LA Fans, Here’s Your Chance to See Somtow Sucharitkul’s Movie “Maestro”

Somtow Sucharitkul and Paul Spurrier’s film The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror is opening at the Laemmle Glendale on Friday. The first showing is at 10:15 p.m., with others scheduled over the course of the week at different times. The film has won 21 international awards so far.

As Somtow told an interviewer from The Hollywood Reporter:

“It’s basically Mr. Holland’s Opus meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” jokes Somtow Sucharitkul, the 68-year-old screenwriter, and star, of The Maestro. “I play the murderous, mad conductor. Some might call that typecasting.”

Classical music fans know Somtow as the pioneering composer of operas and symphonies, including Requiem: In Memoriam 9/11 — commissioned by the government of Thailand as a gift for the victims of the 9/11, as the artistic director of Opera Siam and as the founder, in 2010, of Thai youth orchestra the Siam Sinfonietta. The Sinfonietta has performed in Carnegie Hall and Bayreuth, and won Austria’s Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in 2012.

Well before any of that happened, science fiction fans know him as the author of the Mallworld, Inquestor, and Aquila series. And in the horror genre he wrote Vampire Junction and a series of related novels and stories. His other horror books include the werewolf-Western novel Moon Dance, the zombie-American Civil War novel Darker Angels, and the collections Tagging the Moon: Fairy Tales of L.A. and The Pavilion of Frozen Women. In 1997, he wrote the juvenile vampire novel, The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter. He also wrote and directed the cult horror film The Laughing Dead and co-wrote the Roger Corman-produced Bram Stoker’s Burial of the Rats (1995). He was even president of the Horror Writers Association from 1998 to 2000.

The Maestro tells the story of Arun, a composer and conductor who tried to make it in Europe but has ended up teaching high society children in Thailand. For years, he has been composing a magnum opus, The Tongues of Angels, and dreams of premiering it under his own baton. The Covid crisis allows him to create an imagined utopia for gifted young musicians in the middle of nowhere, far from the pestilence and corruption of the outside world … but things go horribly wrong.

Pixel Scroll 2/8/22 Something Pixel This Way Scrolls

(1) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Somtow Sucharitkul told Facebook friends his movie The Maestro will play in L.A. in June. (See the story of the film here.) He wants help to make its appearance a hit.

To my friends in Los Angeles:

THE MAESTRO will open at one of the Laemmle theaters, probably in June, exact dates and location TBA.

Before then, I would like to mobilize the F/SF/H community, the Thai community, and the Music community to try to make the run a success and even to push it beyond one week.

So happy to be following in the footsteps of Dakota Loesch and Scott Monahan the creators of “Anchorage” which just enjoyed a run with this chain.

Any friends of mine in L.A. who would like to help me organize all our potential viewers, need all the grassroots help we can get! I will fly in for the opening for sure, and maybe some others from the team.

(2) PREGENERATION. “Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker announces pregnancy at Brit Awards 2022”Metro News has the story.

Jodie Whittaker revealed exciting news as she graced the Brit Awards 2022 red carpet, confirming she is pregnant with her second child. 

The Doctor Who actress attended the star-studded awards ceremony at London’s O2 Arena on Tuesday wearing a dress from British designer Chimone. 

(4) ARTIFICER INTELLIGENCE. “Artist uses AI to perfectly fake 70s science fiction pulp covers – artwork and titles”CDM Create Digital Music will tell you how.

The way a lot of press gets this wrong, of course, is to say things like “the AI made some sci-fi book covers.” Even as these algorithms get a lot more sophisticated than averaged pixels or a Markov chain, they are still just algorithms, lacking in agency, albeit with enormous data sets as source material. In turn, though, that makes some of the aesthetic peculiarities they generate all the more interesting, and means that it’s helpful to understand them as generative tools in the hands of artists. They’re the outcome of a lot of human effort in mathematics, code, and ultimately human choice, even if that last bit upsets those in search of general artificial intelligence.

Lewis Hackett is that artist, and cleverly selected what we’re seeing, combining a graphics technique called Clip Guided Diffusion for the imagery with familiar GPT3 techniques for the titles. And he’s done a great job selecting the results and aping the typography style by hand….

(5) SPACE ODYSSEYS – HOW LIKELY? At The Space Review Jeff Foust asks, “Are space movie studios sci-fi fantasies?”

Remember all the excitement a couple years ago when Hollywood media reported that Tom Cruise planned to film a movie in space? The NASA administrator at the time, Jim Bridenstine, confirmed that NASA was in talks with the famous actor for filming some kind of movie—no one was really sure what it would be about—on the International Space Station, but there’s been little overt progress since then. Cruise remains grounded for the foreseeable future: given the schedule of missions to the ISS, the soonest he could go is early 2023.

Those reports did apparently convince the Russians to do their own space movie, called The Challenge, with the cooperation, and maybe financial support, of Roscosmos. A director and an actress flew to the station in October to film scenes of a movie that’s supposed to come out later this year, putting The Challenge in line to become the first feature-length dramatic movie with major parts of it filmed in space (a distinction that’s required for earlier documentaries or Richard Garriott’s short spoof Apogee of Fear.) Take that, Tom Cruise!

Both Cruise’s rumored plans and the upcoming Russian film seem to have convinced people there’s a market for shooting movies in space. Last month, Axiom Space, a company adding commercial modules to the space station that will later become part of a standalone commercial space station, said it had been selected by a company called Space Entertainment Enterprise (SEE) to build an “inflatable microgravity entertainment venue” called SEE-1 that would be attached to its own commercial modules….

