Selections Announced for Horton’s 2021 Year’s Best SF & F

Editor Rich Horton has released the list of stories in Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2021 edition (stories from 2020).

The 2021 anthology has been delayed by such pandemic-related issues as the difficulty in getting a slot at the printer.

He says the TOC is nearly set, however, he is holding a slot open for one more by an author he hopes to hear from soon.

This list is in alphabetical order by author.

  • Nadia Afifi, “The Bahrain Underground Bazaar”, (F&SF, 11-12/20)
  • Rebecca Campbell, “An Important Failure”, (Clarkesworld, 8/20)
  • Leah Cypess, “Stepsister”, (F&SF, 5-6/20)
  • Andy Dudak, “Songs of Activation”, (Clarkesworld, 12/20)
  • Bishop Garrison, “Silver Door Diner”, (FIYAH, Autumn/20)
  • T. Greenblatt, “Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, (Uncanny, 5-6/20)
  • Amanda Hollander, “A Feast of Butterflies”, (F&SF, 3-3/20)
  • T. L. Huchu, “Egoli”, (Africanfuturism)
  • John Kessel, “Spirit Level”, (F&SF, 7-8/20)
  • Naomi Kritzer, “Little Free Library”, (Tor.com, 4/8/20)
  • Sarah Langan, “You Have the Prettiest Mask”, (LCRW, 8/20)
  • P. H. Lee, “The Garden Where No One Ever Goes”, (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 12/3/20)
  • Yoon Ha Lee, “Beyond the Dragon’s Gate” (Tor.com, 5/20/20)
  • Marissa Lingen, The Past, Like a River in Flood”, (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 8/27/20)
  • Ken Liu, “50 Things Every AI Working With Humans Should Know”, (Uncanny, 11-12/20)
  • Rati Mehrotra, “Magnificent Maurice or the Flowers of Immortality”, (Lightspeed, 11/20)
  • Annalee Newitz, “The Monogamy Hormone”, (Entanglements)
  • Alec Nevala-Lee, “Retention”, (Analog, 7-8/20)
  • Sarah Pinsker, “Two Truths and a Lie”, (Tor.com, 6-17/20)
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad, “A Guide for Working Breeds”, (Made to Order)
  • Mercurio D. Rivera, “Beyond the Tattered Veil of Stars”, (Asimov’s, 7-8/20)
  • Benjamin Rosenbaum, “Bereft, I Come to a Nameless World”, (Asimov’s, 3-4/20)
  • Sofia Samatar, “The Moon Fairy”, (Conjunctions #74)
  • Ken Schneyer, “Laws of Impermanence”, (Uncanny, 9-10/20)
  • Alexandra Seidel, “Lovers on a Bridge, (Past Tense)
  • Michael Swanwick, “The Dragon Slayer”, (The Book of Dragons)
  • Tade Thompson, “Thirty-Three”, (Avatars, Inc.)
  • Ian Tregillis, “When God Sits in Your Lap”. (Asimov’s, 9-10/20)
  • Eugenia Triantafyllou, “Those We Serve”, (Interzone, 5-6/20)
  • Tlotlo Tsamaase,”Behind Our Irises”, (Africanfuturism)
  • James Van Pelt, “Minerva Girls”, (Analog, 9-10/20)
  • Aliya Whiteley, “Fog and Pearls at the King’s Cross Junction”, (London Centric)
  • Jessica P. Wick, “An Unkindness”, (The Sinister Quartet)
  • John Wiswell, “Open House on Haunted Hill”, (Diabolical Plots, 6/20)

Pixel Scroll 3/15/22 Here’s One Weird Trick To Nominate For The Hugos. SMOFS Hate It. Click Here For More

(1) TIME TO PANIC. Nominations for the 2022 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and Astounding Award for Best New Writer close at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7), today, March 15, 2022.

If this was a cooking show, the judges would be yelling, “You should be plating!”

Or you could just panic.

(2) REGISTER FOR NEBULA CONFERENCE. The 2022 SFWA Nebula Conference registration is now open. The online event runs May 20-22.

We know that many of you have been eagerly awaiting the opening of registration for this year’s Nebula Conference, tamping down the anxious space bats fluttering in your stomachs as you waited for news. We are pleased to announce that registration is now open! 

Registration Price: $150.00 for One Year of Access Starting May 1st!

Register Here: https://events.sfwa.org/

This year’s conference is fully online, and filled with all the panels and networking opportunities that we can possibly fit into a three-day weekend! The 2022 Nebula Conference Online will once again host the SFWA Nebula Awards Ceremony. 

(3) A SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Chris Barkley is excited that someone on the Chengdu Worldcon committee acknowledged his message “about the current status of the Committee on whether or not your group will be able to fulfill their duties in administering the 2023 World Science Fiction Convention.”  

This morning, at 9:58 am EDT, I received the following response from that account:

Chengdu Worldcon 2023:

“Hi Chris, thank you for the message and concern over the status of our committee. Since we are fully committed to run a most successful convention, we are working hard with locals for the best possible services for our members, including a very affordable membership package. The plan will be announced soon. Sorry for this delayed reply.”

(4) GAMES HUGO SUPPORT SITE GROWS. Ira Alexandre, proponent of a permanent Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo category, has updated the “Games Hugo – FAQ”. They’ve also written a series of tweets defending watching “playthrough” videos as an alternative way for voters to inform themselves rather than playing the games. Thread starts here. (See also “Games Hugo – Playthroughs”)

And if you don’t agree, well —

The category definition itself has been updated to prevent the possibility of conventions being considered in the category. 

(5) WERE YOU THERE? On Twitter, a cosplay fan pointed out a half-hour news documentary of the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK is available on YouTube. “The Human Factor – World Science Fiction Convention”.

(6) MS. MARVEL. “The future is in her hands.” Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel comes to Disney+ on June 8. Variety remembers where it all began: “’Ms. Marvel’ Trailer: MCU’s First Muslim Superhero Debuts on Disney+”.

In 2013, Marvel Comics introduced Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey who idolizes Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. By 2014, Kamala had superhuman abilities, her own solo series and her own superhero moniker — Ms. Marvel — making her the first Muslim superhero to headline a Marvel comic.

Nine years later, Kamala is making history once again in “Ms. Marvel,” the latest Disney Plus series from Marvel Studios that debuted its first trailer on Tuesday. The series will debut on June 8….

(7) WHO SAID CASH OFFENDS NO ONE? “Do Ya Wanna Taste It? Thoughts on Peacemaker by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

I had no intention of watching HBO Max’s Peacemaker. The whole concept seemed to me indicative of the cynicism and blatant manipulation that characterize this most recent chapter in the lifecycle of the superhero-industrial complex. Superheroes are now the leading product of the increasingly consolidated entertainment empires vying for our money, and each of those empires is now promoting its own streaming platform. Ergo, each superhero property has to function as a launching platform for a spin-off show, be it ever so esoteric and hard to justify artistically. Did you think that The Batman‘s take on the Penguin was weird and over-emphasized, a waste of Colin Farrell under a distracting fat suit in a role that could have been played by any character actor in Hollywood? Well, just sit tight for The Penguin, coming to HBO Max in 2023!

It would be one thing if these shows were bad and easily ignorable. But the same self-correcting mechanism that allows Marvel to keep chugging as the biggest pop culture juggernaut in existence despite the failure of individual movies is clearly informing the production of these shows, which repeatedly forestall the “who asked for this?” reaction with top-notch casting, stratospheric production values, and (up to a certain point) good writing….

(8) MORNING IN THE METAVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the sf origins of the metaverse.

It tells you a lot about the state of the tech industry that much of its terminology is pilfered from dystopian science fiction novels.  Isaac Asimov gave us ‘robotics.’  HG Wells named the atomic bomb, and Neuromancer author  William Gibson came up with “cyberspace.”  Meanwhile in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson popularised the term ‘avatar’ to refer to the digital embellishment of a human in a shared world he called ‘the Metaverse.’  His vision of how humans might behave in a virtual world was quite prescient. ‘If you’re ugly, you can make your avatar beautiful,’ he wrote.  ‘You can look like a gorilla or a dragon or a giant talking penis in the Metaverse.”,,,

…The idea we’re being sold of the metaverse is essentially a video game, and it’s a dreadfully boring one.  All the exciting promises that glitter among the metaverse hype–the ability to socialise in digital spaces, engage in virtual economies, or build genuine friendships online–have existed in games for decades.  See the sophisticated societies in MMORPGS such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, or the virtual universe of Fortnite and Roblox. They are more like a ‘true’ metaverse than anything Meta has to offer:  virtual worlds where you can customise an avatar, spend digital currency, attend concerts and, in what is becoming a metaverse specialty, tolerate obnoxious branding partnerships with your friends.

(9) EASY BIRTH. Goodreads does a brief Q&A with authors Jo Harkin, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Sue Lynn Tan, Olivia Blake, and John Scalzi in “Today’s Hottest Speculative Fiction Authors Answer Our Burning Questions”. Here’s part of what Scalzi has to say about writing The Kaiju Preservation Society.

GR: What sparked the idea for this book?

JS: The complete and utter collapse of an entirely different novel I was writing and the panic that came from knowing I was going to miss a publication date unless I came up with a new idea, fast. To which my brain said, OK, well, how about big monsters? And I said, YES BIG MONSTERS YES, and then my brain dropped the whole plot into my head.

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing your novel?

JS:  Honestly, nothing was challenging about writing this novel. It was a complete and liberating joy from start to finish, and I completed it quickly and easily. I want my next 60 novels at least to be just like this experience. I may be willing to do some unspeakable live sacrifices to achieve this. 

(10) LESLIE LONSDALE-COOPER. Publisher and translator Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper has died at the age of 96 reports the Guardian.

…Following a move to Methuen, where she became a rights specialist, she met [Michael] Turner and with him began translating the Tintin stories, a project that continued for three decades. “Translation” in this context meant rendering Hergé’s Brussels slang into English utterances that could be fitted into the speech bubbles of Hergé’s original drawings. Leslie was especially proud of their invented Tintinian oaths, such as “blistering barnacles!”…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1973 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Some affairs are mostly harmless to use. The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy phrase. So it was with The Girl with Something Extra series that debuted forty-nine years ago. That the lead actress was Sally Field tells you how deep the story was intended to be. She was a wife who had ESP, and her husband never quite understood her. It was intended to be cute, really, really cute. 

Rounding out the cast was Teri Garr, Henry Jones and Zohra Lampert.

One critic noted that “The plot for The Girl With Something Extra TV show immediately brings to mind another show that ended in March of 1972 after a whopping eight seasons on the air! That series of course was “Bewitched” which also featured a young newlywed couple with the wife having super-human powers that caused many problems for her and her husband.” 

The audience apparently didn’t grasp its charms and it was canceled after one season of twenty two half episodes. I believe that it might be streaming on Netflix. (I have four streaming services but not that one. I have Britbox, HBO Max, Peacock and Paramount. That’s quite enough, thank you.) 

Lancer Books published a tie-in novel by Paul Farman, The Girl With Something Extra. 

I see a signed script is for sale on eBay. Huh. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (née Persse). Irish dramatist, folklorist, theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she created the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. She produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Gods and Fighting Men, all seven hundred pages strong, is the best look at her work. It’s available at all the usual digital sources. (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 15, 1911 Desmond  W. Hall. He served as assistant editor of Astounding Stories of Super Science. His writing career is best remembered for his Hawk Carse series which would as Space Hawk: The Greatest of Interplanetary Adventures in the Fifties. These were co-written with Harry Bates, Astounding Editor. Unfortunately, it appears that he never stayed in print, either in paper or digitally. (Died 1982.)
  • Born March 15, 1920 Lawrence Sanders. Mystery writer who wrote several thrillers that according to ISFDB had genre elements, such as The Tomorrow File and The Passion of Molly T. Now I’ve not read them so I cannot comment how just on how obvious the genre elements are, but I assume it’s similar to what one finds in a Bond film. One of these novels btw is described on the dust jacket as an “erotic spine tingler”. Huh. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 15, 1924 Walter Gotell. He’s remembered for being General Gogol, head of the KGB, in the Roger Moore Bond films as well as having played the role of Morzeny, in From Russia With Love, one of Connery’s Bond films. He also appeared as Gogol in The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film. I’m fairly sure that makes him the only actor to be a villain to three different Bonds. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 15, 1926 Rosel George Brown. A talented life cut far too short by cancer. At Detention (1959), she was nominated for the Hugo Award for best new author, but her career was ended when she died of lymphoma at the age of 41. She wrote some twenty stories between 1958 and 1964, with her novels being Sibyl Sue Blue, and its sequel, The Waters of Centaurus about a female detective, plus Earthblood, co-written with Keith Laumer. Sibyl Sue Blue is now available from Kindle. (Died 1967.)
  • Born March 15, 1939 Robert Nye. He did what the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy describes as “bawdy, scatological, richly told, sometimes anachronistic reworkings of the traditional material“ with some of his works being BeowulfTaliesin (which was the name of my last SJW cred), FaustMerlin and Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. His Falstaff novel is considered the best take on that character. Some of his works are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 79. Not a director whose films are at all for the squeamish. His best films? I’d pick VideodromeThe FlyNaked Lunch and The Dead Zone. Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh, and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. And he’s playing a recurring role in Star Trek: Discovery as Federation agent Kovich. 
  • Born March 15, 1967 Isa Dick Hackett, born 1967, 55. Producer and writer for Amazon who helped produce The Man in the High CastlePhilip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based on works by her father, Philip K. Dick.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows a long-time household member having a problem with a new arrival.

