Pixel Scroll 3/16/22 I Had It, But I Traded It For These Magic Beans

(1) PLANETARY SOCIETY GRANTS. The first-ever winners of The Planetary Society’s Science and Technology Empowered by the Public (STEP) Grants were announced today. These are planetary science and/or technology grants that fit within one or more of The Planetary Society’s core enterprises (Explore WorldsFind LifeDefend Earth). “Announcing the First-Ever STEP Grant Winners”. The two winning projects are a radio SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) citizen science project, and a planetary defense project to use a new technique to study near-Earth asteroids. 

Are We Alone?

We have awarded US$49,980 to a team from the University of California Los Angeles led by Professor Jean-Luc Margot for their proposal “Are We Alone? A Citizen-Science-Enabled Search for Technosignatures.”

The search for life elsewhere in the universe seeks to answer one of the most fundamental questions: are we alone? One part of this search involves looking for signals from elsewhere in the universe sent by intelligent life. Looking for signals is like searching for a needle in a very enormous haystack. Over the decades, though no confirmed signal from ET has been found, the technology and the techniques have gotten more and more capable.

Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids

We have awarded US$44,842 to a team from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, led by Professor Bojan Novakovi? for their proposal “Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids (D-NEAs).”

Tens of thousands of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) have been found, but we only know the physical properties of a small percentage. Asteroids can range from solid rock to collections of boulders to fluff balls. Understanding these characteristics for individual NEAs as well as entire NEA populations is crucial to not only the science of asteroid evolution and variability, but also to considerations of how to deflect a dangerous asteroid in the future.

(2) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDAL SHORTLISTS. The shortlists for the Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. I couldn’t find any genre works in the mix, perhaps you will be more discerning.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal (alphabetical by author surname):

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)
  • Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)
  • Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber)
  • The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Children’s Books)
  • Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada (Guppy Books)
  • Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle (Andersen Press)
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

  • Drawn Across Borders illustrated and written by George Butler (Walker Books)
  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)
  • Too Much Stuff illustrated and written by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Long Way Down illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff, written by Jason Reynolds (Faber)
  • Milo Imagines the World illustrated by Christian Robinson, written by Matt de la Pena (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Shu Lin’s Grandpa illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Matt Goodfellow (Otter-Barry Books)
  • I Talk Like a River illustrated by Sydney Smith, written by Jordan Scott (Walker Books)
  • The Wanderer illustrated and written by Peter Van den Ende (Pushkin Children’s Books)

(3) NASFIC SAFETY. The Orlando in 2023 NASFiC Bid defends one city in Florida’s LGBTQIA+ record. This is just the beginning:

We’ve seen some of you ask about how friendly Orlando is to the LGBTQIA+ community and whether you will be safe coming to Orlando for the 2023 NASFiC. Those are excellent questions to ask, and we have answers for you.

The short answer: Orlando is one of the most LGBTQIA+ friendly cities in the entire country. You will be welcomed, and you will be safe.

Period.

Full stop.

Have you noticed how people who like the “Period. Full stop” idiom always have so much to say after it?

(4) OPPOSITION TO 2023 WORLDCON IN CHENGDU. Sarah Mughal Rana, organizer of the Open Letter condemning China as host of the 2023 Worldcon, had two opinion pieces about the issue published today.  

The first, at Winteriscoming.net, “Dear World(con): Don’t host the Hugos amidst Uyghur concentration camps”, fleshes out these arguments:

  • The development of Chengdu as a sci-fi and tech center is contributing to genocide
  • Chengdu Worldcon has problematic Guests of Honor
  • Turkic authors, publishers, and intellectuals are persecuted in China
  • Condemning Worldcon is not the result of Western bias
  • Holding Chengdu Worldcon goes against artistic values

The second, at The Bookseller, “Science fiction’s moral reckoning: why we must block Worldcon Chengdu”, says in part —

…As an activist who, only one month ago, organised a protest over the Beijing Winter Olympics in light of the Uyghur genocide, I was stunned by the writing community’s support of the Chengdu 2023 Worldcon bid. It is not rare for authors to get involved in politics, as evidenced by well-known authors such as Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie, Holly Black, and more announcing their intentions not to renew their releases with Russian publishers in support of Ukraine. However, in the case of Chengdu, China – no one resisted.

…Supporting and attending Worldcon 2023 makes us hypocrites. Writers create characters that oppose entrenched power structures, malicious regimes, status quos and utopias. In science fiction, we use our fiction to draw parallels about reality, unchecked uses of technologies, persecution and surveillancing. Our characters work to overthrow cruel empires; they are the heroes that protect their culture and societies against invasion, injustices and genocide. How can one of the world’s most prestigious writing awards celebrate science fiction’s best stories while millions of Uyghurs are subject to severe persecution? How can we celebrate China’s sci-fi scene when artists, writers and intellectuals of its ethnic minorities are interned in camps or in exile, unable to attend?

Among Chengdu Worldcon’s guests of honour are Sergei Lukyanenko, a bestselling sci-fi writer who has constantly defended Russia’s Ukraine policy, and Liu Cixin, an internationally bestselling Chinese sci-fi writer who was recently hired for SenseTime as a director of Science Fiction Planet Research Center – a tech company that is using sci-fi research to develop immersive artificial intelligence. SenseTime—along with four other firms—is responsible for creating mass surveillance AI systems used to identify and police Uyghurs, Tibetans and other Turkic populations in China. The US has even banned investments into SenseTime for its prominent role in the genocide. The advanced systems include facial and voice recognition, DNA sampling, and racial profiling; these factors are directly responsible for widening the scope of the genocide. But SenseTime is not the only company. Chengdu has invested billions in sci-fi research to attract writers, creators, animation departments, and tech start-ups; these same companies create advanced AI that are is being used to persecute China’s Muslim minorities.

Chengdu is an emerging global sci-fi capital of China, but supporting the sci-fi scene there contributes to the genocide and mass policing of ethnic minorities….

(5) STORY TIME. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast Special 4 Year Anniversary Episode is a collaboration with Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine: Simultaneous Times Ep.49 – Michael James & J.W. Allen.

Stories featured in this episode:

“Minimum Sage” – by Michael James; music by Phog Masheeen; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“Systems Strike” – by J.W. Allen; music by RedBlueBlackSilver; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-eight years ago today a very silly film called The Ice Pirates premiered. Yes I am editorializing. That’s why my name is on these essays. It was directed by Stewart Raffill, who co-wrote the screenplay with Krull screenwriter Stanford Sherman. Raffill would also direct The Philadelphia Experiment this year. Sherman wrote quite a few Batman episodes and a few of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

The producer was John Foreman who had already done Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and who would later do what was known in the States as The Great Train Robbery which I essayed here on File 770  several weeks back. (Great film and a rather good book as well.)

The primary cast was Robert Urich, Mary Crosby and Michael D. Roberts; but the secondary cast of Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Bruce Vilanch, John Carradine was rather notable as well. 

It was supposed to have a rather extravagant budget for a film of its sort at twenty million dollars but MGM had just been slapped quite hard by its bankers as it losing a great deal of money just then and all films then in production were limited by the those bankers to just eight million to spend. So the story goes that Raffill rewrote the script from a hard SF film to a comic SF affair to make less it much dependent on SFX. 

So how did it fare with critics? The New York Times said upon its release that “THE ICE PIRATES,” which opens today at the Warner and other theaters, is a busy, bewildering, exceedingly jokey science-fiction film that looks like a ”Star Wars” spinoff made in an underdeveloped galaxy.” (Raffill for the record denies that it was based off of Star Wars at all.) 

And the Sunday Call-Chronicle said of it that “’The Ice Pirates,’ a cross between ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail,’ is amusingly silly through the first box of popcorn. After that, you’re on your own.” Ouch. 

Box office wise, it likely didn’t make money as it grossed only fourteen million against a budget that eventually hit nine million. So I doubt the bankers were very happy. 