(6) SCIENTISTS IN SCIENCE FICTION. Dream Foundry is adding videos of Flights of Foundry 2021’s programming to their YouTube channel.  Some highlights include “The Unhelpful Legacy of Mad Scientists: Writing Scientists as Positive Role Models” with Octavia Cade, Benjamin C. Kinney, and Arula Ratnakar, moderated by Sid Jain. View on YouTube.

(7) MARTIAN HOP. You can still enjoy the online portion of the “Mars. The Red Mirror” exhibit at the Centre de CulturaContemporània de Barcelona: “Inside the red mirror”.

This is a virtual space where you can imagine your own view of Mars: god, symbol and planet in its different metamorphoses. You may have visited the exhibition or simply clicked on to this page skipping between links and other everyday internet browsings. It depends on how much time you want to spend, how much concentration is required and how curious you are….

The voice of the meteorite

I am a rare stone. Call me KSAR Ghilane 002 or whatever name your imagination conjures up. I come from Mars. I have travelled through space for thousands of years until I reached my unexpected destination in the desert you call the Sahara. I was discovered as a result of the insatiable curiosity for exploring that is inherent to your species. Now you can see one of my fragments. I come from the deepest strata on the Red Planet. I have a story to tell you. Because I am also a meteor, like the storms, typhoons and hurricanes you can’t control.

(8) DOUGLAS TRUMBULL (1942-2022). Director and special effects creator Douglas Trumbull died February 7 at the age of 79. He directed Silent Running. Trumbull got three Academy Award nominations for visual effects (for Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and, in 1992, a special scientific and engineering award for his work helping to design the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for motion picture photography. In 2012, he received the Academy’s Gordon E. Sawyer Award, a special technical Oscar for his contributions to the industry. The Associated Press has an extensive tribute: “’2001,’ ‘Blade Runner’ effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull dies”.

(9) ROBERT BLALACK (1948-2022). Oscar-winning Star Wars visual effects artist Robert Blalack died February 2. Deadline highlights his career.

… At the age of 29, he designed and supervised the Star Wars VistaVision Composite Optical production pipeline, which allowed all the groundbreaking 365 VistaVision VFX shots in Star Wars. Much of what he created for the film was built on a (relative) shoestring. With a VFX budget of just $1.6 million for the film, Blalack made use of obsolete VistaVision optical composite equipment from Hollywood’s Golden Years that could be had for a song.

“My task was to scavenge the Hollywood junkyards for any VistaVision Composite Optical mechanics,” he wrote, “figure out how to upgrade those relics with custom state-of-the-art optics, design a photographic process to mass-produce the movie’s 365 VistaVision composites, and then train and supervise the Star Wars Composite Optical crew.”

The result was what he called, “This Rube Goldberg assemblage of ancient composite printer hardware, state-of-the-art optics and the mass-production blue screen color-difference composite techniques were the backbone of the celluloid system…subsequently used on all ILM VistaVision VFX Composite Opticals.”

Blalack was part of the team that founded Industrial Light and Magic, and again the effort was driven by necessity….

In 1983, Blalack added an Emmy to his trophy case for his work on ABC’s The Day After, a TV movie about a nuclear holocaust which captured the public imagination due in no small part to his visual effects. It was seen by 100 million people in the U.S.

His other credits would comprise a career to be proud of unto themselves. They include effects on Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series Cosmos; transformational visions in Altered StatesWolfenCat People and RoboCop; and FX in service of comedic classics such as Airplane and The Blues Brothers.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifteen years ago on this evening, the short-lived Flash Gordon series that debuted on Sci-Fi on August 10, 2007 ended. The series was developed by Peter Hume who served as executive producer and the showrunner. He wrote the first and last episodes of the series which lasted twenty one episodes as well as many others. He would later be the Executive Producer of Primeval: New World and was involved in Charmed and Fantasy Island as well. 

The primary cast which was all Canadian was Eric Johnson was Flash Gordon, Gina Holden as Dale Arden, Jody Racicot as Dr. Hans Zarkov and John Ralston as Ming the Merciless. Anna Van Hooft had a recurring role as Princess Aura. 

So how was it received? Not at all well as the New York Post stated in a frankly hostile review that it was “a disgrace to the name of the enduring comic-strip-character-turned-movie-and-TV space hero.” And U.K. TV Zone stated that it might  “have worked if the early episodes hadn’t been so dire that no-one but reviewers are still watching.” Ouch. It probably mercifully has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

I have not seen it and would like to know how it was. So, who here has seen it?

