Pixel Scroll 11/4/22 All Hearts Is Turned To Gizzards

(1) ABOUT THE BIRD. Neil Clarke, Editor of Clarkesworld, tweeted a series of thoughtful insights in reply to the current anxiety about Twitter’s future as a vehicle for marketing short fiction magazines. Thread starts here. Excerpts follow.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to munch Carnitas Benedict with the award-winning Michael Swanwick in Episode 184 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Swanwick

Michael has won five Hugo Awards and three Locus Awards, as well as a Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award — plus has been nominated for and lost more of these major awards than any other writer. His novels include Vacuum FlowersStations of the Tide, and Bones of the Earth, plus his most recent, City Under the Stars, a novel co-authored with the late Gardner Dozois. He’s also published a baker’s dozen of short story collections over the past three decades, starting with Gravity’s Angels in 1991 and most recently Not So Much Said the Cat in 2016, as well as the 118 short stories included in The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, one per each element. His recent novel The Iron Dragon’s Mother completed a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter in 1993, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Two of his short stories — “Ice Age” and “The Very Pulse of the Machine” — were adapted for the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots.

We discussed his response to learning a reader of his was recently surprised to find out he was still alive, how J. R. R. Tolkien turned him into a writer, why it took him 15 years of trying to finally finish his first story, how Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann taught him how to write by taking apart one of his tales and putting it back together again, why it was good luck he lost his first two Nebula Awards the same year, the good advice William Gibson gave him which meant he never had to be anxious about awards again, which friend’s story was so good he wanted to throw his own typewriter out the window in a rage, the novel he abandoned writing because he found the protagonists morally repugnant, why he didn’t want to talk about Playboy magazine, the truth behind a famous John W. Campbell, Jr./Robert Heinlein anecdote, and much more.

(3) NEW YORK STATE OF MIND. Chris Barkley, Astronomicon GoH, is a newsmaker on CBS affiliate WROC as “Sci-fi convention ‘Astronomicon’ returns to Rochester”.

…Various authors and artists are invited to come to the event, including Chris Barkley who is Astronomincon’s guest fan of honor this year.

“Science fiction conventions have been around for much longer than people think. Most people believe the mythology that Star Trek conventions were the beginning start of science fiction conventions. No, the first science fiction conventions actually took place in the 1930s, 1936. And the first World Science Fiction Convention took place in New York City in 1939,” Barkley said….

(4) LOTS OF POSSIBILITIES. At The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt asks if the Multiverse is where originality goes to die or if it unlocks new storytelling possibilities. Includes references to Leinster and Stapleton (and Borges) with quotes from Sanifer. “Is the Multiverse Where Originality Goes to Die?”.

…All these multiverses might add up to nothing good. If all potential endings come to pass, what are the consequences of anything? What matters? Joe Russo, the co-director of “Endgame,” has warned that multiverse movies amount to “a money printer” that studios will never turn off; the latest one from Marvel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a sloppily plotted heap of special effects notable for its horror tropes, cameos, and self-aware dialogue, has earned nearly a billion dollars at the box office. This year, Marvel Studios announced the launch of “The Multiverse Saga,” a tranche of movies and TV shows that features sequels and trequels, along with the fifth and sixth installments of the “Avengers” series. (“Endgame,” it turns out, was not the end of the game.) Warner Bros. has released MultiVersus, a video game in which Batman can fight Bugs Bunny, and Velma, from “Scooby-Doo,” can fight Arya Stark, from “Game of Thrones.” Even A24, a critically admired independent film studio, now counts a multiverse movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022), as its most profitable film.

There’s a reason that studios plan to spend billions of dollars—more than the economic output of some countries—to mass-produce more of the multiverse: tens of millions of people will spend time and money consuming it. Is the rise of the multiverse the death of originality? Did our culture take the wrong forking path? Or has the multiverse unlocked a kind of storytelling—familiar but flexible, entrancing but evolving—that we genuinely need?

Andrew (not Werdna) dissents on one count: “I wouldn’t consider Endgame to be a multiverse movie.”

(5) PERSONAL WORLDS. At the Guardian, Tom Shone uses Avatar as a takeoff point for an interesting article about worldbuilding and paracosms: “’Storytelling has become the art of world building’: Avatar and the rise of the paracosm”.

…Developmental psychologists have their own vocabulary for what [James] Cameron was up to in math class. His teenage dream of Pandora was somewhere between a heterocosm – the imaginary world of an adult author intended for publication such as Thomas Hardy’s Wessex or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast – and a paracosm, an imaginary world conjured by a child that, in its original form, is almost entirely private. Usually begun between ages six and 12, they seem to be linked to all the private clubhouses, hidden rituals and secret societies of middle childhood, in that they are maintained over a period of time, sometimes years, as the child builds a logically consistent, satisfyingly complete alternative universe for themselves. They tend to peter out with adolescence, about 12 or 14.

Many cultural figures have been drawn to these imaginary worlds. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, for example, shared a secret language and addressed one another as “King” and “Queen” of their fictional kingdom. The Brontës imagined an “infernal world” of Byronic villains and architectural majesty. CS Lewis made up a land of animals where cats acted like the knights of the round table. Robert Louis Stevenson drew maps. JRR Tolkien invented languages, while the Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem issued fake passports. Friedrich Nietzsche and his sister Elisabeth created an imaginary world revolving around an inch-and-a-half-tall porcelain squirrel. “Everything that my brother made was in honour of King Squirrel; all his musical productions were to glorify His Majesty; on his birthday poems were recited and plays acted, all of which were written by my brother.”

Today, the Nietzsches would be show-runners with a deal with Apple+ to write and direct their own long-running King Squirrel series (“From the mind that brought you Thus Spake Zarathustra and the studio that brought you God is Dead: A CSI investigation …”).

(6) HORROR FOR LAUGHS. At the Guardian, Rich Pelley interviews Garth Marenghi (a.k.a. comedian Matthew Holness) from the British cult TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace“Garth Marenghi: ‘Many writers cite me as an influence … and I will be suing them all’”

Anyway, you’re back with brand new horror book Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome. Apparently it’s been 30 years in the making. How come it took so long?
[Wiping anti-bacterial gel into hands] The nature of time has been the main issue. Seconds and minutes quickly form themselves into hours, transmuting by degrees into days, weeks, months and, ultimately, years. Before you know it, decades have elapsed. The essential issue was the ever passing of time between the commencement and conclusion-ment of my task.

Would it have been quicker had you bothered to learn how to type with more than two fingers?
Writing balls-to-the-walls horror is extremely physical. Typing with more than two fingers is counterproductive for any horror writer; you need to concentrate your strength on two fingers alone. I get quite hard when I write, so the best way to channel that energy is by banging – bang, bang, bang. If you type with your hands dancing all over the keyboard [mimes touch-typing], you’re essentially rubbing without release. It’s far more potent to jab….

(7) THE LAST ROUNDUP. “HBO Cancels ‘Westworld’ in Shock Decision”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

…The network has decided to cancel the sci-fi drama after its recent fourth season.

It’s an unexpected fate for a series that was once considered one of HBO’s biggest tentpoles — an acclaimed mystery-box drama that racked up 54 Emmy nominations (including a supporting actress win for Thandiwe Newton).

… Yet linear ratings for the pricey series fell off sharply for its third season, and then dropped even further for season four. Westworld’s critic average on Rotten Tomatoes likewise declined from the mid-80s for its first two seasons to the mid-70s for the latter two. Fans increasingly griped that the show had become confusing and tangled in its mythology and lacked characters to root for. Looming over all of this is the fact Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has pledged aggressive cost-cutting, though network insiders maintain that saving money was not a factor in the show’s cancellation….

(8) SHE REALIZED HER DREAM. Fanac.org has posted a video interview, “Maggie Thompson:  Before, During and After the Origins of Comics Fandom”, in two parts. Maggie Thompson has the unique distinction of being a second generation science fiction fan, one of the architects of comics fandom in the early 60s, and is a much-revered professional in the comics field.  She is interviewed by Dr. Chris Couch.

Part 1: In this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her lifelong experiences with science fiction, science fiction fandom, and popular culture. From her early love of the Oz books and her delight in John Campbell’s magazine Unknown, to her convention and masquerade experiences, to her professional successes, Maggie’s anecdotes are engrossing. There are great stories here – how she acquired her complete set of Unknowns, the origins of her publications Comic Art and Newfangles, the family connection to Walt Kelly (and the Pogo comic strip), her friendship with Carl Barks, and more.

Endearingly, when asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, Maggie answered “I want to be a BNF” (Big Name Fan). She has certainly accomplished that ambition. 



Part 2: In this part of the interview by Dr. Chris Couch, we learn more about Maggie Thompson and her influence on comics. With husband Don Thompson, she published fanzines Comic Art and Newfangles, and went on to edit The Comics Buyer’s Guide and others. Maggie is a respected professional in the field and has been recognized with many awards, including the Eisner, the Harvey, the Inkpot, and the Jack Kirby awards.

Continuing this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her segue into the professional field, the end of Newfangles and the start of the The Comic Buyers Guide. The engrossing anecdotes continue, with the nature of cosmopolitan Iola, Wisconsin,  her articulation of “perpetual but non-exclusive rights”, Dark Shadows, and the Done in One label for comics.  There are stories of some of the field’s great figures, including Harlan Ellison, Stan Lee, and Carl Barks.  You’ll see questions from the audience as well. 

After decades of furious activity in science fiction and comics, Maggie remains bubbling and full of enthusiasm for her chosen community. There was no need to ask Maggie what keeps her involved—the answers are more than clear. 

(9) THE SUCCESSOR TO SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw this documentary about the rover Opportunity tonight. The film has very good special effects from ILM. But people should know the film, as the trailer points out, tries to turn the rover into Wall-E (“She” “has a face”). I would have liked at least five minutes about the science Opportunity discovered instead of having NASA people who have spent too much time in media training talk about how brave the robot was. *Sigh* “Good Night Oppy – Official Trailer”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise (1983) 

There was a man called Mael the Red who dwelt in Ar-Mor. That was the far western end of Brezh, which was itself the far western end of the Domain. Seen from those parts, Skyholm gleamed low in the east, often hidden by trees or hills or clouds, and showed little more than half the width of a full moon. Yet folk looked upon it with an awe that was sometimes lacking in those who saw it high and huge. — first words of Orion Shall Rise

Some novels I really like. Such is the case with Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise. By now, I must’ve read it at least a dozen times.

It was first issued by Phantasia Press Inc., a small publisher created  by Sidney Altus and Alex Berman. (This I did not know having, the Timescape Books from 1983.) They published short-run, hardcover limited editions of science fiction and fantasy books with an emphasis L. Sprague de Camp C. J. Cherryh, Philip José Farmer, and Alan Dean Foster. It was lasted from 1978 to 1989.

The book is said to be part of his Maurai series which really is a bit of lie. There are is only three more stories in total, “The Sky People”, “Progress” and “Windmill” I wonder if he meant to write more, but didn’t.  And yes, the Maurai world is visited by the time-traveling character of There Will Be Time.

SPOILERS BEWARE ARE SWIMMING AROUND, AND FLYING TOO

The novel is set apparently several hundred years after a devastating nuclear war which has set back civilization on Earth from a technology viewpoint. and vastly reduced the population as well, by billions it seems. Most of the planet has no advanced technology at all, and The Maurai Federation, the radically anti-technology society in the Pacific Ocean region, is dominated by the Maurai peoples of N’Zealann.

Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, the Domain of Skyholm, a class-based European society, rules over much of lower Europe from their pre-war dirigible aerostat.

Let’s not forget the Northwest Union, a clan-based society based in Pacific Northwest is the most technologically advanced and, and here comes the major spoiler — I did warn you, didn’t I? — they’ve been scavenging pre-War nuclear material to fuel the Orion class starship they have been constructing.

NOW BACK YO MY IMPRESSIONS

So why do I like the Orion Shall Rise so much? Well the story writing is damn perfect and doesn’t slip up at all. I do wish that Anderson had indeed written an actual Maurai series as there’s much here that could’ve been expanded upon.

There is one other thing that is wonderful and that is his characters. It is quite obvious to me that he loves his characters here, so let me quote a lengthy description of one early on:

Clansman was unmistakable. Even his clothes – loose-fitting shirt beneath a cowled jacket, tight-fitting trousers, low boots – were of different cut from their linen and woolen garb, and of finer material. At his ornate belt, next to a knife, hung a pistol; a rifle was sheathed at his saddlebow; and these were modern rapid-fire weapons. His coat bore silver insignia of rank on the shoulders, an emblem of a gold star in a blue field on the left sleeve. Before all else, his body proclaimed what he was. He sat tall and slender, with narrow head and countenance, long straight nose, large gray eyes, thin lips, fair complexion but dark hair that hung barely past his ears and was streaked with white. Though he went clean-shaven in the manner of his people, one could see that his beard would be sparse. He carried himself with pride rather than haughtiness, and smiled as he lifted an arm in greeting.

Everything here feels right, feels alive. I truly regret that was never told in an oral form as its sounds so much like a spoken tale.

It is available from the usual suspects. The Timescape trade edition is available, errr, new for just ten dollars on Amazon. They must have a time machine sitting around. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 4, 1912 Wendayne Ackerman. Wife of Forrest J Ackerman in the Forties. After eight years of marriage, she and FJA divorced but remained friends and companions. Later she translated the German language Perry Rhodan books he acquired for English-language publication. (Died 1990.)
  • November 4, 1934Gregg Calkins. Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.” (Died 2017.)
  • November 4, 1953Kara Dalkey, 69. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of SagamoreSteel RoseLittle Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Tiptree Awards.
  • November 4, 1953Stephen Jones, 69.  Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies quoted sometime ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated HistoryBasil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He has also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere.
  • November 4, 1957Jody Lynn Nye, 66. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent  MythAdventures series.  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. And she has written novels with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
  • November 4, 1958Nancy Springer, 64. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel. The Oddling Prince came out several years ago on Tachyon. 
  • November 4, 1958Lani Tupu, 64. He’d be here just for being Crais and the voice of the Pilot on the Farscape series but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings including the 1989 Punisher as Laccone, and  Gordon Standish in Robotropolis. He also had roles in Tales of the South SeasTime Trax and The Lost World. All of which we can guess were filmed in Australia. Lastly, he appears in the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series which if you haven’t seen it is quite excellent. I just found it in DVD format sometime in the past several years.
  • November 4, 1960John Vickery, 62. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there.  His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”.  He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) QUANTUM OF KNOWLEDGE. Available to watch now, a Quantum Week webinar exploring the forthcoming quantum technology revolution: “Perspectives on societal aspects and impacts of quantum technologies” at Physics World. The participants are listed with brief bios at the link.

Quantum science and technology is advancing and evolving rapidly and, in the last decade, has shifted from foundational scientific exploration to adoption by commercial and government organizations. It is essential that scrutiny and guidance is applied to this quantum revolution to bring other societal stakeholders onboard and ensure that the benefits can be maximized for all society.

What considerations exist for quantum technologies? How should we engage as a society in the future, as promised and created by this emerging sector? We will discuss some key questions that will shape the forthcoming quantum technology revolution.