(14) PRIDE MONTH. Honoring Pride Month, Marvel’s Voices: Pride returns for its second annual showcase of LGBTQI+ characters and creators in June.

Marvel Comics is proud to highlight its commitment to LGBTQI+ representation with stories that spotlight existing stars AND introduce brand-new characters to the Marvel mythology. Ranging from poignant to action-packed, here are some of the tales that fans can look forward to, each one capturing the joy and promise of PRIDE MONTH!

  • In last year’s MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE, Steve Orlando and Luciano Vecchio introduced the dreamy mutant hero SOMNUS,  who now stars in the ongoing X-Men series MARAUDERS! New York Times-bestselling, multi-award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders continues this tradition with the debut of another new hero to the Marvel Universe – and it won’t be the last you see of them. Stay tuned for more info!
  • IRON MAN scribe and lauded TV showrunner Christopher Cantwell takes on Moondragon’s complex legacy for a heart-bending story across space and time.
  • Shuster and Eisner-winning writer Andrew Wheeler makes his Marvel debut with the Marvel Universe’s real god of love – Hercules! Drawn by PATSY WALKER artist Brittney Williams!
  • Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus-award winner Alyssa Wong reunites the Young Avengers fan-favorite artist Stephen Byrne in a story guaranteed to please fans new and old! Byrne will also depict the team in a vibrant variant cover that you can check out now!
  • Comedy writer Grace Freud (Rick and Morty, the Eric Andre Show) brings her talents to Marvel with a story about the power of responsibility featuring the Marvel Universe’s favorite gay ginger, D-Man! She’s joined by Eisner-nominated artist Scott B. Henderson in his first work for Marvel!
  • Television writer and podcaster Ira Madison III explores the legacy of Pride in his Marvel debut!
  • Champions scribe Danny Lore revisits the legacy of two characters long left in the closet in a tale of love and redemption! 

(15) PUTTING ON THE WRITS. NPR shows that even when you win in court, you don’t necessarily win: “Try as she might, Bram Stoker’s widow couldn’t kill ‘Nosferatu’”.

The world’s first vampire movie premiered 100 years ago. After a long copyright battle, Florence Stoker, widow of the author of Dracula, asked for all copies of Nosferatu to be destroyed. Were they?…

(16) A LARGER CANVAS. Rich Horton spotlights a first novel from a gifted short fiction writer in “Review: On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu” on Strange at Ecbatan.

…On Fragile Waves is a powerful novel on a very contemporary theme, that if anything has become more powerful, more apposite, since it appears. It is the story of an Afghan family, fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan. At one level, it is purely naturalistic fiction, and very effectively so. But there is a fantastical level as well (or “magical realistic” as many reviews would have it) expressed in two ways — the stories the parents of the main character tell, traditional stories (with variations) … and, more obviously, a dead character who returns to haunt — or inspire — the main character….

(17) HOW MANY LIVES WAS THAT? A trailer has dropped for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the upcoming movie that stars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Salma Hayek).

(18) OWLKITTY. NPR profiles the creator of OwlKitty in “Videographer imagines what it would look like if Steven Spielberg made cat videos”.

…MARTIN: In one of Charroppin’s latest videos, Lizzy co-stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in “Titanic.”…

CHARROPPIN: The hardest of it is not adding the cat, it’s removing Kate Winslet. That process takes about three-quarters of how long it takes to do video.

MARTIN: Lizzy has 6 million social media followers, which is something Charroppin and his wife hope that animal shelters actually benefit from. They adopted Lizzy five years ago.

CHARROPPIN: If there’s one reason to do all of this, it’s to mostly raise awareness that adopting cats is way better than going to get full breed cats. Anything that we can do to help makes it all worth it.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Elden Ring,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, notes this new game, designed by George RR Martin, is a world where “every animal, person and plant wants to kill you” and features a dozen different killer swamps.  But the narrator thinks the scariest monsters are the crabs and lobsters. “I haven’t been this frightened by seafood since I got food poisoning at Red Lobster!”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rich Horton, Chris Barkley, N., Martin Easterbrook, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/6/22 I Thank Whatever Gods There Be, For My Unpixelable Scroll

(1) WFC ADDS GOH. World Fantasy Con 2022 has announced Iris Compiet is their Artist Guest of Honor.

Iris Compiet

Iris is an award-winning traditional artist and illustrator who makes her home in the Netherlands. Her client list includes Netflix, Magic the Gathering, and Harper Collins, among others. She’s the illustrator of the Dark Crystal Bestiary, the Labyrinth Bestiary, and Faeries of the Faultlines, which offers her fans a glimpse into the world she created by the same name. To learn more about Iris, see her page on the WFC 2022 website, and follow the links to her website and social media.

(2) ATTENTION WESTERSMOFS. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] The Westercon Bylaws & Business page, including the minutes of the 2021 Westercon Business Meeting, current version of the Westercon Bylaws (including Standing Rules and Draft Agenda for 2022), and links to the video of the 2021 Westercon Business Meeting, are updated here: Bylaws & Business – Westercon. I thank Linda Deneroff and Lisa Hayes for their work creating the documents and recording the video.

(3) ORIGIN STORY. In “The Surprising History of the Comic Book”, The Nation’s J. Hoberman reviews Pulp Empire: The Secret History of Comic Book Imperialism by Paul S. Hirsch.

Blame the comic book. Cheap and transportable, a trove of infantile fantasy and psychosexual Pop Art, often spiced with egregious stereotypes and nativist aggression, this humble medium was for a time the United States’ most ubiquitous cultural ambassador. Such is the thesis of Paul S. Hirsch’s Pulp Empire: The Secret History of Comic Book Imperialism, an engaging account of the ways in which comics variously served or confounded official interests.

Vividly illustrated and enjoyably hyperbolic, Pulp Empire tells its tale as a kind of horror comic. Recounting the emergence of comic books during the Depression, Hirsch details how the medium was drafted during World War II to play its own modest part in defeating the Axis, then cues the scary music…

(4) MARVEL LOADS UP FOR FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Marvel Comics will celebrate Free Comic Book Day on May 7 this year with three free one-shots. The third comic to be announced is Free Comic Book Day: Avengers/X-Men #1.

Packed with three stories, Free Comic Book Day: Avengers/X-Men will offer fans new and old an exciting entry point into some of Marvel’s biggest upcoming stories and characters!

Free Comic Book Day: Avengers/X-Men #1 will also mark the exciting debut of a new hero that Marvel has big plans for this year! Meet BLOODLINE in an introduction story by writer Danny Lore and artist Karen Darboe! 

(5) EARTHSHAKING CELEBRATION. Sideshow is a sales site, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be interested in all the promotions they have planned for “Sideshow’s Frank Frazetta Day 2022” on February 9.

Frank Frazetta was a legendary fantasy and science fiction artist who created some of the most iconic images in the 20th century. And on Wednesday, February 9, 2022 — Frank Frazetta’s birthday! — Sideshow is going to celebrate his life and legacy with an exciting event day. Read on for the schedule, list of giveaways, and livestream details.

Frank Frazetta Day honors Frank Frazetta’s many contributions to speculative fiction. There will be contests, games, and Sideshow Rewards. Plus, tune in for a special LIVE tour through the Frazetta Art Museum in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, led by Lori and Frank Frazetta Jr.

(6) PASSPORT TO FANTASY. “Tintin’s world adventure: comic strip hero joins the Smurfs on new Belgian passport” – the Guardian has the story.

Trees, eagles, bears, turrets and towers: passport designs used to follow certain conventions. Not any more. From Monday, all new Belgian passports will feature Tintin, the Smurfs and other heroes of Belgian comic-strip art.

With a 34-page standard passport, Belgian travellers will be accompanied by Lucky Luke, Blake and Mortimer, and Bob and Bobette. Many images are from the original strips, such as the 1954 Tintin serial, Explorers on the Moon, where the intrepid boy reporter took his first steps on the lunar surface 15 years before Neil Armstrong. Others were specially designed for the passport, such as a Smurf contemplating a globe, with its knapsack and maps spread on the ground.

… “There is a little bit of Belgian humour here,” Wouter Poels, a foreign ministry spokesman said. “It’s always nice if you can link what is functionable to something that is enjoyable. But a passport is and remains an administrative document,” he said referring to 48 new security features, such as barcodes, laser-engraved photographs and the polycarbonate ID page.

The passport scenes are inspired by travel and unsurprisingly avoid controversies, such as Tintin in the Congo, which is no longer sold in children’s sections of bookstores in the UK over its racist stereotypes. Nor does Lucky Luke smoke a cigarette. The cowboy, created in 1947 by Maurice de Bevere, also known as Morris, quit in 1988….

(7) RICHARD DEAN STARR (1968-2022). Writer Richard Dean Starr, who wrote many media tie-ins, died of Covid on February 4.

He was named Special Projects Coordinator for Moonstone Books in 2007. Starr edited Tales of Zorro, the first anthology of original Zorro short fiction ever authorized by Zorro Productions, Inc. The second volume, More Tales of Zorro, was released in the summer of 2011. In 2016, Starr co-authored a comic book team-up featuring Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. with New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Forty-eight years ago this day, Zardoz premiered. It was written, produced, and directed by John Boorman of Excalibur fame who was nominated for a Hugo for that work at Chicon IV. It was produced by his company, John Boorman Productions Ltd. He had decided to make the film after his abortive attempt at dramatizing The Lord of the Rings. He wrote Zardoz with William (Bill) Stair, a long time collaborator. 

It starred Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman and John Alderton. It was shot entirely in County Wicklow where Excalibur was produced, so most of the supporting cast and crew was Irish. Indeed many of the extras were played by members of Irish Travelling community. It was made on a shoestring budget of one point six million and made one point eight million at the Box Office, so it didn’t even break even after marketing costs were figured in. 

So how was the reception for it? Well it was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon though Young Frankenstein won that year. Flesh Gordon, yes Flesh Gordon, finished second ahead of it in the balloting. 

Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times I think summed it up nicely when he said it was “a genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by a perpetually stoned set decorator”. Though William Thomas of Empire Magazine was less kind: “You have to hand it to John Boorman. When he’s brilliant, he’s brilliant (Point BlankDeliverance) but when he’s terrible, he’s really terrible.” It currently holds a fifty-three percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

It is not streaming for free anywhere but it’s available for purchase just about everywhere from AppleTV to YouTube for the same price of three dollars and ninety-nine cents. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a role he reprised in the New Avengers. Avoid the putrid Avengers film which he is not in at to peril of your soul. And your sense of decency. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned. Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material.  What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  I hope it isLet me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely awful remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him rather well. His last film work was genre, too, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1925 Patricia S. Warrick, 97. Academic who did a lot of Seventies anthologies with Martin Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander with such titles as Social Problems Through Science FictionAmerican Government Through Science Fiction and Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction. She did write two books of a more serious nature by herself, The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction and Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick.
  • Born February 6, 1932 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce in The Man Who Fell to Earth. And he shows up in The Beastmaster as Maax. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 6, 1947 Eric Flint, 75. I really like his Assiti Shards series, and the Heirs of Alexandria as well. Worth noting is that he is a co-founder and editor of the Baen Free Library.

(10) SUPERDOWNTIME. Defused showcases “40 Hysterical Comics Showing What Superheroes Do When They Are Not Out Saving The World” by artist Lucas Nascimento.

People who don’t read comics and only watch superhero movies don’t know what these heroes do when they are not saving the world from imminent destruction. I mean, don’t get me wrong it wouldn’t be a very interesting movie if we saw batman trying to keep up his persona and going g through his daily life. However, these heroes are not like us. How many of us can say that we made a whole persona out of our fear or that we are from an alien planet?

So it stands to reason that their daily problems wouldn’t be as usual as normal people. And that is the idea behind these comics which the artist by the name Lucas Nascimento has brought us. Not only does he manage to capture the unique personalities of each hero but he also draws them in his own style which is spectacular. So buckle up and get ready to go on a wild ride. Just scroll below to take a look for yourself….

(11) A RINGING ENDORSEMENT. Rich Horton’s had time to refine his thoughts about a novel he read a year ago: “Review: Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke”.

Piranesi bears almost no resemblance to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It is far shorter, It is set in what seems roughly the present day, not an alternate Regency. It is almost claustrophobic in setting (though strangely not despite being mostly set in a single building) and for much of the novel the main character is completely alone. For all that, it is as good as its predecessor…

(12) VERDANT READING. Paul Weimer analyzes the second book in The Green Man series: “Microreview [book]: The Green Man’s Foe by Juliet McKenna” at Nerds of a Feather.

Being mortal, but also the son of an otherworldly being isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Ask Daniel Mackmain. After dealing with a threat to a wood and coming in contact with a very powerful supernatural entity, the titular Green Man, it is no wonder that his success in dealing with a rather nasty problem (that had some unfortunate consequences for him with the press and with the police) has resulted in the Green Man calling him on again.  At a new construction job site in the lovely Cotswolds, a mysterious figure seems to be influencing the local kids…and trying to get into the job site Daniel has been hired for. But what is he after? And why?

This is the second story of Daniel Mackmain, The Green Man’s Foe….