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 8, 1828 Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally, I’m on first-hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJourney to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some sixty works and a lot were genre. And of course, his fiction has become the source of many other fictions in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
  • Born February 8, 1905 Truman Bradley. He was the host of syndicated Science Fiction Theatre series which ran from 1955 to 1957. It aired its last episode on this day in 1957.  On Borrowed Time, a fantasy film, is his only other SFF work. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 8, 1918 Michael Strong. He was Dr. Roger Korby in the most excellent Trek episode of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. He also showed up in Green HornetMission ImpossibleI-Spy (ok I consider it genre even if you don’t), Galactica 1980Man from AtlantisThe Six Million Dollar ManPlanet of The ApesKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Immortal. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 8, 1938 Ned Brooks. A Southern fan involved for six decades in fandom, and he attended his first  Worldcon in 1963. He wrote two associational works, Hannes Bok Illustration Index and Revised Hannes Bok Checklist back in the days when print reigned surpreme. ISFDB shows that he was quite the letter writer. Mike has an appreciation of him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 8, 1944 Rogert Lloyd Pack. He was John Lumic in the “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”, both Tenth Doctor stories. (He was the voice of the Cyber-Controller in these episodes as well.) He was also Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And he played Quentin Sykes in the Archer’s Goons series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 8, 1953 Mary Steenburgen, 67. She first acted in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre though I’ll bet some you will dispute that. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was also in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman. 
  • Born February 8, 1962 Malorie Blackman, 60. Her excellent Noughts and Crosses series explores racism in a dystopian setting. (They’re published as Black & White in the States.) She also wrote a Seventh Doctor short story, “The Ripple Effect” which was published as one of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-Shorts. She’s readily available on all digital platforms. 
  • Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 53. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. Chair of the last Worldcon. I’m going to select out Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar.  She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly amazed by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words on her: “I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.”
  • Born February 8, 1979 Josh Keaton, 43. He voiced the Hal Jordan / Green Lantern character in the most excellent Green Lantern: The Animated series which is getting a fresh series of episodes on the DC Universe streaming service. Yea! I’m also very impressed with his Spider-Man that he did for The Spectacular Spider-Man series. 

(12) COMICS AS A CASE STUDY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Who knew? I did not: “Not Even a Superhero Could Fix Global Supply Chains” in The American Prospect.

World War II and 9/11 couldn’t halt comic book production; COVID did. In 2020, as the world flipped on its head, even comics couldn’t evade a concentrated economy’s bursting fault lines. Diamond Comic Distributors—the industry titan that distributed Marvel and DC Comics for a quarter-century—shut down operations in April 2020 for nearly two months.

While distribution eventually restarted, the industry has continued to suffer lags. Entering the third year of the pandemic, frustrations run deep among comic book enthusiasts. Paloma Deerfield has worked for more than five years at Vault of Midnight, a comic book shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her favorites include X-Men, Saga, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and the indie comic publisher Boom! Studios. It’s disappointing, says Deerfield, “not being able to stock the shelves the way we want to.”

Buyers and sellers alike are feeling the impact not only from comic book distribution delays, but also from a shortage of bags and boards—the materials used to preserve collections in mint condition.

At BCW Supplies, an Indiana-based company that provides over 900 hobby accessories for collectors and retailers, backing boards are processed in their Indiana facility, while plastic bags are produced in their China factories, according to marketing manager Ted Litvan.

The paper industry’s significant price increases, explained Litvan, are due to higher demand outside of the collectibles industry. In early 2021, Amazon and other e-commerce giants snatched up the majority of the world’s cardboard supply. The cost of producing corrugated cardboard tripled last year too. For imported goods, meanwhile, “the ports are a mess,” and BCW can no longer predict when a shipment will be available for final delivery….

(13) FREUD AND C.S. LEWIS DRAMATIZED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews Freud’s Last Session, a 2010 play by Mark St Germain about an imaginary encounter between Sigmund Freud and C S Lewis in 1939, that is on stage at the Kings Head Theatre (kingsheadtheatre.com) through February 12.  It stars Sean Browne as Lewis and Julian Bird as Freud.

Lewis, who finds himself repeatedly drawn to the couch as if by a magnet, talks about his childhood.  For Freud, in physical agony and contemplating his end, arguments about the finality of death feel far from theoretical.

For both men the imminent conflict (of World War II) weighs heavy.  Lewis still bears the scars of his First World War experience; Freud has recently fled Austria.  The conversation is interrupted by a couple of moments of mortal terror–an air road siren; the throes of aircraft overhead–well realised in Darney’s staging. Browne and Bird bring the two adversaries springing to life.

(14) NO MIRACLE ON 35TH STREET. Bob Byrne wrote a series showing members of The Wolfe Pack how Nero and Archie are riding out the pandemic in the Spring of 2020. Black Gate has been reprinting them, and the latest installment is: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 34 and 35”.

…He eyed me levelly. “You know very well that you took that laundry to Lee’s as an infantile response to my insistence that the laundry go out that day. I highly doubt that Swann’s was closed.”

I was nonplussed. He continued. “No doubt, you instructed Mister Lee to put extra starch in my collars. And you added the cuffs out of spite.”

I gave him hurt expression number three. “I did no such thing.” I stared at the wall, thoughtfully. “Although, I did practice my Chinese with him. I might have said, ‘extra’ when I meant ‘less.’ My Chinese is a little rusty.”

He snorted. “Ridiculous. You don’t even speak Chinese.”

“Can’t get more rusty than that.”…

(15) AS YOU WISH. Kotaku explains now a “Sly NYT Crossword Puzzle Tricks Star Wars, Star Trek Fans”.

…The clever puzzle simply asks: “The better of two sci-fi franchises.” Depending on your preference, the answer is either Star Wars or Star Trek. The double entendre was highlighted in Wordplay, the Times’ crossword column along with a note about the choice from puzzle constructor Stephen McCarthy.

“I am a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, so it’s nice to be able to highlight both (not to mention the friendly rivalry between the two fandoms) in one puzzle,” McCarthy says in the column….

(16) SCIENCE IN A VACUUM. “Science and the Sublime” is an exhibit The Huntington in San Marino, CA has assembled around a famous painting temporarily on loan.

