Pixel Scroll 2/18/22 My Name Is Scroll, Pixel Scroll, Agent 770, With A License To File

(1) #METOO. On February 12, attorney and former Weller colleague Cara Dehnert published an essay detailing her previous relationship with Bradbury biographer Sam Weller. The piece alleges mental, emotional, and sexual abuse from Weller, including rape. “What Happened To Me. By: Cara Dehnert” at Medium.

(2) TRUTHS ABOUT TRAUMA. Sarah Gailey sets the bar “On Trauma-Informed Writing” at the SFWA Blog.

… “A difficult or unpleasant experience that changes a person in a lasting way” is a descriptor that applies to most stories. In spite of the promises of a recent literary movement that strives to elide unpleasantness in storytelling, it’s difficult to make a narrative compelling when characters aren’t changed as a result of struggle. Further, a story in which characters endure traumatic experiences without changing in response to them is a story that can cause immense harm.

Narratives help us to understand ourselves and the world around us, and stories that depict trauma as a temporary inconvenience reinforce the idea that ongoing trauma-responses are unusual, or even a sign of weakness. This real-world impact bears out in the way many people process—or are unable to process—their own real-life traumas. Many trauma survivors find themselves questioning why they’re unable to move on from traumatic events. They’ve consumed narratives in which scary things happen, but when the scary things are over . . . everyone stops being scared. So why shouldn’t the same be true in real life?

Treating a character’s trauma as though it can be resolved along with the plot is disingenuous. Treating a character’s trauma as though it must be resolved along with the plot is dangerous. Both are profoundly disrespectful to the story being told…. 

(3) FEDERAL PREEMPTION. Publishers Weekly explains why “Court Blocks Maryland’s Library E-book Law”.

In a rebuke to Maryland state legislators, a federal judge has granted the Association of American Publishers’ motion for a preliminary injunction, blocking Maryland officials from enforcing the state’s new library e-book law.

“It is clear the Maryland Act likely stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the purposes and objectives of the Copyright Act,” concluded federal judge Deborah L. Boardman, in a 28-page opinion. Although the judge noted that the Maryland Act only requires an ‘offer’ to license and does not ‘explicitly require’ publishers to grant licenses to libraries, “this is a distinction without a difference,” Boardman concluded (lifting directly from the AAP’s brief), holding that the threat of civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance amounts to “a forced transaction” that “effectively strips publishers of their exclusive right to distribute.”

In enjoining the law, Boardman found that the AAP cleared all four factors necessary to grant a preliminary injunction—a likelihood of success on the merits; irreparable harm; winning the balance of equities, and that the injunction was in the public interest. But while the court entertained—and largely accepted the AAP’s arguments on each factor—the court’s decision ultimately came down to one simple finding (which the AAP also argued): the Maryland law is fatally flawed because it is preempted by federal copyright law….

(4) POKEMON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Pokemon Legends;  Arceus.

The game “comes as something of a shock.  There is rarely a surprise in a mainline Pokemon game–if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all.  While The Pokemon Company has spun its IP into the highest-grossing media franchise of all time, encompassing movies, merchandise and trading cards, there has always been an uncomfortable tension in the video games:  that they are supposedly about the joy of adventure, yet have been proven remarkably unwilling to tread new ground for 25 years…

…Like Harry Potter and all the most successful franchises for younger children, Pokemon sells a dream, a world that children desperately want to be real.  As a kid I yearned to make life-long friends with magical creatures.  Arceus is not the Poikemon game I dreamt of, but it gets close.  Game Freak has swapped the series’ aging skeleton for a promising new set of bones, creating a Pokemon game that feels fresh for the first time in over a decade.  It achieved this by finally taking a leaf out of its own book–to make like a Pokemon and evolve.”

(5) IT MIGHT BE SFF. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Legendary Director Francis Ford Coppola has announced he will be dipping deep into his own pocket to fund a passion project: Megalopolis. Coppola wrote the script around 40 years ago (though one guesses there may have been revisions since). IMDb gives this succinct description,“An architect wants to rebuild New York City as a utopia following a devastating disaster.” GQ described it as, “A love story that is also a philosophical investigation of the nature of man.” Variety interviewed him about it: “Francis Ford Coppola to Spend His Own $120 Million on New Film: I Don’t Care ‘About the Financial Impact’”.

… Speaking to GQ magazine, Coppola said that major Hollywood executives reacted to his “Megalopolis” pitch the “same way they did when I had won five Oscars and was the hottest film director in town and walked in with ‘Apocalypse Now’ and said, ‘I’d like to make this next.’ I own ‘Apocalypse Now.’ Do you know why I own ‘Apocalypse Now?’ Because no one else wanted it.”

Coppola added, “So imagine, if that was the case when I was 33 or whatever the age and I had won every award and had broken every record and still absolutely no one wanted to join me, [then how do you think they’re reacting now?] I know that ‘Megalopolis,’ the more personal I make it, and the more like a dream in me that I do it, the harder it will be to finance.”

…When GQ asked if self-funding “Megalopolis” could mirror his experience on “One From the Heart,” a massive flop that Coppola spent years paying back the bank for, the director responded, “I couldn’t care less about the financial impact whatsoever. It means nothing to me.”

(6) BRENNER OBIT. Film editor David Brenner died February 18 at the age of 59 reports Variety. In 1990, Brenner won the Academy Award for film editing with director Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July, sharing the award with editor John Hutshing. His genre film credits include Independence Day (1996), What Dreams May Come (1998), The Day After Tomorrow  (2004), 2012 (2009), Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides (2011), Man of Steel (2013), Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Justice League (2017), and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021).

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2005 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  On this day in 2005, Constantine was released in the U.S. Based off DC’s Hellblazer series, it starred dark haired Keanu Reeves as the much blonder-haired John Constantine, a decision that of course drew much criticism. It was, to put it mildly, produced by committee. The screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello off a story by Kevin Brodbin. 

Its impressive cast included Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, and Peter Stormare. I really Tilda Swinton‘s role. 

Reception among critics was mostly negative with Roger Ebert saying Reeves that he “has a deliberately morose energy level in the movie, as befits one who has seen Hell, walks among half-demons, and is dying. He keeps on smoking.” The film made his most hated list. 

Box office wise, it made nearly a 25 million dollars off a budget that was maybe a hundred million dollars. The studio has declined to admit how much the production costs were. 

Over the years, its rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes has steadily climbed now standing at an excellent seventy-two percent. Huh. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist, with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in GalaxinaThe Incredible HulkJason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The RingsAdult FairytalesClonesDracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 93. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novel in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. It deals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series based off the novel was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 54. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WILD CARDS COMICS. Paul Cornell and Mike Hawthorne retell the foundational Wild Cards stories in new comic series, Wild Cards: The Drawing Of Cards #1 coming June 1.

Based on stories by Harold Waldrop, Roger Zelazny and series master-mind and editor, George R.R. Martin, Wild Cards is a fascinating saga set in a whole new world reshaped by the emergence of superpowers. The limited series, titled The Drawing Of Cards, will be written by a team of comic superstars, writer Paul Cornell and artist Mike Hawthorne, and serve as a perfect entry point for Wild Cards newcomers and a must-have new reimagining for Wild Cards aficionados!

Spanning more than 25 novels, 20 short stories, and written by more than 40 authors over three decades, the Wild Cards series tells the story of an alternate history where Earth is home to super-powered individuals. When a human is infected with the alien “Wild Card” virus, the odds are that they will be killed… which is referred to as “drawing the black queen”. Of those that survive, the bulk of them become “jokers”, left with some strange mutated form. A lucky few are called “aces”, those gifted with super powers they can put to use towards heroic goals… or villainous ones….

“As my fans may already know, the Wild Cards World holds a special place in my heart, so to have the privilege of announcing that an industry titan like MARVEL is going to produce the narrative from the beginning as a comic book brings me no end of joy,” [George R.R. Martin] added.

(11) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY WALK INTO MORDLE. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] You know that word game, Wordle, that’s burning up Twitter?

Well, variants are popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, and someone came up with “Lordle of the Rings.”  It’s Wordle, but you can only use five letter words found in “The Lord of the Rings.”  (Mind you, given how long the books are, that covers a lot of ground.) Find it here: “Lordle of the Rings”.

(12) THE PRICE DOESN’T SUCK THAT MUCH. A “Scarce First Edition, First Issue of ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker from 1897” is being auctioned by Nate D. Sanders. The binding is a little banged up, but surely it’s a bargain at $22,500?

(13) NASA NEWS. SF is discussed in this interview with NASA’s chief economist: “Astronomy, sci-fi, and the roots of the space economy: My long-read Q&A with Alex MacDonald” at the American Enterprise Institute.

… In the Industrial Revolution, a lot of the technologies that allow you to think about space flight come online, the most obvious one being pressure vessels, the other relevant ones being, essentially, large armaments. It’s not a coincidence that when Jules Verne talks about the technology for traveling to the Moon in his very well-known book “From the Earth to the Moon,” he essentially has the protagonists being underemployed armaments makers in the United States after the Civil War, who had incredible capabilities for developing large cannons, and they thought they might put them to a different use, a type of swords-into-plowshares initiative in the United States in the 19th century.

This results in a real explosion of stories about traveling into space. Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon” is written in the 1860s, but also written in the 1860s is the story “The Brick Moon” by Massachusetts pastor and writer Edward Everett Hale. He writes the first story about living on a space station. He and his brother, while they’re students at Harvard, basically come up with a concept for what today we would call a GPS system. All of these things are in the culture and in the literature.

Perhaps the most striking combination of these two themes of science fiction and astronomy is the story of Percival Lowell. Percival Lowell builds a little observatory, at which, later in the 20th century, the planet Pluto is discovered. I should say the dwarf planet Pluto. He is motivated by this idea of canals on Mars, which had been essentially emerging as a culture topic because of a mistranslation of Giovanni Schiaparelli’s Italian word canale, by which he meant channels, and which gets translated into English as canals. But Lowell sees these things, and he writes these books like “Mars as the Abode of Life.” And all of these popular culture works that expound the idea of a purported hypothetical Martian civilization, which, of course, gives further energy to the space flight movement overall.

That intertwining of astronomy and space flight ambition really is there in the 19th century, and of course, it continues up to the present day. The James Webb Space Telescope, of course, is one of the most exciting projects of our time. I was fortunate enough to take off some time from work and actually go down to French Guiana to watch the launch, and it was an amazing moment….

(14) HUMAN RESOURCES. This Netflix series isn’t about an HR department, but about aliens assigned to deal with humans. Airs March 18.

Life on Earth is pretty complicated. That’s why people need them. Welcome to Human Resources.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apple, Inc. has turned their Signal Boost dial to 11 to promote a new Korean short film shot entirely on an Apple iPhone 13 Pro. Editing was done on Apple Macintosh computers. Director Park Chan-wook’s 21-minute fantasy Life is But a Dream—plus a short “making of” doc—are both available on YouTube. The soundtrack is available on Apple Music. 9to5mac has the story: “Apple shares film shot on iPhone 13 Pro by Park Chan-wook”.

An undertaker who needs woods to build a coffin for the savior of his village digs up an abandoned grave. But while doing so, he accidentally awakens the ghost of an ancient swordsman. Now the ghost tries to take back his coffin.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/22 Look At My Fingers: Four Pixels, Four Scrolls. Zero Pixels, Zero Scrolls!

(1) COSINE. COSine is going ahead this weekend (January 14-16) in Colorado Springs, CO. In their latest publicity email, co-chairs Morland Gonsoulin and Arlen Feldman repeated their Covid policy —

Just a reminder – we have had a lot of people concerned about getting together in the era of Omicron and other Greek-lettered invaders. Everyone who comes to the convention must be able to show proof of COVID vaccination (either electronic—myColorado or a photo on your phone, or a paper copy of your COVID vaccination card) or proof of a negative COVID test within forty-eight hours of attending. Click here for information on testing. Also, masks will be required in all convention areas (remember, masks are primarily there to protect other people, not you). We will be giving prizes to people who have the coolest masks (that are also still effective)!

(2) ONCE YOU CAN REMOVE MONEY FROM THE ATMOSPHERE…. “Neal Stephenson Thinks Greed Might Be the Thing That Saves Us” – so he said to a New York Times interviewer.

What about the story we’re telling as a society — beyond art — about climate change? Is there a way we could be talking about it that’s more likely to motivate the kind of mobilization we had, say, during the Second World War? 

The difficulty is that it’s hard to get lots of people to change their minds. The United States did mobilize in a massive way during World War II, but we didn’t start getting serious about it until 1942. There had been a huge war raging since 1939, and the Brits were tearing their hair out waiting for the United States to get more involved, and it wasn’t until Pearl Harbor that there was a tipping point in public opinion that made it possible for America’s political leadership to declare war and to enter into it in a serious way. So the question asks itself: What might be a climate equivalent of Pearl Harbor? We’re already having little regional Pearl Harbors all over the place. We had our heat dome in Seattle over the summer, we had the mega tornado supercell that passed from Arkansas to Kentucky. These little pinprick Pearl Harbor events happen here and there, but it’s difficult to imagine one that would impact an entire country the size of the United States — if it did, it would be a really bad thing. We don’t want to put ourselves in the position of wishing that something terrible would happen. It’s also natural to assume that the CO2 problem is similar to other air-pollution problems we’ve had before. In the ’50s, there was a disaster in London because of too much coal smoke in the air, and they In the ’70s, a lot of the smog problem in L.A. was cleaned up by putting catalytic converters on cars…We’re accustomed to thinking that all we have to do is stop emitting the pollutant, and then nature will clean up the air. But it’s not true in the case of CO2 in the atmosphere. People confuse CO2 emission reduction or elimination with solving the problem. But even if we could stop emitting all CO2, we’d be stuck for hundreds of thousands of years with extremely elevated CO2 levels that nature has no quick way of removing from the air. That’s the key thing that has to be widely understood before we can actually begin envisioning ways to attack the problem….

Do you see a way out of that? 

