Pixel Scroll 9/18/22 Scrolling Pixels In The Park

(1) HE KEPT IT UNDER HIS HAT. Rob Wilkins, who assisted Terry Pratchett for many years, writes a long profile about him for the Guardian: “’I think I was good, though I could have been better’: Terry Pratchett and the writing of his life”. “After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the Discworld author began an autobiography. He never finished it, but seven years after his death, his long-time assistant has taken up the task.”

…Terry also had strong and, some might even say, puritanical ideas about how much money he should accept in advance of a book’s publication. If he couldn’t be confident that the advance would earn itself out inside three years and that the book would go into profit and yield royalties, he refused to accept it. At one point, for example, Transworld offered Terry £125,000 for a book. This was in the mid-1990s, when a generous offer for a book of its nature would have been in the region of £25,000, so that six-figure offer was an emphatic demonstration of confidence in Terry’s writing. Colin, naturally, was excited to tell Terry about it. The conversation they had was short and pointed. Colin then found himself ringing Transworld and saying: “I have conveyed your offer to Terry, and I’m afraid he is not at all happy with it … No, he says it’s far too much and he would like me to agree a deal with you for less.”…

(2) THE KICKOFF. Charlie Jane Anders is the new sf/fantasy book reviewer for The Washington Post. Here is her first column: “4 witchy books from the world of science fiction and fantasy”.

When Megan Giddings told her agent she wanted to write a novel about witches, he told her: “If anybody can make them feel new, it’s you.” In the acknowledgments of her new novel, The Women Could Fly” (Amistad),Giddings says she didn’t entirely agree with him that witches feel like a tired subgenre; to her, there’s always room for another take.

Luckily for anyone who feels the same way, a wealth of novels about witches has come out recently — and many of them do feel brand new.

To be sure, many recent witch novels explore timeworn themes: Witches are distrusted and feared and must conceal themselves from the world. But Giddings and other authors also uncover fresh layers to the classic witch tales, exploring the complexity of anti-witch attitudes in an enriching and timely way….

(3) IT’S NOT EVEN THE THING I’M POINTING AT WHEN I SAY ‘FANZINE’.  In “Fan v Pro v Fanzine”, Camestros Felapton ventures into the twisty little maze of passages all alike.

…But seriously, I think the current knot arises out of an unwillingness to redefine what a fanzine is. Functionally, fan artist and fan writer arose out of fanzine culture where fanzine didn’t need a definition. To a lesser degree the mess around semi-prozine arises there as well. There’s an intuitive sense of three grades of platforms were stuff happens: professional, fan and somewhere in between (a labour of love that aspires to be a going concern).

There are many available dimensions but none by themselves capture the essence of the fanzine distinction:

  • profit v non-profit
  • paywall v open access
  • corporate v non-corporate
  • size – number of people involved in the endeavour
  • fiction v non-fiction
  • hobby v “job”
  • weight class – a mix of size, influence and professional demeanour I guess
  • paying writers or not
  • paying staff or not
  • general vibe

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

commercial-corporate v. non-commericial-corporate gets closest to a distinction but not one that I could convert into a sensible set of rules.

Which means that I must circle back to the notion of self-identification as fan or pro. That also has tricky cases (a pro-writer who is a fan artists or vice versa) but if the point is to address the weight-class idea then maybe that is the least problematic pain point to accept. Put another way, if we see the “original sin” of John Scalzi’s* fan writer win not as blogs v print fanzines, not as style of genre question (clearly it was in the genre of fan writing), not as whether he is a real fan (clearly he is), but as a question of whether the voting is distorted because he had a large voting base in the Hugo Awards and major name recognition…then self-identification for the purpose of award eligibility gets at that issue….

(4) AND HE’D DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.  Meanwhile, John Scalzi’s ears are burning.

(5) HWA CELEBRATES LATINX HORROR AUTHORS. The latest entry in the Horror Writers Association blog’s “Latinx Heritage in Horror” series is an “Interview with LP Hernandez”.

What inspired you to start writing?

Reading fueled my love of writing. I was a constant Scholastic Book Fair customer, addicted to the smell of new Goosebumps or Fear Street books. Eventually, I progressed to King, McCammon, and Tolkien. I began writing stories at around nine or ten. I remember corralling my mother in the morning as she attempted to get ready for work, handing her what I knew was going to be a best seller and requesting she read it right there in front of me.

(6) RATED ARRRRH! Do people still do “Talk Like a Pirate Day”? If so, it’s tomorrow, September 19.

(7) UNTRUE GRIT. Brian Murphy shares his appreciation for the Bard books by Keith Taylor: “Under the Spell of Keith Taylor’s Bard Songs” at Goodman Games.

…A characteristic of good sword-and-sorcery is earthiness; even if not set in some ancient age of our own earth, sword-and-sorcery nevertheless is typically gritty, even grimy, in its realism. Joseph McCullough once described sword-and-sorcery with the terse, pithy, “fantasy with dirt.” That works for me.

Over this layer of grit, which serves to ground the reader somewhere recognizable and to spare overly tedious worldbuilding, the skilled sword-and-sorcery writer adds in the fantastic, in small doses. Weird monsters and dark sorcery that feels alien, and dangerous, and when it appears casts its spell upon the reader….

(8) HOUSES DIVIDED. The New York Times explores “How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step”.

…For more than a century, Russia and the Soviet Union sought to weaken their adversaries in the West by inflaming racial and ethnic tensions. In the 1960s, K.G.B. officers based in the United States paid agents to paint swastikas on synagogues and desecrate Jewish cemeteries. They forged racist letters, supposedly from white supremacists, to African diplomats.

They did not invent these social divisions; America already had them. Ladislav Bittman, who worked for the secret police in Czechoslovakia before defecting to the United States, compared Soviet disinformation programs to an evil doctor who expertly diagnoses the patient’s vulnerabilities and exploits them, “prolongs his illness and speeds him to an early grave instead of curing him.”

A decade ago, Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, oversaw a revival of these tactics, seeking to undermine democracies around the world from the shadows.

Social media now provided an easy way to feed ideas into American discourse, something that, for half a century, the K.G.B. had struggled to do. And the Russian government secretly funneled more than $300 million to political parties in more than two dozen countries in an effort to sway their policies in Moscow’s favor since 2014, according to a U.S. intelligence review made public last week.

What effect these intrusions had on American democracy is a question that will be with us for years. It may be unanswerable. Already, social media was amplifying Americans’ political impulses, leaving behind a trail of damaged communities. Already, trust in institutions was declining, and rage was flaring up in public life. These things would have been true without Russian interference.

But to trace the Russian intrusions over the months that followed that first Women’s March is to witness a persistent effort to make all of them worse….

(9) MORE TROLLS WITH OPINIONS. The homegrown trolls are also busy. “The Rings of Power Gets Review Bombed: Amazon Turns Off Ratings”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Where’s a wizard to fight trolls when you need one?

The mega-budget fantasy series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is under fire from some of its viewers. A day after the first two episodes of Amazon’s billion-dollar baby debuted on Prime Video, the show’s average audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is a “rotten” 37 percent, and reviews on Amazon have been outright suspended.

Compare that score to TV critics giving the show a very fresh 83 percent average, and many of the reviews were highly enthusiastic (“It’s great: a gorgeously immersive and grandly ambitious spectacle, packed with stunning imagery and compelling plot threads,” wrote TV Line). The Hollywood Reporter dubbed the first two episodes a rather successful, promising start.

The scores come a couple weeks after Marvel’s She-Hulk was declared review bombed on the site, with 88 percent critics score and an initial 36 percent audience score.

How The Rings of Power is doing on Amazon’s own user review ecosystem is not yet clear because the company has taken the unusual step of suspending user ratings for the show. An Amazon source says reviews are being held 72 hours to help weed out trolls and to ensure each review is legitimate. The source later claimed Prime Video started the policy this summer on all its shows.

“Review bombing” is when a group of online users post numerous negative reviews for a product or service due to its perceived cultural or political issues rather than its actual quality….

(10) HENRY SILVA (1926-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Actor Henry Silva, whose genre rolls include The Manchurian Candidate (well, I think it’s genre), Killer Kane in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the voice of Bane in Batman: The Animated Series, died September 13 at the age of 95.

…“Henry Silva is one of those guys you most likely will recognize even if you don’t know his name,” onetime Crimespree magazine writer Dave Wahlman wrote in 2016. “His face is something straight out of central casting if you were looking for a villain. It alternates between the insipid glee of potential mayhem and looking emotionless and dead as a stone.”

…He went on to make dozens of movies in Europe, the majority of which were in the Italian “poliziotteschi” genre. “Funny thing,” he said in a 1971 interview, “over here they see me as a bad guy; in Europe, they see me as a hero.”… 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] There are series I refuse to rewatch lest the Suck Fairy with her steel toed boots stomps all over it.  The Addams Family series which premiered on this evening fifty-eight years ago on ABC is definitely one of them. I unreservedly loved that series. 

The Los Angeles Times in its obituary of David Levy explained how he came to create the series: “The idea for the series came to Levy when he was strolling with a friend down New York’s 5th Avenue and passed a display of Addams’ books. One, ‘Homebodies,’ showed the entire group of Addams characters in a family portrait on the cover. Levy was stopped in his tracks by the sight and told his friend: ‘There’s a hit series!’”

Now let’s talk about the characters here. Who wasn’t perfect? Be it John Astin as Gomez Addams or Carolyn Jones as his wife Morticia, they played their roles perfectly. And no, I’m certainly not forgetting Wednesday, their child. (Surely the name comes from the English folk poem, Wednesday’s child is full of woe), Uncle Fester or Thing. Not to mention Lurch played oh-so-well by Ted Cassidy. 

It had pets, presaging to a great extent what Lio would have. Aristotle was Pugsley’s pet octopus and Fang was his pet jaguar. Addams Family had a lion called Kitty Kat and they piranhas, Tristan and Isolde. Zelda was their vulture. Morticia had a very large carnivorous plant named Cleopatra and Wednesday has a pet tarantula by the name of Homer.

It didn’t last nearly as long as I thought did — just two seasons totaling sixty-four episodes shot in glorious black and white. 

Halloween with the New Addams Family aired eleven years after the series went off the air with new characters added in. Seven years after the series was cancelled, the animated version of The Addams Family aired for sixteen episodes. It’s notable for a young Jodie Foster voicing Pugsley Addams. Only Jackie Coogan and Ted Cassidy, who played Uncle Fester and Lurch from the series, returned in voice acting roles.

Gold Key Comics produced a comic book series in connection with the show, but it only lasted three issues.

It streams on Amazon and Paramount +. Of course Paramount + owns the Columbia catalog and Columbia produced it.

It has a near perfect ninety-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called by many a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered the first time that an American female writer published an SF story using her real name. (Go ahead, dispute it.) I’m pleased to say that the usual suspects are heavily stocked with her works.  (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1917 June Foray. Voice performer with such roles as Cindy Lou Who, Natasha Fatale and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She also provided the voice of Lucifer the Cat from Disney’s Cinderella. She also did a lot of witches such as Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel which you can hear over here. She was instrumental in the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature twenty years ago. OGH has a most touching remembrance here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 18, 1946 Struan Rodger, 76. He was the Bishop in Stardust, and shows up in the A Discovery of Witches as John Dee. (Loved the novels, skipped the series as I always do.) He voiced the Three-Eyed Raven in The Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and The Rose” and “The Children”.  More interestingly he’s got multiple roles in Doctor Who. First he’s The Voice of The Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories, “New Earth” and “Gridlock”, next he’s Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Women Who Lived” and finally he’s a voice again, that of Kasaavin in “Skyfall, Part One”, a Thirteenth Doctor story. 
  • Born September 18, 1946 Nicholas Clay. Here for playing Lancelot on Excalibur. He did two earlier horror films, The Damned and Terror of Frankenstein, and he was The Prince in Sleeping Beauty. For television work, he’s done The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Hound of the BaskervillesZorroThe New Adventures of Robin HoodVirtual MurderHighlander and Merlin. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 74. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for 13 years) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will have to tell me how it is. Most, if not all, of the Thieves’ World series is available from the usual digital suspects.
  • Born September 18, 1959 Mark Romanek, 63. His first film was Static about a teenager who invents a device he claims can show picture of Heaven. Cult hit in the UK after Robyn Hitchcock prompted it. Never Let Me Go, a film released a decade ago postulated clones whose organs were harvested that made life extension possible in the UK. US reviewers thought it was fact leading it to having a text prologue explaining it was fiction.
  • Born September 18, 1963 Gary Russell, 59. A very prolific director of audio narratives for Big Finish Productions, having done forty-five Doctor Who and related productions, which is to say the Sarah Jane and Bernice Summerfield lines as well. He’s written novels that feature Doctor Who and related characters. He’s written three nonfiction works, two Who related, no surprise there, and one called The Art of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 38. Known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s penned a Witchblade series at Image Comics, and the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) EDGE CASE. “R. Crumb Means Some Offense” is a profile of the iconic comix creator in the New York Times.

…Crumb used to attend comic conventions and book signings, but now he makes very few public appearances. He never really picked up French (he relies on Kominsky-Crumb for that), and his social circle is small. Crumb’s followed in the long line of artists and writers who have exiled themselves from America, but his life abroad feels far more circumscribed than most. He doesn’t even have a cellphone. (At one point, he looks at his wife’s and says earnestly, “It’s listening to us right now.”) He uses email but “I worry about it,” he says. “Any email you write goes into the N.S.A. computer banks.” He’s only voted once in his life, for Barack Obama in 2008. Yet even living thousands of miles from America, disconnected from its culture by so many moats of his own making, he is, like many of his expatriate predecessors, a dedicated and unflinching observer of home. It was his ability to capture the id of America — in all its decadence, hypocrisy and lecherousness — that established him as an artist; that ability is unmatched nearly six decades later. He’s been called an “equal opportunity offender”: For his entire career, he’s angered the left, the right and everyone in between. It’s why his work remains, more than that of perhaps any other artist today, a litmus test for how much we’re willing to put up with for the sake of art….

(15) CONSTANTINE NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] There can be only one. AKA The Law of Conservation of Constantines. “Keanu Reeves’ Constantine Sequel Means JJ Abrams’ Constantine Show is Dead, For Now” reports Gizmodo.

Just before the weekend started, Warner Bros. Discovery up and surprised everyone when they revealed that a sequel to their 2005 Constantine movie was in development. With Keanu Reeves and original director Francis Lawrence both set to return, it seemed like a pleasant shock…until one had to remember that way back in 2021, the corporation announced that JJ Abrams was working on a series for the Hellblazer. And like with much of what’s recently happened with HBO Max, the situation for Abrams’ show is now in a weird bind.

Per Variety, the new Constantine show, along with the Madame Xanadu series being headed up True Blood’s Angela Robinson, are both dead at the moment…. 

(16) SCREEN TIME. Gizmodo is also prepared to fill you in about the coming season of genre TV: “Fall 2022 TV Preview: All the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Shows”.

