cultural property.

…Hidden within the chaparral and rocky peaks of the Simi Hills, the Santa Susana Field Lab conducted research that was critical to the nation’s Cold War ambitions, yet toxic to the Earth. The partial meltdown released radioactive gasses that the public was never warned about, and spent rocket fuel, heavy metals and other toxins contaminated the soil and groundwater.

…Now, NASA and a coalition of Native American groups have proposed the area be designated a traditional cultural district. The move has been opposed by critics, who fear that strict laws protecting Native American artifacts, combined with terms of the 2010 agreement, could make it difficult to clean up contamination.

(8) WHY JUST BEING NOMINATED IS A PLUS. The Dragon Awards nominations inspired John Scalzi to signal boost his 2019 post “Hey, Let’s Talk Awards For a Bit: A Handy Guide For Dealing With Them”. He makes many points drawn from his experience as a nominated writer. For example —  

4. Winning an award is not always as important as being a finalist. I can speak to this personally: In terms of my career, it was far more important for me to have been nominated for the Best Novel Hugo award in 2006, than it was for me to win it in 2013. Why? Because in 2006 I was new to the field, and having my first novel nominated was a thing, especially when coupled with the nomination for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I was the first person in more than twenty years to get nominated for the Campbell and Best Novel in the same year, and it changed my status in the field from “who is John Scalzi” to “oh, that’s John Scalzi.”

I didn’t win the Hugo that year (nor should I have: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson won, and deservedly so), but it didn’t matter because the boost put me in a different career orbit. When I did win the Best Novel award, several years later, it was great, and I loved it, and I wouldn’t trade the experience. But careerwise, it wasn’t a transforming event. It was a confirming event. My professional career didn’t change all that much after I won. Whereas being nominated earlier was transforming, and ultimately more important to my career.

(9) BOOKS ARE FLYING OUT THE DOOR. Entertainment Weekly reports “Twilight companion novel Midnight Sun sells 1 million copies in first week”.

…The novel, which follows the love story between vampire Edward Cullen and high schooler Bella Swan that fans originally fell for in the first Twilight book back in 2005, is currently No. 1 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List as well as on The New York Times’s Children’s Series List. While the original book series —which was adapted into a franchise of movies starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the leading roles — was told from the point of view of Bella, this version takes readers inside the mind of her bloodsucking boyfriend, Edward.

Something about that last line sounds a little off….

(10) BITING FOR BYTES. What made me think of that headline, I wonder, “The Big Idea: Julie E. Czerneda” at Whatever.

…Esen the Living Archive

When I first envisioned Web-beings, it was a thought experiment on a biological basis for being semi-immortal. I arrived at the notion of organisms who manipulate their molecular structure using energy to repair aging and damage. It led me to aliens who’d hide themselves by cycling, as I called it, into the form of shorter-lived intelligent species. To be convincing, they’d need to know how to behave as one. Thus I had them (there were six at the start) collect and share everything they discovered about a species, from its biology (and thus how to be that form) to every aspect of society and culture.

When your memory consists of your flesh, you’re able to store vast amounts of information, which Web-beings exchange by biting off bits of one another. (I love my job.)…

(11) A CONZEALAND SOUVENIR. W.O.O.F. #45 put together by the Worldcon Order of Fan-Editors for CoNZealand is a free download from eFanzines [PDF file]. It boasts a cover by Tim Kirk, and contributions from John Purcell, Chris Garcia, Rich Lynch, Chuck Connor, Ahrvid Engholm, Evelyn & Mark Leeper, David Schlosser, Mark Blackman, Andrew Hooper, Murray Moore, Kees van Toorn, Wolf von Witting, R. Laurraine Tutihasi, Roger Hill, Alan Stewart, and Phil Wlodarczyk. Guy H. Lillian III served as the Offcial Editor.  

(12) I DON’T KNOW — THIRD BLAST! On the Dragon Awards site: “A Blast from the Past (Winners) – Part 3” with Kevin J. Anderson, Nick Cole, Larry Correia, Richard Fox, Claudia Gray, Brian Niemeier, S.M. Stirling, and Harry Turtledove.

If you were a voting electorate of one, what book by any other author would you give a Dragon Award to? What books by other authors would you recommend to those who voted for or enjoyed your book?

Nick Cole: I’m going to decline naming any authors because I have too many talented friends. If you enjoyed Ctrl Alt Revolt!, I guess I would recommend that you read any book by any author who’s been cancelled. Instead of just arbitrarily listening to someone’s opinion on some author and why they should be banned, blacklisted, and their works burned in a bonfire either digital or physical, I think you should take the time to read that book, listen to that person, and come to the conclusion yourself.

(13) BOOK ANNVERSARY.

  • August 2015 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] The House of Shattered Wings, the first of her Dominion of The Fallen series by French-Vietnamese author Aliette de Bodard was published by Roc in the U.S.  It would be the first novel in what has been a prolific and award-rich writing career. In addition to the decadent, ruined Paris set of the Dominion of The Fallen series, there’s her Xuya stellar empire where she makes rich use of her French-Vietnamese heritage. Of the new writers I’ve been reading (and most are female), I think she’s one that bears watching as it’ll be interesting to see what new universes come from her. And yes I’m waiting for the first Xuya novel somewhat impatiently.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard cover art by Nekro
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard cover art by Nekro

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 13, 1953 — George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds premiered in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Not New York City as is popularly believed.) It was directed by Byron Haskin from the screenplay by Barré Lyndon. It starred Gene Barry and Anne Robinson. It was narrated by Cedric Hardwicke. The film was both a critical and box office success with it earning back its budget in its first run. And it would won an Academy Award for Special Effects. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 71% rating. (CE)