(13) GAMING IN STYLE. In the Washington Post, Shannon Liao looks at how “companies such as XBox and Nintendo are now releasing products such as nail polish and eye shadow for gamers.” “Tetris eyeshadow and Xbox nail polish: What’s behind the latest beauty and gaming trend”.

… While many of the most famous and recurring gaming partnerships, including fast food and energy drink brands, are aimed at men ages 18 to 30, the billion-dollar gaming and beauty industries have increasingly teamed up in recent years. Colorpop, a California-based cosmetics brand, worked with Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise last January to release eyeshadow palettes and glittery gold gel reminiscent of the island’s in-game currency, Bells. Xbox previously worked with Mac Cosmetics last October to create three Halloween looks, recreating characters from “Sea of Thieves,” “Psychonauts” and “Halo.”

“We’re in this moment of really overcoming that idea of the gamer being just that one demographic, that preconceived notion of the gamer being in the basement, and usually a man, 18 to 30-something,” said Marcos Waltenberg, global partnerships director at Xbox. “It’s much more than that now. … We’re now tasked with talking to a lot more people than we used to as a company, a few years ago.”…

(14) SPEAKING OF METEORS. What’s most important: What we are or what we feel we are? Chosen began running on Netflix on January 27, 2022.

(15) COINCIDENCE DAY. Just by coincidence, Lise Andreasen is taking a poll.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Chris Barkley.] The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra honors mater composer john Williams on this 90th Birthday, which is this coming Tuesday. The video of the Pops’ performance of “Music of John Williams” is available through Monday, February 7 at 2:00 p.m.

Happy Birthday, John Williams! Pops Principal Guest Conductor Damon Gupton and the Pops treat us to a slice of John Williams’ most beloved scores—just in time for his 90th birthday. Experience selections from Superman, Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, Witches of Eastwick and more by one of the greatest composers of our lifetime.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/22 I Hereby Dub The Current Dominant Genre (Whatever It May Be) Punky McPunkcore

(1) WOLVERTON FAMILY GOFUNDME. Following the death of Dave Wolverton, Dave’s family and friends are raising money on GoFundMe for his funeral and the family’s expenses. Here’s the link: “Please Help the Family of Dave Wolverton-Farland”.

David Doering also reports, “Spencer [Wolverton] called me to say his dad’s service will be this coming Friday, January 21, at 11 a.m. MST in St. George, Utah. There will be a link posted broadcasting the event for those who cannot attend.” 

(2) URSA MAJOR. Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards are open and will continue until February 12.

To nominate online, all people must first enroll. Go here to ENROLL FOR ONLINE NOMINATIONS or to LOGIN if you have already enrolled.

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series
Best Anthropomorphic Novel
Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
Best Anthropomorphic Non-Fiction Work
Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
Best Anthropomorphic Game
Best Anthropomorphic Website
Best Anthropomorphic Costume (Fursuit)

(3) REH AWARDS. Nominations for the 2022 Robert E. Howard Awards are open and will continue through January 31. You do not have to currently be a member of the Robert E. Howard Foundation to send in nominees at this stage of the process. However, the Final ballot will only be sent out to current Robert E. Howard Foundation members (members who have paid dues for the year 2022). That ballot will be released on February 15. See the link for the complete guidelines.

(4) HOWARD’S HOME ON THE RANGE. For more Robert E. Howard related content, The Cromcast has put a whole bunch of videos of the 2021 Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, on their YouTube channel here.

(5) CAUCUS RACE. On the third day, they squeed again: Simon McNeil picks up the baton with “Notes on Squeecore”.

…Now here I want to pause on one of the points the Rite Gud podcast were clear on here that, within their Squeecore definition it was not sufficient that a work be discursive so much as that a work must insist that its discursive element be seen and I think this is where Redshirts becomes a valuable point of discussion. Absolutely nobody is suggesting that the idea of disposable, red-shirted, extras on Star Trek was somehow unexplored prior to 2012. However Redshirts did a lot to foreground this through its fourth-wall-breaking conclusion. Now me? I like a fourth-wall break when it’s well executed and I think it was well executed in Redshirts. This essay should not be seen as an attempt to bury John Scalzi. But regardless of where we stand on matters of taste regarding the literary device or where we stand on the quality of execution of the device in this case, it still holds that this execution, in this story, served to underline the discursive elements of Redshirts such that it insisted the audience engage with them. It wasn’t sufficient to construct a funhouse mirror reflection of the Gothic as Peake did in his Gormenghast books, nor to interrogate the cultural assumptions of a genre as Pratchett did with classic British fantasy in his early Discworld novels – both of these were deconstructive works but neither, especially not Peake, felt much need to insist that the audience acknowledge that a deconstruction was in progress. But Scalzi had his characters literally escape from their work of fiction to plead for consideration from their own fictive creators. This is not a subtle work of deconstruction….

(6) SPSFC INSIDER. Alex Hormann of Boundary’s Edge shares what it’s like to be a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition judge so far: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Personal Thoughts”.

Thought #2: The 20% Rule

Generally speaking, I don’t DNF books. Even if I’m not enjoying a book, I push through to the end in the hopes of salvaging something from my investment. With the SPSFC, we had to read the opening 20% and decide if we should continue. This was a very different experience for me, and I’m still not sure if it was helpful. On the one hand, you can get a pretty good idea of what a book will be like from that sample. But on the other, you’re essentially reading an introduction with none of the payoff. There were some books that I knew within the first couple of pages that I wasn’t going to enjoy, almost always for stylistic or formatting reasons. Others proved to be strong enough in the opening chapters that they progressed further, only to lose my interest further on. I can’t help but wonder if those books I voted not to continue became something wonderful later on. And there was a book that made it through with a very strong start that completely lost me with its final chapters. This was also the stage of the competition where a book needed a majority vote to progress further. With only three judges, only two Yes votes were required, meaning we ended up with eleven books meeting the criteria. I don’t think letting an extra book slip through the cuts phase did any real harm to our allocation, but it did mean a little extra work in the next phase. Of the eleven that made it through, I had voted to continue with seven of them, and had voted for two more that ultimately failed to make the cut.

(7) ANSWER KEY. Here are Rich Horton’s “Answers to BIPOC SF/Fantasy Quiz” from Strange at Ecbatan.

1. Ava DuVernay, the acclaimed director of Selma, became the first Black woman to direct a live action feature with over a $100,000,000 budget with which 2018 film, an adaptation of a beloved Newbery Award winner?

Answer: A Wrinkle in Time

(8) SEE GERMANY’S BIGGEST SFF LIBRARY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] German SFF writer Maja Ilisch reports about a visit to the Phantastische Bibliothek in Wetzlar, Germany’s biggest SFF specialty library. The post is in German, but there are photos: “Allein unter Büchern”.

(9) BILL WRIGHT (1937-2022). Australian fan Bill Wright died January 16. Bill was a founding member of both ANZAPA and the Nova Mob. He served as awards administrator for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. He was secretary for the first Aussiecon in 1975 and helped organize the Bring Bruce Bayside Fan Fund in 2004. Bill was a Life Member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. One of his fanzines with an international following was Interstellar Ramjet Scoop.

In 2013 at the age of 76 he was voted the Down Under Fan Fund delegate. Bill was honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award in 2017.

(And I was always in Bill’s debt for introducing me to Foster’s Lager when he and Robin Johnson were at L.A.Con I to promote the first Australian Worldcon bid.)

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  “Coffee – the finest organic suspension ever devised. It’s got me through the worst of the last three years. I beat the Borg with it.” — Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager’s “Hunters”. 

On this evening twenty-seven years ago on UPN, Star Trek: Voyager premiered. The fourth spinoff from the original series after the animated series, the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, it featured the first female commander in the form of Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew. 

It was created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor. Berman served as head executive producer, assisted by a series of executive proucers — Piller, Taylor, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller. Of those, Braga is still the most active with work on The Orville.

It ran for seven seasons  and one seventy-two episodes. Four episodes, “Caretaker”, “Dark Frontier”, “Flesh and Blood” and “Endgame” originally aired as ninety minute episodes. 

Of the series, and not at all surprisingly, Voyager gets the highest Bechdel test rating. Oh, and that quote I start this piece with in 2015, was tweeted by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti International Space Station when they were having a coffee delivery. She was wearing a Trek uniform when she did so.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death.  (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly only in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 74. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His films include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 52. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for  Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading?
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 48. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 36. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON. “Video game preservation is complicated, both legally and technically” – the Washington Post tells about the challenges.

…A 2018 report by the Association of Research Libraries found that archivists are “frustrated and deeply concerned” regarding copyright policies related to software, and they charge the current legal environment of “imperiling the future of digital memory.” The obstacles archivists face range from legal restrictions around intellectual property to the technological challenges of obtaining or re-creating versions of the various consoles, computers and servers required to play various titles published over the years. Not only must the games be preserved, they also need to be playable, a quandary akin to needing a record player to listen to a rare vinyl album.

However, the legal hurdle to their research — chiefly, risking infringing on the copyrights of multibillion-dollar companies — remains the biggest for preservationists seeking access to games for academic research….

(15) SUPERNATURAL SUPERHIGHWAY. Paul Weimer shares his take about “Tim Powers’ Alternate Routes at A Green Man Review.

…Writing abouit supernatural doings in Southern California is nothing new for Powers, but this novel felt and reads distinctly different than his previous novels set in Southern California and wrapping around supernatural doings, but not always to its benefit. A Tim Powers novel for me is one with magic beneath the surface of our ordinary world that a few people can access. This often ties into a Secret History of events that we think we know, but we really don’t know the full story until Powers comes along. Characters with hidden motivations that make sense only in the denouement.. Lush use of setting and place. Tricks with time, character and perspective. Tim Powers work isn’t as byzantine as, say, Gene Wolfe, but paying attention and reading closely are absolute musts to figure out what is going on.

Alternate Routes has some of these but not as many as one might expect from a Tim Powers novel. For lack of a better phrase, Alternate Routes reads in a much more straightforward fashion, plot wise, than the typical Powers novel….

(16) WHAM! Meanwhile, back at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer brings us up to speed about the second book in a series: “Microreview [book]: Chaos Vector by Megan O’Keefe”.

…Velocity Weapon tells a twisty story where Sanda is lied to and tricked by an AI on an enemy warship, and Biran desperately seeks political power for, primarily, finding out what has happened to his sister. The novel was particularly potent for a “Wham! moment” where Sanda’s understanding of what was happening to her, and why, turned out to be far far different than she knew.

Now, with a solar system seething with potential conflict, Sanda free of her captivity, and Biran in a position of power within the Keepers, Chaos Vector continues the story of these two siblings as revelations and conflicts from the first novel start to manifest…as well as new mysteries, and yes, new wham moments!

(17) VOX PLONKS HIS MAGIC TWANGER. Brian Z. asks, “Is it official puppy news when Scott Adams calls VD his mascot?” Oh, no – he’s going to sing!

(18) OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE. I’m not a big game-player, so I’m glad to have Joe DelFranco tell me what made It Takes Two a prize-winning game: “Microreview [Video Game]: It Takes Two by Hazelight Studios”.  

The Game Awards Game of the Year winner, It Takes Two, asks two players to come together to repair an ailing marriage. In many relationships, poor communication causes the initial bond between partners to break down. Therein lies the crux of the conflict with It Takes Two. Cody and May, fed-up with their relationship, cause their daughter Rose much distress. Rose consults Dr. Hakim’s Book of Love to help bring them back together. With her tears, she binds her parent’s souls into two wooden dolls. Now it’s up to the players to help the protagonists get out of this mess and back to their bodies….

(19) PREDICTING PARENTHOOD. “Futurist Amy Webb has predictions on 5G, the metaverse, creating babies and a host of other bold topics” in the Washington Post.

S.Z.: Reading your book it feels like you have an almost philosophical belief that people should overhaul what they think about how humans are created. If synthetic biology can deliver on some of these promises — if it removes any age restriction on egg fertilization, say, or if embryos can be gestated outside a human body — what do these changes do to us as a society? Do they alter it fundamentally?

A.W.: The thing is we never stopped and asked how we got to this point. Until now a baby was a man and a woman and having the structures to be in place for that to happen. And now synthetic biology is giving us other options. Forty years into the future, I think it may be the case that there are many parents to one child, or that a 70-year-old and their 60-year old spouse decide to have a baby. Why would we close ourselves off to those possibilities?

(20) THERPEUTIC CREDENTIALS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Be sure to check out the link on the fur color of your cat and the supernatural! “Research Shows That Owning Cats Can, Indeed, Heal You” reports MSN.com. Hope that all in your household, including the unmasked four-pawed mammals, are staying Safe and Well.

1. Owning a cat can actually reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

According to an impressive 10-year study of more than 4,000 Americans, cat owners showed a 30 percent lower risk of death by heart attack than those who didn’t have a feline companion.

Participants had a lower heart rate, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.

Dr Adnan Qureshi, senior author of the study, said, “For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks.”

(21) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. “Oldest remains of modern humans are much older than thought, researchers say”Yahoo! outlines the discovery.

Some of the oldest remains of modern humans in the world are much older than scientists thought.

The remains, known as Omo I, were found in southwest Ethiopia in the late 1960s. The bone and skull fragments researchers discovered were some of the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens.