It performs decently but not great at Rotten Tomatoes currently with a score of fifty percent among audience reviewers. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1883 Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. Wiki says she was a president of the United Amateur Press Association but I can’t confirm that elsewhere. And she was married to Lovecraft for two years. Her best-known story is “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” which was revised and edited by Lovecraft and renamed as “The Invisible Monster” when it got published in Weird Tales inNovember 1923. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. He shows up in a recurring role as Number Two on The Prisoner in  “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out”. Other genre appearances include Police Inspector McGill in X the Unknown, Bill Macguire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Professor Moriarty in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Voice of Gwent in “The Infernal Machine” episode of Space: 1999. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard of which she said in interviews that was impressed by Haggard’s novel She at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate her. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 16, 1931 Irene Champlin. Though she was short-lived, she’s remembered most as Dale Arden in the Fifties syndicated Flash Gordon series in which she was both intelligent and resourceful. Her entire acting  career was but three years in length, ending with in appearance on I Spy. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 71. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with By Demons Possessed being the current novel. She has dabbled in writing in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague” that was first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. All of the God Stalker Chronicles series are available from the usual suspects. 
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 70. Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. The Rules of Magic was nominated for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award.
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 51. Hoban “Wash” Washburne  in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.)  He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, he voiced a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on HBO Max, and he was a very irritating Mr. Nobody on the Doom Patrol series also on HBO Max.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville jokes about the multiverse.
  • Bizarro injects a moment of horror into the lives of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man family.

(9) THE SPRING BEFORE THE SUMMER OF LOVE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I’m at Galactic Journey today, reviewing Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman, while my colleague Victoria Silverwolf reviews Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak. Victoria obviously got the better deal: “[March 16, 1967] A Matter of Life and Death (Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak; Tarnsman of Gor, by John Norman)”.

(10) BASEDCON. Robert Kroese is organizing BasedCon 2022, following up last year’s event for alt-right sff authors. That said, I found it hard to resist the honesty of this line in his latest message:

…The biggest challenge once again is going to be money. I’m a moderately successful sci-fi author, which is another way of saying that I am poor…. 

(11) MERCIFUL MAUDE. “Disneyland’s Newest Menu Item Is Its Most Divisive Yet” claims The Takeout.

Though the Disney parks are known for all sorts of innovations, the food continues to be a big draw for many tourists. Some Disney fans go so far as to plan whole trips around sampling as many dishes as possible, and even Florida’s stork population seems to love the food on offer. Disneyland in California, however, has created a dish that might be a little divisive among park guests. I’m having some conflicted feelings about it right now just thinking about it. It’s dessert pasta, and everyone has an opinion.

This peanut butter and jelly pasta is now available at the Nuts About Cheese stand in Disneyland as part of the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival. I want to understand the motivations of whoever created this. Food writer and Takeout contributor Julie Tremaine sampled this new concoction for SFGate and came away with some mixed feelings.

The peanut butter & jelly mac involves macaroni noodles coated in a peanut butter sauce and finished off with a dollop of strawberry jelly, a sprinkle of brown sugar streusel, and a layer of strawberry crackle, which is pretty much just a serving of Pop Rocks….

(12) AFTER HE LANDED. Showtime released a teaser featuring the first five minutes from the new TV series The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on the novel by Walter Tevis and the iconic film starring David Bowie. Deadline reports that the series “will follow a new alien character (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution, and must confront his own past to determine our future.” It debuts April 24 on Showtime.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Free Guy,” the Screen Junkies say the game in Free Guy  is part Grand Theft Auto, part fortnite, and part Nothing at All, because the script was bought in 2016.  And did you know Taika Waititi and Ryan Reynolds worked together in Green Lantern?  Well, they did!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/21 I’m Shocked To Find Scrolling Going On In Here

(1) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. In the New York Times, Amal El-Mohtar names “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2021”. Here’s one of her picks:

In the gray fog of an uncertain year, these books stand out in bright colors and floods of intense feeling. They’re organized only by the order in which I read them….

No Gods, No Monsters

By Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone, 387 pp., $26.99)

Intimate and intricate, full of charismatic monsters and the dueling secret societies to which they belong. A pack of werewolves transform on camera, prompting hidden powers to rally for or against revealing the supernatural world of gods and monsters to the public. Mysteriously narrated and utterly riveting.

 (2) EXCEED YOUR GRASP. At Futurism, Matthew Angelo tells readers “Why Science Fiction Matters in Literature”.

… Science fiction typically deals with the impact of imagined future science and technology on society. Sci-Fi is an important genre in literature. It teaches us about contemporary ideas, inspires new technological inventions, and entertains us by telling stories that could not have happened otherwise….

Science Fiction is one of the biggest, most influential genres in literature. It taps into human dreams and nightmares about what might be, what could happen to us, and how we might deal with it. It makes up many of our fictional worlds, futures, and inhabitants. Science Fiction stories can be wildly different in content. Still, they all have a similar feeling of being exciting possibilities just out of reach. Science fiction is often thought to be just about aliens and robots. Still, it can also have a lot to do with social commentary….

(3) SPINNING BLADES. Foz Meadows tweeted two threads commenting on the social media heat directed at Neon Yang after Yang, who criticized Isabel Fall’s “Helicopter Story” when it appeared in January 2020, recently promoted the appearance of their own queer mech story in a forthcoming anthology. Thread starts here.

A second short thread starts here.

Suzanne F. Boswell advances a case that Neon Yang’s tweets in 2020 did not cause the outcome for which critics now want to hold them accountable. Thread starts here.

R. B. Lemberg warns about the damage from these exchanges. Thread starts here.

(4) HIS FAVORITE MARTIAN. Congratulations to Jonathan Eller, whose Bradbury Beyond Apollo has been named one of the Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2021. The list is quite selective: it contains approximately ten percent of some 6,000 works reviewed in Choice each year.

(5) AS VIEWED FROM ABOVE. Rob Hansen has created “a small extra” for those who read Bixelstrasse, his compilation of early LASFS history (see “Revisit ‘Fighting Forties’ LASFS in Rob Hansen’s Bixelstrasse”) – it’s an annotated Map of 1940s LA Fandom.

(6) A BARKING GOOD CLIMAX. Camestros Felapton announces “Debarkle Volume 3 Now Available”. It is the end, my friend, and the price is right – free! A list of vendors is at the link.

The third and final volume of Debarkle is now available from a wide range of online book stores and by “wide range” I mean “not Amazon”. As with the rest of this series, it’s been published via Draft2Digital and you can access it in these online book shops. Note: this is the “second draft” version with fewer typos than the blog version. A third draft version will be available as a collected edition of all three volumes before the end of the year.

(7) DOWN TO THE WIRE. Starburst Magazine’s Ed Fortune covers 2023 Site Selection here: “China Races Canada For Prestigious SciFi Con”.

… Worldcons are a long-running international Science Fiction convention that tends to be hosted in North America or Europe, and the next venue is determined two years ahead of time.

Recent years have seen the convention come to other parts of the world, such as Japan and New Zealand. Chinese fans have been actively seeking to bring the world-renowned event to Chengdu, China since 2014….

(8) 2023 WORLDCON BID Q&A. Video of last weekend’s bidder Q&A session at Smofcon Europe has now been posted.

Representatives of the 2023 Worldcon bids for Chengdu and Winnipeg present and answer questions. Terry Fong, Tony Xia, Tina Wang, Tammy Coxen (m)

(9) BACK ON HIS FEET. Nicholas Whyte reports on his recovery from Covid after spending the end of November and part of December sick in bed: “630 days of plague, and COVID 20 days on” in his Livejournal.

(10) THE CULTURE. Christopher Fowler, known to fans for his sff, discusses what makes English novels “English” at CrimeReads: “The Curse of Englishness: Why Every British Thriller Is Also a Black Comedy”.

…I first became aware of the curse when I heard the teacups. To be precise, their endless tinkling.

Whenever I listened to an English radio play as a child the sound effects included a spoon endlessly circling bone china. English characters were always going out and coming in, but mostly they stayed inside and drank tea, even in the grisliest true-life murder dramatizations. Our plots unfolded in small rooms. It’s an English thing; neat little houses, inclement weather. Agatha Christie was particularly obsessed with egress. ‘It was a fine old library with the only other door leading out to the pristine tennis courts.’ And as we tended not to point guns at each other, our fictional killers generally dismissed firearms in favour of doctored pots of chutney, electrified bathtubs and poisoned trifles. They escaped without leaving footprints and relocked doors with the aid of string….