(14) FROM THE VAULT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Charles Schulz tells the BBC’s Peter France about the importance of perseverance and draws a strip with Snoopy in this 1977 BBC clip that dropped today.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “She-Hulk Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says She-Hulk is “one of the most meta” Disney Plus shows ever.  It has a gratuitous twerking scene with Megan Thee Stallion which is put in there “to rile up angry internet dudus, and then we’re going to make fun of them for getting angry.” This is the show where She-Hulk smashes into the show’s writer’s room, demands they produce better scripts, and then meets the writers’ boss, who is not Kevin Feige.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/29/22 I Want To Scroll, What The Pixel On The Table Number 5 Is Scrolling!

(1) MARCEAU RAISES ISSUE ABOUT H.A.G. PRESIDENT. Author Caitlin Marceau tweeted yesterday that she has made the decision to leave the Horror Authors Guild (a different organization than the Horror Writers Association) due to Facebook comments made by the group’s newly-appointed president Don Smith on his own page. Smith was appointed President of HAG after D.A. Roberts stepped down, as Roberts announced June 14 on Facebook. Thread starts here.

(2) OTHER TIMES. Oliver Brackenbury of the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast interviews Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus about alternate history fiction: “Alternate Histories”.

(3) A BARBARIAN’S BIRTHDAY. The Cromcast shares another Howard Days recording, this time of a panel to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Conan the Barbarian film: “Howard Days 2022 – Part 6 – Conan the Barbarian at 40!”

In this recording from Saturday, June 11, Paul Sammon shares comments and stories related to his involvement with the first two Conan movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger .

(4) BEYOND PEEVED. The Guardian tells how the superhero show The Boys enraged its rightwing fanbase, because they apparently did not realize that The Boys was supposed to be satire: “Why superhero satire The Boys turned off its rightwing fanbase”.

There seems to be a low-key competition within the culture at the moment as to who can produce the worst sort of fan. For years, Star Wars has been the far and away winner, with fans bitching and crowing like wounded animals any time the series dares to venture out of its very narrow parameters. And Rick and Morty had a decent shot at the title a few years ago, when fans furious that their favourite show had the temerity to hire a female writer published her personal details online.

But now, thanks to a large and increasingly dunderheaded minority, it would appear that the show with the worst fans alive is currently Amazon’s The Boys. These fans have just twigged that the show’s main villain is actually a villain, and they’re absolutely furious….

(5) MURRAY LEINSTER SIGHTING. A Virginia news site remembers the Dean of Science Fiction on the date he once received a statewide honor: “Editorial: The Virginia writer and inventor who predicted the internet and the multiverse” in The Roanoke Times.

We’ve opined on a number of heavy topics in recent weeks. Today we’re going to take a breather, and contemplate space, time, alternate realities and the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations.

In this instance, especially on this day, these topics have a Virginia connection.

Thirteen years ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution declaring June 27, 2009, as William Fitzgerald Jenkins Day.

Who the heck, you might wonder, is Will Jenkins?

…Jenkins, who died in 1975, is today remembered above all else as an author, but his most enduring work was not published under his own name. He used a nom de plume, Murray Leinster (pronounced LEN-ster).

As is the case with the invention of front screen projection, while you may not have personally read a Murray Leinster story, odds are extremely high that you’ve been entertain by a book or movie built on themes that he was the first to tackle — or at least the first to tackle in a manner that left a memorable impression through the decades.

Case in point, his 1945 story “First Contact,” which the General Assembly resolution billed as “the first science fiction story to present the dramatic scenario of the first meeting between earthlings and aliens.” The phrase “first contact” has since been used so often in that context that it’s understood to refer to a first encounter of the extraterrestrial kind….

(6) PULLMAN PROTESTS. Sheffield Hallam University in the UK has shuttered its English literature program, because the current UK government considers it a “low value” degree, which caused angry reactions from many prominent writers, including Philip Pullman: “Philip Pullman leads outcry after Sheffield Hallam withdraws English lit degree” in The Guardian.

The award-winning author Philip Pullman has said the study of literature “should not be a luxury for a wealthy minority of spoilt and privileged aesthetes” after it emerged that Sheffield Hallam University is to pull its English literature degree from next year.

He was one of a number of writers to raise concerns about the university’s decision to stop teaching the standalone degree and incorporate it instead into a broad-based English degree, a year after the University of Cumbria took similar action.

A Sheffield Hallam spokesperson confirmed that English literature was among a small number of its courses that were being either suspended or closed, largely due to lack of demand. They said the changes would not involve job losses….

(7) DOROTHY J. HEYDT (1942-2022). Author Dorothy J. Heydt, the originator and first editor of the Star Trek Concordance (1969), died this month reported Seanan McGuire on Twitter. Memory Alpha notes that beginning in 1967 her series of Star Trek stories, “Dorothy and Myfanwy” were published in Ruth Berman’s fanzine T-Negative. The Wikipedia credits her with the invention of the first widely used Vulcan conlangs for that series.

Its words were picked up and used by other fan fiction authors such as Claire Gabriel. One term, ni var, meaning “two form”, an art form in which two contrasting aspects of a subject are compared, is still used on Star Trek: Enterprise, as the name of a Vulcan ship and on Star Trek: Discovery as the new name of the planet Vulcan itself.

She also had poetry and articles published in the first Trek fanzine, Spockanalia.

Later she was an active participant in the Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.sf.written and rec.arts.sf.fandom. She wrote numerous short stories and two novels. Many of her stories appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, or in collections edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, including the Sword and Sorceress series, and stories in the Darkover series shared world. 

(8) BILLY WOLFENBARGER (1943-2022). Author and poet Billy Wolfenbarger died June 26. In addition to short fiction and poetry, he wrote columns and contributions for fanzines, especially Bill Bowers’ Outworlds and Xenolith. Two years ago William Breiding fulfilled the late Bowers’ vision of gathering these works in a book – Language at Midnight – now available at eFanzines. Breiding’s introduction shares some of that history:

In 1973 Bill Bowers published The Lizard Speaks by Billy Wolfenbarger in Outworlds 15, the 3rd anniversary issue, as a “book” inclusive to that issue. He then did an overrun of 50 “books” (a mimeographed pamphlet) that he distributed to its author and other interested parties. This was the culmination of an affectionate editor/writer relationship between Bill Bowers and Billy Wolfenbarger that dated as far back as 1964 and the Bill Bowers/Bill Mallardi fanzine Double:Bill.

In 1974 Bowers ran Wolfenbarger’s first “Language At Midnight” column in Outworlds 19. The column continued through Outworlds 26, published in 1975, then hopped over to Bill’s Xenolith in 1977 and ran there until 1980, when Billy stopped writing the column. Billy had a scattershot of other pieces in Bill’s publications—prose and verse—but never another “Language At Midnight” column, which had its own cast of characters and feel to it. (“Where it’s always midnight in October.”)

(9) MEMORY LANE

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty years ago, at the very first L.A. Con, we saw Poul Anderson’s “A Queen of Air and Darkness” novella which has been published in F&SF, the April 1971 edition, win the Hugo for Best Novella. (Mike says he both nominated and voted for it.)

It was a particularly strong field that year with the other works being Arthur C. Clarke’s “A Meeting with Medusa”, Larry Niven‘s “The Fourth Profession”, John Brunner’s “Dread Empire” and Gardner R. Dozois’s “A Special Kind of Morning”. 

It would remain in print thereafter showing up immediately in Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year and Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s Nebula Award Winners 7. Anderson put in several collections including, not unsurprisingly, The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories. Currently, of course, it is in the NESFA volumes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 29, 1919 — Slim Pickens. Surely you remember his memorable scene as Major T. J. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove? I certainly do. And of course, he shows up in Blazing Saddles as Taggart. He’s the uncredited voice of B.O.B in The Black Hole and he’s Sam Newfield in The Howling. He’s got some series genre work including several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plus work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1983.)
  • Born June 29, 1920 — Ray Harryhausen. All around film genius who created stop-motion model Dynamation animation. His work can be seen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (his first colour film) which was nominated for a Hugo at Detention, Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Youngand Clash of the Titans. I’ve got him voted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame twice, in 1996 and 2008. Any idea why?  (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 29, 1943 — Maureen O’Brien, 79. Vicki, companion of the First Doctor. Some forty years later, she reprised the role for several Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio works. She had a recurring role as Morgan in The Legend of King Arthur, a late Seventies BBC series. Her Detective Inspector John Bright series was well received.
  • Born June 29, 1947 — Michael Carter, 75. Best remembered for being Gerald Bringsley in An American Werewolf in London, Von Thurnburg in The Illusionist and Bib Fortuna in the Return of the Jedi. He plays two roles as a prisoner and as UNIT soldier in the Third Doctor story, “The Mind of Evil”. 
  • Born June 29, 1950 — Michael Whelan, 72. I’m reasonably sure that most of the Del Rey editions of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series was where I first noticed his artwork but I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere since. He did Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls cover which I love and many more. And there’s a wonderful collection of his work available, Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan.
  • Born June 29, 1956 — David Burroughs Mattingly, 66. He’s an American illustrator and painter, best known for his numerous book covers of genre literature. Earlier in his career, he worked at Disney Studio on the production of The Black HoleTronDick Tracy and Stephen King’s The Stand. His main cover work was at Ballantine Books where he did such work as the 1982 cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (superb novel), the 2006 Anderson’s Time Patrol and the 1983 Berkley Books publication of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith Triplanetary.
  • Born June 29, 1957 — Fred Duarte, Jr. His Birthday is today and this long-time Texas fan was well eulogized by Mike here upon his passing several years back. 
  • Born June 29, 1963 — Judith Hoag, 59. Her first genre role was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as April O’Neil followed by being in Armageddon playing Denise Chappel and then a Doctor in A Nightmare On Elm Street. She filmed a cameo for another Turtle film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, but it was deleted. She’s got one one-offs in Quantum LeapThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Strange WorldThe Burning ZoneX-FilesCarnivàle and Grimm. Her lady genre role was in The Magicians as Stephanie Quinn.

(11) ORIGINAL HORROR ANTHOLOGY BY POC. Following a successful Kickstarter, Death In The Mouth: The Best of Contemporary Horror, a horror anthology showcasing BIPOC and other ethnically marginalized writers and artists from around the world edited by Sloane Leong and Cassie Hart, will be released October 1 and is available for pre-order.

Sloane Leong is a cartoonist, artist and writer of Hawaiian, Chinese, Mexican, Native American and European ancestries. She’s written and drawn two acclaimed graphic novels, Prism Stalker and A Map to the Sun, and has short fiction credits with Fireside Magazine, Dark Matter Magazine and Entropy Magazine. She’s also co-edited the anthology Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Oceania Edition. Sloane is currently living on Chinook land near what is known as Portland, Oregon.

Cassie Hart is a Māori/Pākehā author and editor from New Zealand. She has been an Australian Shadow, Hugo, and Sir Julius Vogel award finalist across the years, co-winning an SJV for Best Collected works for the anthology, Tales for Canterbury, and is a finalist for Best Edited Works in the Australian Shadow Awards 2021. Her supernatural suspense novel, Butcherbird, releases from Huia in 2021.

The anthology includes these authors and artists:

  • Jolie Toomajan – “Water Goes, Sand Remains”, with art by Jabari Weathers
  • Yah Yah Scholfield – “They Will Take Up Serpents”, with art by Makoto
  • ChiIsha Karki – “Welcome to Labyrinth”, with art by Natalie Hall
  • Endria Richardson – “Wind Up Teeth”, with art by Tsulala
  • Johnny Compton – “No Hungry Generations”, with art by Pierre Roset
  • Arasibo Campeche – “Drowned in Mindfulness”, with art by Michael Deforge
  • K-Ming Chang – “The Three Resurrections of my Grandfather”, with art by Sloane Hong
  • Reno Evangelista – “Her Apocrypha”, with art by Jess Hara
  • Catherine Yu – “Balloon Girl”, with art by Joy San
  • Daphne Fama – “The Pleiades”, with art by Alicia Feng
  • Beatrice Iker– “They’ll Keep You Gestated”, with art by Molly Mendoza
  • Cassie Hart – “She”, with art by Weiwei XuC
  • Pam Zang – “Alice or Rose or Aurora or Allerleuirah or Belle, on the Occasion of the Burial of the Beast”, with art by Charlotte Gomez
  • P. H. Low – “Tongue is a Void”, with art by JaeHoon Choi
  • Kelsea Yu – “The Obedient Son”, with art by Audrey Murty
  • JL Akagi – “Henry Watanabe and the Wandering Hand”, with art by Bhanu Pratap
  • Amaranta Sepulveda Durán – “The Mother-Wound”, with art by Vivian Magaña
  • Sloane Leong – “Paradise”, with art by Solomon Enos
  • Rivers Solomon – “Some of us are Grapefruit”, with art by Junko Mizuno
  • Ras Cutlass – “Melinda and the Grub”, with art by Naomi Butterfield
  • R.S.A. Garcia – “A Bonfire in the Night”, with art by Zhang Hetian
  • Jessica Cho – “On Tattered Wings”, with art by Lina Wu
  • M. L. Krishnan – “The Eggshell Sanctuary”, with art by Julie Benbassat
  • Priya Chand – “Never Lie to Me” with art by Congming
  • Karin Lowachee – “The Black Hole of Beaumort”, with art by Allissa Chan
  • Darcie Little Badger – “Homebody”, with art by Apolo Cacho

(12) IS IT TIME FOR YOUR MOUNT TSUNDOKU TO ERUPT AGAIN? [Item by BGrandath.] Matt of Bookpilled is IMHO one of the best SF reviewers on BookTube, he has a great respect for classic SF. He is going to have an auction of vintage books on Sunday and I thought some Filers might be interested. These are the two links to the event he discusses in the video. (1) Whatnot – Vintage SF & Fantasy Book Clearout Livestream by thriftalife #books, and (2) Bookpilled – Etsy.

(13) A LIVING SKIN COVERING FOR ROBOTS HAS BEEN CREATED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In The Terminator film franchise, the hideous form of the robotic Terminators were covered by biological skin. This has now been developed for real by researchers in Japan. They have developed a living-skin consisting of cells and extracellular matrix, as a human-like and self-healing coverage material for robots. It was flexible and felt like skin. If scratched it could even heal. However, this artificial living skin was prone to drying out. To avoid such drying, building perfusion channels within and beneath the outer skin so as to mimic blood vessels to supply water, as well as the integration of sweating glands in the skin equivalent, need to be developed. (See Kawai, M. et al (2022) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2022.05.019 Matter, vol. 5 1-19.)

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Diablo Immortal,” Fandom Games says this version of Diablo meant for phones is yet another example of how “a thing you love is processed by the same garbage-content processing machine” that is ruining entertainment today. The game is so focused on making you by stuff to make the play enjoyable that the only people who can afford it are “Saudi princes and whales who badly need a gambling intervention.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/27/22 All Ringworlds Great And Small

(1) MAUS OUT OF SCHOOL LIBRARY. In response to the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus by the McMinn County Tennessee School Board Neil Gaiman has tweeted: “There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days.” “Tennessee school board bans Holocaust comic ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman” at CNBC.

