Pixel Scroll 7/31/22 “How Many Files To Scrollbylon? Can I Get There By Pixel-Light?”

(1) FREE READ. The final free story in The Sunday Morning Transport’s month-long adventure of free reading is John Wiswell’s “Demonic Invasion or Placebo Effect?” “which shares a unique perspective on an experiment of sorts, gone very, very wrong.”

The Sunday Morning Transport is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work and our authors, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

(2) HOME COOKING. Media Death Cult posted two videos of conversations with author Claire North. First, “Meeting Claire North”.

I made myself comfortable in Catherine Webb’s kitchen, otherwise known as the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated author, Claire North.

Then, “Claire North Recommends Some Books”.

I hung around with Catherine Webb (Claire North), we talked about books.

(3) LIKE MOTHS TO A CANDLE. “Does Twitch Fame Have to Come With a Stalker?” The New York Times shows this is not a rhetorical question.

…Twitch, more than Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, is an intimate platform, designed to make its stars seem like actual friends of their fans, hanging out virtually with them. Those cozy relationships are a core part of the site’s business model. But they sometimes turn unhealthy.

“In livestreams, they see into your home, into your bedroom, and it feels very personal with them,” Ms. Siragusa said. “I think that is what contributes to a lot of the stalking: They feel like they know you.”

Streamers on Twitch and other platforms have had stalkers show up at their homes and at fan conventions, been targeted by armed and violent viewers or dealt with swatting, a sometimes deadly stunt in which someone calls the local police to report a fake crime at a streamer’s home, hoping the raid will be caught live on camera.

In response to the harassment, threats and stalkers she has endured since joining Twitch in 2016, Ms. Siragusa has bought guns, installed security cameras and gotten a Caucasian shepherd, a breed of guard dog, named Bear. She has been swatted so often that law enforcement agencies in her area know to check her Twitch stream when they get a call. Last year, when a trash can outside Ms. Siragusa’s house caught on fire, police suspected arson….

(4) ORIGIN STORY. George Jetson was born today, July 31, 2022. Don’t ask me where – I only know that in The Jetsons he lived in Orbit City. But NPR can tell you why the date is a logical inference.

…Here’s how the math works: The show first aired in 1962, but was set 100 years in the future. That would be 2062.

During the first season of the show, George reveals that he’s 40 years old. So 2062 minus 40, and there you go.

The fact-checking website Snopes looked into the claim and concluded it is, in fact, a “reasonable estimation of his birth year.”…

(5) TONOPAH TALES. You can read “John Hertz’s Westercon Notebook” at Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura.

… Holding a Westercon there was Lisa Hayes’ idea. The Tonopah Convention Center had been a USO hall (United Services Organization; entertainment, hospitality for armed-forces personnel and their families) when armed forces had bases nearby. The Belvada Hotel 100 yards (90 m) away, and the Mizpah Hotel 150 yards (140 m) away, are historic buildings. A 2,000-person Westercon wouldn’t fit there, but a 200-person Westercon, about what could be expected even with COVID-19 easing, would. Hayes was vindicated. 278 attending memberships were sold (and 59 supporting memberships); 159 people arrived. This was an intimate con. It was also hybrid, with some programming available virtually via Zoom. The Convention Center was its hub, like a great Hospitality Suite….

(6) CLARION NEWS. The Clarion Write-a-Thon ended July 30. They raised $4,232.00, which is not as much as they hoped. However, they are still accepting donations.

As it is the last day of our annual Write-a-Thon, there’s still time to squeeze in some writing towards your goal or help us get closer to our fundraising goal! A huge thank you to all of the participants, cheerleaders, signal-boosters, and donors who have helped us with the Write-a-Thon this summer. This annual fundraiser is an essential source of scholarships that provide opportunities for future students.

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Bloch was a very prolific genre writer and among those writings were three scripts for the original Trek series. (IMDb says that he wrote fifty-five tv and film scripts in total.) I would argue that his three Trek episodes were among the best episodes done. So let’s look at them

The first of them was the one I was least aware that he’d done, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” A season one undertaking, this is a straight SF story involving androids, one of whom of is played by Ted Cassidy as Ruk. I’d rate it a decent story. The make-up on Cassidy is quite wonderfully done. And yes, we get a bit of eye candy as well, something Trek did in its female androids more than once. 

Now the next Trek story, “Wolf in the Fold”, from the second season, with its take off the Ripper mythos is delightful indeed. Bloch does horror very, very well and within the restrictions of Sixties television governing what can be shown for blood and violence, he does quite a bit here. I’ll single out the acting of the nebbish like killer Administrator Hengist as played by John Fiedler. 

Now I admit that I had to go back and rewatch “Catspaw”, another second season episode, as I sort of remembered it but not quite though I knew Bloch had scripted it. Fortunately I subscribe to Paramount+, home of everything Trek. Ahhh, now I remember the All Hallows episode with the delightful Antoinette Bower as Sylvia and Theo Marcuse as Korob. And let’s not forget the cat as where would All Hallows’ Eve be without a cat. All in all a most wonderful tale. 

Bloch I’d say acquitted himself most admirably in these three scripts. 

Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek which is mentioned above in today’s featured essay and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the “The Corbomite Maneuver” episode and the Gorn in the “Arena” episode. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair” episode, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. And failed magnificently.  I watched a few months back. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1939 France Nuyen, 83. She showed up in the original Trek as “Elaan of Troyius” as Elaan and was on the new Outer Limits in the “Ripper” episode.  She was in the original Fantasy Island series, also the Battle for the Planet of the ApesAutoman, and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
  • Born July 31, 1950 Steve Miller, 72. He is married to Sharon Lee, and they are the creators of the vast and throughly entertaining Liaden universe. I was surprised though they’ve won both a Golden Duck and Skylark that they have never been nominated for a Hugo. 
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 71. Though best known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first though y’all corrected me when I first ran this Birthday note several years back. 
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 66. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnificent Tombstone film. Likewise he was in The Magnificent Seven series as Chris Larabee.
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 62. Though best known for his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. 
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 60. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. Most likely deservedly.) I also like him a lot as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. And he was Aman in Gallowwalkers, a Western horror film.
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 46. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond. He did The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed Magazine since the early part of the previous decade. He is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Nominated for the Hugo many times, he won for the Lightspeed prozine at Loncon 3 (2014) with Rich Horton and Stefan Rudnicki and at Sasquan (2015) with Horton, Rudnicki, Wendy N. Wagner and Christie Yant. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a plan for a more powerful monster.
  • Off the Mark reveals the original French name of the movie Jaws.
  • Calvin and Hobbes is about Calvin’s science fiction story.

(10) SPLISH, SPLASH. Amazon is taking a bath. “Amazon reports $2B net loss in Q2” reports Becker’s Health IT.

Amazon reported a $2 billion net loss in the second quarter ending June 30, a blow to the company that reported net income of $7.8 billion in the same period last year.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon, blamed inflation among other issues for the disappointing quarter.

“Despite continued inflationary pressures in fuel, energy, and transportation costs, we’re making progress on the more controllable costs we referenced last quarter, particularly improving the productivity of our fulfillment network,” Mr. Jassy said.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon’s plans to purchase One Medical for $3.9 billion last week.

(11) FOR YOUR MT. TBR. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes recommendations in “New And Notable Film Books July 2022 – Part One”. For example —

THE DISNEY REVOLT: THE GREAT LABOR WAR OF ANIMATION’S GOLDEN AGE by Jake S. Friedman (Chicago Review Press)

This deeply researched book tells the backstory of the notorious strike that occurred at the Walt Disney studio in 1941. It was a life-altering event for Walt and its aftereffects were still felt decades later. One of its many ironies is that it pitted Disney against the man he once regarded as his star animator, Art Babbitt. They would become blood enemies as a result of Babbitt’s passionate unionism—and his strident nature.

Students and followers of Disney know his side of the story by now, but may not recall that his father Elias was an active socialist. His upbringing wasn’t so very different from that of Arthur Babitsky, the son of Russian immigrants, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Fate brought these two gifted and strong-willed individuals together as Disney was envisioning new horizons for animation in the early 1930s….

(12) BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE. CNN’s reviewer Brian Lowry finds “‘DC League of Super-Pets’ goes to the dogs in more ways than one”.

Who’s a good movie? Not “DC League of Super-Pets,” a big colorful idea that proves promising in theory – tailor-made for a two-minute trailer – but a rather tedious slog as a full-length animated film. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s “Jumanji” reunion as the central voices and an intriguing start to serve up a few bones fun-wise, but not nearly as much as there should be….

(13) PREPARE TO DIE. Paul Weimer tells us what he heard while listening to The Killing Machine, second in the audio reissue of Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series: “Microreview: The Killing Machine by Jack Vance” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Something I didn’t appreciate when I first read (and re-read) these novels previously but is now clear to me know is the role of serendipitous luck in how these novels kick off. It is luck and chance in both volumes that puts Gersen in the path of this latest foe, quite by chance and accident, and he spends the rest of the novel trying to force a decisive confrontation with the Demon Prince. Also in both novels, there is a sense of “I want you to know it was me” Olenna Tyrell sort of feel to Gersen’s revenge. Shooting the Demon Prince out of the sky is not quite satisfactory enough for Gersen  The Prince must face his avenger…. 

(14) ARTIFICIAL INNUENDO. On The Tonight Show artificial intelligence doesn’t sound any smarter than the ordinary kind. So should I admit that I listened ’til the end? “Bruce the Robot Performs a Freestyle Rap About Hot Dogs and Taylor Swift”.

The world’s first autonomous AI-powered robot, Bruce the Robot, talks about his desire to fly first class, tells Jimmy his best pickup line and shows off his rapping skills.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage’s Tested looks at an animatronic Baby Yoda at Comi-Con built by Garner Holt Productions.  The price of this “bespoke” object isn’t mentioned, because, if you have to ask you can’t afford him! “Lifelike Animatronic Grogu Puppet at Comic-Con 2022!”

The highlight of Comic-Con 2022 so far is this fully animatronic Grogu from EFX Collectibles, designed by the engineers and artists at Garner Holt Productions. We get up close with this incredible animated puppet, which uses 15 servos to recreate all of the character’s joyful expressions seen in The Mandalorian. Star Wars fans at San Diego Comic-Con have to check this out!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/22 My Name Is Tsundoko, Stack Of Books; Look On My Pages, Pixels, And Despair

(1) COSTA BOOK AWARDS RETIRED. “Costa book awards scrapped suddenly after 50 years”  reported the Guardian today.

The Costa book awards, after running for half a century, have been abruptly scrapped. The coffee shop chain has said the 2021 awards, which were announced in February this year, were the last….

…The children’s book of year prize was the only literary award won by Roald Dahl, for The Witches in 1983. Overall book of the year winners have included Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, which narrowly beat JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999. Iris Murdoch and Paul Theroux were winners in the 1970s, and Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass became the first children’s book to win book of the year in 2001.

…Costa – which according to reports of parent company Coca-Cola earlier this year has been enjoying strong sales – said that there are no plans for the awards to be taken over by anyone else. The company has not yet given a reason for closing them.

A sff novel won the 2020 Costa Book of the Year award, The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. The 2021 Costa Book Awards Finalists included several genre works, but none of them were among the winners.

(2) REVIEW OF ALASTAIR REYNOLDS. SF2 Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance post alert, ahead of its next seasonal edition, a review of Alastair Reynolds’ latest novel Eversion, just released the other week.