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

I am reliably informed by John King Tarpinian that this is how I should have spent my day.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966[Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty five years ago, Star Trek’s “The Conscience of a King” first aired on NBC. The title comes from the concluding lines of Act II of Hamlet: “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Barry Trivers wrote the script. Memory Alpha notes that he also wrote the never made “A Portrait in Black and White” episode based on a story premise by Roddenberry in his original series proposal for Star Trek

The primary guest cast here was Arnold Moss as Anton Karidian / Kodos and Barbara Anderson as Lenore Karidian. Other than a later Time Tunnel appearence, his only genre role. She played Mimi Davis in a recurring role on Mission: Impossible

Reception for it is generally very good though Keith DeCandido at Tor.com kvetches about how he’s identified as the war criminal. (Keith, it’s not your your modern CSI.) Later Trek writer Ronald D. Moore considers it one of the best Trek episodes ever done. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C. Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye, who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 James Thurber. He’s written a number of fantasies, The 13 ClocksThe White Deer and The Wonderful O, definitely none of which children should be reading. You’ve no doubt seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Danny Kaye which bears little resemblance to the original short story. It would be made into a second film, just eight years ago, again not resembling the source material. (Died 1961.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 71. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he know for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, the Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version.
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 70. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. He won a World Fantasy Award for his editing of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and a Mythopoetic Scholarship Award for Stories about Stories: Fantasy & the Remaking of Myth.
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind,  plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here.  (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 8, 1954 John Silbersack, 67. With Victoria Schochet, he edited the first four volumes of the Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology series. Seasonally appropriate, he edited with Chris Schelling, The Magic of Christmas: Holiday Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He’s written a Buck Rogers novel, Rogers’ Rangers, off a treatment by Niven and Pournelle. 
  • Born December 8, 1967 Laura J. Mixon, 64. She won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Sasquan for her writing about the abhorrent online activities of Benjanun Sriduangkaew. She has written a number of excellent novels including Glass Houses and Up Against It which got an Otherwise nomination. She is married to SF writer Steven Gould, with whom she co-wrote the novel Greenwar.

(14) GEORGE PÉREZ MEDICAL UPDATE. George Pérez, known for his work on DC’s The New Teen TitansCrisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman, Marvel titles like Infinity Gauntlet and The Avengers, and with Kurt Busiek on the landmark Marvel/DC crossover JLA/Avengers (aka Avengers/JLA), announced on Facebook that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  

To all my fans, friends and extended family,

It’s rather hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since I formally announced my retirement from producing comics due to my failing vision and other infirmities brought on primarily by my diabetes. At the time I was flattered and humbled by the number of tributes and testimonials given me by my fans and peers. The kind words spoken on those occasions were so heartwarming that I used to quip that “the only thing missing from those events was me lying in a box.”

It was amusing at the time, I thought.

Now, not so much. On November 29th I received confirmation that, after undergoing surgery for a blockage in my liver, I have Stage 3 Pancreatic Cancer. It is surgically inoperable and my estimated life expectancy is between 6 months to a year. I have been given the option of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, but after weighing all the variables and assessing just how much of my remaining days would be eaten up by doctor visits, treatments, hospital stays and dealing with the often stressful and frustrating bureaucracy of the medical system, I’ve opted to just let nature take its course and I will enjoy whatever time I have left as fully as possible with my beautiful wife of over 40 years, my family, friends and my fans.

Since I received my diagnosis and prognosis, those in my inner circle have given me so much love, support and help, both practical and emotional. They’ve given me peace.

There will be some business matters to take care of before I go. I am already arranging with my art agent to refund the money paid for sketches that I can no longer finish. And, since, despite only having one working eye, I can still sign my name, I hope to coordinate one last mass book signing to help make my passing a bit easier. I also hope that I will be able to make one last public appearance wherein I can be photographed with as many of my fans as possible, with the proviso that I get to hug each and every one of them. I just want to be able to say goodbye with smiles as well as tears…

(15) SEPTEMBER SONG ENCORE. BasedCon will ride again in September 2022, says chair Rob Kroese. The inaugural event he created to appeal to the “sci-fi writer or fan who is sick of woke politics” (see “BasedCon Planning for Dozens of Attendees”) actually drew 70.

(16) THE ROARING TWENTIES. The New York Times applauds this fashion statement: “Just in Time for Christmas: Knitwear Fit for a T. Rex”.

Behold the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex — all swaddled in a cozy Christmas sweater.

The replica T. rex at the Natural History Museum in London is an enormous, ferocious-looking beast that was built to scale, standing about 60 percent the size of the 40-foot-long prehistoric creature.

The animatronic attraction, which features roaring sound effects, often startles visitors, but on Monday, the predatory edge was somewhat softened when visitors found the T. rex bedecked in a giant blue, red and green holiday sweater, replete with cheerful Christmas trees and snowflakes….

(17) A BIRD IN FLIGHT. The European launch of the book The Space Cuckoo and Other Stories by Arvind Mishra will take place online, on December 13 at 6.00 p.m. Romanian Local Time, on Discord, at the international meeting of Syndicate 9 Science Fiction club from Timisoara, Romania. The guest of the meeting is the author, and the moderator, Darius Hupov.

To participate at the online meeting, please click the invitation link for the Syndicate 9 Discord server:
https://discord.gg/rs2YUAwP. The meeting will take place at the “Intalnirea S9” voice channel.

(18) I’M NOT SAYING IT’S ALIENS… [Item by Dann.] China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover has found something interesting on the moon.  The rover is going to spend the next couple of months trundling over to get a closer look. “China’s Yutu 2 rover spots cube-shaped ‘mystery hut’ on far side of the moon” at Space.com.

China’s Yutu 2 rover has spotted a mystery object on the horizon while working its way across Von Kármán crater on the far side of the moon.

Yutu 2 spotted a cube-shaped object on the horizon to the north and roughly 260 feet (80 meters) away in November during the mission’s 36th lunar day, according to a Yutu 2 diary published by Our Space, a Chinese language science outreach channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Our Space referred to the object as a “mystery hut” but this [is] a placeholder name rather than an accurate description….

…but it’s aliens. Or the Transformers lunar base.

(19) GRESHAM’S LAW. Guillermo del Toro, director of Nightmare Alley, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Guillermo talks about his new movie…,, his attention to detail, his drawing notebook, his mother being a little bit of a “witch,” learning about tarot cards, getting married, shooting around the pandemic, Rooney Mara being secretly pregnant during it, buying and selling things on eBay, and he quizzes Jimmy about 1930s slang.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “In Honest Trailers:  Let There Be Carnage,” the Screen Junkies say ,” If you’re making a film about a squirelly guy who talks to himself, you get Gollum (Andy Serkis) to direct it.”  Under Serkis’s direction, the film features “bad CGI goo,” “bad wigs,” “British actors doing really bad American accents,” and a mysterious reference to Beverly Hills Cop 2!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/25/21 What We Do With A Pixel Scroll Gives Everyone A Start

(1) Q&A WITH POLISH SFF WRITER. Bence Pintér’s interview with Polish sci-fi author Jacek Dukaj is available in English at Spekulatív Zóna: “Q&A with Jacek Dukaj”.

The most recently translated work from you is The Old Axolotl. This book is unique in a lot of ways. What inspired you to write it, and why did you released it only in e-book form initially?

Lately I find I need some additional push to complete a story – to write for publication, not just for my own satisfaction. In this case it was the literary project and PR campaign of Allegro (sort of Polish eBay). You could say they had commissioned „The Old Axolotl”. They didn’t set any limits for a theme or style (I wouldn’t have agreed to such a deal). But it was an opportunity to explore new features of electronic books (as they appeared to us back then).

I’m always up for pioneer projects. If something looks very risky or impossibly hard, my first reaction is to try and do it.

The book was adapted by Netflix, but the series Into the Night only used the premise of the story. How do you feel about this adaptation?

I wonder if “adaptation” is the right word. It would be more fair to say that Into the Night was based on the same idea as the one which gave birth to The Old Axolotl. The story, the characters – they are all different. Jason George, the showrunner of Into the Night, is the sole author of the screenplay.

I’m happy people seem to like it. It’s rather small budget production, yet it became much more popular globally than other non-English series of similar budget. Into the Night punches above its weight, so to speak.

(2) BEBOP BEGINNING. Variety sets up the video: “’Cowboy Bebop’: Opening Credits Debut for Netflix Adaptation”.