A Tennessee school board has voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust.

The Jan. 10 vote by the McMinn County School Board, which only began attracting attention Wednesday, comes amid a number of battles in school systems around the country as conservatives target curriculums over teachings about the history of slavery and racism in America.

“I’m kind of baffled by this,” Art Spiegelman, the author of “Maus,” told CNBC in an interview about the unanimous vote by the McMinn board to bar the book, which is about his parents, from continuing to be used in the curriculum.

“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” said Spiegelman, 73, who only learned of the ban after it was the subject of a tweet Wednesday – a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He called the school board “Orwellian” for its action….

In “Maus,” different groups of people are drawn as different kinds of animals: Jews are the mice, Poles are pigs and Nazi Germans — who had a notorious history of banning and burning books — are cats. It has won a slew of awards, including a 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

(2) CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE MEDICAL UPDATE. Author Catherynne M. Valente has contracted Covid and has been tweeting about how she feels, and is handling quarantining away from the rest of the family. She also will be unable to appear in person at Capricon the first weekend in February.

(3) THE GAME’S AFOOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives a con report on the Baker Street Irregulars annual convention. “Sherlock Holmes gets the gala treatment in New York”.

…This year, socializing got underway on Thursday afternoon at the Grolier Club, the country’s leading society for bibliophiles. Opening that week, and running till April 16, was “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects,” an exhibition drawn from the fabled collection of Glen S. Miranker. Fabled? As I once wrote, “If the Great Agra Treasure — from ‘The Sign of Four’ — contained rare Sherlockian books and manuscripts instead of priceless gems, it would resemble Glen Miranker’s library.”

In display cases below a huge banner depicting Holmes in his signature dressing gown, one could see the only known copy in its dust jacket of the first edition of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” with original artwork by Sidney Paget and Frederic Dorr Steele, handwritten drafts of four major stories, and even Conan Doyle’s work ledger containing the December 1893 memorandum, “Killed Holmes.” This refers to “The Final Problem,” which ends with the great detective and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, both falling to their deaths, or so it seemed, at the Reichenbach Falls….

(4) PHILOSOPHICAL FAVES. University of California (Riverside) philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel picks five sf novels of interest to philosophers. “Science Fiction and Philosophy – Five Books Expert Recommendations”.

It’s an interesting conundrum, because some science fiction seems to extrapolate from existing science to a future that’s possible and consistent with what we know about science today. That is, a hypothetical situation that is a plausible, possible future world—or maybe not so plausible, but still could happen. But there’s another kind of science fiction which doesn’t seem to be bound by anything we know about science now—it just allows what you might call magical things to happen. I wonder how the two of them relate to philosophy.

Fantasy just allows magical things to happen. And that can be very useful in thinking through philosophical issues because you might be interested in considering things that aren’t scientifically plausible at all, exploring them as conceptual possibilities. Now, within the constraints of scientific plausibility we can find a second big philosophical value in science fiction: thinking about the future. For example, I think it’s likely that in the next several decades, or maybe the next 100 or 200 years, if humanity continues to exist and continues along its current trajectory, we will eventually create artificial beings who are conscious. Maybe they’ll be robots or maybe they’ll artificial biological organisms. Or they might be a bio-machine hybrid or the result of technology we can’t yet foresee. We might create artificial entities who are people—entities with conscious experiences, self-knowledge, values, who think of themselves as individuals. They might be very much unlike us in other ways—physiologically, physically, maybe in their values, maybe in their styles of thinking.

If that happens, that’s hugely significant. We’d have created a new species of person—people radically different from us, sharing the world with us. Humanity’s children, so to speak. Few things could be more historically momentous than that! But these matters are hard to think about well. Maybe that future is coming. But what might it even look like? What would it do to ethics? To philosophy of mind? To our sense of the purpose and value of humanity itself? Science fiction is a tool for imagining the possible shape of such a future. So that’s just one example of the way in which science fiction can help us think about future possibilities.

(5) WTF. In the Washington Post, Jonathan Edwards says that Peter Dinklage, a guest on”WTF With Marc Maron,” slammed the live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as “a backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave.” “Actor Peter Dinklage calls out ‘Snow White’ remake for its depiction of dwarves”.

…Dinklage, 52, told Maron he was surprised by what he saw as a contradiction.

“They were very, very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ ” Dinklage said, adding, “You’re progressive in one way … but you’re still making that … backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave. What … are you doing, man?”

On Tuesday, Disney responded, saying it will aim to present the characters in a sensitive manner….

(6) POUL AND GORDY. Fanac.org has posted a 1977 video recording from ConFusion 14 with Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson holding forth about a chapter in sf history: “The Way It Was (Pt  1): Minneapolis Fantasy Society”.

This short video features a conversation between authors Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson on the history of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS). Gordy, the older of the two, begins with a description of the prewar (World War II) MFS, a serious writers’ group with members such as Clifford Simak and Donald Wandrei. Poul and Gordy then bring the calendar forward with anecdotes of traveling to Torcon (1948), MFS parties, and how the writing community worked in the middle of the century. 

These much loved members of the science fiction community are by turns very earnest, very funny and always very engaging in telling us “The Way It Was”…

Note that this is part 1 of a longer program. As of January 2022, we are working to digitize the next part.

Also note that there are about 5 seconds of disrupted video towards the end of the recording.

Thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) SEE VIDEO OF MANCHESS ADAPTATION. On Muddy Colors, Gregory Manchess posted a link to a video of the stage production of Above the Timberline, based on his story and art. “Watch the Stage Play of Above the Timberline!” (The video has to be watched at the link.)

In an alternate future where the weather of the world has been permanently altered, the son of a famed polar explorer sets out in search of his father, who disappeared while looking for a lost city buried under the snow. But Wes Singleton believes his father is still alive – somewhere above the timberline. Adapted from the exquisitely painted novel, the world premiere stage adaptation is sure to delight.

(8) FARLAND MEMORIES. The Writers & Illustrators of the Future have produced a visual tribute to their coordinating judge who recently died: “David Farland Memorial (1957 – 2022)”.

One only needs to look at Dave Farland’s vast roster of names discovered and nurtured. It is no wonder his keen eye for talent was dubbed “Writer Whisperer.” Dave was an extraordinary individual, a kind soul, and a cherished personal friend and friend to everyone in the writing community. He was always there to lend a helping hand. Dave will be greatly missed. But it is good to know that due to his excellent work and dedication to creating the future, science fiction and fantasy will continue to be in good hands.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

Captain Janeway: Coffee, black. 

Neelix: I’m sorry, Captain. We’ve lost another two replicators – 

Kathryn Janeway: Listen to me very carefully because I’m only going to say this once. Coffee – black.

Twenty three years ago this evening on the UPN network, Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Bride of Chaotica!” first aired. It was the twelfth episode of the fifth season of the series. The episode is loving homage to the 1936 Flash Gordon film serial and 1939 Buck Rogers film serial that followed film. Much of the episode was shot in black and white to emulate the look of those shows. 

The story was Bryan Fuller who was the writer and executive producer on Voyager and Deep Space Nine; he is also the co-creator of Discovery. The script was by Fuller and Michael Taylor who was best known as a writer on Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Critics really liked it. SyFy Wire said it was “campy, hilarious, hysterical, brilliant, and an absolute joy.” And CBR noted that Voyager was “having fun with its goofier side.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1832 Lewis Carroll. Writer, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In 1876, he also produced his work, “The Hunting of the Snark”, a fantastical nonsense poem about the adventures of a very, very bizarre crew of nine tradesmen and a beaver who set off to find the snark. (Died 1898.)
  • Born January 27, 1938 Ron Ellik. A well-known sf fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine Fanac in the late Fifties. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that ‘He also had some fiction published professionally and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.’ (ISFDB says it was The Cross of Gold Affair.) Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 82. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact, which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, Robot, Spider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1953 Joe Bob Briggs, 69. Writer, actor, and comic performer. Host of the TNT MonsterVision series, and the ongoing The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder from 2018–present. The author of a number of non- fiction review books including Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies that Changed History!  And he’s written one genre novel, Iron Joe Bob. My favorite quote by him is that after contracting Covid and keeping private that he had, he said later that “Many people have had COVID-19 and most of them were much worse off than me.  I wish everybody thought it was a death sentence, because then everyone would wear the f*cking mask and then we would get rid of it.”
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 65. If you’re not a comic reader, you first encountered him in the form of Robocop 2 which I think is a quite decent film. His other films include Robocop 3Sin City300Spirit (fun) and various Batman animated films that you’ll either like or loathe depending on your ability to tolerate extreme violence. Oh, but his comics. Setting aside his Batman work all of which is a must read, I’d recommend his Daredevil, especially the Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus which gives you everything by him you need, Elektra by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, all of his Sin City work and RoboCop vs. The Terminator #1–4 with Walt Simonson. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 59. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop in the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler in X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?)
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 52. Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books. Editor of Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. Interestingly, she won all but one of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director that were given out between 2004 and 2012. 

(11) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] A Texas primary candidate for the state House got in an uproar regarding a tall tale about Furries. She decided that it was an outrage that some schools would be lowering their cafeteria tables to make it easier for these anthropomorphs to eat out of their bowls—sans utensils or hands. 

This despite the fact that Furrys don’t do that. Or that the schools in question had no intention of lowering their tables. Or that, in fact, it was impossible to do so given the tables’ design.

This is hardly the only tall tale about Furries and schools. I’ll leave it to your imagination (or to your clicking though to read the article) as to what alternative restroom arrangements were supposedly on the table for one school system in Michigan. Or, rather, on the floor.  “A Texas GOP Candidate’s New Claim: School Cafeteria Tables Are Being Lowered for ‘Furries’”

On Sunday night, a candidate in the GOP primary for Texas House District 136, which includes a large portion of the suburbs north of Austin, tweeted a curious allegation. That candidate, Michelle Evans—an activist who works with the local chapter of conservative parents’ group Moms for Liberty and who cofounded the anti-vaccine political action committee Texans for Vaccine Choice, back in 2015—tweeted that “Cafeteria tables are being lowered in certain @RoundRockISD middle and high schools to allow ‘furries’ to more easily eat without utensils or their hands (ie, like a dog eats from a bowl).”

She was responding to a tweet from right-wing Texas provocateur Michael Quinn Sullivan, who had shared a video of a woman speaking at a December school board meeting in Midland, Michigan, claiming that schools there have added “litter boxes” in the halls to allow students who identify as “furries” to relieve themselves. Sullivan retweeted the video, adding, “This is public education.” (It isn’t; the claims made by the speaker in the video have been shown to be untrue.) 

… Similar reports have popped up elsewhere. In Iowa, an unsourced, anonymous report claimed that school boards were considering placing litter boxes in the bathrooms, while a Canadian public school director took to the media to connect similar rumors in his community to a backlash around accommodations that his schools had created for transgender students. Evans’s claim that Round Rock lowered its tables appears to simply be a new variation on the myth…. 

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! and saw a contestant struggling with this:

Category: Books and authors

Answer: This feral character raised by jungle animals originally appeared in Rudyard Kipling’s short story “In The Rukh”

Wrong question: Who is Tarzan?

Correct question: Who is Mowgli?

(13) DRY FUTURE FOR SOME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] With a global population explosion and climate change, both factors will combine to create water shortages in some places (which would not happen otherwise if one or other factor did not exist).  Now, writing in Nature Communications, N. American researchers based in Canada and the US have mapped the global situation.  (Not looking good for SW of the USA.) “Hotspots for social and ecological impacts from freshwater stress and storage loss”.

The most-vulnerable basins encompass over 1.5 billion people, 17% of global food crop production, 13% of global gross domestic product, and hundreds of significant wetlands. There are substantial social and ecological benefits to reducing vulnerability in hotspot basins, which can be achieved through hydro- diplomacy, social adaptive capacity building, and integrated water resources management practices, the researchers conclude.

(14) A LITTLE CHILD SHALL MISLEAD THEM. In “Misunderstandings”, David Bratman says, “A comment elsewhere prompted me to drag out recollections of words whose meaning I misunderstood as a child,” and gives several engaging examples.

*blind spot
I thought this meant you were literally struck blind if you looked in that direction – whether permanently or momentarily I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to find out the hard way. I specifically remember our coming across a road sign with this warning when we were out driving around house-hunting in the hill country, which would put my age at 7. It is characteristic of me that, well over a half century later, I still remember exactly where this was, even though I’ve never gone back to check if the sign is still there. (I might be struck blind!) But from Google street view, apparently not.

(15) A PARAGON. I felt much better about File 770’s copyediting when I read artist James Artimus Owen tell Facebook readers

I have accidentally replaced all the spaces in my current manuscript with the words, “Chuck Norris”. But I’m leaving it in, in hopes that the change will be accepted as one of those necessary, semi-invisible words like “and”, “the”, and “defenestrate.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the concluding Final Fantasy game has many “beautiful and poignant moments” because “you spent 5,000 hours with these characters in the previous 13 episodes,” but there are exciting sidebars, such as “waiting for a really rare monster to appear while someone writes the entire plot of Shrek in chat.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/12/21 She Scrolls In Pixels Like The Flight, Of Rocketships In Starry Skies

(1) PLANE CRASH CLAIMS BLUE ORIGIN TRAVELER. Just last month he was part of the foursome with William Shatner who rode Blue Origin to the edge of space: “Blue Origin astronaut Glen de Vries dies in plane crash” reports CNN.

One of Blue Origin’s newest astronauts, 49-year-old Glen de Vries, survived a ride to space in October alongside actor William Shatner. But less than a month later, he was killed in a small plane crash on Thursday in New Jersey.

…De Vries never disclosed how much he paid for a seat on the New Shepherd spacecraft. But whatever the amount was, after returning to Earth, de Vries told CNN it was worth it.

“We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries,” a spokesperson for Blue Origin said. “He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired.”

Also on last month’s flight was Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of satellite company Planet Labs, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations.

(2) LITERARY ARTS EMERGENCY FUND. Applicants can apply for funds administered by the American Academy of Poets, National Book Foundation, and Community of Literary Magazines and Presses until January 6, 2022: see the Literary Arts Emergency Fund Submission Manager.

ELIGIBILITY

  • Literary arts organizations and publishers* AND
  • Incorporated nonprofits with 501(c)3 status OR a fiscal agent AND
  • Based in the United States, U.S. territories, or Tribal lands

*Because recent financial losses experienced by nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers have been substantial and emergency relief is limited, libraries, museums, book arts organizations, humanities councils, centers for the book, residencies, playwriting organizations, author’s homes, and organizations devoted to championing the legacy of an individual writer are ineligible.

(3) COME EXPERIENCE NONVIRTUAL REALITY. “Iceland Skewers Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse With New Tourism Ad”Gizmodo sets the frame for this wonderful send-up:

Iceland released a new tourism ad on Thursday, poking fun at Facebook’s (sorry, Meta’s) recent promises for how we’re all going to live in the future. But Iceland’s version of Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want to sell you on visiting the sci-fi dystopia that we were all warned about for decades. No, Iceland just wants you to see its geysers and stuff.

