Pixel Scroll 5/12/22 We Will Always Have Pixels

(1) IS IT WASTED ON THE YOUNG? At Young People Read Old SFF James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on Joe Haldeman’s “Tricentennial”.

This month’s selection has an unusual history for a Hugo finalist, having been commissioned to accompany an already completed cover….

Generally speaking, this sort of exercise does not result in notable fiction1. Haldeman managed to deliver a story that wasn’t simply a finalist but a Hugo winner. Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that even though his career as an SF writer was still in its early days, he had by this point racked up two Hugo nominations2, a Hugo win, a Nebula win, a Ditmar win, and been a finalist for the Locus six times. 

Tricentennial stuck a chord with readers way back in the mid-1970s. Will it be as successful with the youth of today? Let’s find out!…

(2) THAT NEW LAFFERTY STORY. Meanwhile, at Galactic Journey the Traveler is reading the latest Galaxy – back in time, when the stories themselves were young! “[May 12, 1967] There and Back Again (June 1967 Galaxy)”.

Polity and Custom of the Camiroi, by R. A. Lafferty

A three-person anthropological team investigates the highly libertarian planet of Camiroi.  Society there is highly advanced, seemingly utopian, and utterly decentralized.  Sounds like a Heinleinesque paradise.  However, there are indications that the Terrans are being put on, mostly in an attempt to just get them to leave.

The result is something like what might have happened if Cordwainer Smith and Robert Sheckley had a baby.  That’d be one weird tot…but an interesting one.

Four stars.

(3) HE’LL GIVE YOU AN EARFUL. In “An Observation on Audiobooks” John Scalzi discusses his experience with the medium.

…As an author, I was not initially in love with audiobook versions of my books because it was an interpretation, and because the narration was not the way I heard the book in my own head — the narrative beats would sometime be different; a word would be given a different emphasis; a character who I heard one way in my head would sound different (and sometimes would feel like they had a different personality entirely).

Two things got me over this. The first was that audio increased my annual income from writing by about a third, which smoothed over quite a lot. The second thing was that I realized that audiobook narration is a performance and that, like one can appreciate the myriad of ways that actors have approached the “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy in Hamlet, one can equally look at the choices the narrator makes in their performance and see how they are in conversation with the text, often in ways that are a surprise to me, the author. So the necessary fact of the interpretation stopped being an annoyance and became a thing of interest….

(4) POINT OF DO RETURN. “Once more with feeling: why time loop stories keep coming back”, according to the Guardian’s Gillian McAllister.

If you die, what’s the plan for the next life?” This is the question posed in the opening scene of the recent BBC adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life, in which the protagonist, Ursula, repeatedly dies and starts over from birth. It’s a fascinating idea: what would you do differently, and what would remain the same? It is one explored in another hit TV show that has just returned for a second season, Russian Doll, the first season of which saw the main character, Nadia, return endlessly to the night of her 36th birthday party, suffering a different death each time.

Mainstream film and television have a long history of playing with time loops. But while Groundhog Day was a huge success in the early 1990s, narratives about ordinary people caught in this speculative twist have been harder to pull off in literature. Perhaps this is because there tends to be an earnestness to such stories that doesn’t translate into fiction, and a tendency towards repetition that readers may not tolerate as well as viewers. It is trickier to create a montage in fiction: part of what makes Groundhog Day so compelling is the ability to only show the differences in Bill Murray’s repeating days….

(5) ORVILLE THIRD SEASON. “Our return is imminent.” The Orville: New Horizons arrives June 2 on Hulu.

(6) THE MOON THAT SOLD ITSELF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “A Twenty-First Century Moon Race Is Kicking Off A New Era of Lunar Exploration” reports Nature. These six countries are about to go to the Moon — here’s why.

Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States aim to send missions to the Moon in the next year. But will they all make it?

NASA’s US$93-billion Artemis programme might be stealing most of the limelight with its maiden launch this year because it’s the first step towards sending astronauts to the Moon. But the United States is just one of many nations and private companies that soon plan to launch missions, heralding what scientists say could be a new golden age of lunar exploration.

Science isn’t the only driving force. The flurry of missions also signals the growing ambition of several nations and commercial players to show off their technological prowess and make their mark, particularly now that getting to the Moon is easier and cheaper than ever before….

(7) MUSK CONTRADICTED. Shannon Stirone says let the record reflect that “Mars Is a Hellhole” in The Atlantic.

There’s no place like home—unless you’re Elon Musk. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship, which may someday send humans to Mars, is, according to Musk, likely to launch soon, possibly within the coming days. But what motivates Musk? Why bother with Mars? A video clip from an interview Musk gave in 2019 seems to sum up Musk’s vision—and everything that’s wrong with it.

In the video, Musk is seen reading a passage from Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot

…Musk reads from Sagan’s book: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.”

But there Musk cuts himself off and begins to laugh. He says with incredulity, “This is not true. This is false––Mars.”

He couldn’t be more wrong. Mars? Mars is a hellhole. The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many)…

(8) CURIOSITY SNAPS A PHOTO. Mars may be a hellhole, but it’s a hellhole with a door. “’Secret doorway built by aliens’ spotted in picture taken by rover on Mars”. Picture at the link.

Recent pictures from Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover show an intriguing feature which looks like a doorway nestled in the rocks on the Martian landscape.

It looks so convincing that it can almost tempt you to believe that it leads to a Martian hideaway – or a gateway to another Universe entirely.

While the internet seems to be having a field day with conspiracy theories about the mysterious doorway, some Reddit users aren’t buying it.

Many party poopers have pointed out the door is likely just a shear fracture — the result of some kind of strain on the rock, breaking part of it off….

(9) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe 57 is out now! Listen here! “Back Bacon is Best”.

John is a muppet bilby, Alison is actively drinking, and Liz MURDERS OWLS. We discuss Reclamation 2022 and the COVID that ensued, before talking about Horizon Forbidden West a whole bunch. Also other things.

Below, the Octothorpe cast are depicted as Australian mammals in muppet form. John is a bilby, Alison is a quokka, and Liz is an echidna. John has a glitter octothorpe on his forehead.

(10) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Gustav Hoegen.  Hoegen is Dutch, and when he was 6 he went with his father to the Tuchinski Theatre (an old-school picture palace) in Amsterdam to see Return of the Jedi, and he decided he wanted a career in the movies.  He worked his way up through British special effects shops in 2013 and now runs his own company, Biomimc Studio.  His creatures have appeared in four recent Star Wars movies, one of the Jurassic World pictures, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  He says that Ridley Scott, J.J. Abrams and Tim Burton were the best directors to work with, and he gets work because directors realize that actors do a better job reacting with an actual object on screen rather than doing the entire film via green screen. “Maltin on Movies: Gustav Hoegen”.

(11) SOMETHING FISHY. Radio Times spoke with the showrunner: “Russell T Davies confirms he planted Doctor Who red herrings”. But he won’t tell which ones.

…”There’s been a few false stories and false tales and we placed a few posts ourselves, a couple of misleading things, and we’re very pleased that that kind of worked.”

However, Davies clarified that the rumour James Corden might be taking on the role wasn’t one of his red herrings, adding: “We didn’t plant that one, so that caught me frankly.”

While Davies did not expand on which names he’d planted in the press, a number of actors associated with the award-winning screenwriter were rumoured to be Jodie Whittaker’s replacement

(12) ANN DAVIS (1934-2022). The Guardian paid tribute to the late Ann Davies as an “actor admired for her many roles in TV drama series including Z Cars, EastEnders and in 1964 an appearance in Doctor Who.” She died April 26 at the age of 87.

…Television immortality came early on when when she joined forces with the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell, in 1964 in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. As Jenny, a determined and capable freedom fighter, Davies was a cold and efficient co-combatant with the series regular Barbara (Jacqueline Hill, in real life Davies’s friend and neighbour).

The action required them to encounter the Daleks in arresting scenes filmed at London landmarks. At one point they smashed through a patrol with a van, which required early morning shooting in the capital to avoid the crowds. Although it was just one guest role in her long career, Davies remained in demand for Doctor Who interviews and signings.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Samuel Delany’s Nova was nominated for a Best Novel Hugo at St. Louiscon fifty three years ago, the year that Stand on Zanzibar won. Two amazing novels; in this Scroll I’m here just to talk about Nova though I won’t deny that Stand on Zanzibar is an amazing novel as well. 

Nova came at a point in Delany’s career after he had just won three Nebulas, two for novels, Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection, plus one for his short story, “Aye, and Gomorrah..” The first novel was nominated for a Hugo at NYCon 3, the short story and the latter novel at BayCon. BayCon would see him get also nominated for “The Star Pit” novella, and St. Louiscon the next year would see his “Lines of Power” novella get nominated. It was a very fecund time for him. 

And then there was Nova, a fantastic novel that was first published by Doubleday in August 1968. Is it space opera? Is it really early cyberpunk? Of course it also had strong mythological underpinning and the tarot figured prominently into the story as well, so it couldn’t be nearly put into any categories, could it? All I know is that I really liked reading it. 

Reviewer Algis Budrys said in the January 1969 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction that it was “highly entertaining to read” and a later review on the Concatenation site said, “Though a novel, this runs like a string of tangled short stories fused and melted through one another, with fantastic concepts, but making its preposterous mission sound utterly credible for its extraordinary characters.” 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 12, 1937 George Carlin. Rufus in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. He also showed up in Scary Movie 3 and Tarzan II. I once met him many decades ago at a Maine summer resort. He was really personable and nice. (Died 2008.)
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best-known for the Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well (novelized by Longyear in collaboration with David Gerrold.) An expanded version of the original novella, plus two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy, make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. 
  • Born May 12, 1973 Mackenzie Astin, 49. His major genre role was in The Magicians as Richard/Reynard but he’s also appeared in I Dream in Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later (who knew?), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Outer LimitsLost and The Orville.
  • Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 72. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron and Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker.
  • Born May 12, 1953 Carolyn Haines, 69. Though best known for her Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series at twenty books and counting, she has definite genre credits having two orbs in her Pluto’s Snitch series, The Book of Beloved and The House of Memory, plus the rather excellent The Darkling and The Seeker though you might not recognize them as being hers as she wrote them as R.B. Chesterton. Her genre books are on Kindle. 
  • Born May 12, 1958 Heather Rose Jones, 64. Member of our File 770 community.  She received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for the Mother of Souls, the third novel in her Alpennia series which has now seen four novels published, quite an accomplishment. For six years now, she has presented the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast subseries of the Lesbian Talk Show.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) WALK THIS WAY. “How far did Sam and Frodo walk in Lord Of The Rings?” Yahoo! Movies found someone who thinks they know the answer.

They might have big feet, but with those little legs Hobbits Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins had their work cut out trekking from Bag End to Mount Doom in JRR Tolkien’s seminal The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One thing that has always enthralled fans when picking up Tolkien’s books is the attention to geography and the maps of Middle Earth.

Well now, thanks to one brilliantly thorough Imgur user called Mattsawizard, we can see how far those little legs had to go.

Better still he’s contextualised them with the UK….

(17) QUITE A HANDFUL. James Davis Nicoll directs us to “Five SFF Stories That Are Much Funnier Than They Sound”. First on the list:

The Night Life of the Gods by Thorne Smith (1931)

At first glance, Hunter Hawk seems to have been served the same dismal gruel as any other Thorne Smith protagonist. His home is inhabited by a swarm of grasping relatives, each one more feckless than the last. Other Smith protagonists require some external impetus to jar them out their conventional rut. Not Hunter Hawk, for long before the reader meets him, Hawk has energetically embraced mad science.

Having invented a petrification ray, Hawk’s immediate impulse is to turn it on his disappointing relatives. This leaves the inventor free for a meet-cute with Megaera, a 900-year-old fairy. It happens that Megaera has a trick that mirrors Hawk’s: she knows how to turn stone to living flesh. The couple could use this to de-petrify his relations. Instead, they transform statues of Roman gods into living deities.

The gods demand entertainment. Fortuitously, Jazz Age America is more than able to provide it.

(18) CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Holm, author of a near-future sf novel where antibiotics have failed, offers eight recommendations for movies where disease is amok and creatures are covered with goo. “Eight Biological Horror Movies Guaranteed to Make Your Skin Crawl” at CrimeReads.

…Since [my novel] Child Zero seems to be scaring the bejesus out of everybody, I thought a fun way to celebrate its release would be an alphabetical roundup of my eight favorite biological horror movies.

