Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #69

Fandom and the Pendulum: The Astronomicon 13 Fan Guest of Honor Speech

By Chris M. Barkley:

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”  — Anais Nin 

I was resetting a cuckoo clock the other day when I became transfixed with the motion of the pendulum. Back and forth, in a hypnotic, rhythmic action.   

Looking at it, I think that it is the best visual representation of the passage of time.

In doing so, I was also reminded of several conversations I had with friends at Chicon 8 several weeks earlier.

Separately, without prompting or encouragement, each of them described how in the current state of sf fandom the pendulum had taken a strong, hard excessive turn and in a direction that they did not particularly like very much.

All of them had similar complaints and, oddly, all of them mentioned the same metaphor; that it seemed that the pendulum of change had taken a hard swing and it was in a direction that they didn’t like.

To wit, that recently, fandom seems to be a not a very inviting place unless they strictly adhered to a particular ideology.

And I concur.

Because, like the pendulum, the recent social and political shifts in sf fandom, particularly the branch I know well, literary fandom, can be observed and measured. 

Chris M. Barkley

In order to understand where we are now, we must examine the origins of sf fandom. Even today, the general public believes a very persistent myth that conventions and fandom began after the cancellation of Star Trek and the gathering of fans that started taking place in the early 1970’s. In truth, it began over forty years before then… 

In the early 1930’s, Amazing Stories and several other pulp magazines in the United States, began running letter of comment columns. The published letters included the addresses of the fans who sent them. These letter writers, who were nearly all white and male, began to correspond with each other. Local fans found each other and began to form clubs dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. A similar movement was also underway in the United Kingdom as well. By late 1936, they began to call some of these larger meetups conventions.

In the US, the New York contingent of fans decided to hold a World Science Fiction Convention (NyCon 1) in New York City, in conjunction with the futuristic theme of the World’s Fair being held in the nearby borough of Queens.

(BTW, fandom’s first significant feud began at that convention, as several well known members of First Fandom were excluded from attending, mainly because of personality conflicts but at the time, their political differences were played up. More on this later in this speech).

The progenitors of fandom began a whole host of fannish traditions; fanzines and fan writing, literary serious criticism of genre fiction, small press publishing, cos-play, filk singing, convention panels and ‘dead dog’ parties.

As the decades flew by, the marginal popularity of sf, fantasy and horror with the public came and went but remained constant in that initial group of fans, some of whom eventually became well known authors, editors, artists and convention runners. 

In the early years, the first two main genre fiction awards, the Hugo (in 1953) and the Nebula (in 1965) were established. 

Women authors and editors (Andre Norton, C.L. Moore, Cele Goldsmith, Leigh Brackett and Judith Merril) paved the way for the next generation of better known and renowned writers of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Vonda McIntrye, Joanna Russ and Octavia Butler among others.

I entered fandom in June 1976. I was a witness to and a participant in a lot of the pendulum swing in fandom; the slow but persistent emergence of women and the LGBTQ+ community, the calling out of sexism and harassment and the inclusion of more people of color in fandom.

In other words, the fandom of the early days is as far removed from today’s fandom as the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne is from N. K. Jemisin, the art of Rembrandt from Jon-Michel Basquiat, the musical Oklahoma! is to Hamilton and the swinging moves of Benny Goodman are from the grooves of Rihanna.

And I want to be quite clear about this, as an African-American citizen of the United States of America, I applaud, encourage and welcome all of these changes in fandom. Because in 2022, representation, in the face of an increasing societal turmoil and partisan division, matters even more than ever.

But, as a close observer (and an active participant) in some of these changes, I can tell you that none of this came very quickly or very easily.

As the pendulum swung, other factors and effects came into play; personal computers, cell and smartphones, social media sites and the internet became a double edged sword. Technological advances made it easier to call out toxic fans and their behavior but it also enabled bad actors to disrupt fannish activities and the lives of fans on an incredibly personal level.

Fandom is subject to the same major sources of social change, including population growth and composition, culture and technology, the natural environment, and social conflict as any other artistic movement. 

Here’s the thing; these changes, shifts and, if you will, the swings of the pendulum are not only true and observable, they are unavoidable and inevitable.

Because, as history has shown us again and again, in every movement of substance, whether it be music, art, literature, science, sports and (especially) politics undergo the change on a regular and inevitable basis.

A sizable portion of the fans attending genre conventions are female, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. The people who are a part of the sf/f community today are more diverse, more knowledgeable, technically adroit, and, for the most part, they’re unafraid to let you know how they feel. And, as much as their right-wing adversaries would like them to go away, this newly emerging segment of fandom is not likely because they are the new majority, which was mainly brought on by the Puppies’ overt and militant actions against fandom.

And inevitably, with the advances came some pushback, in the form of harassment and trolling, by privileged individuals, who are mostly white, are either frightened by an otherness of others outside of their own experiences or their own racist upbringing and xenophobic tendencies.

In the early to mid-2010’s, this all came to head with is now known as the “Puppy Wars” (Sad/Angry/Rabid) which were expertly chronicled by Camestros Felapton in his Hugo Award nominated non-fiction work, Debarkle

The fannish backlash against this reprehensible group of egocentric bullies played out over several years; the Puppies may have disrupted the Hugo Award nomination process for a few years but they eventually lost the war when nearly all of their gamed nominees lost and the World Science Fiction Convention Constitution was sufficiently amended to stop it being successfully attempted again.

But this wasn’t to say there were no lasting effects from this conflict; while diversity has become even more celebrated (at least more so in this branch of fandom), there were several troubling, high profile incidents in the past few years:

  • Conservative provocateur Jon Del Arroz filed a lawsuit against Worldcon 76 (which was held in San Jose. California) when it banned him (rightfully so) from attending the convention due to his overtly inflammatory statements about fandom. But Del Arroz filed a lawsuit in response to the convention committee’s public announcement of that decision, which claimed he made racist statements. Worldcon 76 and Del Arroz announced in June 2021 they had settled the suit shortly before it was scheduled to go to trial. Four of the five claims had been dismissed by the judge, but the charge of defamation, of him being a “racist”, would have been the bone of contention if a trial had gone forward. The convention ceded a $4000 settlement to Del Arroz and a public apology, which can still be seen on the Worldcon 76 website. It is believed that the legal fees incurred by the convention committee were around $100,000.
  • In 2019 and 2020, sf writer Adam-Troy Castro and his late wife Judi were beset by a series of increasingly vicious cyber identity thefts that drained their bank accounts, ruined their credit rating and forced them to move out of their longtime home. Go-Fund Me campaigns saved them from being homeless but the culprits of these attacks remain unknown and at large.
  • A few months ago, white supremacist trolls somehow arranged the suspension of the Twitter accounts of authors Harry Turtledove and Patrick Tomlinson. Both accounts were eventually restored but Twitter has no explanation of how this occurred nor have they offered an explanation of how it happened or any whether they are investigating the breach.
  • Patrick Tomlinson and Hugo Award nominated Nigerian sf author and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki received death threats as they attended Chicon 8. In the four years preceding the convention, Tomlinson and his family members were the constant and frequent targets of identity theft, trolling and death threats. 

