Pixel Scroll 9/10/23 The Scroll Goes Ever On And On, Far From The File Where It Began

(1) GETTING COVERS BACK OUT FRONT. Entrepreneur assesses “Why Book Covers Are Making a Comeback”.

…Driven by visual social media and digital reading innovations, book cover design is reclaiming significance. Publishers are investing more in illustrated covers over text-dominant designs. Authors are regaining control over cover direction. Book cover reveals have become standalone social media events driving buzz. In many ways, we are witnessing a renaissance in the aesthetics and art of book covers. Let’s examine the forces driving this comeback.

…. Another paradoxical force spurring the comeback of print-style covers is the rise of e-books. With e-readers like Kindle gaining adoption, publishers feared print covers would lose significance. But an unexpected opposite effect occurred.

E-readers triggered innovations in e-book cover design that looped back to influence print covers. Interactive e-book covers came to life through animation and video. Digital-first elements like neon textures or holographic finishes became popular. E-book-first series that went viral, like ambitious illustrated covers for epic fantasy novels, crossed back over to print.

Reading ecosystem convergence is also elevating covers. Services like Amazon Matchbook give e-book copies of print purchases, keeping hardcover artwork relevant. Companies popularized custom dust jackets as consumable cover accessories. Display-worthy book boxes and monthly subscription book packages rely on striking cover reveals….

(2) STINKERS ALSO EDUCATE THE PALATE. “Legendary writer Alan Moore explains why it’s important to read ‘terrible’ books not just good ones” at Upworthy.

…“As a prospective writer, I would urge you to not only read good books. Read terrible books as well, because they can be more inspiring than the good books,” Moore says in a clip taken from his BBC Maestro online storytelling course.

“If you are inspired by a good book, there’s always the danger of plagiarism, of doing something that is too much like that good book,” Moore says in the video. “Whereas, a genuinely helpful reaction to a piece of work that you’re reading is, ‘Jesus Christ, I could write this sh*t!’ That is immensely liberating — to find somebody who is published who is doing much, much worse than you.”

Moore also believes that being exposed to bad writing can help you learn from other writers’ mistakes. Knowing why something doesn’t work can be as valuable as understanding why something succeeds….

(3) BLAZING THE WAY. Slashfilm documents “How Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling Pioneered The Sci-Fi Genre For Years To Come”.

…On the PBS website for American Masters, several notable artists were put on the record as to their fandom of Serling’s show. One might easily guess that Jordan Peele was a fan of “The Twilight Zone” as he served as executive producer and narrator for the 2019 revival. It will also shock no one to learn that Stephen King and Guillermo delt Toro are massive fans. King said in Marc Scott Zicree’s sourcebook “The Twilight Zone Companion” that he was inspired by Matheson in particular, while del Toro, although a “Twilight” fan, was more fond of Serling’s follow-up series “Night Gallery.”

One might be a little more surprised to learn that comedian Mel Brooks was a fan. Brooks, of course, had taste in entertainment that extended far beyond the comedies he was known for writing, as the maker of “Blazing Saddles” also produced films like “The Elephant Man” and “The Fly.” Brooks clearly had a thing for the unusual and the macabre and was impressed by Serling’s mastery over his production. In Mark Dawidziak’s 2020 book “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone: A Fifth-Dimension Guide to Life,” Brooks offered the following observation:

“The greatest lesson I learned is that you need to reserve judgment and seriously buy into the creation and design of the filmmaker. You’ve got to give it all up and go along with the magic. Every time I watched ‘The Twilight Zone,’ I was completely ready to surrender to it. That’s what the mystery of creation is all about. Give yourself over to that wonderful, wonderful mystery.”…

(4) CAPED FUN. A small-town gathering uses superheroes to raise money for childhood cancer research: “Superhero day kicked off in Athens to raise money for childhood cancer” on WAFF in Athens, Alabama.

Every child wishes they could be a superhero, right? On Saturday, kids had the opportunity to take part in the action, as part of Eli’s Block Party.

Children were inspired and had some fun with superhero characters for the free family-friendly event hosted by Athens-Limestone Tourism for childhood cancer research.

The special day was established in 2011 for Eli Williams, who fought medulloblastoma for almost six years. In 2017 Williams passed away and his mother, Kristie Williams remains a vital part of keeping his memory alive through the organization, Eli’s Block Party.

“The goal for Superhero Day is to honor this decade-long annual event by preserving it and continuing it,” said Tina Morrison, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association Event Coordinator. “This kids event makes a positive change for children by providing a fun, free environment for all kids of all economic backgrounds. While having fun, they will also learn the importance of serving in their community, the importance of saving and donating money, and the opportunity to inquire with caring, professional adults about becoming community leaders when they grow up.”…

(5) A RED LETTER DAY. The date of next year’s LA Vintage Paperback Show has been set: Sunday, March 17, 2024.

(6) SURPASSING THE MASTER. ScreenRant stands behind “The Orville & 10 Other Sci-Fi Parodies As Good As The Franchises They’re Based On”.

Even though they’re often mocking their source material, sci-fi parodies can be as good as the franchises they’re based on. The Orville is better than modern Star Trek to some fans, and similar series have actually contributed to the genre as a whole with fun plots, memorable characters, and engaging visuals, with a moral lesson or two for good measure. Far from spoofing George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, movies like Spaceballs actually elevate it, making its rich lore and world-building come across as even more distinct and iconic within the pop culture zeitgeist.

Unexpectedly in first place:

1. Star Trek: Lower Decks

Star Trek: Lower Decks focuses on the goings-on of the lower decks of Starfleet’s USS Cerritos, an unimportant vessel often called upon to engage in extraordinary adventures despite the mediocre nature of its crew. This animated series is actually a part of Star Trek canon but does an ingenious job of subverting it with humor. Everything fans have made fun of about the franchise for years is lovingly incorporated into jokes about cleaning bodily fluids from the holodeck, and this sci-fi parody is now touted as one of the best new Star Trek series of the last ten years.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1914 Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane, two exemplary accomplishments indeed. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 71. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. (ThePunisher comic is far, far better than any the three films is. I broke my vow of not watching anything I like and deeply regret it. I really mean that.) I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC. A truly odd and deeply entertaining series.  At DC, he created a number of characters including Firestorm, Count Vertigo and Killer Croc. Not genre at all, but he wrote a lot of scripts for Law and Order: Criminal Intent, one of my favorite series.
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 70. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she co-wrote with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. In many ways, it was better than the damn series is which I’ll discuss with anyone here. 
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 68. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised for being founder along with AC Crispin for being founder of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1958 Nancy A. Collins, 65. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile.
  • Born September 10, 1964 Chip Kidd, 58. Graphic designer. And isn’t that an understatement. He did Batman: Death by Design which was illustrated by Dave Taylor, and there’s his amazing homage to Plastic Man with Art Spiegelman, Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits. He also created the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton design for the original Jurassic park novel which was later carried over into the film franchise. Neat. Really neat.
  • Born September 10, 1968 Guy Ritchie, 55. Director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both of each I rather liked, and the live-action Aladdin. He did also directed / wrote / produced the rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which got rather nice reviews to my surprise as well as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which apparently is quite excellent as audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy percent rating. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • In case you wondered, Tom Gauld shows it’s harder to find the right book than the right porridge.

(9) WEAK AND OTHER AI. Rich Horton reviews “Machinehood, by S. B. Divya” at Strange at Ecbatan.

…The novel is told primarily from the POV of Welga Ramírez, with a number of chapters from the POV of her sister-in-law Nithya. It is set in 2095, and its themes are stated to some extent in extracts from the Machinehood Manifesto, a document issued during the action of the novel. The first two declarations from the manifesto we see are: “All forms of intelligence have the right to exist without persecution or slavery.” and “No form of intelligence may own another.” We are quickly aware that this is a significant issue in this future, as the society is heavily reliant on bots of various forms — a fairly obtuse vendor bot is immediately introduced — and by WAIs, or “weak artificial intelligences”, such as Welga’s personal aide Por Qué. A key issue, clearly, is “what is intelligence?” (The Machinehood defines it very expansively.) Another issue, already fraught for this future society, is labor rights — the economy is largely a gig economy, and humans have struggled to compete for jobs as many jobs are performed by bots or WAIs….

(10) FOCUSED HISTORY. From Paul Weimer at Nerds of a Feather: “Review: The Lion House: The Coming of a King by Christopher de Bellaigue”.

…I have been speaking in terms as if this were a historical novel rather than an actual piece of non fiction, and I do think that this book really does borrow a lot from the novel tradition. The tradition expansive and sometimes dry history book of the past that turned off as many or more readers than they drew in is not so much a thing in modern history and non fiction. The rage these days is for the microhistory, for the history of sometimes not even just a particular person, but a moment in time, a decision, a small aspect of the world that can be illuminated, described and brought to life. Capturing Suleyman the Magnificent at the beginning of his reign, when he rising to his power and the crest of his reign (and arguably the height of the entire Ottoman Empire) is definitely in that microhistorical frame….

(11) ANOTHER SIDE OF TOM GAULD. In “Microreview: Mooncop” at Nerds of a Feather, Alex Wallace shows “Tom Gauld has more up his sleeve than just funny cartoons.”

…Mooncop is a slim volume; I read it in a single sitting, and I think most people could do it in a rather short amount of time. It is, in a sense, exactly what it says on the tin, being about a policeman on a lunar colony sometime in the not-too-distant future. Even the title feels like Gauld, in some way, with a bluntness that only obscures the greater depths of the work with a seeming irreverence towards standard titles….

(12) AND COME OUT FIGHTING. The Guardian referees the “Battle of the AIs: rival tech teams clash over who painted ‘Raphael’ in UK gallery”.

…Both studies used state-of-the art AI technology. Months after one study proclaimed that the so-called de Brécy Tondo, currently on display at Bradford council’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, is “undoubtedly” by Raphael, another has found that it cannot be by the Renaissance master.

In January, research teams from the universities of Nottingham and Bradford announced the findings of facial recognition technology, which compared the faces in the Tondo with those in Raphael’s Sistine Madonna altarpiece, commissioned in 1512.

Having used “millions of faces to train an algorithm to recognise and compare facial features”, they stated: “The similarity between the madonnas was found to be 97%, while comparison of the child in both paintings produced an 86% similarity.”

They added: “This means that the two paintings are highly likely to have been created by the same artist.”

But algorithms involved in a new study by Dr Carina Popovici, a scientist with Art Recognition, a Swiss company based near Zurich, have now returned an 85% probability for the painting not to be painted by Raphael….

(13) PLANKING THE SCRIPTURES. Thanks to AI you can own the Pirate Bible: The Whole Bible in Pirate Speak.

The Pirate Bible is a full translation of the Bible (including Old and New Testaments). It was translated using a complex algorithm and artificial intelligence to create a realistic translation of the Holy Book while striving to maintain content accuracy. We hope it inspires you to engage with the Bible in new and meaningful ways.

What’s the difference? Compare how the King James Version and the Pirate Bible render this verse:

Matthew 6:3 (KJV)

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

Matthew 6:3 (Pirate Bible)

But when ye scuttle booty, let not yer port hand know what yer starboard hand be doin’!

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George plays the entire Solar System when “The Planets Hold An Intervention For Earth”. I mean, the Earth is just crawling with you-know-whats!

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

Why S. B. Divya Declined Two Hugo Nominations

S. B. Divya

Author S. B. Divya announced today in social media why she declined a 2023 Hugo nomination for the novelette “Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold” and removed her name from the list of Hugo-nominated semiprozine Escape Pod’s team members.


I was really excited to receive notice of a Hugo Award nomination back in 2018 – my first! I got the email at the office, and I had to step outside so that my co-editor, Mur Lafferty, and I could properly squee over the news that Escape Pod was a finalist for Best Semiprozine.

A few weeks ago, I was very surprised to receive another such email – that my story, “Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold,” had been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette. In addition, Escape Pod was nominated again for Best Semiprozine. As is customary, the awards team asked if I wished to accept the nominations or withdraw from consideration. Unfortunately, I’ve decided to choose the latter option.

Along with many other writers, I signed a petition last year against hosting the 2023 World Science Fiction Convention (AKA “WorldCon”) in Chengdu, China. The reason was to protest the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province. I believe that mass human rights violations and possible genocide have occurred in the region.

Given that China is primarily a state-run nation, no event of a magnitude like WorldCon’s will be free of government involvement. To compound this, one of this year’s Guests of Honor is Sergei Lukyanenko, an apologist for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, another act of aggression that I cannot support. I hold no ill will toward Chinese fandom, writers, or artists, and I know that many of them are working under repressive conditions, however I cannot in good conscience participate in this year’s WorldCon.

For these reasons, I chose to withdraw my novelette from consideration for the Hugo Award. I also asked the Escape Pod team to remove my name from the list of editors on the ballot. Non-participation in WorldCon includes staying out of the awards ceremony. I deeply regret having to take this action, and I have tremendous gratitude for everyone who loved “Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold,” and chose to nominate it for this great honor. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Pixel Scroll 5/23/23 I Had A Pixel Scroll About An Hour Ago, And It Went Right To My Head

(1) HOW PROZINES ARE COPING WITH SUBMISSIONS PRODUCED BY AI. The Dark, edited by Sean Wallace, is another sff publication being sent a lot of AI-written stories. They’ve adopted a policy in response:

Meanwhile, Matthew Kressel, designer of the Moksha Submissions System used by many sff publications, told Facebook readers today he will “soon be releasing a set of tools for Moksha to allow editors to easily filter AI-generated submissions. Yes, it relies on author affirmation that the work is wholly their own, but to affirm otherwise would be plagiarism. Gotta start somewhere.”

(2) STATEMENTS FROM AUTHORS ORGANIZATIONS. In the UK, the Society of Authors discusses the challenges of “Protecting copyright and creative careers in the face of new technology” in its statement on “Artificial Intelligence” which begins —

Whatever your area of work, whether you are an academic, an illustrator, a poet, a scriptwriter or a translator (to name a few), AI systems are being trained on existing copyright-protected works (input) and these same systems are being used to generate works ‘in the style of’ those existing works (output).

The AI development race is opaque, unfettered and unregulated, and driven primarily by the profit motives of large corporations, despite some likely adverse impacts. The ethical and moral ramifications of these AI systems are complex, and the legal ramifications are not limited to the infringement of copyright’s economic rights, but may include infringement of an author’s moral rights of attribution and integrity and right to object to false attribution; infringement of data protection laws; invasions of privacy; and acts of passing off.