Why biological horror rather than, say, body horror? Because even though the latter is an accepted horror subgenre, I’m not convinced everything on my list qualifies. Besides, I’m here to hype a biological thriller, not a body horror novel—so, y’know, synergy!…

(19) SAY CHEESE. What else do you say when you photograph something with a big hole in it? From the New York Times: “The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light”. (Photo at the link.)

Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the veil of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.

The image, released in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington, and around the globe, showed a lumpy doughnut of radio emission framing empty space. Oohs and aahs broke out at the National Press Club in Washington when Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona displayed what she called “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy.” She added: “It seems that black holes like doughnuts.”…

 … Black holes were an unwelcome consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as how a mattress sags under a sleeper.

Einstein’s insight led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape it.

Einstein disapproved of this idea, but the universe is now known to be speckled with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed inward on themselves and just kept going.,,,

(20) NOVA FIREBALL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover of the latest Nature is inspired by the article, “Chance discovery sheds light on exploding stars” (which is behind a paywall.) Here’s the introduction:

Nova explosions occur when a runaway thermonuclear reaction is triggered in a white dwarf that is accreting hydrogen from a companion star. The massive amount of energy released ultimately creates the bright light source that can be seen with a naked eye as a nova. But some of the energy has been predicted to be lost during the initial stages of the reaction as a flash of intense luminosity — a fireball phase — detectable as low-energy X-rays. In this week’s issue of NatureOle König and his colleagues present observations that corroborate this prediction. Using scans taken by the instrument eROSITA, the researchers identified a short, bright X-ray flash from the nova YZ Reticuli a few hours before it became visible in the optical spectrum. The cover shows an artist’s impression of the nova in the fireball phase.

(21) DEEP SUBJECT. Terry Pratchett talks to Leigh Sales of Australian Broadcasting about his Alzheimer’s and his support for right-to-die legislation in this 2011 clip: “Sir Terry Pratchett on life and death”.

(22) LEGO MUPPETS. IGN invites everyone to “Meet the LEGO Muppets Minifigures”.

On May 1, LEGO will release a series of Muppet Minifigures depicting Jim Henson’s most iconic creations: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, Animal, Janice, Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler, and Waldorf. LEGO sent IGN a preview set of all 12 minifigures, and we took a few photos (see below) to show off their details….

Part of what makes the Muppets lovable is their scruffiness; they’re cute, but not cloying in appearance or mannerism. And LEGO captures this quality by customizing each head distinctively–to be rounded, or conical, or exaggerated as need be.

Gonzo’s nose is huge. Beaker’s head is narrow. Honeydew’s eyes are non-existent. The Muppets are not subsumed by the LEGO aesthetic; if anything, LEGO compromised its design boundaries to ensure these figures retained that intangible ‘Muppet-ness’ they all possess….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another conversation between Lewis and Tolkien (from Eleanor Morton): “JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis realise something about dwarves”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Andrew (Not Werdna), Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Ncuti Gatwa Is the Next Doctor Who

Ncuti Gatwa will play the fourteenth Doctor Who, succeeding Jodie Whittaker in the role. He will be the first black actor to play a primary incarnation of the character and the second overall, following Jo Martin’s appearance as the Fugitive Doctor.

He gained fame as Eric Effiong on the Netflix comedy-drama series Sex Education (2019–present), which earned him a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor in Television and three BAFTA Television Award nominations for Best Male Comedy Performance. He’s already popular among viewers in their teens and 20s, with more than 2.5 million Instagram followers.

Showruhner Russell T Davies said the decision was made in February, and kept secret to be launched as part of the coverage leading up to today’s BAFTA Awards ceremony in the UK. Gatwa impressed him in a “blazing” audition. “It was our last audition. It was our very last one,” the writer and producer said. “We thought we had someone, and then in he came and stole it. I’m properly, properly thrilled. It’s going to be a blazing future.”

[Thanks to Jon Meltzer for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/26/22 Comments Have Spoken, Like The First Filing; Pixels Have Woken, Like The First Scroll

(1) HOW THE WEB MAKES CRIMINALS OF US ALL. The Guardian tells about the revamped Tolkien Estate website in “Unseen JRR Tolkien paintings, photographs and video clips released”. (Andrew Porter reminds us that the artwork in the article is not new.)

Unseen photographs and paintings of JRR Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings fantasy books, have been released by the writer’s estate, along with draft manuscripts and letters.

Its website has been relaunched with new material, including sections on Tolkien’s calligraphy and a timeline of his life.

Audio recordings and video clips featuring both Tolkien, who died in 1973, and his son Christopher, who died in 2020, are among the new material.

The relaunch date of 26 February is significant in Tolkien lore because 26 February 3019 was the date in the Third Age when the Fellowship of the Ring was broken at Amon Hen and Frodo and Sam set out on their lonely and terrifying journey to Mordor.

Perusing the site’s “Frequently Asked Questions and Links” I discovered this jarring information:

Can I publish a Tolkien Fanzine?

The name TOLKIEN is a registered trademark and may not be used without permission. Unfortunately permission cannot be given for publications which use the name TOLKIEN or the Tolkien Estate’s Copyright Materials.

Are a lot of you faneds who don’t spell it T*****n hearing from lawyers?

(2) THEY’VE GOT THE DROP ON US. “Russia’s space chief responds to new sanctions by suggesting that the ISS would no longer be prevented from crashing into the US or Europe” – originally reported by Business Insider.

According to CNN, Biden further stated that the sanctions “will degrade (Russia’s) aerospace industry, including their space program.”… 

In response, Rogozin said on Twitter: “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” 

He added: There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?” 

Rogozin also mentioned that the ISS’s location and orbit in space are controlled by “Russian Progress MS cargo ships.” 

NASA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment made outside of normal working hours.

In a statement to Euronews, however, NASA said that it “continues working with Roscosmos and our other international partners in Canada, Europe, and Japan to maintain safe and continuous ISS operations.”

It added: “The new export control measures will continue to allow US-Russia civil space cooperation.”

(3) PURLOINED LETTER TECHNIQUE. Radio Times’ Sab Astley says this is the place to look for clues to Doctor Who’s next phase: “Doctor Who Russell T Davies teases from his book on writing”.

…Now, with Davies’ surprise return to Doctor Who looming, everyone is searching for potential clues as to RTD’s approach to his second run – and unusually, the acclaimed screenwriter might have already given us a pretty good idea of what he’s planning thanks to a little book called The Writer’s Tale.

The Writer’s Tale is a tome of correspondence between Davies and Doctor Who Magazine contributor Benjamin Cook, taking place over the pre-production of season 4 right up to the final shots of Tennant’s last special between 2007 and 2009…

The Next Doctor

14th Doctor speculation is currently at an all-time high, with names like Michael Sheen, Michaela Coel, T’Nia Miller and Olly Alexander mentioned. However, one name that hasn’t arisen, which might just be a strong contender to bet on: Russell Tovey.

Davies makes no secret of his love for Tovey, and in a discussion over potential 11th Doctor castings, RTD states that Tovey is “amazing – I think I’d make him the eleventh Doctor”. Since then Tovey has starred in Davies’ Years & Years, and currently all of his upcoming projects are in post-production – making it the perfect time for RTD to nab Tovey if he so wishes.

Alternatively, if we look at Davies’ choice of actors in the years since The Writer’s Tale, the choice becomes clear: Lydia West. She’s clearly a favourite of RTD’s, starring in both Years & Years and It’s A Sin, and could follow in Jodie Whittaker’s footsteps as a female Doctor (and the first ‘lead’ Doctor to be played by a Black actor, though Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor technically got there first).

Altogether, based on RTD’s creative patterns and the insight of The Writer’s Tale it seems Russell Tovey or Lydia West are strong options for the 14th Doctor. However, there is a third possibility – the return of David Tennant…..

(4) FUTURE TENSE. “Good Job, Robin”, JoeAnn Hart’s short story about love, earth, and eating crickets, is this month’s installment of Future Tense Fiction, a series from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination published on Slate.

Ahimsa waves an elbow at me, keeping her hands firmly cupped. “Isaura! Look!” She shouts to be heard over my earplugs, and I panic thinking she’s woozy again. But no, she only wants to show me something. I lean across the sorting table to look, and with a smile she opens her tawny hands like a flower, just enough so I can peek inside. Two stamens wiggle in the darkness.

Not stamens. Antennae. Out come the earplugs. “It’s just a cricket, Ahimsa. One of a billion crickets under this dome, every one of them chirping like an insect possessed.”…

Christy Spackman, an expert on the future of food, responds to JoeAnn Hart’s story in “Crickets could be the food solution that saves us all.”

…The first time I seriously considered crickets as the food of the future was in late 2015 during a presentation by undergraduates. Their policy proposal outlining how the adoption of insect protein in the Los Angeles Area could help insulate the region from some of the impacts of climate-change included a tasting of a recent-to-market, paleo-friendly, cricket-based protein bar. As I sunk my teeth into the slightly gummy, peanut-buttery bite being passed around the classroom, my mind flashed between the grim food futures presented in science fiction novels and the much smaller collection of hopeful fiction portrayals of delicious future feasts. What is it about our contemporary anxieties that makes it so easy to imagine such dystopic food futures?…

(5) HEAPS OF FUN. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott considers how successive American generations have different ways of arriving at the same destination — mortality: “Shelf Life: Our Collections and the Passage of Time”.

…The things you loved when you were young will never be able to make you young again. The reluctant acceptance of this fact is the source of nostalgia, a disorder that afflicts every modern generation in its own special way. Members of Generation X grew up under the heavy, sanctimonious shadow of the baby boom’s long adolescence, among crates of LPs and shelves of paperbacks to remind us of what we had missed. Just as baby boomers’ rebellion against their Depression- and war-formed parents defined their styles and poses, so did our impatience with the boomers set ours in motion. But I’m not talking so much about a grand narrative of history as about what Aksel might call the useless stuff — the objects and gadgets that form the infrastructure of memory….

Every cohort has these. A CD in a plastic jewel box is not intrinsically more poetic than a vinyl LP in a cardboard sleeve. On the internet and in television shows like “PEN15,” a robust millennial nostalgia fetishizes AOL chat rooms, Dance Dance Revolution, Tamagotchis and other things that I was already too old for the first time around. Gen Z will surely have its turn before long, even if its characteristic cultural pursuits don’t seem to be manifested in physical objects….

(6) SLF GRANT NEWS. The Speculative Literature Foundation has announced the final two winners of the SLF Convention Support Grants.

Over the course of the year we gave out $10,000, in grants of $500 – $1000 each, to science fiction and fantasy conventions.

These grants are intended to support conventions both in developing their online presences (through the purchase of tech, training costs, hosting costs, etc.) and making in-person gathering safer once it’s appropriate. Read on for more information about how each convention will use the funding.

WisCon is a feminist science fiction and fantasy convention held annually in Madison, Wisconsin. Founded in 1976 as the world’s first feminist speculative fiction convention, it has since grown into a robust and dedicated community of fans, artists, and scholars. The convention is hosted by the Society for the Furtherance and Study of Fantasy and Science Fiction a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin, which aims to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.

WisCon will use the grant funds to cover the costs of equipment and equipment rental to make their con more accessible.

The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird is a progressive speculative fiction conference that focuses on contemporary Weird fiction. The con actively seeks to create spaces that allow for the kinds of conversations and connections that chart the future of boundary-breaking speculative fiction, as well as being an inclusive, safe and welcoming place for women, LBGTQ+, and writers of color. To meet this mission, they consider each dimension of access (fiscal, disability, equity, etc) with care to inform every decision they make, from where programming is accessed to how it’s structured.

A key focus for their 2022 convention is making sure they have easily accessible virtual spaces, as well as safe future events during the pandemic, which includes travel, catering, and technology costs that they anticipate will increase significantly this year.

(7) GAIMAN ADAPTED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the Financial Times, Nilanjana Roy reviews Chivalry, a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Colleen Doran and based on a short story from Gaiman’s collection Smoke And Mirrors.

[Colleen Doran’s] stunning artwork turns Arthur’s knight into the kind of dashing, courtly hero who is obliged to seduce a maiden.  Doran’s illustrations, drawing from a soft palette of blues, pinks, and greens that flare unto sudden glorious bursts of crimson and gold at need, are what will make Chivalry a perennial Christmas gift.  Famous Authors are often at risk of having their old work briskly repackaged by clever marketing departments but Doran, a Gaiman fan since her youth has, for complicated rights reasons, waited over two decades to work on this short story…

,,,The question as to whether a single short story taken from a far more varied fantasy collection is satisfying as a standalone graphic novel remains.  Certainly,Gaiman and Doran’s book feels too slight on its own to measure up to the best of Gaiman’s output.  Still, Chivalry reminds you that, some days, all you need is to believe in impossible quests.