Initial research suggested they were nearly 200,000 years old, but new research shows the remains are at least 230,000 years old.  The peer-reviewed research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday

(22) PROLIFERATING PRESIDENTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Last night Saturday Night Live began with a cold open in which President Biden blamed the Omicron outbreak on people buying tickets to Spider-Man and we found out that we actually don’t live in the real universe but rather one started as a joke by having the Cubs win the World Series. You know, that last bit makes some sense.

[Thanks to JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Brian Z., Jeffrey Smith, Bill, David Doering, John A. Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/22 If Pluto Is Not A Planet, Then Mickey Mouse Is Not A Star

(1) DAVE FARLAND MEDICAL UPDATE. Dave Farland’s son, Spencer, has corrected reports of his father’s death, but Farland remains on life support after a fall.  

This Dave’s Son Spencer.

Thank you for all the messages and people reaching out. We wanted to provide an update on how Dave is doing.

Dave suffered a fall down the stairs this morning, and hit his head. He has suffered a hemorrhagic stroke with bleeding around his brain steam. He is comatosed and on life support. To put it simply he is not doing well at the moment. We are waiting for immediate family to be able to come and see him before making decisions on how to proceed.

We appreciate all the notes and messages, and love for Dave. I will post an update as things change.

(2) CHANGING STAR TREK’S STRIPES. Michael Okuda shared a bit of set decorating lore with Facebook readers:

I used to have a lot of fun at Paramount, adding last-minute tech-ish detailing on Star Trek sets and props using Chartpak pinstripe graphic tape and an X-acto knife. Judicious use of thin stripes implied access panels, circuits, controls, safety markings, and more.

When I first described the idea to Star Trek: TNG producer Bob Justman early in the show’s first season, he was skeptical and he told me not to do it. The problem was that I had only described the process to him, so he didn’t have a chance to see what it would look like.

Several weeks later, during prep for the second episode, I decided to try it anyhow. I figured even if Bob hated the finished product, it would be easy to remove…

(3) BIPOC SFF QUIZ. Strange at Ecbatan’s Rich Horton has posted “Another Quiz: BIPOC SF and Fantasy”. I got 15/18 – which surprised me!

I’ve written another quiz for the trivia league I’m a member of. The subject this time is SF (and Fantasy and Horror) by Black people, indigenous people, and people of color. The quiz ran on Tuesday, so the results are in at the site. I figured, as with my previous quizzes, I’d post it here on my blog for anyone who is interested to try. I’ll post the answers in a couple of days.

Here’s one of the questions:

12. A key text highlighting the tremendous contributions of African-descended writers to speculative fiction throughout the 20th Century is Dark Matter: A Century of Science Fiction from the African Diaspora,which won the World Fantasy Award in 2001. The editor won another World Fantasy Award for Dark Matter: Reading the Bones in 2005, and was nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award (now the Otherwise Award) for a collection of her own fiction in 2016. She is now the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionWho is she?

(4) IT’S NOT A PARADOX AFTER ALL. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers “Five More Reasons Aliens Are Avoiding Planet Earth”.

I once pointed out to Fred Pohl that if FTL is possible and if it does (as the math says it would) facilitate time travel, then the paucity of alien visitors suggests that not only is Earth not interesting to aliens of the current era, but it is also not interesting to aliens of any era.

Pohl said that was the most depressing thing he’d ever heard. I am happy to have enriched his life….

(5) NOT THE WORST CASE, BUT BAD ENOUGH. Charles Stross gives his predictions for 2031 – some of you will probably survive til then, but no guarantees: “Oh, 2022!”

…In space … well, SpaceX seem likely to fly a prototype Starship stack to orbit in early 2022. Whether or not they go bust the next day, by so doing they will have proven that a designed-for-full-reuse two-stage-to-orbit design with a payload greater than a Saturn V is possible. I don’t expect them to go bust: I expect them to make bank. The next decade is going to be absolutely wild in terms of human spaceflight. I’m not predicting a first human landing on Mars in that decade, but I’d be astonished if we don’t see a crewed moonbase by 2031—if not an American one, then China is targeting crewed Lunar missions in the 2030s, and could easily bring that forward.

Climate: we’re boned. Quite possibly the Antarctic ice shelves will be destablized decades ahead of schedule, leading to gradual but inexorable sea levels rising around the world. This may paradoxically trigger an economic boom in construction—both of coastal defenses and of new inland waterways and ports. But the dismal prospect is that we may begin experiencing so many heat emergencies that we destabilize agriculture. The C3 photosynthesis pathway doesn’t work at temperatures over 40 degrees celsius. The C4 pathway is a bit more robust, but not as many crops make use of it. Genetic engineering of hardy, thermotolerant cultivars may buy us some time, but it’s not going to help if events like the recent Colorado wildfires become common….

(6) PICARD SIDE ADVENTURE. Simon & Schuster is taking pre-orders for the fully dramatized “Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land Audiobook” by series co-creator Kirsten Beyer.

Discover what happens to Raffi and Seven of Nine following the stunning conclusion to season one of Star Trek: Picard with this audio exclusive, fully dramatized Star Trek adventure featuring the beloved stars of the hit TV series Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan.

Star Trek: No Man’s Land picks up right after the action-packed season one conclusion of Star Trek: Picard. While Raffi and Seven of Nine are enjoying some much-needed R&R in Raffi’s remote hideaway, their downtime is interrupted by an urgent cry for help: a distant, beleaguered planet has enlisted the Fenris Rangers to save an embattled evacuation effort. As Raffi and Seven team up to rescue a mysteriously ageless professor whose infinity-shaped talisman has placed him in the deadly sights of a vicious Romulan warlord, they take tentative steps to explore the attraction depicted in the final moments of Picard season one.

Star Trek: Picard: No Man's Land

(7) SHUTTLE BOP. Meanwhile, back in 1967, Galactic Journey’s Janice L. Newman is still adjusting the rabbit ears on her television set tuned into The Original Series: “[January 12, 1967] Most illogical (Star Trek: ‘The Galileo Seven’)”.

…On the planet Spock takes command, only to find his orders questioned and challenged at every turn. McCoy’s needling is typical, though it feels inappropriate in the midst of the crisis. In fact, he starts the whole thing off by prodding Spock and saying that “you’ve always thought that logic was the best basis on which to build command”. This assertion is already suspect, given that Spock has reacted to Kirk’s more inspired gambles (see: “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “The Menagerie”) with respect and acknowledgement that they were clever, even if they were unorthodox or unexpected….

(8) LOVE AT FIRST BITE. Keith Roysdon commemorates the 50th anniversary of The Night Stalker at CrimeReads: “Vampire noir came into its own 50 years ago with The Night Stalker”.

We know this story: A hard-bitten, oft-fired reporter, looking for a fast track back to a big-city newspaper job, hopes to milk a sensational story for everything it’s worth. In the process, he shakes things up in a tough desert town.

Yep, that’s the plot of Ace in the Hole, the 1951 classic directed by Billy Wilder and starring Kirk Douglas as the unethical reporter.

But of course, as you know from the headline, we’re here to talk about The Night Stalker, which has everything Ace in the Hole has, plus police corruption and vampires.

The basic premise—a hard-luck loser, whether he’s a reporter or cowboy or private eye or drifter, runs up against the powers that be in a one-horse town—is a familiar one and really lends itself to noir films….

…From the time it aired on Jan. 11, 1972—about a half a century ago—The Night Stalker made history. The movie might not have been intended to be a genre fusion film of noir and horror, but it was and it’s still the best of the rare sub-genre.

(9) SUNDAY MORNING TRANSPORT. “There’s a new Substack for speculative fiction and it looks great” says Thom Dunn at Boing Boing.

Email newsletters are obviously the cool new thing, and there are a lot of great (and not-so-great) journalists and opinion writers making serious money through Substack. But I’ve wondering for a while now how a successful fiction outlet might work1.

Fortunately, I don’t have to wonder any more, because the Sunday Morning Transport now exists, with the goal of delivering one commute-sized short story to your inbox every Sunday2. Award-winning fantasy writer Fran Wilde (Riverland) serves as managing editor, with Serial Box / Realm.fm founder Julian Yap as the editor-in-chief — two people who absolutely know the ins-and-outs on every side of the sci-fi/fantasy fiction publishing community.

… All stories on the Sunday Morning Transport will be free for the month of January; after that, free subscribers only get one story a month, while paid subscribers get a new one every week. 

(10) NEW AND IMPROVED. Nerdist says fans are having fun with mashups in The Batman trailer. “The Batman Fan Edit Adds Jim Carrey’s Campy Riddler to Trailer”.

The trailer and some released images for The Batman have got some fans bewildered. Specifically, because it seems Paul Dano’s version of the Riddler has more in common with the real-life Zodiac killer than the guy in the green suit from the comics. And it has some fans really longing for the days of the goofy version of Edward Nygma, played by Jim Carrey in Batman Forever.

So naturally, someone out there used their editing skills to make a few changes to The Batman trailer. They replaced Dano’s version with some 1995 vintage Jim Carrey Riddler. Bright green jumpsuit and all. The video comes from comedian and filmmaker Matt Highton (via Geeks Are Sexy). And you can watch the whole thing right here. We think Joel Schumacher would be proud.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2008 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fourteen years ago this evening on Fox, the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premiered. It was directed by Josh Friedman whose sole genre work previously was H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  The top cast was Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau. In addition, the narrator was Headey. 

Though it would last but two seasons and only thirty-one episodes, as the first season was abbreviated, it was the highest-rated new scripted series of the ’07 to ‘08 television season. And yes, it started in the ‘07 television season even though its first episode was in January. 

Reception among critics was generally quite fine. Gina Bellafante of the New York Times said that it was “one of the more humanizing adventures in science fiction to arrive in quite a while.” And Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune exclaimed of the second season that the “season’s opener is much clearer and more sheer fun than anything that aired last spring.”

It has a stellar eighty-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

Despite numerous ongoing fan efforts to revive the series, Josh Friedman has dismissed the possibility of crowdfunding a third series unlike say the recent Veronica Mars series due to issues involving holder rights. I suspect the Terminator rights are hellishly complex.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 Clark Ashton Smith. One SFF critic deemed him part of “the big three of Weird Tales, with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.“ This is while some readers found him to excessively morbid, as  L. Sprague de Camp said of him in noting “nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.” If you’ve not read his work, Nightshade has collected it in The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, five volumes in total. They’re all available in Kindle editions. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 13, 1919 Sam Merwin, Jr. An editor and writer of both mysteries and science fiction. In the Fifties, he edited, Fantastic Story Quarterly, Fantastic Universe, Startling StoriesThrilling Wonder Stories, and Wonder Stories Annual. As writer, he’s best remembered for The House of Many Worlds and its sequel, Three Faces of Time. At L.A. Con III, he was nominated for a Retro Hugo for Best Professional Editor for Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 13, 1933 Ron Goulart, 89. First I must acknowledge that he is very prolific, and uses many pseudonyms, to wit: Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Wow!) You did the see Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that the I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he’s prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? 
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 84. His best-remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes he’ll show in the DS9 episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations”, that repurposed this episode to great effect. (It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2.) He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 77. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely amazing as well, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her stellar retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone read it?
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 59. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space
  • Born January 13, 1980 Beth Cato, 42. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel, is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s done a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really, I kid you not. 

(13) THE DOUGHNUT MAN. First Fandom Experience answers the question “How Did E.E. Smith Become ‘Doc’?”

Recently FFE received an inquiry from John Grayshaw. John runs the Online Science Fiction Book Club on Facebook, which is associated with the Middletown Public Library in Middletown, PA. The group has worldwide membership and has hosted interviews with a number of science fiction and fan luminaries.

John’s group has an interest in E.E. Smith, and asked if we’d be willing to respond to a number of questions posed by his folks. Since we’ve just completed a deep-dive on Smith’s early history as a fan, we were happy to take up the challenge. The list of questions the group compiled is wide-ranging, and we’ll be working through them over the next several weeks.

The first query on the list was immediately intriguing:
“How did Smith get his famous nickname “Doc”?

In one sense, the answer is obvious: Smith held a Ph.D. in Chemistry from George Washington University and spent his primary career as a research chemist in the food industry. But in his earliest appearance in pulps, this wasn’t apparent….

(14) TODAY’S STAR WARS NATURE LESSON. (Beware spoiler.) The Star Wars Underworld shares an insight with The Book of Boba Fett viewers.

Writer Kieron Gillen can confirm:

(15) SAM I AM. “Quantum Leap Reboot Pilot Greenlit by NBC” says The Hollywood Reporter, and there are hints Scott Bakula may be involved.

The possible return of Quantum Leap is taking a big step forward at NBC. The network has greenlit the sequel pilot to the 1989 time travel adventure which ran for five seasons….

In September, Bakula teased “significant conversations” about a revival were happening. “There’s very significant conversations about it right now going on,” said Bakula, who played a physicist who involuntarily time travels and fixes mistakes of the past by leaping into the body of others. “I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know who would have it. The rights were a mess for years. I don’t know if they’re even sorted out now. That’s always been the biggest complication.”

(16) PUSHME PULLYU. “Star Trek has tractor beams. So do we” contends Experience Magazine.

The “tractor beam” has been a reliable narrative device in science fiction for nearly 100 years, deployed whenever the plot requires seizing a runaway spaceship or manipulating objects at a distance. Author E.E. “Doc” Smith is credited with coining the term in 1931 with his novel Spacehounds of IPC, serialized in the pulp sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories. The language is old-school delicious: “Brandon swung mighty tractor beams upon the severed halves of the Jovian vessel….”