Feb. 12, 2022–May 30, 2022

Huntington Art Gallery

One of the great masterpieces from the Age of Enlightenment, Joseph Wright of Derby’s monumental An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) depicts a small group of people gathered around a candlelit table on which a lecturer in natural history is performing a scientific experiment, namely the creation of a vacuum, as described by chemist Robert Boyle in the 17th century. As air is slowly removed from a glass jar, the fate of a cockatiel inside the jar hangs in the balance. The observers’ reactions range from fascination to dismay. In Wright’s hands, the tableau is an exercise in the sublime, a moment of extreme tension recast as a dramatic meditation on the fragility of life. At the same time, the experiment being performed relates to advances in the fields of science and medicine, making the scene a celebration of human achievement.

“Science and the Sublime: A Masterpiece by Joseph Wright of Derby” presents the powerful 6-by-8-foot painting on loan from the National Gallery in London, where it is one of that institution’s most popular paintings, along with 15 works from The Huntington’s own collections, including two smaller paintings by Wright and 13 rare objects from the Library’s holdings. The exhibition’s theme highlights two major strengths of The Huntington’s collections—British art and the history of science—providing a unique opportunity to juxtapose materials that are not normally displayed together. Alongside Bird in the Air Pump, are rare books and ephemera that reveal the real science behind the elements that Wright depicts on canvas, as well as the contemporary moral and aesthetic debates with which he engages.

The loan of Bird in the Air Pump is part of a reciprocal exchange with the National Gallery, where The Huntington’s most famous work, Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic painting of The Blue Boy (ca. 1770), will be on display for London museumgoers for the first time in a century, from Jan. 25 through May 15, 2022.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Tom Becker, Darrah Chavey, Jennifer Hawthorne, John A Arkansawyer, Will R., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Somtow Sucharitkul Collaborates on Film Thriller

Somtow Sucharitkul’s new film The Maestro: Symphony of Terror is now in post-production.

Somtow and filmmaker Paul Spurrier, director of award-winning films like The Forest, having endured the pandemic shutting off their usual creative avenues for months, decided to break out of the box together.

Somtow had a young orchestra and a lot of postponed concerts. Known in Thailand as a conductor, composer, and opera impresario, Somtow previously dabbled in film when working in Hollywood, directing two low budget films including Ill Met by Moonlight. He also has written several significant horror novels, plus a novella that won the World Fantasy Award, and still has a following outside the realms in which he is known today.

Spurrier had an entire fllmmaking crew living in his home; he is himself an accomplished director of photography, his wife works in sound, and his sister-in-law is a veteran camera assistant. His recent films Pi and The Forest have completed their Netflix stint and are now on Amazon along with Eullenia, his most recent miniseries, starring Alec Newman (Paul Atreides from Children of Dune Sci Fi Channel) as a serial killer.

When Somtow said, “Can you think of some low-budget film we can just ‘dash off’ so that we can all do something, my youth orchestra can have an interesting and educational project,” Paul Spurrier said, “I want to do a film about a mad maestro who kidnaps a youth orchestra to try to play his masterpiece, and then things start going wrong … only you have to play the mad maestro yourself.”

This was the genesis of The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror but when Somtow put on his S.P. Somtow, the writer, persona, and started working on the script, the project began to become more complicated and soon it was no longer a quick 12-day project. “Having worked for Roger Corman in the 1990s,” Somtow said, “I had an idea of how to write big for small resources.”

The Maestro tells the story of a misunderstood genius with profound psychological problems. Rejected by the European musical establishment, he returns to his native Thailand and gets a job teaching music in a youth program. Stalked by an obsessed opera singer, ridiculed by his public, his big premiere preempted by a world-renowned conducting mediocrity, he begins a descent into madness. Accompanied by street busking violinist and a prodigy pianist from a dysfunctional family, he sets out to build a musical utopia in the wilderness to bring his transcendent vision to life … only, inevitably, it all goes horribly wrong.

One of the features of this film is the music. The Siam Sinfonietta under the baton of Trisdee na Patalung performs a soundtrack which was composed by Somtow but which portrays the music of the fictional Dr. Arun. Some of Thailand’s young musicians perform the virtuoso solo piano and violin roles. The music, which like the film itself, looks back to the “golden age” of Hollywood horror, is as much a character in the film as the actors.

Principal shooting is largely complete except for a few pick-up shots. They have already recorded most of the soundtrack with the Siam Sinfonietta. The film is now in the throes of post-production. When finished, The Maestro: Symphony of Terror is expected to debut on the international festival circuit.

Here is a clip:

Somtow spoke about The Maestro on Thai PBS

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 7/3/20 The Filing Sorcerers

(1) ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER. Minneapolis’ DreamHaven Books, boarded up after being vandalized, was  told by the city to get rid of the grafitti on the building. Wendy Comeau told followers:

Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?

I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).

On the store’s website, Wendy Comeau posted their open hours and other updates.

We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.

(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):

(3) BOMBS AWAY. Is this also the right season for the wrong kind of fireworks? Yahoo! reminds reads about “The Biggest Box Office Bombs of the Past Decade”. Plenty of genre here, unfortunately. Right at the top of the list, in fact –

  • Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.

(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.

It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.

Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?

What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.

Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.

(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Open Culture invites readers to “Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self”

…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting LadyhawkeCocoonBrazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating. 

(9) OTHER TOP TIME-TRAVEL MOVIES.

These are Rolling Stone’s nominees for “The 20 Best Time-Travel Movies”. In the middle of the list is:

8. ‘Run Lola Run’ (1998)

The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.