(8) UNDERSTANDING OCTAVIA BUTLER. “Black History Month: Octavia Butler’s sci-fi dystopia still relevant”USA Today profiles the author.

…Butler rose to prominence in the traditionally white bastion of science fiction. She was the first to write about prominent Black characters in science fiction settings, using dystopias, time travel and other tropes. 

Science-fiction author Nisi Shawl recalls meeting the “Kindred” author in 1999 during a convention in Seattle when she was tasked with writing a profile on Butler. The two became acquainted and a friendship later blossomed in 2002. 

“One thing that she really instilled in me was the idea that you should write about things that bring up strong emotions in you, things that you fear, things that you loathe, things that you cherish, but things that you are passionate about in one way or another,” Shawl tells USA TODAY, adding that Butler inspired her to write the short story “Momi Watu.” …

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Barbara Hambly, one of my favorite writers of horror, has won two Lord Ruthven Awards (1996 and 2007) given by the Lord Ruthven Assembly, a group of scholars specializing in vampire literature who are affiliated with the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. 

Those Who Hunt in The Night, the first in the excellent John Asher series, won the Locus Award for Best Horror Novel.

I’m also very impressed of her two novelizations done for one of my favorite tv series, Beauty and the Beast and and Beauty and the Beast: Song of Orpheus as it’s hard to write material off those series that’s actually worth reading.  She wrote three Trek novels and several Star Wars too but I’ve not read them. 

And yes, there’s lots about her writing career I’ve not included here so feel free to tell me what you think I should have mentioned. 

Barbara Hambly

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 26, 1908 Tex Avery. An animator, cartoonist, director and voice actor beyond compare. Without him, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig would not have existed. Avery’s influence can be seen in Animaniacs and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — they were quite good. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 77. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 74. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre-strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. 
  • Born February 26, 1957 John Jude Palencar, 65. Illustrator whose artwork graces over a hundred genre covers. In my personal collection, he’s on the covers of de lint’s The Onion Girl and Forests of the Heart (one of my top ten novels of SFF), Priest’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds and Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of EarthseaOrigins: The Art of John Jude Palencar is a perfect look at his work and marvelous eye candy as well.
  • Born February 26, 1958 Karen Berger, 64. She created the Vertigo imprint at DC,  and served as the line’s Executive Editor for a decade. Some of my favorite works there are Fables, Hellblazer, Preacher, 100 Bullets and V for Vendetta. She currently runs Berger Books, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics.
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 57. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) 45TH BIRTHDAY ISSUE OF 2000 AD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week the 45th birthday issue of 2000 AD is out. It includes a zarjaz strip of the Command Module droids travelling through the thrillverse collecting 2000 AD characters to help Tharg compose a birthday hit single. It also features the start of a new Judge Dredd story that teases that the Judges are trying to silence someone who claims to have a secret concerning the truth of Judge Dredd!

Splundig!

(13) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT THAT YOU ARE A COWBOY. Kevin Standlee says Westercon 74 sent out the following announcement to its members today regarding COVID-19. The short version:

Vaccination required

Masks required

For the long version, click here – “COVID-19 Health and Safety Policy”.

As a reminder, the 2022 Westercon will be held in Tonopah, Nevada from July 1-4.

(14) PURINA BAT CHOW. “Doorbells, chicken and special edition biscuits: why are The Batman’s tie-ins such a joker?” asks the Guardian. “Someone on the merchandising team is working overtime to turn the serious new Robert Pattinson movie into Sonic the Hedgehog.”

…Then there is all the food. The Oreos we have covered; they have a picture of Batman’s face on them, because we all know that nothing is more delicious than wolfing down an effigy of agonising mental torment. Papa John’s is also in on the act. Its pizzas currently come in commemorative The Batman boxes (because who doesn’t love using used food receptacles as keepsakes?) and there is also a new side – black ghost chilli chicken wings – that also apparently have something to do with Batman. Meanwhile, in the US, Little Caesars has made a “calzony” (a kind of folded pizza) that’s shaped like the Batman logo, allowing customers to grab themselves a slice of gooey, unresolved trauma.

Caffè Nero has subverted the pattern a little by focusing on the Riddler. It has launched a new hot chocolate, with a mysterious new flavour. If you can guess the flavour – which is to say, if you can stomach spending your money on a product that for the purposes of suspension of disbelief was designed by a nightmarish BDSM goblin – you can win a trip to a theme park.

Again, I’m barely touching the sides here….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dream Foundry has shared the Flights of Foundry 2021 panel “Making Your Reader Hungry: Food in SFF” with Nibedita Sen and Shweta Adhyam, moderated by Cora Buhlert. (Watch the video at the link.)

For a long time, speculative fiction rarely engaged with food. Over on the science fiction side of the fence, protagonists lived on food pills or ordered “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” from the replicator, while fantasy characters subsisted on the ubiquitous stew and quaffed tankards of ale. However, this has changed in recent times and now detailed food descriptions are a lot more common in SFF. Nor are we just seeing only stereotypical western and American food anymore, but also dishes from non-western cuisines and food traditions. This panel will discuss how food is portrayed in science fiction and fantasy and how this parallels real world developments, whether it’s meal replacement products like the unfortunately named Soylent or trends like pandemic baking.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/3/22 You Can Scroll, Scrollsocki, If You Pixel Down

(1) AFRICAN STORY FORMS. Clarion West is offering an online workshop “African Story Forms: Ngano & Black Fabulism” with Yvette Lisa Ndlovu on February 26 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here. Cost: $75.

This craft talk & generative workshop will explore the form & structure of ngano, a Zimbabwean storytelling form that blends fables, folktales, and the surreal. We will examine how some of the structures and techniques of this traditional narrative can be used for plotting and structuring in the short form. In a ngano strange things happen: animals talk, people fly, time collapses, & nature eschews the laws of physics. These fantastic tales have social justice elements at their core: they call out social evils and speak truth to power. In this session, I’m specifically interested in interrogating Ngano as political fantasy that holds a mirror to our world. What can writers borrow from this traditional African storytelling form to reflect our bizarre & impossible realities across the globe? 

We will engage with the work of Zimbabwean Sarunganos, like Ignatius Mabasa, who are keeping this form alive, as well as Black fabulists like Lesley Nneka Arimah, Irenosen Okojie, Helen Oyeyemi, Nana Nkweti, and others. All writers are welcome.

(2) CAT IN A VACUUM. James Davis Nicoll has been “Revisiting The Amazing Adventures of Space Cat!” at Tor.com.

… Flyball is a cat. Who—and this is the complicated part—lives in space. His career is documented in four illustrated volumes: Space Cat (1952), Space Cat Visits Venus (1955), Space Cat Meets Mars (1957), Space Cat and the Kittens (1958). All four are illustrated by Paul Galdone (June 2, 1907–November 7, 1986).

I have not read these since 1969. How did they stand up? I am glad you asked….

(3) STOP WATCHING THE SKIES. [Item by Michael Toman.] Has anyone heard anything from Liiliput, Brobdingnag, The Floating Island (with its associated Grand Academy-of Lagadu-at-Balnibarbi,) Japan, Houyhnhnm-land, and “Other Remote Nations of the World” lately? Or, like my sister, residing in the Still-Improbable-Sounding-to-the-Undersigned, Red State of “North Carolina, USA,” has already seen the movie? MSN.com shares what happens when “Physicists consider real-life ‘Don’t Look Up’ scenarios”.

… “Effective mitigation strategies are imperative to ensure humanity’s continuity and future advancement,” Lubin and Cohen write. “Existential threats to humanity are very low recurrence, but are known to have happened multiple times in the past.”

NASA takes the threat seriously, scanning the heavens in search of potentially threatening bodies that cross Earth’s orbit. Last November, the agency used a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch a probe at a 525-foot-wide moon, Dimorphos, orbiting a a half-mile-wide asteroid named Didymos.

The 1,210-pound DART spacecraft is expected to slam into Dimorphos at a blistering 15,000 mph in September, disintegrating on impact as it gouges out a fresh crater and, in the process, slows the moonlet by a minuscule fraction of an inch per second.

The test will not move the targeted asteroid off its trajectory any appreciable amount. But it will allow scientists to assess their ability to one day deflect a threatening body by nudging it off course to ensure it misses Earth entirely.

Deflection works best at great distances, where a small nudge can have a major effect over many months. That requires early detection…

(4) A LANDMARK IN HORROR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s series 1922: The Birth of Now, has devoted a short 15-minute program to Nosferatu. Available for download as mp3 from BBC Sounds (simple registration required). Details here — “1922: The Birth of Now, Nosferatu and Modernist Horror”.

1922: The Birth of Now – Ten programmes in which Matthew Sweet investigates objects and events from 1922, the crucial year for modernism, that have an impact today.

 Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.

 F. W. Murnau’s 1922 gothic masterpiece is the first vampire movie. It is German Expressionism in cinematic form and still influences contemporary film-makers. It’s also a film about disease: Count Orlok – a rip-off of Dracula that got Bram Stoker’s family lawyers on the case – brings plague to Mittel Europe. What does this disease mean, in a Europe that has just survived war and pandemic? Matthew Sweet and guests including Dana Gioia, the award-winning poet and critic who wrote the libretto to composer Alva Henderson’s Nosferatu: The Opera, first produced in 2004, and the literary scholars Roger Luckhurst and Lisa Mullen.

(5) IRISH STUDIES. The American Conference for Irish Studies has put out a call for papers for ACIS National 2022 with the theme “Irish Studies: Pasts, Presents, and Futures”. It will be held online April 29-30, 2022.

Another year disrupted. Another unforeseen turning in the widening gyre. As in so many elements of our lives, the most recent wave of the pandemic means we must ask questions about our past, our present, and our future: How long has it been since we felt normal? What can we do right now? What will tomorrow bring? This moment allows us to reconsider the purpose and future of Irish Studies, and its related, interconnected, peripheral, and unrecognized fields. For the online 2022 American Conference for Irish Studies, we invite individual papers, panels, and roundtables that reassess the pasts, presents, and futures of our field. Intentionally open, speculative, and abstract, it is our hope that these papers, panels, and roundtables seek “collisions and encounters” that help, in the words of Gayatri Gopinath, to explore “our imbricated pasts and futures.”

For this year’s conference, which will be fully online, we seek papers, panels, and roundtables on the following, as well as any or all other topics in Irish Studies:

  • Imagined and real Irish pasts
  • Speculative and potential Irish futures
  • Irish encounters with other fields of study
  • Imbricated Irish experiences
  • Teaching Irish Studies in new contexts

(6) A PEEK INTO A FUTURE THAT NEVER WAS. Steve Haffner unveils a discovery that will be included in Volume 2 of The Complete John the Balladeer.

INFORMED READERS of Manly Wade Wellman, and followers of John the Balladeer in particular, know that prior to his death, the “Old Captain” was planning a sixth novel in Doubleday’s “Silver John” series to be called THE VALLEY SO LOW. FYI, Wellman detested the “Silver John” appellation and we almost never use it; it’s “John the Balladeer,” “John the Wanderer,” or just “John.”
     Following Wellman’s passing, Karl Edward Wagner edited a posthumous collection of Wellman’s recent short stories titled The Valley So Low: Southern Mountain Stories in 1987.
     Haffner Press is pleased as pinecones to share that we are including Wellman’s 4-page outline for the unwritten novel, THE VALLEY SO LOW, in Vol. Two of THE COMPLETE JOHN THE BALLADEER. So now all of you have the opportunity to learn what Manly Wade Wellman planned for John’s final song. Of course, artist Tim Kirk will be contributing a brand new interior illustration for Wellman’s proposal for THE VALLEY SO LOW.

(7) TRUNK SCRIPT. Radio Times says he already had a Doctor Who project in the pipeline before his return as showrunner came about: “Russell T Davies teases Doctor Who return in Mind of the Hodiac”.

If you’ve paid any attention to popular culture over the last few months, you may have heard the shock news that former Doctor Who boss Russell T Davies is returning to take charge once more for Who’s 60th anniversary year – but you might not know that this isn’t his only Doctor Who project in the offing.

In fact, before we had any idea he was returning to the main TV series fans were already excited at the news of a very different Who return for the acclaimed screenwriter –an audio drama. It all started when Davies dug out an old script he’d written as a young fan in the 1980s, and eventually Doctor Who audio producers Big Finish came on board to bring the story to life for real.