… Iceland is desperate to get tourists back into the country, with tourism accounting for almost 9% of the nation’s GDP before the pandemic and employing roughly 30,000 people. But covid-19 obviously put the brakes on tourists visiting its scenic vistas—though Iceland is looking to lure those people back with clever ads.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to Take a break for baklava with Suzanne Palmer in episode 158 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Suzanne Palmer

…Ay last month’s Capclave in Rockville, Maryland. I was able to harvest two con conversations for you there, something I haven’t been able to do in far too long — the first, this episode’s lunch at Mykonos Grill with Suzanne Palmer.

Suzanne Palmer is a multi-award-winning science fiction writer. Her novelette “The Secret Life of Bots” won a Hugo Award in 2018, as well as the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award, plus her story “Waterlines” won the 2020 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. She’s published three novels with DAW Books about an interstellar repo man — her debut novel Finder in 2019, followed by Driving the Deep (2020) and The Scavenger Door (2021).

Her love of narrative science fiction extends beyond the written word, for when she was obtaining her Bachelors degree of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, her thesis exhibition consisted of an entire museum of artifacts from a fictional world, including clothing, coins, furniture, manuscripts — and an 8? tall horned creature covered with fur. I found that part of her background, unknown to me until I started preparing for my conversation, fascinating, since as longtime listeners know from my interview with the team at Submersive Productions in Episode 86, I love immersive theater.

We discussed her recurrent dreams of accidentally impaling someone with her Hugo Award trophy during the ceremony, the Ray Bradbury story she copied out of a library book by hand word for word as a child, the differences between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (and why some readers have difficulties with the latter), the way a friend’s urgings she do NaNoWriMo caused her to take her writing more seriously, the spark that gave birth to her interstellar repo man Fergus Ferguson, how the pandemic affected the writing of her latest novel, and much more.

(5) ON THE MOVE. A new quarterly magazine of speculative fiction by immigrant and diaspora writers has produced its third issue. Click here.

We are dedicated to diversity and elevating the voices of immigrant and diaspora authors.

We publish fiction, genre non-fiction, and art; our stories include fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and any genre in between or around it — as long as there’s a speculative element. We’re especially interested in writing and art that explores migration. Examples include themes of immigration, diaspora, and anti-colonialism, as well as more metaphorical interpretations of the term. 

Any act of migration, whether voluntary or forced, requires a recalibration of self-identity. We are defined, after all, by the environment that surrounds us: people, language, food, smell, sound. To change any one of them may be disorienting; to change them may leave us adrift. What better medium to explore this sensation than speculative fiction, where the author must create a new world for the reader to inhabit?  

(6) GAINING MOMENTUM. Fusion Fragment was relaunched in March 2020 as a semi-pro SF market. Issue #8 is already here, and issue #9 is coming soon.

The publisher tweeted about #9: “Also did I imagine that this is the biggest issue ever? And also that it has a new layout? And also that it has a new short fiction review column? I’m super excited and gonna start proofreading immediately to get this issue out to everyone soon!”

(7) BAYMAX! The trailer for a Disney Plus series in the Big Hero 6 universe dropped today.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1961 — Fifty years ago at Seacon with the Toastmaster being Harlan Ellison, Poul Anderson wins the first of what eventually will be seven Hugos, for “The Longest Voyage.” It was first published in Analog Science Fact -> Fiction in the November 1960 edition. The other nominated works that year were Pauline Ashwell’s “The Lost Kafoozalum”, Philip José Farmer’s “Open to Me, My Sister” and Theodore Sturgeon’’s “Need”. It’s in The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volume Two: The Queen of Air and Darkness that NESFA published.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 12, 1917 Dahlov Ipcar. Though primarily an artist and you really should go visit her website, she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978 which are The Warlock of Night, The Queen of Spells and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1922 Kim Hunter. She portrayed the chimpanzee Zira in the Planet of the Apes films For the first three outings. Her first genre roles was her first film role as Mary Gibson in the early Forties, The Seventh Victim. She’s June in A Matter of Life and Death, and Amanda Hollins in The Kindred. She has one-offs on Project U.F.O.Night GalleryMission Impossible and even appeared on The Evil Touch, an Australian horror anthology series. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film which only covers part of the novel.  Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time.   The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo which I’ve delightfully encountered, I’ve not read any of these.  (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 78. Probably best remembered as the ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film. He also was the voice of Rex in the Toy Story franchise. 
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 75. David Pringle included his Who Made Stevie Crye? novel in Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1946-1987, high praise indeed. Though it feels slightly dated now, I’m fond of his Urban Nucleus of Atlanta series. And Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas is simply amazing. He’s nominated for far too many Hugos to recount here. His major Award is a Nebula for his No Enemy but Time novel. 
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodenchik, 69. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The RocketeerHere Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskinStar Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted, alas), Tales from The CryptSlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 39. She starred as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in The Dark Knight trilogy. More impressive she was The White Queen In Alice Through the Looking Glass, and she was Agent 99 in the remake of Get Smart! No, not as good as the original but fun nonetheless.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal  “Norms”: The times they are a’changing? Yes? No?

(11) BOOZE WITH A VIEW. Untapped New York takes you to the “7 Best Bars in NYC Where a Drink Is Served with a Work of Art”. Only one or two are in the genre of fantastic art, still, it’s a very interesting article.

7. Marie’s Crisis

Located at 59 Grove Street, Marie’s Crisis is housed in an 1839 building. Its name is derived from Thomas Paine’s essay, The American Crisis, since Paine died on the site in 1809, and from Romany Marie, who was the proprietor of several tearooms in Greenwich Village at the turn of the century. Today, Marie’s Crisis is a piano bar where a showtune is never far away and was a former haunt of Eugene O’Neill and Edward VIII. The ambiance is aided by a WPA mural, whose origins are unknown. The mural  behind  the bar depicts the French and American revolutions and another mural entitled  La Convention depicts Robespeirre, Danton, and Paine.

(12) SECOND WORLDSHAPERS ANTHOLOGY. Edward Willett’s Shapers of World Volume II, a sequel to last year’s Shapers of Worlds, was released November 2, featuring new stories from Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Garth Nix, Candas Jane Dorsey, Jeremy Szal, Edward Willett, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Lisa Foiles, Susan Forest, Matthew Hughes, Heli Kennedy, Helen Dale, Adria Laycraft, Edward Savio, Lisa Kessler, Ira Nayman, James Alan Gardner, and Tim Pratt, plus reprints from Jeffrey A. Carver, David D. Levine, Carrie Vaughn, Nancy Kress, Barbara Hambly, and S.M. Stirling. Both books were Kickstarted, with each raising approximately $16,000 CDN in pledges. The book is available from Shadowpaw Press and other retailers.

All of the authors were guests during the second year of Willett’s Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers.

Willett is himself an award-winning author of more than sixty books of fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, including eleven novels for New York’s DAW Books. His twelfth novel for DAW, the humorous space opera The Tangled Stars, will be out in 2022.

(13) IT IS THE END MY FRIEND. The Guardian profiles a band that draws on sff as one of its inspirations: “Placebo: ‘It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of the human species’”.

… While writing the album, Molko returned to the sci-fi films he had loved as a child – psychedelic ruminations on technology and power from the 1970s, such as Fantastic Planet and Silent Running. “I’m very interested in creating, with each song, an alternative universe where the laws of physics don’t necessarily apply,” he says. “Each song really does exist in its little parallel universe. If we’re not tied down to the laws of physics that are generally accepted in the universe we see, then certainly emotion will follow. Certainly anything is possible in another reality. It allows me to speak freely about what bothers me. I try to exaggerate things to increase dramatic effect, to highlight how ridiculous our reality is.”…

(14) INGENUITY INDEED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s Summer on Mars where the Ingenuity helicopter is, and this is an issue. The atmosphere is significantly thinner in the Martian Summer’s relative warmth, which cuts down on the lift the rotors can generate. 

Not wanting to give in to the mere fact of trying to operate a helicopter remotely in conditions it was never designed to accommodate, NASA engineers used a little ingenuity of their own. 

By sharply upping the rotors‘ RPM, then remotely diagnosing a problem with the flight control motors, NASA took Ingenuity for a short test hop then a longer checkout flight. This sets the scene to resume using Ingenuity to scout locations for the Perseverance rover. Ars Technica reassures us that “NASA’s stalwart Mars helicopter is back and better than ever”.

…Cumulatively, Ingenuity has now flown more than 3 km across the surface of Mars—more than five times farther than NASA had hoped to demonstrate with this technology. It’s safe to say that flying on other worlds, with atmospheres, will be more than just a passing fad for future exploratory missions. Rather, it likely represents the future.

(15) INTELLIGENT LIFE – ON EARTH? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature reports on papers that show “Mysterious ‘alien beacon’ was false alarm” — “Radio signal seemed to originate from the star Proxima Centauri, and provided a helpful drill for future searches.”

A radio signal detected by an Australian telescope in 2019, which seemed to be coming from the star closest to the Sun, was not from aliens, researchers report today in two papers in Nature Astronomy [here and here];

“It is human-made radio interference from some technology, probably on the surface of the Earth,” says Sofia Sheikh, an astronomer at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and a co-author of both papers.

But the disturbance, detected by Breakthrough Listen — an ambitious and privately funded US$100-million effort in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) — looked intriguing enough at first that it sent astronomers on a nearly year-long quest to understand its origins. It was the first time that data from Breakthrough Listen triggered a detailed search, and the experience puts scientists in a better position to study future candidate detections.

“It’s really valuable for us to have these dry runs,” says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “We need these candidate signals so we can learn how we will deal with them — how to prove they are extraterrestrial or human-made.”

Mysterious blips

Since 2016, Breakthrough Listen has used telescopes around the world to listen for possible broadcasts from alien civilizations. The programme has picked up millions of radio blips of unknown origin, nearly all of which could be swiftly classified as coming from radio interference on Earth, from sources such as mobile-phone towers or aircraft radar.

The 2019 signal was different. It was detected by the 64-metre Parkes Murriyang radio telescope in southeastern Australia and came from the direction of Proxima Centauri — the nearest star to the Sun, just 1.3 parsecs (4.2 light years) away. Proxima Centauri is of intense interest to SETI researchers, not just because it is nearby. The star has at least two planets, one of which orbits at the right distance for liquid water to be present on its surface — a prerequisite for life as it exists on Earth…

…“The Universe gives us a haystack,” says Ravi Kopparapu, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It is our need to find the needle in it, and make sure that it is actually a needle that we found.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Ryan George’s “James Bond: Skyfall” on Screen Rant, Bond gets shot, falls off a high bridge, and his semi-conscious body plunges down a giant waterfall.  But why didn’t he die?  We don’t know, but there’s a cool opening song by Adele to cover up the handwaving!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me, When I Pixel Scroll

(1) WRECKS APPEAL. The Hugo Book Club Blog in “American Cleon” points out, among other things, that “Hari Seldon never suggests making something better than an Empire. He wants to make Trantor Great Again.”

….Foundation as a narrative has to be understood in this context; Isaac Asimov’s understanding of history was informed by American exceptionalism, the influence of America’s third ‘Great Awakening’ of apocalyptic religiosity, the wake of the Great Depression, and of a period of upheaval and uncertainty about the country’s future. It might be asked why, after 80 years, the books are finally being adapted to the screen; is it perhaps because we are again in a period of upheaval and uncertainty?

While we should be aware that the original novel is a product of the ideas and concerns of the time it was written, the television show is a product of today and makes arguments about the world of 2021. We would suggest that the television series version of Foundation contains hints of Gibbons’ classism, echoes of Asimov’s concerns about America on the eve of the Second World War, but also reflects our own 21st Century concerns about decline.

Margaret Atwood has said that “Prophecies are really about now. In science fiction it’s always about now.” And it’s really more about how people perceive the present, as today’s perceptions determine the actions of tomorrow. Apple TV’s Foundation series resonates because people perceive these trends to be inescapable, and determinative….

(2) BACKING UP THE TRAIN. Release dates have been pushed back, partly as a domino effect of one movie’s production delays. “Disney Delays ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Thor 4,’ ‘Black Panther’ Sequel and ‘Indiana Jones 5’” reports Variety.

Disney has delayed release plans for several upcoming films, including “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” from March 25 to May 6, “Thor: Love and Thunder” from May 6 to July 8 and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” from July 8 to Nov. 11. With the “Black Panther” sequel jumping to November, “The Marvels” has been postponed to early 2023 and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” was bumped from Feb. 17 to July 28, 2023.

Along with the deluge of Marvel delays, Disney has moved the fifth “Indiana Jones” installment back nearly a year. The still-untitled film, starring Harrison Ford as the fedora-wearing, swashbuckling archaeologist, will open on June 30, 2023 instead of July 29, 2022.

…The scheduling overhaul is related to production and not box office returns, according to sources at Disney. The next “Black Panther” entry, for one, is still filming in Atlanta. Since Marvel has become an interconnected and meticulously planned universe — which spans dozens of film and several new television series — any production delay causes a domino effect on the rest of the franchise. As for “Indiana Jones,” the 79-year-old Ford sustained a shoulder injury on set in June, requiring the actor to take a break from filming while he healed. Though director James Mangold continued to shoot without Ford, there are a limited amount of scenes that don’t involve the adventurer. Ford has since recovered and returned to set…

(3) SHELF LIFE. “I got Tor to pay me for having organized my shelves,” says James Davis Nicoll. Well, and writing about the results, of course. “Fifteen Classic SFF Works By Three Extremely Prolific Authors”. (Tor.com has been hacked and is currently not safe to visit.)

It is not a coincidence that this essay was written after completing a grand personal library project that required alphabetizing and shelving a lot of books. One soon notices that which authors are best represented in one’s library. As far as vintage authors go, these are my top three by shelf-feet.

Poul Anderson (November 25, 1926 — July 31, 2001)

First published in 1947, Anderson’s career spanned seven decades. Although he slowed down towards the end of that period, in the end he was responsible for an astounding number of words and books. This was not an uncommon pattern for authors who started writing in the era of pulp magazines. Authors were paid poor per-word rates and learned to write quickly if they wanted to eat. Anderson was one of few from that era whose material was, well, often quite readable. Anderson combined quantity with range, publishing many works in multiple genres.

(4) SHAT TO THE FUTURE. Grand Valley State anthropologist Deana Weibel finds Shat’s experience of space different and profound. “Black ugliness and the covering of blue: William Shatner’s suborbital flight to ‘death’”.

… Among the astronauts I’ve interviewed as a cultural anthropologist studying religious aspects of space exploration, most have had some experience of the Overview Effect, but others were unaffected. An astronaut I’ll call “Alan,” for instance, told me, “The first time I looked out at the Earth from space… I even intentionally paused and kind of collected myself and meditated a little bit to kind of clear my head before I opened my eyes and looked out the window for the first time. And I didn’t really feel anything. It’s kind of a letdown. There was nothing. And maybe it’s because I’m not a spiritual person, that’s quite possible…It was a beautiful sight and a unique vantage point, but there was nothing about it that I felt in any way unlocked any kind of philosophical mysteries or spiritual mysteries.”