…We already have tractor beams here on Earth, more or less. Well, emphasis on less. Scientists have been generating small-scale tractor beams for several years now, using tightly focused light and sound waves. These devices can’t move spaceships but they can move tiny things, from microscopic particles to lightweight materials around a half-inch in diameter. It doesn’t seem like much, but these tiny tractor beams could have profound practical applications. More on that in a bit.  

The first thing to know about real-life tractor beams is that they work more like another sci-fi concept: force fields….

(17) CLI-FI. Claire Holroyde promotes her first novel, about a comet threatening the Earth, by praising novels by Gish Jen and Rebecca Roanhorse in “The New Killers in Climate Disaster Thrillers” at CrimeReads.

The usual killers are easy to spot. They can be uninhabitable, dystopian futurescapes of planet Earth: deserts with salt flats, unbreathable air, or submerged ruins of cities. These settings could become a reality in our lifetimes, but tomorrow’s threats are not always today’s concern. Killers of the present can take the shape of extreme weather: superstorms, tornadoes, and tsunamis. They act like deadly assassins sent by vengeful mother nature—but was she miscast in this role?  What if the killers in a climate change/disaster thriller were also the architects of their unsustainable circumstance—us?…

(18) THE DEVIL MADE THEM DO IT. “’After-School Satan Club’ planned at Illinois elementary school. District explains why”Yahoo! took notes.

…“This actually isn’t a club that’s meant to proselytize Satanism or even engage in discussions about religious opinion,” Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves told WQAD. “This is an educational program meant to focus on critical thinking and just basic education skills.”

Because of a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School, schools are not allowed to discriminate against religious speech if a religious organization offers a club on their premises.

After School Satan Clubs have already been offered in other schools. Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington, began offering the controversial club in 2016, but it was put on hold a year later due to a lack of resources, the News-Tribune reported…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Robert J. Sawyer, Rich Horton, David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon DeCles.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1/22 On Nights Like That Every Pixel Scroll Ends In A File

(1) PUBLIC DOMAIN IN 2022. James Langdell told Facebook readers what excites him about the arrival of the New Year:

Welcome to 2022! Now everything published in 1926 has entered the public domain in the US. At last I can legally publish my novel where Jay Gatsby and Winnie-The-Pooh solve the murder of Roger Ackroyd.

The Verge greets the new arrivals in more detail in its article “Winnie-the-Pooh and early sound recordings enter public domain”.

A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and other books, movies, and compositions from 1926 enter into the public domain today in the US. The works are now “free for all to copy, share, and build upon,” according to Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, which tracks which copyrighted materials will become public each year.

This year, the usual list of books, movies, and compositions comes with a sizable bonus: a trove of around 400,000 early sound recordings. A recent law, the 2018 Music Modernization Act, standardized how early sound recordings are handled under federal copyright law. As part of that, it set today as the date that copyright protections would end for “recordings first published before 1923.”

The recordings include “everything from the advent of sound recording technology all the way through to early jazz and blues,” Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke’s public domain center, recently told NPRThe recordings include works from Ethel Waters, Mamie Smith, and The Sousa Band, among many others….

(2) SOYLENT GREEN IS FABLE. James Pethokoukis shares all the reasons “Why 2022 won’t be anything like the 2022 of ‘Soylent Green’”.

…So why isn’t 2022 for us going to be anything like the 2022 of Soylent Green? Well, the pessimists back then got a lot wrong.

  • They failed to grasp the “demographic transition” when people in rich countries start having fewer kids. The average fertility rate in at least moderately rich countries is now just 1.6, well below replacement. Today’s population-related anxiety is about too few of us, not too many. Oh, and the Big Apple is less than a quarter of the size predicted in the above image from the film’s opening….

(3) APPLY FOR A.C. BOSE GRANT. The Speculative Literature Foundation is taking submissions for the A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature through January 31.

The SLF and DesiLit are pleased to announce a new co-sponsored grant, founded in memory of Ashim Chandra Bose, known as the A. C. Bose Grant beginning in 2019.

The A.C. Bose Grant will annually give $1000 to a South Asian / South Asian diaspora writer developing speculative fiction. It supports adult fiction, but work that is also accessible to older children and teens will be given preference in the jury process. The donors hope that this grant will help develop work that will let young people imagine different worlds and possibilities.

?The grant is founded in memory of Ashim Chandra Bose. A.C. Bose, a lover of books, and especially science fiction and fantasy, by his children, Rupa Bose and Gautam Bose, in fond memory and to honor the legacy of the worlds he opened up for them.?

(4) YEAR’S BEST COMICS. Find out what made the list of “CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2021” at the link.

After a short five-year hiatus, we returned this year with a longtime CBR tradition. At the end of the year, we polled the many members of the CBR staff that make this site so great and asked them for their for their rankings of the top comics of the year. Every publisher putting out new comics material in English, regardless of genre or format, was fair game; each individual list was then factored in to determine the overall Top 100 that we unveiled on CBR over the course of this past week….

-DC Comics edged out Marvel 27-26 in entries on the countdown, but what’s staggering to me is HOW the DC titles appeared on the list, as they dominated the top 25 of the list (doubling Marvel up 12 to 6), but when we got to the Top 10, then Marvel edged ahead, taking 4 of the Top 10 to DC’s 3. Of course, going even more narrow, DC had 2 of the top five to Marvel’s 1).

-Image Comics was third on the list with 12 titles, with BOOM! Studios following with five (Dark Horse Comics had three to round out the top five).

(5) HORTON’S NEXT STANZA. Rich Horton is retiring as Locus’ Short Fiction columnist. He says, “The reasons are simple and not controversial (short version: 20 years is a long time, I want more time for other projects and other reading, and, especially, more time to dote on my grandchildren!)” Horton will still be associated with Locus. “I’m not gafiating, and I’ll still be at conventions and writing other stuff.)” He discusses the future at his blog: “Happy New Year: and 2021 Awards Eligibility Post”.

…Also, there is a great personal reason: my grandchildren: Addy is 15 months old today, Gus is two weeks old, and another grandson is due May 31! I’ll certainly be devoting plenty of time to doting on them! (And this is a reminder to me that even when things are depressing in the wider world, there is joy!)…

(6) HORROR UNIVERSITY. “Horror U Courses Begin in January!” The Horror Writers Association is taking signups now. Horror University presents six workshops for horror writers everywhere interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, or perfecting their manuscript presentation. Register here.

The Winter 2022 Session includes:

  • January 10: Building Your Very Own Haunted House: How to Write Effective Ghost Stories with Gwendolyn Kiste.
  • January 24: Into the Dark Woods: Incorporate Fairy Tale Symbolism and Archetypes in Your Stories with Carina Bissett.
  • January 31: Treacherous Settings: Discover How to Use SETTING to Escalate Conflict, Suspense, and Atmosphere with Michael Arnzen.
  • February 7: Manuscript Magic: Practical Strategies for Polishing and Presenting Your Manuscript with Lee Murray and Angela Yuriko Smith.
  • February 28: Writing Your Horror Novel in Six Weeks: The Castle of Horror Guide with Jason Henderson.
  • March 7: A Writer Prepares: Techniques for Character Development for Fiction Writing with John Palisano.

Registration is $65 for non-HWA-members, $55 for HWA members, and four- and six-course bundles are available.

(7) THE PRINCESS BRIDE & EXTRAS. “First a novel, then a film, now an audio experience.” From BBC Radio 4 — The Best Bits of the Good Parts Version by Stephen Keyworth.  

A two-part dramatisation of swashbuckling adventure plus five bitesize backstories which can be enjoyed as stand-alone stories or to enhance your experience of the drama.

The Dramatisation: Part 2 is now available online: “The Princess Bride, The Dramatisation: Part 2

With Westley captured and Buttercup on the cusp of marrying the dastardly Prince Humperdinck, there are only two people in the world who can save the day – Inigo and Fezzik. But one of them is lost and the other is drunk.

And another Bitesize Backstory is also up: “The Henchman”.

Fezzik was a simple, happy giant…until his parents taught him to fight.

The story of how a giant whose favourite sport was making rhymes became the henchman to a master villain.

(8) LIVING SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Mark Ellwood, in a piece about architects designing space habitats, interviews Blue Origin vice president for advanced development programs Brent Sherwood.

Sherwood adds that many of the concepts mooted for interplanetary development aren’t viable–think of the crystalline domes common in set designs from Doctor Who to Space: 1999.  The atmospheric pressure of a vacuum forces structures in such locations to act more like high-pressure balloons, he says, and these glorified greenhouses would shatter.  Their transparency is also misplaced, as the only way to shield humans from harmful radiation beyond the earth’s atmosphere is via mass.

Moon homes, for example, will need to be shielded by thick walls rather than glass windows. “It doesn’t mean troglodytic living–you can design it so it’s not oppressive.  Think about a Gothic cathedral, which is mostly stone but has a but of glass high up in the vaulted space.”

(9) POTTERING ABOUT. In the Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews summarizes all the news in the HBO Max special on the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, including that many of the adult actors in the films (such as Ralph Fiennes) had little or no familiarity with Harry Potter when they joined the cast. “HBO Max’s Harry Potter reunion: Tears, nostalgia and a curious lack of J.K. Rowling”.

… “I think I’m scarily like my character,” [Rupert] Grint says. [Director Alfonso] Cuarón agrees. He tells a story of giving the actors an assignment to write an essay in character. Grint didn’t do it. “I say, ‘Rupert, where’s your assignment? He says, ‘Well, uh, I thought that Ron wouldn’t do it. So I didn’t do it,’” Cuarón says. “Rupert is Ron. One hundred percent.”

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty years ago, Ray Bradbury wins the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection for his One More for the Road collection. It was published by William Morrow the same year. It contains twenty-six stories by him and an afterword by him. Other authors nominated that year were Stephen King, Nancy A. Collins, Mort Castle and Bentley Little. It was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award and a Locus Award as well.  One More for the Road is available from the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas.  (Died 1952.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective , which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. His Alien Flesh, which is SFF, is the sort of novel that Traci Lords wished she hadn’t done films like it. No, I’m not kidding. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid, a screenplay apparently written by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger ManThe Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 67. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and Hannah’s Garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read.  With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do wholeheartedly recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. I will say that she has a most brilliant website.
  • Born January 1, 1957 Christopher Moore, 64. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’ve not heard anything about Shakespeare for Squirrels: A Novel, his newest work. Has anyone read it? His only award is a Quill given for the most entertaining or enlightening title for The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror.
  • Born January 1, 1984 Amara Karan, 37. Though she was Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “ The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF.  Oh and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent. I think her last genre role was on The Twilight Zone as Rena in “The Comedian” episode. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider starts the year at Incidental Comics.

(13) ORGANIZED LABOR. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Strange Horizons’ non-fiction editor Gautam Bhatia’s story Orumai’s Choice tackles the rights of sentient androids to reasonable working conditions. Reads as a thoughtful and positive response to Asimov’s classic robot stories. At Livemint, “Lounge Fiction: Orumai’s Choice by Gautam Bhatia”.

“Eight hours of work, Mr Mayor. Eight hours to dream. And eight hours for what we will.”

Saravanan briefly considered making a bad joke about electric sheep, but thought better of it.”

(14) HOWLING IN DENVER. Meow Wolf opened its third installation in Denver in September and it’s “intergalactic.” “Meow Wolf Launches In Denver, Taking Visitors (Finally) To Convergence Station” reports Colorado Public Radio.

…Step into the lobby of Denver’s strangest new attraction and the adventure begins. Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station offers an interactive galactic experience like few others. It’s essentially a four-story art project mixed with immersive theme park designs and world-building. 

From the transit-like lobby, visitors then decide for themselves on which of the four different worlds to travel to.

Do they head to the grimy metropolis of C Street or the calming natural world of Numina? How about the frozen space castle on Eemia or the catacombs of Ossuary? All roads lead to dozens of hidden rooms, intertemporal passageways and many new clues….

Meow Wolf Denver: Convergence Station. Sept. 13, 2021.

(15) SF’S LIGHTNING ROD. Laura Miller discussed “The Cold Equations” in Slate last April – but the article is news to me: “Stowaway: Netflix’s latest hit updates a story sci-fi fans have been arguing over for decades”.

… For some science-fiction fans, “The Cold Equations” became a touchstone of the genre. James Gunn, an author, anthologist, and scholar of the genre, wrote, “If the reader doesn’t understand it or appreciate what it is trying to say about humanity and its relationship to its environment, then that reader isn’t likely to appreciate science fiction.” In this view, science fiction emphasizes the primacy of “the laws of nature, irrevocable and immutable,” over the squishy ambiguities of human emotions and manners, which are the subject of most fiction. The genre is seen by these fans as a sanctuary for those who appreciate hard truths and the men who face up to them.

Behind the technological gloss (much of the story is taken up with discussing the ship and how it works), “The Cold Equations” clearly illustrates the genre’s roots in the Western. Space and the planets settled by the colonist are referred to as the “frontier,” and Marilyn, in her feminine ignorance of the tough conditions there, makes a fatal mistake closely linked to her gender. Like the countless schoolmarms who arrive in semi-lawless Wild West towns in such movies as 1939’s Dodge City, “she belonged in that world of soft winds and a warm sun, music and moonlight and gracious manners, and not on the hard, bleak frontier.” In order to “civilize” the frontier and make it safe for such tender creatures, the male hero must make painful decisions and commit terrible actions that leave him so damaged he’s unsuitable for civilized company.