When people find that they can obtain lots of money and power by believing certain things and following certain ways of thinking, then you can bet that they’ll enthusiastically start doing that. The reason that Enlightenment thinking became popular was that people figured out that it was in their financial best interest to avail themselves of its powers. …

(3) HEAD MASTER. A tribute to Gene Wolfe on the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Fifth Head Of Cerberus in The Spectator World: “’The Fifth Head of Cerberus’ at 50”.

… Ursula K. Le Guin called Gene Wolfe “our Melville.” His meandering plots, odd characters, and surreal scenes are certainly reminiscent of aspects of Melville, but Wolfe, a conservative and a Catholic, was most like the American author in his realistic view of human nature. According to Wolfe, people are capable of great acts of goodness and evil but have a certain facility for the latter, which are done, more often than not, in the name of the former….

(4) THE OTHER OF INVENTION. Camestros Felapton is inaugurating The Museum of Right-Wing Gadgets & Sundry Devices.

 Failed experiments! Miraculous near-inventions! Some things that actually exploded! Ladles and gentlemen, I present to you the Museum of Right-Wing Gadgets & Sundry Devices!

The first inductee is Theodore Beale’s “OOMouse,” better known as the “War Mouse” – “The M of RWG&SD Exhibit 1: The OOMouse”.

…A computer mouse with multiple buttons branded with the logo of the Open Office organisation. Also known as the ‘WarMouse’ — sold with a different colour scheme….

(5) WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE LOOKED UP.  In the Washington Post, Kate Cohen argues that although Don’t Look Up is trying to be a critique of climate change skepticism but it doesn’t work because “its villains are so villainous, and its science deniers are so dumb” that the film is implausible. “What Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ gets wrong about climate change”.

… In scene after scene, the movie offers several explanations for our nonresponse:because we’re obsessed with celebrity culture and distrustful of science, because the news media is actually in the entertainment business, because politicians prioritize reelection over problem-solving, and because billionaire geniuses choose profit over everything.

To those, I would add — and this is crucial, I think — because climate change isn’t a comet speeding toward Earth.

Yes, I know, no analogy is perfect. But if writer and director Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Vice”) wants to persuade people to “make the climate crisis the No. 1 priority,” as he has said, then the metaphor he chose is perfectly wrong….

(6) SUPER GOOD HABITS. Except for Captain America I never think of superheroes even changing age, much less getting old, but TIME recommends them as role models: “What Marvel Superheroes Can Teach Us About Aging Well”.

It’s not easy being a superhero: They have enemies. They have monumental tasks to accomplish. They’re constantly battered. Beyond those dangers, however, they also practice several healthy behaviors that could carry them well into old age.

That’s what a team of Australian researchers recently discovered, as published in the light-hearted Christmas 2021 issue of the journal The BMJ. During pandemic lockdowns, the researchers immersed themselves in the world of Marvel superheroes. Their goal was to discover what these champions are or are not doing well when it comes to keeping their minds and bodies healthy as they advance toward their senior years—information that we regular mortals can incorporate into our New Year’s resolutions and apply to our own lives, too….

Here’s one example:

Stay away from loud noises

The superheroes’ “exposure to planets colliding and explosions would be a risk for hearing loss,” Hubbard says. “Particularly for older men, having hearing loss and not addressing it through wearing hearing aids is associated with an increased risk of dementia.” Therefore, wear hearing aids if necessary.

(7) SUPER BAD HABITS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The dismissal of two LAPD police officers was upheld by an appellate court when it was found that, “Gotta catch ‘em all” does not refer to Pokémon if you’re on duty. “’Aw, screw it’: LAPD cops hunted Pokémon instead of responding to robbery”.

The ruling explained:

Officer Mitchell alerted Lozano that “Snorlax” “just popped up” at “46th and Leimert.” After noting that “Leimert doesn’t go all the way to 46th,” Lozano responded, “Oh, you [know] what I can do? I’ll [go] down 11th and swing up on Crenshaw. I know that way I can get to it.” Mitchell suggested a different route, then told Lozano, “We got four minutes.”

For approximately the next 20 minutes, the DICVS captured petitioners discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones. On their way to the Snorlax location, Officer Mitchell alerted Officer Lozano that “a Togetic just popped up,” noting it was “[o]n Crenshaw, just south of 50th.” After Mitchell apparently caught the Snorlax— exclaiming, “Got ’em”—petitioners agreed to “[g]o get the Togetic” and drove off. When their car stopped again, the DICVS recorded Mitchell saying, “Don’t run away. Don’t run away,” while Lozano described how he “buried it and ultra-balled” the Togetic before announcing, “Got him.” Mitchell advised he was “[s]till trying to catch it,” adding, “Holy crap, man. This thing is fighting the crap out of me.” Eventually Mitchell exclaimed, “Holy crap. Finally,” apparently in reference to capturing the Togetic, and he remarked, “The[] guys are going to be so jealous.” Petitioners then agreed to return to the 7-Eleven (where Sergeant Gomez later met them) to end their watch. On the way, Mitchell remarked, “I got you a new Pokémon today, dude.”

(8) HOME OF FIGRIN D’AN AND THE MODAL NODES? Hollywood’s Scum and Villainy Cantina is still with us despite Covid. Only In Your State paid it a visit: “There’s A Star Wars-Themed Pub In Southern California, And It’s Enchanting”.

Tucked along Hollywood Boulevard, Scum and Villainy Cantina is a bar unlike any other in Hollywood or all of Southern California for that matter! An ode to all-things-nerdy, it’s a place where geeks unite and all fandoms are welcome….

(9) PANSHIN MEDICAL UPDATE. Alexei Panshin told Facebook followers today, “Friends, I’m home again from the pneumonia and heart attack episode I suffered in early December, but by no means fully functional.”

Alexei (with Mike McInerney) at Tricon, the 1966 Worldcon. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

(10) MIDDLE-EARTH PENMANSHIP. “J.R.R. Tolkien Writes in Elvish” – I didn’t know there was video of this!

(11) BUKATO OBIT. Polish fan Wiktor Bukato died July 26, 2021 reports Scientifiction #70. Bukato was a translator and publisher specializing in sff, who received the “Karel” award (for the best translator) from World SF in 1987. He also won the Big Heart Award in 1987. Bukato chaired the European Science Fiction Society from 1991-1993 and was a vice-chair for two more years.  And he was a past member of SFWA.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2012 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] A decade ago, Jo Walton’s Among Others wins the Best Novel Hugo at Chicon 7 where John Scalzi was Toastmaster. It was her first Hugo nomination. Other nominated works that year were China Miéville‘s Embassytown, James S. A. Corey‘s Leviathan Wakes (the first in the Expanse series), Mira Grant‘s Deadline and George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons. It would also win the BFA Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel and a Nebula along with being nominated for both Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the World Fantasy Award. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to Silverlock. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became  the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series is based, and the Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1924 William Johnston. A prolific tie-in novelist who did nine Get Smart novels plus ones for BewitchedThe MunstersChitty Chitty Bang BangDick Tracy and five for The Flying Nun series. He did only three non-tie-in novels. (Died 2010.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), the Hugo-nominated The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claimed to have rewritten the script though there’s no proof of this), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 11, 1952 Diana Gabaldon, 70. I have friends who read her and enjoy immensely her Outlander series. They also avidly look forward to every new episode of the Outlander television series. Any of y’all fans of either? 
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 61. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels, with their delightfully twisted word play, as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought a few years ago when I wrote a Birthday note that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. Who’s read them? 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 59. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the Vengeance on Varosstory on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • In PVP, Brent and Jade experience the difficulties associated with modern parenting. Tolkien figures into today’s problem!
  • The Argyle Sweater shows the unsuspected cause of a weather phenomenon.
  • Bizarro has a “walks into a bar” story you won’t have thought of before.

(15) I SAY HELLO AND YOU SAY GOODBYE. Den of Geek’s Andrew Blair shares his opinion about the Doctor Who series’ climactic transitions: “Doctor Who: Ranking the Doctor’s Regenerations”. He like this one the absolute least:

12. Time and the Rani (1987)

Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy

Time and the Rani’ is all over the place. I wouldn’t say it’s the worst story ever, because while it’s a lacklustre romp remembered mainly for its camp, it isn’t mean-spirited. Its CBBC tone was imposed by the BBC after the excesses of Season 22, but it manages a genuinely good cliffhanger to its first episode, and Sylvester McCoy’s performance – while also all over the place – does contain a few moments that showed where he would later take the character.

However, as a regeneration story it has to be bottom of the list because it’s a complete failure. Even allowing for the version written where Colin Baker appeared in all four episodes and regenerated at the end, he would have sacrificed himself in a similar way to Beyus: waiting behind (unnecessarily as it happens) to make sure some bombs went off and thwart the Rani’s plans.

(16) THE COMING CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has just tweeted its final advance post for its spring season edition. This edition sees two conreports: yes, real life, physical cons are slowly coming back. This one is on the 31st Festival of Fantastic Films.

Though this year saw a return of the Fest after last year’s cancellation due to CoVID-19, despite a vaccination programme, CoVID was still with us. As with other conventions, the Fest had to take CoVID into account, but being smaller could get away with a looser arrangement. The Fest’s organisers invited attendees to wear masks/face protection at their own personal choice, and many decided to opt to do so; in addition, a system of coloured wristbands was employed, allowing everyone to select and prominently display their preference (no contact, a measure of personal interaction, or full-on hugs and handshakes). This seemed to operate highly effectively.”

“Another casualty of the circumstances was that Gil’s proposed guest line-up had to be scrapped at the eleventh hour. Half a dozen intended personal appearances/Q&A sessions were abandoned, and Kate was left with the seemingly insurmountable problem of filling the gap. Luckily, the already-booked Frazer Hines confirmed his continued availability; in something of a master stroke, Kate carefully scanned ‘what’s on in Manchester’ and was able to provide a truly stellar surprise second guest in the form of Britt Ekland, who just happened to be in the area at the right time! Britt had been touring the UK as part of an ensemble cast in Bill Kenwright’s stage revival of The Cat and the Canary, the best-known version of which is Bob Hope’s version of John Willard’s venerable warhorse of a thunderstorm mystery, now almost a century old.”

(17) SCIENCE-LIKE FICTION. Joachim Boaz muses about the many examples of “Charts, Diagrams, Forms, and Tables in Science Fiction (John Brunner, Larry Niven, Christopher Priest, John Sladek, et al.)” in Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations (From 2017, but it’s news to me!) Includes lots of examples scanned from book pages.

…As of late I’ve been fascinated by pseudo-knowledge in science fiction and speculative fiction–the scholarly afterward in The Iron Dream (1972), the real medical citations in The Hospital Ship (1976), the invented medical citations in Doctor Rat (1976), and “diagrammatic” SF covers filled with maps or anthropological diagrams.

Whatever form it takes, pseudo-knowledge—perhaps derived from our world or even “real” knowledge in our world modified and inserted into another imaginary one—adds, at the most basic level, a veneer of veracity…. 

(18) GENRE ONSCREEN POPULARITY. JustWatch ranked the Top 10 genre movies and TV shows from December 2021. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org.

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in December (01.12.-31.12.21)

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: HomecomingStation Eleven
2Spider-Man: Far From HomeThe Wheel of Time
3The Amazing Spider-ManHawkeye
4Don’t Look UpDoctor Who
5Spider-ManThe Expanse
6Venom: Let There Be CarnageRick and Morty
7DuneLost in Space
8The Amazing Spider-Man 2Resident Alien
9Spider-Man: No Way HomeArcane
10Free GuyOutlander

(19) PARKING SPACE. “Stunning STAR WARS Diorama Features a Floating Millennium Falcon”Nerdist sets the frame.

…So, what exactly went into making this cool Star Wars display piece? For starters, Glen Makes used a Revell Snaptite Build and Play Star Wars: The Last Jedi Millennium Falcon 1:164 scale model. Next, they got themselves a Stirlingkit 1000g DIY Magnetic Levitation Module Floating Display Kit. Some Tap acrylic circles and clear plastic rods. Collectively, it cost around $200 to create. But the final product looks well worth it. Who wouldn’t want a Millenium Falcon as their display centerpiece?

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Halo Infinite,” Fandom Games notes that in the seventh Halo game the bad guys are still trying to destroy the universe by completing the halo, even though they failed at this in the six previous games.  Also, you can play this for free in multiplayer mode and enjoy “causing a mid-life crisis in a frat guy” when you kill off his character.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Graham Jones, author of My Heart Is a Chainsaw

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

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

Caitlin Starling, author of The Death of Jane Lawrence

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

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

Grady Hendrix, author of The Final Girl Support Group

GR: What sparked the idea for your latest book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEMORY LANE.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

Boubacar Boris Diop

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

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

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

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

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/18/21 Manic Pixel Dreamsnake And The Scrollers Of Doom

(1) RIDLEY TO WRITE NEXT BLACK PANTHER SERIES. The New York Times announced today in an exclusive interview that Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) will helm Marvel’s next Black Panther comic book series alongside Marvel’s Stormbreaker artist Juann Cabal (Guardians of the Galaxy). Their series will begin this August.

Building from the epic last chapter of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ groundbreaking multi-year Black Panther run in BLACK PANTHER #25 next week, Ridley will kick off an action-packed espionage story that will impact everything in T’Challa’s life and have ramifications for the entire Marvel Universe!

In this new ongoing series, secrets from T’Challa’s past have come back to haunt him. Fresh from returning from his adventures in space, Black Panther receives an unexpected and urgent message from a Wakandan secret agent. T’Challa must race the clock not only to save his agent, but also to keep his true agenda under wraps. Because if the truth comes out, it could cost T’Challa everything…

“It’s a hybrid espionage-superhero thriller, but at its core, it’s a love story,” Ridley told The New York Times. “And I don’t mean just romantic love, although there’s some of that as well. It’s love between friends.

“We’re coming out of a summer where we saw Black people fighting for our rights, standing up, fighting in ways that we haven’t had to do in years,” Ridley added. “And it was really important to me after the year we had where we can have these conversations with Black people and we can use words like love and caring and hope and regret and all these really fundamental emotions that everybody has.”