To counter these reactionary fans, many convention committees enacted Codes of Conduct over the past decade. The trouble was that in the years since they were first introduced, some of these CoC’s were either not very well defined, not very transparent on how they were implemented or, in the worst case scenario, poorly enforced. The most recent examples include:

  • At the 2022 Nebula Award Conference in Los Angeles, newly minted Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association Grandmaster Mercedes Lackey, during a panel titled “Romancing Sci-Fi and Fantasy”, was alleged to have uttered a racial slur. Author of color Jen Brown, complained about the incident on Twitter and Lackey, without the benefit of an investigation or a hearing, was summarily dismissed (along with her husband Larry Dixon, who vociferously defended her on social media) from further participation in the Conference. Lackey fully apologized two days later and said she had not intentionally said anything racist, but had fumbled saying “person of color”. While friends and colleagues (such as authors of color Samuel R. Delany and Steven Barnes) rallied to her defense, Jen Brown and a legion of others continued to condemn her and boycott her works. As of this writing, SWFA has not offered a full explanation, any indication that an investigation was conducted or an apology for their actions.
  • Almost exactly a week later on Memorial Day weekend at Balticon 56, local author and conrunner Stephanie Burke found herself in a strikingly similar situation; she was accused by the Programming staff of racist statements and behavior. To compound matters, Burke was accused of never responding to an email about the incident, but it was discovered later that the email was never sent. On top of all of that, Ms. Burke suffered the embarrassment of being removed from an ongoing panel she was on and then was verbally abused by a “senior staffer” of Balticon, who was found in violation of the Code of Conduct. The very next day,Yakira Heistand, the Chair of Balticon 56, publicly apologized for Ms. Burke’s treatment but also stated that the allegations would be fully investigated. 
  • On September 1, 2022, 105 days after the alleged incident, Balticon 56 issued this statement:

Of the complaints against Ms. Burke, our Investigation Team determined there were no Code of Conduct violations. Witnesses confirmed that she was speaking of her own experiences and not making general statements about another individual or class of people. Speaking one’s own truth is not a violation of our Code of Conduct. Ms. Burke is welcome to be a program participant in the future. Again, we apologize for the manner in which the reports were communicated.

“The BSFS Investigation Team and Board of Directors have found that Senior Staffer 1 who approached Stephanie Burke prior to her panel and asked her to step away acted courteously and in accordance with our policy. Senior Staffer 2’s behavior during the discussion violated our Code of Conduct. The Board has determined that Senior Staffer 2 will be barred from volunteering for Balticon for a period of 2 years and from serving as a Department Head for an additional 2 years.”

  • In researching this speech, I have read many Codes of Conduct from other conventions. My partner was reading one and they came across a line in one upcoming convention that really stood out:

(Convention X) prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort.”

To me, there is nothing ordinary about this statement. 

While it is all good and well to try to be welcoming to marginalized fans, Convention X’s committee would do well to focus on the safety of EVERY fan attending their convention.

The Code of Conduct should be a group’s fail safe to deal with fans and participants who commit unseemly and disruptive behavior but it must be done as fairly, equitably and transparently as possible.


These incidents I have outlined have exposed some of the more serious divisions within our fannish community. My feeling is that fandom, in my estimation, is rapidly approaching a societal impasse; it seems it cannot go towards any sort of future without reconciling with its present set of circumstances. 

I take no joy in pointing out these deficiencies in fandom. I am also saddened that there will be those in fandom who will see this speech as a personal attack on the very progressive wing of fandom.

To them I say this; no one, including myself, is above criticism. And that constructive and earnest criticism can only be helpful. 

Because together, we can change the direction and velocity of the pendulum in a more useful direction.

For the record, I will make the following confession; when stating one’s preferred pronouns or gender preference became an ongoing issue at the beginning of the last decade, I was very confused about the point of doing so. Gradually, I came to understand that it was a matter of personal acknowledgement, empowerment and respect for the trans community. And if asked, I show the same respect that is offered to me.

I also think that while I support this affirming stance, I am not in favor of anyone being forced, coerced or being required to do so in order to participate in an activity or social event.

Because when diversity is coerced in such a manner, it ceases to be that. It is perceived, rightly, as a matter of control. And when the cost of diversity is a rigid, inflexible set of standards that is almost impossible for anyone to meet, it disallows those who may have differing opinions. That’s the moment it becomes oppression and we become the sort of people we have come to loathe and fear.

Again, I refer to the pendulum of history, which has shown, time after time, that the exclusion or purging of members of the aforementioned groups I referred to earlier in this speech. 

In many of those historical instances, in order for the movement to improve and become more just, those being excluded were involved in heinous, insidious and vile beliefs. 

Robert Silverberg, who had attended an unbroken string of Worldcon appearances dating back to the early 1950’s, said that he would not attend Chicon 8 because he did not want to be subjected to any abuse because of his past statements that have been considered, even by me, as insensitive and ill advised. (You want to know what he said? Google it.)   

George R.R. Martin, the creator of Game of Thrones and a multiple winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, said he wasn’t attending this year’s Worldcon, either. Although he is quite busy writing the last two novels in the Westeros series and overseeing several television projects for HBO, he may have an entirely different reason for not attending. After hosting and producing a disastrously long winded and nostalgia tinged 2020 Hugo Award Ceremony, many think that he has worn out his welcome at Worldcons. 

I know both of them quite well and I, for one, would tell either one of them that they would be welcomed at any convention I was running. Why?

Because neither of them are our enemies. Our enemies are fear, hate and prejudice in the absence of understanding.

My good friend David Gerrold has repeatedly stated over the years that when you attend Worldcon, it is like an annual family gathering. Fathers and mothers, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and so on. And, like all families, there are rivalries, grudges, simmering resentments, educational, class and political differences as well.

But despite those differences, we all unite because of our mutual love of science fiction, fantasy, films, television shows, art, comics, manga, graphic stories and much, much more.

Any imposition of a lock-step set of ideological beliefs, no matter on which extreme of the political spectrum it comes from, are dividing fandom right now and fandom, particularly this progenitor of all the others, will eventually, and tragically, become unsustainable. 

The first mention of a “graying of fandom” came to my attention around the turn of this century. In short, the people who are currently attending, running and administering conventions and other fannish activities are getting older. 

I have observed that there are a number of younger fans attending Chicon 8, they were far outnumbered by older fans. Collectively, we need to attract a legion of younger, more diverse fans, who are not only interested in merely extending our existing traditions, but creating new ones as well.

Being one of those older fans, I can see that my time in fandom will someday be coming to an end. I have already announced (to anyone who will listen) that I will be attending conventions and other events into the near future, I will no longer be actively working on any future local conventions or Worldcons.  

I am not doing this because I am tired or unenthusiastic, I am doing so because I have other, more pressing pursuits such as remaining healthy and active, seeing to the safety and well being of my four adorable grandchildren and other family members and, of course, more writing.

I wrote this speech not just as a warning (although it can be read that way), but as a cry into the abyss that we need not act against our own best interests and be seen as the overseer of the death of fandom.