Your TV brain might be completely hardwired into magical rings and lusty dragons these days, but there are so many more sci-fi, fantasy, and horror shows—both returning and new—coming to screens this season.

Scroll through for our handy calendar of all the geeky series that you need to know about, with the caveat that dates may be subject to change….

(17) LIFE LESSONS. His role in Tron is the ObSF reference, however, there’s so much more! “’Dealing with your mortality, it makes things more precious’: Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges on the gift of life after cancer” in the Guardian.

…So he’s someone who can quickly identify and make the most of a bright side. As I’m not someone like that, I ask him how he does it. How did he stay positive through two vicious illnesses? Bridges starts to tell an apparently unrelated story, the relevance of which only gradually becomes clear. “So I’m remembering the very last gift my father gave me, before he died,” he says. His father, Lloyd, was a successful TV actor who died in 1998. “Sue and I had this new house at the time,” Bridges continues, “huge grounds, and what I really wanted for my birthday was a neat little electric golf cart to get around the property. I know Dad’s bought something cool for me. I open a door. And there… It’s not the golf cart I wanted… It’s like a motorised, gasoline-operated, dump truck kind of a thing. In my mind I’m thinking, ‘Oh, shit. This is not what I want at all.’ But I say thank you to him. Then he dies. Suddenly I’m using this vehicle all the time. I’m constantly saying to myself, ‘This is so much better than a golf cart! It’s so much more powerful! There are so many things I can get done!’”…

(18) HOT STUFF. Get ready to serve breakfast on Halloween: “Dash Mini Waffle Maker — Halloween, Black and Orange”.

SPOOKY WAFFLES: The Dash Halloween Mini Waffle Maker 2-pack is perfect for making spooky waffles for fall and beyond. Plus make your favorite breakfast classics and get creative with waffled hash browns, cookies and more

(19) NASA RELIC. “A Busted Trailer Listed on a Government Auction Website Turned Out to Be a Space Fan’s Dream: a NASA Command Vehicle”. ArtNet News tellxs all about it.

For most people trawling government auctions, the listing would not have stood out: GSA Auctions, a division of the General Services Administration, was offering up a vehicle described simply as a “1989 Airstream Executive Air Coach,” with no minimum bid.

An online sleuth, however, was able to determine that the RV was probably once used in NASA’s Space Shuttle program. Acquired for just $21,000, the historic item was a major steal for any fan of space memorabilia…. 

The upshot? “This van was the official Convoy Command Vehicle for the Space Shuttle at Edwards,” Higgins wrote. “It directed all Shuttle recovery procedures once the spacecraft was on the ground! And it’s for sale currently at $10k.” (He also shared a YouTube video of the vehicle in action.)

Some 19 bidders competed for the former Convoy Command Vehicle, with interest leaping from $10,000 to over $20,000 in the final day….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King parodies “Every ‘Not So Fast… I’ll Be Taking That’ Scene”.

When you’re a rogue archaeologist in search of a surprisingly cheap-looking idol. I’m really pushing the limits of what one man with four hats can do, here.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/15/22 One Fist Science Fiction, The Other Fantasy, If The Right One Don’t Get You, Then The Left One Will

(1) JUSTICE FOR SYLVIA ANDERSON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Last night’s BBC Radio 4 arts programme, Front Row, devoted a substantive amount of time to the airbrushing of Sylvia Anderson from Anderson productions by Gerry Anderson and then the Anderson estate. This included unlawful contracts that lost her many years of royalties. Absolutely shocking. “Richard Eyre’s The Snail House; Sylvia Anderson and women in TV; the late Jean-Luc Godard”.

The name Sylvia Anderson was recently invoked by Dr. Lisa Cameron MP, during a debate on gender equality in the media in Westminster Hall. The late Sylvia Anderson was a pioneer in the male dominated world of television, co-creating Thunderbirds in the 1960s with her then husband Gerry. But her family say her name has often been omitted from credits and merchandise in the years since then. Samira speaks to Sylvia’s daughter Dee Anderson and Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair of Time’s Up UK, who are campaigning for her legacy to be restored and to Barbara Broccoli, producer of the James Bond films, who remembers Sylvia as her mentor.

(2) PIECES OF CHICON 8. In episode 66 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Thank You, Steven”, John Coxon is in the fanzine lounge, Alison Scott is under a bison hat, and Liz Batty is good, thank you.

We chat to people in the fanzine lounge at Chicon 8. (Sorry about the background noise, and normal service resumes next week.)

Alt text. A purple square with “OCTOTHORPE 66” written at the bottom and inset, a photograph of John, Alison, and Liz. John is wearing a grey suit with a Hugo Award finalist pin and a matching purple tie and mask; Alison is wearing a black mask, a burgundy dress, and has glitter on her temple, and Liz is wearing a green dress and matching mask, a necklace by Vanessa Applegate, and a yellow shrug. They are against a backdrop which has alternating Hugo Award logos and Chicon 8 logos.

(3) ABOUT WORKSHOPS. Morgan Hazelwood shares notes about the Chicon 8 panel “Is a Writer’s Workshop Right For Me?” at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer In Progress.

Whether you’ve been writing for a while or dreaming of getting away and actually having time to write, many of us have wondered if a writer’s workshop was right for us.

At WorldCon 80, otherwise known as ChiCon8, I attended the panel: The Writing Workshop Workshop where moderator Erin Underwood led panelists Ian Muneshwar, Tegan Moor, James Patrick Kelly, and Caroline M Yoachim in a discussion aimed at answering that very question….

Hazelwood also presents the information in this YouTube video.

(4) TAKING COUNSEL OF THEIR FEARS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Atlantic has an interesting article about the backlash against casting actors of color in The Rings of Power, House of the Dragon, Sandman and all sorts of other things: “Fear of a Black Hobbit”.

Maybe you’ve heard that people are mad about Black actors being cast in Lord of the Rings. Or Game of Thrones. Or maybe it was Star Wars. Or perhaps Thor. Wait, maybe it was Titans, or SupermanThe Witcher? Or maybe you heard that people are angry that Black Panther got made in the first place, because Wakanda is fictional, unlike one of those fantasy countries authors seem to think will seem more mysterious if you add enough accents or apostrophes, like Warthéréth’rién. (I just made that up.) Maybe you’re wondering why adults care about a Disney mermaid being Black.

Earlier this month, CNN published a news story featuring an interview with Brandon Morse, an editor for the right-wing website RedState, in which he complained that Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show, The Rings of Power, is integrated: “He says ‘The Rings of Power’ producers have cast non-White actors in a story based on European culture and who look wildly different from how Tolkien originally described them,” CNN reported. “He says it’s an attempt to embed ‘social justice politics’ into Tolkien’s world.” Morse told CNN that “if you focus on introducing modern political sentiments, such as the leftist obsession with identity issues that only go skin deep, then you’re no longer focusing on building a good story.”

It’s worth noting how rapidly right-wing language about colorblind meritocracy melts away when it does not produce the desired results. Perhaps the actors cast were simply the most qualified? …

(5) RELATED WORK. Cora Buhlert’s new “Non-Fiction Spotlight” is about Story Matrices: Cultural Encoding and Cultural Baggage in Science Fiction and Fantasy a fascinating book about storytelling, writing, and worldbuilding by Gillian Polack.

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

Because I’m addicted to story, I wondered just how much of our invisible culture we carried in in the way we tell stories. I began to look at the world building we do and the paths we take when we tell stories and read them. What is the difference between story space for the reader and story space for the writer and, indeed, story space for the editor? As I addressed these questions, I discovered how very powerful genre literature is in our lives. Even those who have never read a science fiction novel have experienced the narratives we tell and the cultural material we embed into our stories.

I wanted to explain this: that genre literature is a powerful, powerful force, that culture is transmitted through story, that we can all think about story and through that thought have more control over what we accept from story. We can, in short, choose not to be bigots….

(6) WHAT’S AHEAD IN THE DESIGN FIELD? Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s  event “Designing the Future with Applied Sci-Fi” will take place on Thursday, September 29, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern. Panelists include design fiction pioneer Julian Bleecker, speculative designer Anab Jain, narrative designer Alex McDowell, strategic foresight practitioner Radha Mistry, and futurist Brian David Johnson. The event will also feature opening remarks from the renowned science fiction (and nonfiction) author Bruce Sterling.

The event is the second in a series for the Applied Sci-Fi Project at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it, and to study the ways that sci-fi storytelling can a tool for innovation and foresight. 

 The event is free and open to everyone. Here is the registration link.

(7) TAKING ANOTHER CUT AT IT. The Hollywood Reporter declares,  “Amazon’s ‘Blade Runner’ TV Series Officially Happening”.

Amazon’s Prime Video has given the green light to Blade Runner 2099, a limited series sequel to the iconic sci-fi film franchise. The series comes from Amazon Studios and Alcon Entertainment, which holds the rights to Blade RunnerRidley Scott, who directed the classic 1982 film, will executive produce through his Scott Free Productions, while Silka Luisa (Apple TV+’s Shining Girls) will serve as showrunner….

Amazon announced it was developing Blade Runner 2099 in February. Its title implies it will be set 50 years after 2017’s film sequel Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, but story details are being kept quiet for now. The series will be the first live-action treatment of Blade Runner for TV; Adult Swim aired an anime series titled Blade Runner: Black Lotus that debuted in November 2021….

(8) A FONT OF KNOWLEDGE. Camestros Felapton is doing a highly scientific study to show that you can predict the genre of a book by the type face used on the cover. “The sans-serif genre axis part 2”. He’s not high, just his science is.

… “Science Fiction typically uses sans-serif fonts for titles” is a defensible claim — the proportion is high and the spread is relatively narrow compared with other genres….

(9) OUR MAN FLINT. The Alternate Historian does a beautiful tribute to the late author: “1632 by Eric Flint: What If Time Traveling Hillbillies Saved Europe?”.

Alternate historians love stranding people and places in the past because we want to see what happens when technology and ideas from the present are unleashed on earlier eras. And one novel would revolutionize these kind of stories and launch a new community of writers.

(10) MARGARET ANN BASTA (1951—2022). Margaret Basta who, with her twin sister Laura, published some of the earliest Star Trek fanzines, was found dead in her home on September 4. She was 69. Margaret was active in Detroit fandom in the Seventies, belonging to the Wayne Third Foundation. She and Laura were founders and officers of the Star Trek Association for Revival (S.T.A.R.). (Laura was nominated for a Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1974.) Margaret was later involved in Beauty and the Beast fandom.

Margaret died without provisions or funds for her burial and a friend has started a GoFundMe to pay for her burial expenses.

Hi, I’m Jan Feldmann; my best friend Margaret Basta died unexpectedly earlier this month. She left no provisions for a funeral or burial and her family cannot handle the expense. I loved her dearly for 50 years and want to see her ashes buried with dignity at Holy Sepulchre cemetary in Southfield MI. She was one of the first original Star Trek fans and organized several early ST fan conventions. She wrote fan fiction, collected and sold vintage jewelry, had a huge circle of friends all over the country, and made a lasting impression on countless people. Margaret was a wonderful lady and I hope you can help her on her final journey. $1500 will pay for the cremation and internment at Holy Sepulchre cemetary.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] Eerie, Indiana series

You remember Joe Dante who has served us such treats as the Gremlin films, a segment of the Twilight Zone: The Movie (“It’s A Good Life”) and, errr, Looney Tunes: Back in Action? (I’ll forgive him for that because he’s a consultant on HBO Max prequel series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.)

And Dante was the creative consultant and director on a weird little horror SF series thirty-one years ago on NBC called Eerie, Indiana. Yes, delightfully weird. It was created by José Rivera and Karl Schaefer. For both it would be their first genre undertaking, though they would have a starry future, their work including EurekaGoosebumpsThe Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and Strange Luck to name but a few genre series that they’d work on in a major capacity. 

SPOILER ALERT! REALLY I’M SERIOUS, GO AWAY

Hardly anyone there is normal. Or even possibly of this time and space. We have super intelligent canines bent on global domination, a man who might be the Ahab, and, in this reality, Elvis never died, and Bigfoot is fond of the forest around this small town. 

There’s even an actor doomed to keep playing the same role over and over and over again, that of a mummy. They break the fourth wall and get him into a much happier film. Tony Jay played this actor.

Yes, they broke the fourth wall. That would happen again in a major way that I won’t detail here. 

END SPOILER ALERT. YOU CAN COME BACK NOW. 

It lasted but nineteen episodes as ratings were very poor. 

Critics loved it. I’m quoting only one due to its length: “Scripted by Karl Schaefer and José Rivera with smart, sharp insights; slyly directed by feature film helmsman Joe Dante; and given edgy life by the show’s winning cast, Eerie, Indiana shapes up as one of the fall season’s standouts, a newcomer that has the fresh, bracing look of Edward Scissorhands and scores as a clever, wry presentation well worth watching.”

It won’t surprise you that at Rotten Tomatoes, that audience reviewers give it a rating of eighty-eight percent. 

It is streaming on Amazon Prime, Disney+ and legally on YouTube. Yes legally on the latter. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1922 Bob Anderson. He was the swordmaster who played Darth Vader in his fight scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He replaced David Prowse due to the actor’s unfortunate tendency to break lightsabers. Because of the height differences—Anderson was six one while Prowse was six inches taller, Anderson’s scenes were filmed from a lower angle to make him seem taller, or he stood on some small stilts or wore platform shoes. Anderson later did swordfighting choreography and training for films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy (with Christopher Lee), the Zorro movies with Antonio Banderas and Die Another Day with stunt performer Jim Dowdall. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 15, 1924 Henry Silva, 98. Here for his genre work —  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Kane, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold as Argon, Amazon Women on the Moon as Himself (the “Bullshit or Not” segment, Cyborg – Il guerriero d’acciaio as ‘Hammer’, and Dick Tracy as ‘Influence’.
  • Born September 15, 1925 Carlos Rambaldi. Wnner of three Oscars: one Special Achievement Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in Seventies version of King Kong, and two Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects of Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He is best remembered for his work in those two last mentioned films, that is for the mechanical head-effects for the creature in Alien and the design of the title character of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He designed the Worms in Dune. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 82. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is it that he’s never won a Hugo? 
  • Born September 15, 1943 John M. Faucette. Published five novels and one short story. He left seven unpublished novels in various states of completion at his death. Two of his novels; Crown of Infinity and Age of Ruin, were published in the Ace Doubles series. None of his works are in print in digital or paper format currently including his Black Science Fiction anthology which he as an African-American SF writer was very proud of. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 15, 1956 Elton T. Elliott, 66. Editor, publisher, reviewer. His solo fiction debut was “Lighting Candles on the River Styx” in Amazing (March 1991). His early novel-length work appeared in the 1980s in collaboration with Richard E.Geis under the pseudonym Richard Elliott. He edited Science Fiction Review from 1990 to 1992 which, yes, I remember reading at the time. 
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kevin Roche, 62. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also was editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 60. My first encounter with her was through the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much is Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Agnes has some pecadillos as a author that make me wonder if she’s a relative of Writer X. It seems even more possible after reading this later strip.
  • Lio shows that sometimes nature calls from very faraway places.
  • The Far Side offers wordplay of mythic proportions.  

