Pixel Scroll 10/28/22 Captain Pixel Versus The Winter Solistice

(1) TUNE IN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] On the B Beeb Ceeb Radio 4 this week we had…

Radio play. It is the day after tomorrow. The NHS is history and the Artificial Intelligence health app Medpatch has ushered in a new era of diagnosis and treatment. As ex-health workers adjust to a vanished career, Jenna, a former doctor, finds herself employed on a new frontier of public health. And she’s about to make a discovery. Thriller about healthcare and technology.

Drawing on the revolution in remote, smartphone led diagnostics and advances in health AI, it’s a thriller about how much of ourselves we’re willing to hand to the private sector. And as corporations vie to become the Google of Health – Welcome to Medpatch considers questions about technology and healthcare which may have to be answered sooner than we think.

Radio play. A Hallowe’en adventure for the immortal mediator. Pilgrim donates an impossibly valuable artwork to Timbermoor museum, to keep it open and maintaining a particular shabby exhibit…..

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Rachel Pollack publicly announced to Facebook readers that she is in remission.

Important Announcement

I want to share with everyone, especially the many many people who have sent prayers and healing energy and spells—I am in remission. The oncologist had told me this over the phone but I really needed to hear it in person and today I saw him. The treatment was hard and it’s going to take some time to recover but the mass is gone!

A special super thank you to all the amazing people who contributed to the Go Fund Me campaign. It’s made such a huge difference and will continue to as I heal and grow stronger. Thank you!

(3) SF READER IS KILLED. A murder victim’s affinity for the work of Isaac Asimov is a detail in The Daily Beast’s coverage: “Kansas City Cops Want Alexa Audio After South American Medical Researchers’ Murder”.

…Behrensen, an Isaac Asimov lover with a penchant for middle-distance running, was described as “a brilliant young woman with a vibrant intellect” by colleagues and faculty at the Stowers Institute….

The information came from the Stowers Institute directory: “2020 Predoctoral Researchers | Graduate School of the Stowers Institute”:

“Camila Behrensen might have Isaac Asimov to thank for her love of science. Growing up, Asimov was her favorite author, in part because of how he was able to explain complicated concepts in ways that everyone could understand. “

Authorities believe they have identified the man who murdered Behrensen: “Shock Slaying of Two Medical Researchers Tied to Grisly Discovery in Missouri Woods” at MSN.com.

Police investigating the murder-suicide of a man and a woman found in Missouri woods made another shocking discovery: one of them was responsible for a double murder of two researchers two weeks earlier….

(4) LONGSTOCKING SHORTHAND. There a project to “decrypt” shorthand pads of writer Astrid Lindgren, famous for Pippi Longstocking, Ronja the Robber’s daughter etc. She wrote all her first drafts in shorthand. Here’s a report about it: “Secretaries at Work: Accessing Astrid Lindgren’s Stenographed Manuscripts through Expert Crowdsourcing”.

…The Astrid Lindgren Code project [3] explores Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s original manuscripts in Melin shorthand (stenography). Lindgren’s stenography has for long been considered “undecipherable” [4, 5] and has therefore never been subjected to study, making manual interpretation the only existing possibility of accessing the material as well as providing training data for future research [6]. Nevertheless, crowdsourcing has proven to be unexpectedly successful in producing transliterations of Lindgren’s stenographed notepads. With 170 volunteers signing up for decoding, prolific attempts during the Spring of 2021 have resulted in a full transliteration of the drafts to novel The Brothers Lionheart (1973) in approximately five weeks….

(5) THIS JUST IN. It is reliably reported that “George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman Hate Hollywood Changing Source Material”. Can you imagine? Variety heard them say it.

George R.R. Martin reflected on his literary and Hollywood career, and shared stories about book tour mishaps and Hollywood “morons,” in a conversation with “The Sandman” author Neil Gaiman at New York City’s Symphony Space Thursday night.

Martin was promoting his book “The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One,” a massive “deluxe reference book” about Westeros’ most powerful family…. 

…As someone who has been on both sides of screen adaptations of literature, Martin discussed the “obligation to be faithful to the written material,” which he said is a “controversial” issue in Hollywood. The author made it clear where he stands: “How faithful do you have to be? Some people don’t feel that they have to be faithful at all. There’s this phrase that goes around: ‘I’m going to make it my own.’ I hate that phrase. And I think Neil probably hates that phrase, too.”

“I do,” Gaiman responded. “I spent 30 years watching people make ‘Sandman’ their own. And some of those people hadn’t even read ‘Sandman’ to make it their own, they’d just flipped through a few comics or something.” Gaiman added that it was a “joy” getting to make Season 1 of “The Sandman” on Netflix, and Martin energized the crowd by saying, “We want Season 2!”