…Recently, Alastair Reynolds went all pirates and galleons in space with Revenger; yet at its core there was a hard-ish SF space opera with Solar-sail-powered craft seeking alien baubles between giant space station’s, with rail guns for cannon. And the dedicated Reynolds reader might at first think that Eversion was something in a similar vein, but actually it is not. Two-thirds in, Reynolds suddenly goes Philip K. Dick on us, exploring identity reminiscent of Do Androids and Flow my Tears…, or analysing perceptions as in The Cosmic Puppets and The Man in the High Castle….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share sushi with the award-winning writer Wen Spencer in episode 173 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Wen Spencer

Wen Spencer …is the author of more than a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels and is perhaps most known for her Elfhome series, which began with Tinker (2003), winner of the Sapphire Award.   She’s the 2003 winner of what was then known as the John W Campbell Award — now the Astounding Award — for Best New Writer — plus the 2002 winner of the Compton Crook Award for her novel Alien Taste, the first book in her Ukiah Oregon saga. The books which followed in that series are Tainted Trail (2002), Bitter Waters (2003), and Dog Warrior (2004). Her standalone novels include A Brother’s Price (2005), Endless Blue (2007), Eight Million Gods (2013), and The Black Wolves of Boston (2017). Her short fiction has appeared in such magazines and anthologies as TranshumanWorld BreakersTurn the Other Chick, and Chicks and Balances.

We discussed her origins as a writer of Pern fanfic, the similar faux pas we each made during our early days in fandom, how a friend inspired her professional career by lending her a stack of poorly written books, the dream which gave birth to her Compton Crook Award-winning first novel Alien Taste, the true reason the novel is her fiction form of choice, the impossibility of ever making something perfect, what her agent really means when he says “well, you could do that,” why it’s so important to be able to write more than one type of book, whether she knows how her series will end, and much more.

(4) HEAR CLARION INSTRUCTORS READ. The Clarion Reading Series is back at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego this summer. Here is the calendar of in-store readings:

These readings are free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served. Please note: Guests are asked to wear masks to these events.

(5) GROWTH INDUSTRY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Technologists Are Using AI to ‘Expand’ Famous Works of Art” reports Vice. Follow the link to the Vice article to see thumbnails of the “expanded” version of the Mona Lisa and the Girl With the Pearl Earring. Follow the Telegram link inside the Vice article to see larger versions. 

Artists have been creating all sorts of surreal compositions using OpenAI’s DALL-E, the AI tool that generates images from a few words of descriptive text. But some AI enthusiasts have been using it for a slightly different purpose: to “expand” classic works of art by using the machine learning model to imagine what they would look like if the canvas were larger or zoomed out.

“It’s like your phone keyboard trying to guess what the next word you would like to input and suggests it,” Denis Shiryaev, a YouTuber and CEO of the AI company neural.love, told Motherboard. “The same idea works with the image ‘prompt’—AI tries to finalize the image based on the source pixels provided, and the text prompt helps to manipulate that generating process.”

Shiryaev says his experiment began during the initial rollout of DALL-E 2 as an attempt to recreate the unfinished painting of George Washington that famously sits on the dollar bill. With help from a Telegram user who has access to the closed test build of DALL-E, Shiryaev then began feeding the model “masks” derived from famous works of art—which tell the algorithm which areas of the image to expand—along with tightly-worded text prompts. 

(6) BROUGHT TO LIGHT. The Guardian told readers that two previously unseen short stories by Shirley Jackson, “rated by Stephen King as one of the great horror fiction writers,” are to appear in UK magazine the Strand “Unseen works by ‘queen of gothic fiction’ Shirley Jackson published”.

…Charlie Roberts and Only Stand and Wait were both published on 9 June in Strand magazine, a US-based print magazine that publishes short fiction and interviews….

(7) MEDIA THINGIE.

1993 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago Bloch published two works, his so-called “unauthorized autobiography” which bore the full title of unsurprisingly Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorized Autobiography and the original anthology Monsters in Our Midst which he edited. I won’t detail what’s in it as y’all know what’s there. 

What I was interested to see was how the mainstream book review outlets such as Kirkus and Publishers Weekly treated this autobiography, so I was delighted that those reviews were still available.

Kirkus leads off with their exuberant review: “The irrepressible Bloch (Psycho, and gobbets of brethren) kicks off his bouncy autobiography by calling it ‘unauthorized,’ as if it appeared from apparitional fingers without his permission. Don’t believe it: This is pure Bloch—and much better than his recent excelsior-packed novel, Psycho House (1990). Bloch sets out with gusto and never falls into doldrums, which suggests that even at age 77, if given a strong subject, he can summon the same youthful zest that flowed in Weird Stories and Amazing Stories back in the mid-30’s, when he first published at age 18.” 

Publishers Weekly was just as pleased: “Bloch, famed creator of Psycho, treats us to a whirlwind, goodhumored survey of his long and impressive career. He chronicles his beginnings as a writer for horror and science fiction pulp magazines (Weird Tales , Unknown Worlds , etc.), his early dabblings in radio and TV scripts, the appearance of Psycho and his subsequent adventures in Hollywood and his return to novels with Psycho I. Bloch entertains with accounts of his forays into politics in Milwaukee, Wis., and his tongue-in-cheek footnotes spice the text with humor, but his faux-naif puns (on statutory rape: ‘Why anyone would want to rape a statue I’ll never know’) wear thin. Bloch has been friend or acquaintance to generations of horror and suspense writers, and fans will enjoy his tales of science fiction conventions. But in this view of his life, Bloch substitutes glibness and easy wit for depth, falling back on name-dropping and anecdote when he might have offered his readers a glimpse of his emotional landscape at such times as the breakup of his first marriage or during his struggle as an impoverished writer for many years.

The Washington Post gets the last word: “But most of Once Around the Bloch consists of chatty anecdotes about the people Bloch knew. There are extended discussions about Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Joan Crawford, as well as numerous silent-screen stars that Bloch worked with in the 1960s. (Bloch’s awe at working with these minor legends is quite touching.) Perhaps the most unexpected revelation is that one of the reasons Bloch pioneered the psychological suspense novel was because of his ‘personal ignorance’ of weapons, which led him to abandon novels with gunplay in favor of first-person accounts of stranglers and serial killers. Robert Bloch may not be an sf writer, but he is one of the grandmasters of fantasy and horror, and fans of those genres will find that Once Around the Bloch will give a great deal of pleasure.”

No, I’ve not forgotten that it was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian the year that John Clute and Peter Nicholls’ Encyclopedia of Science Fiction won. 

It has not been made available as a digital book by Tor, but is still readily to be had at Amazon and other online book vendors, though not cheap by any means, in hardcover and trade paper editions. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 10, 1922 — Judy Garland. She is only remembered for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, and it was also her only genre role in her tragically short life. I will note that she did a very nice turn as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, and she was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, which she won for her 1961 live recording titled Judy at Carnegie Hall. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 85. She’s best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. Genre wise — and yes Bond is genre too — I see she was also in Journey to the Lost City (in the original German, Das indische Grabmal), HerculesThe Green Slime1001 NightsCaptain Nemo and the Underwater City and War Goddess (also known as, and would I kid you?, The Amazons and The Bare-Breasted Warriors in its original Italian title).
  • Born June 10, 1950 — Ed Naha, 72. Among his many genre credits, he was Editor of both Starlog and Fangoria. An even more astonishing genre credit was that he produced Inside Star Trek in 1976 with Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard talking about the series. Fiction wise, he wrote one series as D. B. Drumm, The Traveller series, and adapted a number of movies such as Robocop and Robocop 2 under his own name. Way back in the Seventies, he wrote Horrors: From Screen to Scream: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Greatest Horror and Fantasy Films of All Time which alas has not been updated. There are no digital books at iBooks or Kindles for him.
  • Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 71. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork including the cover art for Charles de Lint’s A Circle of Cats which I’m looking at now. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, which is a sequel to A Circle of Cats, is a stellar read and a feast for the eyes. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. 
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. Some deaths just hurt just too much. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in awhile via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance in which I interviewed her Cyborgs for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Kathleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various sales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 10, 1953 — Don Maitz, 69. Winner of the Hugo twice for Best Artist (at ConFiction and ConFrancisco) and ten Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. And a World Fantasy Award as well. Yes I’m impressed. From Asimov to Wolfe, his artwork has adorned the covers of many genre authors. He’s married to Janny Wurtz and their excellent website can be found thisaway.
  • Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 58. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development.  Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming.

(9) GET ACQUAINTED. United Vidden by Fern Brady is the first book in the Thyreins Galactic Wall Series, a debut space opera.

Shattered by her father’s decision to deny her the throne as the first female heir of Dravidia, Princess Verena makes the worst mistake of her life: She runs away. Her departure, days before her wedding to the heir of the Principality of Aulden, throws her nation into war. In a desperate bid to reverse the consequences of her choice, the princess returns to planet Jorn, anxious to prove herself worthy to rule. But it is too late. The princess finds her kingdom conquered by Prince Amiel ra Aulden. Now, Verena must earn back her birthright as well as the trust of her people.

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She holds multiple Masters degrees and several certifications. She began her professional life as a foreign correspondent, and taught for 15 years in Alief ISD.

(10) DARTH DOES NEW YORK. “Obi Wan Kenobi 3D Times Square Ad Summons Darth Vader Star Wars” and Gizmodo takes you there.

Darth Vader’s latest debut is in Times Square, for a new 3D Billboard ad inspired by Lucasfilm and LG’s recent Book of Boba Fett campaign.

(11) A CREATURE IS HAUNTING TEXAS. “What is this ‘strange’ creature seen outside the Amarillo zoo?” CBS News says the city has reached out to the public for help identifying it.

… The city shared a photo of the creature on social media, and said it was taken in the early morning hours of May 21 outside the Amarillo Zoo….

…Members of the zoo were casually looking at footage from game cameras placed throughout it when they came across the photo, according to Michael Kashuba, the parks and recreation department director for the city of Amarillo. He told CBS News on Thursday that the cameras only take photos and the now-famous picture overlooks an open area of the park right outside the zoo that doesn’t receive heavy traffic. He said a staff member had sent him the image, and after conferring with other coworkers, they reached a consensus: “Nobody could figure out what it was.”… 

Carl Andor sent the link with a suggestion: “This looks like a tall dude wearing the top half of furry costume. There were several furry conventions in Texas, but none in Amarillo. Perhaps one of the folks who attended these cons might recognize and help identify the furry in question.)”

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Mandalorian Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer is excited that the Mandalorian is nicknamed ‘Mando’ “because “that’s what I call my love handles.”  But when the producer learns that Baby Yoda is a character, dollar signs appear in the producer’s eyes and shocking things happen!  Also when the writer can’t remember the race of a character and calls him a Bostonian, the producer says, “I love science fiction!”

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

Robert Bloch: “The Clown At Midnight”

Robert Bloch and Steve Vertlieb

By Steve Vertlieb: Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous, and enduringly popular motion picture was his celebrated 1960 production of Psycho, based upon the novel by frequent Hitchcock television collaborator, Robert Bloch.

Robert Bloch has been inducted into the Rondo Awards “Monster Kid” Hall of Fame for his lifetime of literary achievements.

Born April 5, 1917, and died September 23, 1994, his contributions to literature, film, television, and popular culture are incalculable.

“The Clown at Midnight” at The Thunder Child is the story of my twenty-five year friendship with the acclaimed writer, a Rondo Award nominated remembrance of a complex, remarkable man, and our affectionate relationship.

Robert Bloch was one of the founding fathers of classic horror, fantasy, and science fiction whose prolific prose thrilled and influenced the popular genre, its writers, and readers, for much of the twentieth century. An early member of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of both aspiring and established writers of “Weird Fiction” assembled by Howard Phillips Lovecraft during the early 1930’s, Bloch became one of the most celebrated authors of that popular literary genre during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, culminating in the publication of his controversial novel concerning a boy, his mother, and a particularly seedy motel.