(14) STUMPERS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randall Munroe on how he went from being a NASA roboticist to an answerer of weird questions. “The world’s funniest former NASA roboticist will take your questions”.

…Other “What If? 2” situations ring of the perilous: What are your chances of death-by-geyser at Yellowstone Park? What would the daily caloric human-intake needs be for a modern T. rex gone rogue in the boroughs of New York? And how catastrophic would it be if, as the children’s tune goes, all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops?…

(15) CURRENT EVENTS. “Colonizing the Cosmos: Astor’s Electrical Future” at The Public Domain Review. “During America’s Gilded Age, the future seemed to pulse with electrical possibility. Iwan Rhys Morus follows the interplanetary safari that is John Jacob Astor’s A Journey in Other Worlds, a high-voltage scientific romance in which visions of imperialism haunt a supposedly ‘perfect’ future.”

…Luckily, one of them told us exactly how he imagined the century to come. In 1894, New York publishers D. Appleton and Company released A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future, written by John Jacob Astor IV, one of America’s wealthiest men. The Astor clan had originally made their fortune in the fur trade, and had added to their millions through investment in land and property. In 1897, John Jacob would build the Astoria Hotel in New York, next door to the Waldorf, owned by his cousin William. The hotel was both a symbol of the Astor family’s wealth and a honeypot for New York’s fashionables (Tesla himself lived there until he was turfed out for failing to pay his bills). It’s Astor’s authorship that makes the book such a fascinating insight into the Gilded Age’s fantasies about its prosperous tomorrows….

(16) TURN OF THE SEASON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s autumnal edition is now up.

Fiction Reviews

Non-fiction SF/F & Popular Science

(17) SAY CHEESE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  “Webb telescope wows with first image of an exoplanet” in Nature.

The James Webb Space Telescope has taken its first picture of a planet beyond the Solar System — opening a window to understanding other worlds and underscoring the telescope’s immense capabilities.

The image (shown) is of a planet called HIP 65426 b, an object similar to Jupiter, but younger and hotter, that lies 107 parsecs from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. Although it looks like a pixelated light bulb, it is the first exoplanet image ever taken at deep infrared wavelengths, which allow astronomers to study the full range of a planet’s brightness and what it is made of (the star symbol marks HIP 65426 b’s star, whose light the telescope blocked).

“It gives us wavelengths we’ve never seen planets at before,” says Beth Biller, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and a member of the discovery team. The image was reported in a paper on a preprint server on 31 August (A. L. Carter et al. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2208.14990; 2022); the study has not been peer reviewed.

Astronomers know of more than 5,000 exoplanets, but they have taken pictures of only around 20. Imaging exoplanets directly is difficult, because they are often lost in the glare of the star around which they orbit.

But observing them at infrared wavelengths, as Webb does, helps to boost the contrast between star and planet. “You’re in the regime where planets are brightest and stars are dimmest,” says Aarynn Carter, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the preprint.

(18) SICK IN UTAH. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Someone had too good a room party…. “The Jurassic vomit that stood the test of time” at Nature.

Some 150 million years ago, towards the end of the Jurassic period, an unknown but probably small creature threw up a recent meal inside a pond in what is now Utah1.

Over the ages, the puke’s contents were fossilized and remained untouched. That is, until they reached the hands of John Foster at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal and his colleagues.

The researchers found the fossil at the ‘Jurassic Salad Bar’, a site where they’ve unearthed more than 300 fossilized plants. The specimen is small, not much larger than 1 square centimetre in area. But it’s densely packed with more than 20 undigested bones and some puzzling items that might well be soft tissues or part of the vomit material.

Some of the bones, including some vertebrae, possibly belonged to a tadpole. Others were once part of frogs. And a tiny femur might have come from a salamander. Given the contents and the setting they were found in, researchers strongly suspect that a fish might have been the one to throw them up.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: 300th Episode,” the Screen Junkies’s EPIC Voice Guy salutes Ryan George for his 300th episode of “Pitch Meeting” by saying Ryan George is “the Canadian Ryan who doesn’t have six-pack abs.”  George gets to repeat all the catchphrases from every episode (including “super easy, barely an inconvience”) and says that after 300 episodes the producer and the writer have turned from “poorly developed characters” into “psychopaths.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/6/22 All Of The Riverworld Ramblers Are Losing Their Grails

(1) A LITTLE SMACK. Deadline takes notes as “Neil Gaiman Slaps Back At Elon Musk For Criticizing ‘LOTR: The Rings Of Power’”.

…Gaiman’s comment came after Musk slammed Amazon’s LOTR: The Rings Of Power, saying “Tolkien is turning over his grave,” as Musk is attempting to exit his proposed $44BN takeover of Twitter and amid an ongoing feud with Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos.

(2) DANISH AUTHOR IN NY. The Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY will host “Olga Ravn presents ‘The Employees’” on Friday, September 30 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Tickets for sale at the link.

Shortlisted for the International Booker prize, and the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize, The Employees reshuffles a sci-fi voyage into a riotously original existential nightmare.

Olga Ravn’s prose is chilling, crackling, exhilarating, and foreboding. The Employees probes into what makes us human, while delivering a hilariously stinging critique of life governed by the logic of productivity.

(3) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport offers a free story: “About what you keep, what you mend, and what you throw away,” by Elizabeth Bear: “The Part You Throw Away”.

(4) SOURCES OF TERROR. Meg Elison promotes her new novel Number One Fan on CrimeReads.“Why Are Stories of Captivity and Abduction So Extraordinarily Terrifying?”

…Part of the reason for the power of captivity is something called the “castle doctrine.” This is an underpinning of law, dating back to the English document known as the Magna Carta. This concept and subsequent iterations of law made the home a sacrosanct place, providing the bedrock from which we derive our rights to deny search and seizure without a warrant, to remove anyone we wish from our homes, and to defend ourselves at home using force, including deadly force. This concept and the laws formed around it make any domicile, even a van or a bus a person might live in, a legally protected place that no one may enter or inspect without cause and (usually) a judicial order. As much as this is a crucial piece of our right to privacy (but not in your own womb! ha!) it also shrouds and protects perpetrators of home-based violence: domestic and child abuse, incest, and this kind of home-grown captivity….

(5) BRITISH ACADEMY BOOK PRIZE. The shortlist for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2022 is comprised of six books. The international book prize, worth £25,000, rewards and celebrates the best works of non-fiction that have contributed to public understanding of world cultures and their interaction.

  • The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness by Katie Booth (Scribe UK)
  • Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich by Harald Jähner (WH Allen/Ebury Publishing)
  • Osebol: Voices from a Swedish Village by Marit Kapla (Allen Lane)
  • Horizons: A Global History of Science by James Poskett (Viking)
  • When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retold by Alia Trabucco Zerán (And Other Stories)
  • Kingdom of Characters: A Tale of Language, Obsession, and Genius in Modern China by Jing Tsu (Allen Lane)

(6) WORLDCON CHAIRS PHOTO SESSION. Recorded at Chicon 8.

(7) PETER STRAUB (1943-2022). Author Peter Straub died September 4 at the age of 79. The New York Times obituary is here. The Guardian notes that Straub’s many novels ranged from his debut horror novel Julia in 1975 – later filmed as The Haunting of Julia – to the 2010 novel A Dark Matter and The Talisman, which he co-wrote with Stephen King.

He told Salon in 2016, “I like the worst characters, I like the villain. You can almost always tell there’s a lot of imaginative sympathy for them on my part. Once I start thinking about how they got that way I feel empathy and compassion. I don’t want to kill them off.” 

Straub won four World Fantasy Awards and ten Bram Stoker Awards. He received World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Life Achievement awards, was named an International Horror Guilds Living Legend, and a World Horror Grandmaster.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.]  Speaking of most stellar novels, there’s the matter of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. There are two novels that I think Gaiman did really well, this and Neverwhere. This is his best novel and I’ll say why now. (Me? Opinionated? Why yes!) 

SPOILERS ABOUND LIKE SPRITES IN THE MOONLIGHT

Stardust was written twenty-three years ago, starting off with the story set in late April 1839, as John William Draper had just photographed the Moon and Charles Dickens was serializing Oliver Twist, but almost all of the book takes place seventeen years later, starting around October 1856.

The novel set in the village of Wall. Once every nine years an opening to Fairy occurs on All Hallows’ Eve. Naturally a young man will fall in love with what he thinks is a young woman. Who isn’t. Really she isn’t. Trust me on this plot point. 

We have really evil witch-queens, near immortal rulers of vast castles delightfully named Stormhold, quests to the end of the world or nearly so. All deliciously told by Gaiman as though it was a fairy tale. There’s even unicorns. And pirates! 

Yes, and true love won out in the end as it should. 

END OF SPOILERS. NO MORE SPOILERS FOR NOW. MAYBE.

The best edition of this book is the one illustrated by Charles Vess that should’ve won a Hugo but didn’t. Nor did Stardust itself. The film did win one most deservingly at Denvention 3.  Oh and Neil himself narrates the audio version! 

I’ve read both the unadorned text version and the version with Vess artwork, or listened to it, at least a half dozen times now, and it always delights me every time that I do. No, I’ve not seen the film, nor will I ever see it following my long standing policy of never seeing any video version of books that I really, really like. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 Groff Conklin. He edited some forty anthologies of genre fiction starting with The Best of Science Fiction from Crown Publishers in 1946 to Seven Trips Through Time and Space on Fawcett Gold in 1968. The contents are a mix of the obscure and well known as Heinlein, Niven, Simak, Dahl, Sturgeon, Lovecraft and Bradbury show up there. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 79. Ok Pink Floyd is definitely genre and I’m no longer doing any substances that aid in my judgement thereof. The Wall of course. And The Division Bell with its themes of communication. And Happy Birthday Roger!
  • Born September 6, 1946 Hal Haag. Baltimore-area fan who found fandom in the early Eighties and who chaired Balticon 25 and Balticon 35 and worked on Balticon and quite a number of regionals. He Co-founded BWSMOF (Baltimore/Washington SMOFs) along with Inge Heyer from Shore Leave, a regional organization whose purpose it is to discuss running regional conventions of all types. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society put together a very touching memorial site which you can see here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 69. Best-known for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consult a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but made for a nice coda on her story.
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 50. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City is the one I’ve re-read the most, followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot.  And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that the New Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. His Hugo history is a one long one. His first nomination at ConJosé for Perdido Street Station was followed by The Scar at Torcon 3. He picked up another nomination at interaction for Iron Council, and his only win at Aussiecon 4 for The City & The City which was shared Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. He has two more nominations to date, Embassytown at Chicon 7 and “This Census-Taker” novella at Worldcon 75. 
  • Born September 6, 1958 Michael Winslow, 64. Though he might bear notice as the comically voiced Radar Technician in Space Balls, I’m more interested that his first genre role of significance was giving voice to Mogwai, and the other gremlins in Gremlins, a role he didn’t reprise for the second Gremlins film. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 Idris Elba, 50. Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 46. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later shows up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episode of Angel. Ditto for Repo Men as well. He does get as the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
  • Born September 6, 1976 Naomie Harris, 46. She’s Eve Moneypenny in SkyfallSpectre and  No Time to Die. This was the first time Moneypenny had a first name.  No word if she’ll be in Bullets for Winter, the next Bond film which has been announced.  She also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Tia Dalma. In the Marvel Universe, she was Frances Barrison / Shriek in the Spider-Man centric Venom: Let There Be Carnage. And lastly I’ll note she played Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THE WINNER GETS A T-SHIRT. Joe Stech will begin giving the Compelling Science Fiction Appreciation Award every month. See what it takes to win.

Ever since Compelling Science Fiction stopped publishing short stories I’ve been looking for ways to engage with the science fiction community that don’t involve me reading a submission queue of 500 stories/month. I’m still thinking about different approaches, but in the meantime I’m announcing a fun project: every month I’m going to send a t-shirt to the author that writes the short story that scores the highest on the set of axes that best represent Compelling Science Fiction (plausibility/novelty/entertainment).

(12) COMPELLING SCIENCE FICTION T-SHIRT DESIGN POLL. Joe Stech is also going to print up some more of the original Compelling Science Fiction shirts, but also wants to create a new design.

Below are eight different astronaut designs that I think reflect Compelling Science Fiction’s lack of taking itself too seriously, and I’d love it if you’d tell me your favorite. Please ask your friends too, if your friends have good taste! Here’s the poll.

(13) A TRUCE WITH BEAVERS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] My favorite informative fact from the article: “They’re wild, swimming rodents the size of basset hounds.” “It Was War. Then, a Rancher’s Truce With Some Pesky Beavers Paid Off.”

Horace Smith blew up a lot of beaver dams in his life.

A rancher here in northeastern Nevada, he waged war against the animals, frequently with dynamite. Not from meanness or cruelty; it was a struggle over water. Mr. Smith blamed beavers for flooding some parts of his property, Cottonwood Ranch, and drying out others.

But his son Agee, who eventually took over the ranch, is making peace. And he says welcoming beavers to work on the land is one of the best things he’s done.

“They’re very controversial still,” said Mr. Smith, whose father died in 2014. “But it’s getting better. People are starting to wake up.”

As global warming intensifies droughts, floods and wildfires, Mr. Smith has become one of a growing number of ranchers, scientists and other “beaver believers” who see the creatures not only as helpers, but as furry weapons of climate resilience.

Last year, when Nevada suffered one of the worst droughts on record, beaver pools kept his cattle with enough water. When rains came strangely hard and fast, the vast network of dams slowed a torrent of water raging down the mountain, protecting his hay crop. And with the beavers’ help, creeks have widened into wetlands that run through the sagebrush desert, cleaning water, birthing new meadows and creating a buffer against wildfires.

…“We need to get beavers back to work,” Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary of natural resources, said in a webinar this year. “Full employment for beavers.” (Beaver believers like to note that the animals work for free.)…

(4) VERY CAREFULLY. “Once they had breathed our air, germs which no longer affect us began to kill them. The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall.” You know where that line comes from. And we don’t want to be on the receiving end. “To Prevent a Martian Plague, NASA Needs to Build a Very Special Lab” reports the New York Times.  

…“It is possible that on Mars there are pathogens,” [Carl Sagan] wrote, “organisms which, if transported to the terrestrial environment, might do enormous biological damage — a Martian plague.”

Michael Crichton imagined a related scenario in his novel “The Andromeda Strain.”

Such situations, in which extraterrestrial samples contain dangerous tagalong organisms, are examples of backward contamination, or the risk of material from other worlds harming Earth’s biosphere.

“The likelihood that such pathogens exist is probably small,” Sagan wrote, “but we cannot take even a small risk with a billion lives.”

Scientists have long considered Sagan’s warnings in mostly hypothetical terms. But over the approaching decade, they will start to act concretely on backward contamination risks. NASA and the European Space Agency are gearing up for a shared mission called Mars Sample Return. A rover on the red planet is currently scooping up material that will be collected by other spacecraft and eventually returned to Earth.