…The opening credits are so iconic that, rather than release a trailer to promote its upcoming live-action adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop,” Netflix elected to debut the full opening credits for the show during its Tudum global fan event on Saturday….

(3) STEELY FAN. Tablet Magazine’s Paul Grimstad holds “A Conversation With Donald Fagen”, which has a section on the musician’s love of sf, of which this excerpt is about half —

A tune like “Pretzel Logic” has a pretty elliptical story going on, and speaking of science fiction!

Well, yeah, that was kind of a time-travel thing.

It’s funny when the person who greets the narrator in the future, says, “Where did you get those shoes?” like the fashion between the two times is completely out of whack.

That actually fills in the link between black humor and science fiction, because the science fiction novels I liked the most were funny in that way. I think my favorites included that kind of humor. Like Frederick Pohl and his partner Cyril Kornbluth, who wrote these really satirical novels.

The Space Merchants was recently reissued in the Library of America Series …

Oh really? I remember reading that one when I was a kid.

Another guy from that era who I think of as funny is Alfred Bester.

Another one of my favorites. He was an ad man, so it’s got this very New York, Madison Avenue feel, the Mad Men type of thing, but making fun of it.

(4) NASA’S FIRST WOMAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has released issue 1 of First Woman—a downloadable, interactive (augmented reality), graphic novel telling the (to date) fictional story of the first woman (and first person of color) to walk on the Moon. It’s also available as an audio story. A Spanish-language version of (at least) the first issue of the comic is also planned. The comic is available for iOS & Android platforms. “NASA Releases Interactive Graphic Novel ‘First Woman’”.

NASA released its first digital, interactive graphic novel on Saturday in celebration of National Comic Book Day. “First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity imagines the story of Callie Rodriguez, the first woman to explore the Moon.

While Callie’s story is fictional, the first woman and the first person of color will walk on the Moon, achieving these historic milestones as part of NASA’s Artemis missions. Through this graphic novel, NASA aims to inspire the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation.

Download, read, and interact with “First Woman” or listen to the audio version exclusively on NASA’s SoundCloud.

…The 40-page comic book highlights NASA technologies for traveling to, landing on, and exploring the Moon. The digital format comes to life, letting readers engage and interact through augmented reality elements using the First Woman website or their mobile devices.

To learn more about the graphic novel and interactive experiences, visit: Calliefirst

(5) FULL COURT PRESS. The New York Times has more coverage of the legal issues between Steve Ditko’s heirs and Disney, which has sued to keep them from regaining their share of the rights to some well-known Marvel characters: “Disney Sues to Keep Complete Rights to Marvel Characters”.

The reclamation attempts stem from a provision of copyright law that, under certain conditions, allows authors or their heirs to regain ownership of a product after a given number of years. Such efforts turn on whether authors worked as hired hands or produced the material on their own and then sold it to publishers. The Copyright Revision Act of 1976, which opened the door to termination attempts, bans termination for people who delivered work at the “instance and expense” of an employer.

“Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect,” Mr. Petrocelli said by phone. (Mr. Petrocelli is also representing Disney in its legal fight with Scarlett Johansson, who sued the company in July over pay connected to ticket sales for “Black Widow.”)

For instance, Disney’s complaint against Mr. Lieber contends that “Marvel assigned Lieber stories to write, had the right to exercise control over Lieber’s contributions and paid Lieber a per-page rate for his contributions.” Those conditions render his contributions “work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s provisions do not apply,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Toberoff sharply disagrees. “At the time all these characters were created, their material was definitely not ‘work made for hire’ under the law,” he said in an email in response to Disney’s filings. “These guys were all freelancers or independent contractors, working piecemeal for car fare out of their basements.” Hence, not “traditional, full-time employees,” he said.

“At the core of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of ‘work-made-for-hire,’” Mr. Toberoff said in a separate email, adding that the interpretation “needs to be rectified.”

(6) FINAL TALLY. Robert Kroese declared the first BasedCon “a tremendous success. We had nearly 70 attendees and a phenomenal group of authors and presenters. People came from as far away as Oregon, California, Texas, and New Hampshire.” He wants to run another in 2022.

(7) JUST LIKE THE 770 COMMENTS SECTION! [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] This is a very funny online-only thing Seth Meyers does at the end of every week, reading letters from the viewers at home (the jackals) about the various errors from the week before. This week, he addresses his former nemesis, the jackal/knitter Patti Lyons. It’s cued up to that:

Seth Meyers takes a moment to address some of the errors from this week of Late Night, like accidentally saying “on accident” instead of “by accident” and pronouncing “turnpike” as “turnbike.”

This closing speech is not genre in content (other than the knitting), but is so genre in form that it just isn’t funny. Except it is. Very.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1987 – Thirty-four years ago, The Princess Bride premiered. It was directed by Rob Reiner who co-produced it along with Andrew Scheinman. It was adapted by William Goldman from his novel of the same name. It had amazing cast of Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Fred Savage and Billy Crystal. It would win a Hugo at Nolacon II. Reception for it was great with every major critic loving it and many praising its sweetness. It currently holds a ninety-four rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Mind you it was a modest box office success just earning back what it cost to produce. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 — Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Who here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 — Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such for his Every Thing On It collection and a handful of a apt named poems, and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and will also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. So what do you think is genre? (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1946 — Felicity Kendal, 75. She plays Lady Clemency Eddison in the the Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”, one of my favorite Who tales. She recently played Baroness Ortsey in the new Pennyworth series. And though it’s definitely really not genre, I’m noting her role in Shakespeare-Wallah, story of a family troupe of English actors in India, just because it’s a fascinating story.
  • Born September 25, 1951 — Mark Hamill, 70. OK, I’ll confess that my favourite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. 
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displayed those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1961 — Heather Locklear, 60. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the Unexpected, Fantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clarkson in the “Prophecy of Doom” episode on Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born September 25, 1964 — Maria Doyle Kennedy, 57. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in now being filmed The Wheel of Time series.
  • Born September 25, 1968 — Will Smith, 53, Despite the stinker that were Wild Wild West and later Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin.

(11) THE SIGN OF THE Z. Screen Rant says you can trace the influence on Batman’s creators to a 1920s Zorro movie, and it didn’t stop there. The connection plays an major role in a current DC Comics’ crossover event, “Joker War.” — “Batman: How Zorro Created The Dark Knight”.

…It wasn’t until the legendary Frank Miller decided to give a nod to Kane and Finger in The Dark Knight Returns #1 that The Mark of Zorro is established. Miller cites the 1940 Tyrone Power adaptation, which was actually released after Batman’s creation, but the precedent was set. In Todd Phillips’ Joker film, 1981’s Zorro, the Gay Blade is the movie referenced. Whichever adaptation a creator chooses, Zorro and Batman’s histories are inextricably intertwined, which explains why Bruce’s archenemy decides to use the film against him….

(12) CASSANDRA PETERSON (ELVIRA) INTERVIEWED ABOUT COMING OUT AS GAY. Cassandra Peterson gave her first interview since she came out about her 19 year relationship to The Tamron Hall Show.

The woman behind the iconic character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Cassandra Peterson exclusively sits down for the first interview since revealing a 19-year relationship with a woman. The undisputed Queen of Halloween reveals her full story in a new book titled, “Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark,” and joins our show to talk about it. From her roots in Kansas to coming out, Elvira gets real about her journey to become the world’s sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.

(13) GO FAST, TURN UP! [Item by Jeff Warner.] Being an auto racing fan as well as a SF Geek, this caught my attention. “NASA astronaut captures Indianapolis from space station” in the Indy Star.

Indianapolis is, once again, piquing the interest of astronauts in space.

NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough has been regularly sharing “out of this world” views from the International Space Station on Twitter, including stunning views of the French Riviera, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano and the Las Vegas Strip. 

Indianapolis joined the ranks with clear views of White River, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis International Airport. If you zoom into the center, you can see Lucas Oil Stadium, too.

(14) JEOPARDY! A contestant on last night’s episode of Jeopardy! went astray. Andrew Porter  took notes.

Category: Novels

Answer: “I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel.”

Wrong question: “What is Slaughterhouse 5?”

Correct question: “What is ‘War of the Worlds?'”