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered  and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though In the war film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part was awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin. He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in. “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1928 – Sir George Pollock, Bt.  The 5th baronet (an oversimplification); pursued photography that had light itself as its subject; invented color photographs using controlled light, originally through glass, which he called Vitrograph; later, large-scale photographic murals.  Five book and magazine covers for us; here is New Writings in SF 3.  Two album covers for His Master’s Voice; here is HQM 1008 with Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale (translation in part by Michael Flanders!), here is HQM 1026 with Prokofievand Shostakovich.  Here is Galactic Event.  Website here (under re-construction but some help).  Appreciation by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain here (“NGV” is Nat’l Gallery of Victoria) (PDF).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1932 – John Berkey.  A hundred seventy covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Mixed his own colors.  Here is Starman Jones.  Here is Star SF 6.  Here is the Nov 94 SF Age.  Here is a Star Wars book.  Here is One Giant Leap.  Four artbooks; lastly J. Frank ed., The Art of John Berkey.  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Website here.   (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1945 – Rita Krupowicz.  (She usually signed “R.J. Krupowicz”.)  Ten covers, as many interiors.  Here is The Dark Cry of the Moon.  Here is the Nov 85 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  This is from The Vortex Library on Twitter.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1952 – Donna Barr, 68.  Enlisted in the U.S. Army, school-trained Teletype operator.  Much of her work self-published, available electronically.  Stinz was serialized in the Eclipse Comics series The Dreamery (hello, Lex Nakashima).  GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) and Traveller role-playing books.  “I usually do a rough on scrap paper (junk mail has lots of blank backs!), happily cutting and pasting, then I copy the whole thing (so the back is clear), rearrange the copy backwards on the back of the final paper, slap in some lettering guides, flip it over on a light table, and use it as a rough guide while I ink.  No penciling, and no erasing.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1974 – Christina Henry, 46.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Alice, Red Queen and Looking Glass are “a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”; The Girl in Red is “a post-apocalyptic Red Riding Hood novel”.  The Ghost Tree, expected next month, is “an homage to all the coming-of-age horror novels I read when I was younger – except all those books featured boys as the protagonists when I longed for more stories about girls.  Just to clarify, though – this is not a young adult novel; it’s intended for an adult audience (like all of my work).”  [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 43. Though you might know him from  the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and  On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter. (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 30. She plays the complex role of Baldwin on the Counterpart series which I’ve got on the iPad for watching soon. Anyone watch this? (CE) 
  • Born August 13, 1990 – Marlon Pierre-Antoine, 30.  “Helena’s Empire” is an E-book novelette.  Its sequel Wandering Stars explores a teenage girl’s whblooming romance with Lucifer (i.e. after his fall), whom she meets on a beach.  MP ranks The Divine Comedy above Animal Farm, both below The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  [JH]

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) DC SECRET HISTORY. “John Ridley Unveils ‘The Other History of the DC Universe'”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Years after the completion of the second outing of his alternate history series The American Way12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley is returning to comics to reveal The Other History of the DC Universe. The long-awaited series, exploring DC’s lengthy comic book mythology from a new angle, has been newly scheduled for a November release.

The five-part series, originally announced in 2018, re-examines important and iconic moments from DC’s comic book history from the point of view of characters from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including Jefferson Pierce — better known as Black Lightning — and Renee Montoya (The Question). Giuseppe “Cammo” Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, and colorist José Villarrubia are the artists for the series, with covers from Camuncoli and Jamal Campbell (Far Sector, Naomi)….

(18) THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES. “Netflix soured the live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its showrunners say” – a story on Vox.

In a rare public fallout for Netflix, the creators of the platform’s highly anticipated, live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the acclaimed Nickelodeon cartoon, have walked away from the project.

Avatar: The Last Airbender’s full run became available on Netflix this past June, attracting a huge audience and reigniting the 2000s cartoon’s popularity. But in separate posts published to their respective blogs and InstagramsAvatar franchise creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko said they were no longer involved with the previously announced Netflix remake, due to prolonged creative differences.

“When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago,” Konietzko wrote in his Instagram post, “they made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. … [T]he general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment.”

“I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded,” DiMartino added on his own website. “So, I chose to leave the project.”…

(19) HALLOWEEN CUISINE. The Horror Writers Association calls on members to stir up some entries for the “Horror D’oeuvres Recipe Contest”.

(20) THE FORUM ON BRADBURY. Today’s episode of BBC’s The Forum: “Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction”.

”People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it.” Ray Bradbury has been acclaimed as the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream but, as the quote above shows, he regarded himself as the author of modern philosophical fables, rather than a sci-fi writer. In his dystopian works, such as Fahrenheit 451, he holds up a mirror to contemporary society and then transposes it into fantastical and futuristic scenarios. Bradbury was a prolific writer who tried his hand at everything from poems and novels to TV and radio scripts but it’s his early short stories which he produced in his twenties that are perhaps the most imaginative.

To mark the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, Rajan Datar is joined by three Bradbury experts to help him navigate through the author’s prodigious output: Professor Jonathan Eller from Indiana University who is also the Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies; Dr. Miranda Corcoran who teaches American literature at University College Cork with particular interest in science fiction, horror and the gothic; and Dr. Phil Nichols who combines research into Bradbury’s TV and other media work with the teaching of Film and Television Production at Wolverhampton University.