No one can say for sure that such material will not contain tiny Martians. If it does, no one can yet say for sure they are not harmful to Earthlings.

With such concerns in mind, NASA must act as if samples from Mars could spawn the next pandemic. “Because it is not a zero-percent chance, we are doing our due diligence to make sure that there’s no possibility of contamination,” said Andrea Harrington, the Mars sample curator for NASA. Thus, the agency plans to handle the returned samples similarly to how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handles ebola: carefully….

(15) WHAT’S BREWING? Make explains how “This Elven Architecture Diorama Makes A Perfect Cup Of Tea”. It’s a sort of steampunk encounter with Rivendell.

…There are multiple options available, for different blends of tea and temperatures for steeping. With a quick press of a button, this elven village hops to life measuring out tea leaves, depositing them into the tea ball, heating water and dispensing it into the cup, then dunking the tea ball for the prescribed amount of time, then depositing it on a tiny coaster for disposal. 

At the end of the process, Samuel is left with a perfect cup of tea, and a view that is absolutely wonderful.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/5/22 Boosterspice Fields Forever

(1) CHICON 8 MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS. Chicon 8 drew 3,574 warm bodies (494 at door). Another 947 watched at least one hour of virtual programming. There were ~6,500 total members of all types. (Numbers via KevinStandlee.)

(2) WORLDCON MASQUERADE PHOTOS. Chicon 8 posted a rich gallery of photos: “Masquerade! Astounding Faces on Parade!” Includes notes on the award winners, including Best in Show, Arwen’s Lament presented by Rae Lundquist and company. (Which also won “Excellence in Workmanship for Hobbit Feet”.)

(3) CLOSING CEREMONIES. Thanks to Kevin Standlee who encouraged me to run any of his posts and photos.

The 2023 Chengdu Worldcon leadership:

The Chengdu Worldcon committee singing to the Closing Ceremonies audience.

(4) HE WAS A WALKING WORLDCON HIGHLIGHT. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki shared some general comments about being able to achieve his trip to Chicon 8, and the Hugo acceptance speech he didn’t get to give. Lots of photos, too! Thread starts here. (Full text of the speech is on Facebook.)

And there’s a photo of another heartwarming moment on Lezli Robyn’s Facebook page here of Ekpeki being “gifted an iPad and keyboard, for all the future masterpieces he will write.” Robyn added in comments, “It was not from us! But I was the messenger/organizer.” So I don’t know who gave it to him.

(5) CONGRATULATIONS, HUGO WINNER. When Cora Buhlert sent these photos of her Hugo outfit last night she was about to practice her speech again. Now we know – the extra rehearsal was worth it!

(6) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Lincoln Michel contests a recent meme: “No, Most Books Don’t Sell Only a Dozen Copies”. After dissecting the premises of how sales are measured, Michel offers some conclusions.

…In terms of the dozen copies statistic, I can’t evaluate it because it is unclear what it’s referring to. Fifty-eight thousand books is more books than PRH publishes in a given year, but far less than their entire backlist. Is 58k all new books published with an ISBN, including self-published books? Is it something else? I really don’t know and none of the publishing professionals I follow seem to know either. (Editing to add: Jane Friedman, who posted this number originally on Instagram, noted there was no source given in testimony. Friedman gives her own guess in the comments.)

In my experience, and with the data I’ve seen, most traditionally published novels that you see on bookstore shelves or reviewed in newspapers sell several hundred to a few thousand copies across formats. Many sell much more of course. I’ve seen some flops that sold only a couple hundred. And of course not all traditionally published novels appear in bookstores or reviewed in newspapers. Is it possible someone has published a Big 5 novel that sold only 12 copies over its lifetime? I suppose. But I don’t think it’s 5% much less 50%!…

(7) SHARED UNIVERSE. Wole Talabi tells Guardian readers: “Out of this world: why we created the first collaborative African fantasy universe”. (See the list of members of the Sauúti Collective at the link.)

Creative writing can be a lonely business. As writers, we inhabit whole worlds and characters that live only in our heads for days or years, as we deposit them on the page. This is particularly true for speculative fiction – an umbrella genre of stories that involve supernatural or futuristic elements, or settings that are not the real world.

This creative loneliness is why I’ve always admired the concept of a “shared world” – a fictional setting with its own set of rules where multiple authors can create stories. Some examples are Thieves’ World, edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, or George RR Martin’s Wild Cards (which spawned dozens of books, comics and games, and was optioned for film and TV).

Because writers use the same settings, characters and concepts of the shared world in a connected way, they are in conversation with each other, as a community in the act of creation.

As a speculative fiction author from Africa, where recognition for the genre is growing and community is an important part of the culture, I’ve long wanted to be able to do this with my contemporaries – create together. Not only with other African authors but with the greater African diaspora.

That’s why, working with Fabrice Guerrier, a Haitian-American author and founder of Syllble, a production house based in Los Angeles, and the Nigeria-based magazine Brittle Paper, I sought out a group of like-minded volunteer authors from five African countries to form the Sauúti Collective.

Together we have created Sauúti – a unique shared world for and by Africans and the African diaspora….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1967 [By Cat Eldridge.] Alan Garner’s The Owl Service (1967)

It all begins with the scratching in the ceiling. From the moment Alison discovers the dinner service in the attic, with its curious pattern of floral owls, a chain of events is set in progress that is to affect everybody’s lives. — Alan Garner’s The Own Service

Yes, I do have favorite novels as you already know and Alan Garner’s The Owl Service which came out fifty-five years ago is one of them. I think of it as an Autumnal work so it being September, I decided to take a look at it. So here we are.

The Owl Service is supposedly a young adult novel, however, it is much, much more than that. Set in modern Wales, it is an adaptation of the story of the Welsh myth concerning the woman Blodeuwed who becomes an owl — equally made of feathers and claws. It was, as Garner has said, an “expression of that myth”. 

In his version, three teenagers visiting a Welsh estate find themselves re-enacting the story by the two boys both being bitter rivals for the girl who came with them to the estate. They awaken the legend by finding a dinner service with an owl pattern, hence the title of the novel.

It is a novel filled with myth come to life with characters, both the children and the adults, being fully realized. It wasn’t his first novel as he’d written three novels previously (The Weirdstone of BrisingamenThe Moon of Gomrath and Elidor) but of all works he’s done, it’s my favorite still. It’s not his most complex, that honor goes to Boneland which is a sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath.

The Owl Service was made into a Granada Television series in 1969. If you live in the U.K., it’s available on DVD.  It was BBC Radio 4 series in 2000. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1914 Stuart Freeborn. If you’ve seen Yoda, and of course you have, this is the man who designed it, partly based on his own face. Besides being the makeup supervisor and creature design on the original Star Wars trilogy, he did makeup on The OmenDr. Strangelove2001: A Space Odyssey and all four of the Christopher Reeve-fronted Superman films. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. (And really their only significant role.) Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. They appeared together in the same seven shows. (Died 2009 and 2005, respectively.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 83. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 82. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film, and her second was One Million Years B.C. (well, it wasn’t exactly a documentary) where she starred in a leather bikini, both released in 1966. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1946 Freddie Mercury. Now you know who he was and you’re saying that you don’t remember any genre roles by him. Well there weren’t alas. Oh, Queen had one magnificent role in the 1980 Flash Gordon film starring Sam J. Jones, a film that has a seventy percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. But I digress as only cats can do. (Prrrr.) Queen provided the musical score featuring orchestral sections by Howard Blake. Most of Blake’s score was not used. Freddie also composed the music for the first Highlander film. And Freddie was a very serious SJW. He cared for at least ten cats throughout his life, including Delilah, Dorothy, Goliath, Jerry, Lily, Miko, Oscar, Romeo, Tiffany and Tom. He was adamantly against the inbreeding of cats and all of them except for Lily and Tiffany, both given to him as gifts, were adopted from the Blue Cross. (Died 1991.)
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 58. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He wrote one episode of Around the World in 80 Days, reuniting him with David Tennant. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who’s Alex Kingston
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 49. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in Planet Terror and Pam in Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) ARCANE. Boing Boing points out that “Arcane is the first streaming show to win the Emmy for best animated program”.

…The aforementioned Arcane from Netflix was the talk of the town last year, earning heaps of praise from fans and critics. Now the series can add Emmy award winner to its growing list of accolades. The win marks the first time an animated show from a streaming service snagged the award….

(12) KERFUFFLES OF POWER. Stuart Heritage of the Guardian wouldn’t want you to miss any: “The backlash to rule them all? Every controversy about The Rings of Power so far”. What, only six?

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power so far, for several reasons. The series has veered wildly in quality, with its second episode a vast improvement on its stunning but directionless pilot. It’s hard, too, to crosscheck with the source material, given that the entire shebang is cobbled together from a bunch of Tolkien’s appendices.

But the main reason why it’s difficult to form a consensus is the internet. Even more so than usual, it is being especially internetty about The Rings of Power, churning up no end of controversies about it in service to the discourse. Here’s a quick compendium of what we’ve all endured so far….

(13) HUGO LOSERS TROPHY. Camestros Felapton had an artificial intelligence art program help him gin up a trophy for those who didn’t win last night. Image at the link. “For those who need it today”.

(14) PHOTOS FROM JAMES BACON’S PRESENTATION AT CHICON 8. Including the badge ribbons distributed to support Ukraine fandom.

(15) TAMMY’S TASTING AT CHICON 8. Tammy Coxen serves Ukraine-themed drinks.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/2/22 Why Am I The Only Person Who Ever Has That Dream

(1) THE POPULATION OF CHICON 8. Chicon 8’s Star Chart reported on the con’s first day, September 1, as of 7:30PM CDT, there were 2,610 warm bodies on site.

(2) CHICON 8 BUSINESS MEETING. Alex Acks is liveblogging the Chicon 8 business meeting. See all the sausage being made here: “WSFS Business Meeting – Friday Liveblog”.

The top story to come out of today’s meeting is that the Hugo Study Committee is disbanded.

…Kent Bloom moves to thank the committee for its efforts over the last five years. Seconded by many. The committee is thanked for its efforts to applause….

There was also a “WSFS Preliminary Business Meeting Report (Friday)” published on the convention’s website.

Friday’s Preliminary WSFS Business Meeting set debate time limits for all pending Constitutional amendments and Standing Rules changes. No proposed Constitutional amendments were postponed indefinitely (killed). The four proposed Hugo Award eligibility extensions passed without objection. Most committees were continued as currently constituted; however, the Hugo Awards Study Committee was not continued and was thus dissolved, although proposals submitted by the committee will be considered this year. The meeting ran out of time to consider proposed changes to the Standing Rules and the two non-Hugo-Award-related Resolutions, so they will be considered at tomorrow’s meeting.

Kevin Standlee’s fully detailed report is on his blog here. You can also watch a video of the meeting recorded by Lisa Hayes.

(3) RINGS OF POWER FINALE. And now Camestros Felapton supplies a desperately needed moment of comic relief: “SCOOP! The final scene of the final episode of Rings of Power”.

…As I nodded off to sleep last night, my kindle slipped out of my hands and smashed me in the face (as happens most nights). I was startled by this sudden violence from the otherwise lightweight device but I was even more startled when it emitted a tinny voice. It was Bezos himself! He demanded to know what it would take for me to watch the show. Naturally, he refused my first choice (a bazillion pounds) and my second choice (remove all my personal data) and my third choice (kick off all the Nazis from your platforms) but he agreed to my fourth choice: tell me how the show ends….

(4) FILE 770 FRIDAY MEETUP. Hampus Eckerman is behind the camera taking this picture of the Filers who came to today’s meetup.

(5) CONGRATULATIONS, MARK! And here’s a good photo of Mark Linneman, last night’s Big Heart Award winner, taken by Andrew Porter during the 2018 Worldcon.

Mark Linneman at the 2018 Worldcon. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(6) IT’S THE BEST STATE FAIR IN OUR STATE. “An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy” – the New York Times has the story.

This year, the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition gave out prizes in all the usual categories: painting, quilting, sculpture.

But one entrant, Jason M. Allen of Pueblo West, Colo., didn’t make his entry with a brush or a lump of clay. He created it with Midjourney, an artificial intelligence program that turns lines of text into hyper-realistic graphics.

Mr. Allen’s work, “Théåtre D’opéra Spatial,” took home the blue ribbon in the fair’s contest for emerging digital artists — making it one of the first A.I.-generated pieces to win such an prize, and setting off a fierce backlash from artists who accused him of, essentially, cheating.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Mr. Allen defended his work. He said that he had made clear that his work — which was submitted under the name “Jason M. Allen via Midjourney” — was created using A.I., and that he hadn’t deceived anyone about its origins.

“I’m not going to apologize for it,” he said. “I won, and I didn’t break any rules.”

A.I.-generated art has been around for years. But tools released this year — with names like DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion — have made it possible for rank amateurs to create complex, abstract or photorealistic works simply by typing a few words into a text box.

These apps have made many human artists understandably nervous about their own futures — why would anyone pay for art, they wonder, when they could generate it themselves? They have also generated fierce debates about the ethics of A.I.-generated art, and opposition from people who claim that these apps are essentially a high-tech form of plagiarism….

(7) BE A COVER DESIGN JUDGE. Self-Published Science Fiction Competition 2’s Cover Contest currently has 451 votes with ~ 7 days to go. They would love to have even more voters weigh in. Registration required.

Covers are displayed in batches of 10 and their order is randomized for each viewer. Votes / frontrunners are hidden from participants until the competition is complete and all votes have been counted.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] I decided to go really, really obscure this Scroll so we’re discussing The Corridor People. I doubt the most of you who were resident in the United Kingdom in the middle Sixties managed to catch the brief four episodes which aired from the 26th of August to 16th of September 1966.

It was technically considered a detective series in which security agent Kronk  played by John Sharp was battling villainess Syrie Van Epp as performed very much over the top by Elizabeth Shepherd as I said over the course of just four episodes. No idea why it was just four episodes but that was all it was.

It was never intended to taken seriously as the rest of the cast was  given silly name as you see here — Gary Cockrell as Phil Scrotty, Alan Curtis as Inpector Blood, William Maxwell as Sergeant Hound and Ian Trigger as Nonesuch. 

Yes, the two detectives working for Sharp (who isn’t particularly sharp though he’s supposed to an M like character), has two detectives working for him literally named Blood and Hound.  And that episode made absolutely no sense. And reviews I read say none of the four episodes do.