Martin continued, “There are changes that you have to make — or that you’re called upon to make — that I think are legitimate. And there are other ones that are not legitimate.”…

(6) RED PLANET SYMPATHIZER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Although Bradbury and Asimov are mentioned in this book excerpt the emphasis of the piece is on the FBI’s investigation of Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre. “Dracula vs. the FBI” at CrimeReads.

…Several figures who continue to shape the American tradition of horror, fantasy, and science fiction received the FBI’s unwonted concern. Ray Bradbury, with his tales of an America perpetually facing a thing at the top of the stairs, had forty pages of material assembled by agents who suspected his then-genial liberalism hid communist sympathies.(13) The report included the contention that “he has been described as being critical of the United States government.” In a memo, now available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the FBI copied their colleagues at the CIA, violating the agencies’ proscription against surveillance and investigation of private American citizens. Large portions of Bradbury’s file are redacted, but what we can read makes clear that the FBI worried that the author planned to travel to Cuba and take part in a writer’s conference “whose [sic] goal of action is to obtain unity in the fight against anti-imperialism.”

What interested the FBI in Bradbury to begin with, particularly given that his file admits “there is no evidence” he ever “ joined the CP”? For the FBI, the idea that Bradbury suggested in The Martian Chronicles that humans came to the red planet as “despoilers and not developers” sounded a bit too much like a critique of imperial America, both in its frontier past and Cold War present….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1953 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-nine years ago It Came From Outer Space premiered, the first in the 3D films released from Universal-International. It was from a story written by Ray Bradbury. The script was by Harry Essex.

Billed by the studio as science fiction horror and I’ll get to why in the SPOILERS section, it was directed by Henry Arnold who would soon be responsible for two genre classics, Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man, the latter of which of course won a Hugo at Solacon (1958).

HORROR, ERRR, SPOILERS, ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN. BEWARE!

Amateur sky watcher (as played by Richard Carlson) and schoolteacher Ellen Fields (as played Barbara Rush) see a large meteorite crash near the small town in Arizona. Being curios and not at cautious (who is in these films?), they investigate.

Putnam sees the object and knows it is a spacecraft but everyone else laughs at him. People start disappearing. (Cue chilling music.) The sheriff opts for a violent answer, but Putnam wants a peaceful resolution.

In the end, a Bradburyan solution happens, atypical of these Fifties pulp SF films and the aliens get what they need to leave without anyone, human or alien, dying. 

YOU CAN COME BACK NOW.

The screenplay by Harry Essex, with extensive input by the director Jack Arnold, was based on an original and quite lengthy screen treatment by Bradbury. It is said that Bradbury wrote the screenplay and Harry Essex merely changed the dialogue and took the credit. There is no actual written documentation of this though, so it may or may not be true.

It made back twice its eight hundred thousand budget in the first year. 

Many, many critics took to be an anti-communist film about an invasion of America. However Bradbury pointed out that “I wanted to treat the invaders as beings who were not dangerous, and that was very unusual.” 

Final note: It Came from Outer Space is one of the classic films mentioned in the opening theme (“Science Fiction/Double Feature”) film of The Rocky Horror Show and the film.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1944 Ian Marter. Best remembered for his role as Harry Sullivan, a companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors. After leaving the series, he wrote nine novels, plus a look at his time there. He died suddenly of a diabetic heart attack on his forty-second birthday. (Died 1986.) 
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 71. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, an American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best-known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1951 William H. Patterson, Jr. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This Tribute to Bill Patterson by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 28, 1957 Catherine Fisher, 65. Welsh poet and children’s novelist who writes in English. I’d suggest The Book of The Crow series of which Corbenic won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. Her Incarceron and Sapphique also earned a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature nomination. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 64. Writer of four novels, including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her short fiction “The Ransom of Princess Starshine” appeared in 2017 in Stupefying Stories, edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 55. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the even weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think…
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 40. The Eleventh Doctor of course. My third favorite of the modern Doctors behind Ten and Thirteen.  His first-ever role was as Jim Taylor in the BBC adaptations of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North. (Billie Piper was Sally Lockhart.) He was the physical embodiment of Skynet in Terminator Genisys. Huh. And he played a vampire in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe spin-off film Morbius where he was Milo. Finally I’ll note as Daemon Targaryen in the series House of the Dragon. 

(9) BOOK BAN EFFORTS PROLIFERATE. “Panel Explores Surge in Book Bans, Policies Targeting the LGBTQ Community” at Publishers Weekly.

With a wave of book bans and educational gag orders still surging across the country, an online panel this week explored how the bans are targeting and impacting the LGBTQ community—and how concerned communities can push back. Sponsored by ACLU People PowerHachette Book GroupLambda Literary, and We Need Diverse Books, the timely discussion (the issue of book bans featured in gubernatorial debates this week in a number of states ahead of the mid-term elections) the discussion was led by the ACLU’s Gillian Branstetter and featured BookRiot writer Kelly Jensen; Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, and authors Mark Oshiro and Lev AC Rosen.