When Alfred Hitchcock purchased his novel and released Psycho with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in 1960, Bloch became one of the most sought after authors and screen writers in Hollywood. His numerous contributions to the acclaimed television anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents are among the best of the director’s classic suspense series, while his legendary scripts, adaptations and teleplays for Boris Karloff’s Thriller series for NBC are among the most bone chilling, frightening, and horrifying screen presentations in television history.

He also famously penned several classic episodes of NBC’s original Star Trek series for producer Gene Roddenberry, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, “Wolf in the Fold” (another Jack the Ripper variant), and “Catspaw”. Writers Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison have written lovingly and profusely spoken of their own literary debt to Robert Bloch. Bob was, for me, even more significantly, a profoundly singular mentor and cherished personal friend for a quarter century. This is the story of that unforgettable relationship: “The Clown at Midnight”.

Pixel Scroll 5/3/21 The 770 File Cabinets Of Dr. Credential

(1) LEARNING ABOUT RUSSIAN SFF. Clarkesworld presents “A Brief History of Russian Science Fiction” by Alex Shvartsman.

It’s telling that the Russian term used to describe speculative fiction doesn’t distinguish between science fiction and fantasy. The word is fantastika —the literature of the fantastic. It is used equally to reference the Three Laws stories of Asimov and the Middle Earth tales of Tolkien. It is this lack of distinction—combined with Russia’s rich heritage of fairy tales and its rigorous education in mathematics and the sciences—that may be responsible for so many genre-bending tales penned by Russian-speaking authors, which have become classics of world literature. The history of Russian fantastika is inseparable from the history of Russia itself, and the political, economic, and social forces that have shaped it over the course of the twentieth century….

(2) WORLDCON FUNDAMENTALS. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) – unincorporated – is the umbrella organization that awards the right to host Worldcons and sets the Hugo rules. Cheryl Morgan asks “Is WSFS Fit for Purpose?” at Salon Futura.

…The problem is that WSFS suffers from what we in the Diversity & Inclusion business called “Status Quo Bias”. When the existing system happens to favour one particular segment of a population over others, that system will be seen as grossly unfair. There will be pressure for change. And if change is impossible within the system, the aggrieved parties will look to leave that system for an alternative, or to destroy it.

The accepted wisdom is that if you want to change WSFS then you have to do so through the Business Meeting. But the way that works, with the time commitment and necessity of understanding Parliamentary Procedure, is itself a form of Status Quo Bias. Kevin [Standlee] can help people who want to create a new Hugo Award category, but I suspect that no amount of help will be enough for people who want to recraft the entire governance process of the Society.

Furthermore, mollifying upset fans is not the only reason why this should be done. We live in an increasingly corporate world. WSFS is not a corporate animal, and other corporations simply don’t know how to deal with it. Relatively simple things such as selling advertising in the souvenir book, or soliciting sponsorship, become much more complicated than they need to be because WSFS itself has no corporate existence, and external organisations have to deal with a different company each year. Being proudly unincorporated is all very well, but it makes it hard to do business….

Just one note before leaving this open to discussion – when the Worldcon is held in the U.S. the “different company each year” has for many years been a nonprofit corporation organized by the bidders under state corporation and federal tax laws.

(3) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel take on Robert Bloch’s “That Hell-Bound Train.” And are young people impressed by this 1958 Hugo-winning short story? You’re kidding, aren’t you?

(4) STORY OF A LATE ADOPTER. Debarkle is Camestros Felapton’s work-in-progress chronicle of the history and consequences of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy Kerfuffle. He’s added a chapter that does a good job of capturing what I’ve tried to do with File 770 since issue #1: “Debarkle Chapter 29: Dramatis Personae — Mike Glyer & File 770”. For instance:

…The point is not that the fanzine was a paragon of feminism or even progressive politics but rather that a newszine had a responsibility to engage with issues of the day and in the process, the editor had to get to grips with those issues also….

(5) D & DEITY. James Davis Nicoll’s busy day continues with “Five Fantasy Novels Featuring Gods and Religious Sects” for Tor.com.

In the days of yore, if I wanted to buy a table-top roleplaying game, I had to travel to Toronto, the nearest major city. If I wanted inked dice, I had to hand-ink them myself. If I wanted fellow gamers, I had to shape mud into human form and breathe life into my golems (oops, no, I couldn’t do that, sometimes I just wished I could).

In those days, most TTRPGs treated gods as a sort of theological ConEd for wandering clerics. Gods had different names and superficial attributes, but otherwise their cults were much of a muchness, with no actual doctrinal differences.

One notable exception was Chaosium’s RuneQuest, particularly those supplements set in Greg Stafford’s gaming world of Glorantha….

(6) ABOUT THOSE FREE FANZINES. When David Langford learned that the N3F had started including copies of Ansible among the fanzines they were emailing to their distribution list it was news to him. And not welcome news, as Langford made clear:

Dear N3F President,

I’m told that the N3F is distributing PDF copies of Ansible in a bundle of “Free Fanzines from the N3F” without having asked my permission. Permission is not granted. You are welcome to circulate links to individual issues on the Ansible site at news.ansible.uk, but not to copy the issues themselves to others.

N3F President George Phillies wrote back an apology. That probably puts the matter to rest.

(7) JUNG OBIT. Actor Nathan Jung died April 24 at the age of 74. Deadline has the story —  

Jung began his acting career in 1969 with a role as Genghis Khan in “The Savage Curtain” episode of the original Star Trek.

In the 1990s, he had stints on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman…His other [genre] film credits include Big Trouble in Little China, Darkman, The Shadow….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 3, 1896 Dodie Smith. English children’s novelist and playwright, best remembered for The Hundred and One Dalmatians which of course became the animated film of the same name and thirty years later was remade by Disney as a live action film. (Saw the first a long time ago, never saw the latter.) Though The Starlight Barking, the sequel, was optioned, by Disney, neither sequel film (101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure and 102 Dalmatians) is based on it. Elizabeth Hand in her review column in F&SF praised it as one of the very best fantasies (“… Dodie Smith’s sophisticated canine society in The Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Starlight Barking…”) she had read. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1901 – John Collier.  Three novels, twoscore shorter stories for us; poetry; screenplays, teleplays; two dozen short stories adapted for television by others.  Collection Fancies and Goodnights won an Edgar and an Int’l Fantasy Award.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1928 Jeanne Bal. In Trek’s “The Man Trap” episode, she played Nancy Crate, a former lover of Leonard McCoy,  who would be a victim of the lethal shape-shifting alien which craves salt. This was the episode that replaced “The Cage” episode which the Network really didn’t like. She also had one-offs in Thriller and I-Spy. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the Nineties, and was the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement which makes him there when Ed Brubaker’s amazing Gotham Central came out. He himself has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas. He also did a rather brilliant DC Comics Shadow series with Michael Kaluta as the artist. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1946 – Elizabeth Horrocks, age 75.  Three novels for us.  Won at the British television programme Mastermind, her subjects Shakespeare’s plays, works of Tolkien, works of Dorothy L. Sayers.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1951 – Tatyana Tolstaya, age 70.  One novel, three shorter stories for us available in English; for others outside our field, see here; hosted a Russian television-interview show a dozen years.  Great-grandniece of literary giant Leo Tolstoy.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1962 – Stephan Martiniere, age 59.  Two hundred seventy-five covers, fifty interiors.  Artbooks Quantum DreamsQuantumscapesVelocityTrajectory.  One Hugo, two Chesleys; two BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards.  Here is Heavy Planet.  Here is Dozois’ 22nd Year’s Best SF.  Here is Betrayer of Worlds.  Here is The Three-Body Problem.  Here is The Poet King.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1969 Daryl Mallett, 52. By now you know that I’ve a deep fascination with the nonfiction documentation of our community. This author has done a number of works doing just that including several I’d love to see including Reginald’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards: A Comprehensive Guide to the Awards and Their Winners written with Robert Reginald. He’s also written some short fiction including one story with Forrest J Ackerman that bears the charming title of “A Typical Terran’s Thought When Spoken to by an Alien from the Planet Quarn in Its Native Language“.  He’s even been an actor as well appearing in several Next Gen episodes (“Encounter at Farpoint” and “Hide and Q”) and The Undiscovered Country as well, all uncredited. He also appeared in Doctor Who and The Legends Of Time, a fan film which you can see here if you wish to. (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1980 – Jessica Spotswood, age 41.  Three novels, one shorter story, one anthology (with Tess Sharpe) for us.  Works for Washington, D.C., Public Library.  Has read five Anne of Green Gables books, three by Jane Austen, The Strange History of the American QuadroonThe CrucibleWe Should All Be Feminists.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1982 Rebecca Hall, 39. Lots of genre work — her first role was as Sarah Borden in The Prestige followed by being Emily Wotton in Dorian Gray and then as Florence Cathcart in The Awakening which in turn led to her being Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3. Next up? Mary in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Is she done yet? No as next up is the English dub of the voice of Mother of Mirai no Mirai.  She might’ve wanted to have stopped there as her most recent role was Dr. Grace Hart in Holmes & Watson which won an appalling four Golden Raspberries! (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1984 – Ian Bristow, age 37.  Four novels, two shorter stories, a dozen covers.  Here is The Interspecies Poker Tournament.  Here is Contact.  Here is The Gaia Collection.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1985 Becky Chambers, 36. I’m currently listening to The Galaxy, And The Ground Within which is most excellent. Her Wayfarers series won the Best Series Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. (A Closed and Common Orbit was on the final list at WorldCon 75 for Best Novel but lost out to another exemplary novel, N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk GateRecord of a Spaceborn Few would be on the ballot at Dublin 2019 but lost out to yet another exemplary novel, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars.) (A digression: The Wayfarers are the best series I’ve listened to in a long time.) “To Be Taught, if Fortunate” was a finalist at ConZealand in the Best Novella category but lost out to “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur follows an outfit that knows their truth is out there. Maybe.
  • Heathcliff doesn’t look very superheroic – that’s what makes him so dangerous.
  • Maximumble shows why not all AI want to be more like humans.

(10) FAMILY TIME. Get your tissues ready. “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” on YouTube is something Marvel Studios put together (with words by Stan Lee) about the importance of seeing MCU movies in theatres, along with a list of forthcoming MCU releases for the next two years.

The world may change and evolve, but the one thing that will never change: we’re all part of one big family.

(11) THE FATES OF THREE GENRE SHOWS. SYFY Wire says don’t change that channel – unless you want to watch Pennyworth: “The CW renews Stargirl & Kung Fu; HBO Max eyes Pennyworth pick-up”.

Stargirl will continue to shine bright on The CW with a third season, the network announced Monday. The DC show’s renewal also came with the news that Christina M. Kim’s Kung Fu reboot has scored a second, butt-kicking season. Stargirl‘s sophomore season is scheduled to kick off this summer, while Kung Fu is in the middle of airing its debut batch of episodes (the premiere garnered over 3.5 million audience members when it first dropped in early April)….

“STARGIRL SEASON 3!!!” Brec Bassinger, Stargirl‘s leading lady, wrote on Twitter. “I get to go be with my star fam another year.”

“Thank you to everyone who has been tuning in to our little show,” tweeted Olivia Lang, who headlines Kung Fu. “We hope we’ve made your lives brighter and brought joy into your homes.”

Elsewhere, Epix’s Batman prequel, Pennyworth, could score a third outing of its own, but not on Epix. According to a new report from Deadline, HBO Max is mulling over a decision to pick up the DC-inspired series about a young British spy (Jack Bannon) who will one day become the butler of Wayne Manor…. 

(12) THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. Brett Molina reviews the updates Atari: “Remember Atari? We played its latest video game console, Atari VCS” at Yahoo!

It is 2021, and I’m not playing on an Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. I’m playing Atari.