And these aren’t issues for a hypothetical future….

And in the U.S., The Authors Guild discusses the problem in its advocacy article about “Artificial Intelligence”.

Artificial intelligence machines capable of generating literary and artistic works and performing other fantastical tasks that were once “science fiction” are at our doorstep. Today, commercial AI programs can already write articles, compose music, and render images in response to text prompts, and their ability to do these tasks is improving at a rapid clip. A wide assortment of tools to help writers write are commercially available today and show great potential to expedite and improve many writers’ output. At the same time, once AI is writing good books on its own (which is not so far off), it threatens to crowd the market for human authored books.

AI-generated literary and artistic works, even in their most impressive form, are essentially mimicry of human expressive works. AI generative technologies (i.e, AI machines that are used to generate output) are “trained” on mass amounts of pre-existing works (e.g., text, images, recorded music), where the copied works are broken down to their components and rules and their patterns deciphered. The consumer facing AI machines available to date have been trained on works copied by internet crawlers without licenses or permission.

While AI-generated works might look or sound like human-created works, they lack human intelligence and feeling. AI cannot feel, think, or empathize. It lacks the essential human faculties that move the arts forward. Nevertheless, the speed at which AI can create artistic and literary works to compete with human-authored works poses a significant threat to both the economic and cultural value of the latter.

We are confronting serious policy issues about the future of creativity: Do we want humans or AI creating our literature and other arts?…

(3) SUDOWRITE ADVOCATE WILL DROP TWITTER. S. B. Divya, whose promotion of Sudowrite’s “Story Engine” on Twitter met with much criticism, announced yesterday that she will be leaving the platform.

(4) MEDICAL UPDATE. “YouTube star Hank Green reveals Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis” reports Deseret News. Green has also written sff novels.

YouTuber and author Hank Green announced that he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in a YouTube video last week.

In the video, Green recounted his diagnosis, saying it all started when “I noticed my lymph nodes were big.” After consulting with his doctor, getting an ultrasound and undergoing a biopsy, Green was given a diagnosis. According to Green, it was “good news, bad news.”

“One, it’s cancer. It’s called lymphoma. It’s cancer of the lymphatic system. And good news, it’s something called Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Green said. “It’s one of the most treatable cancers. It responds very well to treatment. The goal is cure. The treatment to get there is fairly well-known, if unpleasant.”…

(5) FAIR USE CASE. “After the Warhol Decision, Another Major Copyright Case Looms” – the New York Times briefed readers about a fair use decision and whether it will affect forthcoming litigation.

…Last week, the Supreme Court resolved a major copyright dispute involving a Warhol that many experts thought would have a spillover effect on other cases, including a pair involving Prince that are currently playing themselves out in federal court in New York.

But in the end, the court’s Warhol decision appeared to be fairly narrow, the experts said, as the justices did not so much weigh in on how much of another work an artist can copy, but ruled instead on what sort of use such a work can be put to.

Warhol, who died in 1987, had created a series of silk-screen portraits of the rock star Prince that were based on a photograph of the musician taken by Lynn Goldsmith. One of the silk-screens was licensed by his estate to Condé Nast in 2016 to illustrate the cover of a special issue about the musician’s legacy.

When Goldsmith sued, asserting her copyright had been infringed, the Warhol estate argued that it was entitled to the so-called fair-use defense. The estate’s lawyers suggested that Warhol’s treatment of the image, which was colored, cropped and shaded in certain places, had been “transformative,” a term the courts have adopted to define just how much change the appropriating artist must bring to the underlying work to pass muster.

Many thought the latest Supreme Court decision might more clearly delineate what qualifies a work as transformative. But the justices chose instead to focus on how the Warhol portrait had been used, namely to illustrate an article about the musician. The court found that such a use was not distinct enough from the “purpose and character” of Goldsmith’s photo, which had been licensed to Vanity Fair years earlier to help illustrate an article about [the musician] Prince….

… Brian Sexton, a lawyer for [artist] Richard Prince, said the Supreme Court, in its Warhol decision, “went to great pains” to make clear that its findings were “limited to a single licensing dispute.”

“As Richard Prince makes individual paintings and does not license his works, the holding in Warhol is clearly inapplicable to his New Portraits litigation,” he said….

(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER FELLOWSHIP AWARDED. Dr. Lois Rosson is the winner of the second Octavia E. Butler Fellowship, which will support her work at the Huntington in Pasadena, CA. “Introducing the 2023–24 Huntington Fellows”.

Dr. Lois Rosson

Among the incoming cohort of fellows is Lois Rosson, winner of the Octavia E. Butler Fellowship. She received her Ph.D. from the history department of the University of California, Berkeley, in 2022 and took up a Berggruen Institute Fellowship at USC’s Center for Science, Technology, and Public Life the same year. Rosson is a historian of science, focusing on visual representations of the space environment. Her work has been supported by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NASA’s Ames Research Center, and The Huntington, where she was awarded a short-term fellowship in 2020.

As the second Butler Fellow at The Huntington, Rosson will develop her first book project, which explores why visual tropes that associated outer space with Western frontier expansion persisted into the late 20th century. At no point in this history, she argues, was the framing of space landscapes as topographies ideologically continuous with American Manifest Destiny an obvious or inevitable outcome. How then, she asks, did this perception become so dominant?

Rosson proposes two conceptual alternatives to depictions of space as a landscape couched in colonialist narrative. The first centers on Afrofuturist representations of outer space as a realm to which inhabitants of Earth can hypothetically flee—as opposed to landscapes characterized by prospective settlement or colonial resource extraction. The second compares representations of Latinx farm workers in midcentury California with visions of the labor-free space colonies developed by NASA at the time.

Rosson plans to spend her time principally working with The Huntington’s Octavia E. Butler Papers. Butler’s literary vision of space as a place of asylum, Rosson writes, is one of the most widely read of the 20th century. In Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, the protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina, frustrated with life in dystopian California, compares Mars—“cold, empty, almost airless, dead”—to heaven. In Olamina’s view, the Martian landscape is not an especially inviting one, but it offers the prospect of escaping a planet characterized by degraded human life and violent climate catastrophe. At The Huntington, Rosson will focus on Butler’s ideas about how life in space should be organized as well as her upbringing in Pasadena and proximity to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Along with representations of space as a realm of noncorporate diaspora, Rosson explores the centrality of agricultural production to the large-scale space station designs that emerged in the 1970s and ’80s. While illustrations of these space stations depicted fully populated colonies set against the pastoral landscapes of fully engineered agricultural systems, the labor required to maintain these environments is never depicted. Rosson plans to compare depictions of agricultural production in space with the idealized versions circulated in 20th-century American print culture, which erased most traces of human labor. She argues that images of California citrus and vegetable farming—like those illustrated on lithographed labels held in The Huntington’s Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History—function as visual precursors to the inert versions eventually depicted in illustrations of futuristic space stations in the early 1970s, a time when the rights of immigrant farm workers became increasingly visible in the United States.

(7) LOOKING BACK. Sam Reader embarks on a story-by-story commentary on a milestone David G. Hartwell anthology. “Dissecting The Dark Descent: Stephen King’s ‘The Reach,’ and Why Reading Order Matters” at Tor.com.

In 1987, editor David G. Hartwell embarked on a massive undertaking.

Through conversations, panels, and a variety of correspondence, he came to realize the horror genre was at something of a turning point. A lot of horror writers and critics, when they cited their influences and favorite works, tended to favor short stories over longer forms of horror. In fact, a lot of the works that drove horror history appeared to be short stories. After much thought, he compiled what he felt was a definitive work on shorter horror at the crossroads of the genre; The way forward being paved by novels, the previous history built upon the foundation of short stories. It was meant as an all-encompassing paean to dark fiction, to discuss and outline Hartwell’s own thoughts and definitions of the genre.

The result was a huge tome titled The Dark Descent, as much a historical and critical work of horror as it was an attempt to codify and collect the best specimens of short horror stories. It’s award-winning, weighty in both content and size, and looms large in the collections of horror fans old and new.

That was thirty-six years ago. In the years since The Dark Descent landed with an almighty boom upon our bookshelves, horror has in fact changed quite a bit….

(8) GOING, GOING. Jake Thornton reacts to the bad news in “’My Movie Is Being Removed From Disney+ Or Why Streaming Sucks’” at AllYourScreens.com. The Princess will be taken down May 26.

…Now, as you may have already gathered from the title of this post, I have some rather disheartening news to share. The movie that my dear friend Ben and I co-wrote, The Princess, is being removed from popular streaming platforms such as Hulu and Disney+. A decision made in the pursuit of cost-saving measures….

… Here is an article from Variety that provides further insight into this unfortunate development.

To be completely honest, Ben and I are both profoundly saddened by this turn of events. As Ben aptly expressed in his recent tweet, “After 25 years in LA, I finally had a movie that I’m proud of. Now, it could vanish forever…”

And indeed, that is the harsh reality we are faced with. Ben and I have dedicated countless hours to this industry, tirelessly honing our skills as writers. For 15 years, we have toiled together, overcoming numerous obstacles in the pursuit of our dreams. Finally, in 2014, our hard work paid off, and we broke into the industry. Yet, it took an additional seven long years before one of our projects was brought to life. The Princess was that project. Finally! We had achieved something remarkable—an offering for the world to experience. A piece of work that I could proudly share with my future grandchildren. Something to present to those who ever questioned my abilities as a screenwriter, proving that I had indeed left a mark on the world.

However, in an effort to cut costs, Disney has chosen to withdraw The Princess, along with several other films and shows, from their streaming services. This is reminiscent of a similar situation last year when David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, removed a multitude of shows from HBO Max and even decided against releasing Batgirl to reduce expenses.

Now, both the creative team behind The Princess and ourselves find ourselves among the victims of such decisions….

(9) FEELS MAGICAL. “Vietnam’s Eighth Wonder in ‘A Crack in the Mountain’: Watch First Clip”Variety tells about the new documentary. The movie is being released in the UK and Ireland on May 26.

…Deep in the jungle of central Vietnam lies an underground kingdom. Hang Son Doong, which translates as ‘mountain river cave’ is the largest cave passage in the world and a place of beauty. Located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, the cave entrance was first discovered in 1990 by a local farmer. But it wasn’t explored until 2009 when a British expedition team rigged ropes and descended.

Often described as the eighth wonder of the world, Son Doong has its own lake, jungle and a unique weather system, and remained undisturbed for millions of years. However, in 2014, Son Doong’s future was thrown into doubt when plans were announced to build a cable car into the cave. With many arguing that this would destroy the cave’s delicate eco-system and the local community divided over the benefits this development would bring, the film follows those caught up in the unfolding events….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2005[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Joe Hill’s the son of Stephen King. I’ve met him several times, and yes he looks like his father. He’s every bit as friendly and charming as his father is in person. Lovely family they are.

Our Beginning is that of “Voluntary Committal” which was published by Subterranean Press eighteen years ago.

I don’t know who I’m writing this for, can’t say who I expect to read it. Not the police, anyway. I don’t know what happened to my brother, and I can’t tell them where he is. Nothing I could put down here would help them find him. 

And anyway, this isn’t really about his disappearance… although it does concern a missing person, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the two things had anything to do with each other. I have never told anyone what I know about Edward Prior, who left school one October day in 1977, and never arrived home for chili and baked potatoes with Mom. For a long time, the first year or two after he vanished, I didn’t want to think about my friend Eddie. I would do anything not to think about him. If I passed some people talking about him in the halls of my high school—I heard he stole his momma’s weed and some money and ran away to fuckin California!—I’d fix my eyes on some point in the distance and pretend I was deaf. And if someone actually approached and asked me straight out what I thought had happened to him—now and then someone would, since we were known compañeros—I’d set my face into a rigid blank and shrug. “I almost think I care sometimes,” I said.

Later, I didn’t think about Eddie out of studiously formed habit. If anything happened by chance to remind me of him—if I saw a boy who looked like him, or read something in the news about a missing teen—I would instantly begin to think of something else, hardly aware I was even doing it. 

In the last three weeks, though, ever since my little brother Morris went missing, I find myself thinking about Ed Prior more and more; can’t seem, through any effort of will, to turn thoughts of him aside. The urge to talk to someone about what I know is really almost more than I can bear. But this isn’t a story for the police. Believe me, it wouldn’t do them any good, and it might do myself a fair amount of bad. I can’t tell them where to look for Edward Prior any more than I can tell them where to look for Morris—can’t tell what I don’t know—but if I were to share this story with a detective, I think I might be asked some harsh questions, and some people (Eddie’s mother, for example, still alive and on her third marriage) would be put through a lot of unnecessary emotional strain.

And it’s just possible I could wind up with a one-way ticket to the same place where my brother spent the last two years of his life: the Wellbrook Progressive Mental Health Center. My brother was there voluntarily, but Wellbrook includes a wing just for people who had to be committed. Morris was part of the clinic’s work program, pushed a mop for them four days out of the week, and on Friday mornings he went into the Governor’s Wing, as it’s known, to wash their shit off the walls. And their blood. 