(21) TOONING OUT. Camestros Felapton’s attention was drawn to “The Webtoon Short Story Contest” by Vox Day’s complaints that his Arkhaven Comics entry got no love from the judges:

Where there are stories gathered together there are story competitions and Webtoon is no different. They recently held their Short Story competition with the winners announced here https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/contest/us-contest-2020. It’s a juried award with cash prizes that splits winners and runners up into two categories: “Brain” for stories that blow your mind and “Heart” for stories that warm your heart (Rules and FAQs).

“Why are you telling us all this Camestros?” I hear you say….

Camestros proceeds to make some interesting observations.

After looking at those, you can also read Vox’s complaints in “Unappreciated and unawarded” [Internet Archive]. (Or not!)

And it wasn’t just unawarded. Midnight’s War somehow didn’t even qualify as one of the 36 runners-up despite being one of the top 10 ranked in Popularity and earning a higher rating than two out of the three Silver winners.

This tells me that Arkhaven needs to seriously rethink our plan to use Webtoons as a platform…. 

(22) NUH-UHHH! “Dwayne Johnson Can’t Convince His Daughter He Starred In ‘Moana'”NPR transcript.

Dwayne Johnson’s character in the Disney film Moana is beloved by kids everywhere. However, his daughter refuses to believe that her dad lent the character his voice.

(23) FIRST-PERSON NON-SHOOTERS. “The U.S. Military Is Using Esports As A Recruitment Tool” – another NPR transcript.

…JAY PRICE, BYLINE: Esports has exploded in the past few years. There are pro leagues, bricks and mortar arenas, players with six-figure salaries. Millions of people log on to streaming platforms like the Amazon owned Twitch to watch games and interact with players and each other. Many are of recruiting age. The military has taken notice. Major General Frank Muth just finished a stint leading U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

FRANK MUTH: This really has brought us into the modern era of where this generation and the next generation – they’re mainly hanging out online all the time.

PRICE: The four largest military services all now have teams or official players. Sergeant Nicole Ortiz is on the Army’s team. Her role includes playing games while socializing and explaining military life to viewers, like her own as an IT specialist.

NICOLE ORTIZ: A lot of them, they look at movies and think that the Army is just about war and shooting guns. In reality, I used to work at a help desk.

PRICE: Recruiting brass say the new esports push is already helping, especially given the difficulties of face-to-face recruiting during the pandemic. Part of the allure is being able to interact directly with viewers through the chat function. And that’s where the military’s esports initiative ran into some trouble.

KATIE FALLOW: What they did here is impermissible under the First Amendment.

PRICE: Attorney Katie Fallow is with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She represents an activist named Jordan Uhl. On the Army and Navy Twitch channels, he posted messages including, what’s your favorite U.S. war crime? Uhl was banned from both, along with dozens of others who posted similar messages or other comments the military gamers deemed improper.

FALLOW: Because they basically said, we don’t like that you’re raising questions about war crimes or things that the military is sensitive about. And they blocked people based on their viewpoints.

(24) SOONER OF LATER IT ALL ADDS UP. In “The Cost of Perseverance, in Context”, the Planetary Society says the cost of the latest Mars Exploration Rover mission sounds quite modest compared to some other chosen figures.

NASA expects to spend approximately $2.7 billion on the Perseverance rover project. This number can sound large, even excessive, to some—but it’s a number that demands context. Let’s give it some….

The total cost of the Perseverance rover is equivalent to…

(25) FAILURE TO LAUNCH. “Bird watching: The robin that thinks a cuckoo is its baby” (despite the cuckoo being bigger than the robin…) Short BBC video.

They say birds of a feather flock together, but what are the chances of a robin and cuckoo sharing a bit of lunch?

Well, County Donegal woman Maureen Carr captured the moment a red-breasted bird shared its meal.

(26) PUT IT IN REVERSE. BBC reports “London bus garage to become world’s largest ‘trial power station’”.

…Northumberland Park garage will host vehicle-to-grid technology, which feeds energy stored in parked electric buses back into the electricity network.

If the government-funded Bus2Grid project is rolled out across London it could power an estimated 150,000 homes.

The project will begin in November and run for three years.

Putting energy back into the grid when demand is high and recharging buses when demand is low helps make the network more efficient by balancing the peaks and troughs.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “A fleet of bus batteries harnesses large amounts of electricity and they are habitual, with regular and predictable routes, driving patterns and timings.

“That means we can easily predict and plan for how we can use any spare electrical capacity they can offer.”

(27) FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE. Forbidden Planet, the world’s largest and best-known comic book and cult entertainment retail chain, is throwing itself a 42nd birthday party — Forbidden Planet 42 – an online event featuring many genre and other celebrities. 

On Saturday August 29th 2020ForbiddenPlanet.com will play host to a huge range of celebrity interviews, as alumni from the worlds of science fiction, comics & popular culture come together to help the store celebrate 42 years of pop-culture addiction – and ponder the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everythingwith an all-star cast of our oldest friends & customers! 

This star-studded online event will feature new, exclusive interviews with some of Forbidden Planet’s most celebrated customers including William ShatnerDMCNeil Gaiman, Alice CooperJonathan RossGerard WayGarth EnnisKevin Smith, Michael Moorcock, Simon Pegg, Mark MillarDan Slott, V.E. Schwab, Dave GibbonsBrian BollandDirk MaggsChris Claremont & Ben Aaronovich amongst others, hosted by Forbidden Planet’s Andrew Sumner.