(10) BERNSTEIN OBIT. “Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein, Popular Twitch Streamer, Dies at 31” reports Variety. Bernstein died by suicide.

Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong.  It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating. 
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too.  William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka.  At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed.  Hmm.  Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”.  However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here.  A hundred shorter stories.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82.  Six dozen covers.  Here is Babel-17.  Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships.  Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus.  Here  is The Demolished Man.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.  Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher.  Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt.  Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael.  Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light).  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73.  A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25.  Thirty more books outside our field.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1964 Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“.  (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50.  A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”).  She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?

(14) JEAN-LUC PICCOLO. Variety profiles the sff theme music up for awards: “Yodas, Witchers and Trekkies, Oh My! Sci-Fi and Fantasy Contenders Eye Emmys Music Gold”.

Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….

… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.

(15) CAT DOWN UNDER. Atlas Obscura has photos of a statue that honors an adventurous seafaring cat.

OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.    

The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….

(16) GOLLUM READS THE HOBBIT. GameSpot teed up this piece of Tolkien-related news: “Andy Serkis Records New Audiobook For The Hobbit, And It Sounds Fantastic”.

Book company Harper Collins is making a new audiobook for The Hobbit that is read by none other than Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the movies.

The announcement of this new version comes after Serkis did a marathon reading of The Hobbit for charity back in May. For this new audiobook, Serkis is donating his payment to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and Harper Collins UK is matching it.

You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.

(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.

(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here

This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek,  BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner The Queens of Adventure.  Additionally,  Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”.  Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”.  Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more. 

(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:

…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

(20) LEAKY CAULDRON AND MUGGLENET. “Harry Potter fan sites reject author’s trans comments”:BBC has the story.

Two leading Harry Potter fan sites have publicly distanced themselves from author JK Rowling over her recent comments about transgender people.

The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said they would no longer use photos of Rowling or link to her own website.

Speaking jointly, they said her views on “marginalised people [were] out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment we find in her books”.

The stars of the Potter films have also spoken out against Rowling’s remarks.

…In their statement, the Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said it was “difficult to speak out against someone whose work we have so long admired”.

Yet they said it be “wrong” not to distance themselves from Rowling’s “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A swift completes its appointed rounds…. Gizmodo notes how “Artificial Feathers Let This Robotic Bird Fly With Incredible Agility”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nate, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/20/20 Let The Filed Rumpus Begin

(1) ARISIA’S LATEST REFORMS. Boston’s Arisia conrunning group is taking steps to create “A More Welcoming Arisia”. The post begins:

Black Lives Matter. While we don’t have a time machine to prevent the injustices of the past, we certainly have the power and the duty to correct present injustices and prevent future injustices in the spaces we are responsible for creating. Actions speak louder than words, and we are determined that our actions will reflect our resolve to make Arisia a more diverse, more welcoming space.

Changes have been made to the Arisia Code of Conduct:

  • We have replaced some language that has been weaponized against BIPoC or used to police their behavior. In particular, we strive to avoid coded words like “intimidating” and “civilized”. We can and will continue to clarify our expectations of Arisia attendees, but we will do it in ways that do not alienate fans of color.
  • We have added “display of hateful iconography” to the list of behavior the Code of Conduct explicitly forbids, with reference to the iconography listed on the SPLC and ADL websites.
  • In light of our knowledge of endemic police racism and brutality in interactions with BIPoC, we have removed suggestions that Arisia would involve the police, either reactively in response to prohibited behavior, or proactively by encouraging a police presence. In the past, we have sometimes paid for Boston Police Department details during the convention, but we commit to ending this practice.
  • We have clarified the protected classes, including race, to which our harassment policy pertains.

They have retired the “Lens” logo.

This artwork too closely resembles a modern police badge, which has become a symbol of oppression.

It is being replaced with Lee Moyer’s winged-A logo designed for Arisia 2017.

They have formed an Anti-Racism Committee “dedicated to educating ourselves about the injustices suffered by BIPoC and how to become actively anti-racist.” They also are “re-committing to supporting the convention’s Diversity Committee, which exists to make the Arisia convention a safer, more welcoming space for fans of color.”

(2) PROGRESS REPORT. Good news from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis: “We have achieved a proper glass door! Now we even look open. Noon-6, Monday-Saturday.”

And on June 17, publisher Catherine Lundoff spoke at DreamHaven Books about owning and operating a small press. The title of the the talk was “The Return of Running a Small Press: It’s an Adventure” and it also featured a live Q&A on Facebook.

(3) FREE READS FROM SOMTOW. Somtow Sucharitkul is giving away three free ebooks on Amazon THIS WEEKEND ONLY — from now till 23:59 Sunday night.

Somtow in a mask.

The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter • A book for young adults, this was a Junior Literary Guild selection as well as a Science Fiction Book Club selection. It’s about a half Jewish, half Lakota boy with some cultural identity issues who befriends a girl in school whose problem leaves his in the dust: she’s half human and half vampire. And she has to pick a side before she turns sixteen.…

Light on the Sound • the first volume of a series set in a galactic empire of incredible beauty and brutality. Of this series, reviewers said:

“He can create a world with less apparent effort than some writers devote to creating a small room … yet these tales are intricately wrought as those handcarved oriental balls within balls” — The Washington Post

“His multicultural viewpoint may yet give us the best SF novel of all time” — Analog

After a twenty year silence, I’ve added a fifth book to the series, and am working on a sixth, so this book is by way of introduction.