Kicking off the discussion, Branstetter asked Jensen to break down the widely-reported statistics showing a sharp spike in attempted book bans and educational gag orders across the country over the last two years. Jensen, a former librarian who has been reporting widely on the surge in book bans in communities across the country for BookRiot, wasted no time in pulling the figures into focus, arguing that the bans are impacting as many as four million students across the country.

“That’s four million students who are having books taken from them, and it’s happening everywhere in the country,” Jensen said…. 

(10) MOOMIN APPROPRIATION. Yle Uutiset reports:“Moomin features in anti-Finland propaganda on Moscow streets”.

Propaganda posters mocking two of Finland’s and Sweden’s most popular children’s characters have been recently spotted on the streets of Moscow, Russia.

The posters show an illustration of Uncle Sam, representing the United States, holding two puppets — Moominpappa and Pippi Longstocking.

The now-iconic characters were created in the mid 1900s by Finnish artist and author Tove Jansson and Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren.

The poster’s text, in Russian, warns: “Don’t be toys in the wrong hands!”

Below the illustration appears to be a quote from Jansson’s sixth children’s book, Tales from Moominvalley.

The poster’s message ostensibly refers to claims by some in Russia that Finland and Sweden would become puppets of the United States after the two Nordic countries join Nato….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wesley Chu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hazelwood also presents her comments in this YouTube video.

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

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

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

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

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

Except…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As many of you know Rachel is in the ICU.

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s streaming on Amazon and HBO Max.

Audience reviewers at Rotted Tomatoes give it seventy percent rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which leads us to the NyQuil chicken.

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/22 Never Gonna File You Up, Never Gonna Scroll You Down

(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.

As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.

(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.

….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…

(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.

There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?

I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine…. 

(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:

… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…

(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.

Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….

… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….

… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit. 

“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….

(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.  

…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.

Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….

(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.

…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….

(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.

An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. 

This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.

Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.

It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, AliensAlien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.

So what the critics think?

Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”

And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second  feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid  form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film.  The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”

It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1913 Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats
  • Born May 25, 1944 Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. 
  • Born May 25, 1950 Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.  She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.  

(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.

To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.

Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]

Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.

(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.

… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?… 

The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”

(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.

Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…

(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.

Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride.  As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.

Also trailer here.

(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.

Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.

The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.

Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.

… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.

“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.

Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.

Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….

(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.

All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.

Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.

I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.

Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….

(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.

…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in  films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago. 

Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.

The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and  utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.

“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/21 Let Us Now Scroll Famous Pixels

(1) USPS ‘DROID STAMPS ISSUED TODAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From a post office near you, or via online: Star Wars Droids Stamps.

Use ’em to mail stuff! — or as an affordable, fungible gift to a Star Wars fan.

(2) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Fansided’s “Dork Side of the Force” shares a collection of “25 of the most iconic Star Wars movie posters of all time”.

… The movie posters used to promote the movies have sometimes become as iconic as some of the movie moments themselves. These are 25 of the iconic works of art that have become some of the most memorable Star Wars images over the years….

1. The Phantom Menace teaser poster

After a decade and a half without a new Star Wars movie coming to theaters, The Phantom Menace was announced. We would all finally get to experience the first chapter of the saga.

There were rumors as to what we would get to see and more than a few images released of the movie being worked on, but this was the first official image we got advertising the upcoming movie — and really the trilogy as a whole. The image of a 9-year-old Anakin casting a Darth Vader shadow on the wall hit the world with a bang…

(3) BRADBURY STRIKES BACK. This 2019 IndyStar article begins its list of “7 cool items you can see at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” with a Star Wars relic —

Star Wars ‘Empire Strikes Back’ script

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection.

(4) THE LOREMASTER. Craig Miller, author of the superb Star Wars Memories, shared a joke with Facebook readers that got an immediate laugh from George Lucas and Gary Kurtz at the time, and that he needs to explain to the rest of us.  

…And now, the story. This is one that appears in my book, Star Wars Memories (available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart). More, and less obscure, stories throughout Star Wars Season.

Suggesting a Title for Film #3

(Warning: This story has a punch line. But it requires deep knowledge of both Star Wars lore and motion picture history in order to get it. I’ll explain it at the end but it won’t be as funny – maybe not funny at all – if I have to explain it you.)…

(5) LOCATING THE LOCATIONS. And Craig has definitely been to some of the places in “The Real Star Wars Universe” charted by Statista. (Click for larger image.)

(6) BIGGS SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. “Star Wars: A New Hope – Deleted Scenes” on YouTube is 8 1/2 minutes of footage cut from Star Wars, including several scenes with Garrick Hagon as Biggs Darklighter that never appeared in the final cut of Star Wars.

(7) BRING ME THE HEAD OF DARTH VADER. “Darth Vader’s helmet raises charity funds in May the 4th auction” reports The Guardian.

In an auction house far, far away (well, Bristol actually), the enduring power of the force was clear.