(2) AMAZON PUBLISHING’S LIBRARY AGREEMENT. The Digital Public Library of America has signed an agreement with Amazon Publishing to make their ebooks available to U.S. libraries:

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is pleased to announce that we have signed an agreement with Amazon Publishing to make all of the approximately 10,000 Amazon Publishing ebooks and audiobooks available to libraries and their patrons through the DPLA Exchange, the only not-for-profit, library-centered content marketplace. This marks the first time that ebooks from Amazon Publishing have been made available to libraries. Like our previous publisher arrangements, this agreement furthers our mission to expand equitable access to ebooks and audiobooks while protecting library patron privacy.

Amazon Publishing titles will begin to be available in the DPLA Exchange via four licensing models this summer; we expect that libraries will be able to access all of the Amazon Publishing titles by the end of the year:

  • Unlimited, one user at a time access, two-year license
  • Bundles of 40 lends, available with a maximum of 10 simultaneously, with no time limit to use the lends
  • Bundles of five lends, available simultaneously, with no time limit to use the lends
  • 26 lends, one user at a time access, the lesser of two years or 26 lends license

Library patrons will be able to access Amazon Publishing titles through SimplyE, the library-developed and managed e-reader app founded by New York Public Library. 

Publishers Weekly’s analysis says the deal will reduce pressure for a legislative solution:

…The deal will also serve to blunt a major criticism of Amazon, which until now had not made its digital content available to libraries under any terms—an exclusion that librarians have loudly criticized for years, and which was brought to the attention of lawmakers in an ALA report last year. In fact, an Amazon spokesperson revealed news of the potential deal with DPLA last year after reporters from The Hill contacted the company regarding a petition urging Congress to pursue “an antitrust investigation and legislative action to preserve and expand library services.”

(3) LIVING INSIDE THE STORY. F&SF invites readers to find out just how far Eugen Bacon, author of “When the Water Stops” in F&SF’s May/June issue, will go to research a new work in this author interview.

SRT: What literary (or other art/history) pilgrimages have you gone on?

EB: Bendigo is a mining town in Australia. I took a tour to the Central Debora Gold Mine for what they called Nine Levels of Darkness (228 metres) in a miner’s cage to research a portion of my novel Mage of Fools by Meerkat Press in March 2022. One scene happens in a mine and I needed to experience it to write it. Imagine what would happen if I were researching a cannibalistic serial killer.

(4) CHILL OUT. James Davis Nicoll is all in favor of science fiction where the heroes get a nice nap before the action starts: “Space Hibernation: Five Stories Featuring Sleeper Ships” at Tor.com.

The Winds of Gath by E. C. Tubb (1967)

Determined to find his lost home world, Dumarest of Earth travels from world to world. Itinerate labourers like Dumarest must travel by the cheapest method available: cold sleep, AKA “Low Passage.” True, the odds of waking from Low Passage are only five in six, assuming the traveller is well-fed and healthy, but it is a risk Dumarest and his companions accept.

Surviving yet another gamble with Low, Dumarest is confronted by yet another Low reality: there is no protection or warning for the traveller should the starship captain alter destination in flight. Rather than waking on prosperous Broome, Dumarest is stuck on tide-locked Gath. Gath is not prosperous and escape may prove quite difficult. If escape is possible at all.

(5) THE BEST OF CORA BUHLERT 2021. Cora Buhlert is making her 2021 Hugo Voter Packet submission available to everyone – and it’s up now.

(6) PILING UP THOSE CANS OF FILM. “Amazon in talks to buy ‘James Bond’ movie studio MGM” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Amazon is looking to bulk up its film and TV operations with MGM’s deep film library and substantial television production work as it looks to keep Prime Video competitive with Netflix and Disney+, which are spending billions to dominate the streaming wars, the sources said.

The Seattle company had long been thought to be a potential acquirer largely because of the appeal of the MGM film and TV library, which includes 4,000 movies such as “Robocop” “The Pink Panther” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” MGM’s scripted TV division is responsible for “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Vikings.”

The Information first reported the talks, which escalated recently and are said to be in the advanced stages. Sources said the purchase price being discussed is within a range of $7 billion to $9 billion….

(7) ELECTION INTERFERENCE. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will continue its discussion of threats to last year’s US elections in “US Election Interference in 2020 and Beyond Part II – Domestic Interference”. Register at the link. Joining the team for this program will be Bryson Bort (founder of Scythe), Matt Masterson (Former Election Security Lead for CISA), Harri Hursti (Nordic Innovation Labs), and SJ Terp (Strategist, ThreeT Consulting).

(8) LIVING IN SPACE. Jeff Foust reviews two books about the science of settling on Mars and the Moon for The Space Review: “Developing Space and Settling Space”.

Developing Space by John Strickland with Sam Spencer and Anna Nesterova
Settling Space by John Strickland with Sam Spencer and Anna Nesterova

For all his talk about wanting to make humanity multiplanetary, Elon Musk hasn’t said much about how he would ensure people would stay alive on another world. Musk is happy to talk about how Starship can make it possible for people to go to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere in large numbers, including that vision of a million people living on Mars. But exactly what people would do once on Mars, and how they would survive the extreme environment there, is an exercise left for the reader.

That reader—or maybe Musk himself—could turn to the two volumes recently published by John Strickland, called Developing Space and Settling Space. Strickland, a longtime space advocate and regular contributor to The Space Review, spares no detail in his analysis of how humans can not only get to other worlds—or create their own in the form of space settlements—but also survive and thrive once they got there….

Don Sakers

(9) DON SAKERS OBIT. Author and retired librarian Don Sakers (1958-2021) died May 17. From 2009 to the present he was Analog’s book reviewer, with a “Reference Library” column in every issue.

He most enjoyed being remembered for exploring the thoughts of sapient trees in The Leaves of October (part of his Scattered Worlds series), beating the “Cold Equations” scenario (“The Cold Solution,” Analog 7/91, voted the magazine’s best short story of the year), and editing Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three (1989), an anthology inspired by Leslie Fish’s filksong, to which he contributed two stories.

Sakers lived at Meerkat Meade in suburban Baltimore with his spouse, costumer Thomas Atkinson.

(10) GRODIN OBIT. Actor Charles Grodin has died of cancer at the age of 86. His best genre roles were in the movies Rosemary’s Baby (1968), King Kong (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), and The Great Muppet Caper (1981). He also appeared in single episodes of TV’s Captain Nice, and My Mother the Car. The Hollywood Reporter’s career notes mention —

…Grodin’s characters occasionally displayed a sinister side. In King Kong (1976), he played the shady businessman who tries to cash in on the giant ape; two years later, he portrayed an oily lawyer in the screwball comedy remake Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty.

Early in his career, Grodin was in the running to star as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967), then played an obstetrician in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)….

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 18, 1962 — On this date in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” scripted by Ray Bradbury. They make a fairly convincing pitch here. It doesn’t seem possible, though, to find a woman who must be ten times better than mother in order to seem half as good, except, of course, in the Twilight Zone. — Intro narration. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. An large ensemble cast was needed, hence Josephine Hutchinson, David White, Vaughn Taylor, Doris Packer, Veronica Cartwright, Susan Crane and Charles Herbert all being performers.  This was the year that the entire season of the series won the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Chicon III.   

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 18, 1852 – I.L. Peretz.  A great figure in Yiddish literature; a score of stories for us, among which a classic version of the golem legend.  Extra credit: compare Avram Davidson’s.  (Died 1915) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1919 – Margot Fonteyn.  Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; named prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet by Elizabeth II.  Danced many fantasies e.g. The FirebirdGiselleRaymondaSwan Lake.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1930 — Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series though not in the order they were intended to be read. Some are outstanding, some less so. I’d recommend Berserker ManShiva in Steel and the original Berserker collection.  Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think that I’veread is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out in various magazines. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1931 – Don Martin.  Album covers for Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Stan Getz.  A cover and thirty interiors for Galaxy.  Mad’s Maddest Artist, of floppy feet, onomatopoeia – his car license plate was SHTOINK – and National Gorilla Suit Day.  Fourteen collections.  Ignatz Award, Nat’l Cartoonists Society’s Special Features Award, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1934 — Elizabeth Rogers. Trek geeking time. She had two roles in the series. She provided the uncredited voice for “The Companion” in the “Metamorphosis” episode. She also portrayed Lt. Palmer, a communications officer who took the place of Uhura, in “The Doomsday Machine”, “The Way to Eden”, and the very last episode of the series, “Turnabout Intruder”. She also had appearances on Time TunnelLand of The GiantsBewitchedThe Swarm and Something Evil. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1946 — Andreas Katsulas. I knew him as Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5 but had forgottenhe played the Romulan Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. His first genre role on television was playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he had a recurring role in Max Headroom as Mr. Bartlett. He also had appearances on Alien NationThe Death of the Incredible HulkMillenniumStar Trek: Enterprise anda voice role on The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1946 – Larry Smith, F.N.  Chaired Marcon III-XII, Fan Guest of Honor at XIII; vice-chair of Chicon IV, Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon 27; co-chaired Ohio Valley Filk Fest 14, World Fantasy Con 2010.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Bought Dick Spelman’s book business when DS retired, became a leading book dealer with wife Sally Kobee, ran Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons.  (Died 2017)
  • Born May 18, 1948 – R-Laurraine Tutihasi, age 73.  Active in fanzines, the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; won its Kaymar and Franson awards), and otherwise.  Loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) at least as far back as Algol and The Diversifier, also ArgentusJanusFlagBroken Toys.  Her own fanzine is Purrsonal Mewsings.  [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1952 — Diane Duane, 69. She’s known for the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser-known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. A most wonderful thing for felines to do! (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1958 — Jonathan Maberry, 63. The only thing I’ve read by him is the first five novels in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. Popcorn reading with Sriracha sauce. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra which I remember as quite excellent. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1969 — Ty Franck, 52. Half of the writing team along with Daniel Abraham that’s James Corey, author of The Expanse series. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind by a volume or two as there’s just too many good series out there too keep up with all of them, damn it, but now that it’s ended I intend to finish it. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1971 – Boros Attila, age 50.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Two dozen covers.  For Wild Cardshere is Four Aceshere is Only the Dead Know Jokertownhere is Ace in the Hole.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Lio’s booth he charges ten times what Lucy did – which makes a kind of sense when you consider what the demand was for his makeover material a year ago.

(14) IN TUNE WITH SFF. Jackiem Joyner is a contemporary saxophonist, author, and music producer. He’s released seven albums, has two number one hit songs, and five Top 10 Billboard singles. On the sff side, his second sff novel, Timelab: Episode One, came out in October.

Two Scientists. One from long ago. The other from modern day 2018.
Both on the precipice of greatness.
Both met with disdain, and in one case, branded a witch.

Sir Bernard, a seasoned and trusted scientist, living in the time of King Caesar, is lauded by many… until his invention sparks rage and fear among the people. When they brand him as a witch, practicing dark magic, he makes a daring escape via his time machine.
He finds himself in San Francisco, 2000 years in the future. There, he befriends Kyle, a young, talented physics student, whose brilliance also sparks distrust, and in some cases, maltreatment.
Together, the two scientists are a formidable force, but there are barriers that prevent them from making good use of their scientific theories.
Sir Bernard’s homeland is on the brink of war. To save his people, he must go back in time, but first he’ll need a new, more powerful time machine.
Kyle has struggles of his own. His brain puts him ahead of the class, but he has trepidation about his mother’s legacy. He wants to clear her name and prove that she didn’t intentionally detonate a scientific lab, killing everyone, including herself.
Two scientists from vastly different worlds fight to erase the past. Can they prove their theories are real and can they save lives and reputations, including their own?

(15) YOU HAVE TO BE OH SO SMART OR OH SO NICE. The artist is trying to nice despite the kerfuffle: “’Sinister’ statue of mythical Irish creature put on hold in Co Clare”IrishCentral tells all about it.

Sculptor Aidan Harte has shared with IrishCentral his thoughts about the controversy surrounding his ‘Púca of Ennistymon’ statue.

Harte told IrishCentral on Wednesday morning: “All I can say is that it matters what all the people of Clare think.

“A vocal minority seem to have been set against it from the start, and that culminated with the priest denouncing it from the altar as a pagan idol.

“That’s silly; the Púca is no more pagan than the leprechaun.

“But since the controversy went national there’s been a swing, with locals who like it now speaking up. That’s welcome and I hope it goes ahead.

“The brief was to make a statue that would attract tourists to Ennistymon. The Púca hasn’t even been put up yet and all Ireland is already talking about it!”

(16) THAT’S WHAT TIGERS DO. Entertainment Weekly tells how “C. Robert Cargill pays tribute to a sci-fi hero in robot apocalypse novel Day Zero”.

C. Robert Cargill‘s just-published science-fiction novel Day Zero hinges on the relationship between a boy named Ezra and his tiger-resembling “nannybot,” Pounce.

“It’s the eve of the robot revolution,” the author and Doctor Strange co-writer, 45, tells EW. “When everything hits the fan, it’s up to a nannybot to decide whether he wants to join the revolution or protect the boy he loves.”

Day Zero is a tip of a hat to the late science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, whose tale A Boy and His Dog found a character named Vic and his telepathic canine partner Blood attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Cargill got to know Ellison when he and Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson signed on to turn the Ellison-written Outer Limits episode “Demon With a Glass Hand” into a movie.

“The big deal was announced and nobody had told Harlan,” says Cargill. “Harlan immediately hit all of the [web] boards he was frequently on and goes, ‘Who the hell is C. Robert Cargill?’ Three different friends reached out to me on the same Saturday morning and said, ‘Ah, Harlan Ellison is looking for you. He seems kind of pissed.'”

Although the film was never made, the pair became friendly.

(17) CATCH ‘EM ALL. Input leads the cheers for this obsessive collector: “All hail King Pokémon!”

“We’re honored to have the one and only King Pokémon!” an announcer calls out.

On this mid-March day, he strides into Collect-A-Con, a two-day, first-of-its-kind conference dedicated to non-sports trading cards, in Frisco, Texas. By his side are fellow Pokémon royalty — RealBreakingNate and Leonhart, two mega-popular Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) YouTubers. Making his way through the cheering crowd, King Pokémon waves and smiles, his demeanor that of a kid popping bubbles: lit-up, blissful.