Now, Davies’ unfinished Mind of the Hodiac – completed by Scott Handcock and starring Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford – is coming soon, the first Who script we’ve seen from Davies for over 12 years. And with a load more scripts on the horizon, it’s fair to say that it’s a moment of odd synchronicity for the It’s A Sin creator.

(8) WHAT HAS SPACE DONE FOR ME LATELY? The UC San Diego Office of Innovation and Commercialization and the Clarke Center hope to answer that question in a free Zoom webinar about the benefits of space research today and what to expect tomorrow! Takes place February 10 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

The vast majority of people are unaware of all the ways space technologies affect us on a daily basis. Everything from bioengineering to communications to manufacturing and more, technology cultivated in humanity’s pursuit to conquer the last frontier, has had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on our everyday lives. So join us, as we explore what space has done for us lately.

The panelists are: Anjali Gupta, PhD, Business Development at Axiom Space; Karl Stedman, Co-Founder of Aurvandil; Robert Jacobson, Partner with Space Advisors®, LLC & Author of Space is Open for Business; and Dr. Erik Viirre, Director at Arthur C Clarke Center For Human Imagination.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-nine years ago on this date, The Greatest American Hero ended its three year run on ABC. It was created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, more known for series like Magnum P.I. and Castle (in which he appeared in a poker game with Castle as himself until his death) than SF series like this. 

The series features William Katt as teacher turned superhero Ralph Hinkley after getting a suit from aliens, Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell, and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson.

Though it ran for three seasons, it had an unusually low number of episodes for a show of that duration racking up only forty-five in total of which of five went unaired during the original broadcast. 

The powers of the red suit would appear to be quite generic, but that apparently didn’t appear so to Warner Bros., the owners of DC Comics, who filed a lawsuit against ABC, Warner Bros. Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.  It was ultimately dismissed by the Court where it was filed who said it had no grounds. A wise decision given how common red suits with extraordinary powers were. 

Five years later, the cast came back together for a pilot movie for a new NBC series which was named The Greatest American Heroine which was never picked up. The movie was later added in syndication to this series. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 3, 1924 Leslie Stevens. Here because he was the creator of first version of The Outer Limits and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Oh, and a neat little pulp film called Sheena starring Tanya Roberts for which he wrote the story. He wrote a handful of scripts for The Invisible Man as well. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 3, 1925 John Fiedler. He’s solely here as he played the ever so bland bureaucrat who gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper on the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. I’m less interested in him than who wrote that screenplay. It was written by Robert Bloch, a master of horror who would write two other Trek episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 3, 1930 Carolyn Serling. Widow of Rod Serling. She was the associate publisher and consulting editor of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, a monthly magazine published in the Eighties. She was a consultant to “Twilight Zone: The Movie” and had a cameo in there as Passenger in the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” segment. In 1994, Ms. Serling found two unproduced stories by her husband in a trunk at her home and sold them to CBS which produced them as Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics. In total, she edited six anthologies of stories inspired by the series. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 3, 1953 Randy Lofficier, 69. Editor, translator and author who I am including here for French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Pulp Fiction: A Guide to Cinema, Television, Radio, Animation, Comic Books and Literature from the Middle Ages to the Present with her husband Jean-Marc Lofficier. Though published twenty years ago, it is still well worth picking up. 
  • Born February 3, 1970 Warwick Davis, 52. Nearly fifty live and voice appearances since first appearing in the Return of the Jedi in in place of Kenny Baker who was going to be a Ewok before he fell ill. Did you know he’s in Labyrinth as a member of the Goblin Corps? I certainly didn’t. Or that he did a series of humorous horror films centered around him as a Leprechaun? They did well enough that there was at least six of them. He even shows up in Doctor Who during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. 
  • Born February 3, 1979 Ransom Riggs, 43. He’s best known for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I’ll confess I know absolutely nothing about, so educate me. I know it was turned into a film by Tim Burton which could a Very Good Thing and later into a series. His first book btw was The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: The Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective which sounds way cool. He won a Neffy for Best SSF YA Author. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie – how often does this comic do a genre joke?

(12) EIGHT PROOF. Octothorpe 50 is up! John Coxon is exchanging, Alison Scott is rekindling her sensawunda, and Liz Batty is watching the builders. We discuss what beers we like, listen to the Caribbean Science Fiction Podcast, talk about self-promotion and talk about TAFF. Listen here: “This is How Boxing Championships Work”.

(13) THE FUTURE IS NOW. Are you ready for “carcopter” races? “MACA S11 Flying Carcopter Formula Racer: Competition Is in the Air” at Motor Trend.

Drone-like vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) flying car air taxis have been showing up at CES shows for years—Cadillac even showed one in 2021. But most experts don’t expect the first air taxi to be certified for use until 2024 at the earliest. At CES 2022, French startup MACA announced plans to get its hydrogen fuel-cell-powered electric VTOL “carcopter,” as they call it, off the ground before then. How do they hope to jump the government certification line? By flying low and restricting themselves to the airspace immediately above Formula 1 racetracks.

(14) THE MASKALORIAN. No, that was not a typo. “’The Maskalorian’ gives out free masks in a ‘Star Wars’ costume” – the Washington Post has the story.

Even in these strange times, the sight is unusual enough to turn heads: a helmeted figure in a jumpsuit and cape with a tiny green creature strapped to his chest. Both appear to come from a galaxy far, far away. Both wear disposable masks over their mouths.

Masks, it turns out, are the entire point of their mission.“I am the Maskalorian, giver of masks,” the figure says in his first public appearance, in the summer of 2020. “Whether you’re a human or a droid, it doesn’t matter. We must be vigilant and do what we can to keep each other protected.”

The character — inspired by the hit Star Wars show “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus — is the brainchild of Matt Adams, a 43-year-old filmmaker and improv performer. And that little green guy wearing a GoPro on his chest might look a lot like Grogu, a.k.a. the Child, a.k.a. Baby Yoda. But his name is Masku. Together, they have given away roughly 1,000 masks.

(15) ASIMOV NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is the lede of an article by Anjuna Ahuja about space-based solar power, behind a paywall in the Financial Times.

It was Isaac Asimov who first envisioned that light from our nearest star could be captured, converted into microwave radiation and then beamed down to Earth.  More than 80 years after his short story, “Reason,” was published, the idea of space-based solar power–where the panels are in orbit rather than on earth–is having a moment in the sun.

(16) PRE-WASHED GENES. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers there’s one thing you can count on finding in science fiction. That’s bad science. As in these “Five SF Stories Involving Selective Breeding”.

It might be comforting to tell oneself that eugenics—the conviction that one can breed one’s way to better humans by encouraging the fitter ones to have more children and those considered to be less fit to have fewer—was a horrible fad that went out of fashion after the unpleasantness in the mid-20th century. Of course, that’s not true. State sanctioned sterilization of those deemed inferior continues to the modern day.

It’s not surprising that science fiction authors have not always resisted the lure of eugenics as a plot starter. Why not apply to humans the same techniques that transformed the humble wolf into the majestic chihuahua? Here are five stories that engage with the notion in different ways….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is a video where over two dozen animators each did three seconds of animating a red ball then “passed” it on to another animator. “Pass the Ball”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce D. Arthurs (it’s the line following one previously used as a title).]

Pixel Scroll 12/24/21 Scrollent Green Is Made Of Pixels

(1) THE MOVING FINGER WRITES. “Russell T Davies has already written new Doctor Who episodes for 2023” reports Radio Times.

…In an interview with The Guardian, the writer has revealed some of the new episodes are already written and ready to go – but he insists the new Doctor is not yet decided.

“I’ve already written some of the episodes. The first will go out in November 2023 – that’s the 60th anniversary of the show,” he said.

Davies was tight-lipped on the topic of who will replace Whittaker as the Doctor, however….

(2) BEWARE SPOILER. Radio Times interviews “Jodie Whittaker on being exterminated by Dalek in Doctor Who”.

…Speaking about the upcoming episode, which will see her succumb to her foes a fair bit, Whittaker told press including RadioTimes.com: “When I read this episode for the first time and in one of the opening moments get exterminated I genuinely thought, ‘Somebody has decided to write me out a bit sooner than I thought!’

“It’s brilliant to play because the first time, for the Doctor, it’s as if you’re grasping at those seconds and that realisation that it could be your last moment. And for you to be killed by a Dalek would be so horrendous! But then once you realise you’re in this time loop the anticipation of the pain and the fun that can be had with that… it’s the first time in my career I’ve died so many times in an episode, there’s always a first! ”…

(3) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. Marvel shares Kate Bishop’s Yule Log.

Grab some hot cocoa and cuddle up by the fireplace at Kate Bishop’s inspired NYC apartment!

(4) HAWKEYE NON-SPOILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Hawkeye’s end of season-finale episode #6 includes the full performance of the Rogers/Avengers “I Could Do This All Day” song.

(5) TWILIGHT ZONE. Slash Film reminds everyone that “Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Is Science Fiction With A Beating Heart”.

…”The Twilight Zone” isn’t only some of the most unique and influential science fiction of all time, it’s also science fiction with a soul. Watch straight through, and you’ll see that Serling has an unmovable moral compass that always directs his narrative path to the most humane end result. It makes sense that the series is often played in marathons around the holiday season, as many episodes would make a great double feature with the Frank Capra Christmas classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The show possesses both a sense of wonder and a through-line of deep awareness of humankind’s fallibility and mortality….

(6) A LOOK AT THE NEW MATRIX FILM. Pablo Vazquez reviewed The Matrix: Resurrection on Facebook. Reprinted here with permission.

First off, let me preface this by noting that the Matrix series has been highly influential to me and cheesily responsible for getting me to read more philosophy and exploring heterodox concepts. After rewatching some scenes and talking with other folks who’ve seen the film, I think the new Matrix film is somewhere between a 5-5.5/10 and some moments border on 6/10. It is very clearly a protest film if an impotent one and I respect it for that. It’s very clear no one involved wanted to do this but they were willing to jump back in if only to maintain an element of creative control. Some scenes are quality Matrix, some are a bit too “Whedonized/Marvelized” for me, and there’s a few sequences that were far too Episode One for me to the point that they might as well have put in some podracing. The pacing was weird, the movie seemed cheaply made, the soundtrack was disappointing and the dialogue was even more so. Don’t even get me started on the fight sequences and, I gotta say, the aesthetic was rather bland for a series so well known for its aesthetics.

What did I like then? Well, probably the first half of the film where it still seemed like a Situationist critique on the power of media to shape consensus reality and a vicious attack on bland sequel culture. The sad point is it basically became the things it was obviously trying to critique. The acting was good and I loved seeing the Sense8 cast involved in something again considering Sense8 is my all-time favorite Wachowski work. I think the movie got too saccharine in its second half but I did like the “two halves of a greater whole” theme. The cinematography was also good but could’ve been better.

Would I go see it again? Probably not. Do I think people are ridiculous for liking it? Definitely not. This is very much a subjective film considering I view it as a cynical nostalgia cash-in masquerading as radical critique but, to someone, it could very well be a crucial “message movie” or some simple entertainment. Lana didn’t want to make this but I suppose her at the helm is a bit better than whatever catastrophe WB was planning in the first place without her. All in all, to me, it’s not a thinking film, it’s rather not what I was looking for with The Matrix, and way too cynical for me, but hey, I suppose that’s the world we live in now and at least it makes alright popcorn fodder if you feel like hitting up the theaters and getting your nostalgia dose.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty years ago in Australia, The Road Warrior (alt: Mad Max 2) premiered. Directed by George Miller and produced by Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music. It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. 

It was extremely well received by critics with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times saying it was “one of the most relentlessly aggressive movies ever made,” and Vincent Canby of the New York Times calling it “an extravagant film fantasy that looks like a sadomasochistic comic book come to life.” On a budget of just three million, it made thirty-six million — a rather excellent showing.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-seven rating. It would be nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation, the year Blade Runner took home the Hugo.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 24, 1910 — Fritz Leiber. I can say that my fav work by him is The Big Time which I either read or listen to every year. And yes, I’ve read the Change War Stories too, difficult to find as they were. Yes, I know it won a Hugo — much, much deserved!  I’m also fond of Conjure Wife, but otherwise I prefer his short fiction to his novels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 24, 1945 — Nicholas Meyer, 74. Superb and funny novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is.  Much better than the film, I think. Now his Time After Time film is spot on. And let’s not forget his work on the Trek films, The Wrath of Khan (much of which went uncredited), The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.  
  • Born December 24, 1964 — Mark Valley, 55. He made my Birthday list first by being the lead, Christopher Chance, in Human Target, a short-lived series created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for DC, that was weirdly well done. He was also John Scott in Fringe as a regular cast member early on. He voiced Clark Kent / Superman in the second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Born December 24, 1966 — Diedrich Bader, 53. I know him best as the voice of Batman on The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. No, he’s not Kevin Conroy but his Batman is quite enjoyable and interesting in his own right. He’s best cast as Batman / Bruce Wayne in the new Harley Quinn series on the DC Universe service.
  • Born December 24, 1969 — Mark Millar, 50. Comic book writer whose resume is long. The Millar/Quitely era on The Authority was politically edged and often got censored by DC as it commented on the Iraq War — well worth your reading. His run on Swamp Thing from 142 to 171 has a lot of other writers including Morrison. He did the Ultimates at Marvels and a lot of the superb series ended in the Avengers film. Finally, his excellent Civil War was the basis of the Captain America: Civil War film and his not to be missed Old Man Logan was the inspiration for Fox’s Logan film.