A Darth Vader helmet sold for £2,200, more than five times the top estimate, and a signed picture of Alec Guinness in his Obi-Wan Kenobi robes was snapped up for £3,100, treble what was anticipated.

Someone, somewhere, paid £9,000 for a prototype lightsaber, the weapon of choice of Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga, which the Earthlings at East Bristol Auctions had judged might bring in £80-£120.

Hundreds of items hoarded and collected by David Prowse, the Bristolian who played Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, were sold off in his home city following his death, aged 85, last year.

Naturally the sale took place on May the 4th

(8) DISSENTING VOICES. Not everybody is attuned to the spirit of the day.

(9) INSIDE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch learned something about how Amazon handles internal controversies:

Controversies
From this article we learned that Amazon has an executive who serves as director of book content risk and qualitySarah Castle. It was her job to assess internal complaints from “dozens of Amazon employees” asking the company to stop selling Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by journalist Abigail Shrier, arguing that the book violates Amazon’s recently stated policy against selling books “that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” The Seattle Times reports that Castle told employees on an internal message board, “After examining the content of the book in detail and calibrating with senior leadership, we have confirmed that it does not violate our content policy.”

(10) DOOM IN RETROSPECTIVE. GamesRadar+ does a Q&A with a past writer of a popular comic book: “Doom Patrol, New Gods, Old Gods, and a Fissure King: The Rachel Pollack Interview”.

In 1993, Rachel Pollack took over DC/Vertigo’s Doom Patrol following Grant Morrison’s star-making turn on the book. Her run lasted 25 issues, but has never been collected – but has begun making its way to DC digital platforms recently.

Among the memorable stories is the initial ‘Sliding In the Wreckage’ arc, as well as the introduction of Kate Godwin (Coagula) – the first trans superhero for DC or Marvel comic books. Over the course of her run, Pollack touched on concepts of family, fitting in, and making a path for yourself in a world that didn’t have a set path for you.

Newsarama spoke to Pollack earlier this month about her Doom Patrol run, her prose work such as the new novella collection The Fissure King, and her poised return to comic books.

Newsarama: Rachel, what are you working on today?

Rachel Pollack: I’m actually typing up a second draft of a story called ‘Visible Cities.’ I always write everything longhand with fountain pen and then type it up, and that’s my second draft. I’m doing that at the moment. And then I’m preparing for a trip to Scotland.

(11) MOORE ACQUISITIONS. “’I’m bursting with fiction’: Alan Moore announces five-volume fantasy epic” in The Guardian.

Two years after announcing that he had retired from comics, Alan Moore, the illustrious author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has signed a six-figure deal for a “groundbreaking” five-volume fantasy series as well as a “momentous” collection of short stories.

Bloomsbury, home to the Harry Potter novels, acquired what it described as two “major” projects from the 67-year-old. The first, Illuminations, is a short story collection which will be published in autumn 2022 and which moves from the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the “Boltzmann brains” fashioning the universe. Bloomsbury said it was “dazzlingly original and brimming with energy”, promising a series of “beguiling and elegantly crafted tales that reveal the full power of imagination and magic”.

The second acquisition is a fantasy quintet titled Long London, which will launch in 2024. The series will move from the “shell-shocked and unravelled” London of 1949 to “a version of London just beyond our knowledge”, encompassing murder, magic and madness. Bloomsbury said it “promises to be epic and unforgettable, a tour-de-force of magic and history”….

(12) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 4, 1962 The Twilight Zone‘s “The Dummy”.

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

On this day in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and  George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with its own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 4, 1893 – Alfred Pollard.  Four novels for us; outside our field, crime and war stories, fiction and non, threescore books all told.  Served in World War I, earned the Victoria Cross.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull-faced Bombers and finally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.) (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. The DC UNIVERSE streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1940 – Bob Layzell, age 80.  Threescore covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Farthest Star.  Here is Drunkard’s Walk.  Here is Dangerous Frontiers.  Here is A Trace of Memory.  Here is The Grey Prince.  [JH]
  • Born May 4 (year unknown) – Ernie Wheatley.  Known as the Dormouse of the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) for falling asleep with his head on his arms at table during restaurant after-meetings, raising it to speak aptly, sleeping again.  Once after we had adopted “Death will not release you” and someone uttered it on some such occasion EW piped up “Even if you die!” which was promptly added.  In 1960 while Westerns were big, also home-made films, and fanfiction meant fiction about fans, Lee Jacobs wrote “The Musquite Kid Rides Again” for SAPS about a transparently-disguised Wrai Ballard; it was filmed; here is EW as “Killer Kemp” i.e. Earl Kemp who by then had won a Hugo for Who Killed SF?  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 78. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early Cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Do tell me about him. (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 65. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1957 – Nancy Canepa, Ph.D., age 64.  Here is Teaching Fairy Tales she edited.  Professor at Dartmouth.  “My teaching and research centers on early modern Italy (1550-1700).  I’m particularly fascinated by the development of new literary forms and languages during this period, in genres that range from the fairy tale to the mock epic to the travelogue.”  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1960 – Kate Saunders, age 61.  A dozen novels, a couple of shorter stories for us; two dozen books all told, some for adults, some for children.  Newspapers, magazines, radio, television.  Trask Award.  Costa Children’s Book Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 47. He’s a 14-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 44. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1978 – Shaenon Garrity, age 43.  A score of short stories.  Known for Webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award for Outstanding Writing.  Lulu of the Year Award.  Summa cum laude from Vassar.  Website.  [JH]

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) BLADE STUNNER. “Star Wars Day: Disney Parks shares footage of a real-world lightsaber” – as SYFY Wire explains.