The King is Gary Haase, a 67-year-old father of three from Las Vegas. His Pokémon TCG collection’s estimated total value is more than $10 million, making it the most expensive in the world. In this windowless Embassy Suites ballroom, owning top-tier Pokémon cards makes you a star. And Haase, who has obsessively collected Pokémon cards since 1998, is a bona fide celebrity. One meet-and-greet, expected to go for an hour and a half, lasts five hours….

(18) QUACKING UP. The New Yorker chronicles “The Strange Story of Dagobert, the “DuckTales” Bandit”.

…He mailed a ransom note to the store demanding a million marks—the equivalent of more than a million dollars today. “I gave you a demonstration of my determination to achieve my goal, including with violence,” he warned. “The next time there will be a catastrophe.” Funke instructed the store to place a coded message in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper if it was willing to comply: “Uncle Dagobert greets his nephews.” Dagobert Duck is the German name for Scrooge McDuck, the money-grabbing duck from Disney’s “Uncle Scrooge” comics and “DuckTales” TV show.

Funke sent directions to a forested area, where police officers found a box attached to a telephone pole, with a linen bag inside bearing the “DuckTales” logo and an image of Scrooge McDuck. They also found a strange contraption designed to connect the money bag to the back of a train using electromagnets. Funke instructed them to attach the money bag to a train from Rostock to Berlin. When the train roared past, he pushed a button on a transmitter to deactivate the magnets, but the package didn’t drop; the police had tied it to the train. He sent another letter, changing the pickup location. On August 14th, he again waited near the train tracks, wearing gloves, black glasses, and a gray wig. This time, the package eventually detached and crashed against the tracks. As Funke ran to pick it up, the train stopped and police officers jumped out. “Stand still or I’ll shoot!” an officer cried, firing his weapon into the air.

Funke grabbed the package and scampered to safety. When he opened it, he saw that only four thousand marks were real; the rest was Mickey Mouse money. He had threatened the store with another bomb if it didn’t pay up. Meanwhile, it didn’t take the police long to connect the two bombings: both involved voice changers, a treasure hunt, ingenious gadgets, and money thrown from a train. They were dealing with a serial bomber who appeared to take inspiration from the capers in comic books featuring Scrooge McDuck. From that moment on, they called him Dagobert….

(19) TRAILER PARK. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania comes to theaters July 23. SYFY Wire frames the scene:

As the film opens, the title hotel — set up by Dracula (Brian Hull, replacing original star Adam Sandler) as a haven for himself and his monster friends where they could be free of human persecution — is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and Dracula’s son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg) is doing his best to throw a killer bash for his father-in-law. When things go wrong, Johnny worries that he’ll never really be able to relate to Dracula and his pals because he’s not a monster.

Enter Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who reveals that he’s developed a “Monsterification Ray” that will transform Johnny into the monster he’s always wanted to be. Of course, the ray can also transform any monster it hits into a human, and when the invention goes haywire, the whole monster squad gets an unexpected and unwelcome taste of mortality.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Resident Evil Village” on YouTube, Fandom Games says in this game you “Have the arena of a small country as you blast away at vampires, werewolves, livestock, and the Borg!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/17/21 I’m Going To Play Jenga With My Mount-To-Be-Read

(1) HOLMES BOOK BOUND FOR LUNA. Science fiction and fantasy author V.S. Holmes will be one of the authors whose debut novel is getting sent to the moon. The book, appropriately called Travelers, is the first book in Holmes’ archaeological sci-fi series and will be included on the Peregrine Moon Lander as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule launching in the fall of 2021. (See the 125 writers and 8 stowaways on the Manifest.)

Holmes is an archaeologist by day and author by night, They also write with a disability and their works tend to have focus within the LGBTQ community. Despite the challenges, they have become an international bestseller as well as award winner. They also work as an advocate for disabled and queer representation in SFF worlds.

Travelers, first book in the Stars Edge series, tells this story:

No one fights dirtier than an archaeologist. Dr. Nel Bently has barely dug into Chile’s dry earth when her pristine site is vandalized. Her archaeologist’s dream of a ground-breaking project funded by a private patron turns into a nightmare: local activists Los Pobladores take issue with anyone brave–or stubborn–enough to set boots on their land. And foul-mouthed Nel is stubborn as they come. Despite the danger, Nel refuses to surrender her site to vandals. Easier said than done, however, with the greenest crew she’s ever trained, absurd radiocarbon dates, and angry militants who may actually have a point. When Los Pobledores land a blow that turns Nel’s world upside down, she realizes her mysterious benefactor is playing chess with their lives. Grief-stricken and angrier than ever, Nel is ready to fight dirty.

And the fourth novel in Holmes’ Stars Edge series — Heretics – was just released on May 8.

Hot-tempered Dr. Nel Bently is not cut out to save the world. After her last project ended in fire and death, Nel must put aside her distrust of just about everyone and embark on a lo-fi search for a deadly radio transmission.

Earth’s survivors are torn between the austere superpower of IDH and the high-tech grassroots Los Pobledores. At every turn more allies go missing and Nel questions where everyone’s true loyalties lie–and on which side Lin will fall when a line is finally drawn.

They need experts. They need firepower. But it looks like the only thing standing between Earth and devastation is Nel: archaeologist, asshole, and functioning alcoholic with anger issues.

(2) BLACK LITERATURE MATTERS. New York Society Library will host a livestreamed event “Black Literature Matters: 1960-Now” on Thursday, May 20 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Free and open to the public – register at the link.

In this original series of live online events, Black writers from the 1700s to the present are re-examined to inspire understanding of race in our country today.

Black Literature Matters celebrates Black writers in four extraordinary evenings. This final event of the series showcases brief excerpts from the work of writers from 1960 to the present including Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Octavia Butler (shown here), Pearl Cleague, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Ernest Gaines, Alex Haley, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Haki Madhabuti, Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison, Lynn Nottage, Malcolm X, Sonia Sanchez, Gil Scott-Heron, Ntozake Shange, Danez Smith, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, and August Wilson.

Head Librarian Carolyn Waters and Columbia University’s Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin introduce the writers, their worlds, and their impact, with dramatic readings by actors Shontelle Thrash and Geoffrey D. Williams.

As New York City’s oldest cultural institution, we are honored to do our part to highlight the thousands of stories by African American writers contained within our building and acquired since the 1700s.

(3) PROFESSOR TIDHAR. Lavie Tidhar announced his new appointment as Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond.

It’s official (here’s a short announcement) – I will be a Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond, The American International University in London. I look forward to engaging with the university!

(For any Ted Lasso fans out there – yes, it’s that Richmond).

I taught Richmond’s undergraduate British Fantasy Fiction course several times in the past (a steep learning curve! And what led me to eventually write By Force Alone and The Hood) and have been involved in setting up the brand-new MA In Film: Science Fiction and Fantasy, which will run from this year. Depending on demand, I may also run a Creative Writing undergraduate course at some point.

(4) MULTIPLE FUTURES. April Yee’s review article for Salon, “In the latest wave of science fiction, authors of color take space to imagine multiple new societies”, looks at Brenda Peynado’s The Rock Eaters, E.C. Osondu’s Alien Worlds, and Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom.

Today writers are employing speculative fiction to pick apart the system built on racism – contemporary extractive capitalism – as well as the large-scale displacements resulting from imbalances in the safety and wealth of nations, or what we refer to as immigration. In lieu of epic series, many of these new releases come in the form of short story collections, which allow the imagination of a multiplicity of futures in order to reflect a multiplicity of readers. Three recent collections from writers with roots in Nigeria, Japan, and the Dominican Republic direct their slant lenses toward capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy….

(5) AT&T AND DISCOVERY MERGER PLANS. AT&T and Discovery Inc. have made it official, unveiling their plan to merge their media and entertainment assets in a deal that will bring together TV channels like CNN, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network and Discovery Channel, the Warner Bros. film studio, and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+. Details in The Hollywood Reporter: “WarnerMedia-Discovery Merger: AT&T and Discovery Detail Merger Terms”.

(6) A POWELL’S CONVERSATION. Powell’s Books presents Suyi Davies Okungbowa in conversation with S. A. Chakraborty on May 18 at 05:00 p.m. Pacific. Zoom webinar registration at the link.

From Suyi Davies Okungbowa, one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, comes Son of the Storm (Orbit), a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the precolonial empires of West Africa. In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness — only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy. But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire. Okungbowa will be joined in conversation by S. A. Chakraborty, author of The Daevabad Trilogy.

(7) A LOOK AT LOKI. Disney + dropped this excerpt from Loki today: “’Introducing Agent Mobius’ Clip”.

(8) KAYE OBIT. Marvin Kaye (1938-2021), a mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and horror author and editor, died May 13. He was a World Fantasy Award winner and was a past editor of Weird Tales Magazine. His daughter, Terry Kaye, made this statement:

Well, there are really no words that I can put together at this moment in time, so this will be a relatively short post. More later as the memories come and the brain starts functioning again. It may be a while.

My dad, Marvin Kaye, passed away last night about 8:35 pm. He was in hospice care, calm and not suffering, and I will always be grateful that my vaccination date and subsequent cross-country slog got me to New York in time to see him, have him see me, and make a few final memories before his disease completely overtook him and his body shut down.

We will have a small ceremony for close/local friends this Sunday and then a larger, hybrid in-person and zoom memorial in the next several weeks. I will post more info about that as we know more.

I am beyond grateful for the love and support of my family and friends here in NYC, in LA, and everywhere in between. I’m not going to list all the names but you know. It’s like I am surrounded in a huge hug from all sides. I feel it all.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — In 1981 at Devention Two, The Empire Strikes Back which was released the previous year by Lucasfilm won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works were Lathe of Heaven, the Cosmos series, The Martian Chronicles and Flash Gordon.  It was directed by Irvin Kershner from the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan with story by being George Lucas. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson.  Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps).  Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him.  Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; compiled two 1947-1948 indexes, one of authors, one of publications. Member of First Fandom.  Lamont, Phoenix awards.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill. Professor at Brown University.  Two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature. Edited a Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction (2nd ed’n 1997), included Ursula LeGuin, Gabriel García Márquez, other SF. (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 – Lars Gustafsson, Ph.D.  Ahrvid Engholm thinks LG’s novel Bernard Foy’s Third Castling is SF, and AE is often right.  I haven’t found The Strange Animal From the Northin English; half a dozen others, as many books of poetry, are, though not SF.  Prix Int’l Charles Veillon des Essais, Gerard-Bonnier Prize, Goethe Medal, Thomas Mann Prize, Nonino Prize, Zbigniew Herbert Award.  See here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! Of he followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 75. I’ve read, let me check, oh, about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone finished them off and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell, age 73.  Professor at Hollins University.  Nine novels for us, about deer dancers, goddesses, horse catchers.  What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 71. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s “Commando Cody.” Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as OGH says here, their MT VOID fanzine is one of the longest published ones still going. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 67. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows plus the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire screenplays. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 67. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim, age 63.  Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark.  Three short stories, one cover, twenty interiors.  Harvey Award.  Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1974 – Grace Lin, age 47.  Five novels for us, many others, aimed at children, which often happens with fantasy.  GL has helpfully been including Chinese matter – or energy – hmm – in English-language writing.  Graphics are easier – maybe – and you’ll see some at her Website; as it happens she is also a graphic artist.  She’s managed to make her signature block look like Chinese seal-writing; of course there are clouds and a dragon.  [JH]

(10) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Jeopardy!, Andrew Porter saw a contestant have problems with this one:

Category: Essays

Answer: An essay that she wrote about marine life called “World of Waters” was published in 1937 as “Undersea.”

Wrong question: Who is Ursula Le Guin?

Correct question: Who is Rachel Carson?

(11) CHECK IT OUT. “First Look: DC’s Newest Library Is a Stunner” says Washingtonian.

The DC Public Library system has garnered a reputation for creating functional public buildings that are also beautiful spaces. The Southwest Library will join DCPL’s collection of recently revamped facilities, reopening on Saturday, May 15, with an $18 million building.

…Planked ceilings pay homage to the wooden canopy at nearby theater Arena Stage. A massive photo spanning the library’s two floors depicts the Potomac River in 1885, and it’s functional, too: Made of perforated metal with felt backing, the artwork helps absorb sound in the open space.

(12) TRYING TO IDENTIFY. CBS News’ Sunday Morning show did a segment on “UFO studies and the possibility of alien origin”; video at the link.

We’ve always been fascinated by aliens, and that’s putting it mildly. And mathematically speaking, aliens should exist.

“There are two trillion other galaxies we can see, each with a 100 billion Earth-like worlds,” said Seth Shostak , the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. [SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.] “100 billion, OK? It’s hard to believe they’re all sterile.”

Correspondent David Pogue asked, “I happen to know that this is sort of a trick question when people say, ‘Do UFOs exist?'”

“Well, I mean, obviously UFOs exist, ’cause that just means unidentified flying objects,” Shostak said. “But the real issue here is not that you see things in the sky, it’s what you claim they might be.”

Author and investigative journalist Leslie Kean said, “You just can’t assume if you see something in the sky that looks a little weird that it’s some kind of alien thing, which is what a lot of people assume. Most sightings that people have – Oh, I see something in the sky! – those kinds of sightings can usually be explained: The planet Venus, airplanes, comets, shooting stars, birds. Let’s say five to ten percent are the cases that any conventional explanation can be ruled out; those are the cases that are of interest.”

In 2017, Kean coauthored a New York Times story that revealed the existence of, believe it or not, a secret Pentagon program devoted to studying UFO sightings….

60 Minutes also did its own UFO segment: “UFOs regularly spotted in restricted U.S. airspace, report on the phenomena due next month”.

We have tackled many strange stories on 60 Minutes, but perhaps none like this. It’s the story of the U.S. government’s grudging acknowledgment of unidentified aerial phenomena— UAP—more commonly known as UFOs. After decades of public denial the Pentagon now admits there’s something out there, and the U.S. Senate wants to know what it is. The intelligence committee has ordered the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to deliver a report on the mysterious sightings by next month.

Bill Whitaker: So what you are telling me is that UFOs, unidentified flying objects, are real?

Lue Elizondo: Bill, I think we’re beyond that already. The government has already stated for the record that they’re real. I’m not telling you that. The United States government is telling you that. 