This isn’t an old Atari 2600 previously collecting dust in a closet or an emulator I found online. It’s a fresh home video game console: the Atari VCS.

Having spent some time playing Atari VCS, it’s easy to get trapped by the nostalgic feelings of popping in my “Asteroids” or “Missile Command” cartridges. However, the VCS delivers plenty of modern touches such as wireless, rechargeable controllers and Wi-Fi support for downloadable games.

The Atari VCS is available to preorder for $399.99 and includes the console, a wireless modern controller and a wireless classic joystick.

(13) REAL HANDWAVIUM. The New York Times reports “These Materials Could Make Science Fiction a Reality”.

Imagine operating a computer by moving your hands in the air as Tony Stark does in “Iron Man.” Or using a smartphone to magnify an object as does the device that Harrison Ford’s character uses in “Blade Runner.” Or a next-generation video meeting where augmented reality glasses make it possible to view 3-D avatars. Or a generation of autonomous vehicles capable of driving safely in city traffic.

These advances and a host of others on the horizon could happen because of metamaterials, making it possible to control beams of light with the same ease that computer chips control electricity.

The term metamaterials refers to a broad class of manufactured materials composed of structures that are finer than the wavelength of visible light, radio waves and other types of electromagnetic radiation. Together, they are now giving engineers extraordinary control in designing new types of ultracheap sensors that range from a telescope lens to an infrared thermometer.

“We are entering the consumer phase for metamaterials,” said Alan Huang, the chief technology officer at Terabit Corporation, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, who did early research in optical computing during his 12 years at Bell Labs. “It will go way beyond cameras and projectors and lead to things we don’t expect. It’s really a field of dreams.”

The first consumer products to take advantage of inexpensive metamaterials will be smartphones, which will improve their performance, but the ability to control light waves in new ways will also soon enable products like augmented reality glasses that overlay computerized images on the real world….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Mortal Kombat (2021) Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, which has spoilers, the producer explains he’s heard of the Mortal Kombat video game because “you mash a lot of buttons and someone’s spine explodes.  Then you need a lot of therapy.”  Also one character’s laser eye powers are discovered “by arguing about egg rolls” with another character.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/20 Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull A Pixel Out Of My Scroll

(1) THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Galactic Journey gave out the Galactic Stars for 1965 today and Thomas Burnett Swann is a double winner: “[Dec. 22, 1965] Swann Lake (the 1965 Galactic Stars)”.

…Swann is definitely a winner with his myth-inspired tales, Zelazny is hit or miss, but he hit it with Conrad, and Moorcock is a rising star to watch!

(2) ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. At The Cut, Molly Fischer tries to figure out “Who Did J.K. Rowling Become?”

…“Perplexed” was a common reaction. Rowling had never been a particularly controversial figure. Her books sold hundreds of millions of copies, they inspired films that brought in billions of dollars, and she used the money she made to save children from orphanages. In 2012, she gave enough to charity and paid enough in taxes to knock herself off the Forbes billionaires list. In 2020, she was tweeting links to a store that sold pins that said F*CK YOUR PRONOUNS.

Read another way, though, the latest turn in Rowling’s story looks perhaps less perplexing than inevitable. It is the culmination of a two-decade power struggle for ownership of her fictional world — the right to say what Harry Potter means. The Harry Potter books describe a stark moral universe: Their heroes fight on behalf of all that is good to defeat the forces of absolute evil. Though the struggle may be lonely and hard, right ultimately beats wrong. For fans, when it came to the matter of trans rights, the message of Harry Potter was clear. For Rowling, this was no less the case.

“She absolutely believes that she is right, that she’s on a mission, and that history will eventually bear her out,” Anelli told me. “She thinks she’s doing good work right now.”…

(3) SUM OF THE YEAR’S DIGITS. Sarah Gailey knows that life is more than numbers, though they like to track them, too: “2020 in Review: Writing” at Here’s The Thing.

…This year tried so hard, from so many angles, to take away the things we rely on. At many turns, it succeeded. But here we are: whether we are whole or in pieces, you and I made it to the final days of 2020. We found ways to get each other this far, and that process meant so much more to me than a column of numbers in a notebook. I used to rely on that column of numbers more than I care to admit — but now I have other things to rely on. And it’s so much better this way.

(4) SHE’S BACK. If she’s a bluebird on a telegraph wire I hope she’s happy now. It took long enough! The Guardian celebrates that “Pioneering fairytale author Madame d’Aulnoy back in print after centuries”.

A story by Madame d’Aulnoy, the 17th-century French writer who coined the term “fairytales”, is to be published in English for the first time in more than 300 years, telling of a woman whose beauty is so great it slays her lovers by the hundreds.

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, known as Madame or Countess d’Aulnoy, invented the term “conte de fée” or fairytale, when she published her major collection of them in 1697-98. Unlike her contemporary Charles Perrault, or later authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, today her work rarely appears outside anthologies.

Now Princeton University Press will release a new collection of her work in March, The Island of Happiness, featuring illustrations and an essay by the artist Natalie Frank.

(5) LEGISLATION. Publishers Weekly reports a new option for contesting copyright claims will soon be on the books: “CASE Act Set to Pass as Part of Omnibus Bill”.

A four year-old bill that would establish an extra-judicial “small claims court” for copyright disputes is now set to become law after Congressional leaders slipped the measure into the Covid-19 relief and omnibus spending bill now headed to President Trump’s desk. In addition, the bill includes a provision that would make illegal streaming a felony.

First introduced in 2016, the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement) was re-introduced again in 2019. It passed easily in the House, but failed to get to a vote on the Senate floor and was set to die before being dropped into the omnibus spending bill this week (the CASE Act provisions begin on page 77). Among the bill’s provisions is the establishment of a copyright tribunal within the Copyright Office that would hear infringement claims, with awards for claims less than $30,000. Participation would be voluntary—a party served with a claim could opt not to go before the tribunal.

The legislation has been strongly supported by both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. In a statement, AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante called the bill’s passage a “big achievement,” and said the CASE Act “represents years of reasoned analysis, public feedback, and bipartisan leadership on Capitol Hill.”…

(6) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Nerdist is ready: “It’s Time for DOCTOR WHO’s First All-Female TARDIS Team”.

…While Ryan and Graham’s relationship was a cornerstone of season 11’s plot, both characters have languished in season 12. Yaz has been a companion for two full seasons, and yet it often seems as though we barely know her. The show has given each big, emotional moments, but fails to do the everyday work that strings them together into real arcs. And that’s a shame.

 The departure of Ryan and Graham will not only allow Yaz, a criminally underused character, to finally step forward into the spotlight, but it will also change the composition of the show in an unprecedented way. In season 13, the TARDIS will be populated solely by women for the first time in Doctor Who’s 54-year history—a change that feels both extremely necessary and long overdue.

(7) BOBA TIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jill Serjeant, in the Reuters story “Boba Fett to get own Star Wars spin-off TV series” says that Jon Favreau announced on Good Morning America that “The Book of Boba Fett” will be in production, which is a project separate from the third season of The Mandalorian and is different than other previously announced Star Wars projects.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • December 22, 1958 — On this day in 1958, the BBC aired the first installment of the Quatermass and the Pit television series.  The first  episode of the six in total was called the “The Halfmen”. Each episode was thirty one to thirty six minutes in length. It was created by Nigel Kneale, and stared André Morell. Cec Linder. Anthony Bushell, John Stratton and Christine Finn. Special effects were handled by the BBC Visual Effects Department. For the box set release, Quatermass and the Pit was extensively restored.
  • December 22, 1967 — On this date in 1967 on NBC, Star Trek’s “Wolf in The Fold” premiered. It was written by Robert Bloch, one of three that he wrote, the others being “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”.  Bloch played off the Jack the Ripper theme in this second season episode.  Charlie Jane Anders at io9, ranked the episode as the seventy-sixth best episode of all the Star Trek series in a list of the top hundred Star Trek episodes. We should note that Baycon the next year would have five Trek episodes on the final Best Dramatic Presentation ballot though not this episode with the Harlan Ellison scripted “The City on the Edge of Forever” winning. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 22, 1802 – Sara Coleridge.  Daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Knew Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish.  Her Phantasmion (1837) may have been the first fantasy novel written in English; you can even read an 1874 edition here.  (Died 1852) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1869 – E.A. Robinson.  Three Pulitzer Prizes.  Famous for “Richard Cory”, he gave us a “Merlin”, a “Lancelot”, two more.  (He hated “Edwin” and used this form of his name.  Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other roles: showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other  genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 69. I’ve personally known him for twenty five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here. (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1939 – Norma Auer Adams, age 81.  New York fan who developed a career in visual art.  Here is “Goldfish Abstraction”.  Here is her book Artfully Told.  Here is Inside My Sketchbook.  Here is Early Artwork.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1942 – Bea Barrio, age 78.  Los Angeles fan who I wish would let her artwork be wider known.  Here is her cover for the Bouchercon III Program Book.  She did the Two of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (PDF of the whole deck; scroll down, BP’s introduction comes first, then Cups, Pentacles, Swords; credits at the end).  There’s a range of style for you.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 58. Perhaps best known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films which is quite frankly merde.  If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!  ( CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1965 Victoria Alonso, 55. Argentine-born producer, co-producer or executive producer of such films as Iron Man (nominated for a Hugo), Avengers: Endgame (also Hugo nominated), the Guardians of The Galaxy franchise… Well you get the idea. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1966 – Kim Wilkins, Ph.D., age 54.  Associate Professor at Univ. Queensland.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told; a score of shorter stories.  Two Aurealis Awards for The Infernal.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1967 – Erik L’Homme, age 53.  A dozen novels for us.  Two and a half million copies sold.  All three Book of the Stars volumes available in English (and two dozen other languages).  Boxer and medieval historian.  Re-read Chrétien de Troyes for research.  Has climbed the spire of Notre Dame.  “Although there has never been a female knight, I reflected on the women of character I knew and thought to myself that they were part of this new knighthood.”  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1968 Dina Meyer, 52. Of course she’s in Starship Troopers, a film that, oh well, where she’s best known for a scene we have discussed here. She actually gets to act in Dragonheart, bless the producer!  And there might have been something good come out up of her role as Barbara Gordon/Oracle/Batgirl on Birds of Prey but we’ll never know. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann , 42. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favourite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home makes the cure sound mundane, if not worse than the malady.

(11) BUYER’S REMORSE. For this critic it’s thumbs down: “Most Disappointing Car Reveal Of 2020: The New Batmobile”.

…As one of the most popular superheroes of all time and an iconic symbol, people understandably are pretty critical of how Batman is portrayed. If you’re also a gearhead like us, you’re especially focused on what the Dark Knight drivesEveryone has their favorite Batmobile, but there’s a strong possibility that not many people will put this latest big screen version of Batman’s ride on their top ten list, even though it’s more muscle car than before.

… This thing looks jankier than a high school auto shop class project. It’s a cobbled-together mess with no clearly-defined design theme.

(12) WW84 Q&A. The New York Times inteviews “Patty Jenkins on ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and the Future of Theaters”.

It’s been reported that you made around $8 million or $9 million for this movie, which would be a record for a female filmmaker.

It feels great. It really does. The weirdest part about it is that you can’t even quite wrap your head around the money, as somebody who’s never made huge amounts of money before. Really, I was so distracted with why it had to be that way that I wasn’t even able to absorb it.

What made you decide to set this film in the 1980s?

I wanted to do a full-blown “Wonder Woman” movie, but what I really wanted to talk about was what I was feeling is happening in the world. Not to get too heavy about it — I don’t want people to even know it’s about climate change — but we’re about to lose this world. What are we, when we’re at our most excessive, when we can’t stop wanting more? We all have a hard time changing our lives, but if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything. So what better time than the ’80s, before we knew any of the costs of these things?