 As part of the Forbidden Planet 42 celebrations, this online extravaganza will also host a tribute to Forbidden Planet’s old friend – the late, great Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) in the shape of a rare, never-before-heard interview with Douglas (recently discovered in the Forbidden Planet vaults) conducted by another old pal, celebrated author Neil Gaiman.

[Thanks to Kathryn Sullivan, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John Hertz, Rose Embolism, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gordon Van Gelder, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of the ridiculous number of stories in today’s Scroll. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

More Bradbury Literary Dividends

(1) IN VINO VERITAS. How’s your Finnish? Tähtivaeltajablogi has put up a post about the translation of Bradbury’s Dandleion Wine, “Kirjat – Ray Bradbury: Voikukkaviiniä”. The beautiful cover speaks for itself!

(2) LASFL DAZE. “Ray Bradbury’s Clubhouse” chronicles Ray’s earliest contact with fandom at First Fandom Experience.

…In Surround Yourself With Your Loves and Live Forever, edited by John L. Coker III, Bradbury’s friend Ray Harryhausen later recalled:

“In the mid-1930s when I was still in high school, Forry told me about the little brown room in Clifton’s Cafeteria, where the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League would meet every Thursday. Robert Heinlein used to come around, and a guy named Ray Bradbury. We were a group who liked the unusual.

“Ray would arrive wearing roller skates. After selling newspapers on the street corner he would skate to the meetings because he had no money. He used to go meet the stars at the Hollywood Theater where they did weekly radio broadcasts.”

(3) RAY & RAY. Eyes on Cinema presents an undated video of these two friends and creators in dialog: “The importance of curiosity with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen.”

(4) CALLING. This is from an interview with Tobias S. Buckell in the June Locus.  Buckell grew up biracial in the Caribbean Islands.

“Ray Bradbury has a story in The Martian Chronicles about a couple with a kid that dies.  The Martians can adopt whatever form people around them want, so one of them goes to their parents and looks just like the kid.  Their son is back from the dead, and they don’t care why–they fold him into their routine.  He starts disappearing a lot, so they follow him, and realize he’s also being a lot kid for another family along the way.  The two families call him back and forth like a dog until he just rips apart and dies.  I read that in high school in the US Virgin Islands and broke into tears.  That story literalizes a metaphor about the question you asked earlier, about being pulled to one side or the other.  That story is not about being biracial–but for me it was.”

(5) DESPARACION DE LOS LIBROS. Ray Bradbury was interviewed by Cristina Mucci on the Argentine TV show Los siete locos in 1997. The program is “dedicated to the dissemination of books and culture.” Bradbury’s answers were broadcast with Spanish subtitles. Early on, he was asked about Fahrenheit 451.

(6) A VISIT ON CABLE TV. The Planetary Society has posted this 1982 interview with Bradbury on their YouTube channel.

Mat Kaplan crossed paths with author, poet, and visionary Ray Bradbury many times across three decades. UK Planetary Radio fan and Bradbury expert Dr. Philip Nichols recently revealed that he had a VHS copy of Mat’s first interview with Ray, conducted in 1982. The author of The Martian Chronicles was a frequent visitor to Long Beach, California where Mat managed a cable television channel. Here’s that interview.

(7) SCREEN PASS. Christine Novell considers “Modern Plagues and the Prescience of Ray Bradbury” at The Imaginative Conservative.

…In the world of pandemia in 2020, Bradbury’s stories resonate with a different irony. For those who can afford the technology, screen life has become more critical than ever, critical to education, business, government, and ministry. It has become a way of connecting, a method of community. It keeps us close, yet as Bradbury thought, isolated from our neighbors and family. But that’s the nature of the current virus, a destroyer of community. Bradbury did not predict a plague-inspired isolation, at least not this type of plague.

Instead I think he saw technology as the plague that isolates, a relentless social force. He would ask us, “What are we dependent on? What can we not live without?” As if Bradbury was thinking aloud, he offers several “solutions.” We could destroy technology, especially if we realize it controls us too much. In “The Murderer” (1953) Albert Brock is arrested for shooting a television set, murdering a telephone, a wall radio, a wrist radio, intercom system, and other things. Brock is happily committed to an institution for six months in a quiet cell. This is the stance of a rebel, not a conformist….

(8) THE TAKEAWAY. Sam Weller, the Bradbury biographer, has assembled an online course for Columbia College Chicago, “Creative Storytelling Featuring Ray Bradbury”.

Experience the transformative power of creative writing through the life and works of famed fantasy writer, Ray Bradbury. As the author of Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury remains one of the 20th century’s most visionary and celebrated writers. This course explores practical creative writing strategies through a deep dive into the “dark fantasy” of Ray Bradbury.

(9) APOLLO 11 NIGHT. Ray Bradbury is interviewed on the night of the first moon landing by Mike Wallace. From Comic-con 2009, Ray’s own DVD. Part 1 of 2

Ray Bradbury Moon Landing Interview part 2

Marc Scott Zicree (“Mr. Sci-Fi”) tells where he was when the Moon landing happened. And he also relates Ray Bradbury’s anecdote about why he skipped out on David Frost’s show that night to find someone who would interview him about this great event.

(10) WICKED GOOD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Angela Haupt asked 13 novelists “which books they like best when they need to get away.”  Pierce Brown recommended Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Diana Gabaldon is the only sf or fantasy novelist whose name I recognize (I don’t know current YA novelists) and she recommended Shogun. “Salman Rushdie, Diana Gabaldon and other authors reflect on the books they find most transporting”.