As I see it, the pendulum has already swung to an extreme position. And the direction it swings next may cleave fandom into many, many pieces that cannot be made whole again. We must not let this happen.

My final words of advice to everyone consists of the following:

As a family, we should treat each other as peers, not rivals with agendas.

And in this family, there will be arguments and disagreements. And when we have these arguments,  we’ll argue ferociously. But let’s argue with facts, logic, evidence, and most of all respect for the person you are arguing with. Argue with empathy.

Act towards others as you would act towards yourself. People who are unable to do that will become evident and will soon find themselves on the outside of our social circles, looking in.  

Let’s show kindness, even in the face of hate and adversity.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

And finally, ask not what fandom can do for you, but what you can do for fandom.

“Never seen a true statement, a wise statement, that existed in only one culture or tradition. Truth isn’t created, it is observed.”

– Steven Barnes

Pixel Scroll 9/21/22 She Took The Midnight Train To Arcturus

(1) ANTHEM LAUNCH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur discusses the new Space Force anthem by Jamie Teachenor and Sean Nelson, and lets his father make a dad joke that the tune was written by “Buck Rogers and Hammerstein.” “New Space Force anthem aims to land the military branch on your radar”.

On Tuesday, the United States Space Force entered its anthem era, announcing the release of its own official song at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor in Maryland.

The song, “Semper Supra” (“Always Above”), joins the ranks of “The Marines’ Hymn,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and other staples of the American military anthem repertoire. It’s also … Wait. Why are you laughing?

I knew as soon as I said “Space Force” this would happen.

Because the Space Force is, for the foreseeable future, the New Guy among military branches. Because its sudden and ham-handed public rollout in 2019 was largely entrusted to the writers’ rooms of late-night shows. And, yes, because it’s called the Space Force, so there remains a lingering temptation not to take it seriously (and a tacit cultural authorization to proceed).

… I guess for a song that’s destined to orbit around this branch of military in perpetuity, I was hoping for something … I don’t know, spacier?

Over the past century, the cosmos has supplied us with such a rich musical mood board: Gustav Holst gave us his standard-bearing model of the solar system, “The Planets,” back in 1916. Stanley Kubrick’s use of Johann Strauss’s antigravity waltzes and the monolithic motif taken from the other Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” have informed our perception of deep space since “2001” arrived in 1968. John Williams has also memorably distilled his visions of the vastness of space into universal themes — think the “five tones” of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”…

(2) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Camestros Felapton supplies the answer to the question, “Could you rewrite the Lord of the Rings as a techno-thriller?” (Did you doubt it for a moment?)

…Part of the issue is that much of what makes LotR a compelling story, are not the things that make it genre distinctive. Attempts to make a clear distinction between science fiction and fantasy can founder when we consider how LotR would change if it had to conform to proposed rules about science fiction. If, as the thought experiment goes, Tolkein’s elves were aliens, would the story now be sci-fi? The role of magic in fantasy versus materialist explanations in science fiction has also been offered. However, LotR has an odd take on magic. Much of the overt magic we see is attached to made objects (the Ring obviously, but also the palantir, the doors of Moria, Sting, the vial of light gifted to Frodo by Galadriel, or delving deeper into the mythos, the Silmarils themselves). We don’t know how those things work (magic!) but of course we don’t know how phasers, tractor beams, replicators or warp drives work either. To quote the overused quote from Arthur C. Clarke “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Clarke was making a point about technology rather than genre distinctions but the insight works almost symmetrically…. 

(3) HOPKINSON ZOOM. The Feminist Futures Forum, organized by the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity at the University of Kansas, presents a conversation with Brown Girl in the Ring author Nalo Hopkinson facilitated by Anthony Boynton, a Ph.D. candidate in the KU English Department in September 22 at 6:30 p.m. Central, They will explore Black speculative fiction, Afrofuturism, and Black feminisms. Register here. This year’s Forum is planned in conjunction with the Gunn Center’s Sturgeon Symposium.

(4) FIRST STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. Speaking of which, the 1st annual Sturgeon Symposium, a hybrid in-person/online event hosted by the Gunn Center for the Study of SF, takes place next Thursday and Friday, September 29-30. 

Sessions include presentations on Fan Fiction, Indigenous Speculative Fiction, Eastern European SF, Latin American Dystopias, Gender & The Black Fantastic, Pedagogical Approaches, and much, much more.

Visit their website for the full program: Sturgeon Symposium.

(5) HOW DO YOU TURN THAT OFF? Sarah A. Hoyt explains why “Words Are Our Profession” at Mad Genius Club, though it is this paragraph that has me nodding in agreement:

…I will also straight up admit that I must be very odd in my relationship with text, because I never understand why anyone highlights or clips certain excerpts from books. When I got my latest kindle, I had the “show other people’s markings” setting on and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. This made me glare a lot, as I couldn’t figure out why people were highlighting completely mundane sentences. Of course, it’s entirely possible that all these highlights and clipping of sentences happen the way they happen to me: Kindle starts falling, grab it with my off hand, and suddenly I’ve saved a clipping of “Hi, I am looking for my cat” as though it were some kind of life altering message. (As is, I had to turn the dictionary off, otherwise, by the same process, I was continuously having the meaning of “hand” or “parasol” explained to me.)…

Hoyt’s column is mainly about when it’s a good idea to eschew surplusage, and successful tactics for so doing.

(6) STEP BY STEP TO PUBLICATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Amit Gupta sold a short story to Tor.com.  Here, he discusses how long it took and all the rejections he accumulated. “Short stories: How much do you make? How do you sell one? How long does it take to write?” And you can read his story “India World” at Tor.com.

What’d I learn looking back through all this?

  • Writing takes forever, even if it’s a just a few thousand words. Way longer than I thought.
  • Submitting takes even longer. This tracks with other areas of my life. Selling is always less fun for me than making things.
  • SO MANY people helped! I’m blown away by how many people took time to read drafts and offer their feedback.

(7) DEUTSCHER BOOK PREIS. The only longlisted genre work didn’t make the Deutscher Buch Preis shortlist. If you want to know what did, click here.

(8) IT BECKONS. Kelly McClymer encourages writers to ask “Is Your Book Cover Doing the Job or Does It Need to Be Fired?” in the “Indie Files” series at the SFWA Blog.

… For authors, the cover is a double-edged sword. We need one that calls to our readers and makes them pick our book out of a crowded line up.

I remember the first time I realized would have to change the cover for an indie book. I didn’t want to pay for another cover design, so I delayed making the obvious decision. I kept telling myself that the book was good, so the cover couldn’t make that much difference.

I should have known better. I’ve been a voracious reader since I learned to read and my personal book choice algorithm is simple: favorite author first, then intriguing title, then intriguing cover. That personal algorithm hasn’t changed in decades. As a reader, I am easily seduced by title or cover.

As an author, I hate spending money on new covers and agonizing over the design. What got me to stop pinching pennies in this critical area of marketing? Evidence, of course. My indie author friends weren’t afraid to change their covers. Multiple times. And it (usually) helped their sales significantly. Even better, some of them were able to do so on a budget by using pre-made covers that were on sale. …

(9) WHAT’S THE MESSAGE? Scifihistory.net seriously doubts 2001 deserves a reputation for greatness: “Stardate 09.21.2022.A: Warp Core Breach: Science Fiction’s Biggest Circle Jerk – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)”.