(13) WONDER OVERDOSE. People who have seen the movie too many times this season will be fascinated by these “Dark and Twisted Interpretations of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’” at Mental Floss. The third scenario agrees —

3. BEDFORD FALLS WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF WITHOUT GEORGE BAILEY.

George’s plea to his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) is to have never been born, and the Scrooge-esque vision Clarence grants him shows the tragedy of his family and the town. But Pottersville—the town that would have been Bedford Falls had George not stood in the way of greedy Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)—is actually pretty great. It’s got bars and theaters and all the big-city excitement George had been dreaming of his entire life.

That’s why, in 2008, The New York Times writer Wendell Jamieson suggested that maybe things would have been better had George Bailey never been born. Or at the very least, he should have left the town to Mr. Potter’s devices.

(14) TENTACLE TAPS. I thought this kind of thing only happened in cartoons: “Octopuses Have Been Observed ‘Punching’ Fish Silly”.

The octopus is one of the world’s most intelligent creatures. It can open jars, camouflage itself, and demonstrate many other signs of thinking.

Other times, octopuses will get what they want using cruder methods. Like punching a fish right in the face.

In a new study published in the journal Ecology, researcher Eduardo Sampaio at the University of Lisbon in Portugal detailed a collaborative arrangement between octopuses and different species of fish, in which the fish and cephalopods hunt for food in pairs and therefore cover a wider search area.

Observing this dynamic in the Red Sea, researchers noted that octopuses establish control of the pairing by striking at their fish partners using an arm to get them to move to a preferred position, to avoid eating the prey, or to deter them from the search entirely. They referred to this as a “swift, explosive motion with one arm,” otherwise known as “punching.”

You can watch an octopus smack the gills right off a fish in the video below….

(15) TOTAL WARRIORS. The Fabulous Fifties scanned an old Argosy article from December 1948: “How To Survive An Atomic War”. Here are a couple of frames.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: TENET” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the new Christopher Nolan film is so complicated that stars John David Washington, Kenneth Branagh, and Robert Pattinson can’t explain what’s going on and the villain’s name, Sator, is evidence that TENET is “the movie equivalent of a crossword puzzle” (look up “Sator square” on Wikipedia).

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/20 The Haunting Of Mount TBR House

(1) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2020 cover art by David A. Hardy is for “Skipping Stones in the Dark” by Amman Sabet.

(2) SOME TRICKS, SOME TREATS. A new trailer — Season 2 of The Mandalorian streams October 30 on Disney+.

(3) WATCH THE CHESLEYS. Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists President Sara Felix reminds everyone, “The Chesley award ceremony is this weekend on line in conjunction with IX Arts, Saturday October 24th at 7 pm EST.”

It will be streaming on the ASFA website here.

(4) EARLY WARNER SYSTEM. SYFY Wire frames another new trailer: “The Animaniacs Catch Up On The 21st Century In Full, ‘Insany’ Trailer For Hulu Reboot”.

The Warner siblings are back and better than ever in the official trailer for Hulu‘s Animaniacs reboot. True to form, Yakko (Rob Paulsen), Wackko (Jess Harnell), and Dot (Tress MacNeille) are very much aware of how much time has passed since the original series was canceled in the late 1990s.

They’re right at home in a post-Deadpool world and have a lot to catch up on, like mobile tablets, quinoa wraps, and, most importantly, Queen Bae. Meanwhile, Pinky (also voiced by Paulsen) and the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) are still trying to take over the world, but must adapt to the modern woes of catfishing and Instagram likes.

(5) SCHOLARSHIP IN 2020. Livia Gershon’s article “The Self-Styled Sci-Fi Supermen of the 1940s” at JSTOR Daily is filed with the tagline: “Way before there were stans, there were slans. Too bad about their fascist utopian daydreams!” The author is eager to slap the fascist label on fans – and seems ignorant of the fact that that some of the people who lived in the Michigan “Slan Shack” were gay, and that their idea of a utopia free of persecution might not really match up with the author’s fascist stereotype. And treating Claude Degler as a representative of mainstream fandom is an idea as nutty as Degler was.

Science fiction is often a vehicle for social and political ideas, from celebrations of high-tech space colonialism to warnings about the misuse of technology. In the 1940s, English and technology scholar Andrew Pilsch writes, a utopian strain in science fiction fandom brought readers uncomfortably close to an alignment with fascism.

Pilsch writes that science fiction experienced a “superman boom” starting around 1939. This was driven largely by John W. Campbell Jr., editor of Astounding Stories. Campbell editorialized about the real-world possibilities of human enhancement. He also published many stories about super-human beings. Most notable among these was Slan, a novel by A.E. van Vogt. Amazing Stories serialized Slan in 1940—two years after Superman himself had debuted in Action Comics. In van Vogt’s story, the regular people of Earth persecute “slans,” genetically advanced humans.

The book gave the science fiction–reading community a new slogan: “fans are slans.”

Pilsch writes that some fans took this concept very seriously, imagining themselves as a group distinct from the rest of humanity. Among them were Al and Abby Lu Ashley, who proposed creating a “Slan Center”—a settlement as big as a city block, with homes, a library, and a space for publishing fanzines. Describing the concept, the Ashleys wrote that “Intellectually, fans far exceed the ordinary person.”

Dal Coger, a fan who was involved in the initial planning, explained later that “everyone had experienced the raised eyebrows of mundanes when you tried to discuss science fictional ideas with them. Slan Center would make it possible to be openly fannish any time we were away from work.”

While the Slan Center never became reality, the Ashleys did found an eight-room fan house in 1943. Those who moved into the Ashleys’ “Slan Shack” included fan artist Jack Wiedenbeck, fanzine publisher Walt Liebscher, and science fiction writer E.E. “Doc” Smith. Other fan houses popped up, including Tendril House in Los Angeles, the Ivory Birdbath in Massachusetts, and the Futurian Fortress in New York….

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, Vernor Vinge‘s A Deepness in the Sky won the Hugo for Best Novel.  The novel is a loose prequel (set twenty thousand years earlier) to A Fire Upon the Deep. Published by Tor Books in 1999, it decidedly beat out Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign with the rest of the final ballot being Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Greg Bear‘s Darwin’s Radio and J. K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Prometheus Award along with being nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke, Nebula, Locus, BFA and HOMer awards. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 21, 1772 – Samuel Coleridge.  This complicated genius wrote, among much else, in 54 lines of poetry, “Kubla Khan”, one of the finest fantasies.  See also the Raymond F. Jones story “The Person From Porlock”; C’s title may lie behind the Theodore Sturgeon story “The Skills of Xanadu”.  Poet, critic, philosopher.  Coined the expression “suspension of disbelief”.  (Died 1834) [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1904 – Edmond Hamilton.  Seven novels of the Interstellar Patrol; two of Star Kings; three of Starwolf; a score of Captain Future; a dozen more.  Two hundred fifty shorter stories; see The Best of Edmond Hamilton edited posthumously by his widow Leigh Brackett.  For DC Comics he particularly wrote Batman and Superman; co-created Batwoman (1956).  He reached far.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered  the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each at least once and she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, one of a few women writers to take the top honor in the genre. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)  (CE) 
  • Born October 21, 1936 – Ken Cheslin.  Famously published Fables of Irish Fandom (with John Berry); The Bleary Eyes (about the Goon Defective Agency; JB was Goon Bleary); a second ed’n of Vincent Clarke’s tributezine Atom, and one of his own, Atom 2000 – to this day we still quarrel over writing the fanartist Arthur Thomson’s signature and nickname as “ATom” or “Atom”.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 75. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and on Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes! (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1955 – Nancy Wirsig McClure, 65.  Revived, ran, and was Master of Ceremonies for the Masquerade costume competition at ICON (Iowa City); Fan Guest of Honor (with husband Martin McClure), ICON 18.  Originated, ran, and MC’d Masquerades at Demicon (Des Moines).  Con committees at Minicon, edited the Bozo Bus Tribune at Minicon 30.  Moved to Portland; OryCon committees.  Runs a design & illustration business; designed e.g. this OryCon flier, this Bruce Schneier book; see here.  [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the MoonThe Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1958 – Julie Bell, 62.  Graphic artist in her own right and with husband Boris Vallejo.  Three Chesleys (one with him).  Three artbooks and eight with BV.  A hundred covers, four hundred interiors.  Here is Stonehenge.  Here is Falling Stars.  Here is Beguilement.  Here is Soft as Steel.  Also horses and other wildlife.  [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 47. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on the excellent Grimm series but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds. (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1974 – Chris Garcia, 46.  Fanziner and immeasurable being.  Edited Tightbeam and The National Fantasy Fan, served as President of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Federation).  Hugo for The Drink Tank.  Nova for Journey Planet (with James Bacon).  Also Claims DepartmentExhibition Hall.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, his report Rockets Across the Waters.  Fan Guest of Honor at SFContario 3, ConQuest 44, Westercon 67, Baycon 2018.  He and I were separated at birth; he got the hair.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home shows how one witch is adapting to the latest technology.

(9) IN DYING COLOR. On Bruce Sterling’s Tumblr today he has a number of crayon Lovecraftian illustrations “by a young Robert Bloch”.

Lovecraftian illustrations by a young Robert Bloch, (original Cthulhu Mythos fanboy, later famous as the author of Psycho) doodled in crayon on various notebooks and pieces of cardboard between 1933 and 1937.

Here’s one —

(10) CHOW CALL. Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by Chris Riddell goes on sale December 1.

Meet LONG JOHN McRON, SHIP’S COOK . . . and the most unusual babysitter you’ve ever seen.

Long John has a whole crew of wild pirates in tow, and—for one boy and his sister—he’s about to transform a perfectly ordinary evening into a riotous adventure beneath a pirate moon. It’s time to make some PIRATE STEW.

Marvelously silly and gloriously entertaining, this tale of pirates, flying ships, doughnut feasts and some rather magical stew is perfect for all pirates, both young and old.

(11) REVOKE THE VOTE? Camestros Felapton addresses the question: “Should John C Wright be allowed to vote?” It doesn’t take long.

Today’s politico-ethical question is easily answered. Yes, science fiction author John C Wright should be allowed to vote in whatever nation he chooses to live in, because people who are held accountable to laws should have a say in those laws AND also the legitimacy of government should derive from the broad consent of the governed….

But why is this a question? Because John C. Wright posed it himself in “It is Time to Reconsider”, although it’s not his own franchise but that of women, that he has doubts about:

Is it time to reconsider the 19th Amendment?

The argument for female suffrage is that women are not more prone to bouts of emotionalism than men, and hence is it equally worthwhile, as the whole, to consult with them over the conduct and control of public business.

Unfortunately, it is evident that there are but rare and few men in the current generation show any particular manly or masculine virtues which would entitle them to a say in the public business, if stoicism, reason, and virtue were preconditions for the franchise.

The argument against female suffrage is that voting is a peaceful substitute for revolution, wherein the less numerous party, seeing himself outnumbered, agreed without bloodshed to abide by the vote of the more numerous. Women, being largely less ready, willing, or able to take up arms than men, have no place in these military questions.….

Yes, if only the legislators who ratified the 19th Amendment – virtually all of whom were men, by the way – had been aided by the prophetic vision of that six-time Hugo nominee and Grand Inquisitor of the Evil Legion of Evil, John C. Wright.

(12) PKD’S POLITICAL ADVICE. Meanwhile, back in 1952, Philip K. Dick wrote to the editors of the Oakland Tribune naming his candidate to save the country:

Editor:  Unless we elect Justice William O. Douglas President this country will surely continue to drift toward militarism and uniformity of thought.  Only Justice Douglas seems to realize that our military outlook is fast destroying our liberty and economy.  We must see that he is nominated and elected, or America may become another Spain.  Governments all over the world are gaining in diabolical powers; with a great liberal President this trend might be reversed. . . .