Was I just talking about Morris in the past tense? I guess I was. I don’t hope anymore that the phone will ring, and it will be Betty Millhauser from Wellbrook, her voice rushed and winded, telling me they’ve found him in a homeless shelter somewhere, and they’re bringing him back. I don’t think anyone will be calling to tell me they found him floating in the Charles, either. I don’t think anyone will be calling at all, except maybe to say nothing is known. Which could almost be the epitaph on Morris’s grave. And maybe I have to admit that I’m writing this, not to show it to anyone, but because I can’t help myself, and a blank page is the only safe audience for this story I can imagine.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 23, 1909 Robert Thomas Maitland Scott Jr., 1909 – 1945. Son in a father-and-son writing team who created The Spider, a pulp character who was clearly a rip-off of The Shadow. They wrote only the first two Spider novels before it was written by various house authors though it’s disputed if Scott Jt. had an uncredited role because the SF element in the series clearly reflect his tastes. He would die in a motor vehicle while on active duty with Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Died 1945.)
  • Born May 23, 1921 James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in FlightA Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek novels. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name, that of Arthur Merlyn. (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 23, 1933 Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 23, 1935 Susan Cooper, 88. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Her Scottish castle set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and is just plain fun. I’d also recommend her Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent.  The Grey King, part of The Dark is Risk series, won a Newbery, and she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born May 23, 1942 Zalman King. OK he’s best known for The Red Shoe Diaries which are decidedly not genre and indeed are soft core erotica but even that isn’t quite true as some of the episodes were definitely genre such as “The Forbidden Zone” set in a future where things are very different, and “Banished” which deals with an Angel now in mortal form all on Earth. I’m betting there’s more fantasy elements but I need to go through sixty episodes to confirm that. Denise Crosby appeared in two episodes of the Red Shoe Dairies playing the different characters, Lynn ‘Mona’ McCabe in “The Psychiatrist” and Officer Lynn ‘Mona’ McCabe in “You Have the Right to Remain Silent”. Zalman himself played Nick in “The Lost Ones” episode on The Land of The Giants and earlier was The Man with The Beard in the Munsters episode of “Far Out Munsters”. His final genre acting gig was on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Gregory Haymish in “The Cap and Gown Affair”. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 23, 1967 Sean Williams, 56. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born May 23, 1986 Ryan Coogler, 37. Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also directed. He directed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Producer, Space Jam 2, producer of the Wankanda series on Disney+. Black Panther was a Hugo finalist at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon, the year that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won. 

(12) ‘BLOOM COUNTY’ – A BETTER FAREWELL. When the Bloom County comic originally closed its run in 1989 Mark Roth-Whitworth thought he could improve on the way it ended. “For something different: a Bloom County end”.

A long time ago, a comic strip ended: Bloom County. A lot of us were unhappy, but I also thought that there could have been a better ending… so I wrote one.

Star Date 93350.09 Captain’s Log of the Starchair Enterpoop, Helmsman and now commanding officer Binkley recording.

It seems that our long mission has come to an end. Apparently, we have been successful….

(13) CYBERWARFARE. [Item by Francis Hamit.] This one should interest military SF fans and gamers. “The Cyber Crucible: Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Development of Modern Warfare” at Army University Press.

This is a reprint of Chapter 9 from Perceptions Are Reality: Historical Case Studies of Information Operations in Large-Scale Combat Operations, part of The Large-Scale Combat Operations Series.

 …In February 2013, General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff (comparable to the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), published an article titled “The Value of Science is in the Foresight,” in the weekly Russian trade paper Military-Industrial Kurier. In it, Gerasimov suggested that the “very ‘rules of war’ have changed,” and that in many cases, nonmilitary means have exceeded the power and force of weapons in their ability to effect change on the international stage.2 Gerasimov argues that new technologies have reduced gaps between traditional forces and their command and control, though also noting that “frontal engagements of large formations of forces at the strategic and operational level are gradually becoming a thing of the past.”3 The future, Gerasimov suggests, lies in “contactless actions”—made through cyber or other electronic means—being used as the main means of military or intelligence goals. This belief—that traditional military interactions are giving way to newer and subjectively more effective indirect interactions via computers and electronics—has been dubbed by some as the Gerasimov Doctrine…..

(14) MIGHTY MUSCLES. “The Best Hercules Movies”. Is there such a thing? Fans who read Ranker think so.

Over the years, there have been many memorable movies about Hercules that have captivated audiences worldwide. Some examples include the groundbreaking 1958 Italian film Hercules, starring bodybuilder Steve Reeves; Disney’s beloved animated feature Hercules (1997), which boasts an unforgettable soundtrack; and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s action-packed performance in Hercules (2014). Each film offers its own unique perspective on the life and legend of one of Greece’s most iconic heroes, with stunning visuals, thrilling action sequences, and engaging storytelling.

Now it’s your turn to let us know which Hercules movies stand out as the best among this legendary lineup. We invite you to vote on your favorite films featuring this mighty mythical hero. Together we’ll determine which movies truly capture the essence of Hercules’ strength, wisdom, and enduring popularity across generations. So grab your lion-skin cloak and club – it’s time to dive into the world of Hercules like never before.

Number one on the list is actually a sequel:

Hercules Unchained (1959)

In this timeless sequel, we’re treated to the unstoppable Steve Reeves as he takes on the role of Hercules, flexing his muscles and captivating audiences with his charm. With a gripping storyline that has him breaking free from an evil queen’s clutches, it’s no wonder this film became a hit, making Reeves a household name and cementing his status as a beloved hero in cinematic history.

(15) NEW ESTIMATE AS TO HOW OLD ARE SATURN’S RINGS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There are two main, competing hypotheses: (1) They are ancient and either formed with Saturn or during the late veneer, or… (2) They are young and formed since then. Now data has been analysed from the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) on the Cassini spacecraft, which began orbiting Saturn in July 2004 until end of mission in September 2017. Continuous bombardment by non-icy micro-meteoroids from beyond the Saturnian system is a source non-icy material in Saturn’s rings. Knowing that rate of micro-meteor accumulation in the rings and knowing how much is the non-icy component to the rings, it is possible to estimate the age of the rings.  Using CDA data European and US based astronomers estimate that the rings’ age is between around 100 million and 400 million years: hypothesis ‘2’. This estimate chimes in with a previous one using a different method. (See  Kempf, S. et al. (2023) “Micrometeoroid infall onto Saturn’s rings constrains their age to no more than a few hundred million years”. Science Advances, vol. 9 (19), eadf8537.)

(16) TIMEY WIMEY. Vice’s article “Black Holes Might Really Be Giant Structures Made of Spacetime, Physicists Propose” seemed a lot easier to understand when I imagined David Tennant reading it to me.

Black holes might really be strange defects in spacetime called topological stars that are generated by hidden cosmic dimensions, reports a new study. 

Topological stars are completely hypothetical and only exist as mathematical constructions at this point. However, they have the potential to probe perplexing paradoxes of the cosmos, including the true nature of black holes and the mind-boggling ideas raised by string theory, a framework that attempts to reconcile seemingly contradictory physical laws into a unified theory. 

String theory proposes that particles in the universe are actually vibrating strings tethered to many extra dimensions that are imperceptible to us. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have worked for years to envision the objects and phenomena that might exist in such a universe, including topological stars, or topological solitons, which are bubbles of nothing that form in the fabric of spacetime. 

Now, the team has used simulations to show that topological solitons would appear “remarkably similar to black holes in apparent size and scattering properties, while being smooth and horizonless,” according to a recent study published in Physical Review D. In other words, the hypothetical objects would look almost exactly like black holes from our perspective, raising the tantalizing possibility that they may actually lurk in our universe.

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

S. B. Divya Promotes Sudowrite

S. B. Divya surprised colleagues this week by recommending Sudowrite’s “Story Engine”, marketed as an AI tool for writing long-form stories. Her tweet came out the same day that Sudowrite co-founder James Yu announced the product launch.

S.B. Divya is the author of Meru and Nebula-finalist Machinehood. She formerly co-edited Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast. She holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing and has worked for 20 years as an electrical engineer in various fields including pattern recognition, machine intelligence, high speed communications, digital music, and medical devices.

Numerous critical comments were made in response to Divya’s recommendation, of which the following were among the first:

Divya has yet to reply to other tweeted questions about her personal stake in the product, if any.

Sudowrite was founded by writers Amit Gupta and James Yu. According to a FAQ on the company website, “The AI works by guessing one word at a time, based on general concepts it has learned from billions of samples of text.”

Elsewhere on the website the concept is explained in more detail:

Sudowrite is based on GPT-3, a 175 billion parameter Transformer model, which learns general concepts from its training data. The bigger the model, the more complex these concepts can be.

The model generates text by guessing what’s most likely to come next, one word at a time. Kind of like autocomplete on your phone. It’s not copying and pasting sentences from a database. It actually writes each word individually.

Twitter user @ZinniaZed located video of a talk that Divya and Sudowrite’s James Yu presented two months ago to UC San Diego’s “The Design Lab”, “AI and the Future of Creative Writing”, which includes the following quote showing Divya’s awareness of the technology’s potential impact on professional creators:

One of the one of the sort of existential questions about art that is what does it even mean and does it have to be produced by a human being? And I feel like you know with the advent of some of these tools as we enable people to produce their own writing, to produce their own um paintings, there is going to be shrinkage in the market for buying those same products produced by human hands, right, because the same way that if I want to I can take my own wedding pictures today I don’t have to hire a photographer and they can turn out really, really good…

Divya is not the only well-known author to speak favorably of Sudowrite – Hugh Howey and Mark Frauenfelder are quoted on the company website itself. A Google search yields many other examples.

Pixel Scroll 9/28/21 He Left The Galactic Library To Riverworld City But He Gave All The Scrolls To Her

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The September 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Wait,” by Andrea Chapela, translated by Emma Törzs—a story about disappearances, ubiquitous surveillance, and stultifying bureaucracy.

… When the bell chimes for the next appointment, you raise your eyes from the book you weren’t really reading in the first place. 347. You’re next. You shut the book, a poetry collection you brought intentionally because it lets you open any page and read a few verses before losing the thread and looking back up at the screen…..

It was published along with a response essay by biomedicine and genetics researcher Vivette García-Deister. “Who Wins When the State Appropriates Self-Defense Technologies Developed by Communities?”

… This registry was created in 2018, and it includes disappearances from all the recent violence associated with the nation’s drug cartel wars. But it also includes cases that date back to the “dirty war” of the 1960s, when repressive governments ruthlessly targeted and eliminated revolutionary groups that had taken up arms against the state and anyone else whom they considered political threats, all under the auspices of U.S. anti-communist foreign policy.

Regrettably, therefore, the setting of Andrea Chapela’s “The Wait”—a short story about a woman waiting indefinitely in a governmental office (the “National Institute of Citizen Registration and Geolocation”) for news about Víctor, her missing brother—is painfully familiar to many people in Mexico. And indeed, much like in “The Wait,” women are mainly the ones who do the inquiring of authorities or actually do the searching, sometimes as members of highly organized search collectives….

(2) ROSARIUM ZOOM. Bill Campbell and Rachelle Cruz discuss The Day The Klan Came To Town in a Facebook livestream on Tuesday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

Join us for a Zoom talk with Bill Campbell, author and publisher at Rosarium Publishing. His latest work, The Day the Klan Came to Town, is a graphic novel based on historical events: The Ku Klux Klan attack on the Jewish, Catholic, Black, and southern and eastern European immigrant communities of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, in 1923, and how they rose up to send the Klan packing.

In dialog with Campbell will be Rachelle Cruz,Professor of Creative Writing in the Genre Fiction concentration at Western Colorado University, and author of Experiencing Comics: An Introduction to Reading, Discussing and Creating Comics.

This event is sponsored by the Orange Coast College Multicultural Center.

(3) LEARNING FROM THE BEST. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put up an index to its Deep Dives video series.

We like to think of Deep Dives as Khan Academy, but for creative writing. …

Each module is based on a clip from our featured interviews with masters of the field and concerns a specific aspect of the writers’ craft (plot, character-building, establishing a setting, how to get published, copyrighting, and so on). Right now we’re focused on posting individual modules, but as we continue to build this project we plan to create syllabi, study guides, and assignments for specific course structures (such as eco-literature for a science classroom, or a seminar on feminist dystopian fiction)…. 

(4) OH, THE INHUMANITY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 21 Financial Times (behind a paywall). Isabella Kaminska, in a piece about whether homemade experimenters could genetically modify things at home for bad ends, interviewed Simon Wain-Hobson, a retired virologist who was the first to genetically sequence HIV.

Wain-Hobson “likens the scientific compulsion to tinker with fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett’s observation that ‘if you put a large switch in some cave somewhere with a sign on it saying “End of the world switch. Please do not touch,” the paint wouldn’t have time to dry.'”

(5) CLICKS FROM A DEAD MAN’S EYES. Alexandra Erin has a Twitter thread going about Asimov and the Foundation series’ lack of decent women characters.  Thread starts here.

In the thread there’s a link to a blog post by Justine Larbalestier that reprints some letters from a teenage Asimov on the subject of women in SF stories: “Letters”.

Dear Editor,

Three rousing cheers for Donald G. Turnbull of Toronto for his valiant attack on those favoring mush. When we want science-fiction, we don’t want swooning dames, and that goes double. You needn’t worry about Miss Evans, Donald, us he-men are for you and if she tries to slap you down, you’ve got an able (I hope) confederate and tried auxiliary right here in the person of yours truly. Come on, men, make yourself heard in favor of less love mixed with our science!

—Isaac Asimov, 174 Windsor Place, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Astounding Science Fiction September 1938 p. 161

Isaac Asimov was eighteen when this letter was published.

(6) GAMING COMPANY WILL SETTLE EEOC COMPLAINTS. “Activision Blizzard says it will pay $18 million to settle harassment claims”CNN has the story.

Activision Blizzard will pay $18 million to settle a lawsuit by a US government agency alleging harassment and discrimination, the firm said Monday.

The gaming company, which owns hugely popular titles such as “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush,” announced it had reached a settlement agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in response to a complaint the agency filed earlier in the day.

As part of the settlement agreement, which is subject to court approval, Activision Blizzard (ATVI) said it will create an $18 million fund “to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants.” Any remaining amount will either be donated to charities focused on harassment, gender equality and women in the video game industry, or will be used to create diversity and inclusion initiatives within the company, it added….

In a complaint filed earlier on Monday, the EEOC accused Activision Blizzard of subjecting female employees to sexual harassment, retaliating against them for complaining about harassment and paying female employees less than male employees. The company also “discriminated against employees due to their pregnancy,” the complaint alleged.

(7) DAY AFTER DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 22 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses video games based on Groundhog Day-style time loops.

These (time loop fames) follow in the footsteps of modern classic Outer Wilds, in which players explore a tiny galaxy which resets every 22 minutes when the sun explodes, the minimalist Minit, where you have just 60 seconds to adventure before the game restarts, and the compelling ancient Roman mystery The Forgotten City, in which a whole city is doomed to repeat a day as punishment for its sins.  That’s not to mention the macabre Loop Hero. murder mystery loop The Sexy Brutale, Hamlet-inspired riiff Elsinore, and even a VR game based on the Groundhog Day Ip called Like Father Like Son. There are more every year.  What keeps drawing writers to this particular trope? And why do we never get bored witnessing the same scenes over and over?…

…Gamers have always been at home in loops; traditionally, game environments reset every time they are entered, with enemies respawning and treasure chests restocked with gold.   Game designers speak of the ‘gameday loop,’ the central repeated action which keeps players engaged. Games are the perfect medium to unpack the pleasure in the patterns of a repeated timeframe.  The loop becomes a puzzle that can be solved, while its cyclical nature suggests experimentation–try anything you like, because you can always reset and start again.