Although “The Cold Equations” became one of the most anthologized stories in a genre notable for the importance of its anthologies, in recent decades it is far more likely to be criticized than praised. Complaints about the story typically hinge on its contrived premise. Even within the story’s own value system, a mission designed without the redundancy to cope with the unexpected is simply bad engineering, rather than a demonstration of the universe’s indifference. The writer Cory Doctorow declared the story an example of a “moral hazard,” a term that economists use to describe a situation that encourages an economic actor (such as a corporation) to behave unethically by shielding that actor from the consequences of that behavior….

(16) BAH, HUMBUG! In the Washington Post, Will Oremus notes that, despite all the hype, the metaverse does not exist and “what does exist is an idea, an explosion of hype, and a bevy of rival apps and platforms seeking to capitalize on both.” “Facebook’s ‘Horizon Worlds’ isn’t the metaverse. The metaverse doesn’t exist”.

… In the two months since Facebook’s announcement, the term “metaverse” has taken off. A search of the Factiva database finds that it has appeared in more than 12,000 English-languagenews articles in the past two months, after appearing in fewer than 4,000 in the first nine months of 2021 — and fewer than 400 in any prior year. (Not surprisingly, Facebook was by far the most commonly mentioned company in those articles, with nearly 10 times as many appearances as the next most-mentioned firm, Microsoft.) Google Trends, meanwhile, shows that searches for the word have spiked roughly twentyfold since mid-October.

Many of those stories treat the metaverse as if it were a fait accompli — a real thing, like the World Wide Web or social media. After all, the metaverse has to exist in order to get married there, right?…

(17) CROWDFUNDED ANTHOLOGY ARRIVES. Vital: The Future of Healthcare, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and medicine, was released December 31. Contributing authors include Tananarive Due, David Brin, James Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline M. Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, Justin C. Key, Sally Wiener Grotta. Congyun (“Mu Ming”) Gu, Julie Novácová, and Lola Robles.

“Vital: The Future of Healthcare” is published by Inlandia Institute, a literary non-profit serving inland Southern California. Paperback and e-Book editions are available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Bookshop, and elsewhere.

Net proceeds will be donated to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO), a global leader coordinating the worldwide pandemic response. 

The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose, editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real-life challenges during the pandemic and declarations of racism as a public health crisis. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose. “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.” 

(18) CHEER UP! In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri looks at all the bad things that didn’t happen in 2021: we didn’t see any ghosts! “Some things that didn’t go wrong in 2021”.

… The ice at the North Pole did not melt and release the Unspeakable, Nameless Thing that has been trapped there for a thousand generations, which did not begin slithering on its hideous belly toward civilization, unhinging the minds of everyone who encountered it and leaving only devastation in its wake….

(19) 2022 IN SPACE. BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science wonders, “A new space age?”

Dr Kevin Fong convenes a panel of astronautical minds to discuss the next decade or two of space exploration.

…2022 promises even more. Most significantly NASA plans to launch the first mission of its Artemis programme. This will be an uncrewed flight of its new deep space vehicle Orion to the Moon, propelled off the Earth by its new giant rocket, the Space Launch System. Artemis is the American space agency’s project to return astronauts to the lunar surface and later establish moon bases. China has a similar ambition.

Are we at the beginning of a new space age and if so, how have we got here? When will we see boots on the Moon again? Could we even see the first people on Mars by the end of this decade? Even in cautious NASA, some are optimistic about this.

Kevin’s three guests are: Dr Mike Barratt, one of NASA’s most senior astronauts and a medical doctor, based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; Dr Anita Sengupta, Research Associate Professor in Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California; Oliver Morton, Briefings editor at The Economist and the author of ‘Mapping Mars’ and ‘The Moon’

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Mario Party Superstars,” Fandom Games says this compilation of bits from other Mario Party games is “extra dough from stuff you left in your garage” when the original Mario Party came out in the 1990s but the game is still “the best way to avoid a real conversation at a party.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Hampus Eckerman, Andrew (not Werdna), SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/21 Snoopy’s Scrollmas

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2022 cover art by Kent Bash illustrates “Animale Dei Morti” by Nick DiChario. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder says the issue has just been printed and will be distributed soon.

(2) PEN LONGLISTS. The 2022 PEN America Literary Awards Longlists announcement shows these titles are up for the Pen/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000):

For a work that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience.

  • The Memory Thief: And the Secrets Behind What We Remember — A Medical MysteryLauren Aguirre (Pegasus Books)
  • This Is the VoiceJohn Colapinto (Simon & Schuster)
  • Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s WaterwaysTyler J. Kelley (Avid Reader Press)
  • Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond EarthAvi Loeb (Mariner Books)
  • The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams DeferredChanda Prescod-Weinstein (Bold Type Books)
  • Fox & I: An Uncommon FriendshipCatherine Raven (Spiegel & Grau)
  • Second Nature: Scenes from a World RemadeNathaniel Rich (MCD)
  • Count Down: How Our Modern World is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human RaceShanna H. Swan (Scribner)
  • Believers: Making a Life at the End of the WorldLisa Wells (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be AliveCarl Zimmer (Dutton Books)

The Judges are: Jonathan Safran Foer, Michele Harper, and Lauren Redniss.

(3) WILL THEY REWRITE THE SENTENCE? Updating a story being followed here because Courtney Milan said she’d been on the jury: “Trucker’s 110-year sentence in fatal Colorado crash to be reviewed after outcry” in the Sacramento Bee.

Following an outcry by millions of people, including Kim Kardashian, Colorado prosecutors have filed a motion seeking for a second look at the 110-year prison sentence of a trucker convicted in a fatal 2019 crash.

“As Colorado law required the imposition of the sentence in this case, the law also permits the Court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” the motion filed by the Colorado First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The motion says the court can review its sentence of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos based on new reports.

The move comes after more than 4.5 million people signed a Change.org petition asking Gov. Jared Polis to commute Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence….

(4) FRESH TRACKS. The Mary Sues have released a new album, Laser Printed Heroes. Hear all the tracks, including “A Thousand Lives” on Soundcloud. Band member Carol Dashiell – my daughter’s aunt! – told Facebook followers:

I’m super proud of this, it’s been a labor of love for a long time. Two of the songs are originals by Stu Venable (who also did our sound), plus some covers from various geeky properties, like Portal, The Witcher, Outlander, and others!

I’ve put the link the the comments so we don’t get throttled by Facebook, I hope you’ll check it out!

And if you like our album art, thank Sam Balcomb, who is a genius.

(5) REMEMBERING A FORGOTTEN CLASSIC. A new version of the original adventure game by Thomas M. Disch. Amnesia, a cult classic published by Electronic Arts 1986, is now available on the web for contemporary computers: AMNESIA : Restored.

Amnesia was envisioned as “bookware”—that is, a new kind of environment created specifically for the personal computer. Its two 5.25-inch floppy disks were packaged in a booklike folio that, when opened, resembled a newspaper with the author’s bio and game information presented as news about NYC. The game was also bundled with a 18-page manual, a command summary, map of Manhattan, x-street indexer, registration mailer, and newsletter subscription postcard.

When writing AMNESIA, Disch, an accomplished novelist, experimented with storytelling for the, then, new electronic environment. His 400-page manuscript laid out a narrative game that offers players 10 different endings. One sees players living out their days on a sheep station in Australia with a wife and a house full of children. In another, players are found guilty of a crime they do not remember committing and are given the choice of committing suicide or facing a firing squad. In some cases, they are allowed to meet St. Peter and provide the correct information about their identity to enter heaven. Depending on players’ ability to solve the puzzle, they may never leave The Sunderland Hotel. But if they are persistent, they get to explore the streets and places of NYC in search of who they really are….

(6) DECLINE BUT NOT FALL. John Crowley writes about “Learning to live with my aging mind in “The Old Imperium” at Harper’s.

…In July 2016, after taking the battery of tests that constitutes a neuropsychological evaluation, I was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Some months before then, my wife, L., had begun to notice and point out to me some signs: wrong word choices or failures to come up with a common name began to happen more than occasionally. Then came instances of fumbled choices or misunderstandings in daily activities. Some of these incurred serious if momentary risks. L. was puzzled. I wasn’t in denial about these incidents; I was, though, in a state of disbelief. Each one could be dismissed as random; I could perceive no pattern; it seemed that my thought processes remained sound. I was also pestered by the sort of slips that unnerve the old and can seem comical to the young and the unimpaired—forgetting where the car is parked, opening the closet or refrigerator door and standing immobile, unable to remember what was wanted, often something not kept there. I was seventy-two years old, and it became clear that I needed help. My wise doctor—my primary care provider—found my symptoms as I described them doubtful as indications of impaired cognition, but agreed to prescribe a neuropsychological evaluation, to create a baseline against which future tests, if needed, could be compared…

He spends several paragraphs discussing what it was like to take the tests.

(7) DSC 60. DeepSouthCon 60 will be held in Huntsville, AL from October 21-23, 2022. Our Mike Kennedy and Sam Smith are co-chairs.

  • Master of Ceremonies: Norman Cates, Co-Chair, 2020 New Zealand WorldCon, the first Virtual WorldCon
  • Fan Guest of Honor: Bill Plott, who attended DSC 1, at David Hulan’s house, in Huntsville Alabama

Both Norman and Bill will be appearing in person.

(8) THE FLOW. Rich Horton reviews “A Newly Discovered Avram Davidson Novel: Beer! Beer! Beer! for his blog, Strange at Ecbatan.

… In among Davidson’s papers there were some completely or nearly completed pieces — for instance an account of a trip to Belize — and at least one novel. This novel has now been published, by Seth Davis’ imprint Or All the Seas With Oysters Publishing. Seth was kind enough to send me a copy.

This novel is set in Yokums, NY, in 1930. (Yokums, of course, is a stand-in for Yonkers.) In one sense it is a fictionalized retelling of a locally famous incident: a sewer-cleaning crew encountered a mysterious rubber pipe — and from its open end beer came pouring out….

(9) RINGING IN THE MILLENNIUM. The New York Times traces “How ‘Lord of the Rings’ Became ‘Star Wars’ for Millennial Women”.

…For a certain subset of Millennial women, the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy occupies the same role that “Star Wars” might for those who grew up from the late ’70s into the ’80s: It’s become a treasured part of the comfort-watch genre for women in their late 20s and 30s.

In the years after the films came out, rewatching them felt like a ritual only my sister and I observed. (My parents saw them with us in theaters, then never watched them again.) Through college, I met the occasional “Lord of the Rings” girl — a few friends in graduate school, and strangers on drunken nights out. And, of course, there were the memes and the accompanying meme accounts.

Then a few years ago, I began to notice the articles on The Cut and elsewhere. “What of the Boromir Woman?” “I’m Always Horny for Sauron.” “The Greatest Christmas Movie Is ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”

“We all loved ‘Lord of the Rings,’” said Gabriella Paiella, 32, a culture writer for GQ and former staff writer at The Cut. “That definitely did heighten my sense that there was a specifically female interest in these movies that I hadn’t necessarily thought of before because I think the world of ‘Lord of the Rings’ is sort of thought of as a nerdy male interest.”

“I was absolutely obsessed with reading gay hobbit erotica,” said one fan, Chelsea McCurdy.Chelsea McCurdy

Jokes and memes remained a fantastic way fans could bond, but Paiella and other women who came of age in the era of “Lord of the Rings,” say their passion for the movies is much deeper and more emotional. It’s an attachment that grew alongside the films’ most poignant, Howard Shore score-backed moments: “Don’t you know your Sam?” “I know your face” and “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1961 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an Army major – a collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment, we’ll start collecting clues as to the whys, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we’ll only explain it – because this is the Twilight Zone

Sixty years ago this evening, The Twilight Zone‘s “Five Characters In Search of an Exit” first aired on CBS. It was fourteenth episode of the third season. It was written of course by Rod Serling and directed by Lamont Johnson. It was based of Marvin Petal’s “The Depository” short story.  The title, and the story itself, is a variation on Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” play. It’s far more entertaining than you’d think given the source material. 

The premise is that uniformed Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside in a large metal cylinder, where he meets a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown. None of them have any memory of who they are or how they became trapped. 

The cast here is William Windom, Murray Matheson, Susan Harrison, Kelton Garwood, and  Clark Allen. The last shot of the episode, in which the five characters are seen in doll form, does not feature the actors; rather, specially made dolls were crafted that closely resembled the five actors who played the parts, and these are shown. 

All of the Twilight Zone episodes are available on Paramount+. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other than showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 22, 1943 Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So, you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors. Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: ‘We want to test this prototype for maneuverability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.’ Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: ‘When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.’” (Died 2009.)
  • Born December 22, 1954 Hugh Quarshie, 67. First genre role was as Sunda Kastagirin in Highlander followed by being Detective Joyce in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and Lieutenant Obutu In Wing Commander. He’s Captain Quarsh Panaka in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. He’s got a long tv history starting with playing Philostrate in A Midsummer Night’s Dream along with being Professor John Galt in the pilot for The Tomorrow People and Solomon in the Doctor Who episodes of “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 70. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning Who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to include him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics who’s played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series.
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 70. I’ve personally known him for twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer, so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
  • Born December 22, 1955 David S. Goyer, 66. His screenwriting credits includes the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark CityMan of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well, there’s there’s Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForwardConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, KryptonBlade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 59. Perhaps best-known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films that just wrapped up starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann, 43. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. The Affinity Bridge, the first in Newbury & Hobbes series, was nominated for a Sidewise Award. The Revenant Express is his latest novel.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton suggests Macanudo could be interpreted as evidence that maybe Chewbacca wasn’t along for the Kessel Run!