Luis Elizondo spent 20 years running military intelligence operations worldwide: in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Guantanamo. He hadn’t given UFOs a second thought until 2008. That’s when he was asked to join something at the Pentagon called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or “AATIP.”…

(13) A QUARTER CENTURY OF POKÉMON. The Week reports “Katy Perry released a new music video starring … Pikachu”.

In January, The Pokémon Company announced that it was teaming up with Universal Music Group artists to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

…On Friday, Katy Perry shared her own contribution to the anniversary celebrations: a video for her new single “Electric,” in which she travels back in time with her Pikachu to make her younger self enter a talent show. Though the song sounds like it belongs on a TJ Maxx playlist (“there’s no reason that this life can’t be electric!”), it’s at least more on-brand for Pokémon than Hootie and the Blowfish.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “In Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that “physics and probability aren’t the thing” in this Pirates movie because “every time Jack Sparrow gets on a rope, he turns into Spider-Man.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/14/21 I Plan To Read All The Hugo Nominees Tonight, Said Tom Swiftly.

(1) AN ALIEN STUDY. Charlie Jane Anders tells what problems are caused when TV aliens are just minority groups given forehead bumps: “Star Trek, Star Wars reveal the cultural minefield of inventing aliens” at Polygon.

… Alien characters don’t just entertain us with their strange and unfamiliar ways — they also reflect our humanity back to us. Science fiction is all about exploring what it means to be human, and we can do that more easily by comparing ourselves against the alien characters we love or hate. This works a couple of different ways for writers:

  1. You can create alien characters who act human in many ways, except for a few major differences — and those differences can provide a contrast that reveals something about that human-seeming behavior.
  2. You can take one aspect of human behavior and exaggerate it until it becomes a defining characteristic, which lets viewers see its importance and its drawbacks more clearly.

Human-with-a-difference aliens can be an awesome thing — as anyone who’s ever been at a convention with a hundred people dressed as Klingons and Vulcans can attest. But there’s a drawback: the same thing that lets these alien characters reveal essential truths about human beings also risks turning them into reflections of our worst ideas about our fellow humans. Sometimes that almost-but-not-quite-human thing can reflect noxious stereotypes, or present one-dimensional images that we can then turn around and project onto real people….

(2) UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. In the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday interviews Barry Jenkins about directing The Underground Railroad which just dropped on Amazon Prime. “With ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Barry Jenkins looks squarely at Black trauma”.

…For the most part, he didn’t. If anything, Jenkins’s version of “The Underground Railroad” is most startling for its implacable realism.

“Colson and I actually talked about this right at the beginning,” Jenkins explains. “He said, ‘You know, there’s a version of this where it’s all leather and steampunk and I don’t think we want to do that.’ And I was like, ‘No. We don’t want to do that.’?”

Invoking the corroded, retro-futuristic design of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s steampunk classic “The City of Lost Children,” he expands on the point. “I said to my production designer, ‘I don’t want CGI trains, I don’t want CGI tunnels. The trains have to be real, the tunnels have to be real.’?”

Indeed, Jenkins was so committed to photorealistic style in “The Underground Railroad” that he wrote an entire new chapter for the series, which turned out to be too expensive to film. He and co-writer Nathan Parker came up with “Genesis,” the story of Black miners who are buried after a methane explosion; when the mine’s owner decides against rescuing them to recoup their life insurance policies, “the men start digging. .?.?. And when they come aboveground, they’re on the other side of the Mason-Dixon [line]. And rather than stay aboveground, they go back down. And that’s how the underground railroad begins. .?.?. It’s not about steampunk. People aren’t going to levitate. We’re going to build myth out of rock and bone.”…

(3) NEW EDEN. Netflix dropped a trailer for Eden, a new anime series.

(4) THE PEDESTRIAN. Urban Archive traces the route of “A Night with the Missus: H.P. Lovecraft in Greenwich Village” with historic photos.

Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft lived in New York City between 1924 and 1926. One of his favorite pastimes was searching neighborhoods for buildings or structures dating from the eighteenth-century or embracing its styles. Lovecraft’s literary friends often served as his trusted companions in urban exploration. He also enjoying experiencing New York with his wife, Sonia H. Greene. In August 1924, Greene and Lovecraft shared an evening stroll through Greenwich Village. This excursion introduced Lovecraft to “more of the ancient New-York” than any of his other “numerous pilgrimages.”

…Greene and Lovecraft next ventured to Patchin Place. Gazing down this cul-de-sac, Lovecraft imagined that he had stepped into his beloved colonial American past. He was transfixed by an antique streetlamp in the pocket neighborhood. The lamp’s “pale beams cast alluring shadows of archaic things half of the imagination.” Poet e.e. cummings lived at Patchin Place at this time. Coincidentally, cummings and Lovecraft’s literary circles soon would intersect.

Incidentally, sff writer Charles Platt once lived in the Patchin neighborhood and gave its name to his short-lived magazine The Patchin Review, now collected in an ebook available as a free download from Dave Langford’s unofficial TAFF site (donation appreciated).

(5) BARROWMAN APOLOGY. CinemaBlend quotes John Barrowman’s apology: “Doctor Who’s John Barrowman Issues Apology After Flashing Allegations Resurface”

Public interest in the claims of John Barrowman exposing his genitals on the sets of Doctor Who and Torchwood was reignited by the recent allegations of misconduct against actor Noel Clarke, who was also on the series around the same time. Allegations made years prior by various cast members (including Clarke) claimed that Barrowman would randomly expose himself on set and even hit cast members with his penis at random.

The Guardian then spoke to several sources who then confirmed John Barrowman repeatedly exposed himself on set, though not in a manner that one would perceive as sexual. One woman, who had her name changed for the article, stated that while Barrowman exposing himself to her and others on set made her uncomfortable, there was never a time in which it happened that she felt unsafe. While Barrowman’s lawyers said he “could not recall” specific instances mentioned in the article, the actor did give a statement apologizing for any resurfaced claims and new ones from his early years on the show:

With the benefit of hindsight, I understand that upset may have been caused by my exuberant behaviour and I have apologised for this previously. Since my apology in November 2008, my understanding and behaviour have also changed.

… Earlier this week ITV declined to confirm if Mr Barrowman would continue as a judge on Dancing On Ice, saying decisions about the next series’ line-up had yet to be made.

(6) TORCHWOOD IS LIGHTS OUT. Big Finish won’t release a story Barrowman voiced: “John Barrowman: Release of new Torchwood audio story scrapped” reports BBC.

An audio story featuring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, his character from Doctor Who and spin-off Torchwood, has been pulled from release.

It follows allegations that in the past the actor repeatedly exposed himself while filming the TV shows.

Mr Barrowman has previously apologised for his behaviour.

Torchwood: Absent Friends was made by Big Finish, the company licensed by the BBC to produce official Doctor Who and Torchwood audio plays.

It was due to be released this month. In it, Captain Jack was due to be reunited with the Doctor, voiced by David Tennant, who played the character on TV between 2005-2010.

A Big Finish spokesperson said: “We have no plans to publish this title at this time.”…

(7) R.H.I.P. Emily Temple Google-searched 275 famous books that came to mind and turned it into an imprecise ranking for Literary Hub: “What Are the Most Discussed Books on the Internet?” Not ‘til you get to #31 do her sff picks rise above the event horizon.

…This number, by the way, is an estimate—a Google Webmaster described it as “a ballpark figure,” but it may be even less accurate than that. Even the estimate can vary a lot, based on a whole host of different factors, like where you are and what else you’ve searched for (in your whole entire life). But even if the numbers themselves are approximate, they may still have relative meaning, especially when accessed from the same computer, using the same browser, on the same day: at the very least, they should be able to tell us, in a general way, which books have been referenced more or less than others online.

It’s important to remember that this is not exactly the same as true popularity—plenty of bestsellers, especially older bestsellers, published when the internet was less of a driving force in book marketing, were relatively low-ranked here….

Here’s an excerpt — #31-37 on the list:

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games – 2,080,000
James Joyce, Ulysses – 1,850,000
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale – 1,800,000
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield – 1,780,000
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1,630,000
Barack Obama, A Promised Land – 1,610,000
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 – 1,600,000

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 14, 1996 Doctor Who aired on the Fox Television Network in the United States. Starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy briefly as the Seventh Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway and Eric Roberts as The Master. It was directed by Geoffrey Sax off a script by Matthew Jacobs. It was intended as a pilot to an American-produced and -based Who series but internal politics at BBC killed it off. Some critics loved, some hated it; and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave it a decent forty eight percent rating.  He has since reprised the role, briefly in video form in the BBC series and quite extensively in audio form for Big Finish. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 14, 1848 – Albert Robida.  French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist.  Edited and published Caricature magazine; 520 illustrations for Pierre Giffard’s weekly serial The Infernal War; 60,000 during AR’s life.  In The Twentieth Century (1882; set in 1952), War in the Twentieth Century (1887), Electric Life (1890), five more, imagined technological developments e.g. the telephonoscope whose flat-screen display shows news, plays, conferences, 24 hours a day; here’s an aerial rotating house.  Illustrated Cyrano de Bergerac, Rabelais, Swift.  Clock of the CenturiesThe End of Books (with Octave Uzanne); The Long-Ago Is With Us TodayIn 1965.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1853 – Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (known as “Hall Caine”).  Novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, poet, critic.  Secretary to Dante Gabriel RossettiRecollections of Rossetti (rev. 1928).  Son of a Manxman, moved there, elected to its legislature; Bram Stoker dedicated Dracula to him in Manx.  The Christian, first novel in Britain to sell a million copies; a score more novels, as many plays, four films (plus more made from his books); The Supernatural in Shakespere (HC’s spelling), The Supernatural Element in Poetry, a score more books of non-fiction; ten million books sold.  Went to Russia, Morocco, Iceland, Egypt.  Sixty thousand people at his funeral.  (Died 1931) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1929 – George Scithers.  Two Hugos for his fanzine Amra.  Chaired three Disclaves and the 21st Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at the 2nd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) and the 59th Worldcon; frequent chair of the annual WSFS (World SF Soc.) Business Meeting.  Served as President of WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) and Official Arbiter of The Cult (an apa famous in song and story).  First editor of Asimov’s, two Hugos as Best Pro Editor.  Perpetrated the Scithers SFL (Science Fiction League) Hoax.  Revived Weird Tales (with John Betancourt), World Fantasy special award for it (with Darrell Schweitzer).  World Fantasy lifetime-achievement award.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1933 – Ron Bennett.  British fanwriter, collector, publisher, used-book dealer, even while living in Singapore. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; trip report Colonial Excursion.  Chaired Eastercon 13, ran the Dealers’ Room at the 45th Worldcon.  Member variously of OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n, serving awhile as its Official Editor), FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n), The Cult; best-known fanzines, Skyrack (rhyming with “beer hack” because, as RB well knew, it meant shire oak, but what a name), Ploy.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 77. For better and worse I suppose, he created  the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine. I adore the original Trilogy.) And let’s not forget THX 1138. My fav works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Oh, and and The Young Indiana Jones series. (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1945 Rob Tapert, 76. I’d say he’s best known for co-creating Xena: Warrior Princess. He also produced and/or wrote several other television series including Hercules: The Legendary JourneysM.A.N.T.I.S. and American Gothic. Tapert also co-created the prequel series Young Hercules which I loved. He’s married to actress Lucy Lawless. (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Kathleen Ann Goonan. Her Nanotech Quartet is most excellent, particularly the first novel, Queen City Jazz. Her only Award was given for In War Times which garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. She’s wrote an interesting essay on the relationship between sf and music, “Science Fiction and All That Jazz”. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Robert Zemeckis, 69. He’s responsible for some of my favorite films including the Back to the Future trilogy, The Muppet Christmas CarolThe WitchesWho Framed Roger Rabbit and the savagely funny Death Becomes Her. What’s your favorite films that’s he had a hand in? (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1953 – Kerryn Goldsworthy, Ph.D., age 68.  Taught at Univ. Melbourne.  Free lance since 1997.  Pascall Prize, Horne Prize.  She edited Australian Book Review, “learning more about human nature in those two years than in either the preceding thirty-three or the following nineteen.”  Anthologies outside our field e.g. Coast to CoastAustralian Women’s Stories. [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1956 – Gillian Bradshaw, age 65.  A score of novels for us; outside our field, historical fiction set in ancient Egypt, Rome, the Byzantine Empire (she won the Phillips Prize for Classical Greek while at Univ. Michigan).  Married a British mathematical-physics professor (and Ig Nobel Prize winner), has judged the Inst. Physics’ Paperclip Physics competition.  [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1965 — Eoin Colfer, 56. He is best known for being the author of the Artemis Fowl series. (OGH)

(10) CATCH ‘EM AND BRAWL. “Target pulls Pokemon cards from stores, citing threat to workers and customers”CBS News has details.

Target is pulling in-store sales of popular trading cards, citing employee safety, after a parking lot brawl in one of its stores last week. The retailer told CBS MoneyWatch it would no longer sell Pokemon and sports trading cars in its physical locations starting Friday.

“The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the sale of MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokemon trading cards within our stores, effective May 14. Guests can continue to shop these cards online at Target.com,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement.

… Target last month limited card sales to three packs per person per day, then to one pack per day. But the policy led to even more frenzied speculation with some shoppers camping out outside the stores before they opened.

Last week, a shopper leaving a Target store in Wisconsin was attacked by three men in the parking lot, leading the victim to pull out his gun and neighboring stores to impose momentary lockdowns. No shots were fired, and the victim suffered only minor injuries, according to reports. It’s unclear which type of trading card was the cause of the scuffle.

(11) KEEPING TABS. The Otherwise Award put together a post about what its past winners had published in 2020: “Eligible for nomination: 2020 books & stories by past Otherwise winners”. The first two entries on the lengthy list are –

Eleanor Arnason, 1991 winner for A Woman of the Iron People, published the short story “Tunnels” in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine on May 1, 2020. You can buy that issue on Magzter.

Maureen McHugh, 1992 winner for China Mountain Zhang, published the short story Yellow and the Perception of Reality in July 2020. You can read it for free on Tor.com.