For others, the experience is life-changing, with the realization of the Earth’s delicacy inspiring environmentalism, such as in the cases of astronauts José Hernández, Scott Kelly, Mary Cleave, and many of their peers. Like them, Shatner clearly experienced the Overview Effect even during his very short suborbital flight above the Kármán line. In his now-famous post-flight conversation with Jeff Bezos, broadcast live and unfiltered, for instance, he described the fragility of the planet, saying, “This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver. It’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe. It’s negligible, this air… It’s so thin.”…

(5) BUTLER BOOK DISCUSSION. Join the South Pasadena Library’s in-person discussion of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler on October 21.

The Library’s Citywide reading program, One City One Story, winds up with two librarian-led discussions of our 2021 title, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. Borrow the ebook, eaudiobook, or a hard copy from the Library. This Thursday, October 21 at 7PM, join us for the in-person book discussion in the Library Community Room at 1115 El Centro Street.  Masks are required.

There will also be a virtual discussion over Zoom on November 10. Register on their Eventbrite page.

(6) YOU CAN CALL ME RAY. NASA has picked the next telescope it will deploy: “NASA Selects Gamma-ray Telescope to Chart Milky Way Evolution”.

NASA has selected a new space telescope proposal that will study the recent history of star birth, star death, and the formation of chemical elements in the Milky Way. The gamma-ray telescope, called the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI)is expected to launch in 2025 as NASA’s latest small astrophysics mission.

NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program received 18 telescope proposals in 2019 and selected four for mission concept studies. After detailed review of these studies by a panel of scientists and engineers, NASA selected COSI to continue into development.

…COSI will study gamma rays from radioactive atoms produced when massive stars exploded to map where chemical elements were formed in the Milky Way. The mission will also probe the mysterious origin of our galaxy’s positrons, also known as antielectrons – subatomic particles that have the same mass as an electron but a positive charge. 

COSI’s principal investigator is John Tomsick at the University of California, Berkeley. The mission will cost approximately $145 million, not including launch costs. NASA will select a launch provider later….

(7) PAIZO UNIONIZING UPDATE. “Paizo Freelancers Support Union” – details at Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG News.

Jason Tondro, senior developer for Pathfinder and Starfinder, has indicated that a large swathe of Paizo freelancers have stopped work in support of the recently formed union by Paizo employees.

Initially the freelance group had a range of demands, but in light of the new union, they have put forward one single new demand instead: to recognize the union.

Tondro’s message begins:

Today I want to shine a spotlight on UPW’s secret weapon: freelancers. Paizo’s freelancers are our ally in this fight and we’re helping each other. Here’s how:

Paizo’s business model is built on freelancers. Very few of the words in our publications are written in-house by full time employees on the clock. Instead, we outline projects, hire freelancers to execute those outlines, and develop and edit those manuscripts.

This allows a relatively small number of people (about 35, including art directors, editors, designers, developers, and more) to produce, well, everything. Have you seen our publication schedule lately? It’s LONG. And Paizo must publish new books to pay its bills.

Well, about a month ago, about 40 of Paizo’s most reliable, prolific, and skilled freelancers simply stopped working. In official parlance, this is called “concerted action.” In layman’s terms, it’s a strike without a union….

(8) EASY LISTENING AND OTHERWISE. Lifehacker recommends these “15 Sci-Fi Podcasts to Listen to When You Need a Break From This Reality”. (Slideshow format.)

…What follows are 15 of the best and most interesting sci-fi podcasts in this reality, representing a wide array of styles and sub-genres: from full-cast productions to stories told by a single narrator, from cyberpunk to adventures with aliens, they’re all the products of talented creators shooting their freaky, whacked-out, forward-looking ideas directly into our brains—via our ears.

Slide 6 praises Twighlight Histories

There are several neat things going on with Twilight Histories, which is a podcast of alternate history stories, or at least stories with a pseudo-historical context (though a handful involve the future and space travel). It’s not an RPG podcast in the sense of something like The Adventure Zone, but the adventures are all narrated in the second person, which can be alienating at first—though it’s a good fit with the old time radio-style narration. The show’s been going on for quite some time, so there are a wide variety of adventures in various lengths to choose from, from ice-age time travel to a 13-part epic involving a war between Rome and the Saxons. The host, Jordan Harbour, is a trained archaeologist, so expect particular passion and verisimilitude in the historical worldbuilding.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2004 – Seventeen years on this evening, the first half of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars as written by Rockne S. O’Bannon and David Kemper and directed by Brian Henson first aired on the Sci-Fi Channel.  It was the rare case where a series got a chance to have proper send-off as it had been cancelled two years earlier on a cliffhanger. This finale happened after a change in ownership for the Sci-Fi Channel. It has since been released on DVD with the US version having both segments edited into a single three-hour movie. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent ninety-two percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 18, 1927 George C. Scott. A number of genre roles including his first, General Buck Turgidson, in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Next up is Dr. Jake Terrell in The Day of the Dolphins followed by being The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. He was John Russell in a tasty bit of horror, The Changeling, and John Rainbird in Stephen King’s Firestarter. Of course you know he played Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.  And I’m going to include his being in The Murders in the Rue Morgue as C. Auguste Dupin as at least genre adjacent. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 18, 1935 Peter Boyle. The monster in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. He won an Emmy Award for a guest-starring role on The X-Files episode, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. He also played Bill Church Sr. in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  One of his final roles was in the “Rosewell” episode of Tripping the Rift.  (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 18, 1938 Dawn Wells. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided several years ago was genre. She and Tina Louise were the last surviving regular cast members from that series as of two years ago, so Tina  who is eighty-seven years old is now the last surviving member. Summers had genre one-offs on The InvadersWild Wild West, Fantasy Island  and Alf. She reprised her role on the animated Gilligan’s Planet and, I kid you not, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. I think I’ll shudder at the thought of the last film. (Died 2020.)
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 77. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, the final volume of The Childe Morgan Trilogy, was published several years back. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great. Her only Award is a Balrog for her Camber the Heretic novel.
  • Born October 18, 1947 Joe Morton, 74. Best remembered as Henry Deacon on Eureka in which he appeared in all but one of the seventy-seven episodes. He has other genre appearances including in Curse of the Pink Panther as Charlie, The Brother from Another Planet as The Brother, Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson, The Walking Dead as Sergeant Barkley, and in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League as Silas Stone, head of S.T.A.R. Labs and father of Victor Stone aka Cyborg.
  • Born October 18, 1951 Jeff Schalles, 70. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 57. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series especially the recent trilogy ofnovels. Other favored works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels though the second makes me cringe.
  • Born October 18, 1968 Lisa Irene Chappell, 53. New Zealand actress here for making a number of appearances on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys after first appearing in the a pre-series film, Hercules and the Circle of Fire. Curiously, according to IMDB, one of her roles was as Melissa Blake, Robert Tapert’s Assistant. Quite meta that.

(11) SETTING THE VISION. In the Washington Post, Jon Paul Brammer says while he’s glad that Superman’s son is now bisexual “why can’t we have completely new LGBTQ characters” instead of being happy when old characters are revealed as being gay. “Bisexual Superman has his critics — and they get some things right”.

… This multiverse business is a convenient way for creators to have their cake and eat it in an entirely different dimension. The workaround surfaces in DC’s Superman, too. Taylor affirmed that the other Kent, the one currently on TV in the CW’s “Superman and Lois,”is still straight. “We can have Jon Kent exploring his identity in the comics as well as Jon Kent learning the secrets of his family on TV,” Taylor said. “They coexist in their own worlds and times, and our fans get to enjoy both simultaneously.” If your company is struggling with the low bar for LGBTQ representation, simply make up a parallel universe in which you clear it.

Whom does this serve? Such technicalities suck the joy out of ostensible breakthroughs for queer fans, and it’s not as though they temper backlash. The Superman news still riled conservatives, whose reaction could be summarized as “It’s Clark Kent, not Clark and Kent!” Traditionalists are invested in Superman and his Superspawn being red-blooded, American heterosexuals, and tinkering with that in any way is a capitulation to the woke mob. My God, what’s next? Will they make him Mexican? Can’t they just have their own heroes?

That last bit, lodged in among all the fearmongering over Supergays and Superbis, is actually a decent point: Why can’t we have completely new LGBTQ characters, and why should we praise DC Comics as brave for a half-measure that, frankly, is long overdue? Why should we keep celebrating the scraps?…

(12) PRIME EXHIBIT. In “Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: What Happened to The Space Ship?”, Air Mail tells “How 2001: A Space Odyssey’s long-lost lunar lander found its way to L.A.’s new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.”

No one’s really sure how the only remaining model spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey ended up in an English garden shed. But its journey to the soon-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, in Los Angeles, is among Hollywood’s more bizarre lost-and-found stories.

Released 53 years ago, in 1968—a year before the Apollo 11 moon landing—2001 was the second-highest-grossing movie of that year, and its influence can be detected everywhere, from Star Wars and Alien to Gravity and Interstellar, along with myriad lesser science-fiction movies. Steven Spielberg, who donated a wing to the Academy Museum, once called 2001 “the Big Bang” of his filmmaking generation.

… Then, in 2015, appearing out of nowhere like the film’s mysterious black monoliths, one turned up at a movie-memorabilia auction: the spherical, white Aries 1B. It got several minutes of screen time floating toward the moon to Johann Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube” waltz, ferrying passengers who were treated to a liquid-meal service by flight attendants walking upside down in grip shoes and Pan Am uniforms (a company which did not make it to the titular year), and eventually touching down with a plume of exhaust….

(13) THE FINAL SECONDS. Now you know.

(14) LATE WOLFE. Paul Weimer reviews “The Land Across by Gene Wolfe” at Nerds of a Feather. It doesn’t get a high score, even from a Wolfe aficianado.

…Gene Wolfe novels, especially his late novels, have some things in common, elements you expect, tropes and motifs you are hoping for. Unreliable narrator. Check. Mis-identification or confusing identification of characters in various guises. Check. Land with customs that are strange to a stranger in a strange land. Check. A book that you probably have to re-read to really understand what is happening. Check.

There is much here for the reader, as usual. This is Wolfe’s first and only dive into Kafkaesque fiction, and there is a delight in seeing Wolfe try a new subgenre for the first time. He’s done his research, has done the reading, and Grafton’s situation at first does feel like something out of Kafka….

(15) WILL IT BE A HIT? The story of a monkey on a mission. Marvel’s Hit-Monkey premieres November 17 on Hulu. A minor character in the first episode is voiced by George Takei.

(16) EYELASHES TO DIE FOR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “I Enjoy Being A Girl” sung by Carol Burnett, Chita Rivera, and Caterina Valente all in costume as Morticia Addams, probably from the Sixties-vintage Gary Moore Show. (And, around 4:30, they bring in an older clip of Boris Karloff not-quite-singing “Chim Chim Cheree.”) [From Steve Dooner’s FB page.]

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

Pixel Scroll 10/15/21 I Know What Pixel You Scrolled Last Summer

(1) ORAL HISTORY OF SMALLVILLE. “‘We Had Freedom to Change the Mythology:’ An Oral History of ‘Smallville’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Here, the key players look back, with those sharing memories including Welling and the creators, as well as Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Kreuk, John Schneider, Annette O’Toole, John Glover and Erica Durance.

GOUGH There weren’t any comics on [Clark Kent’s teen years]. It was a blank slate. Jenette Kahn, who was the publisher of DC Comics at the time, said, “Clark is who he is because of his parents. If he had landed in a different cornfield and been raised by different people, he would have been a different person.” That was something that really struck us.

MILLAR We had the freedom to change the mythology, to really make it our own, with Lex losing his hair in the meteor shower — even the meteor shower itself, which was a new development. Anyone approaching that similar story today would not be allowed the freedom that we had, because at that point no one cared….

ROSENBAUM  [Lex Luthor] The casting director is like, “Sit here,” and I go, “Naw, Lex wouldn’t do that.” And she’s like, “Well I have to relight,” and I go, “Would you mind?” And she relit the room and I had to wait outside. I came back in and kind of just took over the room. I go, “What are 700 other guys doing wrong that you are auditioning?” And they said, “Well, we want a sense of charisma, we want a sense of danger, we want a sense of comedic timing.” I only had three pages to work with. I circled, “I’ll be dangerous here, I’ll be funny here, I’ll be charming here.”

GOUGH Lex was the last role we cast. It was a week before we started shooting. Miles was in Vancouver with David Nutter and I was still in Los Angeles with some of the other producers. Michael came in in Los Angeles. We videotaped it and he was just fantastic. He literally hit all the right notes and he was perfect. I remember we somehow got it up to Miles and David in Vancouver.

ROSENBAUM My agent called. “They want to screen test you.” I said, “I’ll never have an audition as good as I just had. Tell them to rewind the tape.” So he goes, “You’re going to lose this role. You know that.” I don’t recommend this to any other actor, and I would never do it again, but I said, “Rewind the tape.”

WELLING “Lex Luthor does not come back for a second audition, OK?”

ROSENBAUM Exactly. He just wouldn’t do it. It’s out of character….

(2) WATCH THE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The winners of the Aurora Awards will be revealed on Saturday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern (4:00 p.m. Pacific.) Can*Con will be present awards in a virtual ceremony accessible via their YouTube channel here.

(3) INDIGENOUS FUTURISTS. On October 5 Apex Magazine released its Indigenous Futurists issue, a bonus issue featuring the work of Indigenous genre creators. The issue, guest-edited by Allison Mills, features the work of Pamela Rentz, Kevin Wabaunsee, Tiffany Morris, Sloane Leong, Rebecca Roanhorse, Norris Black, and Theodore Van Alst, Jr. Cover art by Megan Feheley. Read it at the link.

(4) THREE HEARTS. The Poul Anderson Facebook page posted a photo from the Anderson family motorcycle trip in Europe in the Fifties. See it at the link.

We’re going through an album of photos that Poul made in the late 1940s and into the late 1950s, and we’ll be sharing some images from it. For starters, here’s a picture of Poul’s brother, John Anderson, his mother, Astrid Anderson, and Poul, with the motorcycle and sidecar they toured Europe with in 1953. This was taken somewhere in Holland.

(5) NZ FIRE OFFICIAL WIZARD. [Item by Tom Whitmore.] I don’t recall seeing anything about this character around CoNZealand — how did we miss that the country had an official wizard? And doesn’t firing the wizard usually result in bad things for the kingdom? The Guardian reports “New Zealand council ends contract with wizard after two decades of service”.

… The Wizard is a well-known face to Christchurch residents, but in recent years, his presence has diminished, and sightings have become rare. He says that is because the council has made him invisible and would not respond to his suggestions to improve tourism.

“But when they cancelled this honorarium, everyone got furious, they have awakened a hornet’s nest here, it’s hilarious. The next few months are going to be real fun.”

The Wizard said he would keep up his regular appearances at Christchurch’s Arts Centre, chatting to tourists and locals. The centre is hosting an exhibition of his life this month, which is supported by the council.

When asked if he would curse the council over its decision, he said he preferred to give blessings.