The final free book is Sounding Brass. It is an autobiographical memoir about the time I spent as a student ghost-writing music that was presented as the work of a cabinet minister during the Vietnam War. It’s definitely a worm’s eye view of “the swamp” with major political figures making cameo appearances, but although it’s definitely a funny book it also asks some questions about what “being an artist” really means.

To get these books for free, please make sure you order them from Amazon during the window of Saturday the 20th – Sunday the 21st, Pacific Standard Time.

Please enjoy the books and, if you so desire, visit my website  (www.somtow.com) and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive news and the occasional free ebook.

(4) IN PRAISE OF VIRTUAL CONS. Polish fan Marcin Klak discusses “Online Conventions and Where to Find Them” at Fandom Rover. His post is a great window on what’s been done in this line in Europe.

… All in all, I found the conventing online is really rewarding. The feeling is different than the one at the in-person cons but it has also some similarities. The most important aspect is that it allows me to socialize with fellow fans. I do hope that sooner rather than later in-person cons will be possible, but even then I think I would like to find some time for the online events. They have their own certain value not only as a “replacement” but also as events worth spending time on even in the “regular” times.

(5) UFO #8. Alex Shvartsman has released the Unidentified Funny Objects 8 table of contents. He expects the book to be released by early October.

  • Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
  • “The 10:40 Appointment at the NYC Department of Superhero Registration” by Chris Hepler
  • “Soul Trade” by Galen Westlake
  • “A.I., M.D.” by Kurt Pankau
  • “The Fellowship of the Mangled Scepter” by James Wesley Rogers
  • “When the “Martians” Return” by David Gerrold
  • “Welcome Home” by Simon R. Green
  • “The Unwelcome Mat” by J. J. Litke
  • “Get Me to the Firg-<click><cough>-xulb On Time” by Laura Resnick
  • “Black Note, in His Transition to a Supreme State of Wokeness” by James Beamon
  • “The Other Ted” by Wendy Mass and Rob Dircks
  • “C.A.T. Squad” by Gini Koch
  • “Ambrose Starkisser” by Jordan Chase-Young
  • “Gommy” Amy Lynwander
  • “Journey to Perfection” by Larry Hodges
  • “Fifteen Minutes” by Mike Morgan
  • “Zaznar the Great’s Fifty-Sixth Proposal to the Council for Urban Investment” by Jared Oliver Adams
  • “Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal” by Illimani Ferreira
  • “Couch Quest” by Eric D. Leavitt
  • “Pet Care for the Modern Mad Scientist” by Michael M. Jones
  • “The Punctuation Factory” by Beth Goder
  • “One Born Every Minute” by C. Flynt
  • “Shy and Retiring” by Esther Friesner
  • “Suburban Deer” by Jamie Lackey
  • “Body Double” by Jody Lynn Nye

(6) PAWS FOR ENJOYMENT. I’ve learned you can support George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe by accessing the “Quarantine Cat Film Festival” (mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll) with a virtual ticket purchased through their site. The link will take you there.

…Jean Cocteau Cinema presents Quarantine Cat Film Festival. Amateur filmmakers from around the world filmed their beloved cats during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. This compilation reel brings together the cutest, funniest, brave stand most loving of these videos, exclusively filmed during the pandemic.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1997 — Will Shetterly’s Dogland was published by Tor Books. The Chopping Block was listed as the cover artist. Shetterly has said it’s the novel that he’s most proud of. The story is based on his own childhood and a business that his parents owned called Dog Land. In 2007 Shetterly published a sequel, The Gospel of the Knife. Reviewers including Faren Miller, Ellen Kushner, Gahan Wilson and Peter Crowther praised both the characters and the setting. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s ShadowThe Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born June 20, 1913 Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. The first, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, was published in 1966. She’d publish twenty-nine more novels plus three collections of The Cat Who… shorter tales over the next forty years.  Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1919 – Kees Kelfkens.  A dozen covers for Dutch translations.  Here is The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.  Here is The Two Towers.  Here is Nineteen Eighty-Four.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1920 – Lloyd Eshbach.  Fan, pro, church publisher and Evangelical Congregational minister.  First sold SF 1930 to Scientific Detective Monthly; thirty more short stories.  Founded Fantasy Press and helped other small presses; edited Of Worlds Beyond about pro writing.  Pro Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon (Cincinnati); reminiscences of the 1st, 6th, 7th, 10th, 39th, 41st, for the 47th (Noreascon III Program Book).  Last novel 1990, The Scroll of Lucifer.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1941 – Pamela Zoline.  Illustrated several stories for New Worlds, see e.g. this for “Camp Concentration”.  Her most famous story “The Heat Death of the Universe” has been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, Polish; five more.  You can read “Heat Death” here [PDF].  In 1984, with husband John Lifton and five others, founded the Telluride Institute at Telluride, Colorado; in 2006, she and JL founded the Centre for the Future at Slavonice, Czech Republic.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1950 – Bruce Dane.  Attended L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; first President of the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society; after Los Angeles and Phoenix, Colorado Springs.  A filker; at his death Bill Mills sang “Don’t Bury Me in the Cold Cold Ground” to which you could once and might still get access here [PDF]; the File 770 report is here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 69. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1947 Candy Clark, 73. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye, and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1962 – David Clink.  As he says, poet, poker player, punster (e.g. “The Valet of the Shadow of Death”).  Fourteen dozen poems, e.g. in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology; four collections, recently The Role of Lightning in Evolution.  A poetry editor for Amazing.  His Website is here; it has his 2013 biography here.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 53. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical MagicThe Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), the splendid Paddington and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 52. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1971 – Wu Ming-yi, Ph.D.  Professor of Chinese at Nat’l Dong Hwa University, Taiwan.  Two novels for us, The Man with the Compound Eyes and The Stolen Bicycle; six others, short stories, essays; known for nature writing, or as some would have it, ecological literature; translated into Czech, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish.  Designed and illustrated his non-fiction Book of Lost Butterflies and The Dao of Butterflies.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • All glory is fleeting: Wondermark,”In which a Visitor proves a Nuisance, Part 2.”