(12) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 31 of the Octothorpe podcast, “If I Set Fire to Alison”, “John [Coxon] has bad Internet, Alison [Scott] is monologuing, and Liz [Batty] is the long-suffering one.” Make of that what you will. The episode outline says there’s a discussion of Worldcon bids and the business meeting in the middle.

(13) STASIS. Kate Washington tells about “Rereading The Phantom Tollbooth in This Year of Our Pandemic Doldrums” at Literary Hub.

In The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo—the child-hero driving through a world of word and number play—accidentally enters a low, dull place. The world loses all its color, everything becoming “grayer and monotonous.” He feels drowsy, his car won’t move, and finally he comes to a dead stop. He has strayed into this land of stasis by failing to pay attention to where he’s going, and, an inhabitant tells him slowly, it’s called The Doldrums: “‘The Doldrums, my young friend, are where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes.’”

Its inhabitants, the Lethargarians, are firmly wedded to their torpor, sticking to a strict schedule of doing nothing at all and telling Milo that thinking is against the law (“Ordinance 175389-J: It shall be unlawful, illegal, and unethical to think, think of thinking, surmise, presume, reason, meditate, or speculate while in the Doldrums”). When Milo objects that everyone thinks, they shoot back that most of the time, in fact, people don’t, and in fact that’s why Milo is in the Doldrums….

(14) HE’S GOT A TICKET TO RIDE. “Japanese Tycoon Planning Space Station Visit, Then Moon Trip”US News has the story.

“Going to the ISS before the Moon,” Yusaku Maezawa announced Thursday via Twitter.

Maezawa has bought two seats on a Russian Soyuz capsule. He’ll blast off in December on the 12-day mission with his production assistant and a professional cosmonaut.

“I’m so curious, ‘What’s life like in space?’ So, I am planning to find out on my own and share with the world,” Maezawa said in a statement.

He’ll be the first person to pay his own way to the space station in more than a decade, according to Virginia-based Space Adventures, which brokered the deal. A Space Adventures spokeswoman declined to divulge the cost. The company has sent seven other tourists to the space station, from 2001 to 2009.

Maezawa’s trip to the moon aboard Elon Musk’s Starship is tentatively scheduled for 2023. He’ll fly around the moon — not land — with eight contest winners.

(15) A FIVE-YEAR MISSION. And this one’s going to be completed. “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample” reports the space agency.

After nearly five years in space, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

On Monday, May 10, at 4:23 p.m. EDT the spacecraft fired its main engines full throttle for seven minutes – its most significant maneuver since it arrived at Bennu in 2018. This burn thrust the spacecraft away from the asteroid at 600 miles per hour (nearly 1,000 kilometers per hour), setting it on a 2.5-year cruise towards Earth.

After releasing the sample capsule, OSIRIS-REx will have completed its primary mission. It will fire its engines to fly by Earth safely, putting it on a trajectory to circle the sun inside of Venus’ orbit.

After orbiting the Sun twice, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is due to reach Earth Sept. 24, 2023. Upon return, the capsule containing pieces of Bennu will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and enter Earth’s atmosphere. The capsule will parachute to the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah’s West Desert, where scientists will be waiting to retrieve it.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Popular Mechanics gets the internet clicking with its post “Russia Is Going to Try to Clone an Army of 3,000-Year-Old Scythian Warriors”.

When you hold a job like Defense Minister of Russia, you presumably have to be bold and think outside the box to protect your country from enemy advances. And with his latest strategic idea—cloning an entire army of ancient warriors—Sergei Shoigu is certainly taking a big swing.

In an online session of the Russian Geographical Society last month, Shoigu, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggested using the DNA of 3,000-year-old Scythian warriors to potentially bring them back to life. Yes, really.

First, some background: The Scythian people, who originally came from modern-day Iran, were nomads who traveled around Eurasia between the 9th and 2nd centuries B.C., building a powerful empire that endured for several centuries before finally being phased out by competitors. Two decades ago, archaeologists uncovered the well-preserved remains of the soldiers in a kurgan, or burial mound, in the Tuva region of Siberia….

Shoigu subtly suggested going through some kind of human cloning process. But is that even possible?

To date, no one has cloned a human being. But scientists have successfully executed the therapeutic cloning of individual kinds of cells and other specific gene-editing work, and of course, there are high-profile examples of cloning pretty complex animals. Earlier this year, for example, scientists cloned an endangered U.S. species for the first time: a black-footed ferret whose donor has been dead for more than 30 years.

…But let’s say Russia ignores all legality in favor of Shoigu’s big plans. In that case, scientists would have to develop a way to lift out the human nucleus without damaging the cell beyond repair.

Scientists have cloned certain monkeys, so primates are at least hypothetically still in the mix, despite the spindle proteins. But the success rate even for non-primate clones is already very low—it took Dolly the sheep’s research team 277 attempts to get a viable embryo.

And what if all of that went perfectly? Well, the Scythians were powerful warriors and gifted horsemen, but scientists—or the Kremlin—must carefully monitor a cloned baby version of a deceased adult warrior for illnesses and other prosaic childhood problems. Who will raise these children? Who will be legally responsible for their wellbeing?

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mandalorian Theme U.S. Army Band” on YouTube shows that the U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own) celebrated Star Wars Day with their version of the theme from The Mandalorian.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/21 And Strange At Ecbatan The File Takes Scroll By Scroll The Pixel Strange

(1) WHO? Gizmodo finds a new star in the constellation of talent around this production of Pratchett’s tale: “Terry Pratchett’s Amazing Maurice Animation Adds David Tennant”.

The animated adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Carnegie Medal-winning 2001 children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents has already commandeered a huge celebrity voice cast, but apparently there’s always room for more. Now Doctor Who’s David Tennant has joined the ranks, alongside Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and House’s Hugh Laurie, among many others.

The Amazing Maurice novel is a comedic adaptation of the tale of the Pied Piper, who legendarily led the rats out of the town of Hamelin with his magic pipe, only to lead the town’s children away as well after the townsfolk failed to compensate him for his work. Pratchett’s book, which is part of his beloved Discworld series, is vastly different, featuring a sentient cat named Maurice, a pack of equally sentient rats, and a boy named Keith as they try to trick the town of Bad Blintz into hiring Keith to lead a newfound “rat infestation” away. Instead, they run into more malicious ratcatchers, a rat king with psychic powers, and more….

(2) THE ANSWERS. Rich Horton has posted the answers to his “Quiz about SF Aliens” on Strange at Ecbatan.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

Answer: SKRULL 

(3) LONELY PLANET. James Davis Nicoll has read about how cold it is out there on your own: “Far From Any Star: 5 Stories About Rogue Worlds” at Tor.com.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(4) BACKLOG. “Wondering How Much Your Pokemon Cards Are Worth? You May Need To Wait” reports NPR.

There has been a trading card accreditation bonanza that is leading to massive backlogs, hiring shortages, and big money as people seek to determine the worth of their Pokemon cards.

… SIMON: A trading card bonanza. These card-grading businesses are getting more cards over a couple of weekends than they used to get in an entire year. People are sending other cards, too. Baseball cards, of course, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh. But Pokemon is still the main attraction.

KOEBLER: Many of these companies have been overwhelmed to the point where they’re no longer even accepting the cards because they have wait times of between, like, 10 months and a year for new cards that are mailed to them….

(5) TAKE THE 101 TO THE 451. Bradburymedia’s Phil Nichols has released another episode of his YouTube series Bradbury 101: “Fahrenheit 451”.

We’ve now reached the year 1953, and the release of Ray Bradbury’s first true novel, Fahrenheit 451. Except…

The first appearance of Fahrenheit was actually a collection rather than a novel!

Confused? You will be! Watch and learn below.

(6) MUPPET VISITS OLD HAUNT. SYFY Wire hypes the “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ special coming to Disney+ this fall”.

…To ring in Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products’ “Halfway to Halloween” campaign, the Mouse House dropped a short teaser for Muppets Haunted Mansion, which arrives on Disney+ sometime this fall. The comedic announcement, made by Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn, was short on details, but the official release promises “a star-studded Muppets cast, celebrity cameos, all-new music, and spooky fun for families to enjoy together.”

In terms of story, the plot revolves around Gonzo being challenged to spend one night in the scariest place on Earth: Disney’s Haunted Mansion….

(7) KITAEN OBIT. [Item by Dann.] Actress Tawny Kitaen died May 7 at age 59.  The cause of death was not revealed.

Her early fame came from appearing in Whitesnake and Ratt videos. Her first genre role came in Witchboard in 1986 and was followed by an appearance in one episode of the short-lived They Came From Outerspace.

Tawny’s most prominent genre role was taht of Deianeira in the Hercules series.  She appeared in all three Hercules movies (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys – Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur) as well as in the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys from 1995 to 1997.

She also provided the voice of Annabelle in the animated series Eek! The Cat.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 8, 1955 — On this night in 1955, X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition”.  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there as well. The cast includes  Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill   Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 8, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  Active fan from 1936; drifted away in the late 1950s, happened across Yandro and returned.  His own fanzine Dynatron.  Bruce Pelz managed to get him nicknamed HORT so we’d be cued to pipe up, when we heard it explained as Horrible Old Roy Tackett, “Oh, I know Roy Tackett.  He’s not that old!”  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 22, MileHiCon 12, LoneStarCon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter  Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1945 – Stanislaw Fernandes, age 76. Fourscore covers, a dozen interiors for us; much else.  Here is Reach for Tomorrow.  Here is the Feb 87 Omni.  Here is the Mar 88 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wheel of Darkness.  Elsewhere, here is e.g. the 15 Jan 79 Business Week.  I picked these from the past for a sense of scope; don’t think he hasn’t been busy.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1947 – Ron Miller, age 74.  Five novels; a hundred seventy covers, a hundred thirty interiors; a dozen artbooks.  Here is the Apr 74 Amazing.  Here is The Grand Tour.  Here is the Jan 01 Asimov’s.  Here is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Here is The Art of Chesley Bonestell (with F. Durant; cover by CB; Hugo for Best Related Book).  Here is Up the Rainbow.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. Stephen is dead, damn it all. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill-prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage as the copyright objected according to several sources. It’s available at all the usual digital suspects. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1957 – Jenny Blackford, age 64.  Co-edited Australian SF Review.  A score of stories, two dozen poems; essays, letters, reviews in FoundationNY Rev SFSF Commentary.  Elsewhere, e.g. 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel.  “I have forgotten more Sanskrit than I ever learned, but I still recite Catullus, and my favorite playwright is of course Euripides.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1968 – LeAnn Neal Reilly, age 53.  Five novels.  Has read The SilmarillionIvanhoe, Norwich’s Short History of ByzantiumCrime & PunishmentCatch-22, Chesterton’s St. Augustine and 2 vols. of Father Brown stories, all six Jane Austen novels, The Sound and the FuryThe Little Prince.  She writes, says Kirkus Reviews, “about resilient women caught in magical, otherworldly circumstances.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1982 – Leah Bobet, age 39.  Two novels, twoscore short stories, two dozen poems.  Founding editor of Abyss & Apex; edited Ideomancer.  Aurora, Sunburst, Copper Cylinder Awards.  Makes jam, climbs mulberry trees, plants gardens in back alleys, and contributes to access-to-democracy initiatives. [JH]

(10) HEAR ME ROAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is some cool crap. For the first time ever, one spacecraft has been used to record a “talkie” of another spacecraft.

The Mars rover Perseverance took a video of Ingenuity — the helicopter — during a test flight with sound. The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released the video which can be seen on YouTube. The sound is pretty low frequency (~84 Hz) so it’s recommended you watch the video on something with speakers that have decent base response. 

The AP has the story — “NASA Mars helicopter heard humming through planet’s thin air”.

… NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California released this first-ever audio Friday, just before Ingenuity made its fifth test flight, a short one-way trip to a new airfield.

During the fourth flight a week earlier, the low hum from the helicopter blades spinning at more than 2,500 revolutions per minute is barely audible. It almost sounds like a low-pitched, faraway mosquito or other flying insect.

That’s because the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter was more than 260 feet (80 meters) from the microphone on the Perseverance rover. The rumbling wind gusts also obscured the chopper’s sound.

Scientists isolated the sound of the whirring blades and magnified it, making it easier to hear….

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Kris Vyas-Myall reviews the film adaptation of Modesty Blaise for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 6, 1966] BLAISE-ING WRECKAGE (MODESTY BLAISE).

…After Romeo Brown finished, Peter O’Donnell decided to create a more serious strip where a woman would be a capable hero rather than simply an object of desire or a damsel for the man to rescue. Apparently inspired by an orphan girl he met when stationed in Persia during the war, he teamed up once again with Holdaway to create Modesty Blaise.

Modesty reassures Willie’s girlfriend Marjorie that she has no romantic feelings for him.

Starting in 1963, Blaise feels like a totally new type of hero. Both Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin (her loyal sidekick) are both former criminals neither from privileged backgrounds. Modesty grew up in refugee camps in Persia and other Middle Eastern countries, whilst Willie is very much a working-class character. There is also no suggestion that she has any romantic interaction with Willie, instead they are loyal professional colleagues.

An excellent action sequence where Willie rams a lorry into Gabriel’s mansion

It is not just the initial concept that is fresh, the quality of the strip feels ahead of anything else I could easily pick up. O’Donnell’s plots feel fresh and complex, varying significantly from story to story. One week she will be investigating drug running in the Vietnam war, the next dealing with psychic espionage. These are combined with characters that feel deep and real. O’Donnell’s writing and Holdaway’s art also come together to give a really cinematic presentation with a real eye for direction….

(12) SCIENTIFIC CREDENTIALS. Gizmodo has discovered that “Cats Love to Sit Inside Squares—Even Fake Ones”.

…Cats, like people, can be fooled by optical illusions, nifty new research out this week suggests. The study, based on experiments conducted by pet owners at home, found that cats tend to sit inside 2D shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square. The findings might give us a little more insight into cat cognition.

Whether they’re big tigers or domestic felines, cats just seem to love wedging themselves into boxes, crates, or other four-sided objects. This fascination doesn’t stop at 3D objects either, as the social media hashtag #CatSquare showed a few years ago; even using tape to make the outline of a square on the floor will entice cats ready to plop down at a moment’s notice….