(9) COVID JOURNAL. John Skylar, Ph.D., a virologist who contracted Covid at DisCon III, is publicly documenting his experience with the virus. Thread starts here.

(10) TAIYOU CON. An Arizona anime con has had its director resign after a sexual assault claim: “Anime fans, cosplayers bow out of Arizona convention after sexual assault accusation” at Yahoo!

Cosplayers and fans of comic books, anime and video games have vowed to boycott a long-running Arizona anime convention in January due to allegations of misconduct and sexual assault against the convention’s director, who has since stepped down.

On Dec. 15, Arizona resident Allie Heady, 25, detailed in a public Facebook post that she had been sexually assaulted by someone known within the anime and cosplay communities as Gackto in December 2017. Gackto also was the name of the director of Taiyou Con, an annual anime convention scheduled for Jan. 7-9 at Mesa Convention Center.

…Heady, an anime fan who lives in Arizona, alleged in her Facebook post that she now has post-traumatic stress disorder after being sexually assaulted by Gackto four years ago.

“It’s taken me a long time to come forward and speak about this. But I continue to see him, and his posts and his ‘achievements.’ And I don’t want to,” she wrote. “And whether or not anyone believes me, I can finally get this off my chest.”

At the end of her post, Heady added a call to action: “He also created an anime convention called Taiyou Con. Please boycott it. Please understand what nightmares he has put me and others thru. Please share my story and uplift those who are maybe too afraid to come forward, because it’s happened. And I will not, I do not want to stay quiet anymore.”

(11) SPACE RONIN. [Item by Kendall.] Tons of rogue planets, Jupiter sized (which makes me wonder about smaller ones they simply can’t detect).  I wouldn’t want to meet a Jupiter in a dark alley between the stars. “Astronomers discover largest group of ‘rogue planets’ yet”The Verge has the story.

Astronomers just discovered a treasure trove of “rogue planets” — free-floating planets that don’t orbit a star but exist all by their lonesome in the depths of space. With masses comparable to that of Jupiter, the 70 or more rogue planets spotted throughout the Milky Way galaxy are the largest such group of cosmic nomads ever found.

Located within the Scorpius and Ophiuchus constellations, the planets were spotted using a suite of telescopes on both the ground and in space. Typically, rogue planets are difficult to image because they aren’t close to any stars to make them visible. However, with data compiled over 20 years from European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, and more, Núria Miret-Roig, an astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, France and the University of Vienna, Austria, and her team were able to capture faint heat signatures emitted from planets that formed within the last several million years.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Well, this is inspired! “Where Is The Comma In ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’ Supposed To Go?”

This a cappella arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” examines how commas can change meanings… often with unintended results.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/21 We’ve Replaced Their Files With Scroller’s Pixels. Let’s See If Anyone Notices

(1) CLARION WEST OCTOBER CLASSES. Clarion West is offering three more months of classes. See the full schedule here. Below are the October offerings — click the links for tuition cost and to register.

This class will discuss the history and traditions of the genre, give tips on how to update those traditions in your writing while maintaining a timeless tone, and provide suggestions on creating a modern Southern Gothic atmosphere in your writing. Students will gain a clearer understanding of the genre and its archetypes, as well as be given tools to more readily generate ideas on how to incorporate recognizable traditions of the genre into modern work.

This class is geared toward writers of long and short speculative fiction. As this is a course focusing on genre, it can be relevant to beginning, intermediate, or advanced writers unfamiliar with Southern Gothic and/or desirous of learning how to bring this genre up to date.

The Afro-Surreal is a storytelling approach allowing creators to examine Black contemporary life much more concisely than a traditional literary narrative by permitting that which is physically impossible or defies explanation. Despite Black-centered horror going mainstream, we have yet to see Afro-Surrealism incorporated widely to amplify aspects of psychological horror, weird fiction, traditional supernatural narratives, or splatterpunk. This workshop will define what constitutes Afro-Surrealism, which horror works have successfully employed it, and how to incorporate Afro-Surrealism in your writing while maintaining your own voice. Key aspects of plot, characterization, and action will be discussed, including: the overlap between the Afro-Surreal and the supernatural, dialogue and the disconnect between how marginalized and privileged people experience an interaction, the unreality of action since facts are frequently suppressed or denied when it comes to the Black experience.

Beginning, intermediate, and advanced authors can use this workshop to refine existing drafts or craft new material for future projects. Students will come away from the workshop equipped to adapt techniques developed by surrealists of the African diaspora for communicating bizarre, unreal experiences in their own horror-centric work.

Voice, Dialogue, and Characterization

Many non-Native writers are reticent to develop Native characters, but leaving out Indigenous characters is not an option, especially when writing science fiction, because it makes assumptions about the future. In the book Writing the Other, Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward give practical advice for how to write characters whose backgrounds differ from one’s own. One of their most pertinent pieces of advice is to build relationships with people from those backgrounds. A good start to building a relationship with Indigenous folks is to study their texts.

In this three-hour class, we will discuss several Indigenous futurist texts with Indigenous characters in order to learn how to diversify our science fiction (or otherwise-genred) story in a good way.

Attendees will be provided with readings for class. Writing exercises and prompts will also be provided.

This class is geared toward beginning writers.

Creatives, writers especially, are entirely too familiar with burnout, even before 2020. Trying to get your work published, let alone make a living as an author, requires a volume of effort that can be crushing. 

In this workshop, we’ll focus on regaining a sense of joy and delight in your writing, and generating ideas, characters, and settings that keep your joy front and center as you continue your journey.

How can we make the familiar scary? The aesthetics of a contemporary urban city doesn’t quite have the spine-chilling factor of an ancient village shrouded in fog, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be plenty of scares in everyday life.

In this class, attendees explore how to design new tools to build horror written in contemporary settings that take us beyond expected traditional tropes. Five excerpts from five works of horror fiction, period and contemporary, ranging from Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita to N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, will be analyzed and discussed, with the ultimate goal of understanding how these examples have gone against the grain in horror to create an original approach to a classic field. Based on these examples, students will propose their own premises and approaches to a non-traditional horror story or novel. In the second session, we will workshop those ideas, flesh them out, and exchange suggestions for improvement. Then students will write excerpts of their own premises. In the third session, we all evaluate how effective each excerpt is and how it can be improved.

How many words does it take to create true fear? There are many genres of horror that can exist in little spaces. In this workshop, attendees will learn how to create short and scary stories within the confines of micro and flash fiction (100-1,000 words). We’ll study the similarities between comedy and horror in terms of timing, expectation, and subversion. We’ll learn about wildcard characters, invented worlds, and pacing strategies to set up suspense. Throughout the workshop, we’ll stay close to character and keep an eye on how turning points and climaxes are related to the specificity of voice, desire, and fear. By the end of this workshop, participants will have the beginnings of several new horror flash pieces based on in-class writing prompts, a worksheet for outlining a short horror piece, and resources and recommendations for further reading. 

If you’ve ever wanted to include the Tarot in your novel or short story without looking like a Fool, this class will teach you how to avoid common divinatory pitfalls. Learn why an all-Majors spread is statistically unlikely (and laughably overused), the basics behind each suit’s themes, and why the Eight of Swords can be scarier than Death itself!

Alternatively, if you just want to use the Tarot to help you get unblocked in your own writing, this class can provide tips and tricks for that too. Tarot can also be used as a tool to help clarify plot arcs and themes in your writing. Iori and Vida will discuss finding (and breaking in!) the right deck, interpretation tips, and useful spreads and layouts. 

(2) INSPIRED MUSIC. And on October 9, the Bushwick Book Club Seattle presents original music inspired by Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch. This will be a hybrid in-person and livestreamed event. Get tickets here.

An evening of musicians and artists premiering new, original works inspired by the written word.

Story: For Sunny, twelve years old and albino, her arrival in Nigeria from America was shocking enough—until she discovers herself smack in the middle of a world of indescribable magic.
Themes: Self-discovery, friendship, tradition
Heads-up: Killer on the loose, racism (more at Book Trigger Warnings / Trigger Warning database)

(3) RITE GUD. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast discusses “Tragedy of the Creative Commons: Superheroes and Modern Mythology” in a new installment that dropped today.

Whenever a critic complains about the ubiquity or the creative emptiness of superhero narratives in contemporary pop culture, fans argue back that mass entertainment is just the modern incarnation of our rich cultural heritage: superheroes are mythology, and fandom is folklore. Is this true, or is this a way to flatten the complexities of traditional art while giving commercial media a spiritual significance it does not deserve?

Karlo Yeager Rodríguez joins us.

(4) LEFT BANK LOGROLLING. The New York Times covers a French literary kerfuffle: “In Paris, It’s Literary Scandal Season Again”.

The sidewalks of Paris were already strewn with fallen chestnuts by the time the literary season’s first scandal finally broke.

Most Septembers, as French publishers release their most promising books and start jockeying for prizes, the world of letters is engulfed in the Left Bank’s version of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

This season had been unfolding smoothly — unnaturally, impossibly so, some literary observers quipped — until trouble hit the one big French literary prize known for its probity: the Goncourt, the 118-year-old standard-bearer of the French novel, whose laureates include Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras.

Things started when the Goncourt’s 10 jurors gathered this month, over a lunch of roast duckling with cherries and bottles of Château Maucaillou 2015, to come up with their long list of contenders. The author of one book up for consideration happened to be the romantic partner of one of the jurors, Camille Laurens, a novelist and book reviewer at Le Monde. In fact, the book was dedicated to a certain “C.L.”

Other French prizes are also known for their jurors’ conflicts of interest.

…At the Renaudot and other big prizes, jurors openly lobby for books in which they have a personal or professional stake. Some judges are also editors at big publishing houses and advocate titles by their employers — or books they have themselves edited.

Before the changes at the Goncourt, it, too, was referred to by some critics as “the Goncourt mafia,” recalled the jury’s current president, Didier Decoin, who has been a juror since 1995.

(5) WRITING PROMO COPY. At Dream Foundry, Catherine Lundoff advises about “Words that Sell: Writing Marketing Copy for Your Novel”.

…Some day, when we can have book tables at conventions again, it’s very helpful to watch people when they pick up your books and read the back. That reaction can be magical or disappointing, but either way, it tells you when your copy grabs someone’s attention. In the meantime, look at your reviews, particularly the ones from readers. If they are consistently “expecting something else,” that may be a sign to review your marketing copy and ask writer friends to help you vet it.…

(6) THEY TURNED DOWN THE VOLUMES. The Pew Research Center can tell you “Who doesn’t read books in America?”

Roughly a quarter of American adults (23%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2021. Who are these non-book readers?

Several demographic traits are linked with not reading books, according to the survey. For instance, adults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the past year (39% vs. 11%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, an increasingly common way for adults to read e-books….

More statistical cross-sections at the link.

(7) TOMMY KIRK (1941-2021). Best known as a young Disney star, actor Tommy Kirk died September 28 at the age of 79. His first venture for Disney was in the Mickey Mouse Club’s genre-adjacent serial The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, and the studio later cast him in numerous sort-of-genre productions like The Shaggy Dog, Son of Flubber, The Absent Minded ProfessorBabes in ToylandMoon PilotThe Misadventures of Merlin Jones and The Monkey’s Uncle. He was also in several Sixties beach party movies, a couple of them sf-tinged — playing a Martian in the 1964 feature film Pajama Party, and in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. His other sff roles included the campy Village of the Giants, and Mars Needs Women. Late in his career he appeared in Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995), Billy Frankenstein (1998) and The Education of a Vampire (2001).