(13) A NEW BROOM SWEEPS CLEAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says that quidditch leagues are changing the name of the sport because of their views on J.K. Rowling’s comments on transgendered people and to  avoid the trademark Warner Bros. has on “quidditch,”  but they don’t know what the new name will be or how to attract people to the sport without a Harry Potter connection. “Quidditch’s new name might teach J.K. Rowling a surprising lesson”.

…US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch declared last week that they would change their names — partly because they believe ditching the trademark will allow the sport to expand, and partly because they believe ditching its inventor will avoid any nasty association with her public bigotry.

The move is meaningful and meaningless at the same time — and could show Rowling what she’s been missing all along. But let’s back up a second to help out those who can’t tell a bludger from a quaffle. (Ouch.)

Quidditch is the made-up sport of Rowling’s universe, in which witches and wizards fly around on brooms hurling some balls into hoops, hitting other balls with bats at other players, and trying to snatch one last little winged golden ball out of the air. Quidditch is also the real-life version of that sport, in which decidedly non-magical humans run around with brooms between their legs, hurling slightly deflated volleyballs into hoops and slightly deflated dodgeballs at opponents, and trying to snatch a tennis ball dangling in a sock from someone’s shorts….

(14) TOP TV. The New York Times television critics named “The Best TV Episodes of 2021”. They picked a number of episodes from genre programs – here are two examples.

Love, Death & Robots’ (Netflix)

‘The Drowned Giant’

In just 13 minutes, this elegant short about a giant’s corpse that washes up on a beach one day captures, in a perfect snapshot, humanity’s tendency to desecrate marvels, to behold a world-changing event and decide simply to carry on. Based on a short story by J.G. Ballard, “The Drowned Giant” is rendered here in mostly realistic animation, with the giant’s clean-shaven cheeks, tidy fingernails and muscular chest shown in aching detail. In an era when so many shows just blend together, this episode stands out for its light touch and sad imagination. (Streaming on Netflix.) MARGARET LYONS

‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (FX)

‘Casino’

“Shadows” is one of the funniest shows on TV right now, and “Casino,” where the gang heads to Atlantic City, was my favorite episode this season. Nandor (Kayvan Novak) becomes entranced by a “Big Bang Theory” slot machine — “‘bazinga’ is the war cry of Sheldon,” he explains — and in perfect, cascading horror, this leads to the total dissolution of his understanding of the universe. “Shadows” is its best when the vampires’ grandiosity clashes with their vulnerabilities, especially their excitability, and I’ll never see another in-house ad on a hotel TV without thinking that it’s Colin Robinson’s favorite show. (Streaming on Hulu.) MARGARET LYONS

(15) BEST BAD GUYS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna and David Betancourt dsicuss their six favorite Spider-Man villains, in a spoiler-filled article. “Top 6 Spider-Man movie villains ranked, from Electro to Green Goblin”.

[The latest film’s] Lizard, Rhino and Harry Osborn’s New Goblin, among others, can’t crack our list — keep trying, fellas. Here are our top six villains across this Spider-Man franchise’s eight live-action solo movies….

(16) AI: A FUTURE FOR HUMANS. BBC Radio 4 concludes the annual Reith Lectures series, “Stuart Russell – Living With Artificial Intelligence”, with the fourth and final episode now online here

Stuart Russell suggests a way forward for human control over super-powerful Artificial Intelligence. He argues for the abandonment of the current “standard model” of AI, proposing instead a new model based on three principles – chief among them the idea that machines should know that they don’t know what humans’ true objectives are.

Echoes of the new model are already found in phenomena as diverse as menus, market research, and democracy. Machines designed according to the new model would be, Russell suggests, deferential to humans, cautious and minimally invasive in their behaviour and, crucially, willing to be switched off. He will conclude by exploring further the consequences of success in AI for our future as a species.

Stuart Russell is Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley.

(17) DRONES, GUNS, AND BOMBS THAT CALL THEIR OWN SHOTS. “Killer Robots Aren’t Science Fiction. A Push to Ban Them Is Growing” reports the New York Times.

It may have seemed like an obscure United Nations conclave, but a meeting this week in Geneva was followed intently by experts in artificial intelligence, military strategy, disarmament and humanitarian law.

The reason for the interest? Killer robots — drones, guns and bombs that decide on their own, with artificial brains, whether to attack and kill — and what should be done, if anything, to regulate or ban them.

Once the domain of science fiction films like the “Terminator” series and “RoboCop,” killer robots, more technically known as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, have been invented and tested at an accelerated pace with little oversight. Some prototypes have even been used in actual conflicts.

The evolution of these machines is considered a potentially seismic event in warfare, akin to the invention of gunpowder and nuclear bombs.

This year, for the first time, a majority of the 125 nations that belong to an agreement called the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, or C.C.W., said they wanted curbs on killer robots. But they were opposed by members that are developing these weapons, most notably the United States and Russia.

The group’s conference concluded on Friday with only a vague statement about considering possible measures acceptable to all. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a disarmament group, said the outcome fell “drastically short.”

(18) MAKE IT SO. Learn “How to Pronounce ‘Omicron’ the Star Trek Way”.

(19) A HOLE IN ONE. PBS Space Time host Matt O’Dowd asks “What Happens If A Black Hole Hits Earth?”

The possibility that a black hole could actually impact Earth may seem straight out of science fiction, but the reality is that microscopic primordial black holes could actually hit Earth. If one did, it wouldn’t just impact like an asteroid, it’d pass straight through the entire Earth and exit the other side. Perhaps craziest of all, this may have already happened!

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

2021 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

The 2021 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award honoree is D.G. Compton. The selection was announced this weekend at Readercon 31.

Compton’s 1970 novel The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award, and his 1974 novel The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe was filmed as Death Watch by Bertrand Tavernier in 1979. His 1980 novel Ascendancies was on the “100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels” list created by Stephen E. Andrews and Nick Rennison in 2006.  He was named a SFWA Author Emeritus in 2007.

D.G. Compton

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award has been given annually since 2001 by the Cordwainer Smith Foundation, preserving the memory of science-fiction writer Paul Linebarger, who wrote under that pen name. The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award honors under-read science fiction and fantasy authors with the intention of drawing renewed attention to the winners.

The award is presented at Readercon, and is sponsored by Paul Linebarger’s estate, represented by B. Diane Martin.

The 2021 jury consisted of  Steven H Silver, Richard Horton, and Grant Thiessen. See the award discussion they did for Readercon on YouTube.

Pixel Scroll 5/27/21 We Sell Mobius Scrolls, In Klein Bottles

(1) SUPPORT THE OTHERWISE AWARD. The Otherwise Award benefit auction will be online Saturday night May 29 at 7:00 p.m. Central, as part of WisCon’s online festivities: “The Otherwise Auction? In MY Visioning WisCon?” The fun for everyone will include a custom crossword puzzle with Otherwise-related clues. Register here to join them May 29 & 30 at Visioning WisCon.

The Otherwise Auction supports the Otherwise Award, and it’s always a good time — famed Otherwise auctioneer Sumana Harihareswara will be reprising her role. As Otherwise Award Motherboard member Pat Murphy says:

“Last year, Sumana’s online auction was amazing, compelling, and impossible to describe. I’m a science fiction writer; I should be able to describe just about anything. But somehow Sumana managed to auction off things that didn’t actually exist but were (despite that) real. It was one of those “you had to be there” events — even though none of us were actually there.

“This year Sumana promises that there will actually be some physical things that people can buy and possess — along with a custom crossword puzzle with Otherwise-related clues. Just a few tangible objects and a lot of intangible fun — which seems appropriate as we slowly ease back into the physical world.”

Unlike last year, we’ll be using actual money for this auction. (If you have no idea what we’re talking about, ignore this whole paragraph! You never saw us, we were never here.)

The auction will start at 7pm Central on Saturday night (5/29), and will end when Sumana says it’s over. We’re really excited to have a chance to support the Otherwise Award, even without an in-person convention this year, and to have fun doing it!

(2) FROM SOAP TO SPACE. Rich Horton calls back to his 2014 anthology by that name in “Space Opera: Then and Now” at Strange at Ecbatan.

The term space opera was coined by the late great writer/fan Wilson (Bob) Tucker in 1941, and at first was strictly pejorative. Tucker used the term, analogous to radio soap operas, for “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn[s].” The term remained largely pejorative until at least the 1970s. Even so, much work that would now be called space opera was written and widely admired in that period . . . most obviously, perhaps, the work of writers like Edmond Hamilton and, of course, E. E. “Doc” Smith. To be sure, even as people admired Hamilton and Smith, they tended to do so with a bit of disparagement: these were perhaps fun, but they weren’t “serious.” They were classic examples of guilty pleasures. That said, stories by the likes of Poul Anderson, James Schmitz, James Blish, Jack Vance, and Cordwainer Smith, among others, also fit the parameters of space opera and yet received wide praise.

It may have been Brian Aldiss who began the rehabilitation of the term with a series of anthologies in the mid 1970s: Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1974), and Galactic Empires (two volumes, 1976). Aldiss, whose literary credentials were beyond reproach, celebrated pure quill space opera as “the good old stuff,” even resurrecting all but forgotten stories like Alfred Coppel’s “The Rebel of Valkyr,” complete with barbarians transporting horses in spaceship holds.

(3) IZUMI SUZUKI. Lex Berman interviews Daniel Joseph about Terminal Boredom, the first anthology of Izumi Suzuki’s science fiction to appear in English for the Diamond Bay Radio podcast.

The author, Izumi Suzuki, who committed suicide in 1986, wrote science fiction to project her own experience of the drug-fueled Japanese counter-culture into fantastic realms and situations. 

Is it nihilism? Is it true love? Is it an altered consciousness critique of the mundane world? Yeah.

“‘How long are you planning on staying on this planet?’ asks CHAIR after about half an hour has passed. ‘I want to stay here forever.’ ‘Everyone says that, dear. But you can’t, can you? You have to live your life. You have to cook, clean, look after the kids when they’re sick. You have to go out to work.’ ‘Why do I have to keep on living that life?’ ‘Well, I’m not sure why.’ Her voice strikes a gentler chord, all of a sudden. And I repeat that phrase in my head. ‘I’m not sure why.’ I fluff my pillow, turn off the lights, and chant a spell. Sleep, sleep. Make the world disappear…”

(4) NEW FANTASY TRILOGY. “Q & A with Victoria Aveyard” at Publishers Weekly.

Victoria Aveyard’s dystopian fantasy debut, Red Queen, launched a hit series and landed on bestseller lists in its first week of publication. Aveyard is hoping for a repeat performance with Realm Breaker, a YA high fantasy that marks the start of a trilogy….

Was it challenging to incorporate adult perspectives into a YA story?

The key is—and I think this is the hallmark of the YA genre—that all of your characters are figuring out who they are. While that is usually something that happens when you’re a young adult, that isn’t always the case. You have adults who discover who they are much later in life—in the case of some of these characters, hundreds and hundreds of years in. They are, compared to some people, kind of young adults themselves. So that was a fun dichotomy to play with—that trope of the all-knowing immortal who’s actually kind of a dummy when it comes to the real world…

(5) CONDUITS OF POWER. “Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’ and ‘Fledgling,’ Reviewed: She Wanted to Write a ‘Yes’ Book” explains The New Republic’s Stephanie Burt.

…“I began writing about power,” Butler once said, “because I had so little.” Hannah Arendt’s distinction between power and violence—the first a tacit cooperation or compact, the second mere force—makes no sense in the world of Kindred, nor in most of Butler’s worlds: Consent, political, legal, or sexual, is at best contingent and suspect, at worst nonsensical. We did not, could not, consent to our own existence beforehand: We are born into the country that we get—for 330 million of us, the United States—not a country we chose in advance. It is a country founded on anti-Blackness, on white supremacy, on what that very un-American thinker Michel Foucault called biopower, the use of knowledge and law and information not to create free or equal individuals but as a channel for force….

(6) DOES IT BITE? WE’LL NEVER KNOW. Here’s the New York Times’ take on Steinbeck’s unpublished werewolf book: “Yes, Steinbeck Wrote a Werewolf Novel. Don’t Expect to Read It.”

…“I was expecting a fragmented, bizarre, incomplete work,” Professor Jones said.

Instead he found a coherent, completed 233-page manuscript. “It’s a potboiler, but it’s also the caldron of central themes we see throughout Steinbeck’s later work,” he said. For this reason, he believes it’s worth sharing with the public.

His campaign prompted a firm email statement from Steinbeck’s agents this week.

“Steinbeck wrote ‘Murder at Full Moon’ under a pseudonym, and once he became an established author, he did not choose to seek publication of this work,” a representative of the New York-based agency, McIntosh & Otis, wrote. “There are several other works written by Steinbeck that have been posthumously published, with his directions and the careful consideration of the Estate. As longtime agents for Steinbeck and the Estate, we do not exploit works that the author did not wish to be published.”