(11) NO THANKS. It’s a 1980 rejection letter from Ray Bradbury to Stan Lee. Makes you wonder what Stan submitted to Ray…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster, for these stories.]

Pixel Scroll 10/24/19 Is He In Dublin Or Is He In Well-(ington), That Fifth And Filed Pixelnel

(1) EXTERMINATE REPAIRS! We know what to look for next season: “Daleks spotted on Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge ‘closed for inspection'”.

Daleks have been spotted on Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge ahead of a new Doctor Who TV series.

The bridge website had published an advanced closure notice saying it would shut overnight on Tuesday for an inspection of the chain anchorages.

But photos of Doctor Who’s nemeses with production crew on the structure have been widely shared by fans online.

A spokeswoman for the BBC programme refused to say why they were on the bridge but said: “Watch this space”.

(2) DANGER TOY. When it goes up for auction next month, “Rare, ‘holy grail’ Star Wars toy could be worth $500G”.

The “Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype” was never produced because of safety concerns from the shooting mechanism, SWNS reports. However, between 80 and 100 of them were made for testing, but only 24 of them are believed to have survived, adding to the collectible’s scarcity value.

(3) WHEEL OF TIME JEWELRY DEADLINE. Badali Jewelry makes officially licensed jewelry for fantasy authors — Jim Butcher, Pierce Brown, Naomi Novik among others — however this is the last weekend they can sell their Wheel of Time jewelry before the license ends because of the new TV show. October 28 is the last day. Badali’s designs were approved personally by Robert Jordan. They are a family-owned business and everything is hand-crafted. 

(4) BEZOS THE TREKKER. A profile of Jeff Bezos by Franklin Foer in the November Atlantic: “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan”.

Before Bezos settled on Amazon.com, he toyed with naming his unlaunched store MakeItSo.com.  He entertained using the phrase because he couldn’t contain a long-standing enthusiasm.  The rejected moniker was a favored utterance of a man Bezos idolizes: the captain of the starship USS Enterprise-D, Jean-Luc Picard.

Bezos is unabashed in his fanaticism for -Star Trek- and its many spin-offs.  He has a holding company called Zefram, which honors  the character who invented warp drive.  He persuaded the makers of the film Star Trek Beyond to give him a cameo as a Starfleet official.  He named his dog Kamala, after a woman who appears in an episode as Picard’s ‘perfect’ but unattainable mate.  As time has passes, Bezos and Picard have physically converged.  Like the interstellar explorer, played by Patrick Stewart, Bezos shaved he remnant strands on his high-gloss pate and acquired a cast-iron physique.  A friend once said that Bezos adopted his strenuous fitness regime in anticipation of the day that he, too, would journey to the heavens.

(5) WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO TURN GREEN. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “‘Deadpool 3’ is ‘still in the works’: Writers give us MCU update, envision ‘Pool opposite Peter Parker” has an interview with Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who also wrote Zombieland: Double Tap) who say that Deadpool 3 has not been greenlit but they have hopes of working within the MCU eventually.

“It still is,” Reese, who with his writing partner has another new sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, currently in theaters. “We sat with [Marvel Chief Creative Officer] Kevin Feige before the merger and we’re not allowed to talk to him about it. I think Ryan sat down with him more recently. But it’s still in the works. … They’re trying to work something out and then hopefully we can come through with something cool.”

“I think the promise is that Deadpool will live in his R-rated universe that he was living in at Fox,” Wernick added. “And then over time hopefully we can play with some of those MCU toys in the sandbox, and bring that into his world and have him brought into their world. So we’ll see, it’s a fun, exciting time.”

(6) ATTENTION FUTURE ASTRONOMERS. The Planetary Society is encouraging people to support the Kickstarter for The Search for Planet X game. The makers have reached their funding goal but there are fun stretch goals and rewards in store (especially for Society members). The campaign ends on 30 October.

Inspired by Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin’s “Planet Nine” hypothesis, Foxtrot Games has created a game capturing the thrill of discovery and the puzzling process of astronomical investigation.

You’ll play the role of an astronomer making observations and using deduction to determine the location of a hypothetical planet. The board game uses a companion app to randomly determine the location of the objects each game, and players interact with the app during the game to conduct their research.

Our partners at Foxtrot Games are committed to providing engaging, interpersonal experiences through beautiful and approachable tabletop games that celebrate what’s good in the world(s).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 24, 1997 Gattaca premiered. Starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, it was written, directed and co-produced by Andrew Niccol who did the same for The Truman Show save directing it. It did exceptionally well with audiences and reviewers rating 82% at Rotten Tomatoes. It lost to Contact in the Best Dramatic Presentation Award at the 1998 Hugo Awards given out at BucConeer. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 24, 1915 Bob Kane. Writer and artist co-creator with Bill Finger of Batman. Member of both the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 24, 1939 F. Murray Abraham, 80. Setting aside Star Trek: Insurrection which you know he’s been in, he’s had a fair amount of other work as well appearing in SlipstreamBeyond the StarsLast Action HeroMimicMuppets from SpaceThe All New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy in For Love or MummyThirteen Ghosts and Robin Hood.
  • Born October 24, 1952 ?David Weber, 67. Without doubt, best known for the Honor Harrington series which is most excellent. I really can’t say I’m familiar with his other work, so do chime in and tell what I’ve been missing. 
  • Born October 24, 1955 ?Jack Skillingstead, 64. Husband of Nancy Kress, he’s had three excellent novels (HarbingerLife on the Preservation and The Chaos Function) in just a decade. I’ve not read the new one yet but I’ve no reason not to assume that it’s not as good as his first two works. He’s due for another story collections as his only one, Are You There and Other Stories, is a decade old.
  • Born October 24, 1958 Liz Mortensen, 61. An LA con-runner fan. Chair of Loscon XXV.  She’s been involved in many LA area conventions. She’s a member of LASFS and SCIFI.  She was one of the organizers of the Roswell in 2002 hoax Worldcon bid. LASFS awarded her the Evans-Freehafer Trophy in 1998 and she was the Artist Guest of Honor at, and I kid you not, Fa-La-La-La-La-La-La-La Con, #7, a relaxacon.
  • Born October 24, 1971 ?Dervla Kirwan, 48. Miss Hartigan in “The Next Doctor”,  a Tenth Doctor story.  She’s Maeve Sullivan in the Shades series, and she played Petra Williams in the “Painkillers” episode of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased).
  • Born October 24, 1971 Sofia Samatar, 48. She’s the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria, winner of William L. Crawford Award, British Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award, and The Winged HistoriesTender (short stories)and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. 
  • Born October 24, 1972 Raelee Hill, 47. Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu (called Sikozu) on Farscape. Genre wise, she’s also been on The Lost World series, Superman Returns, BeastMaster and Event Zero.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto have an unexpected conversation in Bizarro.