When guests head to Orlando’s Walt Disney World next year for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (an immersive, two-night experience housed at Galaxy’s Edge), they’ll probably catch sight of an actual lightsaber. That’s right, the Disney Parks Imagineering Research and Development team have built an honest to goodness retractable Jedi blade inspired by the iconic franchise.

To celebrate May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), the Mouse House’s theme park division revealed a short video of the potentially patented lightsaber (it works kinda like a high-tech, dual measuring tape) — wielded by a cast member dressed as Rey — in action, and it’s beyond cool.

(16) A SHARPER IMAGE. Jeff Foust reviews the Folio Society Edition of Andrew Chaikin’s famous history of the Apollo missions for The Space Review: “Review: A Man on the Moon”.

…To be clear, the text of the book is unchanged from earlier editions: this is not a revised or expanded version. The only new words in this version is a brief preface by Chaikin, which he uses to explain the other major change of the book: the inclusion of nearly 200 color and black-and-white photos that he curated for the book. As high-quality digital versions of the photos became available in the years after he first wrote the book, he explains, “I was amazed at the details I could now see; I felt they had opened a new portal I could step through to witness what the astronauts had seen and done.”

This is not the first illustrated edition of the book, but this version strikes a better balance between the photos and text than that earlier three volume set, where the images at times drowned out the text. Here the images are better ties to the text, and include a mix of obvious famous pictures as well as less-famous ones from the missions or training for them. The book includes fold-out color plates, such as one that combines several views of the Earth taken by the Apollo 8 mission on its way to the Moon; it illustrates the spacecraft’s journey by showing our home planet get ever smaller.

The real value of A Man on the Moon, though, remains Chaikin’s account of the missions, enabled by his interviews with the Apollo astronauts. At the time he started the book, all but one of the 24 men who went to the Moon on nine Apollo missions were still alive (Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert died of cancer in 1982.) Enough times had passed for the astronauts to reflect on their journeys, but not so long that we would lose the chance to have them recount their experiences….

(17) RHUBARB PIE. Doris V. Sutherland received a virtual ovation for the new lyrics to “American Pie” posted as a comment on Camestros Felapton’s post “About three months to the Dragon Award 2021 finalists”. The first stanzas are —

A long, long time ago,
The Hugo Awards came along to honour sci-fi at its height
And I knew when I’d had a look
That each winner had been a classic book
Except perhaps for They’d Rather be Right

Then Puppies made some voting slates
The ’15 Hugos weren’t so great
The big winner was No Award
In science fiction’s culture war…

(18) KISS YOUR ASS GOODBYE. IFL Science has – simulated – bad news: “Large Chunk Of Europe “Annihilated” In NASA’s Latest Asteroid Impact Simulation Exercise”.

Every two years, international governmental and space agencies take part in a tabletop scenario as part of the Planetary Defense Conference. In this exercise, a space rock is discovered to be heading toward Earth and members of different agencies have to work out what are the best things to do to try and avoid catastrophe.

… The second day also sees a detailed look at what missions could be sent to deflect such an asteroid. And it’s not good news. The asteroid is too close and too fast (and possibly too big) for a course correction. So you ought to hit it hard. Either a nuclear weapon, among the biggest, ever assembled during the Cold War, or shooting like dozens of rockets at it. With the risk that it would fragment and still crash into Earth.

“If confronted with the 2021 PDC hypothetical scenario in real life we would not be able to launch any spacecraft on such short notice with current capabilities,” members of the group stated….

(19) CTHULHU FHTAGN. When a “Japanese Town Uses Relief Money To Erect Giant Squid Statue”, Cracked is there to haul in a net-full of puns.

…So folks, whether you hate the giant squid statue or find it ink-redible, what’s fin-ished is fin-ished. 

(20) FLY CASTING. In “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the series “comes from the military espionage side of the MCU, where the morals are as grey as the visuals” and that the cameo appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads them to speculate about when the rest of the Seinfeld cast will show up in the MCU. No spoiler warning – but who knows?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The World Begins With You” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the game is set in “nightmare Tokyo a place where you have to worry about how good you will look when you’re dead” and is so busy that the game “will have you tapping at your screen like a crazed woodpecker.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/28/18 Robert’s Pixels Of Order, Newly Scrolled

(1) IN TUNE WITH SPACE OPERA. Strange Horizons presents “’In The Far and Dazzling Future, People Are Still People’: A Round-Table on Domestic Space Opera” with Ann Leckie, Jennifer Foehner Wells, Judith Tarr, Joyce Chng, and Foz Meadows.