(8) VISION QUEST. The wait is almost over. Vox reports “The Webb Space Telescope is 100x as powerful as the Hubble. It will change astronomy”. It will be launched into orbit on December 18.

…The Webb was originally supposed to launch in 2010 and cost around $1 billion. Its price tag has since ballooned to $10 billion, and it’s way overdue. But the wait will be worth it, at least according to the scientists who expect new and revealing glimpses of our universe.

“We’re going right up to the edge of the observable universe with Webb,” says Caitlin Casey, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. “And yeah, we’re excited to see what’s there.”

The Webb will surpass the Hubble in several ways. It will allow astronomers to look not only farther out in space but also further back in time: It will search for the first stars and galaxies of the universe. It will allow scientists to make careful studies of numerous exoplanets — planets that orbit stars other than our sun — and even embark on a search for signs of life there….

(9) REFLECTION IN A GOLDEN VISOR. NASA’s Astronomy Picture Of The Day for September 27, “Five Decade Old Lunar Selfie” turns around a well-known photo taken during the first Moon landing. See the picture here.

Here is one of the most famous pictures from the Moon — but digitally reversed. Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 and soon thereafter many pictures were taken, including an iconic picture of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong. The original image captured not only the magnificent desolation of an unfamiliar world, but Armstrong himself reflected in Aldrin’s curved visor. Enter modern digital technology. In the featured image, the spherical distortion from Aldrin’s helmet has been reversed. The result is the famous picture — but now featuring Armstrong himself from Aldrin’s perspective. Even so, since Armstrong took the picture, the image is effectively a five-decade old lunar selfie. The original visor reflection is shown on the left, while Earth hangs in the lunar sky on the upper right. A foil-wrapped leg of the Eagle lander is prominently visible. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1996 – Twenty-five years ago on CBS, the Early Edition first aired on this evening. The premise was What If tomorrow’s newspaper arrived at your doorstep today? Our protagonist uses this knowledge to prevent terrible events every day.  It was created by Ian Abrams, Patrick Q. Page and Vik Rubenfeld. It was the first major series for all three of them.  It had a cast of Kyle Chandler, Shanésia Davis-Williams, Fisher Stevens, Kristy Swanson and Billie Worley. Set in Chicago, it was largely filmed there as well. It had a successful run of four seasons and ninety episodes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1909 — Al Capp. Cartoonist responsible of course for the Li’l Abner strip. Is it genre? Of course. A decade ago, IDW announced Al Capp’s Li’l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays as part of their ongoing The Library of American Comics series. The series would be a reprinting of the entire forty year history of Li’l Abner encompassing a projected twenty volumes. So far nine volumes have come out. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 28, 1923 — William Windom. Commodore Matt Decker, commander of the doomed USS Constellation in “The Doomsday Machine” episode, one of the best Trek stories told. Norman Spinrad was the writer. Other genre appearances include being the President on Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Major in “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” episode of Twilight Zone and Ben Victor in the “The Night of the Flying Pie Plate” story of The Wild Wild West. This is a sampling only! (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 28, 1935 — Ronald Lacey. He’s very best remembered as Gestapo agent Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s actually in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as Heinrich Himmler though it’s an uncredited role.  One of his first genre appearances was as the Strange Young Man in The Avengers episode “The Joker”.  In that same period, he was the village idiot in The Fearless Vampire Killers which actually premiered as The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My NeckAnd he’s in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as President Widmark. This is but a thin wafer of his genre roles so do feel free to add your favorite. (Died 1991.)
  • Born September 28, 1938 — Ron Ellik. A well-known sf fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac,  in the late Fifties. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” (ISFDB says it was The Cross of Gold Affair.) Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 28, 1950 — John Sayles, 71. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1963 — Greg Weisman, 58. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also produced Gargoyles from early on. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote the children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… 
  • Born September 28, 1982 — Tendai Huchu, 39. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the 2020 issue Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. That issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. His newest novel, The Library of the Dead, is the first in Edinburgh Nights series.
  • Born September 28, 1986 — Laurie Penny, 35. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, Everything Belongs to the Future, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer. “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by Jo Walton is in Vector 288

(12) BEHIND THE MAGIC 8-BALL. Books by Lincoln Michel, S.B. Divya, and Tade Thompson are praised in this CrimeReads roundup by Molly Odintz: “They’ve Seen the Future And They Don’t Like It: The Year’s Best Scifi Noir (So Far)”.

The future is bleak, whether you’re at the bottom of an underwater sea-scraper, in a spaceship headed to a distant galaxy, or just searching for plastic in the polluted rivers of Scrappalachia. More tech leads to more debt, and AI is as likely to compete with humans as to help them. The denizens of the future are buried in the trash of today, and doomed by the politics of yesterday and tomorrow. And yet, as is the surprisingly hopeful message behind any dystopian novel, life continues. Life will always continue. And sometimes, life even finds a way to thrive….

(13) SPIKE THE CANON. The New York Times finds that “In ‘Star Wars: Visions,’ Lucasfilm and Anime Join Forces, and Go Rogue”.

What would happen if some of the most creative animation studios in Japan were let loose in a galaxy far, far away?

In the anime anthology series “Star Wars: Visions,” Jedi warriors battle enemies with faces like oni (a kind of Japanese demon), and straw-hatted droids inhabit feudal villages straight out of Akira Kurosawa’s classic samurai film “Yojimbo.” There are Sith villains and rabbit-girl hybrids, tea-sipping droids (OK, it’s really oil) and sake-sipping warriors. Lightsabers are lovingly squirreled away in traditional wrapping cloths called furoshiki and in red lacquer boxes.

And this being anime, there are over-the-top action sequences, stunning hand-painted backgrounds and computer-generated wonders. And of course, there’s plenty of “kawaii,” the distinctly Japanese form of cuteness….

(14) DISCH TRIBUTE. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1987 movie The Brave Little Toaster, an adaptation of Thomas M. Disch’s 1980 novel.

(15) SEE MOVIE RELICS. The Icons of Darkness exhibit, which represents itself to be the most extensive privately-owned collection of sci-fi, fantasy and horror film artifacts on earth, has now moved to its new home on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland in Hollywood.

From “Star Wars” to “Jurassic Park”, “Terminator” to “Harry Potter”, “Batman” to “Iron Man”, and so many more, the Icons of Darkness exhibition has something for everyone. You’ll see screen-used props, original costumes, life casts, production-made maquettes, makeup effects heads, and artifacts from some of Hollywood’s most famous sci-fi, fantasy, and horror classics. The exhibition will feature pieces from “Dracula”, “Frankenstein”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Spider-Man”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Game of Thrones”, and more!

(16) GETTING CHIPPY. Gene Wolfe gets a one-line mention in “Julius Pringles gets a makeover to celebrate brands’ 30th birthday in the UK” at Bakery and Snacks. Which the site is programmed to stop me from excerpting. You bastards!

(17) A GRAND MACHINE. The New York Times is there when “Amazon announces Astro, a home robot that it swears is more than Alexa on wheels”.

“Customers don’t just want Alexa on wheels,” Dave Limp, the head of Amazon’s devices, said at a company event on Tuesday. Then he proceeded to introduce a technology-packed home robot that looked a lot like … Alexa on wheels.

At least four years in the making, the small robot, called Astro, has a large screen and cameras attached to a wheeled base that can navigate a home…

Of all the products it showed, Amazon was clearly most excited about Astro, which was shown as the finale. And from the start, the company tried to sort out the differences between Astro and Alexa, the company’s digital assistant. Amazon said Astro’s large eyes on the screen, and the different tones it emitted, helped give the machine a “unique persona.” (At a starting price of $1,000, Astro is also a lot more expensive than most Alexa-enabled devices.)

But the main uses Amazon presented seemed to mirror some of the abilities of its Alexa and related products, which already put voice and camera surveillance in different rooms of a house. It does move, though, and Mr. Limp said customers could send the robot to check on people and different pets — for example, raising a camera on a telescopic arm to see if the flame on a stove is still on….

(18) WILD PITCH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In ‘James Bond;  Die Another Day” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the last Pierce Brosnan Bond film features Bond escaping from a hospital by willing his mind into cardiac arrest,, a villain who becomes British, gets knighted, and builds a giant empire in 14 months, and characters who practice ‘dNA remodeling by enlarging your bone marrow” which the producer thinks has enough science words for him.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, Joey Eschrich, Ben Bird Person, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/21 An Iron Pixel In A Velvet Scroll

(1) LAFFERTY FANS. LAFFCON, the annual celebration of science fiction author R. A. Lafferty, returns June 12, 2021. LAFFCON is a free event and open to the public. This year’s conference will be held online via Zoom. Register now.

(2) STORYBUNDLE. The 2021 Pride Bundle, curated by Catherine Lundoff and Melissa Scott, Includes our Heather Rose Jones’ 3rd Alpennia book. (Available for another 28 days.)

We’re back again with another queer-themed bundle for Pride — five books in the main bundle and a generous eleven in the bonus, for a total of sixteen if you spring for the bonus. As has become usual, we were spoiled for choice: there are just so many writers out there for whom intelligent, nuanced queer writing is their default mode. There is never an easy way to winnow things down to a manageable number.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • No Man’s Land by A.J. Fitzwater
  • Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Dropnauts by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Burning Bright by Melissa Scott
  • Highfeil Grimoires by Langley Hyde

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular books, plus eleven more books! That’s a total of 16.

  • The Four Profound Weaves by R. B. Lemberg
  • Succulents and Spells by Andi C. Buchanan
  • City of a Thousand Feelings by Anya Johanna DeNiro
  • Mother of Souls by Heather Rose Jones
  • Blood Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Spellbinding by Cecilia Tan
  • Glitter + Ashes edited by Dave Ring
  • Queens of Noise by Leigh Harlen
  • Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar
  • Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Stories to Sing in the Dark by Matthew Bright

(3) DERN’S LATEST PROFILE ABOUT AN EE WHO WRITES SFF. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’ve been doing a bunch of these (monthly), including Bruce Schneier (who’s directly sfnal via his crypto algorithm and appendix for Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon). My latest, just up a week or so ago, is on S. B. Divya: “S.B. Divya: How This EE Combines Engineering With Writing Some of the Best Sci-Fi Around”, IEEE Spectrum, (online) May 21, 2021 (online); page 19, June 2021 issue.

Engineers often find themselves in the role of turning ideas that used to be science fiction into reality. So it’s natural that some of them turn the flow of ideas in the other direction, and become authors of science fiction. One such engineer-turned-writer is Divya Srinivasan Breed, who writes her science fiction as S.B. Divya, and whose stories have been nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards.

“In my novella Runtime (2016), my main character was putting together exoskeletons, hacking firmware, people were embedding chips in their bodies…. And my novel Machinehood (2021) reflects my understanding of where we are today and where we are headed in terms of machine intelligence, and where some of the trouble spots are, socially, for labor, economics, humanity, and ethics,” says Divya. All the engineering aspects “were things I had studied or done at my jobs.” …

(4) WIDE WORLD OF SFF. The Best of World SF: Volume 1 is editor Lavie Tidhar’s “The Big Idea”, as he explains to Whatever readers today:

…I set out to do this book because I didn’t think anyone would do it for me. I hunted for stories far and wide—picking up horror collections in Malaysia, getting writer friends in China to send me rough translations, translating stories myself from Hebrew, begging and cajoling to find writers in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe… And I pitched the first Apex Book of World SF to Jason Sizemore in 2008, by telling him it wasn’t going to make him any money but it was a good thing to do.

Improbably, he agreed….

(5) REVIVING CURIOSITY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] David Marchese has an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson in the April 24 New York Times Magazine.  Topics include how to get the public interested in science, how he got his points across when being interviewed by Colbert and Jon Stewart, and, if the footnotes come through in the web version, why the proportions of Elsa in Frozen are all wrong. “Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Science Can Reign Supreme Again”.

In your work, you often bring up wanting to inculcate in people a scientific mind-set, which is a way of thinking that would help navigate misinformation. But we don’t always recognize misinformation for what it is. So what questions should people be asking themselves when they encounter material that’s skeptical about mainstream science? 

Let me first offer a transition from your question: I’ve gotten simultaneously famous and infamous for commenting on Twitter  on films and whether they get their science correct.

If something lands awkwardly, I ask myself, Could they have done that better or differently? Then later I comment. My defense is, if you are watching a period piece that takes place in the 1950s in L.A., and there’s a 1962 Chevy Bel Air on the road, and the person you see the movie with is a car buff and says, “That car wasn’t made yet,” you say, “That’s pretty good that you noticed that.” Or if you’re watching a Jane Austen period piece: The carriage rolls up, and somebody is wearing a derby instead of a top hat. If you’re a costume designer, you would cry foul. Those people aren’t criticized for making those observations. Because I’m bringing science to that table, people reject it unfairly. Now getting back to your point: What’s behind all this? The missing link is curiosity. Without curiosity you’re no longer probing for what is true. If someone says, “I saw Bigfoot the other day,” there are people who say, “Yeah, that’s great!” And people who say, “No, you’re full of [expletive]” — both of those responses require no brain work. What is the brain work I would like to see more of? It’s: Tell me more. When did you see this? Where did you see it? Did you find other evidence? You start probing. It’s the absence of curiosity that concerns me.

(6) PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS. James Davis Nicoll knows the one thing that ruins even the best-designed plans: “Would-Be Utopias: Five Books Featuring Arcologies and Domed Cities”.

Strength of Stones by Greg Bear (1981)

Rather than settle their new world willy-nilly, the hopefuls who migrated to the planet they dubbed God-Does-Battle decided to start with a clear vision made into manifest reality. They hired Robert Kahn, humanity’s greatest architect, to design perfect cities, which they then built. Utopia could only result!

To quote Sartre, “Hell is other people.” Utopias tend to fell apart as soon as humans are introduced. Kahn’s cities had a simple solution: They expelled all the humans, to survive or not, as fate decreed on, the surface of God-Does-Battle. The arcologies were now free to operate without human complications.

