Paul Weimer Review: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume Two: Power & Light

The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume Two: Power & Light. Edited by David G. Grubbs, Christopher S. Kovacs and Ann Crimmins. Cover art by Michael Whelan. (NESFA Press, 2009)

Review by Paul Weimer: Power and Light is the second of the six-volume NESFA collection of the work of Roger Zelazny.

 Much of what I said in my review of the first volume, Threshold, stands and is built upon, here. (Read the review of Threshold at the link). This volume, like it’s first, covers a slice of Zelazny’s work, and is full of biographical detail, strange and unusual pieces never seen before, and continues the device of putting most of the words under exegesis, untangling references common and oblique alike, giving a full view of the mythopoetic work that Zelazny was creating. Once again, we get a variety of poetry, incorporating whimsy, humor, and mythological themes alike.

This volume, whose slice concentrates on works from the mid 60’s, is much more about the meat and drink of his career, or to use the stellar metaphor I used previously, this is when the nova began to truly shine.  You’ll find the original Divlish the Damned stories here, for example, and having them together helped me appreciate him as a somewhat neglected icon of Sword and Sorcery. But there is plenty more: “Lucifer” and “For a Breath I Tarry”, “Auto-Da-Fe”, and a number of others you will likely recognize if you’ve read any SF from the period. I’ve loved and enjoyed many of these stories before, but I’ve never before had the context and positioning these stories are given here with other Zelazny works. The works involving vehicles, for example, a motif in this volume, all seem to stem from a serious auto accident he was involved in. Adding insult on top of injury, Zelazny’s father died while his then-girlfriend was recuperating from the injuries. That sort of biographical detail really helps contextualize these stories and give them additional meaning and insight.

 And I think that it helps make the individual stories and works stronger, and deeper and paradoxically harder to hurtle through, to take at speed. It seems that for me as a reader, and perhaps this is a warning to you, too, that Zelazny at the height of his powers is a strong draught of whatever spirit you want to name, or perhaps just a very strong tea if you do not. Reading, savoring and enjoying these stories was something I could not do for hours on end, for they invoked such imagery and power as to leave me giddy with delight, and the endless clouds of grey clearing to allow me to see the green field realms of myth and story beyond the glass barrier between the world. I took this book in stages, and every time I gave myself space to turn away and then return, the power of the words came flowing into me once again.  

 The volume claims that his shorter works contain his best writing, and certainly, in this second volume, that seems to be entirely the case for me, even given my longstanding and well known love of the longer forms of the Amber Chronicles and other novels he wrote.

 Some of these stories, though, were new and unheralded delights for me, too. For example. “Comes Now the Power”, which I have missed reading until this time even though it was a 1967 finalist for Best Short Story at the Hugos. It’s a short, sharp story about a telepath who is blocked, cannot use his power, and has not been able to for a couple of years now. A world that would not believe that he had such a power. And, then, he contacts someone else who has the same spark.  It feels like a brief antecedent by several years to Robert Silverberg’s novel Dying Inside, and in a weird timey wimey way giving an answer to Selig’s problems in a short few pages. Did Silverberg read the story and get inspired to write Dying Inside? I don’t know, and I would love to ask Silverberg if that was the case. Psionics and telepaths were certainly “in the water” in the 60’s and 70’s, but telepaths having problems with their powers are a much less common story motif. In any event, the two works feel like they are in dialogue with each other.

Or take his 1966 story “Love is an Imaginary Number”. Doing what Zelazny does best, diving into the world of myth, here he makes an interesting connection and junction I had never considered before.  What if you had a character who melded aspects of two mythological characters who are famous for being bound and tormented. Prometheus, and Loki. And, add to that, our protagonist can shift and change realities. Yet another idea that he would eventually take into later and longer works. 

 The real star of the volume, though, I think, even beyond his sizzling and scintillating stories, and even his poetry (recall what I said in the first review regarding his poetic nature) is the two parts of “…And Call me Conrad” aka This Immortal. This Immortal was an extraordinary work (it tied for Best Novel with a little known SF novel called Dune) and I want to talk about it. I had read it about a year ago for a podcast, and so I came to the story relatively fresh. So, instead of this being a read for me that was trying to cover ground I had read last years ago, I came to the reading of This Immortal with a strong and specific eye for detail.

And the detail I found. I completely missed in previous readings, intuited here, and was confirmed in the end notes the strong theory that Conrad is not just several hundred years old, but is indeed the Immortal of the title, and may just simply be the god Pan. The book is crammed with mythological motifs and ideas, and I see it as a waystop for him to develop ideas that he would later carry into things like Jack of Shadows, and the Amber series.  His dog, Bortan, the Hellhound, such a good and loyal dog. Prince Julian of Arden would be proud to have a dog like Bortan as part of his hounds, for certain. The subtlety of Conrad’s plan to deal with the Vegans, the emigres and everything else shows the patience of someone who lives a long time, but that circumstances and chance can upset even the most well layed plans. I had missed the detail about the deconstructing pyramid gambit in that former bit. And the story renewed my as yet unfulfilled desire to see Greece and Egypt. 

Overall, by this now second volume, I can see how the short fiction of Zelazny is definitely his work at its highest concentration, ideas and mythological concepts and motifs in their purest and most undiluted form. Neil Gaiman is quoted:  “Nobody else makes myths real and valuable in the way Roger Zelazny could”.  And he is absolutely right.

But to be sure, there is some nonfiction here, too. Zelazny was becoming a Big Deal at this time, his star burning bright. And so we get his Guest of Honor Speech from Ozarkon 2. This is an amazing piece because it shows how Zelazny thinks, how much he incorporated mythological themes and ideas into all of his writing, as he discusses the motif of the dying and resurrected god. The volume makes clear a lot of these speeches, with all of their value and humor, have NOT been collected; I am very glad this one survived, and is included in this volume, as well as the several other similarly formatted speeches and talks that are in this volume. 

Once again, in an excellent volume, NESFA has captured the soul and art of Roger Zelazny. I look forward to what comes next, in Volume Three, The Mortal Mountain.

Paul Weimer Review: Roger Zelazny’s Threshold

Threshold: The Collected Works of Roger Zelazny, Volume One. Edited by David G. Grubbs, Christopher S. Kovacs and Ann Crimmins. Cover art by Michael Whelan. (NESFA Press, 2009)

By Paul Weimer: Roger Zelazny. He came upon the SFF world like a nova, and sadly died too soon at 58. A beacon of the new wave, making a splash immediately with “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (1964 Hugo finalist) and writing through the 60’s and 70’s, his writing had an intensity about it that leaps off of the page, be in novels, short stories, or poetry.

Threshold is the first in a series of six volumes of collected stories by NESFA Press. As is the wont of NESFA’s organization, the volumes are in chronological order. Thus, this collects the earliest of Zelazny’s work. Thus, in addition to some of his early brilliant work (such as the aforementioned “Rose”) we also get some of the protostar origins of what would build toward his writing achievement and career such as fanzine work and drips and drabs. 

The collection is full of biographical and contextual detail for the works in afterwords and forwards that bookend each of them. There are also a few remembrances at the beginning as well. This doesn’t quite make the book a biography of Zelazny but Threshold could be considered a biography of Zelazny’s work, putting the stories , poems and fragments into perspective and parallel and dialogue with each other. Time and again, the volume shows how a work was clearly in the same vein or mining early fanzine and unfinished work you read earlier in this volume.  This gives the book a richness and a third dimension far beyond a simple cataloging and list of works.

Another quality of life, and one absolutely necessary in dealing with Zelazny and his work, is the untangling and cataloging of the various references. Zelazny’s work was and is rich with allusions, parallels, and borrowings, especially from mythologies and theologies all over the world. While I consider myself a fairly erudite and well read person, I found time and again, in these early works and stories, references that I did not get at all or understand, but the afterword happily lays out for the reader. 

“Nine Starships Waiting”, a Zelazny story I had never read before (first published in Fantastic 1963) is a great example of how this book manages it. While some references like Trotsky, the seals of the apocalypse, Cassiopeia, were clear to me, other references were more obscure and the afternotes illuminated what Kraepelin is referring to (mental disorder classification, or “Tonight in Samarkand”, a Deval melodrama).  But the entire story itself is based on an Elizabethan play, “The Revenger”, a favorite of Zelazny’s, and the end notes go into detail just what Zelazny was borrowing from that work.  

 This all reminds me of a different NESFA volume, and that is John Myers Myers’ Silverlock, where the book goes into detail pulling out all of the references that book is filled with, so that the reader can even more appreciate the subtlety and depth Zelazny brings. 

And his diversity. If you think Zelazny is just Amber fantasy, A Night in the Lonesome October, and not much else, this early first volume puts paid to that notion right away. There is a range and power to these early stories that show (as well as his fanzine stuff collected here) that Zelazny was clearly reading from and thinking about the writers who preceded and then he was writing in parallel with.  Take another new-to-me story, “The Malatesta Collection”. It’s a post-apocalyptic story that feels a bit like Dick, a bit like Leibowitz, and a lot like Zelazny, with the uncovering, after an apocalypse, of a trove of lost literature. I also found out in those aforementioned afternotes, just who the people in Rodin’s statue “The Kiss” are supposed to be (surprise, one of them is named Malatesta…) . “The Stainless Steel Leech”, again, feels a little bit like Dick and perhaps Bester and Sturgeon as well. This story, which pairs an unusual robot with the last Vampire, is all Zelazny, in the end, but one can trace science fiction he read through this and into it and see what Zelazny has alchemically made of it. 

And poetry! It should not surprise that Zelazny wrote poetry, rich and vivid and sometimes experimental from the get go. (His character Galagher in “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” is, perforce, a poet). There is a poem devoted to the aforementioned Rodin sculpture, and many other ones, besides. Most of these are short, Zelazny does not go for the long epic form in any way, but the use of language and imagery is always memorable. There are some textual experiments (in length of lines) and other tricks Zelazny played as well.  

Poetry, as the volume’s thesis seems to make clear, is really the heart of Zelazny’s work, in general and particularly in this volume. Poetry was, in fact, Zelazny’s first love, first desire when it came to writing, but there are precious few ways a poet can make a living as a writer in that day and age (or this one for that matter). Zelazny turned to genre fiction to help pay the bills (as opposed to his mundane day job) but his love of poetry infuses this volume. And once again, see “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”, with its poet main character. A brilliant poet, a genius, someone who lives by his poetry. While people have pointed to Roger the guard in the Amber chronicles as Zelazny, especially because he is a writer, perhaps Gallagher, earlier, is as well. 

There are some curiosities here, as well, in the back portion of this substantial (576 pp) book.  A manuscript he stopped, and abandoned. A joking piece tuckerizing himself and his longtime friend Carl Yoke (who also has a forward piece on him and Zelazny) . Bits and bobs, as is expected for the first volume of this series. I expect these more unusual types of things will be less common as the series of stories progresses. 

My only regret is not diving into this volume sooner. In some ways, though, my delay in not reading this in the last ten years to be to my benefit. You might feel a little differently as to why. It turns out that the ebook edition of this is the 4th edition… Additional early items by Zelazny have been found, and added, to the ebook version of this collection. In many ways, this book was and is more of a living document, record, testimonial and biography of Zelazny’s work. 

But, lest you think that this is unpolished story gems all the way down, remember my comment before about Zelazny coming on the scene like a nova. The three big stories that anchor this book are the aforementioned Rose (his Mars story), “The Doors of his face, the Lamps of his mouth”, his Oceanic Venus story, and “He Who Shapes”, the novella that would eventually be expanded to The Dream Master.  Reading this original again, I am struck once more just how dense and potent the original length story is. It is my favorite of these “big three” in this volume, and it does a lot of what you are looking for in a Zelazny story at moderate length.

The editorial eye, the enunciation and elaboration of the imagery and ideas Zelazny uses, and the stories and poems themselves make me conclude that this is the sort of volume that if you are a Zelazny reader, you should beeline for (now that there are ebooks instead of the uncommon and expensive print versions). If you are just interested in excellent fantasy and science fiction, and seeing where one of the greats started, Threshold is your cup of tea, too. 

As for me, I look forward to finding time to diving into the second volume, Power and Light.

Pixel Scroll 11/5/23 Pixelman’s Scroll Is Half-Constructed

(1) PDA NOW OK. MovieWeb is on hand as “Doctor Who Boldly Overturns Its Outdated Classic-Era Show Policy”.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Doctor Who, the iconic British series has taken a recent turn that spotlights its growth from a stringent past. Known for its gallivanting through space and time, the beloved show is breaking down its own historical barriers, particularly one peculiar rule that harkens back to the 1980s….