(13) OVER THE WAVES. “UK Sci-Fi Series Intergalactic Gets Trailer and Peacock Release”. Io9 knows:

…The entire eight-episode first season debuted across the pond on April 30 to little fanfare, but streaming services are so hungry for content that was clearly not the issue…. 

The YouTube intro says —

Written by award-winning showrunner, Julie Gearey (“Prisoners’ Wives,” “Cuffs,” “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”), the series tells the story of fearless young cop and galactic pilot, Ash Harper (“Savannah Steyn”), who has her glittering career ripped away from her after being wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and exiled to a distant prison colony. But on the way there, Ash’s fellow convicts stage a mutiny and seize control of their prison transfer ship. With the flight crew dead, mob leader Tula Quik (“Sharon Duncan-Brewster”), is intent on reaching the free world – Arcadia – with her gang; and Ash is the only pilot who can get them there. Ash is forced to join them on the run towards a distant galaxy and an uncertain future.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/21 Old Rossum’s Scroll Of Practical Credentials

(1) YOU TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. George R.R. Martin is involved in developing a series based on Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks for HBO, as he explained at Not A Blog: “On the Road with Roger Z”:

… We had not intended to announce anything yet, to be sure. Development is a long and uncertain process. Thousands of shows are pitched, hundreds of pilots are written, dozens of pilots are filmed, but only a very few of them ever get greenlit to series. There is a reason that Hollywood insiders call it “development hell.” And what’s the point of announcing projects that might never make it to air? That’s why HBO — like most other networks and streamers — prefers to keep these things quiet.

Even so, even so… you cannot win the lottery unless you buy a ticket, so we all keep playing.

…My career in television started in 1985 when I adapted Roger Zelazny’s “The Last Defender of Camelot” for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It was the first script of mine ever to be filmed (starring Richard Kiley and Jenny Agutter and a stuntman whose nose got cut off during the swordfight). Roger was a friend, a mentor, and one of the greatest science fiction writers who ever lived. He died in 1995, but his work will live for so long as people read SF and fantasy. It was an honor to be able to bring one of his stories to television. And now I am hoping we will be able to do it again.

I pitched ROADMARKS to HBO last year — along with four other SF and fantasy works (by various other writers) that I thought had the makings of great shows. They all had (and have) lots of potential, but ROADMARKS was the one they responded to….

(2) LEVER OF CHANGE. Learn the key to an author’s new book in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

…The big idea of Transgressions of Power is that a human being, in the moment of action, may not know what the significance of their choices might be; they might not be in a position of power that allows for drastic change; but their choices and actions matter.

(3) FRY’S CLOSING. [Item by Betsy Hanes Perry.] Fry’s was where, in Northern California, you went to look for components; later it branched out into computers (of course!), computer components, large appliances. It used to stock snacks as a loss-leader to get geeks to come in for casual shopping.

All the stores were themed, and the one in Fremont was themed around the 1893 World’s Fair. It had a Tesla coil that went off once an hour (see here). The one in San Jose was themed as a Mayan temple. “The kitschy history of the Bay Area’s themed Fry’s Electronics” at SFGate.

…If you’re not familiar: Every Fry’s store has a theme and elaborate decorations to go along with it. In the Bay Area, the San Jose store “pays tribute to the first astronomers, the Mayans, with settings from Chichen Itza,” complete with a massive temple at the entrance, palm trees between shelves and hidden speakers that play the sounds of birds chirping through the parking lot. Fremont is the “1893 World’s Fair,” where a Tesla coil at the center of the store fires off every hour. Sunnyvale is “the history of Silicon Valley” and the Palo Alto store was “Wild West.” (Sadly, the Palo Alto store rode into the sunset earlier this year.)

[Editor’s postscript.] The Fry’s in Burbank near where I used to live had an explicitly Fifties sci-fi alien invasion theme. It was awesome.

(4) THE FIRST SILENCE. Tananarive Due conducts an interview with “Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins on ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Legacy” at Vanity Fair.

…FOSTER: We met at a reading. I didn’t really get a proper meet with Tony. So we’re sitting across from each other, and he launches in, and we start the reading. And I was just petrified. [Laughs.] I was kind of too scared to talk to him after that.

He did another movie, and I started the film without him. I still kept that kind of hold-your-breath feeling about the character just from that first reading. Jonathan wanted to use this technique that Hitchcock talked about, where you have the actors use the camera as the other person. And I think there was something really interesting about that for the film, but that also meant that Tony and I couldn’t see each other. For a lot of the close-ups, we were looking into a camera lens and the other person was just a voice in the background. And—remember?—they had to lock you into the glass prison cell. So he would do a whole day inside the prison cell, and they wouldn’t let him out. We’d just do his side. And then the next day, we’d do my side.

HOPKINS: Also, they discovered before we started filming that there would be a problem if there were bars on the prison cell for left and right eyelines. So the designer—it was Kristi Zea—came up with a Perspex thing, which makes it even more frightening, because he’s like a tarantula in a bottle. No visual borderline between the two. It was more terrifying, because it’s a dangerous creature in a bottle who can do anything. He could break the glass….

(5) MORE, PLEASE. In “The Canonical Sequel FAQ” John Scalzi tells fans what the future holds in store for his various series.

Pretty much on a daily basis, I get asked on social media whether there will ever be a sequel to [insert one of my books/series here]. To reduce the amount of typing that I have to do each time this is asked, I now present The Canonical Sequel FAQ, which will tell you — at a glance! — whether you can expect a sequel to whatever book it is that you are hoping to have a sequel to. This will be updated from time to time.

(6) TIM KIRK MAP. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “’The Country Around Edgestow’: A Map from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength by Tim Kirk from Mythlore” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The map has been reproduced at the link with permission.

… One of Lewis’ key terran fictional places is “Edgestow,” the home of Bragdon Wood, Bracton College, and the literary centre of the events in That Hideous Strength. In my reading about Lewis and Arthurian literature, I happened upon Margaret Hannay’s piece, which included a map of “The Country Around Edgestow” by artist Tim Kirk.…

(7) ARE YOU BOOKED FOR THE LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY? “Doctor Who Master trilogy watchalong party confirmed for Sunday” says Radio Times.

…Doctor Who Magazine’s Emily Cook has organised most of the watchalongs so far, and announced that they would be coming to an end this month. She tweeted the news by saying, “Everything has its time, and everything ends… I’ll be announcing the final Tweetalong later this afternoon!”

She later followed up with a tweet that read, “Believe it or not, we’ve been doing Doctor Who Lockdown for almost a year now! This may be the last Tweetalong, but we’re going to end with a SPECTACULAR watch party.

“And here comes our final Tweetalong… A TRIPLE BILL! Sunday 28th February 6pm (GMT), UTOPIA 7pm (GMT), THE SOUND OF DRUMS 8pm (GMT), LAST OF THE TIME LORDS. Watch with fans around the world. Join in with the hashtag #YANA”

If you haven’t participated in the event before, the idea is that fans from all over the world re-watch classic episodes at exactly the same time, tweeting their reactions and comments along the way.

(8) CATCH AND SELL ‘EM ALL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 17 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber discusses the rise in value of rare Pokemon cards.

Today, a Chansey (Pokemon card) could be worth around $3,000. That’s a great deal less than the rare holographic Blastoise which sold at auction last month for $360,000, roughly the price of a brand-new Ferrari. In 2021, their 25th year of existence, Pokemon cards are enjoying a resurgence in popularity almost matching their late-1990s heyday.

This is partly down to the pandemic, which has left many stuck at home with extra disposable income, to take up a new hobby that combines investment with a waft of nostalgia. Streaming platforms YouTube and Twitch have cultivated communities of Pokemon card traders such as Leonhart, who quit his job as a lawyer to open card packs full-time on YouTube (the sealed packs contain a random selection of cards which could be precious or worthless), and streaming star Logan Paul, who says he has spent $2m on his card addiction.

(9) HEAR OCTAVIA BUTLER. NPR’s “Morning Edition” devoted a segment today to “Sci-Fi Writer Octavia Butler Offered Warnings And Hope In Her Work”. It includes numerous sound bites from an archival interview with the author. Listen to a recording or read a transcript of the NPR item at the link. (The complete transcript of Octavia Butler’s 2005 interview is available at Democracy Now! – “Remembering Octavia Butler: Black Sci-Fi Writer Shares Cautionary Tales in Unearthed 2005 Interview”.)

NOEL KING, HOST:

Octavia Butler seemed almost to belong to the future. She was the first Black woman to receive the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Those are the highest honors in science fiction and fantasy writing. She was the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur genius grant. She was prolific and prophetic from the 1970s until her death in 2006. Here’s Laine Kaplan-Levenson from NPR’s history show Throughline.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

OCTAVIA BUTLER: I don’t recall ever having wanted desperately to be a Black woman science fiction writer. I wanted to be a writer.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 24, 1952 — On this day in 1952, Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here. It is not one of the three Aladdin And His Lamp filmsthat are rated at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 – Wilhelm Grimm. With older brother Jacob (1785-1863) assembled and published the collection known to us as Grimms’ Fairy Tales (1812). Loved music; good story-teller; animated, jovial fellow. The Grimms weren’t the authors, so I can’t call them seminal, but they sure were vital. (Died 1859) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1921 – Richard Powers. Frank R. Paul Award. SF Hall of Fame. Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Six hundred sixty covers, seventy interiors. Artbooks Spacetimewarp Paintings; The Art of Richard Powers. Our great pioneer of illustration that was not representation. You can see it start here with a 1950 cover (his first?) for Pebble in the Sky. By 1956 he did this for To Live Forever. By 1963 he was here for Budrys’ Inferno. Here is the Sep 78 Analog. Here is the Program Book for Chicon V the 49th Worldcon, 1991 – where he was Guest of Honor; before that, LoneStarCon I the 3rd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). Not one Chesley, not one Hugo. Did we appreciate him? Do we now? (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 88. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World, A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1941 – Sam Lundwall, age 80. Author, critic, translator, editor, publisher; television producer; cartoonist; photographer; singer. Organized Scancon 76 (Stockholm); Guest of Honor at Eurocon 9 (Zagreb), 21 (Dortmund). Translated his 1969 book on SF from Swedish into English as SF, What It’s All About (1971). SF, an Illustrated History (1978). Penguin World Omnibus of SF (1986) with Brian Aldiss. More nonfiction in Swedish about SF. A score of novels (four available in English), seven shorter stories (four). Reporter for Locus. Long thought by many the personification of SF in Sweden, idiosyncrasies (how not?) and all. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 74. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 70. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror. She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 55. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 53. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1975 – Socorro Acioli, age 46. A score of books; Head of the Saint is available in English. Author, teacher, translator. “I collect bookmarks and coffee makers. I like old photos, old houses, and things that no longer exist. In the same measure [na mesma medida], I love technology.” [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1979 – C.J. Harper, age 42. Two novels for us, also “funny books for teens under the name Candy Harper…. attended six different schools, but that honestly had very little to do with an early interest in explosives”; she’s been “a bookseller, a teacher and the person who puts those little stickers on apples”; has read Vanity Fair, Gone With the Wind, Of Mice and Men, David Copperfield. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1991 – Daryl Qilin Yam, age 30. One novel; co-editor of SingPoWriMo (i.e. Singapore). Studied at Univ. Warwick, Univ. Tôkyô. Stageplay producer at non-profit collective Take Off Productions. On the board of directors of literary charity Sing Lit Station. “I am first and foremost a writer of fiction and poetry … photography … is a field in which I remain an amateur. But … we live in a world that loves images…. I have a fondness for the backs of people (facial expressions are too didactic for my taste), and I like to frame my subjects in situations where highlights and shadows are nicely balanced.” [JH]

(12) PRESERVING WORLDS. Here’s a new Diamond Bay Press podcast on the classic online gaming environments and virtual worlds that have become virtual ghost towns. It’s based on a new video documentary series called Preserving Worlds, which is available for free on the streaming service called Means.tv.

A conversation between Lex Berman and Derek Murphy.

Derek Murphy is the co-director, with Mitchel Zemil, of the Preserving Worlds series, and the documentary film Sarasota, Half in Dream.

Recorded with Zencastr from Cambridge and Brighton, MA on 18th February, 2021.

what if the ghost of a player of a dead game, was telling us what it was all like?

(13) THE ’66 DOLLAR QUESTION. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks sends a missive from 1966 asking — “[February 24, 1966] Is 1966 the Best Year Ever for American Comic Books?”.

… A lot of the thrill these days has been at Marvel, as some of their comics are reaching unparalleled new levels of excellence. For instance, the work of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee on both Amazing Spider-Man and the “Dr. Strange” strip in Strange Tales has been outstanding. Peter Parker has graduated high school and enrolled at Empire State University in Spider-Man. Pete seems to be shedding his nature as a nebbish since he joined college, making new friends while having new (and more sophisticated) problems. The three-part “Master Planner” saga which ended in ASM #33 was a storyline nonpareil, a thrill a minute journey with a spectacular denouement. (I’m including the payoff below, but please try to find all these issues if you can, because the leadup is just as spectacular).

(14) ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION. Alexandra Erin wonders something —

(15) JPL’S TRICKSTERS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Remember that on the last Rover they would not allow JPL to put a JPL plaque on it so they used Morse Code on the wheels that spelled out JPL. Holes that were “designed” to drain sand as it moved about.

This time, there are multiple Easter Eggs. The first was deployed as Perseverance was en route to the Martian surface: “Mars rover’s giant parachute carried secret message” at Yahoo!

The huge parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark, a crossword hobbyist, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to know how the parachute was oriented during descent. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun,” he said Tuesday.

Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday….

This illustration provided by NASA shows a diagram added over the parachute deployed during the descent of the Mars Perseverance rover as it approaches the surface of the planet on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

(16) BOOKS ARE THE ESSENCE. The Essence of Wonder crew gets together on-screen to exchange book recommendations in “EoW Staff Share Their Favorite Books! Ready… Fight!” on Saturday, February 27, at 3 PM (US Eastern). Register at the link.

(17) THE DIRTY DOZEN PLUS THREE. 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a highly scientific list of the fifteen “Worst Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made”. Well, at least highly-less-pulled-out-of-somebody’s-butt-than-usual for a listicle.