Circle jerk = a situation in which a group of people engage in self-indulgent or self-gratifying behavior, especially by enforcing or reinforcing each other’s views or attitudes.
 
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (snicker snicker) I attended a small private college in Anytown, USA.  In one of my several classes talking about film, a professor (who shall be nameless) took the occasion one day to wax on eloquently about “mankind’s claim” that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was not only the greatest Science Fiction film ever made but very well was considered the best film ever made.
 
Now, at this juncture in my cognitive development, I was a firm supporter of Citizen Kane’s rightful claim to that title.  Not one to keep silent, I spoke up, asking where it was written that 2001 was ever considered a greater accomplishment than Kane was … to which I got an earful.  Pushing back as politely as I could, I argued that I’d never heard of anyone making such an assessment, and – while I didn’t doubt the instructor had read or perhaps thought such a ranking possible – I wanted to know which experts felt that way so that I could go out and read their analysis.  Essentially what I was told was that 2001 was, clearly, the superior film because of its central message.
 
Get ready, folks.
 
I asked, “What is 2001’s central message?”…

(10) SPELLER TRIBUTES CONTINUE. Strange Horizons’ Aishwarya Subramanian and Dan Hartland mark the loss of their colleague and friend: “In Memoriam: Maureen Kincaid Speller”.

…Maureen Kincaid Speller was capable of producing among the best criticism SFF has to offer. Now she has left us, our understandings of the genre will be poorer and less complete. We will know our favourite texts less well, and we will struggle sometimes to express a reading she would have worked into prose of wit, clarity, and pith. We will miss her because, as a critic, she helped us be better readers; because, as an editor, she made us better writers; and because, as herself, she was fearless in achieving these ends. But most of all, we will miss her because she was our friend—was the friend of all readers, and all authors, and all books. She showed us this every time she attended to a text and asked not just why she liked it, but why she—or why we—might not. Friends make us better, and they often do so via the unvarnished truth….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Randall And Hopkirk Deceased (1969)

Yes, I know it had multiple premiere dating back fifty-three years ago, so I’ve picked the London Weekend Television broadcast of the pilot two days after the ATV broadcast. No reason, but that’s my choice. Well, and it’s today.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) is a somewhat comical British PI series that starred Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope respectively as the private detectives Jeff Randall and the quickly quite dead and just as rapidly ghostly Marty Hopkirk. Annette Andre as Jeannie Hopkirk, secretary at the Randall and Hopkirk private investigation office, and widow of Marty, was the only other regular cast member. 

(Note: beautiful woman here as well. The trope holds true!) 

In the United States possibly because the word deceased would be offensive, it was called My Partner the Ghost. Or because the syndicators here were utterly lacking in imagination and had to be sickeningly cute. You pick. 

It was created by Dennis Spooner who did a lot of writing for Doctor Who, a spot of writing for The Avengers and quite a bit later for the New Avengers, and was the creator of Department S

It would last one run of twenty-six episodes. In the year 2000 it was remade by the BBC starring Vic Reeves as Hopkirk (once again in a white suit) and Bob Mortimer as Randall, with Emilia Fox as Jeannie. Two series were made lasting just thirteen episodes.

A decade ago, SyFy announced that it had secured the rights to Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and were looking to develop a pilot, and in January 2011, Entertainment Weekly announced that Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg would be writing a pilot for SyFy. Given SyFy’s record for rebooting series, guess what happened to it? Well did you see a pilot? 

It does not appear to streaming anywhere for free right now.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1904 Alexander Key. American writer primarily of children’s books. His novel Escape to Witch Mountain was made into by Disney into a film three times 1975, 1995, and again in 2009. (Originality isn’t one of Disney’s stronger suits.) The sequel novel was made into another film in 1978. The Incredible Tide novel became the Seventies Future Boy Conan anime series. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  I’ve essayed him more that once here, so you know that I like him. What’s your favorite one of his? Though perhaps culturally suspect these days, I’m very fond of “Hillbilly Hare”. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. You know what role that was. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 21, 1960 Mary Mara. Best remembered as Inspector Bryn Carson on Nash Bridges but she had a number of genre appearances including Mary in K-PAX from Gene Brewer’s novel of the same name, and her best role though animated was — and don’t blame the messenger — Alice Kerchief/Geisha in Spicy City is an adult animated erotic cyberpunk television series which was created by Ralph Bkashi for HBO that ran for six episodes. It was a really fascinating role. I’d rate the series a strong R. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 21, 1964 Andy Duncan, 58.  If I were to start anywhere with him, it’d be with his very excellent short stories which fortunately were published in two World Fantasy Award-winning collections Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, and The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, and another WFA nominee, An Agent of Utopia: New & Selected Stories.  I’ve read his novels, so what you recommend?  He has garnered some very impressive Awards — not only World Fantasy Awards for the two collections, but also for the “Wakulla Springs” novelette (co-authored with Ellen Klages), and a Nebula for the novelette “Close Encounters” (2013). He has three Hugo nominations, for his “Beluthahatchie” short story (1998), the novella “The Chief Designer” (2002), and “Wakulla Springs” (2014). 
  • Born September 21, 1974 Dexter Steven, 48. He wrote interesting novels, the first being The Dream of Perpetual Motion which is based off The Tempest, with steampunk, cyborgs and airships as well; the second being Version Control, a media-saturated twenty minutes into the future America complicated by time travel that keep changing everything. He wrote these and that was it. 
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 42. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”.  She was in Camille Engelson on Stitchers which I must watch soon. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro  shows mythical beasts need therapy, too.

(14) WHO DAT? The Bookseller’s Joe Phelan knows there’s always an audience for anyone prepared to tell us, “What happened to Sad Puppies?”

The Sad Puppies era is arguably the bleakest passage in the history of the Hugo Awards. The Puppies’ campaigns gave rise to smears, vitriol, conspiracy and hostility; they can be regarded as an early skirmish in publishing’s now-pervasive “culture wars”, where suspicion, belligerence and an unwavering conviction in one’s own position routinely permeate discourse.

There are quotes from Kevin Standlee and Neil Gaiman which Phelan presents as recently obtained, and another from this laughably “anonymous” pro-Puppy figure:

…The anonymous Sad Puppies advocate we spoke to fully disputes suggestions that the campaigns should be branded failures. They are adamant the Hugos remain just as unrepresentative and biased as they considered them to be in 2013, and they believe Sad Puppies played an important role in raising awareness of this apparent issue.

“No, it was not unsuccessful. The campaign(s) proved to any onlookers who care to look that the modern Hugos are awarded solely for reasons of political correctness. A casual perusal of the lists of candidates and winners over the past four years is a sufficient confirmation of this. The Hugo Awards, in effect, burned themselves to the ground for the sole purpose of avoiding my work being recognised. The fans had selected an author that the insiders did not prefer – despite that I myself was a Tor author at the time. Those who hoped sobriety would prevail, and the Hugos return to the dignity they once knew, had their hopes dashed.”…

If you know any ex-Tor authors who were on the Sad Puppy slates that weren’t named John C. Wright, please do refresh my memory.