(10) DRAWN THAT WAY. SYFY Wire tries to untangle “The complicated legacy of Batman co-creator Bob Kane”.

Should October 24 be a day of celebration in the comics world?

That happens to be the birthday of Bob Kane, the co-creator of Batman. Kane, who died in 1998, helped bring to life one of the most popular characters in popular culture. That type of achievement should merit an annual parade being thrown in one’s honor.

Except that according to nearly all accounts, the man who reaped the greatest rewards for the creation of the Dark Knight did so at the expense of others. To say Kane’s legacy is complicated is to massively understate things.

…Kane’s early vision of the character included red tights and a winged costume. It was Bill Finger, who worked at Kane’s studio as a ghostwriter, who would help create the visual aesthetic that would define Batman for all time. The cowl, the cape, and the darker color scheme for the costume all came from Finger. He came up with Gotham City, the Batcave, and the Batmobile, as well as Robin, Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon. Finger even came up with the origin story of Bruce Wayne.

You tell me: Remove all those elements, and is the Bat-Man still Batman? …

(11) HOW DO YOU GET THIS OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Connor Hoffman, in “Porsche ad Star Wars Teaming To Build Taycan-Inspired Starship” in Car and Driver says that Porsche engineers are teaming with Star Wars to come up with a Porsche-inspired starship that will both be in The Rise of Skywalker and a subtle product placement for the Porsche Taycan, an electric sedan.

Lucasfilm creative director Doug Chiang says that the design will be a recipe featuring ingredients from the X-wing, Y-wing, and U-wing starships from the Star Wars movies, combined with pieces of Taycan design. The designers were given specific instructions: there must be two front entries, a large rear cargo door, and room for two pilots and a maximum of five crew members. It also needs to have a minimum of two and a maximum of four engines, the company said.

The spaceship will be shown off at the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker premiere in December alongside Porsche’s very own spaceship: the 2020 Taycan.

(12) READ IT BEFORE IT FADES AWAY. Fanac.org has started uploading issues of my ancient genzine Prehensile. Say, Issue 9 has some awfully funny bits! And plenty of other bits! Read at your own peril, especially “Dark Alleys of Fanhistory” by Dan Goodman.  

(13) LAST NIGHT ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter tuned into Jeopardy! yesterday in time to watch the contestants bomb again.

Final Jeopardy: 1930s Novel Characters.

Answer: Prior to a murder in a 1934 book, he says he hasn’t been a detective since 1927 & that his wife inherited a lumber mill.

Wrong questions: “Who is Sam Spade?” and “Who is Dick Tracy?”

No one got it right: “Who is Nick Charles?”

(14) ALL TOGETHER NOW. “Bezos floats ‘national team’ to build Moon lander”.

Jeff Bezos has announced the formation of a “national team” that will aim to build the lander that will take astronauts back to the Moon in 2024.

Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has teamed up with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to bid for the landing system.

The White House has set the ambitious goal of sending a man and a woman to the lunar South Pole within five years.

Bezos outlined the plan at a meeting in Washington DC.

The Amazon founder called the partnership “a national team for a national priority”.

Nasa had originally planned to mount the Moon return mission in 2028. But earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence announced the administration’s plan to accelerate that timeline by four years.

(15) GOING DARK. “BBC News launches ‘dark web’ Tor mirror”.

The BBC has made its international news website available via the Tor network, in a bid to thwart censorship attempts.

The Tor browser is privacy-focused software used to access the dark web.

The browser can obscure who is using it and what data is being accessed, which can help people avoid government surveillance and censorship.

Countries including China, Iran and Vietnam are among those who have tried to block access to the BBC News website or programmes.

(16) 007 LICENSE TO DRIVE. The annual Nieman Marcus fantasy catalog offers seven Aston Martin DBS Superleggeras each personally designed by Daniel Craig, each for $700,007.  But with the car you get an edition of an Omega Seamaster limited to seven copies with 007 stuff on the watch case, two tickets to the premiere of No Time To Die in London along with airfare and hotel, and airfare (and nothing else).

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

Pixel Scroll 9/8/19 To Be Placed On Our “Do Not Teleport” List, Please Press 1

(1) WRITTEN AS A WARNING. Margaret Atwood was featured today on CBS Sunday Morning: “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ author Margaret Atwood: ‘I have never believed it can’t happen here’”.