…The pivot to emotional resonance is most pointedly realized in new scenes surrounding the omnibus of Earthshock, penned by Davies himself. Here, the Memory TARDIS acts as a vessel more for emotional catharsis than for space-time travel, facilitating a heart-to-heart between the Doctor and Tegan as they process the demise of Adric, a narrative beat scarcely imagined in the show’s earlier format where stiffer upper lips prevailed.

During the 1980s, producer John Nathan-Turner’s tenure was marked by an austere decree: no displays of affection within the TARDIS. Dubbed as the “no hanky panky” mandate, it stretched beyond romantic implications to ban even the simplest of hugs, lest they be misconstrued. This directive cast a chilly pall over the TARDIS, muting the warmth that might have been shared between the Doctor and companions. Davies, with a knowing wink, playfully critiques this through dialogue that bridges the three-decade emotional gap.

It’s through exchanges like the Fifth Doctor‘s quip, “We never really did this sort of thing, did we?” and Tegan’s response, “We do now!” that the series acknowledges its own thaw. This meta-commentary doesn’t just point to a thawing of the ’80s chill; it’s also a tribute to Davies’ contribution to the series’ tonal shift when he revived it in 2005….

(2) A BOOK WITH A JONBAR POINT. “Review: The Dragon Waiting, by John M. Ford” is shared by Rich Horton on Strange at Ecbatan.

…Somewhat miraculously, Isaac Butler, a journalist and new-hatched Ford enthusiast, was able to track down his heirs and untangle the issue, which was apparently largely due to his agent leaving the field approximately as he died. Thus many of his novels have been reprinted, and some more books may be in the offing. The first to be reprinted was The Dragon Waiting….

… I won’t say much more about the plot — perhaps I’ve already said too much. But it is rich and complicated, and there are many more fascinating characters to meet: Richard III, of course (though he’s not yet the king); a Christian Welsh witch named Mary Setright; Anthony Woodville, brother-in-law to King Edward IV, and man regarded as a renaissance man, England’s perfect knight; numerous other intriguers, including for example John Morton, rumored to be a wizard; and of course Edward’s young sons, the famous “Princes in the Tower”. There is lots of action — battles, daring rescues, desperate treks. There is lots of magic — wizardly spells, a remarkable dragon, alchemy. There are acts of wrenching heroism, and of dreadful treachery, and some that might be both at once. The resolution is powerful and moving. 

But most of all there is character. Cynthia’s agony over her acts of violence, in violation of her oath as a doctor. Hywel’s battles with letting is wizardly powers consume him — apparently always a danger. Dimitrios’ attempts to find a man to whom to be truly loyal. And Gregory’s agonized struggle with his vampiric needs. I am no fan of vampire novels, on the whole, but I rank two as truly worthy: George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream, and this novel….

(3) THOSE SEVEN-LEAGUE BOOTS. “The business of mining literary estates is booming” reports The Economist.

LORD BYRON intended to publish his memoir, but his literary executor burned it instead. T.S. Eliot is thought never to have wanted songs made about his cats. Terry Pratchett, a British fantasy writer, had imagination: his former assistant honoured Pratchett’s wish to have a steamroller crush a hard drive containing the author’s unfinished stories.

Roald Dahl, author of dark, delightful children’s tales, might have done something equally drastic had he known scriptwriters would conjure up a teenaged Willy Wonka. Dahl, who died in 1990, detested the first film made of his “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. It is hard to imagine him cheering its prequel, “Wonka”, which will be released in December. In it, young Willy, played by Timothée Chalamet (pictured), faces off against a chocolate cartel.

Authors have long tried to control what happens to their works after they die—and mostly failed. Yet Dahl’s legacy represents a new twist in the tale. Huge sums paid in 2021 for his estate by Netflix, a streaming service, have helped spur a gold rush to mine dead authors’ estates. Once it was intrusion by snoopy biographers that worried writers most. Today it is the temptation among heirs to monetise every shred of creative output.

Voracious hunger for new content from streaming services and film studios is driving this new interest in old books. Shrewd video producers, faced with bidding wars for hot new titles, have turned to more affordable options: novels written decades ago. The rights for these “backlist” works generally belong to an estate for 70 years after an author’s death. After that, the work enters the public domain, and estates can no longer profit from or control it. Consider “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey”, a film released this year, in which Pooh and Piglet, A.A. Milne’s loveable, nearly 100-year-old characters, become bloodthirsty killers.

Copyright-protected works are ripe for technological transformation. They can be milked in various ways, including selling the rights for translations into new languages, permitting “continuation novels” penned by living authors and making streaming series. For example, “The Queen’s Gambit”, which is best known as a show on Netflix, was actually based on a novel published in 1983.

Traditionally, managing the intellectual property of an author’s estate was a low-key affair left to grand-nephews and harried former agents. The modern era of more actively exploiting rights began 15 years ago, when star agents in America and Britain started vying for the estates of Ian Fleming, Evelyn Waugh and Vladimir Nabokov. The heirs of Agatha Christie and Dahl, meanwhile, set up companies to oversee growing empires….

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Part 4 of Arthur Liu’s con report

Although originally announced as a four-part series, the latest instalment ends on something of a cliffhanger on the night of the Hugos, so there should be a concluding part to follow.  This one is generally much more upbeat than the previous entries, although there are ominous hints about things to come in the final part. Extracts via Google Translate, with minor manual edits:

From this day [Thursday 19th] on, the number of foreign guests increased significantly. Based on my previous experience of attending conventions abroad, it might simply have been that they had just finished listening to panels, and had gone out to take a look around. Most of them were very interested in Chinese science fiction, and they were very happy to hear that there is such a comprehensive reference source as CSFDBCésar Santivañez, editor of Future Fiction’s Cuba department, mentioned their books and did some checking with the records in the database; Estonian critic Nikolai Karayev mentioned FantLab when he came over to talk; the founder of the MUFANT Science Fiction museum in Turin David Monopoli bought our association’s journal and asked if he could record a one-minute video to introduce it; Israeli science fiction writer Uri Aviv came over to talk and learned that I like Lavie Tidhar’s works and that I also live near to one of the buildings used on the cover of Central Station. He took out his cell phone and called me over to say hello to Lavie directly.

I got a little tired in the middle of the day, so I sat behind the table to rest. Zixuan happened to pass by and said hello to me. Just behind him came a kind and slightly older foreigner. When I looked, I realized that it was Andreas Eschbach! I had only just asked for his autograph the day before, but I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to meet him in person! His “The Hair-Carpet Weavers” is one of the best science fiction works I have read in the past two years. We exchanged contact information – and not long before writing this, he sent an email. Whilst making some suggestions for the database, he also congratulated me on being shortlisted for the Hugo Award and said that if there was anything I wanted to know about his work, to contact him at any time…

[After having dinner] I returned to my hotel. [Zhong] Tianyi spent a day writing his own story, and he recovered a little, but before dinner, I went to have a midnight snack with him again. From that night on, I began to feel my body temperature intermittently become unstable. However, the local temperature difference was also very large, and as I continued to be in a state of alternating excitement and nervousness, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Now that I think about it, it may be that this is where the disease started off [referring to the severe con crud he suffered after getting back to Beijing, which I mentioned in passing on some of the earlier reports].

At a barbecue shop on the night snack street, he and I discussed some general issues, and then ate grilled locusts for the first time in my life. It is this sort of the novel experience that is closest to the spirit of science fiction at this convention…

Working at the Glasgow Worldcon table was Ann Gry.  She was also one of the guest editors of “Journey Planet”.  It is an amazing thing is that many foreign friends present have participated in the editing of issues of this magazine, and there is a feeling that the world is full of talents. I told her about my plans to attend the con next year, and then exchanged some gifts. She also showed me an interactive narrative game called “Loop” made by her friend. During the exchange, many people came over to take photos and sign autographs – foreigners are really more popular than ever at this conference. I hope to see more Sino-international exchanges in Glasgow next year…

The meeting was coming to an end and everyone had to say a few words. I felt a little sorry for not hearing it clearly. Then the leader said it was okay and we would talk more about it when we came back. Then he asked me if I thought I had a good chance of winning the Hugo Award and gave me his best wishes. Although everyone knew that I was doing something in this area before, in general doing science fiction has always been a kind of double life like Batman for me.  Suddenly breaking out of that [private] circle feels very subtle, or wonderful – kind of like the atmosphere of Hell’s Kitchen or American Idol nearing the season finale…

When we arrived at the [Hugo] reception, we just passed by the group photo of the fan authors, as no one showed up. Officials from the World Science Fiction Convention in Seattle were handing out exclusive pins to the finalists at the entrance. This afternoon, RiverFlow was exhausted again, and had returned to the hotel to rest. We asked if we could pick it up for him, and they said no, they could send it to him later. Later, in an email, I learned that each shortlisted project would receive one, instead of each person receiving only one.

There were very few Chinese finalists at the reception. When we arrived, we only saw Regina Kanyu Wang and her partner. She took us to meet many other foreign finalists, such as Best Fan Artist finalist Richard Man, and Glasgow representative Vincent Docherty.  After a while, a tall man came over, and I recognized him as Chris M. Barkley, another of the Best Fan Writer finalists. Unlike us, he has been writing columns for decades – before the conference, he also advised foreigners to be friendly to the Chinese science fiction fans attending the conference – and he can be regarded as a senior fan, although he does not look old at all!   As soon as he heard that we were also finalists, he enthusiastically took a photo with us. The volunteers at the reception were recruited from nearby international schools. They came up to talk to us in English first, and then switched to Chinese. As the photoshoot was coming to an end, they took us to a nearby display table, where there were cloisonné enamel paintings carefully made by students from the Hua’Ai School [located across the road from the con venue, see Scrolls passim]. Everyone would receive one according to their preference. When receiving the gifts, Regina asked me to take a photo of her and [founder of publisher 8 Light Minutes Culture] Yang Feng. Not long after, the reception ended. Everyone split up into groups and took the shuttle bus back to the venue. The Hugo Awards party was about to begin.

This part also prompted Hugo winner RiverFlow to post another memory of the eventful evening of the Hugo ceremony, which he hadn’t mentioned in his own con report.

Purported “news” outlet apparently unable to count up to three

The byline indicates that it may be the Xinhua news agency rather than the People’s Daily that is the source for this English-language travesty, but the bottom of the piece credits a pair of “web editors”, so I feel that they are all equally culpable.

Extracts (my emphasis):

Hai Ya took away the Best Novelette award for “The Space-Time Painter” while well-known computer graphics artist Zhao Enzhe won the Best Professional Artist award…

In addition to the two [Chinese] winners, many other categories at this year’s Hugo Awards also featured Chinese authors and artists.

(Someone on Mastodon reported that they couldn’t access the original link, so I made a backup on archive.org.)

There was a similar, if not quite as blatant, omission in another Hugos writeup from the same agency/website.

Bilibili videos

I hadn’t checked this video sharing site for a few days, but there have been a few items of interest posted.

This one (uploaded by a game developer, I think) in vertical aspect is 13 minutes long, but from about 8 minutes in, it switches to a visit to a panda centre, and later on generic footage of Chengdu.  There’s no dialogue, so there aren’t really any translation issues, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the music they chose to overdub the video with.  I’m not sure when this was filmed; possibly before the con, or on one of the weekdays, given that much of the space seems fairly empty compared to most of the photos and videos we’ve seen.

One of the con’s interpreters posted a 2-minute video with English/bilingual captions.

This 10-minute Chinese-language video from (I think) a voice actor, doesn’t have too much that hasn’t been seen in prior photos or videos, but from around 2:45 she interviews Huawen, whose con reports were featured in a couple of recent Scrolls.  At 5 minutes in, she speaks with Hugo winner Hai Ya.  Warning: her presentational style is very “hyperactive YouTuber”, which some may find grating.

 (5) IN A POTHOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED… “Mid-Earth Removals Limited” by R.S.A. Garcia is a free story at Sunday Morning Transport to encourage subscriptions.

Public works are extra problematic in the magical realm, as R.S.A. Garcia delightfully proves in this free, first story for the month of November.

(6) I SHOT THE SHERIFF, BUT I DID NOT SHOOT THE CEO. “Mattel’s ‘Barbie’ Script Notes to Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach Asked: ‘Does a Mattel Executive Have to Be Shot’ During Beach Battle?” reports Variety.

Barbie” screenwriters Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach recently joined Tony Kushner (“Angels in America,” “Lincoln”) for a discussion about the record-breaking Warner Bros. blockbuster and revealed one of the first notes Mattel gave them on the script: Please don’t have the Mattel exec stand-in characters be shot.

In the third act of “Barbie,” an all-out beach battle takes place between the warring Ken characters. It’s at this moment that Will Ferrell, playing the fictionalized CEO of Mattel, arrives in Barbieland along with his armada of nameless male Mattel execs. At one point one of these execs gets shot with a fake arrow during the ensuing, bloodless mayhem….

(7) A MIRROR TO SOCIETY. The New York Times interviews horror movie columnist Erik Piepenburg, “A Critic With Monsters on His Mind”.