(15) PURE WROUGHT. Speaking of Mr. Wright, his recent “Note on Christian Science Fiction” contains this wonderful passage scoffing at some familiar genre works:

…People would go mad at the sight of stars, Mr. Asimov? Really? Eyewitnesses to the Crucifixion would immediately convince the world without any fuss that all religion was bunk, Mr. Clarke? Say you so? One should sleep with whores out of courtesy to one’s hosts when visiting whoreland, Mr. Heinlein? Really? Adultery is lawful for persons truly in love, Mrs. Rand? Honestly? Or, my personal favorite, if Captain Kirk is split into a good and evil pair, a la Jekyll and Hyde, the bad side is filled with passion and energy rather than filled with vice, and the good side is indecisive and weak rather than virtuous? Really, Mr. Roddenberry? Honestly, is that the way good and evil works, or have you simply been reading too much Freud, and it has warped your brain?…

(16) SEEMS MORE RELEVANT NOW. [Item by Todd Mason.] A quote from an old sff magazine:

“The Ukraine had had a number of serious attacks in the previous week, which refuted the theory that the metal locusts were a Russian weapon being used in preparation for a mobilisation of forces.”

“The Locusts” by R. Whitfield Young, Science-Fantasy, April 1958.

Apparently the only published story by Young under that byline, and one might guess why from the bulk of the story.

(17) AGAIN. CBR.com decides “Kaley Cuoco & Pete Davidson’s Meet Cute Is a Clever, Affecting Sci-Fi Rom-Com”.

When Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) approaches Gary (Pete Davidson) in a New York City bar at the beginning of Meet Cute, it seems like the moment referenced in the title — the romantic-comedy staple of the main characters first encountering each other in an adorable, amusing manner. For Gary, that’s what it is. He’s won over by Sheila’s offbeat charms, including ordering the exact same drink as him and toasting in the exact same way. For Sheila, though, this isn’t her first time meeting Gary, or even the fifth time. As she tells him almost immediately, she’s a time traveler, and she’s experienced this moment multiple times already. It’s a disarmingly direct way for the movie to introduce its sci-fi concept, which is indicative of the clever, surprising, and emotionally affecting story to come….

(18) LONGER AGO THAN YESTERDAY. Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, and Denise Mina are featured in this 2009 BBC piece about graphic novels that dropped today.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage reports from the convention he holds (Silicon!) and how a fabricator he calls “evil Ted” gave him a very realistic foam space helmet.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Todd Mason, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Will E Pluribus Hugo
Survive Re-Ratification?

An answer from an episode of Jeopardy! aired in 2017.

The day of reckoning is here for E Pluribus Hugo.  The change in the way Hugo Awards nominations are counted was passed in 2015 and ratified in 2016 to counter how Sad and Rabid Puppies’ slates dictated most of finalists on the Hugo ballots in those years. It came with a 2022 sunset clause attached, and E Pluribus Hugo must be re-ratified this year in order to remain part of the WSFS Constitution.

It’s the first item of passed-on business in the Chicon 8 Business Meeting Agenda. (If you want to read the rule, you’ll find it quoted on page 30.) Six Hugo ballots (2017-2022) have been produced using EPH, however, if re-ratification looks automatic to you, don’t take that for granted. The arguments used to try and stop it from passing the first time still have adherents and may be heard again when ratification comes up at this year’s Business Meeting. Some of them are –

IT’S HARD TO EXPLAIN. What was the nominating system before EPH? The five eligible nominees with the most votes made the ballot (and in case of a tie including fifth place, all the tied eligible nominees were listed). That’s easy to remember. Easy to explain.

“Vox Day’s bloc voters dictated nearly all the finalists on the ballot” is also much easier to explain than EPH. Ease of explanation is not the only priority in play.

EPH DOESN’T GET RID OF SLATED NOMINEES. That’s right. EPH doesn’t get rid of slated nominees. People initially may have wished for an algorithm that would somehow weed out slate candidates, however, upon sober reflection it had to be admitted these slate voters had paid their memberships and it would be undemocratic to prevent their legal votes from having an effect on the finalists. What EPH was represented to do, and does, is make it more likely some nonslate nominees will also make the final ballot, giving people something to vote for beside No Award if they are opposed to the slated nominees.

EPH DIDN’T DETER SLATING ACTIVITY. Some will argue that neither EPH, nor anything else the business meeting did (like adding “4 and 6”) stopped Vox Day and his confederates from placing things on the ballot. And when their efforts diminished, whatever caused that to happen had nothing to do with the rules changes.

EPH received first passage in 2015. Before it was ratified, Vox Day turned around and ran another slate in 2016 and placed 61 of his picks on the final ballot. It was only because of the passage of EPH that Vox Day changed his strategy with his 2017 slate, making it one item per category (in most of them) — and 16 of his 22 picks had enough support to make the ballot. (In the end, because he didn’t check the eligibility of what was on his list, 5 of those items were kicked off — still leaving 11. Which was a lot less than 61.) The evidence is that EPH is what changed his behavior. What’s more, Vox Day himself said that’s what changed his behavior. [Internet Archive].

UNDER EPH, THE HUGO ADMINISTRATOR’S WORK CAN’T BE CHECKED; IT’S A “MAGIC BOX”. When people make this argument, it seems clear to me they’re visualizing the voting statistics that are published after the winners are announced, and how easy it is to check the spreadsheet arithmetic for the winners. They seem to overlook that under the old system it also was not possible to check the Hugo Administrator’s work in the nominating phase. The public could never review what the Hugo Administrator did to verify voter eligibility, or perfect the data prior to input (correcting all the mismatched ways of expressing a name or title). The public could only see the bottom line result — the totals in each category’s longlist.

If people believe the Hugo Administrator is competent to operate the software that generates the totals for the winners, it is reasonable to ask them to have the same faith in the person’s ability to operate the EPH software to determine the finalists.

EPH REWARDS SINGLE-BULLET VOTING. The contention is that there is a sense in which EPH is antidemocratic because it rewards single-bullet voting.

That there is a reward for the behavior appears to be accurate. Nicholas Whyte told the business meeting after he ran the 2017 Hugos, the first under EPH, that his “conclusion was that EPH made it relatively easier in 2017 for a nominee with a large number of bullet votes to get on the ballot; it made it much more difficult for a slate to get more than one candidate on the ballot.”

Since Vox Day’s 2017 slate only had one entry in each category for which he made a pick, it would have been a candidate for single-bullet voting. But again, EPH is designed to open the ballot to others, not to make it impossible for a slate nominee to become a finalist.  

EPH WAS PASSED IN A “PANIC”. I’ve seen an opponent characterize as “panic” the decisions made about EPH at two different years’ business meetings. But really? This was probably the most thoroughly-discussed proposal in the history of the WSFS Constitution. Besides everything said on Making Light where it originated, File 770 posts on the topic received hundreds of comments. For example: “E Pluribus Hugo Tested With Anonymized 2015 Data” 2/8/2016 – 407 comments. “Analyzing EPH” 5/16/2016 – 356 comments. The hours of discussion at the business meetings were just the tip of the iceberg.