A thousand years later, Kahn’s creations are beginning to run down, which may give the starvelings outside a chance to reclaim their lost homes.

(7) YOU ARE THERE. Galactic Journey livetweeted today’s (in 1966) Gemini 9 mission — There’s a concept for you!

(8) LISTEN TO THIS. “APA Says Audiobook Sales Rose 12% in 2020”Publishers Weekly has the numbers.

The Audio Publishers Association’s annual review of the audiobook market found another year of double-digit sales increases as well as a profound shift in listening habits.

In 2019, 43% of listeners said they most often listened to audiobooks in their car, a percentage that fell to 30% last year when work-at-home orders kept people from commuting to the office. The percentage of people who took part in the APA survey who said home was their preferred listening spot jumped to 55% in 2020, from 43% in 2019.

Despite concerns early in the pandemic that the plunge in commuting would lead to a drop in sales, the APA found that sales from the 27 companies that report results to the APA sales survey increased 12%, to $1.3 billion. The sales gain is in keeping with data from the AAP, whose preliminary figures also show a double-digit increase in audiobook sales.

The consumer part of the survey found that 67% of audiobook consumers said that one of the reasons they enjoy listening to audiobooks is to reduce screen time….

(9) NOT JUST A BABBLING BROOK. Radio Times’ Tom Chapman declares that “Doctor Who’s River Song is the best companion of all time”.

Since the BBC relaunched Doctor Who in 2005, there’s been a colourful cast of fan-favourite companions that have joined the time-travelling Time Lord. From the early days of Rose Tyler through to Martha Jones, the Ponds, Yasmin Khan and all the rest, each has brought something different to the table.

However, all of the above pale in comparison to a certain River Song, aka the wife of the Doctor, who first debuted in the series to acclaim 13 years ago today. (Don’t get too attached though – Steven Moffat claims she’s been married 428 times.)

While naming River so definitively as the greatest companion of all time is sure to spark a debate hotter than the Satan Pit, she rightly earns her place at the top thanks to her flirty and fearsome attitude – and a few other qualities that have helped her unlock more than just the door to the TARDIS. Though before we get into all that, it’s time for a trip down memory lane…

(10) GRAB YOUR BRICKS. The first ever LEGO CON is happening online June 26.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 3, 1991 — On this date in 1991, The Guyver premiered in the United States. Directed by Screaming Mad George (really) and Steve Wang, it was produced by Brian Yuzna from the screenplay by John Woo Jr.  It starred Mark Hamill, Vivian Wu, David Gale, Linnea Quigley, Michael Berryman and many others. The critics really, really didn’t like it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rating of just thirty-six percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 3, 1809 – Margaret Gatty.  Capable marine biologist; British Sea Weeds (1872) took 14 years, described 200 species, still used in the 1950s.  Also that year The Book of Sun-Dials, with 350; there’s a 2010 paperback reprint.  For us, founded and edited Aunt Judy’s Magazine with contributions by Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, CaldecottCruikshank; books of parables and tales – Legendary Tales was illustrated by Phiz.  (Died 1873) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1861 – Sophie Jewett.  Poet, translator; taught at Wellesley.  Rendered The Pearl in its original meter.  (Died 1909) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1929 – Brian Lewis.  Ninety covers for New Worlds (here’s one), Science Fantasy (here’s one), Science Fiction Adventures (here’s one), for a few books, sometimes realistic, sometimes surrealistic; fifty interiors; also comics.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1946 — Dame Penelope Alice Wilton DBE, 75. She played the recurring role of PM Harriet Jones in Doctor Who and became one of the most popular characters in it. She also played Homily in The Borrowers and The Return of the Borrowers as Shaun of the Dead as Barbara and The BFG as The Queen. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1948 – Dale Payson, age 73.  Here is her cover for The Silver Crown.  Here is her frontispiece for The Sleepy Time Treasury.  Here is On Reading Palms.  Here is The Pop-Up Magic Castle Fairytale Book.  Outside our field, applauded for still-life and relatively-still  life paintings.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1950 — Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1958 — Suzie Plakson, 63. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1960 – Daniel Horne, age 61.  Ten dozen covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is the Jan 89 Amazing.  Here is Spectrum 9.  Here is the Winter 2016 Baum Bugle (that’s King Rinkitink, about whom much in this issue).  Here is Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart in Theater of Blood.  Here is Arcadia.  Outside our field, here is President Lincoln.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1964 — James Purefoy, 57. His most recent genre performance was in the recurring role of Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive role was I think as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1992 – William Broom, age 29.  Half a dozen short stories, two in Aurealis, two in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  Here is a note last year at Rocket Stack Rank.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows why a certain Marvel superhero movie horrified this audience.
  • Rhymes with Orange shows what you might find in a used time machine.
  • Macanudo suggests a corporate symbol that might represent a particularly alluring vampire meal:

(14) SPACEDOG. “Owl! at the Library” is here to surprise us with the fact that One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the novel, has a sequel called The Starlight Barking. I haven’t read it yet and already there are tears in my eyes… Thread starts here.

(15) RED FLAGS. Here’s your opportunity to learn from a professional why he’s self-rejecting from these short fiction markets. Joe Vasicek “Navigating Woke SF, Part 2: When Is It Not Worth Submitting?”

“Woke” is a slang term describing a basket of socioeconomic and political ideologies that are incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties. Taken to their logical conclusion, they end in the sort of totalitarian horrors the world saw in the 20th century (and continues to see today in communist China)….

.. So now, with a working definition of “woke” (promoting ideologies incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties) and the determination that wokeness is toxic in any degree, how can I tell if a market has gone truly woke?

…So with that in mind, what are the red flags?

1) Has the market won any awards that have gone completely woke?

Specifically, I’m thinking here of the Hugo Awards. They were trending to the left for a very long time, but 2015 was the year that they specifically went woke by voting “no award” over several deserving authors and editors. The transformation was completed in 2017, when the new rules shut out the Sad and Rabid Puppies, and both of those movements died out.

Therefore, if a short story market has won a Hugo since 2015 or been nominated for a Hugo since 2017, I’m not going to bother submitting to them. And if a market has had stories that have won or been nominated for a Hugo in those years, I’m going to ignore the market as well, unless it appears to be a fluke or a one-off.

2) Does the market have an explicit diversity statement in their submission guidelines?

…Therefore, if a market has an explicit diversity statement that contains woke signaling language, it’s going on the blacklist. Even if the market only put out a diversity statement to keep the woke mob from descending upon them, that’s still a sure sign that they’ve bent the knee….

3) Does the market publish content that is explicitly woke?

Editors always say that the best way to know what they’re looking for is to read a couple of issues or listen to a couple of episodes or stories. That seems like a reasonable standard, so I see no reason why I shouldn’t hold them to it.

Do the editors ever go off on explicitly woke political rants, or try to explain the message of the story in woke ideological terms? Do the author bios read like a checklist of woke intersectional identities? Are the stories themselves often thinly veiled rants about woke issues? Again, it’s important to apply the benefit of the doubt here, but you can tell a lot about a market by what they choose to publish. I won’t be wasting my time with the markets that regularly publish any of those things….

Vasicek also predicts a backlash is coming “that will shock the people who are too deeply ensconced in their echo chambers.” (Before you read that you didn’t know that Joe thought echo chambers were a bad thing, did you?)

(16) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Some like it hot: “NASA picks Venus as hot spot for two new robotic missions”AP has the story.

The space agency’s new administrator, Bill Nelson, announced two new robotic missions to the solar system’s hottest planet, during his first major address to employees Wednesday.

“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said.

One mission named DaVinci Plus will analyze the thick, cloudy Venusian atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether the inferno planet ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable. A small craft will plunge through the atmosphere to measure the gases.

It will be the first U.S.-led mission to the Venusian atmosphere since 1978.

The other mission, called Veritas, will seek a geologic history by mapping the rocky planet’s surface….

(17) HOT SHIRT. You can see Venus here, too. High Seas Trading Company has a new Planets / space themed Hawaiian shirt on offer, “A beautiful illustration of planets orbiting the sun.”

(18) SUPERSONIC AIR TRAVEL RETURNING? USA Today reports United Airlines has a deal to acquire the new aircraft if they make it over all the hurdles: “United Airlines: Concorde-like supersonic jet will halve travel time”.

…Overture, which is billed as an environmentally-friendly aircraft running only on up to 100% sustainable aviation fuel, is not expected to be introduced until 2025 and won’t fly until 2026. The first passengers won’t board until 2029, the companies said. Last year, Boom rolled out XB-1, a test aircraft.

The New York Times also reports that “United Airlines Wants to Bring Back Supersonic Air Travel”.

…United and Boom would not disclose financial details, including the cost of each plane, but Mr. Leskinen said the economics should be about the same as a new Boeing 787, a wide-body plane that airlines typically use on international routes. United has committed to buying the planes if Boom manages to produce them, secure regulatory approvals and hit other targets, like meeting its sustainability requirements.

Boom also plans to make planes for Japan Airlines, an investor in the company.

What is not clear is whether Boom has solved the problems that forced British Airways and Air France to stop using the Concorde on trans-Atlantic flights — high costs, safety concerns and flagging demand.

“There was no airline interest,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and consultant, said about why supersonic flights languished. “And a big part of the lack of airline interest was there were no engines that were commercially available that would allow a supersonic jet to be economically viable.”

Two decades later, some start-up companies, including Boom and Spike Aerospace, are pushing ahead with new designs and plans.

Boom, which is working with Rolls-Royce, the British jet engine maker, said its plane would be more efficient than the Concorde; United estimates it will be 75 percent more efficient. Boom’s planes will not be as noisy as the Concorde because their engines will create a sonic boom only when flying over water “when there’s no one to hear it,” said Boom’s chief executive, Blake Scholl, who previously worked at Amazon and Groupon.

(19) WATCH THE WATCH. Hypebeast thinks you should wind up with a “Sonic the Hedgehog x Seiko 30th Anniversary Watch”.

The watch dial references the Green Hill Zone from the SEGA game with an image of Sonic chasing golden ring hour markers at the four o’clock position. The inner bezel sees the game’s pixelated green grass along with other details like satin-blue finishing, a star second hand, a 1/20-second chronograph at 12 o’clock, a date function, and a commemorative box and card.

Limited to 3,000 pieces, the Sonic x Seiko 30th-anniversary quartz watch is priced at ¥49,800 JPY (approximately $450 USD) and is expected to be delivered in mid-August.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Robert Quaglia explains how this Bradbury conversation came to be.

Robert Sheckley speaks via teleconference with Ray Bradbury in the occasion of Bradbury’s 80th birthday. This happened in Bergamo in July 2000. But why actually in Bergamo? During his “genovese” period, when Robert Sheckley was living in Italy as a guest of Roberto Quaglia, suddenly Ray Bradbury became 80 years old, and people of Bergamo, Italy, had earlier invited Bradbury to Bergamo. But in the last moment Bradbury didn’t go, and knowing that Sheckley was in Italy, people of Bergamo decided to invite him so that Bradbury could speak with someone in a videoconference. This is the video of that unique – and to some extent bizarre – event. The moderator of the event is Corrado Augias.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Owen, Lise Andreasen, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/21 Listen, Billy Pixel’s Come Unscrolled In File

(1) WOOKIEEPEDIA CONTROVERSY RESOLVED. The Wookieepedia editors’ vote on an “Amendment to naming policy for real-world transgender individuals” discussed in yesterday’s Scroll (Item #2) has been rendered moot by management’s decision that the status quo – using deadnames from production credits – violates the company’s Terms of Use:

…With the creation of our Community Safety team, we have an opportunity to lead on an evolving topic in society at large. That’s why we’ve been actively monitoring this conversation over the last week, including working with members of Wookieepedia’s administration knowing that there are a lot of opinions involved here.

Having reviewed the situation, and in keeping with the evolving understanding of these issues, Fandom has determined that, while it may not have been the intention, knowingly using a deadname in an article title is a violation of our Terms of Use. This is a global determination, meaning it applies to all wikis—including Wookieepedia. Since this supersedes local policies, this vote should be closed and policies should be updated to reflect the Terms of Use. The policy proposal here fits with our Terms of Use. Returning to the previous status quo (deferring to credits despite someone stating what their chosen name is) does not….

This is a final decision and Fandom staff will not be participating in a debate here or elsewhere right now. We will be discussing the topic of content related to the transgender community in greater detail with the Fandom community at large in the near future. We are committed to working with our community, internal teams, and outside experts to build a comprehensive framework to help guide our communities on how to properly create content relating to both fictional characters and real-life individuals who do not fit into outmoded definitions of identity and gender. Our goal is to provide an educational and growth framework for those who do not have real-life experience in these topics but want to learn more about creating inclusive content.

Our communities often spend much time debating the nuance of canon or the particulars of a given content policy, but we must also be willing to engage in challenging conversations about the nuance of external factors surrounding these topics. To that end, when wiki content is talking about real human beings with real needs, they must be respected.

(2) PLUMBING THE DEPTHS. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls on a scientist to answer “Which superhero should we call if the Suez Canal gets plugged again?”

…Our first thought was this is obviously a job for Superman, or someone nearly as strong like Thor, Wonder Woman or even the Incredible Hulk.

“Global supply chain blockage make Hulk mad! Hulk smash!” is how we imagine that would play out.

Not so fast, says our friendly neighborhood physics professor.

In addition to being an expert in stuff like amorphous semiconductors, University of Minnesota professor James Kakalios has pondered the physical properties of the superpowerful in his book, “The Physics of Superheroes.”

Kakalios explained that a 1,300-foot-long ship is designed to have its weight supported by water under the length of its hull. So a brute force effort by a single superhero could be counterproductive.

“Tanker ships are not meant to be picked up,” Kakalios said. “Even if supported under its center of mass, there would be enormous twisting forces, called torques, that would snap the vessel in half.”

Kakalios suggested that a better superhero for the job would be DC Comics’ Aquaman or Marvel Comics’ Namor the Sub-Mariner….

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released this week, the latest in the monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives: “The Trolley Solution” by Shiv Ramdas, about a college professor pitted against a machine. This is the third and final entry in their recent series about the future of learning.