If you really, really want to see it and you live in the United Kingdom , it’s available for a very reasonable price of DVD on eBay on Esty. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed but erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo.” He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger ManDepartment SThe Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral.” The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film though I’m obviously open to being told I’m wrong. (Died 1969.)
  • Born September 2, 1909 David Stern III. Creator of the Francis the Talking Mule character who became the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. Stern adapted his own script for the first entry, simply titled Francis. Talking mules are genre, aren’t they? (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen Way. She shows up on Doctor Who twice, first as Old Mother in the First Doctor story, “The Forest of Fear” and later in a major role as Karela in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Creature from the Pit”. She’d also shows up on the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as simply Old Woman at the age of fifty-five. Other genre appearances I think are limited to an appearance on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. Well unless you count The Saint which is at best genre adjacent. Hey I like The Saint! (Died 1994.)
  • Born September 2, 1915 Meinhardt Raabe.He was the last surviving Oz cast member with any dialogue in the film. He portrayed the coroner who certified the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. This film was his entire movie acting career. He did show up on a lot of tv show with his appearance being on Entertainment Tonight just five years before he passed on being the last one. (Died 2010.)
  • Born September 2, 1936 Gwyn Thomas. Welsh poet and academic who translated Tales from the Mabinogion with Kevin Crossley-Holland. “Chwedl Taliesin”, “The Tale of Taliesin”, was a short story by them as well. By the way my SJW credit is named Taliesin. And he tells a lot of tales. (Died 2016.)
  • Born September 2, 1966 Salma Hayek, 56. Her performance as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn is quite excellent. I can’t say the same for her performance as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild Wild West which got her nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. (The film currently has a twenty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.)  I really like her as Francesca Giggles in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. She’s Ajak in Eternals film based on the Jack Kirby comics.
  • Born September 2, 1968 Kristen Cloke, 54. Captain Shane Vansen in the unfortunately short-lived but excellent Space: Above and Beyond, a damn fine series. She has one-offs in Quantum LeapThe X-FilesMillennium and The  Others. She co-wrote with Shannon Hamblin an episode of The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” which I told is Base64 code for “Followers”. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd shared a comparison table of “Universal Price Tiers”.

(11) A MASTER AT WORK. Deuce Richardson pays tribute to the artist in “Frank Kelly Freas: A Centennial Celebration” at DMR Books.

…I have loved the art of Kelly Freas since I found a copy of The Seas of Ernathe in an abandoned farmhouse–no lie–when I was barely a teenager. If anything, that love has strengthened over the years.

Drink to the shade of Frank Kelly Freas upon the (belated) centennial of his birth, sword-brothers. We won’t see his like again.

Feel free to enjoy the gallery of Freas art below.

(12) RINGS OF POWER. The in-jokes are already rolling out.

(13) IT’S ABOUT TIME. The Time Travel Mart has lots of amusing goodies they’d like to sell you. For example, these Bumper Stickers.

Express your road rage peacefully and quietly. Compatible with all vehicles, regardless of time period or propulsion.

(14) THE BACK OF HIS HAND. ScreenRant calls these the “10 Most Hilarious Examples Of The Robin Slap Meme”.

Since the release of The Batman, there have been countless fans calling for the introduction of Robin into the universe. After all, a Batman just starting his career needs a Robin, especially if he’s trying to figure out how to bring hope and life to the citizens of Gotham.

Yet, while Robin has always been a symbol of hope, Batman hasn’t always treated him well. In one popular meme, sourced from the comic, Batman even outright slaps Robin to keep him from asking him a question. Because the Robin Slap meme has gained considerable popularity through the years, there have been quite a few hilarious examples of it….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Angela Smith, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 8/27/22 We Will All Scroll Together When We Scroll, All Suffused With A Pixelicious Glow

(1) HOARDED GOLD. Amazon’s Rings of Power will cost $1B to make? That nice round number is bringing out skeptics.

Behind a paywall at Business Insider is an extensive analysis of “What Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Means for Its Streaming Future”.

…With “Rings of Power,” Amazon has given Hollywood something to talk about. No single season of television has ever cost as much. On top of the $250 million deal to secure the rights from J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate in 2017 — Amazon outbid rival big spenders HBO and Netflix — it’s been widely reported that the studio spent north of $460 million on production in New Zealand. Add tens of millions of dollars in marketing, promotions, and global red-carpet events and you arrive at the $1 billion total estimated by industry observers — with four more seasons planned.

The show is expected to be a hit, but if it somehow misses the mark, several sources told Insider the studio may face an existential crisis.

“The reason why it’s going to succeed is because the executives at Amazon need it to succeed. If it doesn’t succeed, there’s going to be a big question from Andy Jassy and the board,” said one former senior Amazon Studios exec. “If we can’t take this piece of IP and make it successful, why is Amazon Studios even here?”

“It has to succeed,” this person added. “There’s no option.”…

(2) ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER. Gizmodo points the way to a clip about one of the peoples in the forthcoming series: “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Meet the Harfoots”.

…Since Rings of Power’s ensemble is rather enormous, Prime Video has released this video focusing on just the Harfoots—according to Dylan Smith, who plays Largo Brandyfoot, they’re “arguably the biggest secret of the show,” since J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t write too much about them—to give viewers a sense of who they’ll be meeting when the series arrives….

(3) A LOOK AT VAN VOGT. The Middletown (PA) Public Library’s Science Fiction Book Club has added another to its online archive of Science Fiction Author Interviews. The new one is an interview with Charles Platt about A.E. van Vogt.

John Grayshaw: What makes van Vogt interesting from a critical perspective? What first drew you to his work?

CP: I first read his work when I was reading literally every science-fiction novel that was published. About one book per day. He wasn’t my favorite author, but I did respond to his flood of strange ideas and his unique way of building a narrative. It was utterly impossible to guess what would happen next. I loved that unexpectedness, and still do. (I re-read World of Null-A just recently. Its plot is so convoluted, I felt as if I should be taking notes. But instead I just enjoyed the roller-coaster ride.)…

(4) ERIC HOFFMAN (1944-2022). LA-area fan Eric Hoffman died August 27 after being badly burned in a home electrical fire. Hoffman, born in Brooklyn, came to California, and in 1965 joined LASFS. His deep interest in monster/horror films and sff TV history were reflected in the innumerable programs he assembled about those topics for local conventions, becoming a frequent panelist at Loscon, Westercon and the San Diego Comic-Con. The latter recognized Hoffman’s work as a film historian with the Inkpot Award in 1974. Also a Doctor Who fan, he did presentations at the local Gallifrey One event for thirty years.

Hoffman assisted in providing archival posters and images for movie documentaries, and provided history commentary for several monster and horror videos. He got in front of the camera twice, according to IMDB, first in Don Glut’s short Rocketman Flies Again (1966), and then as a bartender in Sorority House Massacre II (1990).  

(5) MEMORY LANE.  

1955 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-seven years ago, “Hyde and Hare”, a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon, was released in theaters as part of a reel with other such Looney Tunes cartoons. One reel would have six to ten minutes of these cartoons.  This cartoon was particularly long at seven minutes. 

SPOILER ALERT. REALLY, DO WE NEED ONE THIS LONG ON? 

Bugs is looking for a warm, comfortable home instead of his hole in the Park, and he meets a Doctor who takes him home. That Doctor turns out to be Doctor Jekyll. Soon Hyde is trying to kill our rabbit. He fails repeatedly. Quite amazingly he fails.

It ends when Bugs leaves after drinking all of the potions. (Yes, there are two potions shown.) Nice take at the end on the Hyde like Bugs. 

Yes, I rewatched it just now. Research you know. Not on HBO+ where it’s streaming but off iTunes where I downloaded a copy.

YOU CAN COME BACK NOW. REALLY YOU CAN.

It was directed by I. Freleng who was an animator, cartoonist, composer, director and producer (a man of many talents, wasn’t he?), mostly working at Warner Bros on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. He’s responsible for over three hundred cartoons. 

The story was by Warren Foster, a writer, cartoonist and composer for the animation division of Warner Brothers and later on with Hanna-Barbera. Of special note I think, he was the composer of Tweety’s theme song, “I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat.” It was sung by Mel Blanc. Yes, I’m weird. 

Mel Blanc of course did all the voices. Who else would? 

Animation was by Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis, Virgil Ross and Ted Ike . I’ll be honest and note that I don’t recognize any of them by name but the style here certainly is recognizable. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 27, 1922 Frank Kelly Freas. I’ve no idea where I first encountered his unique style on a cover of a SF book, but I quickly spotted it everywhere. He had a fifty-year run on Astounding Science Fiction from the early Fifties and through its change to the Analog name — amazing! Yes, he won ten Pro Artist Hugos plus one Retro-Hugo, an impressive feat by anyone. There doesn’t appear to a decent portfolio of his work. (Died 2005.)
  • Born August 27, 1945 Edward Bryant. His only novel was Phoenix Without Ashes which was co-authored with Harlan Ellison and was an adaptation of Ellison’s pilot script for The Starlost. He won two Nebulas for his short stories “Stone” (1979) and “giANTS” (1980), which also were nominated for the Hugo, as was his novelette “The Thermals of August” (1982). I’m personally familiar his short fiction in the Wild Cards anthologies. Phoenix Without Ashes and all of his short stories are available in digital form. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 27, 1947 Barbara Bach, Lady Starkey, 75. She’s best known for her role as the Bond girl Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.  One of her other genre appearances is in Caveman which her husband Ringo Starr is also cast.
  • Born August 27, 1952 Darrell Schweitzer, 70. Writer, editor, and critic. For his writing, I’d recommend Awaiting Strange Gods: Weird and Lovecraftian Fictions and Tom O’Bedlam’s Night Out and Other Strange ExcursionsThe Robert E. Howard Reader he did is quite excellent as is The Thomas Ligotti Reader.
  • Born August 27, 1957 Richard Kadrey, born 1957, aged sixty five years. I’m admittedly way behind on the Sandman Slim series having only read the first five books. I also enjoyed Metrophage: A Romance of the Future and I’ve still several years later got The Grand Dark on my interested to be read list.
  • Born August 27, 1962 Dean Devlin, 60. His first produced screenplay was Universal Soldier. He was a writer/producer working on Emmerich’s Moon 44. Together they co-wrote and produced Stargate, the first movie to have a web site. The team then produced Independence Day, Godzilla and Independence Day: Resurgence. They’re also credited for creating The Visitor series which lasted 13 episodes, and The Triangle, a miniseries which I’ll bet you can guess the premise.
  • Born August 27, 1965 Kevin Standlee, 57. He attended his first con in 1984, L.A. Con II. Later he co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon, ConJosé, in San José. One source says he made and participated in amateur Doctor Who films in the late 1980s. I wonder if he played Doctor Who? And I wonder if we can see these films? 
  • Born August 27, 1978 Suranne Jones, 44. Not a long genre performance history but she shows up on the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures as Mona Lisa. Yes, that Mona Lisa. She’ll be back on Doctor Who in “The Doctor’s Wife”, an Eleventh Doctor story as written by Neil Gaiman. She is Idris, a woman hosting the Matrix of the TARDIS. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

Peanuts / Endless mashup.

(8) THE NEXT EXORCIST. In the midst of a Q&A primarily about her history with Actors Studio and Lee Strasberg, “Ellen Burstyn Reveals Why She Said Yes to an ‘Exorcist’ Sequel” in The Hollywood Reporter.

I just got a scoop. Thank you.

You’re welcome. And I’ve shot most of the picture. The writer-director, David Gordon Green, I like very much. I met with him and we talked about the script and so forth, and I promised him four more days if he needed them. And he’s edited the film and he wants the four days, so I’m going back in November to shoot four more days. And it’ll come out in 2024, on the 50th anniversary of The Exorcist, the original.

(9) GETTING OFF THE GROUND. Francis Hamit urges everyone to contribute to “The All American film organizing fund” at Indiegogo. “I have to raise money to raise more money for this great epic World War Two film.  Not just a war film but also a musical.  That might not be science fiction or fantasy, but it sure feels like it.” 

That image is of a real event that happened on February 1, 1943.  A B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber named The All American was returning from a bombing raid when it was struck by a German fighter and almost cut in half.  It lost part of its tail and suffered a 16 foot long, four foot wide gash on its left side.  Ten men were aboard, all young men who a year before had been civilians and who had volunteered for the most dangerous duty of the war, aerial combat.  They were part of the 414th Bomb Squard, 97th Bombardment Group, United States Army Air Force.   Originally they were based at Grafton Underwood, England.  It was there that Margaret Bourke-White   joined the 97th.  She was a beautiful, world famous photojournalist for LIFE magazine and determined to tell  their story.  Part of that meant flying with them on a bombing mission….  

To actually make the film will take millions of dollars.  I don’t expect to raise that here, but would like your help getting to the next phase.  I need help paying for legal, publicity and staff.  The next phase is raising the money,

(10) THROWING SAND IN THE GEARS. Variety took notes: “Neil Gaiman Says He Sabotaged Jon Peters’ ‘Sandman’ Movie by Leaking ‘Really Stupid’ Script”.

This year, Neil Gaiman’s comic book series “The Sandman” was finally adapted on screen in Netflix’s popular television series. But this is far from the first time that Hollywood tried to put the sprawling fantasy world to film.

In fact, Gaiman declined several movie offers for “The Sandman” throughout the last three decades, but the author recently revealed that he went as far as to sabotage an idea from “Wild Wild West” and “A Star Is Born” producer Jon Peters by leaking the script to the press.

“It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody,” Gaiman said in an interview with Rolling Stone.

“A guy in Jon Peters’ office phoned me up and he said, ‘So Neil, have you had a chance to read the script we sent you?’ And I said, ‘Well, yes. Yes, I did. I haven’t read all of it, but I’ve read enough.’ He says, ‘So, pretty good. Huh?’ And I said, ‘Well, no. It really isn’t.’ He said, ‘Oh, come on. There must have been stuff in there you loved.’ I said, ‘There was nothing in there I loved. There was nothing in there I liked. It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody. It’s not just the worst Sandman script. That was the worst script I’ve ever been sent.’”…

(11) BACK TO THE MOON. While we’ve done a lot of Artemis Program stories, have we ever linked to the NASA: Artemis I website where all kinds of information and educational resources are gathered?

And here’s an update: “Our Artemis I Flight Test is “Go for Launch” on This Week @NASA – August 26, 2022”.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/24/22 Once the Pixels Go Up, Who Cares Where They Scroll Down?

(1) GUESSING GAME. Camestros Felapton invites you to take his “Hugo Novel Picture Quiz”.

This year, as the Hugo Awards come closer, I thought I’d combine my current hobby (throwing weird prompts as Midjourney AI) and a guessing game.

I used the names of each of the Hugo Award finalist novels as prompts for the AI. It drew a quartet of pictures for each. Based on the picture, you have to guess which pictures match which novels…

(2) L, D + R. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with several people associated with Love, Death, and Robots because one episode from the show is up for an Emmy. 

Executive producer Tim Miller says he came up with the idea of “reviving Heavy Metal” over a decade ago. He and David Fincher started pitching this idea and Netfix greenlit the series, which is renewed for season 4.  Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3, says as supervising producer her role is to create the storyboards animators use and “head the quality control department.”  Sound editors Brad North and Craig Henigan explain what sound editors do, and we learn that the great sound editor Ben Burtt got part of the voice for Darth Vader from a noisy projector at the University of Southern California film school that is still being used. 