— PHILIP K. DICK

Berkeley.

[Feb 21, 1952]

Thanks to Bill for the clipping.

(13) SAVING THROW. Whereas this author’s advice was posted by Polygon just yesterday. “We asked Kim Stanley Robinson: Can science fiction save us?”

Can science fiction save us in our present political and cultural circumstances? Is it a useful teaching tool to help us think about how to solve our present problems, or model better ways of living?

Well, it’s the latter, for sure. Whether it’s the former depends on whether we pay attention. But let me answer a little more at length.

If you think of science fiction as just a kind of modeling exercise, everybody is a science fiction writer in their own lives. You make plans based on modeling in your mind. When you’re feeling hopeful, you have a kind of utopian plan: if you do these things, you’ll get to a good place. And then when you’re afraid, you have these worries that if you do these things, you’ll get to a bad place. So the fundamental exercise of science fiction is a very natural human thing. And then when it gets written down in long narrative forms, like science fiction novels, everybody recognizes the exercises involved there. Although when I say that, I realize that, actually, lots of people don’t like to read science fiction, so they’re not recognizing the way books are the same as what they do for their own lives. That’s surprising to me, but it happens a lot….

(14) IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTENING. The LA Times takes notes on “What scientists hope to learn from a beetle that can survive being run over by a car”.

It’s a beetle that can withstand bird pecks, animal stomps and even being rolled over by a Toyota Camry. Now scientists are studying what the bug’s crush-resistant shell could teach them about designing stronger airplanes and buildings.

“This beetle is super tough,” said Purdue University civil engineer Pablo Zavattieri, who was among a group of researchers that ran over the insect with a car in the name of science.

So, how does the seemingly indestructible insect do it?

The species — the aptly named diabolical ironclad beetle — owes its might to an unusual armor that is layered and pieced together like a jigsaw, according to the study by Zavattieri and his colleagues published in Nature on Wednesday. Its design, they say, could help inspire more durable structures and vehicles.

(15) THE LAND AND THE DRAGON ARE ONE. Restore peace. Find the last dragon. See the new trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon, in theaters March 2021.

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Star Wars:  Squadrons” on YouTube, Fandom Games says in this game “you can fly an X-Wing and it makes a “pu-pu’ sound.  What more do you want?”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/20 If Pixels Be The Food Of Love, Scroll On

(1) CHERRYH NOW CANCER FREE. C.J. Cherryh updated fans about her battle with colon cancer in a public Facebook post yesterday.

Long story in short, I’ve had cancer. I don’t, now, and scans show I’m well and truly rid of it. Found out in February, had surgery (colon cancer), started chemo in March, and thanks to a really great medical staff and good insurance, I finished chemo successfully, had a raft of scans and another round with my excellent GI doc, and am now clean and clear—not to be cavalier about it all. Chemo is rough. It’s done a number on general strength and it does age you a bit. Or more than a bit. So I know I’ve been in a fight and I look older than I did before this started, but I refuse to settle down and act older. I’ll be exercising to get my strength back.

I owe an immense amount to Jane, who’s had to do everything from cat box to general cookery and bottlewashing and all this with the handicap of Covid restrictions, while she’s had her own issue with a ferociously painful hip problem. I’d have been in a heckuva mess without her taking care of me.

Kudos to local friends who have brought us stuff and fixed stuff that was broken. Without you, we couldn’t have kept isolation and safety. One of us exposed is both of us in danger.

So Jane and I both had a forced hiatus from writing, and everything is about 8 months behind. Our publisher has been enormously understanding. We are officially getting back to work. We had the next Alliance book 3/4 finished when this happened, and we will likely be working together, too, on the next Foreigner book, just to get our heads firmly back in the game. So we’ll be late, but we do have a hall pass.

I kept this illness under wraps because there’s nothing anybody not in reach could do, and I had no ready answers to give anybody. But the outcome is the very best. And I would urge anybody out there to go get that postponed colonoscopy. This kind can be dealt with and prevented during a colonoscopy, so go do that, eh? I was lucky. Real lucky. A clinic NP, one of my regular docs and another NP combined saw my shortness of breath as, yep, something that had to be seen to….

(2) MOTHER. In the midst of the pandemic with kids stuck at home, Lydia Kiesling considers “The Aspirational Android Parenting of ‘Raised by Wolves” in The New Yorker.

… Though I watched “Raised by Wolves” to escape—tearing through the first five episodes in a single weekend—it threw my terrestrial problems into stark relief. I find the show transporting, corny, and unexpectedly relatable. As I watch, I can’t stop thinking about how much better a job the androids are doing than my husband and I and our own machines. “Mother is killing it,” I whispered admiringly during one episode, my fretful firstborn grinding her teeth in her bunk bed upstairs. Never mind that almost all the original children perished, that they eat fungus and sinister spuds and sleep under burlap. Never mind that Mother murders a lot of humans in Episode 1. It doesn’t matter. Mother and Father are there for the kids, and, in their android way, for each other….

(3) RARITIES. In 1965, Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes records three firsts in the Doctor Who series: “[OCTOBER 10, 1965] DOCTOR WHERE? (DOCTOR WHO: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN)”

…No, really. That’s it. That’s the whole story. This is the first Doctor Who story to be a single episode long. Not only that, it’s the first one in which neither the Doctor nor his companions make an appearance. I suppose he got his day off after all!

And to top it all off, this is the only episode so far in which the baddies win…

(4) HORROR U. The Horror Writers Association’s Horror University workshops, formerly only accessible in-person at StokerCon, are available online this fall at $50 for non-members and $40 for members per session. Coming up on the calendar:

  • 2020 October 19 — Writing and Selling Short Stories

The short story market has never been healthier, and it can not only build your career and increase your professional income, it can also help you stretch as a writer. Short stories offer more creative opportunities than any other form of writing. We’ll discuss the short story structure, tips on finding killer opening hooks and powerful endings, strategies for finding paying markets, and much more.
Recording? No

Instructor: Jonathan Maberry

  • 2020 October 26 — Poetry Forms Workshop for All Writers

Not just for poets: a workshop to play with the different poetry forms to use less words to say more; heighten readers’ emotional reaction, clarify your style/voice and handle writing blocks. We will explore several poetry shapes and their rules to understand how they are created. Time will be available for attendees to practice writing, including creating writing “seeds.”
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Linda D. Addison

  • 2020 November 2 — The History of Ghosts

Are you ready to write a ghost story, but wish you knew a little more about the history of your spectral protagonist? Lisa Morton, author of the acclaimed Ghosts: A Haunted History and Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances is here to help, with a one-hour illustrated presentation that looks at the classical history of ghosts, ghosts in the Middle Ages, paranormal beliefs around the world, and modern hauntings. You’ll hear some chilling real-life ghost stories, and probably learn a few new things about these visitors from beyond.
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Lisa Morton

  • 2020 November 9 — Done to Death

With novels on the bestseller lists and movies winning Academy Awards, the horror genre is hotter than ever. But if you want your fiction to stand out from the pack, you need to do more than offer readers retreads of well-worn stories of monsters, ghosts, and demons. You need to write horror that’s original and captivating – horror only you can write. This workshop will teach you how to avoid clichés when writing horror and dark fantasy and create stories that are fresh and exciting.
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Tim Waggoner

(5) MANY TRIALS. In “Truths Too Terrible: On Arthur Schnitzler and Franz Kafka”, LA Review of Books presents an excerpt  from Adam Kirsch’s The Blessing and the Curse: The Jewish People and Their Books in the Twentieth Century.

… It would be wrong to say that The Trial is “really” about antisemitism, as if the work’s many other theological and political dimensions were unreal. But it was his experience of being a modern European Jew at a time of profound Jewish crisis that gave Kafka such an immediate experience of the alienation and isolation, the helplessness and guilt, that would become central to the experience of so many people in the 20th century. Jewishness, he suggests, is not a unique fate but an extreme one, which equips the writer — at least, when the writer is Kafka — to see truths too terrible for most people to recognize until it is too late.

(6) MAPPING DYSTOPIA. BookRiot recommends “8 Science Fiction Novels By Authors Of Color For The End Times”. Up first –

RIOT BABY BY TOCHI ONYEBUCHI

Onyebuchi’s first book for adults is about police brutality, being Black in the United States, and family. It begins with the 1992 L.A. Riots (which give the book part of its title), but it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it plows right past us into a near-future alternate reality. With its multifaceted exploration of incarceration and systemic racism, it couldn’t be more timely. It’s a beautiful and powerful book that uses sci-fi to address the very dystopian elements of today’s sociopolitical landscape. You should read it. Now. 

(7) SPEAKING OF. “Powell’s Books Presents Rebecca Roanhorse in Conversation With Tochi Onyebuchi” on October 14. Register at the link.

…Roanhorse has created an epic adventure [Black Sun (Gallery/Saga), the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy] exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade. Roanhorse will be joined in conversation by Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Riot Baby and War Girls.

 (8) JANET FREER OBIT. Janet Freer, a literary agent for leading New Wave sf writers and others, has died at the age of 89. Her daughter wrote in The Guardian:

…Janet began work as a commercial artist before starting her publishing career in London around 1962. She spent several years in the sales department at Panther Books and then joined Scott Meredith Literary Agency for a short while before setting up her own agency. Janet Freer Literary Agency specialised in SF/fantasy and represented new-wave SF writers such as Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison, Christopher Priest and Thomas M Disch, and others associated with the SF magazine New Worlds in the60s.

In the early 70s, Janet joined Michael Bakewell and Diana Tyler at MBA Literary Agents. She represented an impressive list of authors during that time, including Anne McCaffrey, Anne Perry and Ursula K Le Guin for the UK market.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Sixteen years ago, Kage Baker’s “The Empress of Mars” novella won the Theodore Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novella (Vernor Vinge‘s “The Cookie Monster“ would win) as well as the Nebula Award for Best Novella which was won by Eleanor Arnason’s “The Potter of Bones”. It was first published in the July 2003 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It would be expanded into a novel five years later. You can hear Kage reading it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 11, 1782 – Steen Blicher.  Pioneer of the novella in Danish; “the first of Danish literature’s great storytellers … one of [its] few tragic poets” (Baggesen, Blicher’s Short Stories, 1965) (in Danish).  “The Rector of Veilbye” (1829, English 1907, named to the Cultural Canon of Denmark 2006) has implied supernatural elements, see here.  (Died 1848) [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1922 – Garry Edmondson.  A dozen novels for us, as many shorter stories.  Also Westerns.  Wrote under several names besides his own José Mario Garry Ordoñez Edmondson y Cotton.  A Marine in World War II.  Spoke six languages.  Gardner Dozois called The Ship That Sailed the Time-Stream a classic.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1944 – Julek Heller, 76.  Eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Here is The Titus Books.  Here is a Robinson Crusoe.  Here is a Sleeping Beauty piano picture-book.  Here is an Enchanted Horse.  Here is an interior for Jack and the Beanstalk.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1945 – Gay Haldeman, 75.  Master’s degrees in Spanish Literature and in Linguistics.  Taught thirty years at the Mass. Inst. Tech. Writing Center.  Toastmaster at ConFusion 1981 (“Nine Billion Names of ConFusion”), 1992 (“Hardwired ConFusion”).  Guest of Honor (with husband Joe) at e.g. Finncon 2007, ICON 43.  Skylark award.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  Here she is on a panel at the 60th Worldcon looking back at the 26th.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1949 Sharman DiVono, 71. She was the primary writer of the Star Trek comic strip from a year in the early Eighties.  She’s written a number of other strips such as Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm The Man from Planet X and Tarzan. She has written for three animated series — G.I. JoeBill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Star Wars: Droids. She’s written one genre novel, Blood Moon. (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 60. Well-known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course, she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. (CE)
  • Born October 11, 1965 Sean Patrick Flanery, 55. I think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. It certainly wasn’t as Bobby Dagen in Saw: The Final Chapter, a film best forgotten. He appeared as Jake Greyman in Demon Hunter, a low budget horror film, and as John in The Evil Within.  (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1972 —  Claudia Black, 48. Best remembered for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in the Containment series. (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1972 – Nir Yaniv, 48.  Author, editor, musician, filmmaker.  Founded the Webzine for the Israeli Society for Science Fiction & Fantasy.  A novel, ten shorter stories.  See this Strange Horizons interview with him about The Universe in a Pita.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 43. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. (CE)
  • Born October 11, 1984 – Jaymin Eve, 36.  Eight novels with Leia Stone (Anarchy USA Today Best Seller), five and a novella with Jane Washington, a score solo, in nine universes.  Paranormal fantasy.  More outside our field.  “I grew up in a little country town [in Australia], and the library was my favorite place in the world.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. So we expect, when Shift, the new UK anthology comic, is launched in newsagents and comic shops around the UK on October 29.