In an article from this year, you also described “M3gan” as a gay movie. Do you think gay audiences have a special affinity for horror?

Well, I think all horror movies are about one of two things: trauma or gayness. That’s just my queer-theory lens that people can accept or reject. But in horror movies, there’s often this notion of otherness — of the monster existing outside of societal norms. I think queer audiences can align themselves with villains who feel like outsiders, like no one understands their feelings.

I also think queer audiences appreciate the outrageous, camp quality of horror. “M3gan” is a perfect example. The villain is a demon that you kind of want to be friends with. I know people in my life who can be monsters, but I love them anyway.

What trends are you seeing in the horror genre right now?

There’s certainly a lot of Covid-inspired films — movies about being locked up inside and fears about contagions. I would say another trend is the slow-burn horror movie, one that takes time to unfold instead of hitting you over the head with monsters, explosions, ghosts and conventional horror scares. The slow burn delivers tiny moments of unease so that by the film’s end, your entire body has become so tense that it’s hard to shake. Those are some of my favorites….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 H. Warner Munn. Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 1920s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 1970s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939. These novels were published as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 84. His breakthough series was the Sixties “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry effecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. ISFDB says his first genre cover art was for C. C. MacApp’s 1969 Prisoners of the Sky. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 Butch Honeck, 83. Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award with his wife Susan for Magic Mountain, the Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. Tuckerized in as a character in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” also co-written with Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1971 Rana Dasgupta, 52. UK-born author now resident in India. His Tokyo Cancelled, think Tales from the White Hart at least in tone, is fascinating. Equally fascinating though not genre at all is his Capital, the story of the city of Delhi. 

(9) NESFA PRESS RELEASES ZELAZNY SHORT FICTION AS EBOOKS. The NESFA Press’ six-volume series The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny is now available in eBook format — epub and mobi format.

For many years, the six-volume series, The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, has been available in a durable hardcover edition. NESFA Press is delighted to announce the release of these books in eBook format!

This series contains all the short science fiction of Roger Zelazny. Each story is enriched by editors’ notes and Zelazny’s own words, taken from his many essays, describing why he wrote the stories and what he thought about them retrospectively.

Each volume goes for $9.95.

  • Threshold: Volume 1, by Roger Zelazny
  • Power & Light: Volume 2, by Roger Zelazny
  • This Mortal Mountain: Volume 3, by Roger Zelazny
  • Last Exit to Babylon: Volume 4, by Roger Zelazny
  • Nine Black Doves: Volume 5, by Roger Zelazny
  • The Road to Amber: Volume 6, by Roger Zelazny

(10) GOODREADS SAYS IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. “Goodreads Asks Users to Help Combat ‘Review Bombing’”Publishers Weekly has the details.

After a spate of criticism and concern over the summer, Amazon-owned Goodreads this week said it is working with users to combat what’s become known as “review bombing,” a practice in which users look to protest an author or book by swamping the book with one-star reviews and negative comments. In an October 30 message to the Goodreads community, officials reiterated the website’s policy to prohibit reviews and comments that “harass readers or authors, or attempt to artificially deflate or inflate the overall rating of books,” and encouraged users to report such behavior.

“Earlier this year, we launched the ability to temporarily limit submission of ratings and reviews on a book during times of unusual activity that violate our guidelines, including instances of ‘review bombing,’” the message states, adding that the site is currently “in the process of removing ratings and reviews” added during periods of “unusual” activity. “If you see content or behavior that does not meet our reviews or community guidelines, we encourage you to report it,” the message continues. “By alerting our team, you’ll be contributing to the overall community and helping keep Goodreads a place where people can come together to share authentic reviews and enjoy interacting with readers and authors of books they’ve loved.”

The message comes after a high-profile incident in June, in which Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert announced that she was pulling her new novel The Snow Forest, which was slated to be published by Riverhead in February 2024, after more than 500 Ukrainian and pro-Ukrainian users slammed the book with negative comments and one-star reviews expressing concerns that the book—based only on a description, since the book had not yet been published—would “romanticize” Russia. Gilbert’s decision alarmed literary critics and freedom to publish advocates. It’s unclear when, or if, the book will be published. The book is not currently listed on Gilbert’s author page at Penguin Random House….

(11) THEY TORE DOWN PARADISE AND PUT UP A PARKNG LOT. Not so often anymore. Originally Los Angeles was regarded as a place that was too new to have history, let alone historic buildings. That attitude has changed over the past fifty years. “The Woman Who Has Fought to Save L.A. History From Demolition” – a New York Times profile.

…Many of Southern California’s most popular landmarks are still there because Los Angeles rallied. St. Vibiana’s Cathedral downtown, once on the brink of demolition, is now a thriving events center. The gorgeous Julia Morgan building that once housed the old Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where I used to work, is now a satellite Arizona State University campus. There’s a fight to save the bungalow where Marilyn Monroe died — a legend behind a wall in a cul-de-sac on a side street in Brentwood.

In a place with a history as growth-oriented as Southern California’s, the preservation of those properties has not been easy.

Next month, a leading voice in that effort, Linda Dishman, the president of the Los Angeles Conservancy, will pass the torch after 31 years at the organization, a nonprofit group that has been instrumental in saving pieces of Southern California’s past from bulldozers. The conservancy’s senior director of advocacy, Adrian Scott Fine, will succeed her.

Dishman and I chatted not long ago about history and growth in L.A., the nation’s second most populous city. Here is some of our conversation, lightly edited.

Los Angeles was just beginning to realize the value of historic preservation when you became the conservancy’s leader. What has changed since then?

Preservation has really become more of a commonly held value. I think of my first years, when we were fighting to save the Herald Examiner building. Fighting to save the Ambassador Hotel. Fighting to save the May Company. The Herald Examiner was going to be torn down for a parking lot, which seems so strange now. But that’s how little value people placed on these buildings and their history….

(12) BANANARAMA. Nerdist introduces us to the next ape movie: Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes Trailer Teases an Ape Tyrant on the Rise”.

A new entry into the world of Planet of the Apes is coming our way. And it picks up generations after we left Caesar and his tribe living peacefully in War for the Planet of the Apes. Trouble, of course, is brewing, as it naturally does in order for franchises to continue. And we can sense an epic conflict coming our way. The first teaser trailer for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes sets us up well for the “action-adventure spectacle” that awaits, promising ape tyrants, human friends, lots of danger, but also beauty. You can get your first look at what’s in store below….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Paul Weimer, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/23 Who Knows What Lurks In The Heart Of A Pixel? Only The Scroll Knows

(1) HELL(P) WANTED. Brian Keene is bringing back “Jobs In Hell”, the 2001 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction-winning monthly industry newsletter for writers, artists, editors, and other professionals specializing in horror and other speculative and weird fiction genres.  Paid subscriptions are being taken at the link.

Jobs In Hell will cost $5 per month to subscribe to. You can sign up for it here. The first issue will go out later this month.

To begin, it will run on a monthly schedule, rather than the weekly schedule of the old Jobs In Hell. I will revisit that schedule regularly, however, and I’m almost certain that at some point we’ll increase frequency.

If you are looking for submissions for your magazine, website, publishing company, etc. please email the details to [email protected]. Your email should contain the following information: Name of publication, name of editor overseeing submissions, guidelines as to what you are looking for, details on how to submit, deadline (if any), and payment (if any).

(2) ONLINE SFF COURSE IN NOVEMBER. Aliette de Bodard and Alastair Reynolds will be teaching an online course in writing SF & Fantasy at the end of the year: ”Teaching SF and F with Aliette” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

This course, “Sci-Fi & Fantasy”, offered through the Canolfan Ysgrifennu Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, will be held over four online sessions on the following dates: Tuesday 14 November, Tuesday 21 November, Tuesday 28 November & Tuesday 12 December 2023 from 7.00 – 8.30 pm. Register here.

Over four online sessions, Aliette and Alastair will address the peculiar challenges and opportunities open to anyone wishing to write science fiction, fantasy or their related sub-genres. Drawing on their own experiences across a range of literary styles and formats, from short stories to novels and extended series, they’ll cover the mechanics of crafting a story, from planning and plotting, to the use of voice and viewpoint, setting and mood. They’ll address the unique challenges of worldbuilding within the literatures of the fantastic, from the use of language to evoke a time and a place to the invention of social systems and far-future technologies, and how to make those creations seem real to the reader. They’ll talk about the different stages of writing; from initial drafts to polishing, how to prepare work for submission and how to make the most of the literary marketplace, from traditional venues to the online world and self-publishing. They’ll bring invaluable experience in problem-solving: how to come up with ideas, how to work around creative blocks, how to make a good story better – and, always, how to find fun and fulfilment in your craft, wherever it takes you. The future is wide open!

(3) ZELAZNY AND MORE. Today at Galactic Journey Cora Buhlert reviews the 1968 Hugo winner Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny and the 1968 heist novel Easy Go by John Lange a.k.a. Michael Crichton amongst other reviews. According to Cora, the largely forgotten heist novel got a better review than the Hugo winner: “[March 16, 1968] In Distant Lands (March Galactoscope)”.

Buddha is a Spaceman: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny, of Polish origin himself, is one of the most exciting young authors in our genre and has already won two Nebulas and one Hugo Award, which is remarkable, considering he has only been writing professionally for not quite six years.

My own response to Zelazny’s works has been mixed. I enjoyed some of them very much (the Dilvish the Damned stories from Fantastic or last year’s novella “Damnation Alley” from Galaxy) and could not connect to others at all (the highly lauded “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”). So I opened Zelazny’s latest novel Lord of Light with trepidation, for what would I find within, the Zelazny who wrote the Dilvish the Damned stories or the one who wrote “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”?

The answer is “a little bit of both” and “neither”….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 79 of Octothorpe, “You Get To Be A Little Cat”

John Coxon wants new gloves, Alison Scott is foreshadowing, and Liz Batty scrolls past spiders. We discuss a plethora of awards – Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards, BSFA Awards – while also chatting about hot dog finger gloves and Adrian “Spiders” Tchaikovsky. Listen here! 

(5) ONE OF OUR CAPTAINS IS MISSING. [Item by Dann.] Chris Gore of Film Threat magazine recently pointed out that the new Paramount graphic being used to promote all of Star Trek has omitted one of the key characters in Star Trek history; the original and one-and-only James Tiberius Kirk (ignore that inconvenient headstone).

The TrekNews Twitter feed was one of the first to note the omission.

William Shatner noted that he didn’t find it surprising.

Various users responded with reimagined graphics that place a greater emphasis on Captain Kirk.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2001[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll isn’t the start of this series. That would be Revelation Space, published a year prior to Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City, which came out on Gollancz twenty-two years ago. 

Reynolds uniquely wrote Chasm City as a stand-alone novel so you needn’t be familiar with any of the five Revelation Space Universe that precede it, including the two (and soon to be three) most fascinating Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies. (There’s a seventh novel, Inhibitor Phase, which came out several years back.)

Chasm City appeals to me because to it is the rare SF novel set within a larger universe that, as I said, is intended to allow the reader who hasn’t encountered this series to be introduced to it.

It won the British Science Fiction Association Award.

It’s got great characters, an awesome setting and multiple stories that weave into each other most satisfactorily. It is certainly one of the best SF novels that I’ve ever read. 

I’m sure I spotted one character here who shows up in the Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies series which I think was a very impressive piece of writing by him some years on.

And now its Beginning…

Dear Newcomer, 

Welcome to the Epsilon Eridani system. 

Despite all that has happened, we hope your stay here will be a pleasant one. For your information we have compiled this document to explain some of the key events in our recent history. It is intended that this information will ease your transition into a culture which may be markedly different from the one you were expecting to find when you embarked at your point of origin. It is important that you realise that others have come before you. Their experiences have helped us shape this document in a manner designed to minimise the shock of cultural adjustment. We have found that attempts to gloss over or understate the truth of what happened—of what continues to happen—are ultimately harmful; that the best approach—based on a statistical study of cases such as yours—is to present the facts in as open and honest manner as possible. 

We are fully aware that your initial response is likely disbelief, quickly followed by anger and then a state of protracted denial. 

It is important to grasp that these are normal reactions.

It is equally important to grasp—even at this early stage—that there will come a time when you will adjust to and accept the truth. It might be days from now; it might even be weeks or months, but in all but a minority of cases it will happen. You might even look back upon this time and wish that you could have willed yourself to make the transition to acceptance quicker than you did. You will know that it is only when that process is accomplished that anything resembling happiness becomes possible. 

Let us therefore begin the process of adjustment. 

Due to the fundamental lightspeed limit for communication within the sphere of colonised space, news from other solar systems is inevitably out of date; often by decades or more. Your perceptions of our system’s main world, Yellowstone, are almost certainly based on outdated information. 