Finally, Leonard Maltin said that Alfred Hitchcock once opined that the advantage an animator has over a live action director is “If you don’t like your leading man, you can rip him up.” “Emmy Nominees for Love, Death & Robots” at Maltin on Movies.

(3) THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOANNA RUSS. A feature of the Middletown (PA) Public Library’s Science Fiction Book Club is its online archive of Science Fiction Author Interviews. The latest is an “Interview about Joanna Russ” conducted with Lisa Yaszek, a Regents’ Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech.

Damo Mac Choiligh: Did Russ retain her perception of SF as a worthwhile literature into later life? I have always been struck by how she was optimistic about its potential, despite the extent to which it is dominated by writers and fans for whom her feminism was anathema or who simply did not understand it.

[Lisa Yaszek:] I’ve always liked Russ’s optimism as well! Russ spoke often about how she began reading science fiction as a teenager because it promised her that “life could be different!” than the stifling world of midcentury America. And then many of her early critical essays were all about why SF is an important genre. And of course, she continued to write both professional SF and amateur “slash” fiction until her death. If her production slowed down in the 1980s and 1990s, it was largely due to health issues. Having said that, Russ did become increasingly disenchanted with certain factions of the SF community as the 1970s unfolded. When Russ started out in the 1960s, she was actually quite well-received by the largely male/male-identified SF community because she wrote about the possibilities of science fiction as the premiere story form of modernity and her first really successful stories—the Alyx tales—followed the adventures of a strong, smart, successful woman living mostly amongst men. But then Russ began to write essays about the patriarchal limits of SF as it was currently practiced (in essays such as “The Image of Women in Science Fiction” and “Amore Vincent Foeminam!”) and more literarily-experimental stories about all[1]female futures and the women who would go to war with men to preserve them, such as “When It Changed” (1972), The Female Man (1975), and The Two of Them (1978). This led SF authors and editors including Poul Anderson, Judy Del Rey, and Avram Davidson to publicly turn against Russ, dismissing her as a “second rate academic” masquerading as an author. Even Samuel R. Delany—a queer Black experimental SF author who was friends with Russ and who Russ was careful to include in important gender and SF events, such as the 1974 Khatru symposium on “Women and Science Fiction”—was quite critical of her writing at the time. Little wonder then, that Russ gave up her post as a reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1980 and began to focus more on writing and publishing in feminist and lesbian venues—even if she never quit writing science fiction itself….

(4) HUGO PICKS. Kristenelle – SFF Reader is a science fiction and fantasy focused booktuber who reads a lot of new releases and does commentary on awards such as the Hugos and Nebulas. Here are her “2022 Hugo Award Predictions”. The whole concept of booktubers fascinates me, I wish I had time to keep up with them.

(5) MENSA. Eve Peyser chronicles “My Week With America’s Smartest* People” for New York Magazine.

Despite its history and Loftus’s conclusions, I did not get the sense that Mensa is an unhealthy place to find community. Many of its members think of themselves as outsiders and feel like Mensa is a place where they can be themselves and connect with people who understand and appreciate them. It’s a place where they can find other folks who love to play Set or who have encyclopedic knowledge of minute Disney trivia. This isn’t to say that there aren’t toxic subsections of Mensa, because there are, but that’s true of any group that runs tens of thousands of members deep. And in an era when the internet and the pandemic have scrambled our sense of community and alienation reigns supreme, that’s no small thing.

(6) ARRAY OF TEMPESTS. Ars Technica tells why “We’re loving the lavish epic visuals in the new LOTR: Rings of Power trailer”.

…This latest trailer opens with a voiceover by Galadriel, telling us that her brother gave his life “hunting the enemy.” She takes up the cause in his stead. She asks for others to stand with her, as we see shots of several central characters who, one presumes, will become her comrades in arms. Or perhaps they will decline the offer. That seems to be the case with Halbrand, who insists, “I am not the hero you seek,” suggesting a dark secret in his past. “Whatever you did, be free of it,” Galadriel tells him.

Galadriel seems to be emerging as the most major protagonist, but we also get new footage of several other characters scattered throughout Middle-earth, including dwarves and hobbits. The latter, while humble, do have their strengths. “One thing we can so better than any creature in all Middle-earth—we stay true to each other, with our hearts even bigger than our feet,” Nori’s dad, Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith), says. It looks like different kinds of struggles and battles will be waged on many different fronts, as befitting a sweeping epic series of this magnitude….

(7) NEVER? WELL, HARDLY EVER. Tom Mead chooses the “10 Most Puzzling Impossible Crime Mysteries” at Publishers Weekly.

… “Impossible crime” and “locked-room mystery” are two analogous terms referring to mysteries in which how a crime was committed is equally important as who committed it. Crimes which are seemingly impossible, which appear to have been committed in defiance of both physics and logic. As such, these mysteries are often tinged with a hint of the surreal, the sinister, and the uncanny. However—and this is particularly important—the crime always, always has a rational explanation. By its nature, this is a fiendish subgenre, but when done right it’s also one of the most satisfying for both writers and readers. The puzzle and the atmosphere are perfectly intertwined; all the clues are there, but they are so ingeniously disguised as to make it nigh-on impossible for the reader to suss out what is going on….

At the top of his list:

1. The Three Coffins/The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr

Whenever I am asked what is my favorite locked-room mystery or impossible crime story, this is always my answer. The murder of Professor Charles Grimaud by the mysterious “hollow man” who vanishes without trace is a perfect locked-room problem. Meanwhile, the killing of illusionist Pierre Fley in a street carpeted with unmarked snow is an archetypal example of the popular impossible crime variant, the no-footprints puzzle. 

As well as one of the most famous examples of the subgenre, this novel remains an indisputable masterpiece. Not only is it a tour-de-force of plotting, prose, and atmosphere, it also happens to contain within it one of the definitive critical overviews of the genre itself: the famous “locked-room lecture,” a perfect piece of meta-fiction in which Dr. Gideon Fell examines the very nature of the impossible crime. It’s a treatise which probes just about every category of impossible crime, providing numerous examples of methods by which they could be achieved. But is the solution to these two murders lurking somewhere in those scant few pages? Or is the locked-room lecture itself just a red herring? 

When I first read this book, the brilliance of the solution left me giddy. Reading it again today, it has lost none of its impact. This book is one of the many reasons that John Dickson Carr remains (to borrow a phrase from Agatha Christie) the “supreme conjurer, the King of the Art of Misdirection.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-six years ago, Fantastic Voyage premiered. It would the next year be nominated for a Hugo at NyCon 3 but Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” won. 

It was directed by Richard Fleischer and produced by Saul David. Fleischer had been responsible for the earlier 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and David had produced Our Man Flint. (It is definitely genre.) The screenplay was by Harry Klein off an adaptation by David Duncan (yes, our David Duncan) of the story by Jerome Bixby and Otto Klement which I assume is “Small War” though nowhere is that stated. 

The film starred Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasence, and Arthur Kennedy. Of course it has Welch in it , there had to be one sexy female on the crew, didn’t there?

Klement and Kleiner claimed to the studio that it would be “the most expensive science-fiction film ever made”, a odd thing I think to say to sell anything to a studio. It cost five million dollars which certainly was expensive but not that expensive. It didn’t do that well at the box office returning just twelve million.

I’ll quote but one review from the time, that of Variety: “Fantastic Voyage is just that. The lavish production, boasting some brilliant special effects and superior creative efforts, is an entertaining, enlightening excursion through inner space – the body of a man.”

Asimov wrote the novelization which readers thought the film was based on as it came out well before the film premiered. He was displeased with that take so he wrote another take, Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain,  and a third novel would follow written not by him but by Kevin J. Anderson, Fantastic Voyage: Microcosm.

It would spawn a short-lived animated series, Fantastic Voyage, thirteen episodes to be precise, and a Fantastic Voyage comic book, based on the series, published by Gold Key which lasted an amazingly short two issues.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 24, 1899 Gaylord Du Bois. He was a writer of comic book stories and comic strips, as well as Big Little Books. He wrote Tarzan for Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics from the Forties to early Seventies.) He was one of the writers for Space Family Robinson which was the basis for the Lost in Space series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born August 24, 1899 Jorge Luis Borges. I’m reasonably sure my first encounter with him was at University with the assignment of The Library of Babel. I’m not deeply read in him but I loved The Book of Imaginary Beings, and though not genre, recommend The Last Interview and Other Conversations for an excellent look at him as a writer. (Died 1986.)
  • Born August 24, 1915 Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air but they too are worth reading even if critics weren’t pleased by them. (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Shepard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the most believable Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige (nominated for a Hugo at Nippon 2007),the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 24, 1934 Kenny Baker. Certainly his portrayal of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise is what he’s best known for but he’s also been in Circus of HorrorsWombling Free, Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader series, The Elephant ManSleeping BeautyTime BanditsWillowFlash Gordon and Labyrinth. Personally I think his best role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 86. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections. 
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 71. Prolly best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, the Crusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, AliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy.
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 65. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (I absolutely adore both films as I noted in my essay on them) though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s also the narrator for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings.
  • Born August 24, 1958 Lisa A. Barnett. Wife of Melissa Scott. Some of her works were co-authored with her: The Armor of LightPoint of Hopes: A Novel of Astreiant and Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant. They wrote one short story, “The Carmen Miranda Gambit”. (Died 2006.)

(10) BOOM TIMES. The New York Times takes readers “Inside the Making of New York City’s Bizarre Nuclear War P.S.A.”  This Bonestell art is not part of it…

The video opens gauzily on an empty New York City streetscape, with sirens echoing in the distance, as a woman dressed in black strolls in with some hypothetically catastrophic news.

“So there’s been a nuclear attack,” she says nonchalantly. “Don’t ask me how or why, just know that the big one has hit.”

The 90-second public service announcement, which instructed New Yorkers about what to do during a nuclear attack, was released by the city’s Department of Emergency Management in July.

It attracted attention: While most of the videos on the department’s YouTube page have recorded fewer than 1,000 views, at last count the nuclear preparedness video had been seen more than 857,000 times.

It also drew immediate and widespread derision, much of it centered on an underlying question: What were they thinking?

… Many Americans are concerned about the prospect of a nuclear attack. Nearly 70 percent of residents said they were “worried the invasion of Ukraine is going to lead to nuclear war,” according to a survey in March by the American Psychological Association.

Still, some questioned whether the city should have prioritized the nuclear preparedness video at a time when emergency officials are grappling with more imminent threats, like extreme heat and catastrophic flooding, and the city is dealing with the monkeypox health crisis.

Mr. Harvin, the former city official, said that emergency management professionals traditionally focus on events that are more likely to occur, including flash floods or mass shootings. New York City has recently experienced both….

(11) ARTEMIS ROCKET. MSN.com runs the AP’s “EXPLAINER: NASA tests new moon rocket, 50 years after Apollo”.

Years late and billions over budget, NASA’s new moon rocket makes its debut next week in a high-stakes test flight before astronauts get on top.

The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket will attempt to send an empty crew capsule into a far-flung lunar orbit, 50 years after NASA’s famed Apollo moonshots.

If all goes well, astronauts could strap in as soon as 2024 for a lap around the moon, with NASA aiming to land two people on the lunar surface by the end of 2025.

Liftoff is set for Monday morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The six-week test flight is risky and could be cut short if something fails, NASA officials warn.

“We’re going to stress it and test it. We’re going make it do things that we would never do with a crew on it in order to try to make it as safe as possible,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

(12) YOUR SPITTING IMAGE. Gizmodo discusses a study that tells why “You and Your Doppelganger Might Have More in Common Than Just Looks”.

It turns out that unrelated doppelgangers may have quite a bit in common beyond just twin faces. New research suggests that lookalikes with incredibly similar faces tend to share many genetic variants—variants that don’t just seem to shape their appearance but general aspects of their life. At the same time, other important influences, such as the microbiome, appear to contribute little to their symmetry.

Study author Manel Esteller, a geneticist and director of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute (IJC) in Barcelona, Spain, is interested in what makes people the way they are. In 2005, he and his colleagues published research showing that identical twins weren’t as identical as they appear at first glance. While they had the same basic genetic patterns, they differed noticeably in their epigenetics: changes in how our genes express themselves, which are caused by environmental or behavioral factors, such as smoking or age.

In their new research, published Tuesday in Cell Reports, Esteller’s team wanted to look at the other side of the coin—people who look so similar that they could be twins but aren’t actually related…

(13) WOODEN IT BE ROMANTIC. Disney+ dropped their trailer for Pinocchio today (which is not Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio–the Disney version is directed by Robert Zemeckis.)

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George, in this sketch that dropped four days ago, wonders what the billionaires would do when the apocalypse happens!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/22/22 And The Pixel That Was Planted In My Brain Still Remains, Within The Scrolls Of Filers

(1) BOT AND PAID FOR. In “Fandoms Can Do Bad All by Themselves”, Vice looks at reports about what percentage of social media support for the release of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League came from bots, but concludes most of it was probably genuine.

According to a report in Rolling Stone, the very online campaign for the release of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League was a battle waged in no small part by bots. The report is gossipy fun and well worth reading in full—multiple sources tell reporter Tatiana Siegel that Snyder, discoursing on his enemies to a studio executive, said, “I will destroy them on social media,” and it gets more absurd from there—but the main impression the reader is left with is that the pro-Snyder movement was perhaps not quite as organic as it seemed. One interesting thing is that it’s not clear how much that would matter—the behavior of most fandoms when they’re incensed, after all, is not all that different from bots to begin with.

… The outlet commissioned reports from three different cybersecurity and social-media firms, and also quotes from reports that were commissioned by Warner Bros. According to reports commissioned by Rolling Stone, at least 13% of the accounts using the hashtags related to the Snyder fandom were deemed fake—much higher than the average of around 5%. Because people and bots using this hashtag would often target specific Warner Bros. executives with implied death threats, Rolling Stone reports, the studio hired cybersecurity firms to analyze its contents. While all acknowledge that any popular hashtag will have bot activity, at a few points in the article different people argue that if Snyder was scheming behind the scenes at the Warner Bros. studios, then these bots must have been under his control as well. (One site, forsnydercut.com, was at one point registered by an ad agency, but Rolling Stone was unable to establish a connection between Snyder and a person apparently behind the site, whom he denied knowing or hiring.)

While this report is full of juicy gossip surrounding Snyder’s behavior towards the people he felt had wronged him, it probably somewhat overstates the power of robot armies; whatever else Snyder was or wasn’t in control of, he certainly knew how to present himself to a fandom in order to garner its sympathy….

(2) LOVE NEVER FAILS. “Sarah Gailey On Loving Monsters” at CrimeReads.

Just Like Home is dedicated “to everyone who ever loved a monster.”

It is the easiest thing in the world to love a monster. It’s easy to love a monster because love isn’t a decision. It’s no one’s fault that love happens. Emotions, urges, and impulses are themselves beyond our ability to control. Love in its many forms wells up out of the human spirit irrepressibly. Like anger or sadness or the desire to kill, it arrives without invitation or intention. Action might spring from emotion—love might lead to an expression of affection, anger might lead to violence, a powerful impulse might lead to a monstrous act. But on its own, love is no different from any other feeling. To love a monster is easy, when the monster seems loveable.