THE THREAT IS GONE, SO THE CHANGES CAN BE DISCARDED. Any analyst could have seen from the voting statistics published over the years that it was theoretically possible to monopolize the final Hugo ballot. What kept that from happening? It wasn’t worth the expense for people who have no interest in the Worldcon to buy memberships so they could vote. Until it was. Until it became an expression of Sad and Rabid Puppy tribal loyalty.

However, some will argue that the threat they represented has gone away. The protections adopted against them made the process less transparent and less fair and should be dismantled.

Yes, there are people who think the slate-driven Hugo ballots of 2015 and 2016 were more fair than the present arrangement.

If you’re not one of them, and considering all the hard political work the community had to do to overcome the damage from the Puppies by passing and ratifying the existing rules changes, it doesn’t make sense to reopen a known vulnerability.

Pixel Scroll 6/8/22 Goodness, Gracious, Great Scrolls Of Fur

(1) BIG RESPONSE. The “Send Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki to Worldcon” GoFundMe appeal passed its $7,000 goal in just over a day. A total of $7,460 has been raised from 156 donors at this writing.

(2) WHEN THE MOON HITS YOUR EYE. [By Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it wasn’t as big as the Moon (or even a pizza pie) but the “love tap” that the James Webb Space Telescope received was from an object bigger than expected. “NASA’s new powerful space telescope gets hit by larger than expected micrometeoroid” at The Verge.

NASA expected the JWST to be hit by quite a few micrometeoroids over its lifetime, but also expected them to be typically smaller than a grain of sand. One of the impacts received so far, though, was from an object bigger than that (though NASA hasn’t said just how big). It damaged one of the mirrors enough to cause a “marginally detectable effect in the data.“ Controllers are still working on it, but they feel they can make sufficient adjustments to the mirror to partially cancel the data distortion.

…Since its launch, JWST has already been hit by at least four different micrometeoroids, according to a NASA blog post, but all of those were small and about the size of what NASA expected the observatory to encounter. A micrometeoroid is typically a small fragment of an asteroid, usually smaller than a grain of sand. The one that hit JWST in May, however, was larger than what the agency had prepared for, though the agency didn’t specify its exact size. NASA admits that the strike, which occurred between May 23rd and May 25th, has caused a “marginally detectable effect in the data” and that engineers are continuing to analyze the effects of the impact….

(3) THE DECLARATION OF SWEETWEIRD. Charlie Jane Anders promulgated “The Sweetweird Manifesto” this week. The post names plenty of works she regards as examples and creates a retroactive history of the form.

…And here’s where I should admit that sweetweird isn’t actually a formal movement, and nobody except for me has been using that term. I wrote in my recent writing advice book Never Say You Can’t Survive that I’m burned out on “grimdark” storytelling that revels in nastiness and extreme violence, and instead I’m ready for “sweetweird.”… 

What is Sweetweird?

The core idea of sweetweird is: the world makes no sense, but we can be nurturing, frivolous and kind. We don’t have to respond to the ludicrous illogic of the world around us by turning mean and nasty, or by expecting everyone else to be horrible. At the very least, we can carve out friendly, supportive spaces in the midst of chaotic nonsense, and maybe help each other survive.

Instead of demanding that the universe stop being a farrago, we embrace the strangeness and make it our own. The unrealness of our consensus reality liberates us, because it undermines the fiction of “normality” and creates a space for us to be our authentic eccentric selves. Decency without conformity, joy that doesn’t depend on a false sense of stability. Affectionate silliness….. 

(4) FREE READS. Aliette de Bodard alerted fans that two of her short stories are available to read for free:

“Sword of Bone, Halls of Thorns” at The Sunday Morning Transport is a story about an exorcist, a talking sword, creepy vegetation and how the choices we make haunt us beyond death and rebirth. 

“The Scholar of the Bamboo Flute” is a reprint available in Uncanny Magazine. Basically it’s Utena-inspired sapphic shenanigans set in a 19th Century Vietnamese-esque academy. (if you don’t know the anime Utena, let’s just say it involves magical duelling, a princess and a whole hell of a lot of queerness, and it’s one of my absolute favourites–a formative watch for me). 

(5) ARTIST Q&A. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s SPECPO blog posted “An Interview with Austin Hart, Star*Line 44.3 Cover Artist, by Jean-Paul Garnier (editor)”.

What led you into the visual arts, and what inspires you to create?

I just admired people that could draw from an early age. I had a couple of uncles that were good artists, and my dad is an architect and my mom is good at drawing even though she doesn’t do it much. I remember some kids in my classes in elementary school that were good artists early on and just trying to keep up with them. Marvel and Image comics and trading cards were very popular and I liked drawing characters and weapons from RPGs. I remember finding out about Robert Crumb, and later Frank Frazetta, early on and that raised the bar in my head for what was possible, but I could never be as good as they are. I am more impressed by pros who can do quick lose expressive sketches with very few lines than people who can make a fully rendered drawing or painting. I am very envious of those types of pros.

(6) SFF’S OWN LOST CAUSE MYTH. Camestros Felapton took notes on a 95-minute YouTube chat between host Ethan Van Sciver and guest Larry Correia: “Watching You Tube so you don’t have to: Larry & Ethan edition”.

…What sustained me through what was an extraordinarily dull experience was the question on whether the elephants in the room would get mentioned. Put these guys together and there are two elephants: one quite significant and based in Switzerland and one less so and based in California.

… In short, EVS and LC had a lot in common to talk about! You won’t be surprised to discover that they didn’t talk about it either…

…After that, we get a garbled history of the Puppy campaigns. Events get shoehorned together and the absence of Vox Day from the story looms ever larger. It becomes this big mysterious thing as to why people might think of the Sad Puppy 2 campaign as being racist and misogynistic (hint: Vox Day aside from anything else). The absence of Day from the narrative enables this spin that the pushback against the Sad Puppy campaign from a diversity perspective was wholly irrational…

(7) THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO. DC dropped this trailer for Black Adam today. Only in theaters October 21.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-eight years ago on this day, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, the sequel to the Hugo-winning Raiders of the Lost Ark, premiered. It’s actually a prequel to that film. Once again it’s directed by Steven Spielberg from a story by George Lucas. The screenplay was by the husband and wife team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, best known for American Graffiti which yes involved both George Lucas and Harrison Ford. 

Harrison Ford was of course back along with Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone and Ke Huy Quan. Capshaw would marry Spielberg seven years later and yes they are still married, bless them! 

I’ll admit that Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom was nearly not as fun for me as Raiders of the Lost Ark but critics loved it, with Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review saying it was “the most cheerfully exciting, bizarre, goofy, romantic adventure movie since Raiders, and it is high praise to say that it’s not so much a sequel as an equal. It’s quite an experience.”  

And Kathleen Carroll of the New York Daily Postwas equally exuberant: “Indie, you will be happy to learn, hasn’t changed a bit. Played with gruff determination by the appealingly rugged Harrison Ford, he continues to set quite a pace for himself in Spielberg’s rip-roaring, boldly imaginative sequel to his blockbuster hit.” 