It is certainly the case that for more than two centuries—until, in fact, the very recent past—Yellowstone was in thrall to what most contemporary observers chose to term the Belle Epoque. It was an unprecedented social and technological golden age; our ideological template seen by all to be an almost perfect system of governance.

Numerous successful ventures were launched from Yellowstone, including daughter colonies in other solar systems, as well as ambitious scientific expeditions to the edge of human space. Visionary social experiments were conducted within Yellowstone and its Glitter Band, including the controversial but pioneering work of Calvin Sylveste and his disciples. Great artists, philosophers and scientists flourished in Yellowstone’s atmosphere of hothouse innovation. Techniques of neural augmentation were pursued fearlessly. Other human cultures chose to treat the Conjoiners with suspicion, but we Demarchists—unafraid of the positive aspects of mind enhancement methods—established lines of rapport with the Conjoiners which enabled us to exploit their technologies to the full. Their starship drives allowed us to settle many more systems than cultures subscribing to inferior social models. 

In truth, it was a glorious time. It was also the likely state of affairs which you were expecting upon your arrival. 

This is unfortunately not the case. 

Seven years ago something happened to our system. The exact transmission vector remains unclear even now, but it is almost certain that the plague arrived aboard a ship, perhaps in dormant form and unknown to the crew who carried it. It might even have arrived years earlier. It seems unlikely now that the truth will ever be known; too much has been destroyed or forgotten. Vast swathes of our digitally stored planetary history were erased or corrupted by the plague. In many cases only human memory remains intact… and human memory is not without its fallibilities. 

The Melding Plague attacked our society at the core.

(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. She was a president of the United Amateur Press Association. And she was married to H.P. Lovecraft, though often living apart, until eventually they agreed to divorce. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine credits 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, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, was followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard, telling an interviewer that Haggard’s novel She impressed her at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 A. K. Ramanujan. I’m going to recommend his Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages as essential reading if you’re interested in the rich tradition of the Indian subcontinent. Two of his stories show up in genre anthologies, “The Magician and His Disciple” in Jack Zipes’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Anthology of Magical Tales and “Sukhu and Dukhu“ in Heidi Stemple and Jane Yolen’s Mirror, Mirror. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 72. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with Deathless Gods being the current novel. She dabbled in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague”, 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, 71 . 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, 1966 David Liss, 57. Writer of Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, novelization of Marvel’s Spider-Man whichis a 2018 action-adventure game. Comics writer, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear and Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives series. Not at all genre but his trilogy of novels starting with A Conspiracy of Paper and featuring Benjamin Weaver, a retired bare-knuckle boxer, now a thief-taker, a cross between a PI and bounty hunter, are highly recommended by me. 

(8) SPIDER-REX. Marvel brings us “The All-New Spider-Killer Curses the Spider-Verse in Josemaria Casanovas’ ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover”.

On May 3, the hit comic book series EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE returns for another wild trip through the Spider-Verse, complete with revolutionary new Spider-heroes and further adventures for the series’ biggest breakout stars, all brought to you from an all-star lineup of talent!

 …EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #1 will also feature the roaring return of SPIDER-REX and the daring debut of VENOMSAURUS in a story by writer Karla Pacheco and Pere Pérez. 

(9) SCIENTIST FICTION. Several sff books are part of Martin MacInnes’ list of “Top 10 visionary books about scientists: searching for an answer” in the Guardian.

Science, as much as art, is an act of imagination, the pursuit of something new. While novels about scientists often play with this likeness, there are also scientists who write with the ambition and empathy of novelists. Scientists in literature appear in all sorts of guises: as megalomaniacs, heroes, obsessives. It is this last figure – the obsessive – the character who will not stop – that interests me most….

First on the list is Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihlation.

The four women who enter Area X are named only by their profession: biologist; anthropologist; psychologist; surveyor. It is the biologist who is closest to VanderMeer’s heart, clear in the gorgeous accounts of the living world they walk through and in the novel’s concern with ecstatic dissolution and eroded borders, an awful commonality linking all things. The novel is suffused in beauty and grief, as the biologist goes on, determined to find out what it all means.

(10) WATNEYCRETE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]They tried urine. They tried blood. But it turned out that potato starch worked better.

The University of Manchester has come up with a extraterrestrial concrete mix that uses Mars (or Moon) dust, potato starch, and a pinch of salt (magnesium chloride). Plus, the “StarCrete” is said to have at least twice the compressive strength of standard concrete. “Engineers Built a New Kind of Concrete 2x Stronger Than the Real Thing” at Popular Mechanics.

The University of Manchester’s new “StarCrete” is twice as strong as traditional concrete, making it a potential solution as a building material for Mars. Add in some extraterrestrial dust and potato starch, and you have a potentially revolutionary new material.

In an article published in the journal Open Engineering, the research team showed that potato starch can act as a binder when mixed with simulated Mars dust to produce a concrete-like material reaching a compressive strength of 72 megapascals (MPa), over twice as strong as the 32 MPa seen in ordinary concrete. Of course, mix in moon dust instead and you can get StarCrete to 91 MPa.

This strength makes it a possible solution, according to the researchers, for a building solution on Mars as astronauts mix Martian soil with potato starch—and a pinch of salt, no joke—to give extra-terrestrial-suited concrete.

Earlier recipes from the team didn’t use potato starch, instead offering blood and urine as a binding agent to reach 40 MPa. Not every astronaut would be excited about continually draining their blood to build in space, though….

(11) DRESSED FOR SUCCESS. “Spacesuit for return to the Moon unveiled” at BBC News.

A new generation of spacesuit for humanity’s return trip to the Moon has been unveiled by Nasa.

The novel design comes with specialist features to support astronauts as they conduct scientific experiments on the lunar surface.

The prototype is said to be a better fit for female space travellers.

Nasa hopes to have the updated suit ready for the Artemis III mission to the Moon in 2025….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/23 Have You Met Lydia, Lydia The Tatooine Lady?

(1) UNCLE HUGO’S NEEDED A DIFFERENT KIND OF BAIL-OUT. As Uncle Hugo’s & Uncle Edgar’s Bookstores owner Don Blyly explains in the latest “How’s Business” he’s lucky he didn’t need to invest in gopher wood, build an ark, and start gathering the Baen authors two-by-two.

I came to the store Sunday morning and started doing payroll, and a few minutes late I saw a small wet spot on the floor, far from any books, and assumed some snow had fallen off my boots and melted.  About 5 hours later I noticed that the small wet spot was slightly larger and I saw a drop of water hit it from a drip from the ceiling.  Before closing on Sunday Jon put a bucket under the occasional drip, and it seemed safe to go home.   

In the early morning hours, the rain started.  When I got to the store around 7:30 Monday morning, water was pouring from a large area of the ceiling, primarily near the new bookshelves that contained the used sf hardcovers and trade paperback with authors “R” through “W”.  Much of the water was hitting the floor and then bouncing up onto the bottom shelf of books.  I pulled all the books from the bottom shelves and moved them to safer locations, grabbed some buckets to put under the bigger streams of water,  and then headed to the nearest hardware store to pick up a better mop and some plastic drop cloths.   

When I got back to the store I couldn’t find any duct tape, and the flooding had spread, so I drove over to Target to buy duct tape and a bunch of plastic “under-bed storage units”, which were much cheaper than buckets, plus being rectangular instead of round.  Back to the store, and I spread the storage units under a lot more drips.  I then tried to tape the plastic drop cloths to the top of the bookshelves to protect the books that had yet been damaged–and immediately discovered that duct tape does not stick to wet wood.  Fortunately, I had a lot of cans of ginger ale in the refrigerator, and a series of cans of soda managed to hold the drop cloths in place.  A couple of hours later Ken and Marie showed up and joined the fight against the water.  Ken was swinging the mop handle so energetically that he knocked the thermostat off the wall in 3 pieces. 

Given the rate at which we were emptying buckets, I estimate that between 20 and 30 gallons of water were coming through the ceiling every 15 minutes, and a lot of it leaked through the floor into the basement..  The rain finally ended around noon, and about an hour later the flood slowed a little.  A customer made a suggestion of a solution, and about two hours later I was finally able to get his solution to work.  Around 3:30 the flood turned into a bunch of drips.  (Supposedly there is about an 8 inch layer of insulation above the ceiling, so I expected the drips to continue to drain from the insulation long after the water stopped coming in from the roof.)   

I was delighted not to spend the entire night at the store, emptying buckets every 15 minutes, as I had feared I would.  We did some cleaning up before closing (removing water-logged flattened cardboard boxes and replacing them with dry flattened cardboard boxes, mopping the floor on the ground level, using a snow shovel to push water in the basement towards the floor drain, etc.).  I came back to the store at 6:30 this morning and continued cleaning up.  All the buckets and storage containers are put away, all the wet cardboard is thrown out, the plastic drop cloths are removed from the bookshelves and put away.  I started going through the piles of books from the bottom shelves, looking for undamaged books to put back on the shelves, while the damaged ones will have to either be thrown away or have their prices dropped and descriptions changed.  I found that the section of shelving that contained David Weber, Margaret Weis, and H. G. Wells got wet from the top shelf to the bottom shelf, with the books so swollen that it was hard to get them off the shelves.  Several hundred books were damaged, but they will have to dry out more before I can figure out which ones can be salvaged.  Some of the floor boards have warped, and I don’t know if the warping will decrease after the boards finish drying.

Fortunately, the new wooden bookshelves don’t seem to have warped.  The thermostat has been repaired, so we have heat again.

This week there will be another good reason to drop by the store. Thursday, March 2, 2023 is Uncle Hugo’s 49th anniversary. Blyly will he be holding an anniversary sale from Thursday, March 2 through Sunday, March 5, with an extra 10% off everything in the store.  With a discount card, you can get 20% off everything during the sale. The sale only applies to in-store purchases, not to mail orders.

(2) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! On Scout’s Progress Book Day!” and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller celebrate the anniversary re-issue of their book – part of a duo that begins the chronology of the Liaden Universe® series. (As I understand it. Which if I don’t please let me know.)

… Returning to 1993, we had no expectation that Scout’s Progress – or Local Custom – would ever be read by anybody but us. They were therefore written to amuse – us. Things that amuse us particularly are word-play; dry, understated humor; a certain grace – of manner and of person – protagonists with a strong sense of honor and right action, who are competent, though they may be flawed.

Improbably, Local Custom and Scout’s Progress were published in February 2001, as original omnibus Pilots Choice, from Meisha Merlin Publishing.

It’s apparently Traditional on occasions such as these for authors to reflect on what they would have done differently, were they writing the work being celebrated today.

And our answer is? Nothing….

(3) DON’T SALUTE THIS FLAG. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss helps writers see the problems: “When Your Publishing Contract Flies a Red Flag: Clauses to Watch Out For”.

…In this article, I’m going to focus on contract language that gives too much benefit to the publisher, and too little to the author. Consider these contract clauses to be red flags wherever you encounter them. (All of the images below are taken from contracts that have been shared with me by authors.)

First on her list:

Copyright Transfer

Unless you are doing work-for-hire, such as writing for a media tie-in franchise, a publisher should not take ownership of your copyright. For most publishers, copyright ownership doesn’t provide any meaningful advantage over a conventional grant of rights, and there’s no reason to require it. Even where the transfer is temporary, with rights reverting back to you at some point, it doesn’t change the fact that for as long as the contract is in force, your copyright does not belong to you.

Copyright transfers usually appear in the Grant of Rights clause. Look for phrases like “all right, title and interest in and to the Work” and “including but not limited to all copyrights therein.”…

(4) WHICH SECRETS CAN BE REVEALED? “’The Mandalorian’ Returns: Jon Favreau’s Exclusive Tour of the Secret Set” in Vanity Fair.

The Mandalorian returns this week with Pedro Pascal’s masked antihero sharing words of wisdom with his adopted son, Baby Yoda (a.k.a. Grogu): “Being a Mandalorian is not just about learning how to fight. You also have to know how to navigate the galaxy. That way, you’ll never be lost.”

Jon Favreau, the creator of the show and the writer of those lines, found his own way to navigate this universe’s disparate worlds. He brings all of the planets to him, storing them inside an otherwise nondescript California soundstage. By now, it’s not a secret that the show makes use of Industrial Light & Magic’s StageCraft technology, which creates photorealistic alien landscapes on a colossal curved LED wall called a volume. But not many outsiders have ever stepped within the reality-bending walls. 

Favreau, a stickler for secrecy, welcomed Vanity Fair to the set during the making of the new episodes, asking only that we not reveal too much about the scene playing out. Outside the doors of the soundstage, Favreau scratches at his beard, trying to decide what can be revealed about the setting sprawled across the 20-foot digital walls. “What should we call it? It’s a good question,” he says, settling on: “A cavernous atrium. With…tech elements embedded.”