From the moment the text message arrived with an aggressive ping, Ahmed knew something was amiss. Oh, it read innocuously enough, just the one line from Niyati asking if they could have a chat, but he knew better. It was still two weeks before his meeting with the tenure committee, which made it unexpected. Plus, it was Those Words. Whenever someone said that they wanted to have a chat, what they actually meant was that they had something to say to you that they knew you wouldn’t like one bit…. 

It was published along with a response essay by Katina Michael, a scholar of technology, policy, and society: “’The Trolley Solution’: How much of higher ed can be automated?”

Imagine a university without any teachers, just peer learners, open-access resources, and an office space full of high-speed internet-enabled computers, accessible to anyone between 18–30 years of age, regardless of any prior learning. That university is called 42. It does not have any academic instructors; the teachers are the self-starting students who have their eyes set on a job in Big Tech. Aided only by a problem-based learning curriculum, students gain a certificate of completion about three to five years after starting out. They are guaranteed internships in some of the world’s most prestigious firms and have set their sights on launching their careers as coders. 42’s philosophy is steeped in peer-to-peer learning, where human learners themselves spearhead the learning process….

(4) RELEASING A BOOK DURING THE PANDEMIC. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore presents S.B. Divya, C.L. Clark, Arkady Martine, and Premee Mohamed in conversation on Friday, April 9, 2021 – 2:00 p.m. (Pacific). Register here.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod, with Mur Lafferty. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press.

C.L. Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. 

Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Under both names, she writes about border politics, rhetoric, propaganda, and the edges of the world.

Premee Mohamed is a scientist and writer with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science, but hopes that readers of her fiction will not hold that against her. Her short speculative fiction has been published in a variety of venues.

(5) SPY QUEEN. Francis Hamit is on the third segment of today’s Matthews and Friends podcast talking about his alternative history spy novel, The Queen of Washington. Hamit says, “I go into how I do research, so that may interest some people.” Here is the link: “Matthews and Friends” (3-29-21).

(6) @EATONVERSE IS BACK. Andrew Lippert announced that the official twitter of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at UC Riverside is returning to active status. “It will primarily be used to share items and documents from the collections that spark interest or are discovered while processing and working with the collections.” Here’s one of their latest tweets:

(7) STARTING THE NEXT CENTURY. Bradbury 101, produced by Phil Nichols, is a sequel to last year’s audio podcast series, Bradbury 100, which celebrated the centenary year of Bradbury. Here’s what Episode 04 is about —

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN is Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story collection. As a follow-up to the previous year’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, it secured Bradbury’s reputation as a science fiction writer of quality – and at the same time saddled him with the label “science fiction writer” even though most of his fiction after this point was NOT science fiction.

(8) CRACKED FACTS. Item #2 in Cracked’s “13 Scintillating Now-You-Know Facts About Movies, Science, And More” from March 28 remarkably gets some things wrong that were not wrong in the cited source article from Racked (“Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay”). Like, Forrest J Ackerman (the unnamed guy) and Morojo (her fan name) were never married.

(9) SHATNER’S 90TH BIRTHDAY WISDOM. “William Shatner Explains Star Trek’s Continued Popularity: ‘We’re on the Verge of Extinction’”. Don’t you know we’re on the eve of destruction? Shat does.

For more than 50 years, even though eras when the franchise was in a lull, Star Trek fandom has been vibrant and strong. Upon his 90th birthday, and turning himself into artificial intelligence, original Star Trek series star William Shatner reflected on why Gene Roddenberry’s vision has so firmly stood the test of time and why it seems to resonate even more strongly today. Shatner was blunt with the situation we find ourselves in during an appearance on PeopleTV‘s Couch Surfing, stating that “We’re on the verge of extinction. We are poisoning ourselves out of life, and the Earth will survive and this little cancer, mankind, that’s growing all around her will die off the way a body gets a temperature and kills the germs off. Mother Earth will get rid of us because we’re a pestilence. But we don’t have to be. And we can join with the rest of life that makes it here on Earth with equanimity.”

(10) NIMOY MONUMENT PLANNED. “Nimoy Family and Boston’s Museum of Science Announce Vulcan Salute Monument” reports StarTrek.com. The project was announced on Nimoy’s birthday, March 26.

The Museum of Science, Boston, one of the world’s largest science centers and one of Boston’s most popular attractions, in collaboration with the family of Leonard Nimoy, legendary actor of the historic television series, Star Trek, today, announced the development of a monument honoring the Boston native to be located at the Museum of Science.

The 20-foot, illuminated, stainless steel monument, designed by artist David Phillps, will be shaped in the famous “Live Long and Prosper” hand gesture that the actor’s character Mister Spock was known for. It will be located in front of the Museum, at Science Park, welcoming visitors and Star Trek fans from around the world.

The Museum wants to raise a million dollars for the Leonard Nimoy Memorial.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 29, 1968 –On this date in 1968, Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series that Gene Roddenberry planned but that never happened.

Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Verti, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 29, 1914 – Roy Hunt.  Program Book for Denvention I the 3rd Worldcon.  Here is his cover.  Here is the Pacificon I Combozine (4th Worldcon).  Here is a cover for The Gorgon, used on five issues 1947-1948.  Here is an illustration for “The Ghost” (Van Vogt, 1948).  Here is vol. 1 no. 2 of Fantasy Book.  Here is the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) coat of arms, which he designed.  Here is the Dec 59 New Frontiers.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1926 – Tom Adams.  Two short stories, eight covers, five interiors for us; much else, poetry prints, light shows e.g The Jimi Hendrix Experience, covers for Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie; a copy of AC’s Death in the Clouds with TA’s cover appears in the Dr. Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” (10th Doctor).  Here is Needle in a Timestack.  Here is Patron of the Arts.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 91. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 78. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel. (CE)
  • Born March 29, 1944 – Linn Prentis.  Began working as an agent for Virginia Kidd, then her own agency with offices in Washington State and New York.  Among her clients, Kage Baker, Patricia Briggs, Rick Bowes, A.M. Dellamonica, James Morrow.  Prentis Literary continues.  (Died 2016 – on December 24th, alas) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to  her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 65. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? I’m surprised that she hasn’t been nominated for any Hugo Awards according to ISFDB database. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 64. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1963 – Michelle Mitchell-Foust, Ph.D., age 58.  Two poetry books; two anthologies (with Tony Barnstone), Poems Dead and Undead and Poems Human and Inhuman (also called Monster Verse).  Elixir Press Poetry Prize, Columbia University Poetry Prize, Missouri Arts Council Biennial Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 53. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in  Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1978 –  Nerine Dorman, age 43.  Four novels for us, a score of shorter stories; half a dozen anthologies.  Won a Nommo and a Sanlam Gold.  Has read The Count of Monte CristoThe Master and MargaritaThe Big TimeThe Stars My DestinationDouble StarWho?  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1990 – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, age 31.  Poet, playwright, novelist.  Three novels for us.  Waterstone Children’s Book Prize, British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, Blackwell Children’s Book of the Year.  First novel for adults opened at No. 1 on The Times (i.e. of London) Bestseller Chart.  “Our parents took us everywhere – Jordan, India, China….  India is particularly special to me as my mum is from there.”  From The Girl of Ink & Stars: ‘A myth is something that happened so long ago that people like to pretend it’s not real, even when it is.’  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest discover robots with ethical problems – according to their designers.

(14) WISHBONER. Some show-biz pros are asking what turkey thought up this idea: “Comic-Con Criticized for In-Person Thanksgiving Weekend Event” in The Hollywood Reporter.

San Diego Comic-Con will return this year with an in-person convention during Thanksgiving weekend.

The pop culture event will host a “Comic-Con Special Edition” at the San Diego Convention Center from November 26-28. The announcement comes less than a month after Comic-Con International announced a virtual event would be held this summer due to uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of large-scale gatherings. The three-day Comic-Con@Home virtual event is set for July 23-25.

“It is our hope that by Fall conditions will permit larger public gatherings,” an announcement for the event said. “Comic-Con Special Edition will be the first in-person convention produced by the organization since Comic-Con 2019, and the first since the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19. The Fall event will allow the organization to highlight all the great elements that make Comic-Con such a popular event each year, as well as generate much needed revenue not only for the organization but also for local businesses and the community.”

…The announcement for an in-person Thanksgiving weekend event received immediate criticism across social media, with many noting the pandemic impacted the ability for many to be with their families during the holidays last year.

“So they scheduled #SDCC on the same weekend as the first chance most families will (hopefully) be fully able to celebrate Thanksgiving in two years. See you in 2022!” Charles Soule, writer and author for Daredevil and She-Hulk, shared on Twitter.

“Sure. Make it during the one non-denominational fall holiday weekend in U.S., w/ always peak airfare prices. And I’m sure A-list celebs will LOVE doing this. Black Friday, indeed,” author Tara Bennett wrote.

Linda Ge, who writes for CW’s new series Kung Fu, also tweeted “Does Comic-Con realize that most people didn’t get to spend last Thanksgiving with their families because of the pandemic? #SDCC”

(15) C3PO, R2D2, AND BBQ€590. This summer you could be “grilling from another galaxy” with the Star Wars-inspired Galaxy Grill for a mere 590 Euros.

Amaze your friends with a real space vehicle – they will definitely join the dark side with you.

(16) TECH SKEPTIC. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says the likelihood you will have a robot with legs helping you in your home is very small, because robots are expensive, heavy (what happens if a robot falls on you?) and robots with humanlike hands are really expensive.  “Robots don’t know much about the world they’re operating in, so a robot needs a great deal of education to learn where things are in your house.” “For all the hype, robots are limited in what they can do in your home”.

… But how likely is it that you’ll ever be able to own a true robotic butler?

Robots are indeed getting more complex. As AI continues to advance, it allows machines to figure out more complex problems and reliably chat with humans. Still, robotics and AI firms say you’ll have to wait quite some time before you’re able to own anything remotely similar to Rosey the Robot from “The Jetsons.”

In fact, companies are having a hard time commercializing anything more complex than a Roomba — which has been vacuuming houses for 20 years.

… Right now, robots are doing well in factories where there’s plenty of space, no small kids around and employees wearing protective gear. They’re really good at completing a single repetitive task, like screwing on a wheel.

But imagine introducing machinery with legs and lifting capabilities into your home where things can and do go wrong. What if it falls on someone, or a software update causes it to go haywire? It’s funny on “The Jetsons,” but it wouldn’t be so comical if your grandmother were on the receiving end….

(17) RYAN GEORGE. In “Godzilla Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the producer is happy that the son of Bryan Cranston’s character is named Ford because “selling your son’s name as advertising space is tight!”  (The producer’s three sons are Ben, Jerry, and Outback Steakhouse.)

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Filers will remember when OwlKitty entered the Lord of The Rings.  But in “Godzilla v. Cat (OwlKitty Parody)” on YouTube, OwlKitty takes on Godzilla!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Chris R., JJ, Cat Eldridge, David K. M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, David Doering, Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/21 Over 165 Days Without A Godstalk-Themed Scroll Title – Oops!

(1) ARKHAM ITEMS FOR SALE. John W. Knott, Jr. Bookseller is asking $415,000 for “AN ARKHAM HOUSE ARCHIVE: An important archive of material from the from the files of August Derleth, publisher and editor”.

…The Arkham House Archive contains over 4000 letters and documents related to publications issued by Arkham House, Mycroft & Moran and Stanton & Lee between 1939 and 1971, as well as correspondence and business papers related to Derleth’s activities as writer and editor for other publishers, including his editorial work as an anthologist in the 1940s and 1950s, and as a TV scriptwriter in the 1950s.
 This archive is a highly important collection of letters and documents. The core of the archive is correspondence, often extensive, from several hundred authors whose work Derleth published under his own imprints or in his highly important non-Arkham House anthologies published in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as manuscripts, mostly typewritten (including fair copies and carbons), submitted by Arkham House authors.

… These business papers largely predate the August William Derleth Papers held by the Wisconsin Historical Society, as “most of the pre-1963 materials were destroyed when this collection was originally processed, so substantially complete records survive only for the years between 1963 and 1970.”

(2) ROSWELL JUDGE. Light Bringer Project has introduced S.B. Divya as one of the Finalist Judges for the Roswell Award international short science fiction story competition from writers age 16 and older.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod (anthology), with Mur Lafferty. Divya also co-host of the premier science fiction podcast magazine, Escape Pod

Her short stories have been published at various magazines including Analog, Uncanny, and Tor. Her collection, Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Situations, is out now from Hachette India. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press. She holds degrees in computational neuroscience and signal processing, and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author.

Find out more about her at SBDivya.com or on Twitter as @DivyasTweets.

(3) JUSTICE LEAGUE. HBO Max dropped a second trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

(4) NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 10 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses how video games incorporate museums into their gaming.

In 2020’s Spider-Man:  Miles Morales, the hero is excluded from a science museum as a child but returns later as the titular web-slinger, leaping triumphantly between the wings of rockets suspended from the ceiling.  Here the museum space is shorthand for lost innocence, playing on gamers’ memories of school trips to exhibitions.  This same effect is pulled off more artfully in The Last Of Us Part II, which features a poignant flashback sequence in an abandoned museum of science and history.  In the ruined atrium, flooded with sunlight and overtaken by vines, the complex relationship between protagoinist Ellie and her father-figure Joel is infused with tenderness as they play on dinosaur skeletons and enter the command module of an Apollo spacecraft, forgetting the zombie-infested world outside for a few blissful moments.

In-game museums sometimes serve instead of meta-commentary, spaces where games tell the story of their own creation.  The joyous PS3 platformer Astro’s Playroom is a living exhibition of Sony’s greatest hits, while old Ratchet And Clank games contain secret levels which teach players about how developers created the game’s physics and environments.  Most imaginative is the post-credits museum of Call Of Duty 2:  Modern Warfare, remastered last year, where players can scrutinise character models, environments and weapons from the game.  Looking closely at each diorama–zooming in via the scope on your sniper rifle, naturally–reveals the extraordinary detail put into each component.  A tempting red button causes the exhibits to spring to life and attack.

(5) SMARTEST GUY IN THE ROOM? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt discusses how in 1958 he was approached to be on a quiz show called Brain or Brawn and he declined to appear.  Asimov writes, “I thought of Sprague de Camp, who managed to get on The $64,000 Question and who (for reasons known only to himself and God), chose motion pictures as his category, then muffed the very first question.”

I’d be interested in stories about fans and pros being on quiz shows.  Ray Bradbury appeared on an episode of You Bet Your Life in 1956.