…When asked her inspiration for the handmaids’ outfits, Atwood replied, “The concealment of the body, number one, and the limitation of the body, number 2, so other people can’t see you, but you also can’t see other people.

“So, that, and the Old Dutch Cleanser package from the 1940s,” she added. “A vision from my childhood.”

Outside the church, Atwood is recognized by teenagers attending day camp. At 79, she is Canada’s most famous living writer. She’s published 60 books, but “The Handmaid’s Tale” has overshadowed the others. In English, it’s sold more than eight million copies.

She began the book in West Berlin in 1984: “A symbolic year because of Orwell, and how could I be so corny as to have begun ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in that year?  I couldn’t help it!”

(2) NO AWARD. David Pomerico was incensed that Anne Groell finished behind No Award in the Best Professional Editor, Long Form Hugo category. While some of these tweets are a bit overwrought (“Of course, maybe Anne wronged 97 of you somehow, but knowing her like do, I find that hard to believe”), it’s very fair to say most voters have only a very general idea what an editor does, and to wonder how they decided to fill out their ballots. Thread starts here.

I have observed in the fan categories that No Award votes can function as a protest against the existence of a category. If something similar is at work here, it would only be unfortunate collateral damage that a person received fewer votes than No Award on the first ballot. Note that although she wasn’t the first choice of very many voters, the sixth place runoff shows 446 people ranked Groell ahead of No Award.

(3) PKD’S FINAL RESTING PLACE. “Arts and Entertainment: Community celebrates Philip K. Dick” — The Fort Morgan (CO) Times covers a local PKD festival. Why Fort Morgan? For a couple of good reasons:

…PKD died in Santa Ana, California, on March 2, 1982, at the age of 53. After his death, Hollywood would make some of his work popular with films such as “Blade Runner” (based on his short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”); “Total Recall” (based on “We can Remember it Wholesale”); “Minority Report” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Dick is buried at the Fort Morgan cemetery next to his twin sister, Jane, who died at 6 weeks old. That grave is a popular draw for fans of the prolific science fiction author from all over the world, with cemetery workers often seeing little trinkets related to his tales left on the stone.

Another connection to Fort Morgan with the late author is that his father’s family was from Fort Morgan.

Two years ago, an expert on author Philip K. Dick who goes by Lord Running Clam (aka David Hyde) saw his dream of having a PKD Festival held in Fort Morgan come true.

And this year, the second version of that every-two-years festival was held.

… One of the big events at this year’s PKD Festival was a panel discussion about “The Man In The High Castle.”

“The Man in the High Castle” is what many consider to be Dick’s first masterpiece, but not everyone feels that way. The panel consisted of Ted Hand, Dr. Andrew Butler, Tessa Dick and Frank Hollander.

(4) CLINGERMAN APPRECIATION. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week is “Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” by Mildred Clingerman (1918–1997), originally published in 1956 by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and recently anthologized in The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women.

During the last couple of decades the name Mildred Clingerman has popped up in prominent spots around the science fiction universe. Her works have been included in several significant anthologies and even in textbooks; indeed, her story “Wild Wood” is one of the more memorable entries in the late David G. Hartwell’s landmark collection of Christmas fantasy tales. In 2014 she received a posthumous Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, joining such previous honorees as R. A. Lafferty, Leigh Brackett, and the collaborative team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. And two years ago her family assembled The Clingerman Files, a book collecting most of the science fiction stories that appeared during her lifetime, along with two dozen unpublished tales found in her papers.

(5) TRUE CONFESSION. Cat Rambo is taking inventory:

(6) Q&A. Odyssey Writing Workshops taps into the experience of a successful grad — “Interview: Graduate Erin Roberts”.

Your story “Thanks for the Memories,” an interactive story about a woman piecing her life together one memory at a time, came out in Sub-Q in December 2018. What were some of the challenges in writing a story structured that way?

I had so much fun writing “Thanks for the Memories,” and it’s based on a story I wrote for my last week of Odyssey. I could never make it quite work in prose, but making it interactive and letting the player/reader experience the feeling of trying to work out the main character’s past from within her shoes, using her memories, was the perfect fit of story and format. The hardest part of doing it, other than learning a new coding language to write the piece, was figuring out how to make the piece non-linear (so you could experience the memories in any order), but also structured (so there was a set beginning, middle, and end to drive the story). My solution was to create a frame narrative with a ticking clock and key moments that always happened when the player got through a certain number of memories. That way their experience of the memories could always be different, but the story would still have a shape and forward plot momentum. I like to think it worked out in the end.

(7) HINTS OFFERED. At Writer’s Digest, Robert Lee Brewer has curated a list of links to other WD articles that will show you “How to Write a Science Fiction Novel”.

Whether you want to write about peace-loving aliens or a heartbreaking dystopian future, there are a number of practical strategies for starting your novel, building your world, and landing a satisfying finish. In this post, learn how to write a science fiction novel using some of the best advice on WritersDigest.com.

(8) A HISTORIC CONNECTION. Actor Robert Picardo celebrates Star Trek’s premiere 53 years ago today by sharing Trek-related things found in storage boxes at The Planetary Society’s headquarters. One is a signed letter from Gene Roddenberry encouraging the Star Trek community to join the Society.