He laughs. “And if you think that’s not going to be a sentence that launches a thousand YouTube videos…”

(5) ASHE Q&A. The Horror Writers Association’s “Black Heritage in Horror” series continues: “Interview with Paula Ashe”.

Paula D. Ashe (she/her) is an author of dark fiction. Her debut collection — We Are Here to Hurt Each Other — was released in early ‘22 by Nictitating Books….

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Since childhood I’ve been drawn to things that have a dark bent to them. I feel like horror is the most honest genre and it’s a place where I can tell some painful and usually private truths. I also just really enjoy disturbing the shit out of people….

(6) RICOU BROWNING (1930-2023). [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Sad to learn of the passing of the wonderful Ricou Browning yesterday at age 93. Here are the original “Creatures From The Black Lagoon”… Ben Chapman (the land creature) on the left, and Ricou Browning (the proverbial “Sea Beast”) on the right, with an even more Monstrous “victim” wedged between them. He was both a cinematic icon, and a delightfully aquatic gentleman. Rest In Peace amongst the “stars.”

The Hollywood Reporter tribute is filled with anecdotes from his career.

… Browning was charged with showing the area of Wakulla Springs, Florida, to location scouts from Universal who were seeking filming locations for Creature From the Black Lagoon. He also did some swim moves for them, and that led to his Gill-Man gig. (Ben Chapman played the beast on land in the first movie.)

“The lips of the suit sat about a half-inch from my lips, and I put the air hose in my mouth to breathe,” he said in a 2019 interview. “I would hold my breath and go do the scene, and I’d have other safety people with other air hoses to give me air if I needed it. We had a signal. If I went totally limp, it meant I needed it. It worked out well, and we didn’t have any problems.”

Browning said he filmed his scenes in wintertime, and it was pretty cold. “The crew felt sorry for me, so somebody said, ‘How would you like a shot of brandy?’ I said, ‘Sure,’” he recalled. “Another part of the crew [also] gave me a shot of brandy. Pretty soon they were dealing with a drunk creature.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1969[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley is a novel that I’ll admit that I do like. 

It was published first in 1969 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The cover art (which I think is utterly wrong for the novel) is by Jack Gaughan. 

I did not know until now that a shorter novella length version of this was first published in the October 1967 issue of Galaxy. Who here can tell me how significantly different the two versions are? That novella is in The Last Defender of Camelot collection which unfortunately has not made it to the usual suspects.

And now the Beginning in which we meet Hell Tanner.

The gull swooped by, seemed to hover a moment on unmoving wings. 

Hell Tanner flipped his cigar butt at it and scored a lucky hit. The bird uttered a hoarse cry and beat suddenly at the air. It climbed about fifty feet, and whether it shrieked a second time, he would never know. 

It was gone. 

A single white feather rocked in the violent sky, drifted out over the edge of the cliff, and descended, swinging, toward the ocean. Tanner chuckled through his beard, against the steady roar of the wind and the pounding of the surf. Then he took his feet down from the handlebars, kicked up the stand, and gunned his bike to, life. 

He took the slope slowly till he came to the trail, then picked up speed and was doing fifty when he hit the highway. 

He leaned forward and gunned it again. He had the road all to himself, and he laid on the gas pedal till there was no place left for it to go. He raised his goggles and looked at the world through crap-colored glasses, which was pretty much the way he looked at it without them, too. 

All the old irons were gone from his jacket, and he missed the swastika, the hammer and sickle, and the upright finger, especially. He missed his old emblem, too. Maybe he could pick one up in Tijuana and have some broad sew it on and … No. It wouldn’t do. All that was dead and gone. It would be a giveaway, and he wouldn’t last a day. What he would do was sell the Harley, work his way down the coast, clean and square, and see what he could find in the other America.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs.  Known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations. He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yes, that novel. It obviously served as the basis for the 1976 film by Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with Bowie as star, as well as a later television adaptation which I’d never heard of. He also wrote Mockingbird which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel. James Sallis reviewed both novels in F&SF. He wrote the best novel about chess ever published, Queen’s Gambit, which was made into a much praised Netflix production.(Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1947 Stephen Goldin, 76. Author of the Family d’Alembert series which is based on a novella by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I think the novella is “Imperial Stars” but that’s unclear from the way the series is referred to. Has anyone read this series? How does it match up to the source material?
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 66. I read and like the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like?
  • Born February 28, 1966 Philip Reeve, 57. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. I read Mortal EnginesPredator’s Gold and Infernal Devices before deciding that was enough of that series, it’s a fine series, it just wasn’t developing enough to warrant me reading any more of it.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), 53. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 46. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville just wants to say it out loud so badly – but that would sound nuts!
  • Dustin has a sort of Walter Mitty moment.

(10) SIGNOFF. Author Karl Drinkwater explains why “Karl Is Antisocial” in a 2021 article.

I’m a full time author. I am part of professional networks, and have colleagues and friends that are authors. One of the maxims is that an author needs a platform. That platform includes social media. If you don’t use them you will face obscurity and poverty.

This post is the culmination of a number of decisions. One of them: I’m planning on leaving social media.

Those who know me won’t be so surprised. They know I am a non-conformist. That I question everything (including myself). That I’m the kind of person who would email my audiobook narrators and offer to sign all my royalties over to them as part of me leaving Amazon. (I did that this morning.) That I would stop using Windows after 20 years and switch to Linux. (I did that last week.)

Those who don’t know me will just think I’m bat-shit crazy.

But I do have my reasons, however strange they may appear at first….

…I don’t like the idea of social media being a kind of untargeted shotgun blast out at the universe, with everyone shouting to be louder than everyone else, hoping that by screaming they will get more attention. And so you just get a cacophonous wall of noise. I don’t like the impersonality of much of it.

And do I really need to be on there? My business is already unconventional. I don’t do paid adverts on Amazon and Facebook. Yet people find me and my work, and they buy it. And, more often than not, they love it. Another convention is for books to have a copyright page telling you everything you are not allowed to do. I’m the opposite. I want readers to have more rights. Certainly more than the law currently allows. So some of my books have a copyright page saying it’s fine to convert my e-books between formats, and to save a copy as a backup (I don’t add DRM). To copy or quote up to 50% of a print book. To give print books away or sell them on….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/23 A Stone Soup Of Pixels Served Up With Buttered Toasted Scrolls

(1) PLAYING THE TRUMPS. “Stephen Colbert to Produce ‘Chronicles of Amber’ TV Series Adaptation” reports Variety.

Stephen Colbert is joining the team that is adapting Roger Zelazny’s “The Chronicles of Amber” for television [under his Spartina production banner].

… “George R.R. Martin and I have similar dreams,” Colbert said. “I’ve carried the story of Corwin in my head for over 40 years, and I’m thrilled to partner with Skybound and Vincent Newman to bring these worlds to life. All roads lead to Amber, and I’m happy to be walking them.”

“The Chronicles of Amber” follows the story of Corwin, who is said to “awaken on Earth with no memory, but soon finds he is a prince of a royal family that has the ability to travel through different dimensions of reality (called ‘shadows’) and rules over the one true world, Amber.”…

(2) MORE LORE. Season 3 of The Mandalorian airs 3 March 1 on Disney+.

The journeys of the Mandalorian through the Star Wars galaxy continue. Once a lone bounty hunter, Din Djarin has reunited with Grogu. Meanwhile, the New Republic struggles to lead the galaxy away from its dark history. The Mandalorian will cross paths with old allies and make new enemies as he and Grogu continue their journey together.

And according to Dark Horizons:

…A fourth season of the series is already in development, whilst this arrives ahead of both “Star Wars: Ahsoka” and “Star Wars: Skeleton Crew”, both due to arrive on the Disney+ service later this year. Filming on “Star Wars: The Acolyte” and a second season of “Star Wars: Andor” are both underway in the UK at present….

(3) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Simultaneous Times SF podcast episode 59 has been released. Listen to it here. Stories featured in this episode:

  • “Three to Go” by Ria Rees. Music by Phog Masheeen. Read by Jean-Paul Garnier 
  • “Ghosts” by Michael Butterworth. Music by Julie Carpenter. Read by the author.

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

(4) FIFTIETH DAY OF HARPERCOLLINS STRIKE TOMORROW. Supporters of the strike against HarperCollins will rally January 18. Publishers Weekly has details: “HarperCollins Union Plans Rally at News Corp Offices in Manhattan”.

As unionized employees at HarperCollins Publishers prepare to mark their 50th day on strike next week, union representatives announced that a rally is planned outside the publisher’s parent company, News Corp, in Manhattan at 12:30 p.m. on January 18. Since November 10 of last year, labor negotiations between the union and company executives have been stalled, and union representatives are hoping to put pressure on the publisher to return to the bargaining table.

Local 2110 of the UAW represents more than 250 HarperCollins employees in editorial, sales, publicity, design, legal, and marketing departments. Union representatives said negotiations have stalled over higher pay, a greater commitment to diversifying staff, and stronger union protection. Negotiations started in December 2021 and unionized employees have been working without a contract since April 2022….

(5) WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, THEY SAY. [Item by Bill Higgins.] Kenneth Hite, a Chicago author, game designer, and podcaster, was shot in the leg last week by armed robbers near his Hyde Park home.  Fortunately, he’s going to be fine.  Furthermore, he sold an account of the experience to the UK magazine The Spectator.  Because Ken Hite is a true professional. “Trigger warning: how it feels to get shot”.

… But at 3.10 a.m. on Friday, I was walking home from a late-night writing session at a colleague’s apartment a block from my house. (I work as a games designer.) A car pulled up, and two guys with guns jumped out and aggressively requested my 2014 MacBook Air.

I wish I could say I carefully considered whether my life was worth more than a nine-year-old computer and (more importantly) a manuscript I hadn’t backed up, but I acted without thinking and ran. After six or seven shots, I felt a hard thump on the back of my right calf. Then the two geniuses remembered that stuff about the third-largest armed force in Illinois, jumped back into their car and tore off. I counted my blessings and let myself into my house.

It was then that I noticed an awful lot of blood on the floor around my foot. The gunshots had, it turned out, awakened my wife Sheila, who wondered if I knew what had happened. Suddenly I did. ‘I’ve been shot in the leg,’ I told her. She called 911 and both sets of police – University of Chicago and Chicago Police Department – showed up almost immediately. In between questions, one of the cops put a tourniquet on my leg. I’ve heard since that if the tourniquet doesn’t hurt more than the bullet wound, it’s not on tight enough. This one was on tight enough….

(6) COVID STALKS AWARDS SHOWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Following the Golden Globe Awards, several celebrities (including some particularly big names) tested positive for COVID. Apparently in response, the Critics Choice Awards instituted a COVID test policy. “Several celebrities test positive for COVID after Golden Globes” at ABC News.

In the wake of the Golden Globes last week, several celebrities said they have tested positive for COVID-19.

At least four stars, including Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Pfeiffer, revealed they contracted the virus following the awards show.

In response, the Critics Choice Awards, which was held on Sunday, announced that all attendees would be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test before entering the venue, according to Deadline.

Public health experts said the news of actors and actresses falling ill is not surprising due to the relaxed regulations and people gathering indoors.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1992 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]  Mexican food liked you’ve dreamed of

Tonight’s essay concerns Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies. It was published by Doubleday in Mexico in 1992 as Como agua para chocolate.  Yes, the English language title is a lot longer.

Perfection Learning published the first edition in 1995. The film actually came out here in 1993 before the book was published here because though shot in Mexico, it had simultaneous English and Spanish language versions. 

So let’s talk about the book. And a magical book it is. Even in the English translation! The original Spanish version, Como agua para chocolat, was the top-selling book in Mexico in 1990. As a work of Latin magical realism, it can’t be topped by any other work to date. I unfortunately don’t know Spanish so I read the English translation which is quite excellent.

Now it’s here because a recurring theme of both the book and the film that came out is is food, which is used to represent all aspects of the vibrant, if troubled, Mexican culture. Hardly a scene goes by without someone eating or preparing a meal, and some of the more tasty chapters/scenes involve truly awesome banquets. Both in the book and in the film, there’s a real feeling that food is more than just something one eats. Food here is a celebration of the helix of life and death, of consuming and being consumed.

It’s is possibly the most erotic film ever made. Truly it is. Even the baking of bread becomes an act of eros. 