(10) LIVE LONG. Gothamist ran this Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock image of Dr. Fauci street art on the Lower East Side. Andrew Porter adds, “Note The Pigeon of Truth on his shoulder!”

(11) MARTIAN HOP. The art students at Liverpool John Moores University couldn’t have their senior exhibits because of the pandemic. So they used NASA’s 3D Scans to hold a “Degree Show on Mars”.

The planet is currently broken. We are doing our degree show on Mars.

The trajectory of the LJMU Fine Art Degree show has been charted. We proceed at full-throttle and we are on schedule. This final journey into the unknown for our graduating students is not a pared back simulation of what might have been, it is a voyage that seeks to collectively establish new relevance and understanding for their individual endeavours, amid the stasis the world is currently experiencing. 

Artists respond to the world as they find it, they reflect it and help to build an understanding of what we are experiencing. The Degree Show on Mars is not simply showcasing the extraordinary originality and resilience of our graduating artists. It is a means by which we can document and understand the crisis through the eyes of artists who are emerging into a world very different to that which they had anticipated. 

(12) FACING UP. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova invites you to enjoy a gallery of homemade masks — “As an Antidote to Fear of Death, I Eat the Stars: Vintage Science Face Masks” – now licensed for sale.

A small, coruscating delight: I have made a series of face masks featuring wondrous centuries-old astronomical art and natural history illustrations I have restored and digitized from various archival sources over the years….

(13) ABOUT POE. At CrimeReads, Sarah Weinman asks “Can You Really Separate Edgar Allan Poe’s Work From His Life?” Weinman wrote the introduction for a reissue of Julian Symons’ Poe biography The Tell-Tale Heart, originally published in 1978, which has been out of print for decades.

…But the audacity of Symons’ project makes more than a bit of sense: because, he rightly argues in The Tell-Tale Heart, so much of what we think we know about Edgar Allan Poe is rooted in grudges, hearsay, rumor, and mystery, and of intuiting too much personal meaning from his successful, written-for-the-money mystery stories and from the poems that were closer to Poe’s heart and spirit.

(14) LAST AT BATS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Holy Bat-feuds! Revisiting the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding ‘Batman Forever’ 25 years later”, Ethan Alter argues that Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever “might arguably be worse” than Schumacher’s widely reviled Batman & Robin, and lists the many feuds surrounding the film, including Michael Keaton turning down $15 million to get in the bat-suit because the script for the film “sucked,” Val Kilmer regretting he replaced Keaton in the bat-suit, and villians Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey wanting to stick knives in each other.

…Schumacher and Kilmer were all smiles during the Batman Forever publicity tour, but it turns out that was just really good acting. Interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in 1996 — one year removed from the film’s release — the director described a tense on-set relationship that culminated in an actual pushing match. “He was being irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people,” Schumacher said. “He was badly behaved, he was rude and inappropriate. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me, but it was bliss.” Speaking with Vulture in 2019, Schumacher was even more pointed: “I didn’t say Val [Kilmer] was difficult to work with on Batman Forever. I said he was psychotic.” 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman–Is Writing For Children Tougher Than Writing for Adults?” on YouTube is a 2013 video by Bloomsbury Publishing where Gaiman explains that when writing for children, he has to be more precise than writing for adults.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/7/20 Files In My Pocket Like Pixels Of Scrolls

(1) S.P. SOMTOW RETURNS TO SFF. Somtow Sucharitkul celebrated the appearance of his new novel with these retrospective thoughts —

My first novel was published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It cost $2.50 and I got 20¢ a copy. To earn out my $5,000 advance, I would have had to sell 25,000 books. I don’t know if it sold that many, but it did get reprinted by S&S, and then republished by Del Rey. Later, my advances, and presumably the number of books they sold, increased quite a bit.

Twenty years ago, I kind of vanished from publishing except for the odd (very) Star Trek novel. But anyway the bottom fell out of the market for us mid-list types.

Now forty years have gone by since my first novel came out. I have just put out my first new science fiction novel since 1997 (unless you count that “very” odd Star Trek novel. Today, I’m not even imagining selling 100,000 copies of Vampire Junction or 25,000 copies of a space opera. Today, putting the whole thing on amazon all by myself, I’m thinking boy, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll have made a whole lot of old-time fans, most of whom I know personally, happy. And enjoy a lot of very nice meals.

But here’s the thing … it was REALLY satisfying to finish a science fiction novel. I might have to do some more.

Homeworld of the Heart — the 5th novel in the Inquestor series and my first science fiction book since 1997. Here are the links to the trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

It’s about the childhood of Sajit, who was to become the poet of the entire galactic empire. It’s chock-full of childsoldiers, people bins, tachyon bubbles, utopia hunters, beauty and depravity and the other expected features of the series, but also speaks about the chaos that ensues when the Inquestors’ games misfire, about the subtleties of music in the Inquestral age, and the stone-age taboos of a high-tech civilization.