Star Trek: Voyager’s holographic doctor, Robert Picardo, also serves on The Planetary Society Board of Directors. However, he is not the first connection between Star Trek and The Planetary Society. In 1980, the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, wrote a letter and sent it out to a Star Trek fans mailing list. In the letter, Gene invited his fans to join us on our mission to explore the cosmos. Hear the letter as read by Robert Picardo, listen to his Jean-Luc Picard impression, and see inside Bill Nye’s office for more Star Trek artifacts on hand at The Planetary Society.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 8, 1966 Star Trek’s first aired episode, “The Man Trap,” was written by George Clayton Johnson.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8, 1911 William Morrow. He’s the first original Trek Admiral appearing as an Admiral in two episodes, Admiral Komack, in “Amok Time” and as Admiral Westervliet “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”.  Other genre appearances include Cyborg 2087, Mission ImpossibleColossus: The Forbin ProjectPanic in Year Zero!The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, Rollerball and Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He also took multiple roles (even the Queen) in The Mouse That Roared. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Mother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.)
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 74. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And he was the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a not quite so dismal 24%. 
  • Born September 8, 1948 Michael Hague, 71. I’m very fond of East of the Sun and West of the Moon retold by he and his wife Kathleen. Not to be missed are his Wind in The Willows and The Hobbit which are both lovely takes on those tales. 
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 65. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The New Adventures of SupermanThe Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances.
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor and later publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, for which he was awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form. He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. 
  • Born September 8, 1971 Martin Freeman, 48. I’m not a fan of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films but I really do think he made a very fine Bilbo Baggins. Now I will say that I never warmed to Sherlock with him and Benedict Cumberbatch. Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu works better for me.  
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 44. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LOOK OUT BELOW. Speakers’ Corner finds an author who did a literal book launch: “Science Fiction Should Be Re-Named Science Prediction: Q&A With Sarah Cruddas”.

What inspired you to pick up a pen and write a book for children?

The Space Race: The Journey to the Moon and Beyond – which was released this May – is my third children’s book. Although I don’t see it as just a children’s book. Nearly all of us have a child like wonder about space, and I want to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters and how it is shaping our lives. What inspired me to write this book is that I wanted to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters. I even launched the book to the edge of space (using a balloon) to help showcase just how close space really is.

Wait, hang on – you actually launched your book into space?

Haha yes!

I launched my book to space using a special type of balloon filled with hydrogen gas. The science behind it is relatively simple, the gas in the balloon weighs less than the air around it, so that causes it to rise. The balloon continues to rise and expand until the air that surrounds is equal in pressure – at the edge of space at an altitude which in this case was 33.1km. It then pops and falls to the Earth by parachute.

However it’s also complicated in the sense, you have to notify the CAA and also track the balloon and predict rough landing sight using weather patterns. But it shows that space is truly not far away.

(13) GOOD AS GOLD. Somewhat unexpectedly, Joker has taken top prize at the Venice Film festival. Slate has the story: Joker Steals Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival!”.

               The Joker, that caliph of clowns, that prince of pranksters, that malevolent mischief-maker whose cunning capers continually confound the courageous crimefighters of Gotham City, has struck again! This time, the caped crusaders’ archest arch-nemesis has left Gotham for bella Italia—ancestral home of local heiress J. Pauline Spaghetti—to pull off his most daring, dastardly deed to date: Stealing the Golden Lion, the top prize at this year’s Venice Film festival, and awarding it to Joker, screenwriter and director Todd Phillips’ critically-acclaimed meditation on poverty, grief, and the myriad ways the social and economic forces of the Reagan era turned decent people into Clown Princes of Crime.

               The Joker’s fiendish feat of film flimflammery is a festival first: According to the Cinematic Milestone Bat-Disclosure Unit, Joker is the first superhero movie to win the Golden Lion. The festival jury, headed by Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, has not commented on its role in the Joker’s scheme, but Commissioner Gordon believes that an empty box of “Joker Brand Film Festival Jury Hypnotic Gas Pellets (Italian Formulation)” found in the gondola where deliberations were held may hold a clue to the mystery. Authorities acknowledge, however, that their theory that the festival jury was biased in favor of supervillains is not entirely consistent with the fact that they awarded the festival’s next highest award, the Grand Jury Prize, to a small-time sex offender named Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy, a movie about the Dreyfus affair. Holy Ham-Handed Historical Analogy, Batman!

(14) NAVIGATING OZ. Daniel Tures looks back at the books and 1939 movie in “Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, Oh My!” at the Los Angeles Public Library blog.

…As one of the cultural touchstones of the 20th century, almost any look into the history or production of The Wizard of Oz will spin the reader down endless rabbit holes of film criticism and intellectual wandering. From Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, silver shoes in Baum’s original book, illustrated by W.W. Denslow, to E. “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen’s iconic songs, and with heirs from The Wiz to the films of David Lynch, it stands at the crux of Hollywood history.

We tend to think of the books as being written in one place, and the movies based on them being made in another—yet strangely enough L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage actually lived in the town of Hollywood from 1910 to 1919, at the end of his life, just as it was being transformed from a little-known agricultural paradise to a world-famous moviemaking one.

(15) KYLO REN IS DONE WITH IT. “Darth Vader’s Screen-Used Helmet From Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Goes up for Auction”: ComicBook.com says you’ll need a wheelbarrow full of cash.

Are you a Star Wars fan with $250,000 to spend? If so, iCollector has an item for you! The online collectibles auction is boasting a Darth Vader helmet worn onscreen by David Prowse in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

(16) HISTORY OF SF FILMS. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, has been doing a History of Science Fiction, and in the third installment covers 1955 to 1959. He hopes viewers will support his efforts at www.patreon.com/marczicree.

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