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1988 – Thirty-three years ago on this date, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark premiered. It was directed by James Signorelli from a script by Sam Egan, John Paragon, and of course Cassandra Peterson who is as you know the person behind the impressive facade of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. She’s really the only cast that matters here as this is Her Vehicle.  Critics liked it with one saying that it was “Campy, witty and always eager to push the bawdy limits of a PG-13 rating”. 

Unfortunately for Elvira, Mistress of the Dark at the box office the distributor went dramatically out of business without warning the day before it came out, so it would only ever appear on five hundred screens instead of the twenty-five hundred that was intended, so it ended up losing a lot of money despite only costing seven-and-a-half million to produce. (Her costume might be the most expensive thing in the film.) Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent sixty-five percent rating.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 30, 1932 — Antoinette Bower, 89. I’ll start off with her being Sylvia in the classic Trek episode of “Catspaw” written by Robert Bloch. She had a previous genre appearance in a Twilight Zone story, “Probe 7, Over and Out” in which she was Eva Nord. It’s a shaggy God story as so termed by Brian Aldiss. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleGet Smart and The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born September 30, 1946 — Dan O’Bannon. Screenwriter, director, visual effects supervisor, and  actor. He wrote the Alien script, directed The Return of the Living Dead, provided special computer effects on Star Wars, was writer of two segments of Heavy MetalSoft Landing and B-17, co-writer with Ronald Shusett and  Gary Goldman of the first Total Recall. That’s not complete listing by any stretch! (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 30, 1950 — Laura Esquivel, 71. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolateLike Water for Chocolate in English. Magical realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read. 
  • Born September 30, 1951 — Simon Hawke, 70. Author of the quite superb Wizard of 4th Street series as Well as the TimeWars series.He has written Battlestar GalacticaTrekFriday the 13th, Predator and Dungeons & Dragons novels as well as the genre adjacent Shakespeare & Smythe mysteries which bear titles such as Much Ado About Murder
  • Born September 30, 1959 — Debrah Farentino, 62. She’s was in the cast of Earth 2 (never saw it — how was it?) and the recurring character of Dr. Beverly Barlowe on Eureka (superb, her character and the series). She was also in Son of the Pink Panther, Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, and the “Mind Over Matter” episode of Outer Limits. 
  • Born September 30, 1960 — Nicola Griffith, 61. Editor with Stephen Pagel of the genre gender anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction and Bending the Landscape: Fantasy (World Fantasy Award and Lambda winner) and Bending the Landscape: HorrorAmmonite won both the Lambda and Otherwise Awards. She also garnered a Lambda and a Nebula for the most excellent Slow River. All of her novels are available from the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born September 30, 1972 — Sheree Renée Thomas, 49. Writer, Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems and Sleeping Under the Tree of Life; Editor, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora which won a World Fantasy Award, and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones which also won a World Fantasy Award. She’s also written a variety of poems and essays including “Dear Octavia, Octavia E. Butler, Ms. Butler, Mother of Changes”. In 2020, Thomas was named editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full proves no matter where you go there’s no escaping the spam.

(11) GUESSING WHO. Radio Times speculates about “Who will be the next Doctor Who after Jodie Whittaker?”.

At the moment there’s not much to go on, and the BBC have only said the decision will be revealed “in due course” – but, based on a few of the names swirling about, our own theories about how the next Doctor would be chosen and recommendations from RadioTimes.com staff, here are a few of our picks for the Fourteenth Doctor.

Spoiler alert: we are almost certainly wrong. But if we’re right, well, you heard (or read) it here first….

Meanwhile, “Billie Piper hints at possible Doctor Who return”.

The I Hate Suzie star, who played the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s companion Rose Tyler from 2005 until 2008, said in a recent Cameo video that she would consider reprising the iconic role if the moment was right.

“Would I ever go back? I think if the circumstances and the story were right,” she said. “I feel like I’ve had enough time away from it to really, really want back in on it.

“I feel like my kids are are at a good age and may appreciate that too, which is often my incentive to do anything.”…

And Radio Times’ Paul Kirkley adds his own evidence-free guesses about “What to expect from Russell T Davies’ return”.

…Will it be easy, this gear shift? Not for a second. Firstly, anyone who thinks this is going to mean a return to regular Saturday night audiences of eight million (faithful) viewers is probably deluding themselves; that world no longer exists. Sure, the likes of Line of Duty and Vigil may have proved that reports of linear TV’s death continue to be exaggerated, but Doctor Who relies on continually refreshing its audience with a new generation of younger viewers. And, as Ofcom has warned, the traditional broadcasters are currently staring down the barrel of a “lost generation” who, lured away by sexy young buzz brands like Netflix, Disney Plus and YouTube, increasingly view the BBC as that funny old thing your nan watches in the afternoons. (BBC One’s average viewing age, lest we forget, is 61.)

… If, as hinted, Russell does want to expand the Doctor Who “empire”, what sort of expanded portfolio might we reasonably expect? The short answer: haven’t got a Scooby. But has that stopped you starting to build your own fantasy Doctor Who Cinematic Universe in your head? Of course it hasn’t.

So what’s on your bingo card? How about an anthology series featuring one-shot appearances from former – possibly unseen – Doctors? (Hugh Grant as a pre-Hartnell Doctor, anyone?) A stylish period spy-fi drama about the early years of UNIT? Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor versus The Division? A Dalek cartoon for the kids? The Humker and Tandrell Adventures…?

Will Russell be dusting off his proposal for Rose Tyler: Earth Defender? Is Torchwood coming back? (Er, probably not.) And will they please, for the love of the mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe, just give us something – anything – with Paul McGann in?

(12) PRODUCT PLACEMENT IN PRATCHETT. [Item by Meredith.] This is old (a 2011 post) but it’s so incredible I thought it might still deserve a spot in the Scroll: Terry Pratchett changes his German publisher because they inserted a soup advert into the text of one of his novels. “Terry Pratchett and the Maggi Soup Adverts” at Stuffed Crocodile.

…Fans of course got used to it, if it gave them access to the books, why not? But it became more and more grating the more genre literature was accepted into mainstream.

And then you actually had a bestseller author like Pratchett jump ship and go to the direct contender (Goldmann), just because one of these stupid stunts. I wonder how that actually was taken by the Heyne CEOs. Back then Pratchett was at the verge of becoming a star in Germany as well, so they lost him just when he was getting big….

There’s a scan of an ad in the post, too.

Diane Duane also wrote a post (with scans) on her blog in 2015: “What’s the Rihannsu for ‘soup’?” at Out of Ambit.

If the above (and below) images look a little bizarre, well, they should. They’re from long-ago German editions of My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way into which the publisher inserted soup ads.

(13) NANO BUNDLE. StoryBundle is offering a 2021 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle, curated by Kevin J. Anderson.

Each year, as countless determined writers, both aspiring and professional, look at November as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, we put together a grab back of helpful books that cover all aspects of writing, from craft, to business, to indie publishing, to marketing. This year is no exception.

Presenting a world-class StoryBundle of 16 books that will help you up your game as a writer. Plus, if you meet the bonus price, you can also get discount coupon codes for the ebook editing apps Jutoh 3 and Jutoh 3 Plus!

(14) IT’S A THEORY. Did social media clamoring for actress Lucy Lawless to be cast backfire? “Lucy Lawless Says ‘Mandalorian’ Fan Campaign to Replace Gina Carano Hurt Chances of ‘Star Wars’ Gig” at Yahoo!.

…Lawless revealed to Metro that she was actually circling a different “Star Wars”-adjacent role at the time of Carano’s firing, and she said the fans urging for her “Mandalorian” casting might’ve cost her a trip to a galaxy far, far away.

“Well to be honest with you, I was already in discussions about something on — it wasn’t ‘The Mandalorian’ — something Star Wars-affiliated,’ Lawless said. “[The fan campaign] might have hurt me in some way, because then [Lucasfilm] couldn’t hire me because it would seem to be pandering to…I’m just guessing here, I don’t know anything, but in some ways, it can be unhelpful, because if they pander to this fan group, then how are you going to pander to every other fan group, do you know what I mean?”…

(15) OCTOTHORPE. The Octothorpe podcast team, John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty, say about episode 41: “We recorded this before Fantasycon, but that didn’t stop us talking about it a whole bunch. We also talk about Novacon’s COVID policy, discuss the Ignyte Awards and do picks.”  “Leaves the Beans In”.

(16) ICE CUBE ROOTER. The New York Times knows “Where NASA Will Send Its First Robotic Moon Rover to Search for Ice”.

NASA has been planning for years to send a robotic rover to the moon’s polar regions. Water ice trapped at the bottoms of craters there could be a boon to future visiting astronauts, providing water to drink, air to breathe and rocket fuel to propel them back to Earth or even farther out into the solar system.

Now, NASA has identified the crater that the rover — the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER — will spend about 100 days exploring when it arrives in a couple of years.

VIPER will land near the moon’s south pole, at the western edge of the 45-mile-wide Nobile crater, which formed when something hit the moon. Near the poles, the sun is low on the horizon and the bottoms of craters, lying in permanent shadows, are among the coldest places in the solar system….

(17) BEYOND GOOSEBUMPS. SYFY Wire promotes the trailer for a new series based on R.L. Stine’s YA comic: “Just Beyond on Disney+ drops first spooky trailer for R.L. Stine series”.

Just Beyond. Based on the BOOM! Studios YA comic of the same name (written by Goosebumps and Fear Street creator, R.L. Stine), the eight-episode anthology heads for Disney+ in October. 

The official press release teases a collection of “astonishing and thought-provoking stories” about witches, aliens, ghosts, parallel dimensions, and more. Each episode will feature an entirely new cast of characters “who must go on a surprising journey of self-discovery in a supernatural world.” 

Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and one of the writers behind HBO Max’s upcoming Green Lantern series) serves as writer, executive producer, and showrunner….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: WarioWare: Get It together!” Fandom Games says this new extension of the Warioware franchise features snappy little games with characters named 5-Volt, 9-Volt, and 12-Volt and in the next edition they’ll  “eliminate the middleman,” and is a snack-size alternative to watching TikTok videos of men punching themselves over and over.

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

Russell T Davies Returning as Doctor Who Showrunner

Russell T Davies is coming back to take charge of Doctor Who, the show he helped revive in 2005, the BBC announced today.

Davies, who ran the show until 2009, will take over when Chris Chibnall departs next year. High on his to-do list will be picking the successor to actress Jodie Whittaker, the first female to play the Time Lord, who will leave in 2022 after the show’s 13th series, the last overseen by Chibnall.

“I’m beyond excited to be back on my favorite show,” said Davies, who resumes his role as Doctor Who prepares to mark its 60th anniversary in 2023.

In between Davies and Chibnall, Steven Moffatt helmed the show.

Davies’ return was also welcomed by Bad Wolf, the production company founded in 2015 by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter. Gardner and Tranter both worked with Davies on the Doctor Who relaunch and will collaborate with him again when he returns as showrunner.

Pixel Scroll 1/24/21 Big Pixel in Little Scroll

(1) CHALLENGER COIN. On January 28, the 35th anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster, the U.S. Mint will release the Christa McAuliffe 2021 Proof Silver Dollar and Christa McAuliffe 2021 Uncirculated Silver Dollar. [H/t to Guy Lillian III.]

 In 2021, the United States Mint will mint silver dollars with proof and uncirculated finishes to commemorate the life of Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher selected in 1985 to be the first participant in NASA’s Teacher in Space Program. On January 28, 1986, McAuliffe and six astronauts were tragically killed during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Her memory and dedication live on.

Surcharges in the amount of $10 for each silver dollar sold are authorized to be paid to the FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics program to engage and inspire young people—through mentor-based programs—to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

FIRST is dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Christa McAuliffe by inspiring students and creating a new generation of dreamers and innovators.

Obverse
Features a portrait of Christa McAuliffe with a hopeful gaze. Inscriptions are “CHRISTA McAULIFFE,” “2021,” “LIBERTY,” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Reverse
Depicts Christa McAuliffe as a teacher, smiling as she points forward and upward—symbolizing the future. Three high school-age students look on with wonder. The seven stars above them pay tribute to those who perished in the Challenger tragedy. 

(2) I COULD OF BEEN A CONTENDER. In Radio Times, former Doctor Who showrunner “Russell T Davies pitches MCU-style Doctor Who universe”.

…“I was in the middle of running an empire,” Davies said of his time on Doctor Who. “And my god I did that 10 years too soon, didn’t I?”

The screenwriter is referencing the point at which his run on the show included spin-offs Torchwood and  The Sarah Jane Adventures, which ran alongside – and occasionally crossed over with – the main series.