It’s worth noting that It did get banned in India which as one who spent considerable time in Sri Lanka is something I fully understand as there are truly disgusting Indian stereotypes in that film.

It was fantastically profitable as it cost just under thirty million in production and publicity costs and made ten times that at the box office in its initial run! 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are very fond of it, giving it an eighty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.  Author of half a dozen novels, a score of shorter stories like “Who Goes There?” and “Forgetfulness.” For 34 years he edited Astounding, renamed Analog, and a short-lived fantasy companion, Unknown (see Fred Smith’s Once There Was a Magazine). Ushered in the Golden Age of SF. Won 17 Hugos, of which nine were Retrospective, all but one for editing (the exception: Retro-Hugo for “Who Goes There?”). On the other hand, in his ASF editorials he supported many forms of crank medicine, and promoted Dianetics, and specious views about slavery, race, and segregation, all of which was well-known in sf fandom. In the Sixties he rejected Samuel R. Delany‘s Nova for serialization saying that he did not feel his readership “would be able to relate to a black main character.” Focusing on his foundational contributions, his name was put on the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, but after 46 years it was renamed the Astounding Award when a winner called him out for “setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day.” (Died 1971) [OGH]
  • Born June 8, 1915 Frank Riley. He’s best known for They’d Rather Be Right (co-written with Mark Clifton) which won a Hugo Award for Best Novel at Clevention (1955). Originally published in serialized form in Astounding unlike his eight short SF stories that were all published in If. Sadly he’s not made it into the digital realm yet except for scattered stories. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 8, 1917 George D. Wallace. He’s here for playing Commando Cody in the early Fifties Radar Men from the Moon movie serial. He would later show up as the Bosun on Forbidden Planet, and had minor roles late in his career in MultiplicityBicentennial Man and Minority Report. He also played a Star Fleet Admiral in “The Man of the People” episode of The Next Generation. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 8, 1926 Philip Levene. He wrote nineteen episodes of The Avengers including creating the Cybernauts which won him a Writer’s Guild Award, and served as script consultant for the series in 1968–69. He also has three genre acting credits, one as a Supervisor in “The Food” episode of Quatermass II; the second as a Security Guard in the X the Unknown film, and finally as Daffodil in Avenger’s “Who’s Who” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born June 8, 1928 Kate Wilhelm. Author of the Hugo–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo for Best Related Book and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 8, 1946 Elizabeth A. Lynn, 76. She is well known for being one of the first genre writers to introduce gay and lesbian characters as an aspect of her stories. So in honor of her, the widely known A Different Light chain of LGBT bookstores took its name from her novel of that name. Her best known work is The Chronicles of Tornor series. Her Watchtower novel won a World Fantasy Award as did “The Woman Who Loved the Moon” story. 
  • Born June 8, 1947 Sara Paretsky, 75. Best best known for her private detective novels focused on V.I. Warshawski, she has one genre novel in Ghost Country. It too involves V.I. Warshawski and may or may not involve things of supernatural nature. I haven’t encountered it, so I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has. 
  • Born June 8, 1973 Lexa Doig, 49. Cowgirl the hacker on TekWar,the post-Trek Shatner series that he actually made sense in as opposed to Barbary Coast. She was also Andromeda Ascendant/Rommie on Andromeda and Sonya Valentine on Continuum, and the voice of Dale Arden in the animated Flash Gordon series. One-offs in Earth: Final ConflictThe 4400Stargate SG-1, Eureka, V, Smallville, Supernatural and Primeval: New World

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mannequin on the Moon has a wonderful word processing gag.
  • Crankshaft is about someone who hasn’t kept up with the times. (Which it usually is, come to think of it.)

(11) HEAD OUT ON THE HIGHWAY. This bookseller delivers – the entire store! “Rita Collins Drives a Traveling Bookstore Around the United States” at Today.

From May to October, you can find Rita Collins, 70, in the front seat of a white Sprinter van, driving across America. In this era of RVs and #vanlife Instagram photos, Collins’ ride is set apart. Rattling around, in the back of her van, is a fully functional used bookstore.

While stopping in small towns and cities around the U.S., Collins relishes in the wonder that comes across people’s faces when they realize this van is not like any other. Whether she’s parked outside of a book festival, coffee shop or farmer’s market, Collins finds herself having the same conversation, encouraging people to climb the wooden steps and take a peek inside….

Like most traditional bookstores, St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore and Textual Apothecary has floor-to-ceiling shelves organized by genre, overhead lighting and a carpet on the floor. The main difference, of course, is that it’s on wheels. The bookstores’ 600 volumes are set at a 15 degree angle to keep them from falling as Collins drives from state to state — so far, she’s been to 30, and has traveled cross-country three times. 

(12) HERE COMES THE PITCH. “’Ms. Marvel’ directors presented a PowerPoint to Kevin Feige to convince him to include animation, inspired by ‘Into the Spider-Verse’” at MSN.com.

…With past shows like “Moon Knight,” “Hawkeye,” “Loki,” and “WandaVision” taking on a more serious tone, here comes a standout show that’s refreshingly light.

You can give some of that credit to filmmaking duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.

The Moroccan-Belgian filmmakers (known collectively as Adil and Bilall) instantly saw “Ms. Marvel” as a show that should be filled with color, life, and celebration of culture….

Adil and Billal felt animation would make the show pop. So they compiled a presentation with things that inspired them and headed to the Marvel Studios offices to pitch how they would direct the series to studio head Kevin Feige and his team.

“Kevin walked in and I have to admit, I was a little starstruck,” Bilall said. “We did this whole PowerPoint presentation and we told them that this is our influences for the show. ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ was a big one because of the animation.”

“For us, the animation was something we always wanted to put into it,” Adil added. “We wanted to portray that dream world of Kamala Khan and the comic book aspect to it. We were afraid that Kevin would say no because it’s different from the other shows of the MCU.”

(13) THEY ROCK TO THE TREES. A 2015 article at Hollywood.com involving Andy Serkis, The Imaginarium, motion capture, and animation — with a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey — tells how an “Andy Serkis meeting inspired Coldplay’s chimp video”.

A chance meeting between British rocker Chris Martin and actor Andy Serkis inspired the band to embrace motion-capture technology for a new music video.

The musicians were transformed into chimps in the promo for their new single Adventure Of A Lifetime using techniques pioneered in Hollywood movies such as Avatar and The Lord of The Rings.

It has now been revealed the idea came about after frontman Chris bumped into Andy on a plane, and the pair discussed the actor’s experiences with motion-capture on films such as King Kong and the Planet of the Apes series.

The rockers spent six months making the short clip, and used “full motion performance capture rigs” to transform themselves….

Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime (Making Of Video)

Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime (Official Video) – YouTube

(14) HERMAN, LILY, & GRANDPA, OH MY. ScreenRant invites us to watch “’The Munsters’ Return in First Trailer for Rob Zombie Movie”. The Munsters will premiere this fall on Universal All Access.