(6) ERRONEOUS ZONE. “Off with their heads! Why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common online?”The Guardian searches for the answer.

… The White Rabbit never says, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” nor does the Mad Hatter say, “I am under no obligation to make sense to you.” The quote attributed to the Queen of Hearts – “That’s enough! Off with their head” – is almost right; she was after “heads”.

Dr Franziska Kohlt, editor of the Lewis Carroll Review, says she’s always spotting Carroll misquotes. “I saw a post about the coins on a collectors’ page, and almost automatically went checking for the quote, thinking, ‘Oh I hope they haven’t – oh no they have,” she said. “Misattributed Alice quotes are absolutely everywhere.”

Kohlt said that the “hurrier I go” and the “I am under no obligation!” quotes are “absolutely not Carroll quotes, as much as the internet insists”. “You wouldn’t believe how often we have to deal with these misquotes. I even find them in academic papers,” she said….

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • Anthony J. Lumsden conceived a design so advanced for the Van Nuys sewage facility that the building stood in for Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy (see it in Star Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).   6100 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys. (See “Scene It Before: The Japanese Garden from Star Trek” in Los Angeles Magazine.)

(8) JAMES FOLLETT OBIT. British writer James Follett (1939-2021) died January 10. Blake’s 7 fans knew him as the scriptwriter for the “Stardrive” and “Dawn of the Gods” episodes. In the Seventies he wrote many genre plays for BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Theatre, Just Before Midnight, and Saturday Night Theatre. In the Eighties he created Radio 4’s acclaimed SF serial Earthsearch, and later wrote three novels based on it. Altogether he wrote 11 sff novels, several computer games, and many radio and TV scripts. (He was the cousin of Ken Folett.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 15, 1981 — On this date in 1981, Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy sixty four percent rating among audience reviewers. The same cannot be said for the sequels which have ratings of seventeen and eighteen percent among those same reviewers. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 – Augusta, Lady Gregory.  Folklorist, playwright, theatre manager.  Vital to Irish Literary Revival.  For us, collected and retold Irish tales e.g. “The Three Sons”, Cuchulain of Muirthemne.  Bernard Shaw called her the greatest living Irishwoman.  (Died 1932) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 78. Not a Director whose tastes are at all squeamish. His best films? I’d pick VideodromeThe FlyNaked Lunch and The Dead Zone.Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which garnered a Bram Stoker Award nominated for A Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1926 – Rosel Brown.  Three novels (one with Keith Laumer), two dozen shorter stories.  Recent reprint collection Earthblood (6 by RB, 3 by KL, 1 by both).  Had an M.A. in Greek, too.  (Died 1967) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1933 – Al Lewis, age 88.  Chaired Westercon 15.  Long active in LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society); first to receive its Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Produced The Genie and The Musquite Kid Rides Again, famous in song and story.  [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1937 – Dan Adkins.  A dozen covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Fanart for e.g. Double:Bill (he has five in this issue – PDF), VegaXero (he’s in The Best of “Xero”), Yandro.  Fanzine, Sata (later by Bill Pearson).  Here is the Nov 66 If.  Here is the Jul 69 Galaxy.  Here is the Sep 71 Amazing.  Later worked with Wally Wood and for DC, Marvel, Dell.  Here is Doctor Strange 169.  Here is an interview by Roy Thomas.  Sinott Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1948 Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other genre creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1965 – James Barclay, age 56.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Guest of Honour at FantasyCon 2008, Master of Ceremonies at FantasyCon 2010.  “Barclay Rambles On” in BFS Journal 10 (British Fantasy Society).  Two children, two dogs – meaning a total of four, not two.  [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1967 Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1980 – Julie Cross, age 41.  Three novels, one shorter story for us; several others.  NY Times and USA Today Best-Seller.  Gymnast and coach.  Has read The OdysseyNative SonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]

(11) PROLIFIC EDITOR. Two-time Hugo winner John Joseph Adams is heard from in Odyssey Podcast #136: John Joseph Adams at the Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog.

John Joseph Adams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, he talks about worldbuilding and what he’d most like to see in submissions.

John is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as the bestselling editor of more than thirty anthologies, including Dead Man’s HandRobot UprisingsOz ReimaginedThe Mad Scientist’s Guide to World DominationOther Worlds Than TheseArmoredUnder the Moons of MarsBrave New WorldsWastelandsThe Living DeadThe Living Dead 2By Blood We LiveFederationsThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard.

Recent books include Cosmic PowersWhat the #@&% Is That?Operation ArcanaPress Start to PlayLoosed Upon the World, and The Apocalypse Triptych.

 John is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare.

(12) THE FIRST. Mental Floss celebrates “11 Facts About Donna Shirley, the First Woman to Manage a NASA Program”.

2. DONNA SHIRLEY WAS INSPIRED BY SCI-FI NOVELISTS RAY BRADBURY AND ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

At age 12, Shirley discovered—and devoured—Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles at the Wynnewood public library. Her earthbound teenage endeavors included editing her high school yearbook and playing cymbals in the marching band, but her space dreams were powered by Jimmy, the protagonist of Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars, who makes a seven-month voyage to the planet. In her 1998 autobiography Managing Martians, Shirley recalled, “Clarke described a world that was my ideal of community and comradeship.”

(13) SET IN DC. In the Washington Post, Fritz Hahn, Anyang Guo, and Angela Haupt ask various people for their favorite books set in Washington.  Michael Dirda recommends This Shared Dream by Kathleen Ann Goonan, set in an alternate universe 1991 where JFK wasn’t assassinated and Martin Luther King becomes U.N. ambassador. “The best books about Washington D.C.”. One other sff novel is mentioned —

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

I had often passed beautiful Oak Hill Cemetery on my walks around the city, but I didn’t get obsessed with it until I read “Lincoln in the Bardo,” a novel that might be described as a phantasmagoric “Spoon River Anthology” with footnotes. Set at the cemetery, and told by ghosts, it’s hilarious, disturbing and poignant by turn. George Saunders was inspired to write it after hearing about Lincoln’s visits to the cemetery to see his young son Willie, who temporarily lay in the Carroll Family Mausoleum after his death in 1862. The first time I tried to visit Oak Hill it was closing time, but an employee told me I could get a key and enter any time if I bought a plot, an idea I haven’t entirely ruled out. In the meantime I’ll make due with visiting hours.

— Julie Langsdorf, author of “White Elephant”

(14) MUPPET KNOWLEDGE. In “The Muppets Find Out Which Muppet They Are” on YouTube, the Muppets take BuzzFeed’s Muppet quiz to determine which Muppet they are, a process one Muppet called “very meta.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “300 Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says that 300 is set in Sparta, “a Greek city state where shirts have been outlawed” and the film consists of “slow-motion fight scenes with very muscular men wearing very tight thongs.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/4/21 And All The Scrolls Are Full Of Pix

(1) SPACE OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY. The virtual Tucson Festival of Books will include a panel “Galactic Empires, Murderbots and More!” with Tochi Onyebuchi, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells on Saturday March 6 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain time. Registration info here.

(2) GUEST WHO? “Star Trek: The Next Generation Almost Featured Robin Williams” at CBR.com.

…One actor the show never snagged, however, was Robin Williams, despite the fact that an episode was written specifically for him and the actor’s passion for the series.

The episode written for Robin Williams was Season 5, Episode 9, “A Matter of Time.” The episode focuses on the time-traveler Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a 26th century historian who traveled back in time to observe Picard and the crew of the Enterprise during a crucial moment. Except Rasmussen didn’t come from the future — he came from the past. He had stolen his time machine and was visiting The Next Generation‘s 24th century in order to steal as much technology as he could and become rich back in his own time….

(3) THE WONDER OF THUNDER. Netflix dropped a trailer for Thunder Force, a superhero comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer.

(4) HARD SF LAUGHS. “Weir(d) Science: PW Talks with Andy Weir” is a Q&A at Publishers Weekly about the author’s neaw book Project Hail Mary.

How did you decide on the level of humor?

I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition.

(5) FIRST STEP INTO SPACE. In the “ESA – Parastronaut feasibility project”, the European Space Agency will try to develop people with physical disabilities as astronauts. (Click for larger image.)

For the first time in over a decade, ESA is looking for new astronauts. These recruits will work alongside ESA’s existing astronauts as Europe enters a new era of space exploration.

In a first for ESA and human spaceflight worldwide, ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware.

ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission.

… Because we believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talents we can rely on in order to continue progressing in our endeavour. One effective way of doing this is to include more gifted people of different genders, ages and backgrounds, but also people with special needs, people living with physical disabilities.

Right now we are at step zero. The door is closed to persons with disabilities. With this pilot project we have the ambition to open this door and make a leap, to go from zero to one.

…There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with disability.

(6) AN INCREDIBLE CAREER. Sunday Profile: LeVar Burton on YouTube is an interview of Burton (he’s now a grandfather!) by Mo Rocca that aired on CBS Sunday Morning on February 28.

(7) #ILOOKLIKEANENGINEER . S.B. Divya, in “Hard Science Fiction Is Still Overwhelmingly White—But It’s Getting Better” at CrimeReads, says hard sf is becoming more welcoming to women and people of color as engineering and technology become more diverse professions.

…I didn’t start my adult life as a writer. First, I wanted to be a scientist. I went to Caltech to major in astrophysics, got sideswiped by computational neuroscience, and ended up working in electrical and computer engineering. From the moment I set foot on the Caltech campus, to the most recent tech job I held, I found myself and my fellow female engineers vastly outnumbered by our male cohort. Over almost 25 years in the industry, I have not seen these ratios improve. If anything, they’re getting worse.

The same phenomenon appears in so-called “hard science fiction,” which is another label that people attach to Michael Crichton’s novels. This subgenre encompasses stories whose speculative science and technology elements do not put a strain on credibility. (In contrast, see any fiction involving faster-than-light spacecraft, anti-gravity, or time travel.) Here, too, is a domain whose bestsellers are dominated by white men.

We live in the year 2021, and yet we persist in associating certain jobs—and certain types of stories—with specific groups of people. Engineers are Asian; startup CEOs are white. School teachers are women, and academics are men. Unfortunately, many times the statistics bear these out in reality, too. Why do we struggle to break free of these narratives and associations? Because we have so few counterexamples that are publicized. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they do not permeate our popular consciousness. It takes effort to overcome these associations, whether you fit in the stereotyped demographic or not. Without that struggle, the associations become self-fulling prophecies.

(8) ECHO WIFE NEWS. Sarah Gailey’s new book has been optioned – Deadline has the story: “Annapurna To Adapt Sarah Gailey’s Novel ‘The Echo Wife’ For Film”.

After a competitive situation, Annapurna has successfully optioned the rights to bestselling author Sarah Gailey’s most recent novel The Echo Wife and is adapting the book as a feature film.

Gailey will executive produce the project alongside Annapurna….

Hugo Award-winning and bestselling author Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Gailey’s nonfiction has been published by Mashable and The Boston Globe, and won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Gailey’s fiction credits also include Vice and The Atlantic. The author’s debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, published in 2019.

The Echo Wife was published on Feb. 16 by Tor Books, the science fiction and fantasy division of Macmillan Publishers….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 4, 1977 — On this day in 1977,  Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four TV movies. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1933 – Bernie Zuber.  Original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society.  Early editor of Mythlore.  Founded the Tolkien Fellowships, edited The Westmarch Chronicle.  Guest of Mythcon XIII.  Active in local (Los Angeles) fandom.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1952 – Richard Stevenson, age 69.  College English teacher of Canada, has also taught in Nigeria, musician with Sasquatch and Naked Ear.  A score of poetry books, memoir Riding on a Magpie Riff.  Six dozen poems for us.  Stephansson Award (Writers Guild of Alberta).  Has published haikusenryu (two Japanese short-poetry forms, unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines), tanka (Japanese short-poetry form, unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines).  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1954 Catherine Anne O’Hara, 67. First genre role role was in the most excellent Beetlejuice filmas artist Delia Deetz followed by being Texie Garcia in Dick Tracy, a film I’ll be damn if I know what I think about. She voices most excellently Sally / Shock bringing her fully to, errr, life in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I see she’s in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Justice Strauss. Lastly, and no this is by no means a complete listing of what she has done, she was on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Dr. Georgina Orwell. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 55. Author of the comic strips, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC Comics’ Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1969 – Sarah Bernard, age 52.  Half a dozen books for us.  Did her own cover for this one.  Has read a Complete Sherlock Holmes, three by Julian May, a dozen by Anne McCaffrey.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 – Marco Zaffino, age 48.  Author, filmmaker, musician; some for us e.g. Pure Bred Chihuahua.  Things can be unclear at borders (perhaps why those bookshops closed); see this Website.  These Sentries might be ours.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 48. Producer or Director on the Underworld franchise. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department. Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote pilot as well. Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted. (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Maggie Lehrman, age 39.  One novel for us; another outside our field, reviewed by Kirkus as “An earnest high school romp” which I guess leaves ML feeling as I did when someone – who as I’ve said is still my friend – described me as an earnest man in a propeller beanie, I mean what do you want?  Anyway, Website here. [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Lauren Miller, age 39.  Two novels for us, one other; now working on another as L. McBrayer.  She says “writing and seeing and being.  I have come to believe that there is magic to be found if we can learn to do all three at the same time.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SEUSS ON THE LOOSE. The New York Times’ coverage — “Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts” – includes these interesting sales figures.

…Classic children’s books are perennial best sellers and an important revenue stream for publishers. Last year, more than 338,000 copies of “Green Eggs and Ham” were sold across the United States, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks the sale of physical books at most retailers. “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold more than 311,000 copies, and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — always popular as a high school graduation gift — sold more than 513,000 copies.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” one of the six books pulled by the estate, sold about 5,000 copies last year, according to BookScan. “McElligot’s Pool” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” haven’t sold in years through the retailers BookScan tracks. Putting the merits of the books aside, removing “Green Eggs and Ham” would be a completely different business proposition from doing away with new printings of “McElligot’s Pool.” (Though the news that the books would be pulled caused a burst of demand, and copies of “Mulberry Street” were listed on eBay and Amazon for hundreds or thousands of dollars on Wednesday.)

(13) MISSION UNPOSSIBLE. Science Fiction 101 is a new podcast by Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie: “It’s Alive: Science Fiction 101 first episode!” Their first mission, should they choose to accept it, is to define the term!