Notably, this was before Marvel Studios enjoyed its meteoric surge in popularity, normalising the concept of shared universes in film and television.

Davies continued: “There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely.”

The most recent Doctor Who spin-offs are 2016’s Class, which was cancelled after one season, and the recent YouTube series Daleks!, consisting of five episodes between 10-15 minutes long.

(3) THE YEAR IN MANGA. ICV2 posted the sales leaders from 2020: “Full Year 2020 NPD BookScan – Top 20 Adult Graphic Novels”. They say COVID-19 lockdown led to more people reading whole manga series, of which My Hero Academia is the popular favorite. Watchmen sneaked onto the list, too.

We can get the long view of the past year from the list of the top 20 adult graphic novels in the book channel, based on NPD BookScan data for 2020 (1/5/20-1/2/21) provided to ICv2.

The top selling title is Volume 1 of My Hero Academia, which isn’t surprising as it has been leading the monthly charts lately.  Nine of the top 20 slots are volumes of this series, and the fact that the first five and the last four volumes are the ones that are selling best indicate two things: New readers continue to come to the series, and they are sticking with it.  It’s not unusual to see the first volume or two of a series sell well enough to make the chart, but these nine volumes suggest this is a series people are sticking with.

The remaining manga are all first volumes (or in the cast of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the first two). 

(4) MONSTER MASH. The Godzilla vs. Kong Official Trailer has dropped. In theaters and streaming exclusively on HBOMax on March 26. SYFY Wire sets the stage.

Directed by Adam Wingard (Death Note), the film sees the return of Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler, along with franchise newcomers Alexander Skarsgard, Brain Tyree Henry, Rebecca Hall, and Demian Bichir, among others. And from what we can gather, they’re in for a seismic shakeup: The story focuses on a young girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who it seems can communicate with Kong. The girl’s gifts may prove essential to a team of experts, led by Skarsgard, who seek the hulking beast. “We need Kong,” Skarsgard’s character, Nathan Lind, implores. “The world needs him, to stop what’s coming.”

(5) ZOOMING WITH TED WHITE. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari says their Fan History Zoom series featuring a Ted White interview by John D. Berry “was very successful with over 50 people signed up for the Zoom. The session was planned for about an hour and went over two hours. And people clamored for more.”

And in fact they’re getting more. Siclari says they have scheduled a continuation session for Saturday February 6 at 4 p.m. Please RSVP at fanac@fanac.org

In the first session Ted told about his fannish Origins and about his early career as a jazz music critic. He covered things like fanzine design and theory, working with 1950s fanzine editors, starting a Worldcon in New York City and other interesting topics. Part one of the first session is now on our YouTube Fan History Channel.

(6) BERNSTEIN OBIT. The New York Times reports “Walter Bernstein, Celebrated Screenwriter, Is Dead at 101”. He died January 23. His movies included Fail Safe, and The Front, based on his own experience of being blacklisted.

…Mr. Bernstein was considered untouchable both in Hollywood and in the fledgling television industry in New York once his name appeared in “Red Channels,” an anti-Communist tract published in 1950 by the right-wing journal Counterattack.

“I was listed right after Lenny Bernstein,” Mr. Bernstein recalled. “There were about eight listings for me, and they were all true.” He had indeed written for the leftist New Masses, been a member of the Communist Party and supported Soviet relief, the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and civil rights.

Mr. Bernstein and other blacklisted writers were forced to work under assumed names for sympathetic filmmakers like Sidney Lumet, who used Mr. Bernstein, now back in New York, throughout the ’50s on “You Are There,” the CBS program hosted by Walter Cronkite that re-enacted great moments in history.

It was during this period that Mr. Bernstein and his colleagues, notably the writers Abraham Polonsky and Arnold Manoff, began the ruse of protecting their anonymity by sending stand-ins to represent them at meetings with producers, a ploy later dramatized in “The Front.” (In addition to Mr. Allen, the movie starred Zero Mostel, who, like the film’s director, Mr. Ritt, had also been blacklisted.)

“Suddenly, the blacklist had achieved for the writer what he had previously only aspired to,” Mr. Bernstein joked in “Inside Out.” “He was considered necessary.”…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

January 24, 1969 — Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.

“What is it, Jim?”

“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”

– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost

This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventh episode of the final season.  It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 24, 1776 – E.T.A. Hoffmann.  Author of words, music, graphics; jurist; theater manager; critic; three novels, fifty shorter stories for us; source of Offenbach’s opera Tales of Hoffmann, Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker, Delibes’ ballet Coppélia; as A.J. Budrys said in the Jul 68 Galaxy, “a gifted music critic and competent composer…. this man, who was real and who thought some very interesting thoughts, [laid] down the groundwork for some of our most enduring themes,” recommending particularly “The Golden Flower Pot,” “Automata,” and “The Sand-Man” in Bleiler ed. 1968, The Best Tales of Hoffmann, whose cover illustration is by H.  (Died 1822) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1862 – Edith Wharton.  Two dozen short stories for us (alas, “A Bottle of Evian” was republished as “A Bottle of Perrier”, but tastes vary), well known otherwise e.g. for The Age of Innocence (with which she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature).  Fluent in French, German, Italian.  Active supporter of French World War I efforts; Legion of Honor.  Honorary doctorate from Yale.  Fifteen novels, ninety shorter stories, poetry, design, travel, criticism, memoir A Backward Glance.  (Died 1937) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1911 —  C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written collaboratively resulting in such delightful stories as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of SugarfootMaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind (2010). Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1930 – John Romita, age 91.  Worked for Atlas, DC, eventually transforming Marvel’s Spider-Man from the drawing of Steve Ditko (although “People laugh when I say this, but…. I wanted to stay on Daredevil”), among much else designing Mary Jane Watson, the Rhino, the Kingpin.  Marvel’s Art Director.  Inkpot Award.  Eisner Hall of Fame.  Sinnott Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1936 – Douglas Chaffee.  Fifty covers, forty interiors for us; Dungeons & DragonsMagic, the Gathering.  Head of IBM’s Art Department.  NASA, the Navy, National Geographic (illustrating Carl Sagan on Mars, I mean about Mars), Bible schools.  Artist Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 29, Archon 19, EerieCon 3.  Phoenix Award.  Frank Paul Award.  Here is the Apr 67 Galaxy.  Here is the Dec 72 Fantastic.  Here is the Program Book for ConFederation the 44th Worldcon.  More archived here.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1942 Gary K. Wolf, 78. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film.  (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 77. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series, and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive. (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1947 – Michio Kaku, Ph.D., age 74.  (Personal name first, U.S. style.)  Physicist and, as it has been called, physics outreach specialist, e.g. HyperspacePhysics of the ImpossiblePhysics of the Future, radio, television, film.  Summa cum laude at Harvard (and indeed won the Hertz Engineering Scholarship, but I ain’t talkin’).  Professor of theoretical physics at City College NY.  String-theory pioneer.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1949 —  John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982) (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 54. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1986 – Aimée Carter, age 35.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories for us; eight other novels.  Tae kwon do first-degree black belt.  Her Univ. Michigan degree in Screen Arts & Cultures is “a fancy way of saying [I] watched a lot of old movies and wrote a lot of bad screenplays”.  [JH]

(9) ROY V. HUNT ART BOOK. First Fandom Experience’s retrospective of the fan, artist and illustrator Roy V. Hunt is available for pre-order.

This 144-page volume offers an extensive collection that covers the full span of Hunt’s career. It includes many exceptionally scarce fanzine illustrations, amazing wood block prints created for the WPA in the 1940s and his professional work for pulps and FPCI. Hunt’s work is put in perspective in a foreword by Martin Mahoney, Director of Operations and Collections at the Norman Rockwell Museum. As you’d expect from FFE, we include lots of historical context and a full index of works.

…Roy Vernon Hunt lived and worked in Denver, Colorado from 1914 until his passing in 1986. His first published art appeared in the fanzine The Alchemist in February 1940. Hunt was a founding member of the Colorado Fantasy Society, a group formed to organize the 1941 World Science Fiction Convention in Denver.

Hunt is obscure, even among ardent science fiction historians. Our interest was first sparked by a remarkable artifact: an illustration included in the Spring 1941 issue of the fanzine Starlight. The image struck us as perhaps the best ever rendering of H.P. Lovecraft’s iconic Elder God, Cthulhu….

(10) IWERKS, THE NEXT GENERATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard a podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Leslie Iwerks,  Iwerks comes from Disney royalty.  Her grandfather, Ub Iwerks, collaborated with Disney on very early cartoons, when he could personally produce 700 drawings a day.  He then was poached by another studio for a few years and returned to Disney as chief technical officer and the first “imagineer,”  Iwerks’ father, Don Iwerks, is, at 91, one of the few people who knew Walt Disney well enough to tell Disney stories.

Iwerks heads Iwerks & Co., and half of her films are environmental (including one on residents of a garbage dump in Guatemala  that was Oscar nominated) that and half are genre-related,   She’s done two films about Pixar and one on the League of Legends video game.  Her most recent achievement is “The Imagineering Story,” a six-part documentary about the technical side of Disney that is the most streamed show on Disney Plus after The Mandalorian.  It took her five years to produce and has a lot of rare archival footage.

Her website is iwerksandco.com. Here is the trailer for “The Imagineering Story.”

(11) YOUNGARTS. In the WASHINGTON POST, Kelsey Ables reports on a program of the National YoungArts program where 19 artists were commissioned to make portraits of birds and the paintings are being turned into a four-minute animated film by Igor + Valentine which will be posted on the YoungArts website tomorrow night.  YoungArts will then sell 1,500 stills from the film for $175 each with proceeds to be split between the foundation and the artists who supplied the paintings. “National YoungArts Foundation releases animated short with work by KAWS and Shepard Fairey”.

… Set to debut on the YoungArts website on Monday at 8 p.m., “Together” features work by 18 artists, who were each commissioned to create a bird. The works — polymer clay, embroidery on canvas, paintings — have been animated by Igor + Valentine. The final product, a four-minute-long short, is a collage of moving images set to meditative music by YoungArts alumna Nora Kroll Rosenbaum.

“Together” boasts contributions from big-name artists like art-market star KAWS and Shepard Fairey — of Barack Obama “Hope” poster fame — both supporters of YoungArts.Fairey’s contribution, a brown thrasher rendered in red ink, has his signature street-inspired wheatpaste look, and KAWS’s bird is immediately recognizable for its X-ed out eyes. But with an eclectic array of contributions — there is a cartoony, triangular bird by Isabela Dos Santos and a more abstract creation from Sheree Hovsepian — the video is less about individual artists standing out than it is about mixing disparate artistic styles. Bringing artists together that you would be unlikely to see congregated in a single gallery — let alone on the same canvas — the video is born of experimentation necessitated by a covid-19 world. YoungArts says it is meant as a message of solidarity and interconnectedness. And at an arts-starved moment, it’s a visual treat….

(12) CYBERDUD. Bloomberg does a deep dive into “Cyberpunk 2077: What Caused the Video Game’s Disastrous Rollout”.

… Interviews with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt staff, most of whom requested anonymity so as not to risk their careers, depict a development process marred by unchecked ambition, poor planning and technical shortcomings.

… Adrian Jakubiak, a former audio programmer for CD Projekt, said one of his colleagues asked during a meeting how the company thought it would be able to pull off a technically more challenging project in the same timeframe as The Witcher. “Someone answered: ‘We’ll figure it out along the way,’” he said.

For years, CD Projekt had thrived on that mentality. But this time, the company wasn’t able to pull it off. “I knew it wasn’t going to go well,” said Jakubiak. “I just didn’t know how disastrous it would be.”

Part of the fans’ disappointment is proportional to the amount of time they spent waiting for the game. Although Cyberpunk was announced in 2012, the company was then still mainly focused on its last title and full development didn’t start until late 2016, employees said. That was when CD Projekt essentially hit the reset button, according to people familiar with the project.

Studio head Adam Badowski took over as director, demanding overhauls to Cyberpunk’s gameplay and story. For the next year, everything was changing, including fundamental elements like the game-play perspective. Top staff who had worked on The Witcher 3 had strong opinions on how Cyberpunk should be made, which clashed with Badowski and lead to the eventual departure of several top developers….

(13) ROCK ‘N ROLL. How’d you like that staring back at you from a geode?

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/20 Back In The Future I Was On A Very Famous Pixel Scroll

Illo by Teddy Harvia and Brad Foster.