Foz Meadows: I honestly think you can’t have good SF without a degree of domesticity. There’s something sterile to the environments so often preferred by hard and military SF, where everyone is in uniform without a hint of how they live outside of it, that forgets that, even in the far and dazzling future, people are still people. One of the clearest visual examples that springs to mind was the ship Serenity, in Firefly—that show had a lot of problems, but the decision to lovingly render the spaceship as a domestic environment wasn’t one of them. There were hand-painted signs on the metal that Kaylee had done, scenes of the crew cooking real food together as a novelty, or making Simon a cake out of flavoured protein for his birthday because they didn’t have anything else; the difference between Inara’s quarters, with its lush decorations, and Jayne’s wall of guns. The Radchaii love of tea in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series is another example of this.

But again, I find myself at odds with the assumption that domesticity is frowned upon in space opera, given that its presence is, to me, one of the defining qualities that separates it from traditional, “masculine” hard and military SF….

(2) DOCTOR IS IN. Variety says a former Doctor Who will be in Episode IX: “‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ Casts Matt Smith in Key Role”.

Sources tell Variety that “The Crown” star Matt Smith is joining “Star Wars: Episode IX,” which is currently in production in the U.K. It’s unknown at this time whether the “Doctor Who” alum will be on the side of the rebels or the evil empire.

(3) A SFF SPLASH. Scott Edelman interviews Rachel Pollack over a bowl of Vietnamese Seafood Noodle Soup in Episode 75 of Eating the Fantastic.

Rachel Pollack

We had lunch on the final day of Readercon at Pho Pasteur. This Quincy restaurant is a 2017 spin-off of the original Boston Vietnamese venue which has been open since 1991, and since that cuisine is one of her favorites, I thought we should give that venue a try.

Rachel Pollack is someone I’ve been connected to for a third of a century, even since I ran her story “Lands of Stone” in a 1984 issue of Last Wave, a small press magazine I edited and published. But she’s gone on to do so much more since then!

Her novel Unquenchable Fire won the 1989 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and her novel Godmother Night won the 1997 World Fantasy Award. Her other novels include Temporary Agency, which was a 1994 Nebula Award nominee. Her comic book writing includes an acclaimed run on Doom Patrol, as well as New Gods and Brother Power the Geek. She is also an expert on the Tarot and has published many books on the subject, including a guide to Salvador Dali’s Tarot deck. Her comics and Tarot loves blended when she created the Vertigo Tarot Deck with writer Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean.

We discussed why Ursula K. Le Guin was such an inspiration, the reason celebrating young writers over older ones can skew sexist, what Tarot cards and comic books have in common, how 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t a science fiction movie but an occult movie, why Captain Marvel was her favorite comic as a kid (Shazam!), the serendipitous encounter which led to her writing Doom Patrol, how she used DC’s Tomahawk to comment on old Western racial stereotypes, the problems that killed her Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tarot deck, how she intends to bring back her shaman-for-hire character Jack Shade, and much more.

(4) MORE ON CARNEGIE LIBRARY THEFTS. The New York Times traces the fate of an individual stolen book to illustrate why the thefts could be carried on so long: “Vast Theft of Antiquarian Books Sends a Shudder Through a Cloistered World of Dealers”.

A rare books dealer thought he had gotten lucky in 2013 when he managed to acquire a 1787 French first edition — inscribed by Thomas Jefferson when he was ambassador to France.

“If someone else had seen it first, it would have been gone,” said the dealer, John Thomson, who owns Bartleby’s Books, an online shop.

He had no idea that his seeming good fortune was a byproduct of one of the most expansive rare book thefts in history.

The dealer at a book fair who sold it to him, John Schulman, is now accused of conspiring with a library archivist, Gregory Priore, to steal and sell rare items from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh….

… In this niche world based on trust, where confidants are currency and handshake deals are commonplace, the arrest of a prominent dealer is a shocking suggestion of deceit.

Mr. Schulman had served on the association’s board of governors and had even led its ethics committee, the organization said. His clients included some of the biggest names in the business. Prominent bookshops from New York to London bought stolen books, an affidavit shows.

…None of the buyers are accused of wrongdoing. But the booksellers’ association is taking steps to try to prevent a similar wide-scale theft from happening again.

We traced the path of one book, the edition signed by Jefferson, to explain how the theft is suspected to have worked — and why it went undetected for so long….

(5) BETHKE TRIBUTE. Bruce Bethke’s frank memoir “Family Matters” leads up to his announcement of the death of his first wife.