Featuring the best in independent creator owned stories from new talent and seasoned veterans (including Jim Krueger, Brian Haberlin, Steve Yeowell, Simon Furman, Scott Morse and many more) – there’s something for everyone with a a diverse array of exciting and thought-provoking stories

Seven stories, ongoing titles, creator interviews, articles and more..

Foot Soldiers – Jim Krueger (Earth X, Justice, Marvels X), Steve Yeowell (Zenith, The Invisibles, Sinister Dexter)

To The Death – Simon FurmanGeoff Senior. Acclaimed Transformers creative team, and creators of Marvel’s Death’s Head

Kora – Chris Geary (Ace’s Weekly)

Soulwind – Scott Morse (Littlegreyman, Elektra: Glimpse and Echo, Catwoman, Sam and Twitch)

Shifter – Brian Haberlin (Witchblade, Aria), Brian Holguin (Spawn), Skip Brittenham, Geirrod van Dyke, Kunrong Yap

Tiny Acts of Violence – Martin Stiff (The Absence)

Hungerville – Warwick Fraser-Coombe (The Shadow Constabulary, Interzone)

Pre-order at The Shift Store, or add to a subscription at GetMyComics.com where 5 or 10 issue pre-pay subscription offers are available.

(13) D&D LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. The Believer has posted on its site “Destroy All Monsters” by Paul La Farge, first published in 2006, which combines a history of Dungeons and Dragons with a report on the 2005 Gen Con and an interview with D&D co-creator E. Gary Gygax.

…The appeal of D&D is superficially not very different from the appeal of reading. You start outside something (Middle Earth; Dickens’s London; the fascinating world of mosses and lichens), and you go in, bit by bit. You forget where you are, what time it is, and what you were doing. Along the way, you may have occasion to think, to doubt, or even to learn. Then you come back; your work has piled up; it’s past your bedtime; people may wonder what you have been doing.

Once you set foot inside the cave, however, you see very quickly that D&D is quite different from a book, or movie, or soap opera. For one thing, there are a lot more rules….

(14) A SHORT HISTORY. In “The Hugo ceremony 2020, notes”, Lise Andreasen has extracted the chronology of what happened during this year’s virtual ceremony. Use it the next time you need to find something in the 3-1/2 hour Hugo video.

(15) THE REVIEWER’S ART. Links to several dozen reviews of sff from last week at Sweet Freedom in “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books And More”.

(16) BLOCH RADIO SERIES. Now back in circulation at Audiophile Archive, two episodes ofRobert Bloch’s Stay Tuned For Terror radio drama series.

As a huge fan of old time radio and Robert Bloch, this series has been my white whale for years. 39 fifteen-minute episodes, all adapted by Bloch himself from his own short stories? Sounds amazing — but unfortunately there’s been no episodes in circulation — until now! Huge thanks to OTR collector/historian David Lennick who discovered two episodes on a disc he got decades ago and was generous enough to send me the programs in WAV. 

More information on the series in these notes at the Internet Archive:

…Bloch prepared 39 short stories with accompanying radioplay scripts, Johnny Neblett formed his first production company to produce it, and Bloch’s friend Howard Keegan–director of many of the Lights Out productions–signed on to direct the program. Neblett and Berle Adams persuaded Weird Tales Magazine to provide a tie-in to the magazine and promoted the new program as Weird Tales’ Stay Tuned for Terror, so as to leverage Bloch’s considerable fame and popular success with that print publication.

With corrections in a comment by reseacher Karl Schadow:

Enthusiasts of both Robert Bloch and radio horror programs are elated by the posting of this audio, the quality of which is superb. However, the history of this series as presented above contains some factual inaccuracies. For example, individual episodes were recorded at station WBBM and not WMAQ. This is important as producer Johnnie Neblett had established a rapport with WBBM via his first series So The Story Goes which had been broadcast by that station since 1943, the year Neblett Radio Productions was founded. Thus, his firm had been in existence two years prior to the recording and subsequent release of Stay Tuned for Terror.

There was no conspiracy regarding the Wisconsin newspaper radio logs of Stay Tuned for Terror. The series was recorded during the early months of 1945 and released late in the spring of that same year. The newspapers accurately printed details provided to them by Chicago station WMAQ which broadcast the program for thirteen weeks.

Despite the death of Johnnie Neblett in September of 1946, Stay Tuned for Terror continued to be distributed throughout the remainder of the 1940s and into the 1950s by various firms headed by James Doolittle (Craig Dennis), Berle Adams and Rush Hughes. Neblett had sold out his share of the enterprise to James Doolittle in October of 1945….

(17) ACTION! Someone on eBay will be happy to sell it fo $4,200: “2003 Clapperboard For – Lord Of The Rings – Return Of The King” .

(18) VIDEO OF THE WEEK. “The Joker:  Put On A Happy Face” on YouTube is a 2020 documentary that includes interviews with four actors who played the Joker (Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix) and many writers of Joker scripts, including the Joker’s co-creator, Jerry Robinson, Frank Miller, and Denny O’Neil.

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

I Had A Lovely Visit This Morning

By John King Tarpinian: I am lucky enough to be able to visit Ray on his birthdays, always leaving him a gift or two.  The cake had to be quickly removed because there were ants that appeared to be interested in the cake.  And no, I did not eat the cake but gave it to the mortuary staff as a thank you for taking care of Ray.

I left a Clark bar (Ray’s favorite), brass horse (representing his first book, Dark Carnival), & the polished coprolite (dinosaur poop) in honor of The Sound of Thunder.  Oh yes, I used a box of Dark Carnival matches to light the candles.

After visiting Ray I always go over to pay my respects to others who had influences in Ray’s life.  Truman Capote, who was partly responsible for Ray getting his first story published in a mainstream publication, the October 1946 issue of Colliers Magazine, “The Homecoming.” 

Also going over to Hugh Hefner, who as a young publisher, serialized Fahrenheit 451 in March/April/May 1954, in Playboy.

Of course, I also visit someone who I tease as being Ray’s chauffeur, Robert Bloch.

It is a pilgrimage I both enjoy making but wish I’d rather be going to Comic-Con or simply having lunch with Ray.

Pixel Scroll 3/7/20 Code 7-7-0 PSF: Pixel, Scroll, File

(1) READ THESE. BBC’s Culture assembled a list of “The most overlooked recent novels” – “Eight acclaimed authors reveal their favourite hidden gems outside the literary canon.” There are several sff writers among the respondents, and sff books among their recommendations.

Helen DeWitt writes: “In the summer of 1994 I was in despair. It seemed to me that books were predictable and unexciting compared with the astonishing variety and inventiveness of art – why bother with a novel? Mooching glumly around a museum bookshop, I came across a book plastered with raves by the likes of Anthony Burgess. I opened to the first page and read: ‘On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs…’ It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker is set on a post-apocalyptic post-British landmass thousands of years after a nuclear holocaust. All scientific knowledge has been lost, but its traces linger on in a loss-marked language which repurposes the mangled terms to mythology. The book had come out in 1980 to acclaim; I’d never heard of it. And yet this extraordinary book seemed to me to be the equal of The Waste Land; it was embarrassing to have to recommend it to people, as if one were to go about saying ‘I’ve just discovered this amazing poem by someone called TS Eliot.’”

Hoban was an American who lived in Britain. He wrote across genres: fiction, the fantastic, poetry, children’s literature. Anthony Burgess said of Riddley Walker: “This is what literature was meant to be.” Max Porter (see below) has called it a “stone-cold classic”.

(2) MAGIC INSIDE. Below, Paste TV Editor Allison Keene and Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson offer “An Appreciation of The Magicians”. (A show in its last season, it was announced very recently.)

Naturally, there are friends and enemies and Big Bads along the way, and plenty of fast-moving plot points, but one of the things that has made the show so unique and worthy is that it addresses mental health issues in thoughtful, compelling ways, and how that colors the experiences of the cast (which includes Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, and Summer Bishil). And that—even in a world with magic—magic doesn’t necessarily solve everything.

(3) TICKETS TO RIDE. Take that extra weight out of your wallet and you might get off the ground: “There Are 2 Seats Left for This Trip to the International Space Station” reports the New York Times.

If you have tens of millions of dollars to spare, you could as soon as next year be one of three passengers setting off aboard a spaceship to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay.

On Thursday, Axiom Space, a company run by a former manager of NASA’s part of the space station, announced that it had signed a contract with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, for what might be the first fully private human spaceflight to orbit.

“I think you’ll see a lot more energy in the market as people come to realize it’s real, and it’s happening,” said Michael T. Suffredini, the president and chief executive of Axiom.

The spaceflight, Axiom officials said, could take off as soon as the second half of 2021.

SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon capsule for taking NASA astronauts to and from the space station. But just as the company’s development of its Falcon 9 rocket for taking cargo to the space station led to a vibrant business of launching commercial satellites, SpaceX is also looking to expand Crew Dragon passengers beyond just NASA astronauts.

(4) IT’S A THEORY. Everybody who ever wrote a plague story seems to be getting a feature article this month. Adam Roberts wrote this one for The Guardian: “Fever dreams: did author Dean Koontz really predict coronavirus?” Koontz is just one of many sff writers he references.

According to an online conspiracy theory, the American author Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak in 1981. His novel The Eyes of Darkness made reference to a killer virus called “Wuhan-400” – eerily predicting the Chinese city where Covid-19 would emerge. But the similarities end there: Wuhan-400 is described as having a “kill?rate” of 100%, developed in labs outside the city as the “perfect” biological weapon. An account with more similarities, also credited by some as predicting coronavirus, is found in the 2011 film Contagion, about a global pandemic that jumps from animals to humans and spreads arbitrarily around the globe.

But when it comes to our suffering, we want something more than arbitrariness. We want it to mean something. This is evident in our stories about illness and disease, from contemporary science fiction all the way back to Homer’s Iliad. Even malign actors are more reassuring than blind happenstance. Angry gods are better than no gods at all….

(5) ANTEBELLUM. Coming to theaters April 24, 2020: “‘Antebellum’ Trailer Turns Back the Clock to Tease Future Horror”The Hollywood Reporter frames the visuals.

To the surprise of no one paying attention to her for the past few years, Janelle Monáe is the future — but the question at the heart of the first trailer for upcoming horror movie Antebellum is, what if she was also the past, as well …?

Monáe plays author Veronica Henley, a figure who finds herself seemingly trapped in the past, or a terrifying recreation of it, and forced to discover the truth behind her experience before it’s too late.