The pseudonym Steinbeck chose was Peter Pym. Professor Jones said the use of the name did not mean Steinbeck had not wanted the book to see the light of day. The author did not get rid of the manuscript, something he had done with other unpublished works, the professor noted.

“He didn’t destroy ‘Murder at Full Moon,’” he said.

Steinbeck wrote the story in nine days, according to William Souder, who wrote the biography “Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck.”

The writer was 28 in 1930, living in a cottage in Pacific Grove, near Monterey, Calif., hoping for his big break. The year before, he had published his first book, “Cup of Gold,” a swashbuckling pirate adventure set in the Caribbean in the 1600s. Though it received better than expected reviews, it was already out of print, Mr. Souder said.

Steinbeck had written more serious books but had not had any luck selling them. He told a friend that all he needed was another 10 or so rejections to become convinced that he should give up on writing….

(7) HARDWARE INVENTORY. Book Riot’s Jenn Northington has compiled “A Guide To The Fantasy And Science Fiction Awards Scene”.

… These have been organized by date first awarded, from most recent on, since many of these prizes have been around for decades and I wanted to show some love to the new folks on the scene. 

Before we dive in, may I also present: Jenn’s Theory Of Why To Care About Awards. Let’s start with a given: all awards, no matter their voting system, are inherently subjective and biased. Whether it’s decided by a public popularity contest, a committee, or a single judge, literary merit is in the eye of the beholder. A book that has won science fiction or fantasy awards isn’t guaranteed to be great (for you) and a book that hasn’t won an award isn’t guaranteed to be a dud (for you). To quote S.R. Ranganathan: “Every book its reader.” So why should we care?…

By the time Northington finishes all the caveats, you may be talked out of reading the list.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 27, 1996 — On this date in 1996, Doctor Who premiered on BBC. The film involving the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann that is. Short of The War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, he would have the briefest tenure of any Doctor from a video representation viewpoint having just the film and a short video later on. (He has done some seventy Big Finish audio stories to date.) The film was directed by Geoffrey Sax off the screenplay by Matthew Jacobs. The remaining cast of importance was Daphne Ashbrook as the Companion to the Doctor, Dr. Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts as The Master. Critics, American and British alike, were decidedly mixed on their reactions, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are equally divided and give it exactly a fifty percent rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 — Dashiell Hammett. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time, but ISFDB says that he was also the editor of three genre anthologies, Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills, The Red Brain and Other Creepy Thrillers and Breakdown and Other Thrillers with writers such as Frank Bellnap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, it certainly looks that way. ISFDB also says one Continental Op story, “The Farewell Murder,” is at genre adj. (Died 1962.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1911 — Vincent  Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “The House of Horrors“ sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs which you can see here. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born May 27, 1918 — Robert C. Stanley. He was one of the most two prolific paperback book cover artists used by the Dell Publishing Company for whom he worked from 1950 to 1959. Among the covers he did was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue and Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1922 — Christopher  Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1900 – Rudolph Belarski.  Virtuoso at air-combat magazine covers; five dozen covers for us; interiors too.  Here is one from 1955.  Here is a 2018 reprint.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1915 – Herman Wouk.  (Pronounced “woke”.)  Gag man for Fred Allen; Pulitzer Prize; four honorary doctorates.  Besides The “Caine” Mutiny, his masterpiece Marjorie MorningstarThe Winds of War and War and Remembrance, he wrote the fine SF novel A Hole in Texas.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1929 – Burnett Toskey, age 91.  Among the Nameless Ones of Seattle.  Edited several Cry of the Nameless issues.  Made Official Editor of SAPS (Spectator Amateur Press Society) in 1968; moved to Los Angeles; OE off and on since.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1930 – John Barth, age 91.  Fellow of Am. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Lannan Award for lifetime achievement.  National Book Award.  The Floating Opera is only strange (it won the Roozi Rozegari at Teheran for best translated novel, also strange); The Sot-Weed Factor could perhaps be called historical fiction; by Giles Goat-Boy he was doing SF.  Heinlein compared Stranger in a Strange Land to it.  In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor a man jumps overboard from a reconstructed Arab ship and finds himself in the world of Sindbad.  Nor was that all.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1934 — Harlan Ellison. He was a SFWA Grandmaster, member of the SF Hall of Fame, and winner of eight other life achievement awards. His short story “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” is the second-highest ranked of the 102 Top SF/F/H Short Stories listed at Science Fiction Awards Database. Ellison wrote the most famous episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, “The City on the Edge of Forever” (setting aside the backstory about Roddenberry and others who had a hand in the broadcast version). His Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions anthologies were milestones, while Last Dangerous Visions was a millstone around his neck because it never appeared. Further harming his reputation, he groped Connie Willis during the 2006 Hugos. He won 8 Hugos, 4 Nebulas, 2 World Fantasy Awards, 6 Bram Stoker Awards and 18 Locus Awards. But there were lighter moments, like this 30-second clip of Harlan as himself conversing with “H.P. Hatecraft” in the Scooby-Doo episode “Shrieking Madness.” (Died 2018.) (OGH)
  • Born May 27, 1940 – Jackie Causgrove.  Prominent fan in the U.S. Midwest, then Southern California.  For Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck she did the Knight of Cups; each card by a leading fan or pro (or both) artist of the day, styles quite various; see the whole deck here (PDF; scroll down to Cups; you can get a deck from Elayne Pelz, or if you don’t know how to do that, write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057).  With Bruce Gillespie, administered the Tucker Fund that sent Bob Tucker to Aussiecon I the 33rd Worldcon.  One of her fanzines (as J. Franke) was Dilemma, illustrated by her; see here.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chambanacon 5, Confusion Pi.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1971 – Vilma Kadleckova, age 50.  (The character after the should have a little over it for the sound of ch in English “church”.)  A dozen SF novels and shorter stories, half a dozen local prizes.  Four novels so far in her Mycelium series; the first two won Book of the Year and Original Czech/Slovak Book from the SFFH Acad. in Prague; second and third available in English.  In Vector 166, contributed “The View from Olympus” with Carola Biedermann and Eva Hauser.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Carpe Diem shows Vader doing a good deed.
  • The Flying McCoys illustrates one of the seven deadly sins, which this character presumably does all of sooner or later.

(11) SEKRIT MESSAGE IN HUGO EMAIL. Andrew Porter clued me into the presence of an invisible last line in the email DisCon III sent to members today announcing the opening of Hugo voting. I found it in mine. Check it out.

(12) THE SOLUTION. What to do when there’s not enough of the stories you want to read? “The Big Idea: Christian Klaver” at Whatever.

The Big Idea: We needed more Narnia.

Shadows Over London was born out of reading to my daughter before bedtime. Katie was five or six at that time, and destined to become a voracious reader. (She’s just this month finished her Masters in Library Science.) I was just getting divorced at the time and had Katie every weekend, but not during the week, so we did chapter one of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or “The Lucy Book,” as she dubbed it, the first night. Then chapter two the second, but then she had to wait five days to get chapters three and four.

She loved the first and second installments, but this had a very short duration for two reasons:  Reason #1: It was really only the first three books. Try explaining to a child that age that the “Lucy Books” didn’t have Lucy in them after book three! She wanted to know why and I had no answer that didn’t fall flat. Even the second book: Prince Caspian has a long stretch without the main characters. (Don’t even get me started about the alternate order for these! That just makes it worse, in terms of storytelling.) Reason #2: while we were still in books 1-3, of which we had copies at both her mother’s house and mine, she couldn’t resist and read by herself during the week, so we finished those first three that first month.

So, the first chapter of Shadows Over London, complete with serene, crunchy snow and a Faerie King waiting underneath moonbeams slanting through darkened trees, all came from trying to write something that felt as magical as Narnia did…

(13) YA CHALLENGES. The Rite Gud podcast discusses “Writing for Young Audiences with Celine Kiernan”.

“If someone is mad enough to publish my weird shit, I am going to do my utmost to be a little bit more complex.”

In this episode, middle grade horror/fantasy author Celine Kiernan joins us to talk about writing fiction for young people. How do you handle dark, difficult topics? How do you fight the censors? How do you bridge the generation gap between author and audience? How do you temper your language for inexperienced readers? What do writers owe young people? What does it mean to exploit your audience?

Celine Kiernan is the author of The Moorehawk TrilogyInto the GreyResonance, and The Wild Magic Trilogy. She is also a freelance editor. She lives in Ireland.

(14) THE LAWS OF PHYSICS AREN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA, DARN IT. The Atlantic says “If Aliens Are Out There, They’re Way Out There”.

…This is real; the videos are real; UFOs, in the most basic sense, are real. The military has spotted objects flying in the sky, and it has not identified what they are. These objects, whatever you want to call them, are worth close examination. But there’s no reason to think they’re alien.

Why not? Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University, gets this question a lot, especially recently. Wright works in the field of SETI—the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. His job is to look for signs of alien technology, so it seems logical that he might have some thoughts on UFOs and their rumored extraterrestrial origins. But ufology and SETI are two entirely different fields.

SETI operates on the principle that extraterrestrials follow the laws of physics as we know them, but what makes these UFO videos so enticing is precisely the opposite—whatever is captured in them seems to be moving in a way that appears to defy those exact laws. Guided by known physics, SETI astronomers look for aliens deep in space, rather than in the clouds overhead—because if the truth is out there, it’s way, way out there, around stars many light-years away. Even after decades of research, the SETI community has yet to find evidence of aliens, probably for the same reason that extraterrestrial beings, should they exist, would be unlikely to visit our planet—the space between stars, let alone galaxies, is unfathomably vast. And astronomers are just starting to understand the planets around other stars. “Every star could have an intelligent, technological civilization like Earth and we wouldn’t know it,” Wright told me. He sees no problem with the desire to better understand our airspace and investigate unexplained phenomena, “but why drag astronomers into it?”

Perhaps because the alternatives to aliens are much more boring.

(15) LIFTOFF. Watch video of the launch at USA Today: “SpaceX launches more broadband satellites”.

SpaceX has launched another fleet of Starlink broadband satellites into orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket with 60 satellites took off from Florida on Wednesday (May 26)

(16) ARE HUMANS BUILT FOR THIS ADVENTURE? Gloomy predictions about space travel from Future Tense at Slate: “Deep-space human travel is a lose-lose proposition”.

… Then there’s sleep. Between 2007 and 2011 the European Space Agency worked with Russia to simulate the conditions of a trip to Mars, particularly as a psychological isolation experiment. Called Mars500, the longest part of this study ran between 2010 and 2011, and revealed a significant degradation of the simulacral explorers’ sleep patterns. While on wide-body airliners, a business class cocoon seat can deliver comfort (and even luxury) during an overnight flight, such ergonomic palliatives won’t be as easy for a yearlong journey. Space travel to Mars is supposed to be a bold and daring adventure. But what if it ends up feeling more like a superlong red-eye flight?

For years, Musk has compared his rockets to airliners, using the familiar sizes and thrust capacities of Boeing 737s and 747s as reference points for his future-bound ships. These comparisons circulate on social media, by way of making SpaceX craft both more graspable and more impressive. But the analogies are telling. As much as the goal is to reduce the time of feeling trapped inside a cramped cabin, the endgame is in fact more of this time. And let’s be honest: A hab on Mars is not going to be a whole lot more spacious than the interior of the ship.

If the dream of space travel involves new horizons and feelings of unbound freedom—to explore, to discover, to spread humanity—a nightmare lurks just around the corner of consciousness. There will be no real “arrival” on this fantasy trip: It’s enclosures and pressurized chambers all the way down. When it comes to human space travel, the destination really is the journey. And the journey will be long, and claustrophobic. As far as “quarantine” goes, spacefaring may feel familiar to those who lived through the COVID pandemic—and certain survival tactics may crossover.

Musk wants to send humans to Mars (and beyond) because he believes that the species is doomed on Earth, sooner or later. This bleak assessment belies two haunting presuppositions: The miserable masses will wither on a climate-scorched and ecologically damaged planet back home; meanwhile, the spacefaring select will find themselves in a whole new purgatory of cramped isolation, en route and wherever they “land.”…

(17) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon is insidious, Alison Scott is simmering, and Liz Batty was on committees in Episode 32 of Octothorpe: “Maybe This Conversation Can Go Down a Vortex”.

We discuss letters of comment, and then the BSFA and SFF, before moving onto <checks notes> new-fangled publications called fanzines.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Watch as “Zack Snyder Directs A Dark, Gritty Reboot Of The Late Show”. The Hollywood Reporter provides the warm-up.

…For Colbert’s monologue, Snyder says he was hoping to deliver what Zack Snyder fans have been “demanding for years… Another classic Zack Snyder slow-motion shot.” To offer some action, Snyder threw a knife at the late-night host, which was filmed in slow-motion. “Directing is all about keeping talent out of their comfort zone,” Snyder said, with Colbert adding that a lot of blood was lost that day.

When considering “Zack Snyder leads,” Colbert says he was “flattered” for Snyder to help him given the director works with leading men considered to be “Gods among mortals.”

Because Colbert “fills out his clothes like lentils fill out a sandwich bag,” Snyder explains that he enlisted an “elite Hollywood personal trainer” to help Colbert in his fitness regimen but it ended with “unbelievable” results such as actually losing muscle mass….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Joel Zakem, Mlex, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Sumana Harihareswara, R.S. Benedict, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answer: SKRULL 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confused? You will be! Watch and learn below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The YouTube intro says —

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

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