(1) THE DOCTOR IS BACK IN. In 2013 Russell T. Davies was asked to write a magazine contribution filling in a blank about the Ninth Doctor’s regeneration. His piece got spiked – for Reasons. Read it now at the official Doctor Who blog: “Russell T Davies writes a prequel to Doctor Who – Rose.”

So I wrote this. It even starts mid-sentence, as if you’ve just turned to the last pages. Lee Binding created a beautiful cover. We were excited! And then Tom said, I’d better run this past Steven Moffat, just in case…

Oh, said Steven. Oh. How could we have known? That the Day of the Doctor would have an extra Doctor, a War Doctor? And Steven didn’t even tell us about Night of the Doctor, he kept that regeneration a complete surprise! He just said, sorry, can you lay off that whole area? I agreed, harrumphed, went to bed and told him he was sleeping on the settee that night.

So the idea was snuffed a-borning. Until 2020….

This chapter only died because it became, continuity-wise, incorrect. But now, the Thirteenth Doctor has shown us Doctors galore, with infinite possibilities.

All Doctors exist. All stories are true. So come with me now, to the distant reefs of a terrible war, as the Doctor takes the Moment and changes both the universe and themselves forever…

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The March 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Paciente Cero,” by Juan Villoro. Tagline: “A stirring short story about China turning Mexico into a massive recycling plant for U.S. garbage.”

It was published along with a response essay, “How China Turns Trash Into Wealth” by Adam Minter, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and an expert on recycling and waste issues.

… Guo Guanghui, vice chairman of a scrap metal recycling trade association in Qingyuan, a thriving industrial town roughly two hours north of us, took the podium. Guo wanted to talk about a government policy that roughly translates as “going out,” designed to help Chinese businesses set up operations abroad. He thought it a good idea for the government to help recycling companies “go out” to foreign countries where they could buy up recyclables and ship them back to China. “We need to get rid of the ability of the other countries to control the resources,” he declared from the podium, “and seize them for ourselves.”

(3) EELEEN LEE Q&A. “Interview: Eeleen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale”, with questions from Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson.

NOAF: What inspired you to write Liquid Crystal Nightingale? How different is the finished product from your original concepts?

EL: The novel began as a simple exercise years ago: write about a few fictional cities, in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. As soon as I started writing about a city that looked like a cat’s eye from space I couldn’t stop at a few paragraphs. The style and tone were initially very literary, reminiscent of Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table and the layered stories of Jorges Luis Borges.

(4) IMPERILED CITY. Cate Matthews did an interview for TIME with N.K. Jemisin as “Author N.K. Jemisin On Race, Gentrification, and the Power of Fiction To Bring People Together.”

TIME: The tone of The City We Became is more light-hearted than much of your previous work, but the novel still addresses serious issues—including the perils of gentrification. Why did you want to tell this story?

Jemisin: I’ve always thought of my writing as therapy. I do have a therapist, but there was a time I couldn’t afford one and writing was the way I vented anger and stress and fear and longing and all of the things that I did not have a real-world outlet for. A lot of times I don’t really understand what it is that I’m trying to cope with until after I’ve finished the book. With the Broken Earth trilogy, I realized belatedly that I was processing my mom’s imminent death. She did pass away while I was writing The Stone Sky. Mid-life crises are not always triggered by getting old, they’re also triggered by an event. And Mom’s death did spur a period of [needing] to grow new things and try new things. I started to think about buying a house. I wasn’t going to be able to buy in Crown Heights, which was the New York neighborhood I had been in, because Crown Heights had hit, like, fourth stage gentrification. Over the time I was here, I watched it change.

(5) HIGH DUDGEON. Wendy Paris demands to know “If marijuana is essential during the coronavirus shutdown, why not books?” in an LA Times op-ed.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home edicts let dispensaries stay open but force bookshops to shutter indefinitely. Chevalier’s in Larchmont will take phone orders. Skylight Books in Los Feliz, Book Soup in West Hollywood and Vroman’s in Pasadena are “closed temporarily” but forwarding online orders to Ingram, a wholesaler that will ship direct to buyers. The Last Bookstore, downtown, is seeing customers by appointment.

…Books are essential goods and that ought to mean bookstores are exempt from shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. As are bread and milk, gas and aspirin, alcohol and marijuana, books should be available, with safety precautions in place, at the usual places we buy them in our neighborhoods.

(6) WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD. ShoutFactoryTV has made available the complete documentary released last year: “What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.

Ira Steven Behr explores the legacy of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993).

(7) BE PREPARED. “Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse” at BoingBoing.

My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.

I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes….

(8) MORE TBR FODDER. Lucy Scholes points to another example of the kind of book a lot of people are seeking out lately: “What’s It Like Out?” in The Paris Review.

…Seems like none of us can get enough of stories that echo our current moment, myself included. Fittingly, though, as the author of this column, I found myself drawn to a scarily appropriate but much less widely known plague novel: One by One, by the English writer and critic Penelope Gilliatt.

Originally published in 1965, this was the first novel by Gilliat, who was then the chief film critic for the British newspaper the Observer. It’s ostensibly the story of a marriage—that of Joe Talbot, a vet, and his heavily pregnant wife, Polly—but set against the astonishing backdrop of a mysterious but fatal pestilence. The first cases are diagnosed in London at the beginning of August, but by the third week of the month, ten thousand people are dead….

(9) THE VIRTUE OF VIRTUAL. [Item by Mlex.] In light of the proposed “virtual cons” for Balticon and Worldcon 2020, CoNZealand, I wanted to suggest as a model a new conference that started on March 30th called “Future States,” about the history of periodical culture.

It was planned from the beginning as a “carbon neutral” event to be held completely online.  Now that I have logged in and see how it is set up, I am really impressed by the thought that went into it.

There are keynotes, panel sessions, and forums, which are neatly linked to the video presentations, and the Q&A sessions.  All of the participants can join in to pose questions and comment on the individual presentation threads. 

There is a also a Foyer and a Noticeboard, where you can contact the panelist, or for the con to push updates.  

For those planning virtual cons, take a look:  https://www.futurestates.org/

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 31, 1844 Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for children were published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.)
  • Born March 31, 1926 John Fowles. British author best remembered for The French Lieutenant’s Woman but who did several works of genre fiction, The Magus which I read a long time ago and A Maggot which I’ve not read. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 31, 1932 John Jakes, 88. Author of a number of genre series including Brak the Barbarian. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as FantasticDark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968.
  • Born March 31, 1934 Richard Chamberlain, 86. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) Some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He’s listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBoris Karloff’s ThrillerChuck and Twin Peaks
  • Born March 31, 1936 Marge Piercy, 84. Author of He, She and It which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course, she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called a “classic of utopian speculative sf”. 
  • Born March 31, 1943 Christopher Walken, 77. Yet another performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, this time as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t then I haven’t actually seen it yet. And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
  • Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 60. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was the first one. Ares Express was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. Everness was fun but ultimately shallow. Strongly recommend both Devish House and River of Gods. Luna series at first blush didn’t impress me me, so other opinions are sought on it.
  • Born March 31, 1971 Ewan McGregor, 49. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film.  That was followed by The Phantom Menace with him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.

(11) GET YOUR GOJIRA FIX. “Resurfaced Godzilla Film Goes Viral for One Fan Playing All the Parts”Comicbook.com points the way. (The video is on YouTube here.)

We’ve been waiting for the final part of Legendary’s Monsterverse quadrilogy, Godzilla vs. Kong, for quite some time. Initially scheduled for a release this March before being moved to a Fall 2020 release (and potentially even more so if delays over the coronavirus pandemic continues into late in the year), there’s been a hunger for more of the Godzilla films ever since King of the Monsters released. But as it turns out, this has been a problem fans of the famous kaiju for several decades now as they continue to wait for the next big film of the franchise.

A fan film featuring the Kaiju from the 1990s has resurfaced online, and has gone viral among fans of the famous kaiju for featuring a single actor playing all of the roles. Even more hilariously, the actor not only continues to wear the same suit for each part but even takes on the roles of inanimate objects such as the electrical pylons as well. You can check it out in the video above:

(12) SIX PACK. Paul Weimer pages through “Six Books with Ryan Van Loan”, author of The Sin in the Steel, at Nerds of a Feather.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. It’s about a newly minted thief who has to pay off their student loan debts to the guild (relatable), a witch-in training, and a kickass knight with a war raven who go on an adventure together. It’s dark, but delightful in a gritty way that hits some of my favorite adventure fantasy notes. Fans of Nicholas Eames, Douglas Hulick, and V.E. Schwab will enjoy this one…unfortunately Christopher’s fantasy debut doesn’t land on shelves until next year.

I hate when someone names a book that’s not out on shelves right now, so let me also plug the book I read before this one: The Steel Crow Saga by Paul Kreuger. It’s a tight, standalone fantasy–think Pokemon in the immediate aftermath of World War II with half a dozen richly imagined cultures that reminded me of southeast Asia and a cast who all have mysteries they hope none discover.

(13) NOT WORKING FROM HOME? NPR’s news isn’t fake, but can you count on that being true about the next item you read? “Facebook, YouTube Warn Of More Mistakes As Machines Replace Moderators”.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are relying more heavily on automated systems to flag content that violate their rules, as tech workers were sent home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But that shift could mean more mistakes — some posts or videos that should be taken down might stay up, and others might be incorrectly removed. It comes at a time when the volume of content the platforms have to review is skyrocketing, as they clamp down on misinformation about the pandemic.

Tech companies have been saying for years that they want computers to take on more of the work of keeping misinformation, violence and other objectionable content off their platforms. Now the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating their use of algorithms rather than human reviewers.

(14) BUT SOME DISCRETION. Maybe you can! “Coronavirus: World leaders’ posts deleted over fake news”.

Facebook and Twitter have deleted posts from world leaders for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

Facebook deleted a video from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that claimed hydroxychloroquine was totally effective in treating the virus.

He has repeatedly downplayed the virus and encouraged Brazilians to ignore medical advice on social distancing.

It follows Twitter’s deletion of a homemade treatment tweeted by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Both social networks rarely interfere with messages from world leaders, even when they are verifiably untrue.

Twitter, for example, says it will “will err on the side of leaving the content up” when world leaders break the rules, citing the public interest.

But all major social networks are under pressure to combat misinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

(15) TAIL TALES. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy goes “Questing in Shorts: March 2020”. First up:

The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A.J. Fitzwater (Queen of Swords Press)

This collection, featuring a capybara pirate captain in a world full of anthropomorphic animals and magical creatures, is definitely more of a short fiction collection than a novel, but it’s also a bit of an odd duck when trying to review as short stories, as there’s a strong through narrative between each tale (or “tail”) that makes it hard to speak about them individually. After an opening story (the aptly titled “Young Cinrak”) that sees Cinrak take her first steps into piracy (in this world, apparently respectable career for those seeking freedom and a good community around them), the rest of the collection deals with her time as an established captain, taking on an increasingly mythological set of exploits, all while maintaining the affections of both opera prima donna Loquolchi, and the Rat Queen Orvillia, and looking after her diverse and entertaining crew of rodents and affiliated creatures…..

(16) HISTORY ON THE ROCKS. Pollution and politics were entangled even in ancient days; the BBC reports — “Thomas Becket: Alpine ice sheds light on medieval murder”.

Ancient air pollution, trapped in ice, reveals new details about life and death in 12th Century Britain.

In a study, scientists have found traces of lead, transported on the winds from British mines that operated in the late 1100s.

Air pollution from lead in this time period was as bad as during the industrial revolution centuries later.

The pollution also sheds light on a notorious murder of the medieval era; the killing of Thomas Becket…

(17) TUNE IN. Enjoy a BBC archival video clip: “John Williams scoring ‘Empire’, 1980”. (16 min.)

John Williams at work, preparing the score for The Empire Strikes Back. This Clip is from Star Wars: Music by John Williams. Originally broadcast 18 May 1980

(18) ICONOCLAST. Writing for CinemaBlend, Mick Joest shares what may prove to be a controversial opinion: “Face It, Luke Skywalker Peaked With The Death Star’s Destruction.”

With the Skywalker Saga now finished and opinions being handed out left and right in regards to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, I think it’s time for a take that, frankly, is long overdue. During a recent re-watch of the Original Trilogy I had a blast and still love those movies as much as I ever have. That said, looking back now on all that’s come after and what came before, I don’t believe Luke Skywalker ever did anything greater than destroying the first Death Star.

That’s it, there’s the take, but of course I’m not going to just throw that out there and let the hellfire of disgruntled Star Wars fans rain down. I have a lot more to say about Luke Skywalker, his biggest achievement and how nothing he ever did after really came close to it…

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

Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Top Elf, PhilRM, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]