It’s easy for a monster to seem loveable. All monsters partition other people into two categories—those who witness their monstrosity, and those who don’t. Maybe this is because the monster sees the world as divided into unequal parts, where some deserve to flourish while others deserve to be the targets of ungoverned impulse. Or maybe it’s because monsters want to be loved just as much as anyone else, and they understand that those who experience their ungoverned impulses aren’t likely to give them support, affection, admiration. Maybe it’s just another reflex, as unconscious as the way my voice slips into a slightly different register when I’m around trusted friends….

(3) AFROFUTURISM NEWS. In the Guardian’s interview with artist and filmmaker Edward George, he talks about Black cultural history, Tupac Shakur, the evolution of dub and his remarkable cinema essays with the Black Audio Film Collective: “Edward George: ‘You can’t have Afrofuturism without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in’”.

…Last Angel is not only a film about science fiction but, partly influenced by Chris Marker’s 1962 film La Jetée, it features a character called the “data thief” who travels back from the year 2195 to probe the failure of the Ghanaian revolution. If this all sounds hugely ambitious, Icarean even, that’s part of its appeal. It played a crucial role in popularising Afrofuturism – a term first coined by white theorist Mark Dery, and now used to describe countless exhibitions, film series and even films (such as the feudalism-romanticising Black Panther) in which the term is used breezily, a floating signifier for something to do with technophilia, empowerment, a vague and breezy form of utopianism. “Because of the ways it uses the archive, its montage, its commentary – the film has become a codex of futurity,” says George.

“If you want to fetishise futurity less, you have to go back to the plantations and to the slaves themselves: a lot of the songs that they were singing were literally about a tomorrow. These were cast in the metaphysical language of the day – that of the Bible – which was an act of mastery in itself. More than that, look at Italian futurism in the early 20th century: it opened out on to all kinds of fascism. You can’t have futurity, or futurism, or Afrofuturism, without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in.”…

(4) FLINT FUNDRAISER ACHIEVES GOAL. The “Eric Flint” GoFundMe created to help pay the costs of memorial services raised $12,540. The organizer announced, “The family wants to thank you for your generosity. We have reached the goal and will be closing the campaign. Hug your loved ones today.”

(5) SFWA SPOTLIGHTS ROMANCE STEERING COMMITTEE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) announced that a SFWA Romance Steering Committee (RSC) was formed in Fall 2021.

The RSC will offer meaningful input and assistance in cultivating a positive trajectory for authors of stories that combine fantasy, science fiction, and romance in a way that encourages diversity, engagement, and quality, while also providing outreach and support resources for romance writers struggling with inclusion in the SFF community at large.

RSC resources that are already available, or will be soon, include:

  • The SFWA Discord channel #romantic-sff
  • Monthly posts in the Romancing SFF series on the SFWA Blog searchable here.
  • A Romancing SFF Meetup to be held in the fall.

The members of the Romance Steering Committee are Alexia Chantel, Claire Davon, Miranda Honfleur (co-chair), Victoria Janssen, Chelsea Mueller (co-chair), Abigail Reynolds, Katherine Ley, and R.K. Thorne.

(6) HOT ITEM. From AbeBooks “Most expensive sales from April to June 2022”, see the asbestos-bound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The third-biggest sale of the quarter, it went for $22,500.

This is the famous asbestos-bound edition of Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel about the power of books. #83 of 200 signed and numbered copies. A regular signed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 sold for $12,000 via AbeBooks earlier in the year.

Sixth on the list was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali sold for $21,375.

(7) CYBER-GROUNDHOG DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Sure, sounds useful, but also “Yet another ‘what could possibly go wrong,’ e.g., heists/capers, foreign invaders, alien invaders, and AI/cyber takeovers. E.g, Niven/Pournelle Oath of Fealty, probably also at least one PK Dick story. “Earthgrid Aims To Rewire the USA Using Super-Cheap Tunnel Tech” at Slashdot.

Bay Area startup Earthgrid says it’s developing a plasma boring robot that can dig underground tunnels 100x faster and up to 98% cheaper than existing tech, and it plans to use it to start re-wiring America’s energy, internet and utilities grids….

(8) SHATNER LENDING VOICE TO MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Yahoo! was a witness as “William Shatner crashes Comic-Con—and soon, Masters Of The Universe”.

He-Man and his friends will welcome a new addition to the follow-up to Netflix’s Masters Of The Universe: Revelation—an animated series set in outer space that, up until now, has been sorely lacking anyone who’s actually been in outer space. William Shatner made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s San Diego Comic-Con panel celebrating 40 years of Masters Of The Universe toys, films, and series, at which series creator Kevin Smith confirmed that Shatner will voice a mystery character in the upcoming Masters Of The Universe: Revolution.

The legendary Star Trek actor and actual astronaut arrived to deliver the news of his casting in the most conceivably Comic-Con way possible: his booming voice startling and delighting Hall H audience members before he emerged to join the panel. The 2022 edition of the convention is a busy one for Shatner, who was also on hand to preview a forthcoming documentary about his life produced by Legion M, the production company created and led entirely by fans. “San Diego Comic-Con has grown,” he quipped. “There’s something in the water. It used to be a little sleepy town!”…

There are more details about the panel in CBR.com’s article “SDCC: He-Man & the Masters of the Universe 40th Anniversary Panel”.

Cora Buhlert is keeping a sharp eye on these developments. She notes there will be another Masters of the Universe panel on Friday focused on the toys. Plus, says Cora, “Mattel has a huge toy display at the con, including a diorama featuring the massive Eternia playset, of which only a handful were produced in the 1980s. Apparently, the Eternia set will be crowdfunded, e.g. Mattel will be collecting preorders and only then go into production. There are a couple of videos about the Mattel display online. This one is pretty detailed and offers a good look at the Eternia diorama and the other toys announced.”

(9) BUHLERT’S NEW TOY PHOTO STORY. The previous item would have been the perfect lead-in to a new Masters of the Universe figure photo story, but that’s not the source of her latest, which is “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, an adaptation of a story by Robert E. Howard.

…For those who don’t know, “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is the second story about Conan of Cimmeria that Robert E. Howard ever wrote, ninety years ago now. It was rejected by Weird Tales and only published in altered form (with Conan renamed Amra) in the fanzine The Fantasy Fan during Howard’s lifetime. The original version did not appear until way after Howard’s death. You can read the Amra version here.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is set early during Conan’s career. Many believe it is the earliest of Conan’s chronicles adventures. I’m not entirely convinced by this, but Conan is definitely young in this story.

My adaptation differs from the original story in two aspects. For starters, I made it less rapey. Secondly, instead of the male pseudo-Viking companions from the original story, the companion I gave Conan is Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, pirate, mercenary, swordswoman and all around awesome character, whom Conan meets in the later story “Red Nails”.

So I present you: “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” by Robert E. Howard, starring Conan of Cimmeria and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood…

(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dig into dumplings with Patrick O’Leary in episode 176 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Patrick O’Leary

We discussed the way his new novel 51 is similar to The Great Gatsby, why he believes his books will crumble if he attempts to describe them, the perils and pleasures of pantsing (and how his stories often don’t get any good until the 15th draft), the tragedy of being an invisible creature, our mutual fears of what aging might bring, his love for Marvel Comics (and especially the Silver Surfer), how Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced him to literature, the way reading Kurt Vonnegut taught him there were no rules, the two science fiction greats who literally left him speechless, and much more.

(11) ALAN GRANT (1949-2022). Comic writer Alan Grant, best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Batman, died July 20 at the age of 73. 2000AD has a full profile of his career here.

…Grant was one of his generation’s finest writers, combining a sharp eye for dialogue and political satire with a deep empathy that made his characters seem incredibly human and rounded. Through his work he had a profound and enduring influence on 2000 AD and on the comics industry….

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1922 [By Cat Eldridge.] One hundred years ago, Agatha Christie’s Secret Adversary was released in the United Kingdom by The Bodley Head. The novelintroduces Tommy and Tuppence who will be featured in three more novels and a collection of short stories. The five Tommy and Tuppence books would span Christie’s writing career.

The story here is that the Great War is over, and jobs are almost impossible to find, so childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley decide to start their own business as The Young Adventurers. In this novel, they are hired for a job that leads them into many dangerous situations, and meeting allies as well, including an American millionaire in search of his cousin.

The critics liked it. The Times Literary Supplement said it was “a whirl of thrilling adventures” and the Daily Chronicle was very happy with it: “It’s an excellent yarn and the reader will find it as impossible as we did to put it aside until the mystery has been fathomed.” 

It would be the second Christie work to be turned into a film as it would be made in Germany by the Orplid Film company in 1929 as a silent movie which ran for 76 minutes. Thought to be lost, it wasn’t and was shown at the National Film Theatre in 2001. 

The novel was adapted twice for television, in 1983 and in 2014. Significant changes were made to story. A graphic novel was done.  Several theatre productions were staged. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1882 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 90. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them on this occasion at least? Well I will. Now Jitterbug Perfumethat’s definitely genre! Cowgirls Get the Blues got made into a rather excellent film by Gus Van Sant and stars Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, and Keanu Reeves. Interesting note: Still Life with Woodpecker made the long list at one point for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. 
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 78. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really like be it genre adjacent or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 50. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. Damn I miss that series which amazingly won no Hugos. (I just discovered the series is on the Peacock streaming service which I subscribe to so I’m going to watch it again!) He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the DarkThe HungerThe X-FilesThe Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries. Oh and he made a series of commercials for Maytag.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Last Kiss has genre-related advice for a foundering romance.

(15) COLBERT AT COMIC-CON. “SDCC: Stephen Colbert hosts Lord Of The Rings extravaganza”A.V. Club has the story.

Amazon spent nearly half a billion dollars on their new Lord Of The Rings series, and at least half of that must’ve gone into their Comic-Con panel. Led by a string accompaniment featuring series composer Bear McCreary, the panel kicked off with the music of Middle Earth to set the stage, and Late Show host Stephen Colbert on hand to speak elvish and keep things moving.

Prime Video played a room-wrapping trailer on screens all around Hall H, showing off the various peoples of Middle Earth. And all that’s before showrunner J.D. Payne taught us to say “Oh, shit” in Elvish—only to be challenged by Colbert. “Tolkien speaks the language of the soul,” said Payne. And he also speaks the language of debate.

… And finally, Colbert asked question that was on everyone’s lips: “Will there be Entwives?”

“Maybe you’ve seen them already,” McKay teased.

(16) RINGS TRAILER. Here’s the “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” trailer shown at San Diego Comic-Con. Begins streaming September 2 on Prime Video.

Discover the legend that forged the rings. #TheRingsOfPower Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(17) FREE READ. Cora Buhlert has a new flash story online at Wyngraf Magazine. This one is called “Demon Child” which she says “is a changeling story in reverse.” The first line is —

“I swear to you, this baby is a monster,” Sansavi said as she pushed the pram back and forth across the black bridge of Zairahm….

(18) A COMIC ABOUT MARTIANS IN PASADENA. NPR presents “NASA engineer Nagin Cox on Mars rover time”. “This comic, illustrated by Anuj Shrestha, is inspired by an interview with NASA engineer Nagin Cox from TED Radio Hour’s episode It Takes Time.

(19) ALTERNATE RACE TO MARS CONTINUES. “’For All Mankind’ Renewed for Season 4 at Apple”Variety reports from Comic-Con.

For All Mankind” has been renewed for Season 4 at Apple.

The announcement was made Friday as part of the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Production on the new season is scheduled to begin in August. Season 3 of the series debuted on the streamer on June 10.

“For All Mankind” is an alternative history series that explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. The series presents an world where NASA astronauts, engineers and their families find themselves in the center of extraordinary events seen through the prism of an alternate history timeline — a world in which the USSR beats the US to the moon.

In Season 3, the series moved into the early ‘90s with a race to a new planetary frontier: Mars. The Red Planet becomes the new front in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. The characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion….

(20) STRANGER CHICKEN. Adweek is fascinated when “KFC Releases ’80s-Style Horror Film With Killer Pizza”.

The phenomenon of Netflix series Stranger Things has produced a resurgence of interest in ’80s horror movies. Now chicken restaurant chain KFC is looking to tap into that interest from younger consumers by producing its own short film in Spain, featuring killer pizza.

The fast-food chain has released La Massacre—a 14-minute short film, which tells the often-told story of five teenagers who travel to a remote cabin in the woods to enjoy a weekend away. However, once they reach it, they are stalked and killed by a terrifying entity shaped like a pizza.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George notes the sixth Harry Potter movie begins with Harry Potter breaking Hogwarts security by reading a magic newspaper in a Muggle coffee shop.  But Dumbledore drags him back to Hogwarts so that he can begin his yearly ritual of “placing children in mortal danger.” The producer notes that at Hogwarts “they really don’t teach anything except how to die a horrible death,” so Harry and the gang “spend way too much time on teenage romance.”  But things are so lax at Hogwarts that Harry nearly kills Draco Malfoy until Snape saves him but Harry isn’t punished for this.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Bill, Steven French, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/21/22 This Pixel Intentionally Left Indescrollable

(1) WICKED GOOD. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] I was browsing this article in Slate and was pleasantly shocked to find Estraven from The Left Hand of Darkness on the list. There are other more mainstream SFFnal entries too. “The best death scenes in movies, TV, books, theater, songs, and more.”

…The death scene is one of the sharpest tools in a writer’s toolbox, as likely to wound the writer themself as the reader—for if a well-written death scene can be thrilling, terrifying, or filled with despair, so can a poorly written one be bathetic, stupid, and eye-rolling.

But let’s not talk about those. Let’s talk about the good ones, the deathless death scenes. We’ve assembled the 50 greatest fictional deaths of all time—the most moving, most funny, most shocking, most influential scenes from books, movies, TV, theater, video games, and more. Spoilers abound: It’s a list that spans nearly 2,500 years of human culture, from Athens to A24, and is so competitive that even poor Sydney Carton and his famous last words couldn’t make it…. 

(2) MOBY CLICK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In connection with the previous item, Slate also posted “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams explains the whale scene”, a piece reprinted with the permission of his estate in which Douglas Adams reacts to the ways that some of his readers reacted to the death of the whale. And, one supposes, this Reprinted Reaction Reaction is now Canon. 

(3)  TIMING IS THE SECRET (NOT JUST OF COMEDY). Gizmodo reports the resolution of a story I first read on Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News: “As Comic-Con Begins, Hotel Workers Went On Strike… And Won”.

Just as the Hilton Bayfront was set to open its doors to San Diego Comic Con attendees, special guests, and press, the workers at the hotel set up a picket line in front of the hotel. The strike only lasted a few hours, proving once again that collective action, worker solidarity, and excellent timing will often force management to come to the bargaining table willing to present reasonable offers.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that last Wednesday, despite the oncoming legion of nerds, geeks, and fans that are set to swarm the sold-out hotel, management had not come to an agreement with the Unite Here Local 30, which represents nearly 450 full-time employees and an additional 150 on-call workers. Today, however, they have presented an agreement that Brigette Browning, president of Unite Here Local 30, views positively, which ended the strike, for now….