(15) SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] There is a disturbance in the Force.  The Senators from the Old Republic are alarmed.  But can they trust…The Parliamentarian? The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri declares, “The Senate Mandalorian — I mean, Parliamentarian — is our only hope”.

The twin suns set over the Senate chambers, and the leadership sighed. The legislative nights were long and cold on this desert planet where no compromise had flourished for a long time, just banthas and the partisan Rancor.

“We have important legislation containing lots of policy priorities we have got to get through,” Grief Schuuma, leader of the Narrow Majority, said. “But there is just no way we can do it using regular order.”

“Well, we could,” a voice murmured from the corner, cloaked in shadow, “if we were willing to sacrifice the filibuster.”…

(16) ZINE SCENE. Mlex sent a link to the Autumn Equinox issue of his zine Zapf Punkt. Read the synopsis and you’ll know why!

In this issue, we investigate the radical art collective Zero Dimension, the electric guitar boom in Japan, and the dropout culture that threatened to overrun traditional society with folk music, glue-sniffers, surrealism, violence, pornography, pills, gender-confusion, interplanetary war, and the worst of all possible dooms: disorder.

By the late 1960s, this agitated social crisis briefly intersected with a manufactured music scene called Group Sounds. We listened to many hours of cheesy pop music to find the cherry bombs and make our own favorite freakbeat selection. Here’s our group sounds playlist, the official soundtrack of ZP 11.

This issue also features an edited transcript of our interview with Daniel Joseph, which originally appeared on Diamond Bay Radio in May. Daniel provides the biographical background for Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom, and we discuss her writing style, the modes and themes that appeared in her work, and how revolutionary it was at the time.

Join us for the meta-textual knock-out that Suzuki delivered to Japanese science fiction literature, before her decline into depression and suicide in 1986.

A pictorial glimpse of popular science fiction culture from around 1970 in Japan wraps up the issue.

(17) THINGS TO COME. The Orville: New Horizons arrives March 10, 2022.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bence Pintér, Jeff Warner, Darrah Chavey, Mlex, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/21 Please Pixel Carefully As Our Menu Scrolls Have Recently Changed

(1) WHAT ELSE BELONGS ON THAT SHELF? At Kalimac’s corner, blogger DB answers “if Tolkien is …”

A recent conversation presented me with a chance to answer the question, “If Tolkien is my favorite fantasy author, who are my other favorites?”

To answer this, I’m going to have to turn back to a long-ago time, before recent fantasy giants like Martin and Pratchett, before even Donaldson and Brooks, not quite before the Ballantine Unicorn’s Head series but before I was aware of it, and report on my perplexity at the recommendations I was getting from friends and helpful librarians for “things like Tolkien” to read after him. They were sword-and-sorcery authors like Robert E. Howard, and the likes of comic-book superheroes. I tried these things, but I was not even remotely attracted to them. I could see the superficial resemblance – battles involving mighty heroes, often in a semi-barbarian pseudo-medieval landscape – but that’s not what Tolkien was about, or what he was like. They were badly written, crudely plotted, and their heroes were all like Boromir. The likes of Frodo and Sam didn’t even exist there. They only had the crude surface resemblance, and not what I went to Tolkien for: his soul, his depth of creativity, his sense of morality. I quickly learned that surface resemblance has nothing to do with what makes Tolkien distinctive or worthwhile. That inoculated me against falling for all the Tolclones to come just because they were Tolclones, as so many did (and the Jackson movies are Tolclones in that respect).

What gave Tolkien quality I learned when I read the original Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin. These books were not very like Tolkien in surface appearance, but they had the depth of creative impulse, and a sure sense of moral imperative. Le Guin’s moral principles were different from Tolkien’s, but they were consistent, and morally defensible, and above all they were palpable. That’s what taught me that a coherent moral vision was what made for a real resemblance to Tolkien….

(2) CAPTAIN JACK. “John Barrowman gives his side of the story after tales of his naked antics on TV sets re-emerged” in a Daily Mail interview. He seeks to justify or mitigate several reports of his past on-set behavior, the details of which come after this excerpt.  

…Then a couple of months ago the sky fell in. Following accusations of sexual harassment against Noel Clarke, who played Mickey Smith – the boyfriend of Billie Piper’s character Rose – in Doctor Who from 2005 until 2010, historic footage emerged on YouTube of a sci-fi convention, Chicago Tardis, in 2014, released by The Guardian newspaper which had investigated Clarke’s behaviour on the Doctor Who set. 

In an interview in front of a live audience, Clarke is seen regaling fellow cast members Annette Badland and Camille Coduri with tales of John’s behaviour on the set of Doctor Who, exposing himself ‘every five seconds’. Clarke then jokes with the audience not to do this at their workplace or they might go to prison.

The allegations levelled against Clarke are extremely serious. At least 20 women have come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and bullying, ‘inappropriate touching and groping’ and secretly filming naked auditions before sharing the videos without consent. 

He denies all the allegations, but BAFTA has since suspended the Outstanding Contribution award it bestowed on him just weeks earlier, and the BBC has shelved any future projects he was working on with them.

Now John’s behaviour on the sets of both Doctor Who and Torchwood has come under scrutiny once again. The furore has led to a video of Captain Jack Harkness being expunged from the current immersive Doctor Who theatre show Time Fracture, a planned Torchwood audio production featuring John and former Doctor Who lead David Tennant being scrapped and doubt about whether he will be invited back to the Dancing On Ice panel. 

…  ‘The moment has come to set the record straight,’ he says from the Palm Springs, California, home he shares with his husband Scott Gill. ‘This is the first time – and the last – I will address this subject. And then I plan to draw a thick black line under it.’…

(3) FOR SOME OF YOU, BEWARE SPOILERS. In an appearance on The Tonight Show, Mark Hamill talks about voicing Skeletor in the He-Man continuation Masters of the Universe: Revelation and how he pulled off the coolest surprise ever in The Mandalorian.

(4) RESCUE MISSION. In “The Haunted Mind of Shirley Jackson”, New Yorker reviewer Zoë Heller argues the importance of a new Shirley Jackson biography.

Here’s how not to be taken seriously as a woman writer: Use demons and ghosts and other gothic paraphernalia in your fiction. Describe yourself publicly as “a practicing amateur witch” and boast about the hexes you have placed on prominent publishers. Contribute comic essays to women’s magazines about your hectic life as a housewife and mother.

Shirley Jackson did all of these things, and, during her lifetime, was largely dismissed as a talented purveyor of high-toned horror stories—“Virginia Werewoolf,” as one critic put it. For most of the fifty-one years since her death, that reputation has stuck. Today, “The Lottery,” her story of ritual human sacrifice in a New England village (first published in this magazine, in 1948), has become a staple of eighth-grade reading lists, and her novel “The Haunting of Hill House” (1959) is often mentioned as one of the best ghost stories of all time. But most of her substantial body of work—including her masterpiece, the beautifully weird novel “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” (1962)—is not widely read…. 

… In a new, meticulously researched biography, “A Rather Haunted Life,” Ruth Franklin sets out to rescue Jackson from the sexists and the genre snobs who have consigned her to a dungeon of kooky, spooky middlebrow-ness….

(5) SCARY MOVIES. SYFY Wire says these are “The 25 scariest sci-fi movies ever made, ranked”.

… As Aliens celebrates 35 years of thrilling audiences, SYFY WIRE revisited some memorable sci-fi scare-fests and ranked the best of the most terrifying movies both science fiction and horror have to offer…. 

15   Scanners (1981)

Director David Cronenberg’s Scanners is firmly indoctrinated into the Cult Movie Hall of Fame, thanks in large part to an iconic scene early in the film that features an exploding head. 

Scanners is a barebones sci-fi thriller about a man capable of telekinesis and psychokinesis forced to hunt down others like him. His hunt takes him and audiences on a dark and unsettling tour of where government bureaucracy and supernatural science intersect, where individuals with the ability to weaponize thoughts are subjugated by those who think of them only as threats. Despite its low-budget trappings, Scanners packs in a considerable amount of deep thematic ideas among all the gore and unsettling bits. 

(6) WINCHESTER. Edward M. Lerner suggests his book signing in Virginia on August 7 is the right destination if you’re ready to fly the coop. “SF and Nonsense: Has the time come? Are we (as opposed to my protagonists) *less* doomed?” (And the area boasts some historic sites worth visiting, too.)