Now here’s an exquisite example of the food scenes herein

She felt so lost and lonely. One last chile in walnut sauce left on the platter after a fancy dinner couldn’t feel any worse than she did. How many times had she eaten one of those treats, standing by herself in the kitchen, rather than let it be thrown away. When nobody eats the last chile on the plate, it’s usually because none of them wants to look like a glutton, so even though they’d really like to devour it, they don’t have the nerve to take it. It was as if they were rejecting that stuffed pepper, which contains every imaginable flavor; sweet as candied citron, juicy as pomegranate, with the bit of pepper and the subtlety of walnuts, that marvelous chile in the walnut sauce. Within it lies the secret of love, but it will never be penetrated, and all because it wouldn’t feel proper.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes.(Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 92. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well. In 2022, his voice was used via software for Darth Vader in the Obi-Wan KenobiDisney+ miniseries. Jones signed a deal with Lucasfilm authorizing archival recordings of his voice to be used in the future to artificially generate the voice of Darth Vader. Jones said later that all Vader voicing would using AI software. 
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 after publishing The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 61. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler, then there’s the The Truman Show which stretches genre boundaries I think. May we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas? And is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind genre?,  who’s seen Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events?, Horton Hears a Who! (FUN!), A Christmas Carol  of which I know nothing, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (well it sounds cute) and, I’m not you, Sonic the Hedgehog. Busy, isn’t he?
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 53. Like Romulan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 

(9) THE SKY’S THE LIMIT. “Should We Block the Sun to Counter Climate Change?” – an opinion piece in the New York Times.

Last month, a two-person start-up company by the name of Make Sunsets claimed that it had launched weather balloons filled with reflective sulfur particles into the sky somewhere over the coast of Baja California. More provocation than experiment, the launch was a first-of-its-kind field test of a climate intervention known as geoengineering: a branch of speculative technology that promises to counteract and even reverse global warming by altering Earth’s atmosphere.

Long a taboo idea among climate experts thought too dangerous even to research, geoengineering is becoming increasingly mainstream. In 2019, Congress gave the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration $4 million to research techniques like the one Make Sunsets just tested, and it has since drawn interest from the Biden administration.

As the world continues to fall short of the goals of the Paris agreement and the costs of climate change mount, is geoengineering an idea worth taking seriously, or is it a world-historically reckless distraction from the global effort to transition away from fossil fuels? Here’s a look at the debate….

(10) A CELLER’S MARKET. [Item by Christian Brunschen.] A company literally calling themselves “SciFi Foods” are using CRISPR gene editing to develop “scalable beef cell lines” for cultivation — with the CEO claiming inspiration from Ian M. Banks’ The Player of Games. (They’re by far not the only cultivated-meat company out there of course.) “The first CRISPR gene-edited meat is coming. This is the CEO making sci-fi a reality” at Fast Company.

…Cost parity with traditional meat is every founder’s goal, one that sets a seemingly unattainable target. (In 2022, the average price of ground beef was $4.81/lb.) SciFi is betting that the only way to economically scale cultivated meat is with CRISPR, and that by making iterative tweaks they can create dependable cell lines with rich, meat-y flavor. “We have an eventual target of $1 per burger at commercial scale,” March says.

Once harvested, beef cells will be formulated into a blended burger that is mostly like the plant-based burgers you may already know—soy protein and coconut oil. SciFi’s secret sauce is adding a small percentage of SciFi cells (5% to 20%, according to March) to reward our taste buds with the beef-y notes we may think are missing from competitors like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Blood-quickening, salivatory, tempting….

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. The TV adaptation of a Ray Bradbury story, “The Electric Grandmother”, first aired on this day in 1982.

(12) EXTRA CREDIT. Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 2, “A sequel 40 years in the making.” A four-night event, streaming March 6 on Hulu. John King Tarpinian declares, “I can hardly wait.”

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Trailers — Demolition Man” sends up another Sylvester Stallone science ficton movie.

…One of the few R-rated action sci-fi films that’s remembered more for its clever writing than its shootouts. But kids today will never understand the significance of this movie just like my ex-wife will never understand the significance of the John Spartan mannequin I bought from a Planet Hollywood estate sale….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Christian Brunschen, Bill Higgins, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Review: Isle of the Dead / Eye of Cat, by Roger Zelazny

Isle of the Dead / Eye of Cat, by Roger Zelazny. IBooks, May 2014 (Eye of Cat, original publication 1982) (Isle of the Dead, original publication 1969)

Isle of the Dead/Eye of Cat is an omnibus of two short novels by Roger Zelazny. They each feature a solitary adventurer, who faces a new enemy and a world that has changed around him over his long life. William Blackhorse Singer is a 20th century Navajo, a hunter and tracker who lived long enough to make a career of stocking interstellar zoos, extending his life still further by relativistic travel. He learns the Navajo are no longer his Navajo people, and one of the “animals” he caught for a zoo is a person who wants to hunt him.
Francis Sandow is also a 20th century man, an adventurer and entrepreneur, who has built conglomerate in which the key component is his work as a worldscaper—building and shaping worlds to suit the client. He’s had enemies over his thousand years of life, but now he has an enemy whose identity and grievance he doesn’t know, a missing friend, and an alien mentor who taught him his art and is now dying—and has something important to tell him first. Sandow is going to confront his values, beliefs, and very identity.

By Lis Carey: The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus — which is in fact Eye of Cat — is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navajo born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later. This is at least in part due to Singer making use of his tracking skills to hunt and capture alien animals to stock interstellar zoos, as soon as that became a possibility, and thus spending a good deal of time in relativistic travel. 

But Singer is now retired, and is very, very reluctant when Earth’s government comes calling to recruit him to protect an alien diplomat on her way to Earth, being pursued by a deadly killer from her own world. He recruits in turn one of the last of the alien “animals” he captured; he has realized that this one was actually a person he badly wronged. 

This isn’t the story. The story is that the bargain with the alien, Cat, includes agreeing that after the killer is stopped, Cat will hunt Singer. Singer doesn’t see the problem. All his family and friends from his own time are gone, and the Navajo of this time are the products of almost two centuries of adaptation to a changing world, as the Navajo always have. They’re not Singer’s people anymore, not really. Cat has a challenge just getting Singer to flee so he can be hunted, rather than just killed. As he finally flees, and finds his will to live kicking in, we learn a lot about Singer, his character, his personal demons, and his beliefs and rituals and what they mean to him. Singer grows a lot in the process.

I have no real idea how right Zelazny gets the Navajo and their beliefs, but from the dedication it at least appears he did research, and nothing about this feels disrespectful or ignorant. No warrantees stated or implied!

However, this novel does feel oddly old-fashioned. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Yes, 1982 was forty years ago, but I had the feeling I was reading a book from the sixties (which, to be clear, I do with enjoyment, still, from time to time, but they do have a different feel than more recent works.) And I can’t easily blame it on the portrayal of the few women in the story. They have careers and accomplishments and two have been called in specifically because they have relevant skills. Yet for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, it doesn’t quite work for me.

Yet most of the story is William Blackhorse Singer’s contest of survival against Cat, and his personal growth in understanding of himself and the culture he has always given his love and devotion, yet not fully understood the meaning of. And that is extremely well-written, absorbing, and ultimately satisfying.

Isle of the Dead is the story of Francis Sandow, also a man originally of the 20th century, and now around a thousand years old. His great age is also due in part to relativistic travel before the invention of FTL space drives. Sandow is a very different man than Singer; he’s a businessman, a very successful businessman, and the jewel in the crown of his conglomerate is worldscaping. He makes worlds–anything the client wants them to be. He lives on one of his own creations, Homefree, where he’s safe from any enemies because in addition to all the normal forms of security, the world’s own creatures will protect him.

Yes, he has enemies. Over the last thousand years, both friends and enemies have died. Those who died on Earth after the invention of the Recall technology died with a chip in their brains that recorded their entire brains. This was transferred to tape, and stored for thirty days, in case there was a question about events surrounding their deaths. At the end of the thirty days, the tapes were destroyed.

Or that’s the theory. Someone has been sending Sandow pictures of both friends and enemies who died on Earth after the invention of Recall technology. There’s no message, just the pictures.

He has received messages, though, three of which matter. One is from Marling of Megapei, the Pei’an scholar and worldscaper who taught him to be a worldscaper. Marling is old, approaching the end, and wants Sandow to visit him “before the end of the fifth season.” The next is from Earth’s Central Intelligence Department, asking him to come to Earth to consult “on a matter vital to planetary security.” It’s not the first such request, and he’s not going. The last is from an old friend, Ruth Laris, who says she’s facing serious trouble and asks him to come help her. Of the two requests he cares about, Marling gives a time frame that means he has plenty of time to visit Ruth first. So off he goes to Aldebaran V.

It’s on Aldebaran V where he starts to get the first real clues about why the pictures are being sent to him, and who his unknown enemy is. When he moves on to Megapei and his old teacher, Marling, he learns more, and is soon off on a journey to face his secret enemy, to attempt the rescue of his old friends and enemies, and to confront his ideas and beliefs about his worldscaping abilities, where they come from–and who his real friends and enemies are.

While, like Eye of Cat, this also feels like it was written in the Sixties, it’s rather less of a challenge to my ability to enjoy it, because it was written in the Sixties. It’s not that the women in it are handled better; they’re actually handled somewhat worse. But all the skills I developed for reading sf in the 1960s kick in, because it’s legitimately a product of the 1960s. 

You may call this “making excuses for Sixties sexism,” and you wouldn’t be wrong. I offer two arguments in my defense. One, I was a reading-obsessed kid in the 1960s, and it was hard to find enough sf that had genuinely good female characters to properly supply my reading habit. Developing mental work-arounds that let me enjoy otherwise very good stories was essential. And two, this is otherwise a really excellent story.

Recommended.

I bought this book.

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: An Audiobook Review

By Lis Carey: Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event. Jack has a very sharp knife, which he and Snuff use in gathering the necessary ingredients for the ancient and deadly ritual that will be performed on Halloween.

But Jack and Snuff aren’t the only participants preparing for what they call “The Game.”  Crazy Jill and her cat, Greymalk, The Count and his bat, Dr.Frankenstein, Rasputin, The Wolfman, and others — all (except The Wolfman) with their animal companions. Sherlock Holmes is very interested, but not, himself, a player.

As Snuff narrates events, we learn that there are “openers” and “closers,” and it’s a secret, or supposed to be, who is which until the night itself. We gradually realize what the significance of those terms is.

Until the night itself, as everyone gathers their necessary ingredients, and everyone works to figure out what the location of the ritual will be, players form temporary alliances sometimes with those who will be on the other side when the time comes. The animal companions don’t necessarily ally with the animal companions of their human/humanlike partners.

And there is a great deal of intrigue going on.

We see the story through Snuff’s eyes, and therefore the other animals more than the human partners. We nevertheless also learn a great deal about the humans involved, even as the animals are engaged in their parallel intrigues and efforts to prevent disaster.

But what’s disaster? Is it better for the openers or the closers to prevail?

It’s a fascinating story, with interesting and enjoyable characters. Matt Godfrey as narrator absolutely makes me believe Snuff’s voice, and makes the other voices distinct and individual. 

Highly recommended.                

I received a free copy of this audiobook, and I am reviewing it voluntarily.

  • A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny (author), Matt Godfrey (narrator) Recorded Books, ISBN 9781705061329, August 2022

Pixel Scroll 3/13/22 In Five Years, The Pixel Will Be Obsolete

(1) I’M JUST A POE BOY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Andrea Sachs writes about the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, which opened in April 1922.  The museum has as official greeters two black cats, Edgar and Pluto. The museum will celebrate its centennial on April 28 with an UnHappy Hour, where guests will cosplay characters from the 1920s, with music by “local surfrock band The Embalmers.”  And if your kids are bored, they can leap into a coffin! “Why you should visit the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond”.

… From “The Raven,” Edgar Allan Poe’s acclaimed poem, we know that birds can speak. If the Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, which celebrates its centennial this year, had a voice, it might have a choice word to say as well.

“Evermore,” the bricks from the Southern Literary Messenger building, the writer’s former office, would utter. “Evermore,” the ivy clipped from his mother’s grave would whisper. “Evermore,” the copy of the bust of Poe would intone, before asking after the original plaster statue of his head. (Rest easy, Mr. Poe. After police recovered the stolen object from the bar at the Raven Inn in 1987, it has been living safely and soberly inside the museum’s reading room.)To be sure, 100 years is not forever, but for a museum dedicated to a 19th-century American author who wades in the dark recesses of the human psyche, it comes close….

There’s a website: The Poe Museum – Illuminating Poe for everyone, evermore.

(2) VASTER THAN EMPIRES AND MORE SLOW. Robert J. Sawyer greeted the announcement of SFWA’s name change by reminding Facebook readers he’s advocated the idea since 1988:

It only took THIRTY-FOUR YEARS, but SFWA is FINALLY changing its name to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (instead of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Text of a letter I sent to the SFWA FORUM on February 25, 1988:

Dear FORUM:

At the SFWA meeting during the Brighton WorldCon [in August 1987), Charles Sheffield proposed changing the name of our organization from the Science Fiction Writers of America to the Science Fiction Writers Association. Why? He said the current name was insulting to overseas members. I agree, but, as I pointed out at that meeting, you don’t have to be separated from the United States by an ocean to feel excluded by the present name.