(6) SCOOB TRAILER. The final trailer dropped – movie arrives in theaters May 14.

The first full-length animated Scooby-Doo adventure for the big screen is the never-before told stories of Scooby-Doo’s origins and the greatest mystery in the career of Mystery Inc. “SCOOB!” reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

(7) HATCHER OBIT. Kate Hatcher, Chair of SpikeCon (2019 NASFiC/Westercon 72) died March 5, reportedly of complications of pneumonia. Her conrunning experience also included Westercon 67, LTUE, Westercon 70, 71 (tech), and as staff on Worldcon 76 and LTUE 2018. David Doering, who worked with her on several of these conventions, says: “She always gave 110% to Fandom and will be sorely missed.”

Kate Hatcher and Kevin Roche on stage at Worldcon 76.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 7, 1980 — The Brave New World film premiered on NBC. (It would show on BBC as well.) It was adapted from the novel by Aldous Huxley by Robert E. Thompson and Doran William Cannon, and was directed by Burt Brinckerhoff. It starred Kristoffer Tabori, Julie Cobb and Budd Cort. You can see it here. Strangely it has no ratings at Rotten Tomatoes, not very much of a web presence. You can watch it here.
  • March 7, 1988 — The Probe series premiered. It was created by Michael I. Wagner and  Isaac Asimov as a sort of live action version of Jonny Quest. Wagner wrote the two-hour pilot, and became Executive Producer for the series. Parker Stevenson had the lead in the series and Ashley Crow was his secretary. It was a mid-season replacement that wasn’t renewed and thus lasted but six episodes. You can see the first half of the pilot here. There’s a link to the second half on that YouTube page.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1873 J. D. Beresford. Now remembered for his early horrors and SF stories including The Riddle of The Tower which was co-written with Esme Wynne-Tyson. He was a keen admirer of Wells, and wrote the first critical study of him in 1915, coincidentally called H. G. Wells: A Critical Study. The latter is free at the usual digital suspects and his fiction ranges from free to reasonably priced there.  (Died 1947.)
  • Born March 7, 1905 Beatrice Roberts. Her most notable role was that of Queen Azura in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, a 1938 serial which you can see the beginning of here. She also shows up in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as Varja the Barmaid, and she’s a Nurse in The Invisible Man’s Revenge. (Died 1970.)
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 76. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now. 
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 75. Since I’m not deeply read in her, I’ll let JJ have her say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them.   But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly,’ but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.”
  • Born March 7, 1949 Pat Mills, 71. He is best remembered for creating the 2000 AD zine and playing a major role in the development of Judge Dredd. He has also written two Eighth Doctor audio plays, “Dead London” and “The Scapegoat” for Big Finish Productions. 
  • Born March 7, 1954 Elayne Pelz, 66. She is a member of LASFS (and officer) and SCIFI who worked on myriad cons, mainly in art show and treasury.  She was married to famous SF fan Bruce Pelz and assumed leadership of Conagerie, the 2002 Westercon, upon Bruce’s death and the con was held successfully. She was the Chair of Loscon 20.
  • Born March 7, 1965 E. E. Knight, 55. I’d swear I should know this author but he’s not ringing even a faint bell. He’s written two series, Vampire Earth and Age of Fire. What do y’all know about him? 
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 50. Though better known for The Mummy films which I really, really love, and her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • When a sff movie literally delivers what its title promises, you get something like this installment of Lio.

(11) SHAT’S PROPERTY SETTLEMENT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Juli Gugliemi, in the People story “William Shatner Will Get ‘Horse Semen’ For Animal Breeding in Divorce Settlement”, says that while his ex-wife, Elizabeth Shatner, gets most of the horses in the divorce, Shatner gets two horses and all the horse semen the horses have produced for breeding new horses.

I confess, having “horse semen” in a headline about Shat is the greatest Shat story since the time he dropped trousers while going through airport security and “the captain’s log was clearly visible.”

As for their shared property, William will keep their Studio City home and Three Rivers ranch in California. However, they’ve agreed to let Elizabeth visit the ranch to “occasionally harvest fruit” and visit the graves of her first husband and several horses.

Elizabeth also gets their homes in Malibu Cove and Versailles, Kentucky.

(12) EFFECTIVE FX. The Maltin on Movies podcast interviews “John Dykstra”.

Three-time Oscar winner John Dykstra may go down in history as the man who devised the Light Saber for Star Wars, but that’s just one achievement in a lengthy career in visual effects. In fact, he helped usher in the modern era of fx and has adapted to digital sleight-of-hand…but he misses the scrappy days when he built actual models and then blew them up! His credits range from Spider-man and Stuart Little to Quentin Tarantino’s last four films. Best of all, from Leonard and Jessie’s point of view, he has retained his youthful enthusiasm and is exceptionally articulate about his work. 

(13) MEMORY, ALL ALONE IN THE MOONLIGHT. CBR.com lists its candidates for the “10 Most Memorable Anime Cats”.

For some reason, cats are major staples of the anime world. It is “neko” this and “neko” that. The answer may be the same reason that the internet itself is obsessed with cats. They are cute, have strong personalities, and can go from mysterious to totally goofy in an instant….

8 Artemis And Luna From Sailor Moon

Technically Luna and Artemis are not cats. They are aliens from a planet called Mau. Luna even has a human form in the anime. However, they will always be truly remembered as cats. They are pretty cute cats too and really played a part in the trope that magical girls have animal companions/mentors.

Luna and Artemis eventually get romantically involved, which is proved by having a kitten together. However, there is one part of the anime where Luna fell in love with a human man.

(14) HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2020” with Strange at Ecbatan readers. His section on Best Fan Writer begins —

I’ll reiterate my admiration for John Boston and John O’Neill. John Boston’s most publicly available recent stuff is at Galactic Journey, where he reviews issues of Amazing from 55 years ago, month by month. (It will be noted, perhaps, that I also review issues of Amazing from the same period, at Black Gate.) John’s work there is linked by this tag: http://galacticjourney.org/tag/john-boston/.

As for John O’Neill, of course his central contribution is as editor of Black Gate, for which he writes a great deal of the content, often about, “vintage” books he’s found on Ebay or at conventions, and also about upcoming fantasy books.

Another Black Gate writer, and fan writer in general, who did great work last year was Steven Silver, particularly his “Golden Age Reviews”.

Rich adds some kind words for File 770, much appreciated, but remember I have withdrawn myself and the zine from further Hugo consideration.

(15) AROUND THE BLOCH.  Cora Buhlert calls our attention to another Retro-Hugo eligible story in “Retro Review: ‘Iron Mask’ by Robert Bloch”. BEWARE SPOILERS. It was the cover story in an issue of Weird Tales, for which Margaret Brundage did the artwork.

“Iron Mask” is a novelette by Robert Bloch, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Weird Tales and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found online here.

(16) THE BOY WONDER TURNS 80. The New York Times looks at “Batman and His Many Robins”:

Robin, a.k.a. the Boy Wonder, celebrates his birthday this week: He made his debut in Detective Comics No. 38 on March 6, 1940, and he and Batman became nearly inseparable in the war on crime. But while Bruce Wayne has nearly always worn Batman’s cowl, there have been many different characters behind Robin’s mask. Here is a look at some of the men and women who have called themselves Robin.

 1940

Dick Grayson

First and foremost is Dick Grayson. Like Batman, Dick lost his family to crime. His parents, circus acrobats, were casualties in a mob-protection racket. Batman (Bruce Wayne) trained Dick to help bring the culprit to justice. The two orphans were a positive influence on each other.

(17) WHO SEASON 12 VERDICT. Whatever others may say, RadioTimes Huw Fullerton thinks fans should be pleased: “Doctor Who series 12 review: ‘A big step up’”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Doctor Who’s 12th modern series brought a darker, more personal storyline for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, more characterisation for her companions (even if the show still wasn’t entirely successful on this front), interesting new takes on old-school series elements and delved more deeply into Doctor Who lore than would have been thought possible in 2018.

Really, looking at the bare facts of the latest series, Chris Chibnall almost couldn’t have done more to address fans’ basic wishes after series 11.

When we consulted Whovians in 2019 about what changes they’d like to see in series 12, they asked for “more two-parters, long episodes and cliffhangers,” a proper series arc, the return of old monsters, more cold opens, a comeback for John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, a darker side to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and more background for her companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz (played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill).

(18) A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION. FastCompany tells “How Wikipedia’s volunteers became the web’s best weapon against misinformation”. “My ass,” responds Cat Eldridge, who submitted the link.  

Amid the chaos of partisan battles, epistemic crises, and state-sponsored propaganda, it’s nice to think that good-hearted people who care about a shared reality could defeat all the b.s. out there. And there’s so much of it. If 2016 was the debut of a new kind of information war, this year is promising to be something like the darker, more expensive sequel. Yet while places like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter struggle to fend off a barrage of false content, with their scattershot mix of policies, fact-checkers, and algorithms, one of the web’s most robust weapons against misinformation is an archaic-looking website written by anyone with an internet connection, and moderated by a largely anonymous crew of volunteers.

(19) AND A HEARTY HI-YO SILVER. “Betelgeuse: Astronomers determine the reason for strange dimming of far-away star”Inverse has the story.

…The red giant star is on its way to recovery, regaining its brightness and crushing the hopes of astronomers everywhere who wanted to witness a supernova unfold in our skies.

But while astronomers are no longer wishing upon the star to explode, Betelgeuse’s dimming has left them wondering what may have caused this odd behavior in the first place.

The findings suggest Betelgeuse’s signature bright light was temporarily blocked from our view by material shed by the star, in the form of a cloud of dust.

The study is based on observations of Betelgeuse taken on February 14, 2020, at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. There, astronomer Philip Massey, an astronomer with Lowell Observatory, and co-author of the new study, and his colleagues had their instruments trained on Betelgeuse to get a reading on the star’s average surface temperature. The reason? If Betelgeuse was truly dimming, its surface would be cooler than usual.

(20) CAT WIDE AWAKE ON SFF.

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

Robert Bloch, The Clown at Midnight

Robert Bloch and Steve Vertlieb

By Steve Vertlieb: This is the story of my twenty-five year friendship with acclaimed writer Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. It is a published, Rondo Award nominated remembrance of a complex, remarkable man, and our affectionate relationship over a quarter century.

Robert Bloch was one of the founding fathers of classic horror, fantasy, and science fiction whose prolific prose thrilled and influenced the popular genre, its writers, and readers, for much of the twentieth century. An early member of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of both aspiring and established writers of “Weird Fiction” assembled by Howard Phillips Lovecraft during the early 1930’s, Bloch became one of the most celebrated authors of that popular literary genre during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, culminating in the publication of his controversial novel concerning a boy, his mother, and a particularly seedy motel.

When Alfred Hitchcock purchased his novel and released Psycho with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in 1960, Bloch became one of the most sought after authors and screen writers in Hollywood. His numerous contributions to the acclaimed television anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents are among the best of the director’s classic suspense series, while his legendary scripts, adaptations and teleplays for Boris Karloff’s Thriller series for NBC are among the most bone chilling, frightening, and horrifying screen presentations in television history.

Steve sits with Bob and with his lovely wife Elly in their Hollywood Hills during the intoxicating Summer of 1974.

He also famously penned several classic episodes of NBC’s original Star Trek series for producer Gene Roddenberry. Writers Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison have written lovingly and profusely of their own literary debt to Robert Bloch. Bob was, for me, even more significantly, a profoundly singular mentor and cherished personal friend for a quarter century. This is the story of that unforgettable relationship.

Steve, Richard Matheson, and Robert Bloch.

Steve invites you to read the complete article here — The Thunder Child: Vertlieb’s Views: “The Clown at Midnight”.