Is anyone ready to get out of the house and resume “normal” life? And I don’t mean to observe Bastille Day. (I hear a resounding chorus of “YES!“)

Then please join me for my first post-COVID book signing, upcoming on Saturday, August 7th (2 to 4 PM) for Déjà Doomed. 

Unfamiliar with this, my latest novel?  That’s easily remedied. “DÉJÀ DOOMED is … finalement here 🙂” is what I posted on its recent release date. Naturally, I’ll be happy to discuss it — or pretty much anything — in person.

Where? you ask. The Winchester Book Gallery, on the lovely walking mall of scenic, historic Winchester, VA. 

(7) NOT OFF THE SHELF. Jayme Lynn Blaschke’s video “A Moment of Tiki: The Wall Is Lava” is a progress report on his DIY tiki bar.

Episode 29 of A Moment of Tiki is now live on the YouTubes! This time out I walk viewers through a build of a faux lava accent wall. I spent the bulk of last summer building out this project in the Lagoon, and it was more of a time-consuming than I’d anticipated. Editing all the footage taken over the course of several months proved a challenge unto itself.

Still, this is a vision I had way back when I started this whole crazy home tiki bar build project…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 – Fifteen years ago, Eureka premiered on the SciFi Channel. It was created by Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia. It had a very large ensemble cast: Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton. Debrah Farentino. Jordan Hinson, Ed Quinn, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Niall Matter, Matt Frewer, Tembi Locke and James Callis were the principal performers. It had a five-year run and lasted seventy-seven episodes plus a handful of webisodes. Though set in Oregon, it, like so many SF series, was filmed in British Columbia. Though critical reception was decidedly mixed, it did very well in the ratings and the SciFi Channel allowed it to wrap up properly. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent eighty-eight percent rating.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 18, 1913 Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes.  I remember Freddie the Freeloader. He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which is also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider at least genre adjacent. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 18, 1913 —  Marvin Miller. He is remembered, if he’s remembered for it, for being the voice of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. He would reprise that role myriad times in the next few decades in such films and series as The Invisible Boy, the first Lost in Space series and Gremlins. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 18, 1933 Syd Mead. Best remembered on his design work on such films as Star Trek: The Motion PictureBlade RunnerTron2010: The Year We Make ContactShort CircuitAliensJohnny Mnemonic, and Blade Runner 2049. There’s an excellent look at him and his work, Visual Futurist:The Art & Life of Syd Mead. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 83. Responsible for Starship TroopersTotal Recall, Hollow Man and Robocop. He’s made the final list for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation three times (Starship TroopersTotal Recall and Robocop) but has not won it. 
  • Born July 18, 1966 Paul Cornell, 55. Author of both the Shadow Police series and the Witches of Lychford novella series which are quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who including his Ninth Doctor story”Father’s Day” which was nominated for a Hugo, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for best fancast, one at Chicon 7 and one at LoneStarCon 3. And he scripted quite a bit of the Captain Britain and MI: 13 comic series as well — very good stuff indeed.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Van Diesel, 54. Guardians of The Galaxy franchise (“I am Groot!”) and other MCU films, The Iron Giant, xXx which is more or less genre, the Chronicles of Riddick franchise and The Fifth Element which I absolutely adore. He’s apparently in the third Avatar film. 
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra,  39. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit very nicely into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a major role in the still forthcoming Matrix 4 film.
  • Born July 18, 1994 Taylor Russell, 27. Judy Robison on the current Lost in Space series. She had a recurring role as Evelyn on Falling Skies, and she’s done a lot of horror films given her age.

(10) MAX LEGROOM. Scott Stinson explains why “Mad Max: Fury Road is a ridiculous masterpiece — flaming guitar bad guy says it all really” at National Post.

…Fury Road is a thrill ride, is what I’m saying. Our hero Max is captured right off the jump by a bunch of marauding fellows, imprisoned and used as a blood donor. His captors call him a blood bag, which really underscores the unlikelihood of a fair trial and eventual release. It’s quickly established that the gang is beholden to a cult leader, Immortan Joe, who has respiratory and skin problems but does control the water supply, the source of his power. Next comes Furiosa, a bad-ass truck driver who is leading a supply run. (There is a shortage of everything in this world except sand and orange lens filters.) But, wait! Furiosa is actually double-crossing ol’ Joe and has stowed away his harem of wives. Joe is greatly displeased and a convoy heads off in pursuit, with Blood Bag Max strapped to the front of one of the vehicles rather awkwardly.

This all happens with such quick pacing that it feels like it could have been one of those “previously on” catch-up scenes on a TV series…. 

(11) MR. GREEN HAS ARRIVED. Here’s another argument why “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” BasedCon organizer Robert Kroese tweeted —

(12) CREATIVE DIFFERENCES. Fansided discusses “How Dr. McCoy’s age changed Star Trek’s The Way to Eden” in The Original Series.

…Once [D.C.] Fontana turned her draft of the script in, a producer told her McCoy wasn’t old enough to have a twenty-one-year old daughter because he was Kirk’s “contemporary,” even though DeForest Kelley, the actor who portrayed Dr. McCoy, would have been 48 in 1968.

Fontana was livid that the writers’ guide wasn’t even read so that the script could be considered. She requested her name be removed from it, choosing instead to use her pseudonym “Michael Richards.”…

(13) COPTER ON TITAN. The Planetary Society tells “How Dragonfly will explore Saturn’s ‘bizarro Earth’ moon, Titan”. But it won’t arrive until 2037.

Why send a typical lander when you can send a dual-quadcopter?

That’s the question Dr. Elizabeth Tuttle and her team at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory asked when they developed NASA’s next New Frontiers mission to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The dual-quadcopter, aptly named Dragonfly, will carry a suite of instruments designed to analyze Titan’s surface, which can vary from pure water ice to crumbly, orange-tinted organic sands.

Over a series of flights throughout its three-year nominal mission, Dragonfly will hopscotch over Titan’s surface, investigating new places to visit and previously identified safe sites. Dragonfly’s science instruments include a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer to analyze the elements beneath its ski-like legs, a UV light to detect fluorescent, organic molecules, and a mass spectrometer to analyze more complex, biologically relevant samples….

Life on Titan, if it exists or ever existed, would need to adapt to a life of Antarctic-like temperatures, near-constant twilight, and transient liquid water. What sort of life could possibly survive in such a hostile environment?

That’s exactly what Dragonfly aims to investigate by flying to Selk Crater, a geologically young impact crater just 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) north of where Cassini’s Huygens probe landed in 2005. 

(14) THE CLAWS THAT CATCH. An #OwlKitty parody video from 2019: “If Baby Yoda was a Cat (Mandalorian + OwlKitty)”

(15) TENTACLE TIME. This link was sent together with a note of concern that Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s soliloquy “Octopuses” is probably too profane for a Scroll item, “but it’s genre-adjacent and really funny.” So you know. From the transcript —

…And before we start, I am fully aware that there are plenty of amazing animals in the ocean, which is, as we know, a big wet trash bin full of God’s weirdest typos….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Creating The World Of Harry Potter:  The Magic Begins is a 2009 documentary, which Warner Bros. posted to YouTube in April, about the making of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone.  It has a lot of behind-the-scenes footage which if you’re a hardcore Harry Potter fan you’d want to see,  I thought the footage of filming was interesting and the adults in the interviews are British pros who know how to be entertaining.  The kids are a lot less interesting.  I dunno what the British equivalent of “inside baseball” is but here are two things I learned:  the Hogwarts uniforms come from the films and not the books because J.K. Rowling declared that Hogwarts students didn’t have uniforms.  She was persuaded that uniforms were the right look for the movies.  Dame Maggie Smith declared that her character, Professor McGonigall, was Scottish, so her hat isn’t a witch’s hat but some sort of Scottish hat. Harry Potter fans will find this worth an hour.

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

BasedCon Planning for Dozens of Attendees

BasedCon – A based sci-fi con, organized by author Robert Kroese to appeal to the “sci-fi writer or fan who is sick of woke politics,” is planned for September 17-19 near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The list of confirmed guests includes two-time Prometheus Award-winner Travis J.I. Corcoran, Robert Kroese, J.A. Sutherland, Hans Schantz, Jason Anspach*, Milo James Fowler, J. Daniel Sawyer, Dan Gainor, and Nick Cole* (asterisk indicates attending virtually).