…What even fewer people have known until recently is that in December of 2012, my first wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. After a five-and-a-half year battle, she left this world sometime between late Sunday evening, August 19, and early Monday morning, August 20. Her funeral was this past Saturday.

(6) VELEZ OBIT. Artist Walter Velez (1939-2018) died August 24 at the age of 78.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction tells about his popular work, including covers for Robert Asprin’s books, such as the first Thieves World anthology.

His website is here.

(7) WAYNE OBIT. From Syfy Wire: “The Twilight Zone and Bewitched Actor Fredd Wayne Dead at 93” and The Hollywood Reporter: “Fredd Wayne, Who Played Benjamin Franklin on ‘Bewitched,’ Dies at 93”.

Per the SYFY Wire story, genre roles included appearances on: One Step Beyond (1 episode); The Twilight Zone (2 episodes); Voyagers! (1 episode); Bewitched (2-part episode); Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (2-part episode); Wonder Woman (1 episode); Small Wonder (1 episode); The Phantom of Hollywood (TV movie); Chamber of Horrors.(feature film). There may be others they didn’t list. Depends, in part, on what you count as genre (Nanny and the Professor? Matinee Theatre’s “The Alumni Reunion” & “The Century Plant”?)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 28, 1991 — First E-mail Sent from Space

 Using a Mac Portable aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the first e-mail from space is sent to Earth. Two astronauts on the spacecraft, James Adamson and Shannon Lucid, wrote, “Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!” The message was transmitted to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 28, 1915 – Tasha Tudor. American illustrator and writer of children’s books. Her most well-known book is Corgiville Fair, published in 1971, the first of a series to feature anthropomorphic corgis.
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance. Where to start? The Dying Earth series? Or perhaps the Lyonesse trilogy? I think I’ll pick the Demon Princes series.
  • Born August 28, 1917 – Jack Kirby. Comic artist is somewhat of an understatement for what he was. Created much of modern Marvel continuity and even some of the DCU as well with New Gods at the latter being my fav work by him.
  • Born August 28, 1948 – Vonda McIntyre, 70. Best known I think for for her Trek and SW work, but Dreamsnake won her both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and The Moon and The Sun won her the Nebula Award.
  • Born August 28 – Barbara Hambly, 67. Author of myriad genre works including the James Asher, Vampire NovelsThe Windrose Chronicles, and the Sun Wolf and Starhawk series. Some Trek work. Was married for some years to George Alec Effinger.
  • Born August 28 – Amanda Tapping, 53. Stargate franchise of course, also lead in Sanctuary, Travelers, Kiljoys, Riese, Earthsea, Flash Forward and X-Files.
  • Born August 28 – Kelly Overton, 40. Genre work includes Van Helsing, Legends, True Blood, Beauty and The Beast and Medium.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) REASON FOR A SEASON. John King Tarpinian says he has already ordered his “Santa in Space” shirt.

(12) ABOUT W76. Alexandra Erin unpacks a host of feelings about attending a Worldcon in “Conventional Wisdom”, like these sentiments about awards:

And so here is my insight for this year: the awards matter because they represent genuine appreciation, and the appreciation is genuine because it comes from people, from real people, a real community of people, a community of communities — some old, some newer, each diverse in different ways, each with their own competing and conflicting and even occasionally complementary tastes. This community is here at the convention and it is distributed somewhat haphazardly across the globe, wherever people are reading and writing and appreciating science fiction and fantasy literature published in the English language.

WorldCon is a concentration of that community, and the Hugo Awards are a concentration of WorldCon. The community is people, the convention is people, the awards are people, Soylent Green is people, and it is beautiful and it is glorious, even when the community stumbles.

(13) OUT IN FRONT. John Picacio mentions that he won the only Alfie Award presented by George R.R. Martin this year, tells about the gatherings of MexicanX Initiative members, and how he felt while emceeing the Hugos, in his conreport “Worldcon 76: The End Is The Beginning”.

I always forget how applause makes me feel like I’m underwater. I knew I was going to ‘X-up’ centerstage in salute to my Mexicanx brothers and sisters, but from there, every word of my opening address was blank page. Unscripted. Pulled from the bright stagelights, the infinite sea of faces, the inky black, that primetime moment you can’t calculate no matter how hard you try. It’s right there in front of your eyes, beyond the dazzle, if you can stop your heart from exploding out of your chest. All of those struggling years, building to arrive at that moment….I remembered that kid who so desperately wanted to be a part of this business….that guy who appeared at his first Worldcon a mere twenty-one years ago. And he led me through the darkness, like he always does — because I’m still that guy. I still want it as bad as I did when I worked on my first book cover, when I resigned from architecture to be the person I am full-time, seventeen years ago. I don’t remember everything I said up there — it just comes out — and no, I don’t want to watch the video and find out. Once is enough.

(14) NEW WETWARE DISCOVERY. NPR reports on “What Makes A Human Brain Unique? A Newly Discovered Neuron May Be A Clue”. Breaks the use of mice as models for neurological problems, e.g. Alzheimer’s.