In this debut episode, your friendly hosts Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie first attempt to define “science fiction”. If you want to know more about this thorny subject, check out Wikipedia’s attempt to do the very same thing. Or, for a more in-depth discussion, check out what the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has to say on the subject.

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available – “26: I’m Not Even a Single-Tasker”

John [Coxon] is an annoying prick, Alison [Scott] is not sure she’s staying sane, and Liz [Batty] is going to a beach. We discuss all the news from Eastercon, going to Picocon, and then look back on Punctuation before staying sane in the apocalypse.

(15) NOT ULTRAVIOLENCE BUT HYPERVIOLENCE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Keanu Reeves, who co-created with Matt Kindt and artist Ron Garney BRZRKR, a 12-issue comic published by Boom! Studios. “Keanu Reeves on the joy of writing his first comic book: ‘Why not? That sounds amazing!’”

… To dramatize this “Highlander”-meets-“Logan” fighter during the Boom! introductions, Reeves stood and acted out potential scenes, even flashing some fighting moves — pitch meeting as full-body immersion. The approach was similar to when Reeves first met with Pixar for “Toy Story 4,” striking action poses to play Duke Caboom. “I’ll get in touch with a feeling or thought — or a feeling-thought,” says the bearded Reeves, wearing a black Levi’s jacket and starkly backdropped by a near-white wall — Zoom room as Zen room. “I’ll express it and it tends to come out through the filter of the character.”

“BRZRKR” opens with maximum carnage and minimal verbiage. The creative team promises more textured themes are on the horizon. Discussing the comic’s scope, Reeves riffs until he’s in full mellifluous monologue: “We do want to take on morality, ethics, peacetime, war, violence, whose side, what’s right, what’s wrong, truth, fiction, memory, what do we believe in, who are we, with not only violence but also love — and then our own identities and who we are as humans.” Whoa.

(16) STARSHIP EXPLODES AFTER LANDING. “SpaceX Starship appears to ace touchdown, then explodes in Texas test flight”KTLA has the story.

SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.

The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.

The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.

The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.

But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.

(17) BY THE SEA. You can read the introductory paragraphs to an article about mermaids here — “Splash by Marina Warner – the rest of the article is behind a paywall at the New York Review of Books.

In l819 the French inventor Cagniard de La Tour gave the name sirène to the alarm he had devised to help evacuate factories and mines in case of accident—in those days all too frequent. The siren, or mermaid, came to his mind as a portent, a signal of danger, although it might seem a contradiction, since the sirens’ song was fatal to mortals: in the famous scene in the Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the ship’s mast to hear it, and orders his men to plug their ears with wax and ignore him when he pleads to be set free to join the singers on the shore. Homer does not describe these irresistible singers’ appearance—only their flowery meadow, which is strewn with the rotting corpses of their victims—but he tells us that their song promises omniscience: “We know whatever happens anywhere on earth.” This prescience inspired Cagniard: he inverted the sirens’ connection to fatality to name a device that gives forewarning.

In Greek iconography, the sirens are bird-bodied, and aren’t instantly seductive in appearance but rather, according to the historian Vaughn Scribner in Merpeople, “hideous beasts.” A famous fifth-century-BCE pot in the British Museum shows Odysseus standing stiffly lashed to the mast, head tilted skyward, his crew plying the oars while these bird-women perch around them, as if stalking their prey: one of them is dive-bombing the ship like a sea eagle. An imposing pair of nearly life-size standing terracotta figures from the fourth century BCE, in the collection of the Getty Museum, have birds’ bodies and tails, legs and claws, and women’s faces; they too have been identified as sirens… 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s “FallonVision” with Elizabeth Olsen on The Tonight Show. “Jimmy Fallon’s ‘WandaVision’ spoof with Elizabeth Olsen alters our pandemic reality”.

Jimmy Fallon took viewers on a journey through the decades of talk-show history while spoofing “WandaVision” this week. Because after all, what is “The Tonight Show” if not the tradition of late-night TV persevering?

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

Pixel Scroll 2/16/21 We Seem To Be Living In A Golden Age Of Pixel Scroll Titles At The Moment

(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Mar/Apr 2021 cover art is by Mondolithic Studios. Available at www.fandsf.com.

(2) MAKE READERS FEEL. Melinda Snodgrass has posted the text of her speech at the 2021 Life the Universe and Everything conference: “Tears That Speak”.

…When I sit down to write I am making an explicit promise to my reader or my viewer that I will not disappoint them. Now that isn’t a promise I will give them a happy ending (though Connie Willis and I absolutely agree that there is nothing wrong with a happy ending). What I’m promising is that I will give them an earned ending.

This is my reminder that if your story is based on one of these archetypes you best not complicate the story so much that you fail to meet those expectations by trying to be too clever by half, or trying to “redefine fiction or television” or whatever other grandiose notion one might have.

Which brings me to what for me is the most essential rule: Endings matter. In other words you have to “stick the landing”. This is a debate I’ve had with a certain famous fantasy author over many years. He claims that if you have a great journey you will be forgiven for punting the ending. I couldn’t disagree more. If you blow the ending it doesn’t matter how great the journey might have been. A bad ending will taint the entire work whether book or film.

I have my own personal example of this. The video game Mass Effect. It would probably go down as one if the not the greatest game in the history of the industry… but they blew the ending. I loved that game and the ride was amazing, but I cannot bring myself to replay it because I know that dreadful ending is waiting for me. And believe me, if I love a game I will replay it — numerous times — like Dragon Age: Origins….

(3) WAIT FOR IT. Futurism reads the social media tea leaves and concludes “’The Mandalorian’ Season 3 Cannot Release Until 2022”.

…So most of the titles on the [Disney+ preview kit] list are related to Marvel, and the only ones pertaining to Star Wars are the shows about Boba Fett and the Bad Batch (the former being live-action and the latter being animated). With The Mandalorian absent from this list, it appears that the show will not come back in 2021, but rather 2022. 

…Disney+ wants to be sure that it has subscribers for as long of a period of time as possible. If The Mandalorian season 3 were to come out in 2022, perhaps even right after The Book of Boba Fett has its season finale, then that would give fans a reason to stick around and stay subscribed for a couple more months. This strategy would be similar to what happened recently on CBS All-Access, where the new Star Trek animated series Lower Decks aired its first season and was immediately followed by season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. It is a strategy that makes a lot of financial sense. The people making the shows try to tell really good stories, but the business side also has to be taken into account in order to sustain the platform that hosts these shows.

(4) PEAK INVENTIVENESS. A novel by S. B. Divya gets the group’s attention in “Hugo Book Club Blog: The Humanity Of Machinehood”.

…One of the recurring themes explored in the book — and one of the reasons it should be considered for the Prometheus Award — is the relationship between government services, the private sector, and do-it-yourself culture. As an example, those wanting to go to space do so through the participation of voluntary hobbyist rocket-ship clubs, while health care is allocated through a system of micro-auctions. Pharmaceuticals are often printed at home with some government oversight, but pill designs come from both giant corporations and from hobbyists. None of these details are delivered by way of polemic, but rather flow naturally within the story.

In such a setting, the most powerful actors seem to be religions, in part because of the unassailable sway they have over their followers. Without giving too much away, there are philosophical aspects to a religion of Neo-Budhism that provide incredible motivations to some of the religion’s adherents. Religion thus is shown to be a tool to navigate and instigate change….

(5) PRIME POHL. Fanac.org has posted recording of a 1963 interview of Frederik Pohl conducted by Fred Lerner: “Science Fiction as Social Criticism” at YouTube.

Frederik Pohl fields questions on everything from how science fiction covers race relations to religion and advertising in this 1963 audio interview (presented with illustrative pictures). Fred Lerner, noted librarian, bibliographer and historian, was just 18 when he interviewed Frederik Pohl, both a professional science fiction writer of long standing, and one of the earliest science fiction fans. 

At the time of the interview, in addition to writing, Fred Pohl was editing prominent SF magazines and original anthologies. In this recording, listen for the discussion of his “Space Merchants” to predictions about the advertising industry, his views on fantasy vs science fiction, comments on the best fiction of the period, and even a whiff of “fans are slans”. This thoughtful interview provides not only a perspective on a major author in the field, but on a major editor. It’s worth noting that this is the second interview Pohl did that day. Interviewer Fred Lerner tells us that “the recording engineer was so interested in what Pohl had to say that he forgot to turn on the recorder. Fred Pohl was gracious – and patient – enough to repeat the interview!”

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 16, 1967 — On the day in 1967, Star Trek’s “Space Seed” premiered on NBC. Written by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber, it was directed by Marc Daniels. It guest starred Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh who would repeat this role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which would be nominated for a Hugo. Benedict Cumberbatch later portrayed Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 16, 1878 – Pamela Colman Smith.  Drew the 78 cards of the Waite-Smith Tarot deck in six months, a remarkable achievement in fantastic art.  Two books of Jamaican folklore; here is Annacy Stories (spelled Anansi in e.g. the Niven-Barnes book).  Illustrated Yeats and Stoker.  World War I charity work.  Theater programs and illustrations; here is an image from Scheherazadehere is Sir Henry Irving as Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1922 – Rusty Hevelin.  Fan Guest of Honor at Denvention Two the 39th Worldcon; Fan GoH and Toastmaster at so many SF cons that everyone (including RH) lost count.  U.S. Marine in World War II.  Antioch College man (as am I); dated Coretta Scott.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Find) delegate.  Fantascience Digest (with Bob Madle).  Dealer, mostly of prozines, at and after Baycon the 26th Worldcon (there have been various other Baycons); instrumental in Pulpcon for thirty years.  Moskowitz Archive Award (for collecting); his collection went to Univ. Iowa.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1925 – Ed Emshwiller.  Over forty years one of our best and most frequent illustrators.  Five hundred forty covers, twelve hundred interiors.  Here is the Jun 51 Galaxy.  Here is Jack of Eagles.  Here is Prelude to Space.  Here is Have Space Suit, Will Travel.  Here is the Apr 60 F&SF.  Here is the Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon.  Here is The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller vol. 1 (his wife).  Five Hugos.  Artbooks Emshwiller: Infinity × TwoDream Dance.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1938 – Chuck Crayne.  Long vital in Los Angeles fandom; earned its Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Westercon 22 and L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon.  Co-founded the NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Official Arbiter of The Cult at least as often as George Scithers.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1951 William Katt, 70. Ralph Hinkley, the lead of The Greatest American Hero. A series I know I watched and loved at the time.  In December 1975, he auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker but didn’t get the role obviously. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I’m certain I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about single malt whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 68. I decide to let one of y’all give him Birthday greeting so let’s Paul Weimer do it: “I first became of the inestimate Mr. Glyer because of seeing his name in Locus, multiple times, for something called File 770. When I found it online and started to read the blog, I only stepped in the middle of a stream of decades long science fiction fandom that has been his pole star. Mr. Glyer’s fandom has been an inspiration and model for myself, and doubtless, many others. I am glad that I have helped in my own small way to help with the edifice of SF fandom that he has created and in a very real way, embodies. Although I still have not yet managed to meet him in person,  I am proud to call him a friend. Happy Birthday Mike!” (CE)
  • Born February 16, 1955 – A.C. Farley, age 66.  A score of covers, twoscore interiors (besides his work for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).  Here is Retief to the Rescue.  Here is the Jan 89 Asimov’s.  Here is the Nov 90 Analog.  Here is Precious Cargo.  Here is the Oct 93 TMNT.  Here is his Website for Altered Earth Arts.  [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1957 Ardwight Chamberlain, 64. The voice of Kosh on Babylon 5. And that tickles me as I don’t think they credited it during the series, did they? Most of his other voice work English dubbing versions of Japanese anime including Digimon: Digital Monsters and The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 57. The Ninth Doctor who’s my third favorite among the new ones behind David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of CobraThor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1968 Warren Ellis, 53. I think Planetary is bloody brilliant as is Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan. His work on The Authority is not to be sniffed at either, nor should we overlook Iron Man: Extremis. He’s got two rather superb novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, that are not genre but which if you like hardboiled detective fiction, I’ll strongly recommend both. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1969 – Jennifer Marie Brissett, age 52.  One novel, nine shorter stories; essay “Dear Ms. Butler” for Luminescent Threads.  Interviewed in Strange Horizons and Uncanny, two good descriptions for her novel Elysium; it won a Philip K. Dick Special Citation.  Has read Anna KareninaThe Makioka Sisters, Aeschylus’ Oresteia plays, Watership Down, Don Quixote, four by Wells, two each by Bradbury, Hemingway, Dumas.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd uses Star Wars to explain the circular workings of a vaccine.

(9) A TRILOGY IS STILL IN THE CARDS. News items don’t get much shorter than this:

(10) DID YOU VOTE FOR HIM? James Davis Nicoll celebrates the U.S. holiday with “Five SF Tales of Presidential Peril” that are not jolly at all!

…When it comes to celebrating the legacies of fictional presidents, well… a system of checks and balances that works as designed doesn’t seem to make for a plot-friendly setting (although it must be reassuring to those who live under it). But authors are in no way limited by reality. They can tweak their settings in any way that makes for a thrilling adventure tale…and they have!….

(11) DO OVER. If the Doctor can’t change history, he can at least change his mind.“Sylvester McCoy says doubts about female Doctor were ‘stupid sexism’” the Guardian’s account based on a Radio Times interview.

The former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy has said his initial reservations about a female Doctor were due to “stupid sexism” and that he would like the role to be played next by a person of colour.

McCoy, who played the seventh incarnation of the doctor between 1987 and 1996, was quoted in 2015 as saying: “The Time Lord should never regenerate as a woman.”

He further dismissed the idea of a female Doctor, saying: “I’m sorry, but no – Doctor Who is a male character, just like James Bond. If they changed it to be politically correct, then it would ruin the dynamics between the Doctor and the assistant, which is a popular part of the show. I support feminism, but I’m not convinced by the cultural need of a female Doctor Who.”

But in a new interview for Radio Times, McCoy acknowledged that his initial reservations about the casting of Jodie Whittaker in the role were primarily motivated by sexist inclinations….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Lilo & Stitch” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say Stitch sounds “like a cross between Gollum and the Minions” and notes that Disney + changed the cover of a dryer Lilo plays in to a pizza box because they don’t want anyone to think they want kids to play in dryers.”

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