On the BasedCon website, Kroese explains what “based” means to him and why his con has that name.

Why “BasedCon”?

In internet parlance, “based” means something like “in touch with reality.” Based behavior is the opposite of social justice activism, which is about meaningless virtue signaling and beating up strawmen. Some based beliefs include:

  • Men cannot give birth
  • Guns don’t kill people; people kill people
  • A fetus is a human being
  • Socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried
  • Discriminating against white people is racism

BasedCon isn’t about pushing any particular ideology, but honest conversations have to start with a shared understanding of reality. If you think people with a certain skin color can’t be racist or you expect people to use made-up pronouns when talking about you, you may want to do a reality check before coming to BasedCon.

The BasedCon “About” page also devotes several paragraphs to the now-familiar “lost cause” genre narrative, for example —

Sci-fi cons used to be a lot of fun. They were places where people of all colors and creeds could get together to talk and learn about science fiction and fantasy books, games, movies, and TV shows. Then, starting a few years ago, things changed. Cons became increasingly dominated by a small clique of authoritarian jerks who made them into venues for pushing social justice dogma and, in the name of “inclusiveness,” shut down any opinions that didn’t align with progressive orthodoxy. You may remember the Sad Puppies saga, which culminated in WorldCon voters selecting “No Award” in several categories of the Hugo Awards rather than reward people outside their tribe…

Venue: BasedCon 2021 will be held at a privately owned property in Norton Shores, Michigan. How many people are they expecting to attract?

We have nine bedrooms onsite with 2-3 beds per room. If you prefer a private room, you can stay at one of the hotels nearby

Here are some tweets from earlier in the year when Kroese was still searching for a place to hold the event:

Here is some of the social media reaction, both favorable and unfavorable.

[Thanks to Anne Marble for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/17 How Many Books Must A Pixel Scroll Down Before You Can Call Him A Fan?

(1) WORD SCULPTOR. Steve Barnes tells about his day’s writing and shares a chunk of his draft (read it at the link).

Shhhhh. I’m working on the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes collaboration today, before switching over to the pilot script. My current style of working is laying out rough text and “wireframe” and then polishing with endless drafts, embracing hacking and slashing. First drafts are like dragging a block of marble up from the quarry. Subsequent drafts are chipping away everything that doesn’t resemble an elephant. Then finally…the polishing. I’m still chipping. If I write enough, eventually a crumb of something emotional and valid will peek through, and polishing it is like….hmmm…like striking a spark. Then carefully adding tender and fanning a flame, letting that flame spread through the rest of the book. It might be ugly at first, but it’s warm. Or better, HOT. I thought I’d share the first tiny fragment from the book, which I’ve referred to as “The Cthulhu War” but might actually be called “Starborn and Godsons”.

(2) A SONG OF FLOUR AND FIRE. Camestros Felapton’s cat writes GRRM a letter – “Dear Mister Martin from Timothy T Cat”.

Dear Mister Martin,

Or can I call you George or Are-Are? You may remember me from my previous letters what I wrote you – specifically my lengthy inquiry as to whether Sue Perkins was a Stark or a Lannister or what? Camestros has since explained that I have been habitually confusing the BBC’s  ‘Great British Bake Off” with HBO’s “Games of Thrones”. This revelation has certainly cleared up many a query I had about where the story was going. Although I am still puzzled by the distinction between baking powder and baking soda – don’t worry! I understand a great writer like yourself has to have his secrets, so I’ll wait to find that out in the final episode…

That out of the way, Timothy launches into his business proposition….

(3) CULINARY PLEONASM. More restaurant hate from Jay Rayner in The Guardian — “I am sick of half-hearted desserts. Bring me a proper pudding”.

Oh sure, restaurants appear to offer desserts. But where once it would have been a list of tarts and mille-feuille, of savarins and delices, of things requiring proper pastry work, now there are just unstable creamy things on a plate. It’s an endless parade of panna cottas and half-arsed mousses. The kitchen will throw on a bit of granola or a fragment of meringue to make it look like a dessert, but that doesn’t alter the fact. It’s not. It’s a squirt from an udder, set to a wobble courtesy of a boiled down cow’s foot. It’s a failure of ambition

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED PERSON? Young People Read Old SFF is back, and this time James Davis Nicoll has assigned the panel James Tiptree Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” Evidently James let them discover some things for themselves.

Lisa: …Once I figured out what was going on, I enjoyed the story – pieces of information were revealed throughout, and the story continued twisting and turning until I finally figured out what the story was about – a future world without men. We got to hear about worlds without men in When It Changed, A Rose for Ecclesiastes, to an extent, in the dolphin story (except the women were smart dolphins). As with A Rose for Ecclesiastes, this is a man-free story written by a man. Does the author’s gender change how the manless women carry on?

After finishing the story (which seemed to have a lot more contempt for men than most men would have), I googled “Does James Tiptree Hate Women?” The results of my google search provided me with the final twist I experienced in reading Houston, Houston. This twist was twisty enough that it made me laugh out loud at my computer in surprise. It turns out that James Tiptree is actually a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon – who is, in fact, female. Well of course she was.

(5) NAME THAT BOOK. Stump the Bookseller is a site for people who vaguely remember novels that appeared when they were kids. If you look at it you will see that most of the half-remembered books are YA sf and fantasy. Here’s their most recent request. Do you recognize it? Four people agreed on the answer in comments.

There was a book that I read in the early 1970s about a girl (A) whose family took in another girl (B), I can’t remember why. Girl B turned out to have powers that she used against Girl A. I remember two scenes. Girl A was going to the prom or a big dance with her boyfriend and was going to make her own dress. Girl B made Girl A buy a pattern and color for a dress that was unbecoming to Girl A. Also, Girl B made Girl A sick right before the dance so Girl B went with Girl A’s boyfriend. I don’t remember how Girl A got rid of Girl B, but the book ends with Girl A saying whenever she reads a story in the newspaper about a wife dying, or an accident with 3 people where the woman dies, that she wonders if it is Girl B is still out there up to her old tricks.

(6) BE FREE. Teacher and author Tracy Townsend writes a series of tweets about a little-considered benefit of free online fiction. It begins here:

(7) MOMENT OF TRUTH. In “10 Questions with Hugo Award Winner Laura J. Mixon” interviewer Ryan Schneider mostly asks about her writing, and her new book Glass Houses, but he does throw a couple of curveballs –

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside, dammit! sayeth the engineer. The writer in me shrugs; whatever—I’m in it for the fun and glory and adventure. Just be consistent with that punctuation stuff and use it to tell a great story, and I’m yours.

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

Pro. I’ll fight you.

(8) BEEN HERE, DONE THAT. Here are four NASA astronauts who believed in alien visitation. Leroy Gordon Cooper was one of them.

But even before he underwent the life-changing experience of becoming the first man to sleep in space, he claimed to have seen UFOs flying over Germany in 1951.

The spaceman also said he saw flying saucers spying on a secret air base where experimental American aircraft were being tested.

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth,” he told the UN in 1984.

“We may first have to show them that we have learned how to resolve our problems by peaceful means rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members.

“Their acceptance will have tremendous possibilities of advancing our world in all areas.”

(9) KUMMING OBIT. Waldemar Kumming (1924-2017) died on April 5, age 92, according to Wolf von Witting. He was best known as the editor of Munich Roundup, a photo-filled zine about European fanac. He won a European SF Award for his services to fandom in 1984, and the Big Heart Award in 2005.

(10) MITCHELL OBIT. SF Site News reports Vicki Mitchell Gustafson, who wrote as V.E. Mitchell died on April 13, six days before her 67th birthday. Vicki was the widow of art historian Jon Gustafson, who died 12 years earlier, to the day. (Jon was a columnist for my old fanzine, Scientifriction.)

(11) IF YOU’RE LUCKY. Five days left to enter the Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway being run at Robert Kroese’s BadNovelist site.

The Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway is about showcasing authors who have been marginalized by the gatekeepers of the sci-fi publishing industry for the sin of not complying with progressive social justice dogma. From Sarah Hoyt, who was accused of racism and ”internalized misogyny” for her association with the Sad Puppies campaign to reform the Hugo Awards, to Nick Cole, who lost a publishing contract for daring to write a story about an artificially intelligent computer who is troubled by abortion, these authors have faced smear campaigns, boycotts and blacklisting for failing to toe the progressive line.