(4) PICKET DUTY. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, “HarperCollins Workers Strike For Increased Wages, Benefits and Diversity”  reports the New York Times.

HarperCollins union members went on a one-day strike on Wednesday, with around 100 employees and additional supporters marching in front of the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan in the sticky heat for higher wages, better family leave benefits and a stronger commitment to diversity from the company.

Publishing has long offered meager wages to entry and midlevel employees, making it difficult to live in New York City, where the industry is based, without a second job or financial support from a spouse or family.

Many workers say that the low wages also make it hard for potential employees who don’t come from wealth to consider a career in publishing, which hampers efforts to diversify the mostly white industry.

“I love my job, I love my authors, it’s an incredible privilege to get to work on these books, and I would love to do it for the rest of my life, if I can afford to,” said Stephanie Guerdan, an associate editor in the children’s department who joined the strike.

But with a salary of $56,000 a year, she said, she worries she won’t be able to stay.

(5) HEAR THEM RING. A Marriott hosting San Diego Comic-Con visitors is wrapped with publicity for The Rings of Power.

Two tracks of music from the series have been made available to hear online.

(6) GAIMAN AS OPERA. The West Edge opera production of Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s book, will be performed at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, CA from July 30-August 7. Tickets here.

With great pleasure we present an opera that is for people of all ages who love gruesome things!

Coraline is a young girl whose life has been uprooted. As she wanders alone through her new creaky house, she tries to get the attention of her work-at-home parents to no avail. One day she discovers a mysterious door, through which she sets out on a terrifying adventure that tests the limits of human bravery.

(7) POWERS OF PERSUASION. While I’m already interested in Jane Austen, if I weren’t, Abigail Nussbaum’s “Four Comments on Netflix’s Persuasion at Asking the Wrong Questions would still rivet my interest. Following the four comments referenced in the title, she sums up:

…The correct attitude when approaching a field this vibrant and busy isn’t condescension, but humility. When even the specific sub-type of Austen adaptation you’re attempting—irreverent and modernized—includes films like Clueless, you don’t have the option of half-assing your work, or failing to think through your choices and how they affect the characters and plot. You have to be able to justify what you’re doing both as a reflection of what Austen wrote, and as a work in its own right. Persuasion does not even seem to have realized that it needed to do this…. 

(8) THAT EXPRESSION IS A SMILE. You might not expect to find James Davis Nicoll recommending “Five Feel-Good Comfort Reads”, but never underestimate his versatility.

Unlike the news, fiction is not limited to a seemingly unending cavalcade of disaster, calamity, and egregiously poor choices, a cavalcade as comforting as glancing up a mountainside to see an avalanche swiftly bearing down on one.  So, if doomscrolling is getting you down, consider stepping away from the newsfeeds to enjoy a comfort read or two…

First on the list, a work with previously unsuspected sff credentials:

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

Orphaned at nineteen, Flora Post embodies “every art and grace save that of earning her own living.” Without any other means at hand, she goes to live with distant relatives: the Starkadders, whose homestead, Cold Comfort Farm, is in the depths of rustic Sussex.

Flora intends to earn her living. The rural melodramas of such luminaries as Mary Webb (Gone to Earth) assure Flora that her unfortunate rural relatives must languish under a myriad of troubles that their simple rustic minds are incapable of solving. Indeed, each Starkadder struggles with issues so profound as to seem parodic. Flora, on the other hand, is a very modern, very organized girl. What seem like insurmountable challenges for her kinfolk are to her simple challenges easily solved.

Readers who know Cold Comfort Farm only from the otherwise exemplary 1995 film adaptation—”There’ll be no butter in hell!”—may be surprised to learn that Cold Comfort Farm was a science fiction novel of sorts. The 1932 text references the Anglo-Nicaraguan wars of ’46, establishing that the book takes place in what is now an alternate history.

(9) TONOPAH ON HIS MIND. Alan White’s personal Westercon 74 Memory Book is filled with entertaining snark and Alan’s marvelous art. It can be downloaded from eFanzines.com. Here’s a paragraph about staying at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah.

…The wind came up howling through the window with such force, we thought someone was testing a jet-engine in the alley. The window we could neither open nor close and not until closer inspection see the latch was off-kilter less than a hair’s breadth and with some force, clicked into place (phew). Not long after, there were other noises of speculation every time our neighbor visited the bathroom. There were noises not unlike the Titanic signaling for help whenever the faucets turned on and whenever they drew a bath, I swear there was the sound as if the Lady in Red was blowing a Vuvuzela from the drain in our bathtub. I won’t belabor you dear reader with the trifling sound coming from the air duct…

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] So let’s talk about the five volumes of The Hugo Winners that Isaac Asimov edited, published in various editions between 1962 and 1986. The basic facts are that Asimov selected stories that won a Hugo Award for Short Story, Novelette or Novella at the Worldcons held between 1955 and 1982. That was fine.

However, the powers that be at Doubleday decided that Asimov was free to express his opinions. And oh, did he do so! To put it bluntly, this was quite unusual as the text ordinarily found in these anthologies is, errr, bland to a degree that should surprise no one. Just the facts, ma’am.

Not Asimov, who wrote a short introduction about each author in each anthology. And my. He named writers that he didn’t like, those he was quite jealous of. And he went at length about those writers who won awards ahead of him and how angry that made him as he should have won those awards instead. Of course, he always believed that he should’ve won every award. Poor Isaac.

He discussed his political beliefs as he supported the ending of the Vietnam War. Basically, he used the anthologies to express his annoyance with the universe.  Ok Asimov was never shy about expressing his opinions. I’m just surprised that Doubleday gave him carte blanche authority to write what he wanted.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 21, 1911 Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed terribly quaint. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 21, 1921 James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks.  (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 21, 1929 John Woodvine, 93. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man
  • July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Novelist, critic, teacher, medievalist, among other things. His student Jeffrey Ford described Gardner’s knowledge of literature as ‘encyclopedic,’ with no regard whatever for genre boundaries. He considered Stanislaw Lem the greatest living writer, disliked Tolkien’s poetry (an assessment I agree with) but thought The Lord of the Rings ‘one of the truly great works of the human spirit’. Most of his best works are fantasy: most famously Grendel, but also Freddy’s Book, Mickelson’s Ghosts, the short story collection The King’s Indian, and his posthumously-published short story, “Julius Caesar and the Werewolf”. His book The Art of Fiction is well worth reading for anyone interested in fiction, as a writer or a reader. (Died 1982.) (PhilRM)
  • Born July 21, 1948 G. B. Trudeau, 74. Ok we decided when I first put this Birthday up that there’s enough content to be genre, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out. A Doonesbury Retrospective series is up to three volumes and is available from the usual suspects at very reasonable prices. 
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook which I adore, The Fisher KingBicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 21, 1960 Lance Guest, 62. He’s an American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in “Fearful Symmetry” episode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode of The Burning Zone
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 46. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. She voices Camilla in Castlevania. Filmwise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood

(12) BLACK ASL. Black Nerd Problems tells how “’The Champion’s Hike’ Brings African American Sign Language to ‘Craig of the Creek’”.

…“The Champion’s Hike” episode centers around Craig trying to fit in among his former enemies turned friends and Maya being the one to let him know that it’s okay to just be himself. The other portion of this story is how we get to see African American Sign language on screen via Jackie who is deaf. We see Jackie’s father communicating with him prior to the group leaving. We also see Keun-Sup signing communicating to Jackie with ASL as well. Not only do we get to see African American Sign Language, but this episode gives us sign language conversation between two characters of color. We also see Craig learning more ASL and remembering what he’s learned prior from Keun in order to interact with Jackie. Craig of the Creek really be out here thinking of everything man.

There is an artist touch used here as well where we know what is being said of the conversation only by how Keun reacts verbally to what Jackie is saying. We viewers who aren’t versed in ASL won’t understand what’s being said (like the conversation between Jackie and his father) However, that’s fine because it’s not for us….

The episode also attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Times: “How ‘Craig of the Creek’ got Black American Sign Language right”.

…It’s a moment that the episode’s consultants, from Southern California Black Deaf Advocates, point to as a highlight of their experience on the series.

“I teach parents [who have deaf children] how to sign, so the fact that a Black father was signing to his son, that exposure and that emphasis was so amazing,” said Deaf mentor Bibi Ashley through a sign language interpreter during a recent video call. “Just seeing that interaction, that was my favorite part.”…

(13) TALKING HEADS. Let SYFY Wire usher you through “Funko’s tour of Funkoville at SDCC 2022”.

With San Diego International Comic-Con returning this week at full capacity for the first time since July 2019, plenty of companies are finding space around the Gaslamp or on the show floor to welcome back fans and communities in a big way.

One of them is Funko, the collectible company which has long catered to corralling their hyper-engaged audience with live events at cons and at their HQ stores in Everett, Washington and Hollywood, California. After having to go virtual with their FunKon event in 2021, SDCC 2022 finds Funko incorporating the lessons learned during the pandemic and applying them to their massive new show floor booth space which they’ve dubbed Funkoville. 

(14) THEME PARK PUNCHOUT. “Disney World Brawl: Fantasyland Becomes Nightmare As Melee Breaks Out”Deadline has the story.

Close on the heels of a massive brawl that forced Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California to close early on Saturday, video has surfaced of another large melee at Walt Disney World in Florida on Wednesday.

Video posted online shows at least 6 people simultaneously engaged in physical combat, as dozens of others hover at the edges, some trying to break it up and others at times joining the fray. One large group of about a half-dozen people are dressed in coordinated red shorts and white t-shirts with mouse ears on the front. They seem to be fighting with another equally large group, at least one of whom is heard using a racial slur.

The melee took place behind Cinderella’s Castle just in front of Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland, according to a local Fox affiliate. The sheriff also confirmed to the outlet that one man was hospitalized after the incident and three people were arrested for misdemeanor battery.

This is at least the third sizable fistfight at the Magic Kingdom in as many months, according to reports.

Video of the incident and further updates are posted at WDW News Today: “UPDATE: Guest Involved in Magic Kingdom Brawl Reveals Story & More Footage”.

(15) FANCY DUDS. Just what hangs in the TARDIS closet anyway? “Doctor Who costumes ranked from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker” at Radio Times.

The Seventh Doctor once claimed to have “an impeccable sense of haute couture”. Which was a pretty bold statement for a man wearing so many questions marks that even The Riddler probably thought it was “a bit on-the-nose”.

It’s far from the only statement look the Time Lord has sported over the years, of course. And now, if tabloid reports are to be believed – and they’re usually not, but go with me here – it seems Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is set to gallivant around the cosmos in a fetching pair of space wellies. So what more perfect time to bring you the Definitive Guide to Wellies in Doctor Who?

Just kidding (although the Cybermen did rock some delightful silver moon boots, back in the day): we’re actually here to talk about the Doctor’s duds down the years. And from Hartnell’s hat to Gatwa’s gumboots, it’s quite the catwalk parade…

(16) WHO HYPE. The Radio Times also reveals: “Doctor Who ‘gets behind-the-scenes spin-off series on BBC Three’”.

Returning Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has commissioned a special behind-the-scenes series ahead of the next season with new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, according to reports.

The BBC Three Doctor Who spin-off series will be titled Doctor Who: Unleashed and give fans a sneak-peek at the filming process, beginning with the 60th anniversary special next year and the surprise return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, according to The Mirror.

The series will apparently be similar in format to Doctor Who Confidential, the behind-the-scenes sister show that ran from 2005 to 2012. It will reportedly continue to air alongside the next full season.

(17) DOPEST NIGHT SKY. Sometimes it isn’t aliens… “Strange Pink Glow in Sky Turns Out to Be Caused by Monster Weed Farm” says the Daily Beast.

Turns out that residents in the Australian city of Mildura didn’t need to panic when a mysterious pink glow appeared in the sky on Wednesday night—the feared alien invasion was really just light coming from a huge medical cannabis farm where staff forgot to close the blinds. The sinister hue of the celestial phenomenon was attributed to special lamps used in weed cultivation….

(18) CSI SKILL TREE. The Center for Science and Imagination’s Skill Tree event on sound and worldbuilding can now be viewed on YouTube here, and all ten CSI Skill Tree episodes are available from this playlist.

In this episode of CSI Skill Tree, we discuss how sound design and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. We look closely at Inside, a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics, and the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), and consider how the possibilities for sound and music in games have changed over time. Our special guests are science fiction and fantasy author Tochi Onyebuchi (Goliath, Riot Baby) and composer and sound designer Amos Roddy, who has worked on a number of video games, including the recent cyberpunk hit Citizen Sleeper.

(19) MAD, YOU KNOW. Silvia Moreno-Garcia promotes The Daughter of Doctor Moreau on CrimeReads. “Bad Seeds and Mad Scientists: On the Build-A-Humans of 19th-Century Literature”.

…We owe the concept of criminal brains to Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician who promulgated the idea that criminality was inherited, and that criminals could be identified by physical defects, which indicated savage or atavistic traits. Sloping foreheads or left-handedness were some of the physical signs of primitive qualities inherent in criminal brains. Lombroso’s theories on criminality would be incorporated into eugenic discourse, and the idea of the criminal brain as a source for the creature’s violent actions would be reused in many more adaptations to come….

(20) NOT JUST ANY REC ROOM. As Gizmodo phrases it, “Owen Wilson Is Iron Man With Kids in the Superhero Comedy Secret Headquarters”. Secret Headquarters streams beginning August 12 on Paramount+.

While hanging out after school, Charlie and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero hidden beneath his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world.

(21) LEAP YEAR. In the lead-up to SDCC, the showrunners of the new Quantum Leap sequel series have released some information about the show, which begins airing in September. Entertainment Weekly has the story: “Quantum Leap bosses preview thrilling new chapter”.

…Described as a spiritual scientist, quantum physicist Dr. Song has a specific approach to time travel. “He is compelled over and over again to make the right decision, even if his own life is at stake, so he is a much better person than I am in real life. He’s something to strive for,” Lee says. Dr. Song immigrated from Korea with his mother, which will be integral to the story Quantum Leap is telling. “We’re telling an immigrant story at its core, and it is how Ben is experiencing life moving forward,” Lilien explains.

Dr. Song’s partner will be decorated Army veteran Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who assists in the form of a hologram that only Ben can see and hear. While the pair’s dynamic has the banter of Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Admiral Albert Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), the new iteration will be different. “Their relationship runs deeper than just being a hologram. They have a close relationship,” Lilien teases….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RE the upcoming Quantum Leap series sequel, several years ago Colbert had Scott Bakula on The Late Show and they tried a reboot of their own.  Maybe the new series can take a page from them.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bernie Phillips, Bill, Daniel Dern, Joey Eschrich, PhilRM, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner.]