“I give children happy dreams, general good health, and I want to make bureaucrats become more human.”

(6) AFRICAN LITERARY PRIZE SHORTLIST. South African author Mandisi Nkomo’s Should have Listened to Mother, a work of genre interest, is one of six shortlisted for the Toyin Falola Prize 2021.

The Toyin Fálolá Prize is an award from Nigerian-based Lunaris aimed at honouring distinguished African scholar and foremost historian, Prof Toyin Fálolá, whose contributions to the field of African history and culture have continued to place Africa on the map and accord it its deserved recognition. The prize honours his endeavours and contributions to the advancement of African cultures, peoples, myths, and histories. The first winner of the award set up in 2020 was Fayssal Bensalah.

The award organizers announced the 11-story longlist from the 495 eligible submissions, 11 stories on September 20.

(7) JUST ARRIVED.  [Item by Daniel Dern.] As seen in the updates from Bud Plant. I haven’t looked at this, I plan to see about getting it through my library. It’s a 2021 Locus Award winner.  The Art Of Nasa: The Illustrations That Sold the Missions.

By Piers Bizony. Art by Robert McCall, Ron Miller, Robert Watts, Paul Calle, David Hardy et al. From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations….

From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations.

Ultra-rare artworks illustrate a unique history of NASA hardware and missions from 1958 to today, giving readers an unprecedented look at how spacecraft, equipment, and missions evolved — and how they might have evolved. Formed in 1958, NASA has long maintained a department of visual artists to depict the concepts and technologies created in humankind’s quest to explore the final frontier. Culled from a carefully chosen reserve of approximately 3,000 files deep in the NASA archives, the 200 artworks presented in this large-format edition provide a glimpse of NASA history like no other.

(8) CONTRARY TO WHAT SCOTTY SAYS. James Davis Nicoll touts “Five Stories in Which Changing the Laws of Physics Leads to Bigger Problems” at Tor.com.

The laws of physics are forever confounding perfectly reasonable schemes. Whether riding gracefully on the running board of a racing car, adroitly handling semi-molten glass, or gliding lightly down from a roof to the embrace of the sidewalk whilst borne up by what intuition said was a sufficiently large bath towel, the laws of physics are forever barging in to insist that, no, things do not work that way.

What if the laws of physics were altered? …

One of James’ examples is —

A Wizard’s Henchman by Matthew Hughes (2016)

Troubleshooter Erm Kaslo specializes in solving the problems of the rich and powerful. There are enough of those, spread across the Spray’s ten thousand worlds, to keep Kaslo busy and affluent. All he asks of his clients is that they pay his fees promptly. If their demands are immoral or insane? No problem.

One of his rich clients believes that the world is about to transition from an era of technology and enlightenment to one of magic and chaos. Kaslo is willing to do as the client asks, even while he believes that the client is nuts. It’s a surprise when the client turns out to be right.

But a change in the basis of power, from technology and commerce to dark magical arts, means that there will still be powerful folks with problems. Problems Kaslo is happy to handle. The universe may have been upended, but Kaslo will prevail.

(9) SABLE REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Sable, a new video game featuring nomads on a desert planet, which Faber says “Is drawn in a thrillingly unique style.”

‘Drawn’ is really the word. Playing Sable is like living in a graphic novel by Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, the influential artist who pioneered a surrealistic sci-fi style.  From the opening vista we see scrap metal villages and wind-sculpted mesas drawn in fine black lines, their flat textures and minimal shading drawing attention to a stunning pastel colour palette–one of the most artful I’ve ever seen in a game–of tawny desert, powder-blue sky and distant mountains a muted lilac…

…The fable-like qualities of the narrative are lent depth and fragrance by Meg Jayanth, the writer behind the superb interactive novel 80 Days.  Language here bears the plain-spoken profiundity of myth.  A machinist asking you to repair a malfunctioning wind tower says, ‘Go there, mend what is broken or sooth what is hurt, and I will give you what you seek…a direction.’  This abstraction is undercut by precise character writing, particularly in Sable herself, who is far from a blank slate — she is anxious, spunky, and completely relatable.  Conversations with other nomads offer spare but evocative fragments to explain the history of the world, allowing players to fill in the gaps themselves.

(10) A SCARY PROFESSION. CrimeReads’ Celia Mattison looks at horror films about books: “Publishing Is a Nightmare: 31 Horror Films about Writing, Reading, and the Book Business”.

The business of writing and reading pops up all the time in horror films. Maybe it’s that screenwriters understand better than anyone the terror of creation. Maybe it’s that long, late hours spent alone in an office juxtaposes nicely on screen against glamorous events hosted by the literati. Or perhaps we’ve all just had a traumatic childhood experience in a library. Either way, here are 31 films guaranteed to give you an October that’s equal parts eerie and erudite….

(11) TAPPING INTO MEMORY. Strange Horizons presents an interview with Chandler Davis by Gautam Bhatia, “Across fracture lines”.

…Science fiction is not a monolith: even as racism, colonialism, and sexism played a dominant role in SF-production through the long 20th century, there were always writers and texts that questions, challenged, and subverted that dominant paradigm. The contrapuntal canon, or the hidden transcript, as it were.

At Strange Horizons, we see ourselves as committed to a plural and diverse vision of SFF, and therefore, as a continuation of this older – and sometimes submerged – tradition of against-the-grain writing. To know – and understand – more about our forebears, for this Fund Drive Special Issue, we decided to interview Chandler “Chan” Davis, one of the most outstanding exponents of the contrapuntal canon, at a time at which the dominant, regressive tendencies of science fiction were at their apogee: the 1940s and the 1950s.

…CD: One striking example of my writing responding to the preoccupations of the time is my responding to the threat of nuclear weapons. All of us in the science-fiction gang who learned of the Manhattan Project only in August 1945 felt at least a momentary joy of vindication: we had been saying this might happen, the general population didn’t know, and lo! we were in the right. But most of us soon realized, “Hey! this is a calamity, an atrocity” (and to think it was done in the name of the American people). Some of the authors sounded the alarm. I cite especially [Theodore] Sturgeon’s “Memorial”, my “The Nightmare”, and Sturgeon’s “Thunder and Roses”, but there were several others. We put it before our audience a rather large and international audience– that if your country is the target of nuclear attack, then it is up to you not to strike back but to do everything to RESTRAIN your country from striking back. We were right, but our message didn’t stick, in the USA or anywhere….

(12) AAHZ MARUCH (1967-2021). [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] Python programmer, whose fannish activities date back at least as far as classic USENET (alt.poly and other groups), died October 14 following several years of ill health. Survived by partner Steph Maruch.

Editor’s postscript: Alan Prince Winston earlier this year described him as “an unstoppable-seeming guy” who “became a contra and square dance caller and choreographer despite really severe hearing impairment.”

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1954 – Sixty-seven years ago this day, the first Flash Gordon television series as distributed by the DuMont Television Network premiered in syndication.  Its cast was Steve Holland as Flash Gordon, Irene Champlin as Dale Arden and Joseph Nash as Hans Zarkov. It immediately ran into criticism from some reviewers and fans as, well, how dare they cast a Flash Gordon who wasn’t Buster Crabbe. However it was very popular with almost everyone else and continued to run in syndication into the Sixties despite running for only one season of thirty-nine episodes. Only fourteen episodes survive and are all in the public domain, so here’s the pilot.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West, Otherworld, The Secret EmpireThe Increible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1923 Italo Calvino. Writer and Journalist who was born in Cuba, but grew up in Italy. His works range widely across the literary spectrum, across realism, surrealism, and absurdism. As a genre writer he is best known for his “cosmicomics”, linked stories which explore fantastical speculations about subjects such as mathematics, evolution, and human perception. At the time of his death in 1985, he was the most-translated Italian author, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 68. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is in my TBR list.  I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  Damn it, where is his Hugo? 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 52. Jigsaw in that most dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter. One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) MOVIE MEMORABILIA. Heritage Auction’s Hollywood & Entertainment Memorabilia Auction runs November 4-7. Some of the monster-themed items are on this page. The publicity poster is arresting, to say the least.

(17) MANIFESTATIONS. The Paris Review on what life might be like as a ghost: “All You Have to Do Is Die” by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

…I’ve never seen a soul move through the air. I am not sure that we are anything more than a skin-bag of electrical impulses. But ghosts are different from the other uncanny citizens. They are only one step away from the known. To become a ghost, you don’t have to be bitten by a vampire or receive a curse or encounter a mad scientist or fall under the spell of a full moon. All you have to do is die.

Still, I imagine the first days of ghosthood would be tricky. There are so many different hauntings, so many ways to do it. In a way, it reminds me of puberty. The unpredictable shifts….

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. “Portland removes ‘Merge Simpson’ sign from NW Portland freeway ramp” says The Oregonian.

Many Portlanders just thought it was neat, but city officials didn’t feel the same way about a “Merge Simpson” sign that appeared in Northwest Portland earlier this week. Transportation workers took the “Simpsons”-inspired sign down Thursday afternoon, citing driving safety concerns.

An anonymous artist put up a homemade sign near an on-ramp to Interstate 405 North. The artist covered up a pedestrian crosswalk sign with a sign reading “Merge Simpson,” and drew a portrait of TV cartoon mom Marge Simpson. The artist painted her face strategically below a tall, round column of foliage in place of her iconic beehive hairstyle….

(19) COOL STAR WARS PAINTINGS. For your viewing pleasure, Naci Caba’s Star Wars Paintings at the link.

The artist also does other genre subjects  (click “Paintings” on the sidebar).

(20) HOW SAFE WAS IT TO SQUASH SHATNER? CNN answers the question “How space researchers knew that 90-year-old William Shatner didn’t have to worry about his age”.

…A series of studies in the 2010s sought to answer such question. Researchers put people with pre-existing medical conditions, including elderly men with heart conditions, into a spinning centrifuge to simulate the g-forces the body is subjected to during a trip to space.

Subjects were strapped into a small capsule attached to a massive metal arm that can swing the capsule around in a circle. That faster it spins, the higher the g-forces pressing into the passenger grow, much like the carnival rides that pin passengers to the wall of a spinning circle by rotating the circle at high speeds. When the centrifuge is stopped, passengers inside could be said to be experiencing 1G, or normal gravity on Earth.

At 2G, they feel like they weigh twice their body weight. At 5G, a 200-pound person feels like they weigh 1,000 pounds.

Donoviel pointed to three specific studies that saw people — with a broad range of ages, physical conditions and ailments — endure up to 6G.

“They were fine, they were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only thing… that was of concern when they did those studies was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia.”

… For its part, Blue Origin does put some limitations on who can fly aboard New Shepard, its suborbital space tourism rocket, including an age requirement that tourists be 18 years or older, be between 5’0″ and 6’4″ and 110 pounds and 223 pounds, and be in good enough physical shape to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half.

The stair climb is no joke: Blue Origin passengers must rapidly climb what’s called the gantry, a tower that allows the crew to access their capsule as the 60-foot-tall rocket sits on the launch pad, brimming with fuel and ready to blast off.

Shatner quipped about scaling the tower after his flight, saying “good lord, just getting up the bloody gantry.”

(21) COSMIC HOME DELIVERY. “Meteorite Crashes Through Ceiling and Lands on Woman’s Bed” – the New York Times has the story.

Ruth Hamilton was fast asleep in her home in British Columbia when she awoke to the sound of her dog barking, followed by “an explosion.” She jumped up and turned on the light, only to see a hole in the ceiling. Her clock said 11:35 p.m.

At first, Ms. Hamilton, 66, thought that a tree had fallen on her house. But, no, all the trees were there. She called 911 and, while on the phone with an operator, noticed a large charcoal gray object between her two floral pillows.

“Oh, my gosh,” she recalled telling the operator, “there’s a rock in my bed.”

A meteorite, she later learned.

The 2.8-pound rock the size of a large man’s fist had barely missed Ms. Hamilton’s head, leaving “drywall debris all over my face,” she said. Her close encounter on the night of Oct. 3 left her rattled, but it captivated the internet and handed scientists an unusual chance to study a space rock that had crashed to Earth….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Bohemian Catsody” a parody song of the Queen classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this time, all about SJW credentials!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Lise Andresen, Annalee Newitz, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

Pixel Scroll 9/4/21 I Have Become Pixel, Scroller Of Worlds

(1) A HARD ROAD. Sue Burke, author of The Immunity Index, and whose Semiosis made the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist and was a John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist, summarizes the SF novel’s journey from manuscript to print, through editorial and beyond to ‘earn out’ in “Getting a book published” at SF2 Concatenation.

…Here comes the first mistake. I got to work on 20th March 2018, reviewing a folder of notes I have for ideas for stories, and I found one that I liked. Many writers have praised the creative freedom of pantsing (writing by the seat of one’s pants or making it up as you go along) a work, so although I’d previously worked with more or less complex outlines and plotting, I decided to give pantsing a go. It didn’t work. The initial draft was limp and only half as long as it needed to be.

Chastened, I reviewed ideas for ways to improve and expand the failure. This time I made notes and, eventually, crafted a plan. I added another character, rearranged some chapters, and complicated the conflict…

(2) CHARACTER WITH A LONG CAREER. Dark Worlds Quarterly contributor G.W. Thomas shares his appreciation for “The Cappen Varra Stories of Poul Anderson”.

…Shared Worlds of the 1970s

And that should have been the end of our wandering bard, but an unusual thing happened at the end of the 1970s. Robert Aspirin and Lynn Abbey cooked up the idea of the “Shared World“. With Poul’s encouragement the concept of a collection of stories where characters, setting and events coalesce between the authors to create a larger experience exploded as Thieves’ World. (There were others: Ithkar and Liavek being two of the more successful competitors.) The series ran for twelve volumes as well as a dozen novels. Poul saw it as a chance to bring Cappen Varra back! “The Gate of Flying Knives” (Thieves’ World, 1979) was the third story in the first collection. It would be Anderson’s only contribution….

(3) AN APPENDIX YOU CAN’T DO WITHOUT. Howard Andrew Jones pops up again, this time profiling historical adventure fiction author Harold Lamb for Goodman Games, where he explains why Lamb’s work is relevant for SFF fans: “Appendix N Archaeology: Harold Lamb”.

Much as I’d like to hope that Gary Gygax read Harold Lamb, he’s unlikely to have found his way to any of Lamb’s most influential work. It’s not that Lamb wasn’t in print. From the 1940s on, his histories and biographies were a mainstay on library shelves, and many modern libraries retain his books to this day. But as fine as they are – and some of them are very fine indeed – Lamb’s histories and biographies weren’t the texts that were important to Appendix N….

(4) CRIME FICTION CAREER LAUNCH. Astronaut Chris Hadfield has written a murder mystery. According to this review from Shots Mag, it is quite good: “The Apollo Murders”.

When the author has flown two Space Shuttle missions and was the commander of the International Space Station, you know that the technical details in the story are going to be accurate, integral to the story and lend the reader a real sense of being ‘there’….