Just for entering, you’ll get:

Brother, Frank by Michael Bunker
The Red King by Nick Cole
Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
The Yanthus Prime Job by Robert Kroese
The Darkness by W.J. Lundy
Nethereal by Brian Niemeier
Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson

Three lucky winners will also receive:

Wick by Michael Bunker
Ctrl+Alt+Revolt by Nick Cole
Darkship Revenge by Sarah A. Hoyt
Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
The Shadows by W.J. Lundy
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Better to Beg Forgiveness by Michael Z. Williamson

Books will be provided as downloadable files, in both ebook and mobi (Kindle) formats.

(12) I, THE JURY. Aurealis Awards judge Elizabeth Fitzgerald tells what it was like.

The problem with my reckoning was that there was an embedded assumption that the award books would arrive at a regular pace. I really should have known better. The award opened for entries mid June and books trickled in until the first small rush arrived at the end of September. However, most of the entries arrived en masse in December.

To complicate matters, I suffered a bout of eye strain in November and continued to struggle with it through December. In the end, I recovered thanks to some eye drops and the inclusion of frequent breaks in my schedule. I made up for lost time by averaging a book a day throughout January and February. I didn’t watch any TV or do much of anything other than read. Now, you know I love reading, but two months and more of that started to get a bit much, even for me.

It improved my reading skills, though. I got faster. I found that 20 pages was usually long enough to judge the quality of the writing. I did a lot of skimming. And I got more comfortable with not finishing books. Prior to being a judge, I could count the number of books I’d DNFed on one hand.

I got to know my postman and the delivery guys very well. Books would show up randomly on my doorstep. It was like Christmas. And then, when it was actually Christmas, all the Aurealis books made a good disguise. My sweetheart busted me with the copy of Ninefox Gambit I’d ordered as his Christmas present. So, I told him it was another book for judging and let him take a look at it before putting it in the pile of judging books. I quietly snuck it out a couple of weeks later and wrapped it up.

(13) BOUTIQUE SERIES. Not that anybody uses the word “boutique” anymore. Recode tells why “Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ couldn’t be made into a TV show until TV changed”.

…The CEO of Starz, Chris Albrecht, previously oversaw the rise of prestige TV as CEO of HBO, including “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire.”

Shows like those proved that TV didn’t have to be made for the biggest audience possible.

“When you make something like ‘American Gods,’ you go, ‘This is not going to be to everybody’s taste,’” Gaiman said. “But you’re also not going to make it more to anybody’s taste by making it less like the thing that it is. You just kind of have to lean into it.”

Later entries in the prestige TV genre, like Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Amazon’s “Transparent,” changed how people watch TV, making it normal to binge an entire show in one sitting. Gaiman noted that cheapskates who don’t yet have Starz could wait until the end of the eight-episode season, sign up for a free trial and binge away.

(14) JORDAN TV. Variety reports Sony Pictures is at work on a Wheel of Time series.

The long-gestating “Wheel of Time” TV series adaptation is moving forward with Sony Pictures Television.

The series will be based on the high fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan, the pen name of James O. Rigney Jr. There are 14 novels in total, beginning with “The Eye of the World” in 1990 and concluding with “A Memory of Light,” which was finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007. They follow the quest to find the Dragon Reborn, who it is said will help unite forces to combat The Dark One.

Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.

(15) SFF GEOGRAPHY. Here are “11 Famous Movie Locations You Can Actually Visit” from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and more.

3 / 11

The Martian

Another earthly landscape stands in for an alien one in this 2015 Matt Damon film. Wadi Rum, or “The Valley of the Moon,” in Jordan is a close match for the red planet. The region also makes a cameo in Red Planet, Last Days on Mars, Lawrence of Arabia and Prometheus.

(16) WHACKS MUSEUM. Medieval peasants had their own ways of discouraging zombies.

Where else to learn about medieval zombies than in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports‘ latest study, (and everyone’s favorite new beach read), “A multidisciplinary study of a burnt and mutilated assemblage of human remains from a deserted Mediaeval village in England.” What a title.

If the click-baity title wasn’t evidence enough, it’s a pretty macabre read, leavened with just the right touch of osteology, radiometric dating, and strontium isotope analyses. But the upshot is that some villagers in the 11th to 13th centuries who lived near modern-day Wharram Percy in northern Yorkshire were apparently scared of zombies. So they made sure the dead would stay dead with some extra handiwork, deliberately mutilating the bodies after death.

(17) DRAMATIC PRESENTATION. Apparently this episode of Fargo featured Gloria (Carrie Coon) picking up a rocket trophy to use as a weapon. Several people thought it was a Hugo. (The linked article describes the episode, however, it doesn’t mention the trophy.)

It’s not a Hugo or an International Fantasy Award. No Hugo ever had that shape, or was designed with that kind of gap between the fins and the base. It’s an interesting puzzle. These days you can order a lot of different 3-D rocket awards online, maybe it’s one of those.

(18) SPEAKING OF. A striptease during language lessons?

….A leading adult entertainment webcam platform, unveiled “Language Lessons,” the first adult language-learning service that combines beautiful cam models with the latest translation technologies to make learning a foreign language fun and sensual. Now, in addition to camming with their favorite model in a private chatroom, fans can engage in casual conversation with them, learning an assortment of languages including Spanish, French, Romanian and English.

Daniel Dern commented – “(Obviously) (to me, a grey/white hair), I immediately thought of this classic sf story (rot13’d here to give Filers a chance to see if they can guess)…”

“Naq Znqyl Grnpu,” ol Yyblq Ovttyr, We.

Diplomat John Quincy Adams said the best way to learn a foreign language was with the help of a mistress – though he made clear he had only availed himself of the second or third best ways.

(19) MORE MARVEL. The official trailer for “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger,” coming to Freeform in 2018.

[Thanks to Wolf von Witting, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JohanP, who’s probably in the wind by now.]

Robert Kroese: Fleece Noir

robert-kroese

By Carl Slaughter:

THE BIG SHEEP
by Robert Kroese

the-big-sheep

Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call.

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her – and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected – and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

PRAISE FOR THE BIG SHEEP

  • “As original a plot as I’ve run across in a long time. The Big Sheep is a sheer delight!” – Hugh Howey, NYT Bestselling author of Wool
  • “Fun, fast, and addictive. Kroese gives us a sci-fi /noir detective story that manages to catch the reader off guard again and again.” – Peter Clines, author of The Fold, 14, and the Ex-Heroes series
  • “An enthralling blend of sci-fi and noir, The Big Sheep left me salivating for a second helping of Erasmus Keane’s adventures.” — Rick Gualtieri, author of The Tome of Bill series
  • “Maybe Rob Kroese’s latest sci-fi novel, The Big Sheep, isn’t co-authored by Phillip Dick, but it does the late great author some serious homage. At the same time…and this is remarkable… Kroese has conjured up a thoroughly original, stunningly intelligent plot that both thrilled and delighted me. It also made me laugh. A riveting, hallucinatory joy-ride into a dangerous future by a terrific author writing at the top of his game.” — Vincent Zandri, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Remains and When Shadows Come
  • “Kroese demonstrates his creative imaginative worldbuilding in this sci-fi mystery series debut set in 2039 Los Angeles.” – Publishers Weekly

AUTHOR BIO

Robert Kroese’s sense of irony was honed growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan – home of the Amway Corporation and the Gerald R. Ford Museum, and the first city in the United States to fluoridate its water supply. In second grade, he wrote his first novel, the saga of Captain Bill and his spaceship Thee Eagle. This turned out to be the high point of his academic career. After barely graduating from Calvin College in 1992 with a philosophy degree, he was fired from a variety of jobs before moving to California, where he stumbled into software development. As this job required neither punctuality nor a sense of direction, he excelled at it. In 2009, he called upon his extensive knowledge of useless information and love of explosions to write his first novel, Mercury Falls. Since then, he has four more books in the Mercury series; a humorous epic fantasy trilogy (the Dis trilogy), a space opera farce (Starship Grifters) and a quantum physics noir thriller, Schrodinger’s Gat. His latest book is The Big Sheep.

SOCIAL MEDIA

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