Now Joel Rosenberg has written to the FORUM (Number 104, page 33), again talking about American vs. overseas members. Let’s put this to rest. Canadians do not live overseas from the States, and they certainly do not consider themselves Americans, any more than the other non-U.S.-residents of North and South America do.

There are 21 Canadians in SFWA, making us by far the largest non-American nationality. I can’t speak for my compatriots, but I dislike SFWA’s current name and I object to having my country fall between the cracks of this debate….

(3) UNMET TWAIN. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here’s a very good article on Ukraine and Russia and why both countries are different by Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov: “Ukranians Will Never Be Russians” in The Sunday Times.

 … Ukrainians are individualists, egoists, anarchists who do not like government or authority. They think they know how to organise their lives, regardless of which party or force is in power in the country. If they do not like the actions of the authorities, they go out to protest. Therefore, any government in Ukraine is afraid of the street; afraid of its people.

Russians loyal to their authority are afraid to protest and are willing to obey any rules the Kremlin creates. Now they are cut off from information, from Facebook and Twitter. But even before they believed the official TV channels more than the news from the internet.

In Ukraine, about 400 political parties are registered with the Ministry of Justice. This only once again proves the individualism of Ukrainians. Not a single nationalist party is represented in the Ukrainian parliament. Ukrainians do not like to vote for either the extreme left or the extreme right. Basically, they are liberals at heart.

In the 1920s and 1930s peasants were sent to Siberia and the Far East as a punishment for not wanting to join collective farms. Ukrainians are not collective, everyone wants to be the owner of his own land, his own cow, his own crop. Looking at this history, they can safely say: “We and the Russians are two different peoples!”…

(4) MOORCOCK. “Dangerous Visions: Final Programmes and New Fixes: A conversation with Michael Moorcock” is a conversation between Michael Moorcock and Mike Stax from the symposium presented by City Lights in conjunction with PM Press on February 26 and 27, exploring the radical currents of sf. It happened during the celebration of the US launch of the book Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985 edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre.

(5) LISTEN UP. Cora Buhlert’s new Fancast Spotlight is for the sword and sorcery podcast Rogues in the House, one of her personal favorites: “Fancast Spotlight: Rogues in the House”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Rogues in the House, as the title may suggest, is a sword-and-sorcery focused podcast. We explore everything from Conan the Cimmerian to Elric of Melnibone, and we aren’t afraid to dive into adjacent genres and topics. Masters of the Universe, Willow, and the Witcher tend to simmer in our soup as well.

We call ourselves half-baked experts and usually place fun in front of fidelity, though we do do our homework.

(6) HIGH SCORE. Delia Derbyshire discusses how she and her colleagues developed the Doctor Who theme in this 1965 clip from BBC’s Tomorrow’s World.

Tomorrow’s World visits the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a studio dedicated to the production of cutting edge electronic sound effects, soundscapes and electronic music for use in BBC television and radio programmes. Pioneering sound engineer Delia Derbyshire – who, along with colleague Dick Mills, realised Ron Grainer’s famous Doctor Who Theme at the Radiophonic Workshop – shows how electronic sounds are produced, and demonstrates some of the processes and techniques used in the workshop to build these sounds into otherworldly scores for the likes of Quatermass and the Pit

(7) END OF AN ERA. The Tellers of Weird Tales blog pays tribute to the late Marvin Kaye, who edited the magazine from 2012 to 2019: “Marvin Kaye (1938-2021)”.

…Marvin Kaye was certainly multitalented. He had an admirable career, the kind that few men or women born in later decades have been able to attain. We should be thankful to him–and his wife–for bringing so much back from the past and placing it before us so that we might all enjoy it once again.…

(8) WILLIAM HURT (1950-2022) Actor William Hurt, whose first film was Altered States, and who gained fame in non-genre roles such as his Oscar-winning performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman, died March 13. Variety’s tribute includes Hurt’s late-career genre work.

…More recently, Hurt became well known to a younger generation of movie lovers with his portrayal of the no-nonsense General Thaddeus Ross in 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk.” He later reprised the role in “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Widow.”

…After appearing on stage, Hurt secured a lead role in “Altered States,” playing a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s offbeat film, a notable entry in the body horror genre. 

… A rare attempt at popcorn entertainment with 1998’s big-screen adaptation of “Lost in Space” was a modest hit, but didn’t earn enough money to spawn a franchise and Hurt looked miserable throughout the movie.

He also appeared in the TV mini-series version of “Dune,” in Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village.”…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1987 [Item by Cat Eldridge] The history of Roger Zelazny’s Hugos is quite fascinating, both ones he actually won and the ones that he got nominated for but didn’t win.

His first was a nomination at Pacificon II at “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” which was followed by a nomination at Tricon for “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” and a win for …And Call Me Conrad (also known as This Immortal) in a tie with Dune.  

At NyCon 3 the next year, two of his novelettes woulde to get nominated, “For a Breath I Tarry” and “This Moment of the Storm” as did his “Comes Now the Power” short story. 

Baycon would see him win the Hugo for Best Novel for Lord of Light and get a nomination for the “Damnation Alley” novella. The novel version of Damnation Alley would come after Baycon.

Jack of Shadows would get nominated at the first L.A. Con. Doorways in the Sand got that honor in MidAmeriCon where his “Home is The Hangman” novella won a Hugo. 

At Chicon IV, “Unicorn Variation” wins the Best Novelette and at ConFederation, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” would win Best Novella. The next year at Conspiracy ’87, “Permafrost” would get a Hugo for Best Novelette, his final Hugo. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 13, 1933 Diane Dillon, 89. With husband Leo Dillon (1933 – 2012), illustrators of children’s books, and paperback book and magazine covers. Over fifty years they created more than a hundred genre book and magazine covers together as well as considerable interior art. They were nominated for Best Professional Artist at St.Louis Con and Heicon ’70 before winning it at the first Noreascon, and The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon was nominated at Chicon IV for Best Related Non-Fiction Book. She and her husband would get a much deserved World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 
  • Born March 13, 1951 William F. Wu, 71. Nominated for two Hugos, the first being at L.A. Con II for his short story, “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium”; the second two years later at ConFederation for another short story, “Hong’s Bluff”.  The former work was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode of the same name. He’s contributed more than once to the Wild Card universe, the latest being a story in the most excellent Texas Hold’Em anthology five years back. Though definitely not genre in general, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850-1940 is decidedly worth reading.
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 66. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. And though definitely not genre or even genre related, I must single out her role in Tombstone as it is a most excellent film indeed. 
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 56, As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, the Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorites of his novels. That said, Chasm City is absolutely fascinating. His present novel in the Revelation Space series, Inhibitor Phase, was damn great. 
  • Born March 13, 1968 Jen Gunnels, 54. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays. She’s also an editor at Tor these days where her writers are L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Richard Baker, Kit Reed, Emily Devenport, and F. Paul Wilson.

(11) IT’S A WONDERFUL GENRE. Brian Murphy explains what the fantasy genre would look like, if Tolkien had never written The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings“Fantasy Without Tolkien? Yes That Happened, and Yes It Matters” at DMR Books.

… But I also believe what he said implies that fantasy would not have mattered without Tolkien. If so, this deserves rebuttal. So here goes.

The modern fantasy genre does NOT all come from Tolkien, and it would have arrived even without him. In fact, it already had. And pre-Tolkien fantasy matters.

To set the stage, early fantasists Lord Dunsany, William Morris, George MacDonald, and H. Rider Haggard were writing long before Tolkien. Tolkien himself read and loved many of these authors and his work bears their influence. As it should; much of their work is great.

Sword-and-sorcery existed long before The Lord of the Rings (1954) and even The Hobbit (1939). Starting in the late 20s and early 30s, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, C.L. Moore, and Fritz Leiber produced an amazing body of work that attracted fanbases in pulp magazines Weird Tales and Unknown….

(12) ABOUT OUR PARTNERS. In the Washington Post, Homer Hickam says we will have to work with the Russians at the International Space Station for now, but we should “proceed on our own to carefully resolutely work to decommission” the station. “Our space partnership with Russia can’t go on”.

…In nearly every arena, the Biden administration has imposed harsh sanctions on Russia. The space station should not be immune. It’s time to end our well-intentioned partnership with Russia — even if, as seems almost certain, it would mean the early closing and decommissioning of the space station.

The realpolitik of the International Space Station is that it is not only a symbol of cooperation between us and the Russians, but it also provides a certain amount of diplomatic leverage. The fact is, Russia needs the ISS a lot more than we do.

When the space station began continuous occupancy in 2000, we wanted to learn how to build large structures in space and get experience with lengthy spaceflight. These goals have been accomplished, and now the station is approaching obsolescence, its recently planned life extension to 2030 notwithstanding. With our flourishing commercial space companies, who are already cutting metal on their own future space stations, plus our federal government’s Artemis moon program, the United States is entering a new golden age of space exploration. The Russians, meanwhile, are stuck in the past with antiquated spacecraft and nowhere to go except the ISS.

If we are truly determined to stop Putin’s brutal war, we have to use every lever we’ve got. Unhappily, that includes the space station….

However, a comment from “BilTheGalacticHero” challenges some of Hickam’s facts:

This is a shockingly ignorant and contradictory opinion piece by Homer Hickam. The US commercial spaceflight industry is almost wholly dependent on the ISS for business. No companies are “cutting metal” on commercial space stations. Studies are just now starting. Axiom is creating a module for the ISS but obviously that’s different. On one hand Hickam says we should ditch the station and on the other he says we should keep the station and ditch the Russians. Which is it? Ditching the station is the worst option by far. With proper planning the other ISS partners could operate the station without the Russian segment but that’s not something that can happen overnight. In addition, the Cygness rebost hasn’t happened yet and Cygness alone cannot maintain long term ISS attitude control.

(13) HELLO MY BABY. Saturday Night Live explains why The Princess and the Frog was so bad it ended up on Disney Minus.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Amber Ruffin says “Marvel’s New Comic Princess Is Racist As Hell”.

Native women have been hyper-sexualized throughout American history, and the consequences have been devastating. Recently, Marvel Comics introduced a new character named Princess Matoaka. Instead of taking the opportunity to show a brave strong Native women, they really let us all down.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/22 But It Is The Plotted Truth, That Really Drives You Insane! Let’s Scroll The Pixel Again!

(1) THE BROKEN MIRROR OF NOSTALGIA REFLECTS A FRACTURED PAST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] At the Escapist, possibly my favorite film critic Darren Mooney offers trenchant analysis on the recent phenomena of movies paying homage to previous works that were widely disliked when they first came out. In essence, he suggests that there may be a collective yearning for an imagined halcyon past that never really existed in the first place. “Phantom Menace & ASM: Why Are We Nostalgic for Things We Hate?”

Nostalgia isn’t memory. In many cases, what is being evoked in these nostalgic franchise extensions isn’t anything resembling reality or history, but instead an imagined object. This often involves a crass distortion of the original object, in order to flatter the presumed audience.

(2) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll has the Young People Read Old SFF panel opine about Vonda McIntyre’s “Wings.” It was a very well-received story five decades ago, however, the reception comes with a bit of static now.

Although it has not been often reprinted, Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1973? “Wings” seems to have struck a chord with fans and fellow professionals. ?“Wings” was nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula, losing the first to Le Guin’s ?“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and the second to Tiptree’s ?“Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death”. ?“Wings” is one of two stories about an alien race whose name for themselves is never given. Their world dying, the species launches a generation ship for another star. 1974’s ?“The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” details how the great migration played out. ?“Wings”, in contrast is focused on events on the dying homeworld, and the relationship of two persons there….

(3) FIYAH GRANTS OPEN. FIYAH Literary Magazine is accepting applications for grants to assist Black writers of speculative fiction in “defraying costs associated with honing their craft.” Three $1,000 grants will be distributed annually as part of Juneteenth every year. Applications for the Rest, Craft, and Study grants are being accepted through May 15, 2022. There also are two other grants. All the grants are limited to prose writers for now. [Via Tor.com.]

The Rest Grant — $1,000

The FIYAH Rest Grant is for activists and organizers with a record of working on behalf of the SFF community, but who are in need of respite or time to recommit to their personal projects. Application materials include a 1-2 page personal statement on one’s history of work or ongoing projects on behalf of an inclusive SFF space.

 Study Grant — $1,000

This grant is to be used for defraying costs associated with attending workshops, retreats, or conducting research for a writing project. Application requirements include proof of acceptance to a workshop or retreat (where applicable),  a 1-page description of the work requiring research, and a 3k-word writing sample.

Craft Grant — $1,000

This grant is awarded based on a writer’s submitted WIP sample or project proposal, in the spirit of assisting with the project’s completion. Application requirements include a 5k-word writing sample, a 1-page proposal or synopsis of the project in question, and an introductory document detailing your goals for the project after completion.