(5) SHANG-CHI NEWS. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Shang-Chi star Simu Liu, who explains how Liu’s six-year campaign to get Marvel to cast him as a superhero finally paid off. “Simu Liu of ‘Shang-Chi’ finally gets the role he always wanted”.

Long before he became Shang-Chi, Simu Liu was convinced that the only way he’d be an Asian superhero on an American movie screen was to craft the story himself.

So he did. Twice.

At the age of 22, Liu crafted a wholestory bible for the Japanesemutant X-Men member Sunfire, certain it was his best bet to land a Marvel role.Years later, while a member of the Young Emerging Actors Assembly in Toronto, Liu spent $2,000 to direct, write and star in the 2015 short film called “Crimson Defender vs. The Slightly Racist Family,” about an Asian superhero who rescues a family that doesn’t believe he is a superhero because he is Asian.

Neither of those moments resulted in Liu being fitted for capes. But when Marvel Studios announced “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” would be itsfirst movie with an Asian superhero in the lead role, the 32-year-old star of the TV series“Kim’s Convenience” was convinced he was ready before he ever got a phone call. He even tweeted “are we gonna talk or what” at the Marvel Entertainment account….

Kat Moon explains how she as an Asian American feels better represented by Shang-Chi than by any other Hollywood blockbuster: “Shang-Chi Made Me Feel Seen Like No Other Hollywood Film Has” in TIME.

It wasn’t a profound scene in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that made me feel instantly connected to the film—not the Mandarin narration that opened the movie or even the early references to customs specific to Chinese culture like eating zhou, or congee, for breakfast and tomb-sweeping on the annual Qingming Festival. Of course, those storytelling choices told me that the latest Marvel superhero movie was crafted with viewers like me in mind. But it was a moment around 30 minutes in that let me know for certain I was watching my life experiences reflected on the big screen in a way Hollywood has rarely done: when Ronny Chieng’s character, Jon Jon, exclaims, “Wakao!”…

(6) DUNE EARLY RETURNS. The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan says “Venice Film Festival: ‘Dune’ Leaves Us With 3 Big Questions”. The second is —

Will ‘Dune’ be a major Oscar player?

Part of what’s so striking about “Dune” is that Villeneuve has a sense of texture that’s rare among big-budget filmmakers. When a character falls in battle, Villeneuve is besotted with the way the man’s eyelashes flutter as he dies. And during the assault on a character’s compound, the camera drifts from the action to show us magnificent palm trees that have been set aflame, their leafy crowns now a starburst of destruction.

Though sci-fi movies can sometimes be a hard sell with Oscar voters, I suspect that Villeneuve’s distinctive eye will distinguish “Dune,” as the movie looks undeniably ravishing. A ton of below-the-line nominations are guaranteed, including Greig Fraser’s cinematography and the production design by Patrice Vermette. The score (by Hans Zimmer), sound and editing are all more daring than this genre usually allows: The aural soundscape and artsy crosscutting feel almost designed to draw you into a spice-induced trance.

And I haven’t even gotten to the fashion! The costume design (by Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan) is a stunner, and especially during the first hour of the film — with Rebecca Ferguson wearing outrageous space-nun sheaths and a veiled Charlotte Rampling dressed like the Green Knight in Gaultier — “Dune” can seem like a moody high-fashion shoot that occasionally includes spaceships. (I mean this as a good thing.)

Villeneuve’s last film, “Blade Runner 2049,” scored five Oscar nominations and won its cinematographer Roger Deakins a long-overdue Academy Award. Still, the movie couldn’t break into the two top Oscar categories, best picture and best director. Does “Dune” stand a better chance?

I’m taking the wait-and-see approach here….

(7) C.S. LEWIS CONFERENCE IN ROMANIA. The 5th International Interdisciplinary Conference devoted to the life and work of C. S. Lewis, “Of This and Other Worlds,” will be held November 18-20 in Iasi, Romania. Register here. Registration deadline: November 1. An excerpt from the call for papers follows:

The fifth C. S. Lewis conference focuses on C. S. Lewis and his literary and academic kin as creators of worlds. His entire work testifies to his fascination with alternative universes, from his scholarly exploration of Medieval literature, with its haunting myths and arcane symbolism, through his fiction, to his apologetics, where Christianity is seen as a parallel kingdom seeking to be reinstated in “an enemy-occupied territory”. From pain to love, through faith and imagination, he opened a spectrum of realities inviting exploration and reflection. The collection of essays by Lewis alluded to in the title of this year’s conference spans both this and other worlds: “this” realm, which we inhabit, is the necessary, unavoidable starting point for any explorers, conquerors, pilgrims, even refugees into the “others”.

Those willing to venture into the exploration of the worlds of imagination created by C. S. Lewis and kindred spirits are invited to contribute papers in the areas of semiotics, narratology, literary studies (with a special focus on fantasy, on possible worlds in language structures, at the crossroads between referential semantics and fiction studies), translation studies (the challenge of translating fantasy for readerships of various ages and its effect on reception), philosophy, logic, theology, cultural and arts studies, including any interdisciplinary permutation or cross-pollination.

Interested participants are invited to send a 200-250-word abstract for peer-review to the Conference Committee via the organizers: Dr. Rodica Albu (rodica.albu@gmail.com), Dr. Denise Vasiliu (denise_vasiliu@yahoo.com), Dr. Teodora Ghivirig? (teoghivi@Yahoo.com)

Deadline for proposal submission: 25 September 2021…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1975 – Forty-six years ago this night, Space: 1999 premiered on such stations as Los Angeles KHJ-TV. It was distributed by ITV and produced by Group Three Productions (the first season) and Gerry Anderson Productions (the second and final season). It starred as its headliners Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, previously of Mission: Impossible fame. It was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson who before this had done only such SF marionette puppetry series as ThunderbirdsStingray and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. It would last but forty eight episodes of around fifty minutes. Setting John Clute aside who thought it had “mediocre acting” and “rotten scripts”, most critics at the time actually liked it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very splendid eighty six percent rating. You can stream it on Amazon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 4, 1916 — Robert A. W. Lowndes. He was known best as the editor of Future Science FictionScience Fiction, and Science Fiction Quarterly (mostly published in the late Thirties and early Forties) for Columbia Publications. He was a principal member of the Futurians, and a horror writer with a bent towards all things Lovecraftian ever since as a young fan, he received two letters of encouragement from H. P. Lovecraft. And yes, he’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 4, 1924 — Ray Russell. His most famous story is considered by most to be “Sardonicus” which was published first in Playboy magazine, and was then adapted by him into a screenplay for William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus. He wrote three novels, The Case Against SatanIncubus and Absolute Power. He’s got World Fantasy and Stoker Awards for Lifetime Achievement. “Sardonicus” is included in Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories which is available from the usual suspects. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 4,1924 — Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series — I don’t think it’s essential reading. (Or very interesting.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I saw stocked regularly in my local bookstores before the Pandemic. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 4, 1938 — Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in the police station in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He’d showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on the original Fantasy Island. (There’s now been three series.) He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 4, 1957 — Patricia Tallman, 64. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine and two of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on Deep Space Nine as she did on Voyager. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. Oh, and she was the former CEO and executive producer of Studio JMS. Yeah she ran everything for J. Michael Straczynski. Very impressive indeed. 
  • Born September 4, 1962 — Karl Schroeder, 59. I first encountered him in his “Deodand” story in the METAtropolis: Cascadia audio work, so I went out and found out what else he’d done. If you’ve not read him, his Aurora Award winning Permanence is superb as all of the Vigra series. He was one of those nominated for a Long Form Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo for the first METAtropolis at Anticipation. 
  • Born September 4, 1972 — Françoise Yip, 49. She was a remarkably extensive career in genre productions including, but not limited to, Earth: Final Conflict, Andromeda, Caprica, Fringe, Predator, Robocop: Prime Directives, Seven DaysFlash Gordon, Smallville, Millennium, Shadowhunters, Arrow and Sanctuary.  Genre casting directors obviously really, really like her. Her longest running genre role was as Elizabeth Kepler in The Order, a horror series on one of those streaming services you’ve likely never heard of.
  • Born September 4, 1999 — Ellie Darcey-Alden, 22. Though she’s  best known for playing young Lily Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, she’s here for being  Francesca “Franny” Latimer in the Doctor Who  Christmas special “The Snowmen”, an Eleventh Doctor story. She also played Mary in the “Total Eclipse“ episode of Robin Hood, and was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the New Theatre Oxford. And she appears, as do so many others, in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows how if Worf had known about this, that whole business with the pain sticks could’ve been avoided. 
  • Close to Home shows Spock’s version of “I’m not a doctor, I’m a —“

(11) TBR INCOMING. Fansided’s “Winter Is Coming” contributor Daniel Roman lists “15 highly anticipated fantasy and science fiction books coming this fall”. Due in October —

6. Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson (10/26)

Leaving the heavy bounds of the Earth, our next book sees us blasting into space aboard the colony ship Ragtime. Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author Tade Thompson, author of The Wormwood Trilogy, has a new standalone science fiction novel coming out that promises to be filled with deep moral quandaries and spiritual reckonings. Far From the Light of Heaven is billed as a mystery meets sci-fi political thriller in space. The acting captain of the Ragtime has to team up with an investigator and several other intriguing characters to unravel a bloody mystery that is taking place aboard her ship.

(12) ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY. From NASA: Astronomy Picture of the Day. Description follows.

Image Credit & CopyrightDennis Huff

Explanation: Not the Hubble Space Telescope’s latest view of a distant galactic nebula, this illuminated cloud of gas and dust dazzled early morning spacecoast skygazers on August 29. The snapshot was taken at 3:17am from Space View Park in Titusville, Florida. That’s about 3 minutes after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the CRS-23 mission to resupply the International Space Station. It captures drifting plumes and exhaust from the separated first and second stage of the rocket rising through still dark skies. The lower bright dot is the second stage continuing on to low Earth orbit. The upper one is the rocket’s first stage performing a boostback burn. Of course the first stage booster returned to make the first landing on the latest autonomous drone ship to arrive in the Atlantic, A Short Fall of Gravitas.

(13) EARLY ARRIVAL. Slash Film says these are “20 Movies About Aliens That You Definitely Need To Watch”. One of them is not what you might expect at first glance.

The Arrival

Not to be confused with a later entry on this list, 1996’s “The Arrival” stars a Charlie Sheen still at the height of his health and talent, and pits him against the terrifyingly competent Ron Silver. Sheen plays a radio astronomer who intercepts an unusual transmission from a nearby star and is blackballed from his industry for revealing its extraterrestrial origins. From there, a tangled conspiracy drives him towards the truth: the aliens are already here, and the rapid shift in our planet’s climate is meant to kill off humanity and create comfortable new digs for our new guests.

Directed by Peter Twohy, who would go on to create the Riddick franchise with Vin Diesel, “The Arrival” is surprisingly prescient with how it illustrates today’s climate change fears. A niche topic of conversation at the time, relegated to Al Gore jokes and nervous but unheard scientists, these digitigrade alien mimics are almost comforting now. They suggest that our inevitable future can be controlled — and, in a way that’s all too relatable, imply that someone else will have a good time on this planet at our expense….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian,  Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 6/1/21 Welcome To The Hotel Cthulhu: You Can Get Eaten Anytime You Like, But You Will Never Leave

(1) OCTAVIA BUTLER BIRTHDAY MONTH. The Los Angeles Public Library and The Huntington are commemorating Octavia E. Butler’s birthday throughout June in a joint celebration of her work, her legacy, and her community.

The virtual events listed below are all free, open to the public, and family-friendly, ideally for ages 10 and up.

  • Parable of the Sower Book Club Chat — Sat., June 5, 4 p.m. | Reserve
  • JPL & Octavia E. Butler — Sat., June 12, 2 p.m. | Reserve
  • Octavia Lab Tour — Fri., June 18, 4 p.m. | Reserve
  • Make a Zine Celebration of Octavia E. Butler and Juneteenth — Sat., June 19, 4 p.m. | Reserve
  • In Conversation with Author Lynell George — Fri., June 25, 4 p.m. | Reserve
  • Parable of the Sower Graphic Novel Creators’ Presentation — Sat., June 26, 4 p.m. | Reserve 

(2) CHAMBERS ON TOUR, AT YOUR COMPUTER. Becky Chambers is doing a virtual tour for her upcoming book A Psalm for the Wild-BuiltTor.com has information about it, including links to the independent bookstores hosting each stop on the tour. It looks like she’ll be appearing in tandem with different SFF authors on Zoom at each of the three “stops” — Martha Wells, Sarah Gailey, and T.J. Klune + Alix E. Harrow. “Join Becky Chambers on Tour for A Psalm for the Wild-Built”.

In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, it’s been centuries since the robots of Panga became self-aware and walked into the wilderness. When one walks right into the life of a tea monk named Dex, an entirely unexpected connection is formed. The robot wants to know what people need. But how can one person answer that question? As Sarah Gailey said, “This is a book that, for one night, made me stop asking ‘what am I even for?’ I’m prescribing a preorder to anyone who has ever felt lost. Stunning, kind, necessary.”

(3) POST-PANDEMIC BOX OFFICE. Variety reports “’A Quiet Place Part II’ Smashes Pandemic Era Records”:

…The movie business is breathing a little easier after Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II roared to $57 million over the Memorial Day Weekend. It’s a sign that cinemas are back after more than a year of pandemic era closures, capacity restrictions, and skittish customers.

Deadline says, “That’s a number which isn’t too far from the $60 million which the John Krasinski-directed sequel was anticipated to do in its three-day opening pre-pandemic.” 

(4) REJECTION SLIP-UP. Remember, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. Joe Vasicek lays out his evidence in “Short Stories, Author Blacklists, and Navigating Woke Science Fiction”.

Last year, I had a short story published in the anthology Again, Hazardous Imaginings: More Politically Incorrect Science Fiction. Not only was it one of my highest paying short story sales to date, but it also made it onto the Tangent Online 2020 Recommended Reading List with a *** rating, their highest tier. Only 13 out of 293 stories on the list received that honor—and making the list at all was an accomplishment!

But a funny thing happened after the anthology came out: for a stretch of several months, I stopped receiving personalized rejections for my short story submissions, and instead got only form rejections. Normally when I write a cover letter for a short story submission, I mention the last three markets that I was published in. For example: “My stories have recently appeared in Again, Hazardous Imaginings; Twilight Tales LTUE Benefit Anthology, and Bards and Sages Quarterly (forthcoming).” In a typical month, I’ll get maybe a dozen or so form rejections and a couple of personalized rejections, depending on how many stories I have out on submission.

Back in March, I started to notice that I wasn’t getting any personalized rejections. Suspecting that my publication credit in Again, Hazardous Imaginings wasn’t helping me, I decided to change things up and only list my publication credits for stories listed in Locus Magazine’s Year In Review issue. My thinking was that all of the Hugo and Nebula eligible markets give their yearly reports in that issue, and since all of the editors want to acquire stories that are likely to win awards, a publication credit in one of those markets is more likely to get them to pay attention.

Lo and behold, I started getting personalized rejections again….

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns the panel loose on “The Longest Voyage” by one of my favorite writers, Poul Anderson.