An international team has identified a kind of brain cell that exists in people but not mice, the team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

“This particular type of cell had properties that had never actually been described in another species,” says Ed Lein, one of the study’s authors and an investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

The finding could help explain why many experimental treatments for brain disorders have worked in mice, but failed in people. It could also provide new clues to scientists who study human brain disorders ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to schizophrenia.

“It may be that in order to fully understand psychiatric disorders, we need to get access to these special types of neurons that exist only in humans,” says Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research.

(15) PREEMPTIVE STRIKE ON CHOLERA. 21st-century pump handle: “Yemen cholera epidemic ‘controlled’ by computer predictions”. Rainfall predictions ID where sewers will overflow, telling where to concentrate treatment etc.

Last year, there were more than 50,000 new cases in just one week – this year, the numbers plummeted to about 2,500.

The system has enabled aid workers to focus efforts on prevention several weeks in advance of an outbreak – by monitoring rainfall.

It comes as the UN says it is concerned about a possible “third wave” of the epidemic.

(16) MAD, I TELL YOU. At The Onion: “New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Teaser Shows Cackling, Power-Mad George R.R. Martin Burning Completed ‘Winds Of Winter’ Manuscript”.

Shedding light on the much-rumored events of the upcoming eighth and final season, a newly released teaser for the wildly popular HBO series of Game Of Thrones that aired Monday centered around the image of a cackling, power-mad George R.R. Martin burning the completed manuscript of Winds Of Winter.

(17) COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NOWHERE NEAR YOU. Ferret Bueller shares a rarity:

This is a pic?ture I took of the official (I guess) Mongolian translations of the Game of Thrones books in Ulaanbaatar; they’re published by Monsudar, the leading publisher of translated books. These were on display at one of the little branches of Internom, their brick and mortar franchise, this one being near my office. I see by the stamp I took it on 1 April; I took the picture for a friend of mine who’s a GoT fanatic and didn’t even think that you might enjoy seeing it or putting it up on File 770 (it’s interesting enough SF news, I guess) until earlier today.

(18) YOU COULDN’T LOOK IT UP. Cameron Laux describes “Fourteen words and phrases that define the present” for BBC readers:

The new weird

An emerging genre of speculative, ‘post-human’ writing that blurs genre boundaries and conventions, pushes humanity and human-centred reason from the centre to the margins, and generally poses questions that may not be answerable in any terms we can understand (hence the ‘weird’). It is associated with people like Jeff Vandermeer and M John Harrison in fiction, but the approach is bleeding into television narratives (see Westworld or Noah Hawley’s innovative series Fargo and Legion). Vandermeer’s Annihilation is heavily influenced by recent ecological thinking which takes the view that humanity is a blip in geologic history: even considering the potential catastrophe of global warming, the Earth existed long before us, and it will exist long after (see the ‘hyperobject’ entry elsewhere here). In his 2002 book Light, Harrison imagines a universe where human physics is encroached upon by alien physics that coexist and are equally or more potent. Westworld posits machine intelligences that overthrow their masters, unleashing a radically non-human order.

(19) DEL TORO PROJECT. From Variety: “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Movie Sets Cast”.

Guillermo del Toro’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” adaptation has cast Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur and Natalie Ganzhorn with production to start this week.

Del Toro is producing the teen thriller with his “Shape of Water” producer J. Miles Dale. Sean Daniel and Jason Brown of Hivemind and Elizabeth Grave are also producing. CBS Films and Entertainment One are co-financing.

(20) NOT ENOUGH CONAN. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett tells how Hollywood suffers for lack of his advice to guide them, in “Conan the Rebooter”.

What is best in life? To revive a franchise, to turn it into a success, and to hear the lamentation of your rivals!

I really do wish Hollywood would consult with me before embarking upon certain film projects. I’ve no doubt my sage advice could save them endless money and embarrassment in regards to the making of the more expensive science fiction and fantasy sort of films. “What’s that Mr Executive? You’re thinking about green-lighting a film based on the game Battleship? No. Just no.”

Ah, but I sense you would like some proof of my ability to deliver such sage advice. Fair enough, let’s then consider that famous barbarian, Conan, by Crom! As a teenager I read at least eleventy-seven paperbacks featuring Conan stories (published by Sphere Books in the UK and by first Lancer and then Ace Books in the US) so I’m reasonably familiar with the source material. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve read any of Robert E. Howard’s stories but I think I can unequivocally state that neither attempt to put Conan on the big screen was unflawed….

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

Readercon 29 Photos

Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.

GoH Nisi Shawl


More photos follow the jump.

Continue reading

2017 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

The success of Tor’s novella line seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, and Book Smugglers jumping on the bandwagon, as well as the Big 3 magazines and the online fiction venues – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. Toward the end, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book in such a case, and to discover that, indeed, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

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

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

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2017 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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