…To determine the worst sci-fi movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes. We created an index based on the average critic rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the average audience rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and the average user rating from IMDb. We only considered feature films with at least 5,000 Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews, 10 Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews, and 10,000 IMDb user reviews…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: ‘Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Earthblood’” Fandom Games says you play a werewolf fighting evil corporation Endron, “which doesn’t even pretend not to be Enron with a D” but is so dumb on security that it has ventilator shafts with doggy doors so werewolves can pass through them.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Betsy Hanes Perry, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Gadi Evron, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25/20 Pixel To Elf Queen’s Midsummer Knight’s Four

(1) CAPTAIN JACK SIGHTINGS. You’ll be seeing Captain Jack again soon — the question is, how often? Radio Times asks “Is John Barrowman’s Captain Jack in Doctor Who series 13?”

It’s official – Captain Jack is back for the Doctor Who Christmas special, with John Barrowman’s immortal Time Agent set to join the TARDIS team in Revolution of the Daleks.

Of course, this isn’t as big a shock as it might have been. Jack Harkness already popped up once after a decade away from Doctor Who in series 12’s Fugitive of the Judoon, and fans had long suspected this could be followed by a larger onscreen return. After all, he hasn’t even met Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor yet!

But now that his festive presence has been confirmed, we have to wonder… is this just the start of Jack’s new era in the TARDIS? Does John Barrowman already have a key cut for Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff? Is Jack’s coat currently being dusted off for another adventure?

(2) RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. “Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster” reports Shelf Awareness.

Bertelsmann, owner of Penguin Random House, is buying Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS and will make it part of PRH, the company announced. The deal should close in the second half of next year, subject to the usual closing procedures as well as regulatory approval. The deal is reportedly for more than $2 billion. PRH is the largest trade book publisher in the world, and both it and S&S have substantial distribution operations.

ViacomCBS had put S&S up for sale in March, saying the publisher was “not a core asset.” At the time, ViacomCBS was reportedly asking at least $1.2 billion for S&S. Bertelsmann publicly expressed interest in September; News Corp., owner of HarperCollins, was also interested in the company.

In a memo to staff, PRH CEO Markus Dohle said in part, “I have long admired the team at Simon & Schuster and the books they publish, and I am incredibly excited to welcome our new colleagues to Penguin Random House. Simon & Schuster’s distinguished legacy of publishing notable authors, perennial bestsellers, and culture-shaping blockbusters is a natural complement to our publishing programs and catalogs around the world.”

Referring to the merger of Penguin and Random House and other PRH acquisitions, he said, “As we have demonstrated, we can successfully unite company cultures and prestigious publishing teams while preserving each imprint’s identity and independence. Simon & Schuster aligns completely with the creative and entrepreneurial culture that we nurture by providing editorial autonomy to our publishers, funding their pursuit of new stories, ideas, and voices, and maximizing reach for our authors….”

(3) 100 MORE TBR. The New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2020” has plenty of good reading even if there are just a few titles that register as genre — and of those, none I’ve heard of. Mind you, I’m generally not impressed to see the dismissive phrase, “Well, I never heard of it,” and I’m counting on you to remain equally unmoved when I say it; I’m just reporting. Besides, some of you probably have heard of them and can say something on their behalf.

(4) 2021 NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA announced that 2021 Nebula Conference Online Registration is now open. The virtual event will take place June 4-6. Registration is $125.

The SFWA Airship Nebula will be returning in June 2021… Captaining the ship this year, SFWA is also very pleased to announce that L.D. Lewis is joining the Nebula Conference team.

Lewis is an award-winning SF/F writer and editor, and serves as a founding creator, Art Director, and Project Manager for the World Fantasy Award-winning and Hugo Award-nominated FIYAH Literary Magazine. She primarily writes stories of ordinary Black women and femmes with extraordinary powers in equally extraordinary worlds.

Coming off the success of helming FIYAHCON last month, L.D. will be acting as the project manager for all of the exciting year-round events associated with the Nebula Conference. We hope you join us in welcoming L.D. aboard.

With smaller events leading up to our main conference, the team is working on elevating our content and offerings again this year, and celebrating the best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer with our annual Nebula Awards ceremony.

So, please join us for another weekend full of professional development, workshops, and opportunities to network in one of the coolest virtual spaces there is. There will be more dance parties, karaoke, and social meet-ups around special interests. We’ll also be bringing back our conference-specific mentorship program and office hours.

(5) ABOUT THE SFF COMMUNITY. Cat Rambo considers how to advance the democratization of sff, particularly the programming of conventions, in “Moving Beyond Diversity: A Conversation We Need To Have In SFF” at Strange Horizons.

…Diversity is about getting the most differently informed points of view on a panel because that is a valuable thing. Because it means we all get a chance to learn new and interesting aspects to a topic.  And sometimes it is about making sure that the voices that have not been able to contribute in the past for one reason or another get a chance to take part in the conversation by reaching out to them.

We need to rethink the ways we create [convention] programming. Consider this art form, the quilt. A practical item made beautiful, and often a way to use up excess fabric or recycled rags. One variant is the “crazy quilt,” which uses up odds and ends in irregularly shaped patches, sometimes with embroidered details. Crazy quilts can be beautiful, but not by nature. When they are it is the result of serendipitous accident or the creation of someone experienced and talented at putting those scraps together. Programming should not be a crazy quilt made up of the varied scraps of material different participants pull out of their pockets.

Quilts with deliberately created patterns can be extraordinarily beautiful, and this is where our programming metaphor comes in. The Multiverse [Con in Atlanta] was such a quilt, pulling from those eight tracks and interspersing them in a rhythm that made the convention’s quilt far greater than the sum of its yardage. Partially because they realized the world is not binary—a thing that’s hard to do sometimes in America in a political scene which doesn’t acknowledge that people can agree on one thing and not another.

The democratisation of conventions created by the move online has been heartening, because conventions have previously been limited to the people of means and those who the first group was willing to club together and help. The Hugos are voted on by people who have the money to afford the membership fee; the Nebulas, while voted on by F&SF writers, are still limited to those writers with the money for a membership fee. (One reason why I worked to find ways to reduce or ameliorate that fee when holding SFWA office.) One of the things that has come out of 2020, in fact, has been this democratisation, which has made the conventions available to people who historically and geographically were barred from them due to factors over which they had no control….

(6) CHANGING OF THE GUARD AT F&SF. On The Coode Street Podcast Jonathan and Gary K. Wolf devote Episode 538 to a parlay with the incoming and outgoing editors of F&SF, Sheree Renée Thomas and Charles Coleman Finlay.

Charles Coleman Finlay, who for more than five years has carried on the grand tradition of editing The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fictionand Sheree Renée Thomas, who picks up the mantle as new editor beginning with the March/April 2021 issue. We talk about the magazine’s distinguished history, the challenges of maintaining an iconic magazine in a radically changing short fiction field, and their own experiences as SF readers, writers, and editors.

(7) BE A MEDIEVAL SURVIVALIST. In “A Survival Guide to Medieval Fairy Tales” at Medievalists.net, Marta Cobb looks at great medieval romances such as Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain And The Green Knight to discover the moral lessons these romances convey, particularly in dealing with the supernatural.

Rule 1: Know the signs

The border between the supernatural world and our own can be extremely permeable. Sometimes it’s easy to tell when the supernatural has intruded upon more normal life, such as when the Green Knight barges into a holiday feast (it is not that the Green Knight wears green clothing but that his skin and hair and even his horse are completely green). Sometimes, however, the signs are more subtle, such as a deer that leads a knight away from his friends and into the unknown or a boat that sails away in the absence of sailors. In the case of Sir Lanval, it can be a mysterious woman in an opulent tent….

(8) KOBAYASHI OBIT. Japanese author Yasumi Kobayashi (1962-2020) died November 23 at the age of 58. His short story “The Man Who Watched the Sea” won the Hayakawa Award for best short story in 1998.Two more were nominated for the Seiun Award for best short story in 2003 and 2004. He was nominated as “Best Foreign Author” in the Chinese-language Galaxy Awards in 2009.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 25, 1998 Babylon 5 ended its five year run with the “Sleeping in the Light” finale. In the year 2281, twenty years since Sheridan died on Z’ha’dum and twenty years since the Interstellar Alliance was formed, Sheridan realises his time is running out and calls his old friends for one last get-together before embarking on one final journey. In the process, he learns that his fate and that of Babylon 5 remain interconnected. Trivia note: The worker who throws the final switch to shut down the station is played by Straczynski. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 25, 1904 – Amelia Reynolds Long.  Pioneer female SF author; one novel, a score of short stories for us.  “Reverse Phylogeny” is in Conklin’s fine SF Adventures in Dimension.  Also detective fiction, poetry.  Here is a tribute site.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1920 Ricardo Montalbán. Khan Noonien Singh and the first Mr. Rourke. Armando and Grandpa Valentin Avellan as well. I’m picking those as four most memorable roles he’s played and they just happen to all be genre in nature. Oh, and is Khan Noonien Singh the only occurrence of a non-crew character carrying over from the original series into the films? I suspect not but I can’t think of anyone other. If there is, I’m sure one of you will tell me. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1926 Poul Anderson. My favorite ones by him? Orion Shall Rise for the mix of personal scale story with his usual grand political stories, and all of the Flandry and van Rijn stories. I also enjoy his Time Patrol stories as well, and the two Operation Luna tales are quite fun. He was quite honored with seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. I’m currently reading the first two volumes of his NESFA short fiction series which I will review here soon. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Jeffrey Hunter. Best known for his role as the first Captain Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and the later use of that material in “The Menagerie” episode.  Other genre work included Dimension 5A Witch Without A BroomStrange Portrait (never released, no print is known to exists), Alfred Hitchcock HourJourney into Fear and The Green Hornet. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1941 – Sandra Miesel, 79.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories; anthologies; Myth, Symbol, and Religion in “The Lord of the Rings”Against Time’s Arrow (Poul Anderson); more than a hundred essays, forewords and afterwords, letters, reviews; collection of fanwriting, Sweetmeats (Jerry Kaufman, ed.); much other work outside our field.  Guest of Honor at Rivercon III.  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1953 – Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, 67.  Why orange?  So he dresses – inside and out: he has sixty pairs of orange underwear.  Fanzine, Vojo de Vivo; he is also an Esperantist.  Fan Guest of Honor at ICON 25.  Elected the 2020 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Often seen here.  In case you wonder, he doesn’t wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day – but only then.  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1953 Mark Frost, 67. He’s best known as a writer for Hill Street Blues (I know it’s not genre but superb nonetheless) and as the co-creator with David Lynch of Twin Peaks in which he’s been involved with in other roles as well. He had a hand in writing both of the not well regarded Fantastic Four films. He was also one of the Executive Producers of the very short lived All Souls series. (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1963 – Tony Daniel, 57.  A dozen novels, forty shorter stories, a dozen poems.  “The Infuence of ‘The Song of the South’ on Lucius Shepard” in NY Review of SF.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  “Life on the Moon” was a Readers’ Choice in Asimov’s.  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1972 – D.A. Adams, 48.  Five books about the Brotherhood of Dwarves; others outside our field.  Likes C.S. Lewis and Toni Morrison.  Has read The Glass Bead Game and Absalom, Absalom!  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1974 Sarah Monette, 46. Under the pen name of Katherine Addison, she published The Goblin Emperor which garnered the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the NebulaHugo and World Fantasy Awards. She won the Spectrum Award in 2003 for her short story “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland”.  Her first two novels Mélusine and The Virtu are quite wonderful and I highly recommend her Iskryne series that she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear. (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1980 – Licia Troisi, 40.  Astrophysicist; she is currently the best-selling Italian fantasy author.  Fifteen novels.  “If you don’t read, you cannot write.  Read everything, not only your favorite genre.”  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1986 Katie Cassidy, 34. Best remembered as Laurel Lance / Black Canary in the Arrowverse, primarily on Arrow but also Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. She was also Ruby on Supernatural, Patricia “Trish” Washington on Harper’s Island and Kris Fowles on A Nightmare on Elm Street. (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) RACE AND SF. The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on the topic of Race and SF was held on November 19 via Zoom. (See the full program here.) You can watch the videos of each session, access links to expanded presentations, and hear SF writers reading their stories in this roundup of the event — “Videos from The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Race and Science Fiction” at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY website.

(13) DESTROY TO CREATE. This post contains the whole recipe for reproducing classic silent film actor Buster Keaton’s trademark hat — “’How To Make a Porkpie Hat’ by Eleanor Keaton” – published nine years ago, but it’s news to me!

…My favorite memory of Buster making his hat is when we were in Germany in 1962 to promote the screenings of The General. He needed a new hat. Buster went to a little hat shop next to our hotel in Frankfurt and pointed out the hat he wanted to the little elderly man who ran the shop. Buster pantomimed everything, as he did not speak German and the shopkeeper did not speak English. Buster tried on the fedora and liked it. He then pantomimed scissors, and the shopkeeper handed Buster a pair of shears. Buster proceeded to tear the entire hat lining out, fold down the crown and cut the brim. The old man looked like he was about to have a stroke because Buster had not yet paid for the hat. When Buster finished and placed the hat on his head to test it, the old man recognized who Buster was and what was taking place in his hat shop.

(14) STUNNING PRICE. “Pokémon: First edition cards net $360,000; Team Rocket pack found in Colorado”SYFY Wire makes it sound like to catch ‘em all you have to spend it all:

Never underestimate the popularity of Pocket Monsters. A box of unopened, first edition base set Pokémon trading cards recently sold for a whopping $360,000 at Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction. The item, which is over 20-years-old, was purchased by Thomas Fish, president of Blowoutcards.com. “I am thrilled to purchase this pedigree box,” Fish said in a statement.

His winning bid shattered the previous world record, also held by Heritage Auctions, which sold a similar set last September for $198,000. Demand for the still-shrink wrapped box was reportedly so heated, that online offers broke the record before bidding even officially began.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The New Mutants” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the final X-Men movie “looks like a long pilot episode for a series the CW passed on” and where the producers saved money by not having a dialect coach and by having the mutants rarely use their powers.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

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