… Anderson’s curious views of the narrative role of women at the time of writing surely do not pertain to The Longest Voyage because The Longest Voyage contains no women to speak of. As well, Anderson has chosen for the setting an Earthlike moon of a gas giant, perhaps the first plausible example of such a world I recall encountering. Perhaps this story highlights Anderson’s strengths in a way to which the Young People will respond?

(I can’t bear to look!)

(6) HIGHER-TECH CONEHEADS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Even Daleks, after a hard day of extermination, need to take an ice cream break!

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1, 1984 — On this day in 1984, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock premiered. It was written and produced by Harve Bennett, and directed by Leonard Nimoy.  It starred William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan. George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Merritt Butrick and Christopher Lloyd. Critics generally loved it and thought Nimoy caught the feel of the series; audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 61% rating. It would finish third at Aussiecon Two behind 2010: The Year We Made Contact which won the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo and Ghostbusters which came in second.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 1, 1858 – Frank Ver Beck.  Wood engravings; illustrations for Collier’sThe Ladies’ Home Journal,Scribner’s; superlatively, animals, sometimes in a style eventually called anthropomorphic.  Twenty books, e.g. A Handbook of Golf for Bears, and in particular Baum’s Magical Monarch of Mo.  (Died 1933) [JH]
  • Born June 1, 1914 — George Sayer. His Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times which won a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies and is considered one of the best looks at that author. He also wrote the liner notes for the J. R. R. Tolkien Soundbook, a Cadmeon release of Christopher Tolkien reading from excerpts from The SilmarillionThe Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born June 1, 1928 — Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born June 1, 1940 — René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 andWarehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions in recent years, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born June 1, 1947 — Jonathan Pryce, 74. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. (CE) 
  • Born June 1, 1947 – Adrienne Fein.  One of three Founding Mothers of CMUSFS (Carnegie Mellon Univ. SF Society).  Introduced Arthur Hlavaty to apas .  Known as a loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) but no slouch as a fanartist, e.g this cover for Granfalloon 1 and interiors there, this one for It Comes in the Mail 18, interiors for Riverside Quarterly.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born June 1, 1947 – Chris Moore, age 74.  Four hundred sixty covers, fourscore interiors.  Collection, Journeyman.  Here’s a cover for The Stars My Destination; one for The City and the Stars; one for Hexarchate Stories.  Here’s his story.  [JH]
  • Born June 1, 1948 – Mike Meara, age 73.  Nova Award for Best Fanwriter.  Administered the FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).  Fanzine, A Meara for Observers.  [JH]
  • Born June 1, 1954 — Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 67. A filker which gets major points in my book. See him with The Black Book Band here: “Back in Black”. And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him. I’m getting old. (CE)
  • Born June 1, 1958 – Ian Gunn.  Seven dozen interiors in Banana WingsFocus, and like that; in Program Books for ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, ConAdian the 52nd, Aussiecon 3 the 57th; logo for The Frozen Frog; 10 Ditmars (one won by a story!), 2 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards, 1 Hugo at last.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born June 1, 1965 — Tim Eldred, 56. Author and illustrator of Grease Monkey, a most excellent humorous take on space operas and uplifting species.  As an illustrator alone, he was involved in Daniel Quinn’s superb The Man Who Grew Young. (CE)
  • Born June 1, 1994 – Caighlan Smith, age 27.  Two novels, two shorter stories.  Has read A Doll’s HouseLes MisérablesFrankenstein, two Gormenghast books (the third on its way).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BIG BEZOS IS WATCHING. According to The Guardian, “Amazon US customers have one week to opt out of mass wireless sharing”.

Amazon customers have one week to opt out of a plan that would turn every Echo speaker and Ring security camera in the US into a shared wireless network, as part of the company’s plan to fix connection problems for its smart home devices.

The proposal, called Amazon Sidewalk, involves the company’s devices being used as a springboard to build city-wide “mesh networks” that help simplify the process of setting up new devices, keep them online even if they’re out of range of home wifi, and extend the range of tracking devices such as those made by Tile.

But Sidewalk has come under fire for the apparent lack of transparency with which Amazon has rolled out the feature, as well as the limited time available for users to complete the tricky process required to opt out. Other critics have expressed concerns that failing to turn the setting off could leave customers in breach of their internet service provider’s terms and conditions.

“Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better,” the company said in a Q&A document for users. “In the future, Sidewalk will support a range of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as smart security and lighting and diagnostics for appliances and tools.”…

(11) CHAPTERS TAKES THE CASH AND LETS THE CREDIT GO? [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] I somehow overlooked Donna Scott’s Best British SF series, now in its fifth year. Went to Chapters Indigo to order it. Chapters credits the anthologies to various famous male authors.

(12) JDA’S SPORTS REPORT.

(13) REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED OLD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Ancient Athenian Curse Jar Contained Dismembered Chicken And List Of Intended Victims” at IFL Science.  I particularly love the article’s turn of phrase, “perhaps you need to lift your vengeance magic game.”

Have you ever hated someone so much you sacrificed a chicken in the hope its slaughter would empower a curse, then carved the targets’ names into the pot holding the chicken and buried it for more than 2,000 years? If not, perhaps you need to lift your vengeance magic game, because someone not only did that but also found 50 people they hated enough to score a place on the pot’s exterior. We don’t know whether the curse worked, but it must be conceded all the intended victims are dead.

The pot (or “chytra”) buried between 325 and 270 BCE in a corner of a building in the Athenian Agora provides insight into the uses of magic at the time. Almost a century after Socrates and Plato, the home of ancient reason and learning still had people practicing something mystical.

Having been dug up in 2006 from a corner of the Athenian Agora’s Classical Commercial Building, the chytra has finally been described by Dr Jessica Lamont of Yale University.

Under the wonderful title “The Curious Case of the Cursed Chicken”, Lamont has described her findings in Hesperia. The pot contained the head and lower limbs of a chicken, but this was no remnant of a meal. A large iron nail has been stuck through the underside, its wide circular head sealing the entrance, and a small coin has since fused to the nail head. “This assemblage belongs to the broader realm of Athenian binding curses, which, … aimed to ‘bind’ or inhibit the physical and cognitive abilities of its human targets,” Lamont writes. These were usually written on lead tablets, but the nail and animal sacrifices were common features.

More than 30 of the names are still legible, some of them familiar while others were previously unknown from Athens. The handwriting suggests at least two people carved the names, something Lamont says is “largely unprecedented in Greek curse tablets”. Other writing could include the actual curse and up to 25 names, but only scattered letters can be read….

(14) ON TOP OF OLD SMOKEY. The Pasadena Museum of History knows where you can find the humble artifacts left behind by a historic science experiment: “Lookout Mountain and the Speed of Light”.

The first lookout tower of the Angeles Forest was erected on Lookout Mountain No. 2 in 1913 and was active until 1927 when it was moved to Sunset Peak. Today, one will find on Lookout Mountain, in addition to a sign and a register, three in-line concrete blocks. The tallest of these, forty-two inches high, has a metal tablet marked “ANOTONIO 1922” and one of the smaller blocks, twenty-six inches high, has an unmarked survey point. If a sight is taken in a westernly direction over these two points, it will align to a spot on Mt. Wilson, marked on topo maps as “Michelson.” These blocks supported a mirror system for an exacting experiment by America’s first Nobel Prize winner, A.A. Michelson, in the years 1922 to 1926 to determine the speed of light.

The speed of light had been measured before, but never on such a spectacular scale or with as much accuracy. At station “MICHELSON” on Mt. Wilson; an octagonal mirror was mounted on a rotor that reflected a light beam to the station “ANTONIO” on Lookout Mountain, nearly twenty-two miles distant; then reflected back to another facet of the octagonal mirror, where it was reflected in the observer’s eye….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Army of the Dead” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say this new Zack Snyder film has robot zombies, brain zombies, and “the awesome zombie-killing saw,” and a team of mercenaries that has six “damaged bad-asses,” “two fun-loving bad-asses” and “the world’s most obvious traitor.  But Snyder, free of studio control, still can’t figure out how to focus his film!”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Nina Shepardson, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Peer.]

The Tangled Skein: Call Me Joe

By Paul Weimer: Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson strongly starts off a NESFA Press series of volumes covering the work of one of the key 20th century writers of Science Fiction, Poul Anderson

In the introduction, the editor, Rick Katze, states “This is the first in a multi-volume collection of Poul Anderson stories. The stories are not in any discernible pattern”. The pieces of fiction are an eclectic mix of early works in his oeuvre, mixed with poetry and verse that range across his entire career.

The contents include:

  • Call Me Joe
  • Prayer in War
  • Tomorrow’s Children
  • Kinnison’s Band
  • The Helping Hand
  • Wildcat
  • Clausius’ Chaos
  • Journey’s End
  • Heinlein’s Stories
  • Logic
  • Time Patrol
  • The First Love
  • The Double-Dyed Villains
  • To a Tavern Wench
  • The Immortal Game
  • Upon the Occasion of Being Asked to Argue That Love and Marriage are Incompatible
  • Backwardness
  • Haiku
  • Genius
  • There Will Be Other Times
  • The Live Coward
  • Ballade of an Artificial Satellite
  • Time Lag
  • The Man Who Came Early
  • Autumn
  • Turning Point
  • Honesty
  • The Alien Enemy
  • Eventide
  • Enough Rope
  • The Sharing of Flesh
  • Barbarous Allen
  • Welcome
  • Flight to Forever
  • Sea Burial
  • Barnacle Bull
  • To Jack Williamson
  • Time Heals
  • MacCannon
  • The Martian Crown Jewels
  • Then Death Will Come
  • Prophecy
  • Einstein’s Distress
  • Kings Who Die
  • Ochlan
  • Starfog

The introduction is not quite correct, in that the reader can find resonances between stories, sometimes in stories back-to-back. There are plenty of threads, and a fan of Anderson and his Nordic viewpoint might call it a skein, a tangled skein of fictional ideas, themes, ideas and characters. The same introduction notes that a lot of the furniture of science fiction can be found in early forms here, as Anderson being one of those authors who have made them what they were for successive writers. In many cases, then, it is not the freshness of the ideas that one reads these stories for, but the deep writing, themes, characters and language that put Anderson in a class of his own.

The titular story, for example, “Call Me Joe,” leads off the volume. It is a story of virtual reality in one of its earliest forms, about Man trying to reach and be part of a world he cannot otherwise interact with. Watchers of the movie Avatar will be immediately struck by the story and how much that movie relies on this story’s core assumptions and ideas. But the story is much more than the ideas. It’s about the poetry of Anderson’s writing. His main character, Anglesey, is physically challenged (sound familiar). But as a pseudojovian, he doesn’t have to be and he can experience a world unlike any on Earth:

Anglesey’s tone grew remote, as if he spoke to himself. “Imagine walking under a glowing violet sky, where great flashing clouds sweep the earth with shadow and rain strides beneath them. Imagine walking on the slopes of a mountain like polished metal, with a clean red flame exploding above you and thunder laughing in the ground. Imagine a cool wild stream, and low trees with dark coppery flowers, and a waterfall—methanefall, whatever you like—leaping off a cliff, and the strong live wind shakes its mane full of rainbows! Imagine a whole forest, dark and breathing, and here and there you glimpse a pale-red wavering will-o’-the-wisp, which is the life radiation of some fleet, shy animal, and…and…”

Anglesey croaked into silence. He stared down at his clenched fists then he closed his eyes tight and tears ran out between the lids, “Imagine being strong!”

Reader, I was moved.

That’s only part of the genius of Anderson’s work shown here. Anderson has many strings in his harp and this volume plays many of those chords.

There is the strong, dark tragedy of “The Man Who Came Early” which is in genre conversation with L Sprague De Camp’s “Lest Darkness Fall” and shows an American solider, circa 1943, thrown back to 11th century Iceland and, pace Martin Padway, doing rather badly in the Dark Ages. Poul Anderson is much better known for his future history that runs from the Polesotechnic League on through the Galactic Empire of Dominic Flandry, but this volume has three stories of his OTHER future galactic civilization, where Wing Alak manages a much looser and less restrictive galactic polity, dealing with bellicose problems by rather clever and indirect means.

And then there are his time travel tales. “Time Patrol” introduces us to the entire Time Patrol cycle and Manse Everard’s first mission. I’ve read plenty of his stories over the years, but this first outing had escaped me, so it was a real delight to see “where it all began”. “Wildcat” has oil drillers in the Cretaceous and a slowly unfolding mystery that leads to a sting in the tail about the fragility of their society.  And then there is one of my favorite Poul Anderson stories, period, the poetic and tragic and moving “Flight to Forever”, with a one-way trip to the future, with highs, lows, tragedies, loss and a sweeping look at man’s future. It still moves me.

And space. Of course we go to space.  From the relativistic invasion of “Time-Lag” to the far future of “Starfog” and “The Sharing of Flesh,” Anderson was laying down his ideas on space opera and space adventure here in these early stories that still hold up today. “Time-Lag’s” slow burn of a captive who works to save her planet through cycles of invasion and attack, through the ultimate tragedy of “Starfog” as lost explorers from a far flung colony seek their home, to the “Sharing of Flesh,” which makes a strong point about assumptions in local cultures, and provides an anthropological mystery in the bargain. “Kings Who Die” is an interesting bit of cat and mouse with a lot of double-dealing espionage with a prisoner aboard a spacecraft.

Finally, I had known that Anderson was strongly into verse and poetry for years, but really had never encountered it in situ. This volume corrects that gap in my reading, with a variety of verse that is at turns, moving, poetic, and sometimes extremely funny. The placing of these bits of verse between the prose stories makes for excellent palette cleansers to not only show the range of Anderson’s work, but also clear the decks for the next story.

The last thing I should make clear for readers who might be wondering if this volume truly is for them to is to go back to the beginning of this piece. This volume, and its subsequent volumes, are not a single or even multivolume “best of Poul Anderson”. This is a book, first in a series, that is meant to be a comprehensive collection of Poul Anderson. This is not the book or even a series to pick up if you just want the best of the best of a seminal writer of 20th century science fiction. This volume (and I strongly suspect the subsequent ones) is the volume you want if you want to start a deep dive into his works in all their myriad and many forms. There is a fair amount from the end of the Pulp Era here, and for me it was not all of the same quality. I think all of the stories are worthy but some show they are early in his career, and his craft does and will improve from this point.  While for me stories like the titular “Call Me Joe”, “Flight to Forever”, “The Man Who Came Early”, and the devastating “Prophecy” are among my favorite Poul Anderson stories, the very best of Poul Anderson is yet to come.

2021 Prometheus Hall of Fame Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for the 2021 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for Best Classic Fiction.

  • The Winter of the World, a 1975 novel by Poul Anderson
  • “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 novelette by Rudyard Kipling
  • “The Trees,” a 1978 song by Rush (recorded as part of the rock group’s 1978 album “Hemispheres”)
  • Emphyrio, a 1969 novel by Jack Vance
  • “Lipidleggin’,” a 1979 short story by F. Paul Wilson

The Prometheus Awards ballot will be emailed to LFS members at the usual time next May, The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include gold coins and plaques for the winners for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame), and occasional Special Awards.