Two emergency grants of $500 will be awarded, in March and October.

Emergency Grant — 2x $500

This is a needs-based grant to assist Black SFF writers with emergency financial circumstances which may be interfering with their ability to write. Emergency circumstances may include but are not limited to threat of eviction, payment of school fees, compromised or destroyed equipment, injury, travel for family care-taking in a time of crisis, or disaster or medical related relief. The Emergency Grant is awarded biannually, once in March and once in October. Application requirements include a 1-page statement detailing the nature of the emergency need for funds and intent for its use.

There is also –

Editorial Grant

The FIYAH Editorial Grant is intended as a stipend for Black editors who have been accepted for an unpaid editorial internship or fellowship at a publishing house or literary agency in 2022-23. Application requirements include a personal statement detailing your editorial experience (or lack thereof) as well as your focus for your professional development and career going forward as an editor, agent, or other industry professional. A detailed critique of a SFF novel or novella you’ve read in the last 12 months is also required. Use the button below to access the application form.

This grant was made possible by a sponsorship from Sydnee Thompson.

Applicants for any FIYAH Grant must be 18 years of age by June 19th of the application year, and writers of speculative fiction. In addition:

FIYAH Grants, like our other submissions, are open to Black people of the African Diaspora. This definition is globally inclusive (Black anywhere in the world) and also applies to mixed/biracial and Afro-appended people regardless of gender identity or orientation.

(4) MAUS CREATOR COMMENTS ON BAN. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Art Spiegelman about the recent efforts to ban MAUS. Spiegelman says he is happy that “the book has a second life as an anti-fascist tool.”  The hardcover of MAUS is currently #3 on Amazon and two paperback editions are in the top 10. “Art Spiegelman, ‘Maus’ author, sees the book’s Tennessee school ban as a ‘red alert’”.

…The 10-member board in McMinn County chose to remove “Maus” from its eighth-grade language arts curriculum, citing its profanity and nudity. Now the New York-based author is sifting through the minutes of the board’s Jan. 10 meeting, trying to make some sense of its decision to target the graphic memoir, which previously has been challenged in California and banned in Russia. [Spiegelman’s] conclusion: The issue is bigger than his comic book.

In the current sociopolitical climate, he views the Tennessee vote as no anomaly. “It’s part of a continuum, and just a harbinger of things to come,” Spiegelman says, adding that “the control of people’s thoughts is essential to all of this.”

As such school votes strategically aim to limit “what people can learn, what they can understand and think about,” he says, there is “at least one part of our political spectrum that seems to be very enthusiastic about” banning books.

“This is a red alert. It’s not just: ‘How dare they deny the Holocaust?’ ” he says with a mock gasp. “They’ll deny anything.”…

(5) LOCKED STAR MYSTERY. James Davis Nicoll tells his Tor.com audience about “Five Flawed Books That Are Still Worth Rereading”. One of them is —

Sundiver by David Brin (1980)

…Modern readers will likely find Sundiver (the novel, not the spacecraft in the novel) a bit too much of its era; not in a good way. The treatment of women in this novel makes it obvious that the novel was published closer to the midpoint of the 20th century than to today. The “uplift” which gives Brin’s series its name involves a combination of genetic manipulation and selective breeding, though the humans in the novel decry the way senior galactic patrons treat their servant races. As to the science: Brin, even at the time, must have known that cooling lasers could not work as he has them work in the book. Too bad that many readers must have accepted this as science fact.

However! The novel in hand is not the grand-scale space opera one might expect. It’s a murder mystery on an isolated space craft. It just so happens that I am, in addition to being an SF fan, am also a fan of murder mysteries set in isolated locations. Sundiver was an engaging example of the form—it is hard to get more isolated than a location within the Sun….

(6) FREE BOOK UPCOMING. One of the three books Team File 770 advanced to the finals of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition will be available free over the next few days. Martin Reed’s novel The Hammond Conjecture will be on free book promotion on Amazon from February 1-5.

(7) EARLY CINEMATIC VAMPIRE. Dutch fantasy writer Remco van Straten has dug up a Dutch vampire movie from 1919 called “Vampire: the Scourge of Amsterdam (1919)”.

 As I looked through the Dutch newspaper archive for information on Nosferatu‘s Dutch premiere for a blog post, I stumbled upon something that I, fairly knowledgeable on horror film history, didn’t know about: an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was produced in the Netherlands in 1919, a full three years before Murnau made Nosferatu in 1922!…

(8) FANCAST DOUBLE-DIP. Cora Buhlert has posted a double Fancast Spotlight for The Dickheads Podcast (as in Philip K. Dick) and Postcards from a Dying World“Fancast Spotlight: The Dickheads Podcast and Postcards from a Dying World”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

I am involved in two fancasts. First and foremost is The Dickheads Podcast. We are in the 5th and maybe the final year of covering all of Philip K. Dick’s books in publication order. He has over forty novels published and at the time of this interview, we are about to record A Scanner Darkly the novel released in 1977….

On my own, I do a podcast called Postcards from a Dying World. In this show, I do whatever I want…. 

(9) THE PATTON OF SPACE FORCE. Season 2 of Space Force (dropping February 18 on Netflix) has a future where Patton Oswalt is an astronaut but the New York Jets are STILL terrible!

(10) HOLGER M. POHL OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] German SFF writer, editor and fan Holger M. Pohl died unexpectedly aged 63.

Pohl was a German SFF writer, editor and columnist for the fanzine Fantasyguide. He was the author of Arkland, a fantasy novel inspired by the sword and sorcery of the 1960s and 1970s,and contributed to the multi-author space opera series Die Neunte Expansion and Rettungskreuzer Ikarus. With Dirk van den Boom he co-wrote the space opera novel Welt der Sieben Ebenen. He was a common sight at German cons and beloved member of the German SFF community. I only met him once at the Dublin Worldcon. Very nice guy.

Here are some German-language obituaries: Markus Mäurer, “Holger M. Pohl – Ein Nachruf” at Translate or Die (the blog’s actual name); Dirk van den Boom, “Holger M. Pohl ist tot” at SF Boom; and the fanzine Fantasyguide where he had a regular column. 

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1966 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-six years at Tricon where Isaac Asimov was Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal would win the Hugo for Best Novel in a tie with Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in October and November 1965, in 1966 by Ace Books, in 1967 by UK publisher Hart-Davis in hardcover, and later by the SF Book Club with a Richard Powers cover. Three other works were nominated: John Brunner’s The Squares of The City, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress which would win this Hugo the next year at NYCon 3 and Edward E. Smith’s Skylark DuQuesne.

(12) TODAY’S DAY.

January 31: National Gorilla Suit Day. 

Mad Magazine artist Don Martin created the idea of National Gorilla Suit Day for a 1963 comic strip in which a character mocks the holiday and is then assaulted by gorillas and people in gorilla suits. Since that time, the holiday has been semi-celebrated every year by fans of Mad Magazine and Don Martin by dressing up in a gorilla suit.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket ManRevenge of the CreatureTarantulaThe Mole PeopleAttack of the Puppet PeopleInvisible InvadersDestination SpaceJourney to the Seventh PlanetCurse of the Swamp CreatureZontar: The Thing from Venus, Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. Love that last title! (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 85. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a very fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre underpinning. I’m very, very fond of the latter two works. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 62. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the HBO Max series is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and The Multiversity which is spectacularly weird. 
  • Born January 31, 1962 Will McIntosh, 60. Best known for the  dozens of short stories he’s written that have been published in magazines including Asimov’s, InterzoneLightspeed and Strange Horizons. He won a Hugo for his short story “Bridesicle“ at Aussiecon 4.
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 54. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited and Clyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 49. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would I’d stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but which is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, musical Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the delightfully weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) FUTURE TENSE. The January 2022 story in the Future Tense Fiction series, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives, is “If We Make It Through This Alive,” by A.T. Greenblatt, a story about a cutthroat future road race, the climate crisis, the ability/disability continuum, and much more.

Slate published the story along with a response essay by Damien P. Williams, a scholar of technology and society. “How heeding disabled people can help us survive the climate crisis.”

Aliza Greenblatt’s “If We Make It Through This Alive” is an immediately engaging story, but the deeper in you get, the more is revealed. And one of the starkest but most subtly played revelations comes near the very end, when the audience is confronted with twin harsh truths: Disabled and otherwise marginalized people are least often thought of when planning for the future—and what disabled people know from their experience of living in this world likely makes them better prepared than nondisabled people to survive whatever comes next….

(16) BLACK PANTHER HISTORY. As Black History Month approaches, Marvel is taking fans on a historical journey, uncovering the evolution of Marvel’s first Black superhero: T’Challa, the Black Panther. Marvel Entertainment and SiriusXM will launch their latest original unscripted podcast series, The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther, on Monday, February 14.

The six-episode documentary podcast, hosted by New York Times best-selling author Nic Stone (“Shuri,” “Dear Martin”), explores the comic book origins of the Black Panther through conversations with the creators who shaped T’Challa’s journey, celebrates the innately Afro-Futuristic world of Wakanda, and analyzes the larger social impact of the character.

The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther brings writers, artists, and historians together to share a story that only Marvel can tell. The show features exclusive interviews with notable talent including Brian Stelfreeze, Christopher Priest, Don McGregor, Joe Quesada, John Ridley, John Romita Jr., Reginald Hudlin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and more.

The show explores some of Black Panther’s most pivotal moments including Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s 1966 debut of the character at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, his continued evolution through the birth of the Black Power Movement, his time with the Avengers and of course, the launching of  Black Panther’s adventures.

The series will initially be available exclusively on the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts. Episodes will be widely available one week later on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the U.S. Learn more at siriusxm.com/blackpanther.

(17) PITCHLESS MEETING. Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer pretty much doesn’t watch TV and rarely sees a movie, which isn’t a problem except in this one way — “Every word you say…”

…It’s a curse because the right way to do elevator pitches to editors was to describe your book as like X movie or TV series, meets Y movie or TV series. Mary Poppins meets Die Hard and have a bastard love-child would be about my level… but I have actually heard it done, with movies I had never heard of (I am sure everyone else had). The Movie/TV tropes and references were plainly so much easier for both the author and the editor, than book ones. It is also plainly popular with readers, who, it seems know much more about movies than I do….

(18) ROAD TRIP! “NASA Vet and Space Mogul Aim to Build 97% Cheaper Space Station” at MSN.com.

…If Michael Suffredini is to get the price tag of the first private space station down to $3 billion — compared with the $100 billion it cost to build the International Space Station — the CEO of Houston-based Axiom Space has some decisions to make about what to outsource and what to build in-house.

… Axiom has tripled its headcount at its 14-acre Houston headquarters to 392, and will aim to get to 600 in the coming year. Recent hires include Tejpaul Bhatia, who helped build the startup ecosystem for Google Cloud, as chief revenue officer.

In order to make money, Axiom will also offer space tourism, though it says most of its revenues would eventually come from companies and industries taking advantage of a microgravity environment. U.K.-based studio Space Entertainment Enterprise, which is producing Tom Cruise’s upcoming space movie, announced on Jan. 20 a deal with Axiom to build an in-orbit studio.

Axiom slated its first entry to space for February, but recently moved it to March 31, due to additional spacecraft preparations and space-station traffic. For its first mission to the ISS in March, the crew includes American real estate mogul Larry Connor, Canadian entrepreneur Mark Pathy and Israeli tycoon Eytan Stibbe. The trip is costing each of them $55 million, according to Ghaffarian. It would be the first private astronaut mission in which the transportation vehicle is also private, according to NASA’s Hart. Axiom contracted SpaceX for the launch, and has become the biggest private client of Elon Musk’s space startup with four missions contracted. SpaceX did not immediately reply to a request for comment….

(19) LOOK, UP IN THE SKY! Space.com reports “The James Webb Space Telescope’s 1st target star is in the Big Dipper. Here’s where to see it.”

…Now that JWST has reached its final destination in space, the mission team is getting the next-generation space telescope prepped for observations. A bright point like HD 84406 provides a helpful target by which the team can align JWST’s honeycomb-shaped mirrors and to start gathering engineering data, according to the tweet….

(20) THE PLAY’S THE THING. [Item by Michael Toman.] Would any other theaterphile Filers also appreciate the opportunity to see this free performance of Jeton’s “The Department of Dreams”? Maybe with a small donation?

The world premiere of Department of Dreams by Kosovar playwright Jeton Neziraj at City Garage, November – December 2019. In this nightmarish, Orwellian comedy an autocratic government demands its citizens deposit their dreams in a central bureaucratic depository so that it can exert the fullest possible control of their imaginations. Dan, a new hire for the prized job of Interpreter, sift patiently through the nation’s dreams looking for threats to the government’s authority.  but finds nothing is as it seems except the authority he serves.

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