(2) BAEN SERIES ENDS. I inquired of Baen Books’ Christopher Ruocchio and learned there won’t be a volume of The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF in 2020. He said, “Toni and [editor] David Afsharirad decided that five volumes was going to do it for the military sf anthology series and wrapped it up. Last year’s was the last for the present.” The series will be missed.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Juanita Coulson, 87, was taken to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for tests and treatment. It was suspected she’d had a stroke, however, Bruce Coulson told Facebook readers today in a public post: “Further news on Mom. It turns out she did NOT have a stroke (probably), but does have a UTI and will be off work for a while. On the plus side, she might be going back home in a couple of days.”

Coulson is a sff author, winner of the Big Heart Award (2012), and past DUFF delegate.

(4) CANADA PERFORMS. Margaret Atwood kicks off a streaming series for Canadian writers whose tours have been derailed. “It doesn’t replace the fun of an audience, mass audience response, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I think we’re in the better-than-nothing era.” The New York Times reports: “At Margaret Atwood’s Prompting, Canada Launches Virtual Book Tours”.

Margaret Atwood is launching an online series that she hopes will help Canada’s writers sell books to a nation of shut-ins. But even she has not been immune to the headaches plaguing many people as they attempt to communicate during the global pandemic.

One came half an hour into a conversation about upcoming books with Adrienne Clarkson, a friend and fellow author, hosted by the National Arts Centre on Facebook Live. Atwood’s image froze.

“Come back, come back,” Clarkson said. “Was it anything I said?”

After a few minutes, Atwood did reappear, in a different room of her house with a superior internet connection. The two women continued to go through a list of books they acknowledged that, for the most part, they hadn’t even seen, let alone read, but were written by authors whose earlier works they enjoyed.

Their chat, which veered into social distancing and gardening, among other subjects, was an extension of a program the arts center started two weeks ago, CanadaPerforms, to provide a paid venue for musicians, actors, comedians and other performers at a time when stages are dark around the world….

(5) BARBER OBIT. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Michigan fan Tom Barber (born 1949) passed away on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID 19. Tom was a long time convention worker and occasional t-shirt dealer who, in the past, had chaired both Confusion and Conclave. He was a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and was Fan GOH at Confusion in 2001.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 7, 1933 King Kong was released nationwide I he U.S. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 97% approval rating. You can watch it here.
  • April 7, 1951 The Thing from Another World premiered. It was directed by Christian Nyby, and produced by Edward Lasker. It’s based on John W. Campbell ‘s “Who Goes There?” novella. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness is The Thing, but he is almost impossible to recognize in makeup due to both the extremely low lighting and other steps used to hide his face. Critics at the time weren’t wild about it but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really like it and give it an 87% rating. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories. His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised that role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of  him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve novels and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m certain there was other novels down the years. He worked on the famed Irish fanzines Slant and Hyphen. He was a guest of honor at the 1996 Worldcon. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 85. He edited with his then wife Robbie Holier Than Thou, nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine — losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 81. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he both an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 69. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single ”Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’sA Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Is coronavirus funny enough to fill the entire Comics Section? You be the judge!

  • xkcd tells why homemade masks are better than some other ideas for avoiding infection.
  • Pearls Before Swine’s creator is suspiciously unavailable — April 6 and April 7
  • Brewster Rockit goes for a pretty obvious punchline on the first day, and another one the next day.
  • Frank and Ernest certainly have their hearts in the right place.
  • Lio is about as funny as usual. (If you’ll pardon my saying so.)
  • Tank McNamara, on the other hand, is almost worth a laugh, which has never happened before. 

(9) AS LONG AS YOU HAVE SOME TIME ON YOUR HANDS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Barry Kibrick discuss the Universe from the Big Bang to Newton in a two-part special episode of Between the Lines: “Astrophysics: Part One, From the Big Bang to Newton” and “Astrophysics: Part Two, From Newton to Our Current Time”.

(10) SPIN CONTROL. “Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet” – BBC has the story.

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture.

This time we’re being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away from another black hole at near light-speed.

The scene was actually in the “background” of the original target.

The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

They say their studies of the region of space known as 3C 279 will help them better understand the physics that drives behaviour in the vicinity of black holes.

(11) TIGER, TIGER. Details on the sick tigers: NPR asks “A Tiger Has Coronavirus. Should You Worry About Your Pets?”

Nadia is a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Last week, she started exhibiting one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus: a dry cough.

And it wasn’t just Nadia — her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions were all experiencing the same thing. So the zoo got permission from local and state health departments and animal health authorities, and took a sample from Nadia to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2. The sample was analyzed at the University of Illinois and Cornell University, and the presumptive positive finding confirmed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa.

That positive makes Nadia the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S., the CDC says.

That result raises a number of questions about the virus, and how it could affect the animals we spend time with. We’ll tackle those questions here.

How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?

The test involved an oral swab, a nasal swab, and procedure called a tracheal wash, which allows for sampling of the animal’s airways….

How did the tiger get tested when a lot of people still can’t?

The sample from Nadia was tested at veterinary diagnostic labs that aren’t approved to analyze human tests. The testing of the tiger “did not take a test or resources from human health efforts,” the zoo said.

Nadia and the other tigers and lions are doing well and improving, the zoo says, though some have a decrease in appetite.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “2 Lizards:  Episode 3, 2020” completes a three-part series of short videos on Vimeo in which Oriem Barki and Meriem Bennani show that even lizards get antsy if they stay inside and watch coronavirus coverage on their laptops.

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