…Today, Universal released the first teaser for the film, which is practically a shot-for-shot remake of the original Munsters opening credits, complete with the classic Munsters theme song. It makes it pretty clear that if you were expecting Zombie to turn The Munsters into a stereotypical Rob Zombie movie full of blood and guts, you were mistaken. (Zombie has already said, this is not an R-rated reimagining; it’s a PG-rated tribute.)…

(15) X MINUS TWO. Paramount Plus promises this is “the dumbest science fiction movie ever made!” Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, streaming on June 23,

In perhaps the dumbest space movie ever made, Beavis and Butt-head are sentenced to Space Camp by a “creative” judge in 1998, leading to a trip on the Space Shuttle, with predictably disastrous results. After going through a black hole, they reemerge in our time, where they look for love, misuse iPhones, and are hunted by the Deep State. Spoiler: They don’t score.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King asks, “What happens if you merged King of the Hill and Lord of the Rings?” in “Return of the King of the Hill of the Rings”.

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

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

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

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

No Gods, No Monsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

A second short thread starts here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

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

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

To all my fans, friends and extended family,

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

It was amusing at the time, I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lou Antonelli (1957-2021)

Lou Antonelli posing with sign outside Hugo, Oklahoma.

SF author Lou Antonelli died October 6 at his Clarksville, TX residence. He was 64.

Antonelli made a late start as a science fiction writer, initially posting his first story “Insight” to get feedback on the Speculative Visions website in 2002. His first published story came at the age of 46, “Silvern” in the June 2003 issue of RevolutionSF.  His first professional sale was “A Rocket for the Republic”, to Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s Science Fiction, where it appeared in September 2005 and was well-received, placing third in Asimov’s annual Readers Poll in the short story category.

Antonelli grew up in Massachusetts. He discovered sf in grade school, reading Scholastic Book Club novels. The first one he bought was The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey.

He eventually sold 125 short stories. Gardner Dozois gave eleven of them honorable mentions in The Year’s Best Science Fiction. And his 2012 short story “Great White Ship” was nominated for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. 

Antonelli capitalized on his good relationship with editor Dozois to produce a nonfiction book about writing, Letters From Gardner, analyzing the development of 16 of his short stories, which also appeared in the book.

By profession Antonelli was a journalist, and he explained the launch of his career in sf this way: “There’s an old saying you have to write a million words before you are any good.  I think that’s true. One advantage I had was that my million words were in newspapers.  No one ever read my amateurish fiction, because my amateur stuff was published in newspapers.  I was first published in a local newspaper when I was 12.  I first started writing fiction when I was 46.  That’s why, after my first acceptance, the editor said, ‘You seemed to have skipped the novice stage.’”

Late in life he and his wife, Patricia, acquired and produced the local Clarksville, TX newspaper.

Antonelli was politically active, and sometimes registered his dissent by running against incumbents. In 1982, at the age of 25, he ran as a Republican for Congress in a Manhattan-area district, losing by a margin of 85%–15%. In 2020, he ran for Congress in Texas’s 4th congressional district as a Libertarian, trailing both major parties with just 1.9% of the vote.

He did have one successful run for public office. In 1985, Antonelli moved to Texas, and in 1992, he was elected to a term as a member of the Cedar Hill ISD school board and served three years, but was not re-elected.

Antonelli likewise voiced his dissent within the science fiction field. His personal blog offered harsh criticism of an industry he considered controlled by those who were to the left of him politically. He co-founded an organization to rival SFWA, the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling (SASS) in 2012, with Michael A. Burstein as President, Brad R. Torgersen as Vice-President, and himself as Secretary. He even quit SFWA in 2017, but later rejoined and tried unsuccessfully to get elected as a Director in 2020.

He was a vocal sideline supporter of the Sad Puppies’ efforts to get their works nominated for the Hugo. In return, both Torgersen’s Sad Puppies slate and the Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slates propelled Letters From Gardner and his short story “On A Spiritual Plain” onto the 2015 Hugo ballot.

That same year, Antonelli wrote a letter to the Police Department of Spokane, Washington, telling them to be on the lookout for someone who may incite violence — Sasquan guest of honor David Gerrold. In the uproar that followed, Antonelli published an apology which Gerrold publicly accepted and advocated that Antonelli not be banned from the convention. Antonelli was subsequently allowed to attend. However, Antonelli later resumed trying to justify what he had done. That same year he gained increased notoriety for publishing Carrie Cuinn’s contact information after she revoked plans to anthologize one of his stories, exposing her to abuse in email and social media.

The family’s obituary notice is on the Clarksville Funeral Home website. He is survived by his wife Patricia.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/12/21 The Old File-Hidden-In-The-Pixel-Scroll Trick

(1) THE TROUBLE WITH KIBBLES. With Camestros Felapton 63 chapters into Debarkle, a chronicle of how the Sad/Rabid Puppies were the sff genre’s reflection of broader right-wing movements, John Scalzi shares his own retrospective “Thoughts on the ‘Debarkle’” at Whatever.

1. It really does seem like so long ago now. The nonsense the Sad/Rabid Puppies (henceforth to be referred to as “the Pups”) perpetrated is largely contained in the years of 2014 – 2016, and while that’s not actually all that long ago — a mere five years since MidAmericon II, where new Hugo nomination rules were ratified to minimize slate nominating, and NK Jemisin won the first of her three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards — it feels like a distant memory now, a kind of “oh, yeah, that happened,” sort of event.

There are reasons for that, but I think the largest part has to do with the fact that the Pups, simply and bluntly, failed at every level that was important for their movement. The bifurcated goals of the Pups were to champion science fiction with a certain political/cultural point of view (i.e., largely white, largely conservative), and to destroy the Hugos by flooding the nominations with crap. They did neither very well. Toward the former, the material they slated was largely not very good, and with respect to the latter, the Hugos both still persist and remain a premier award in the field.

Their strategy was bad because it was addressing a problem that largely did not exist and was arrived at in a backward fashion, and their tactics were bad because they exploited loopholes and antagonized everyone who was not part of their clique, activating thousands of dormant Hugo voters against them. They were routed through a simple mechanism for which they had not accounted (“No Award”), and once their slating tactic was blunted by a nomination rule change, they flounced entirely.

When your only track record is that of complete failure, it’s not surprising you don’t have much of an impact….

John Lorentz says in a comment there:

As the 2015 Hugo Administrator, I can tell you that five years (or six years since it affected me directly), is not nearly enough to for me to forget it.

I used to enjoy administering the Hugos (I’ve done it four times)–2015 was a shit show that destroyed any joy I had regarding the Hugos. in the long run, the Puppies didn’t affect the field, but they sure affected me.

Also:

It was, however, the only thing I’ve ever been involved with that has show up both as a question on Jeopardy and a song on Doctor Demento.

So there’s that.

(2) WHOSE FAULT? Paul Weimer finds more than he expected, as he explains in his review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings”.

…Like that original story, and like the other stories in that anthology by other authors, the central characters in the universe that Jennings has constructed here and the central characters are women (and note the name of Velocity’s ship). Given the preponderance of men as leads of a lot of space opera to this day, Jennings’ work is a refreshing rebalancing of that. The novel is a two-hander, with Velocity Wrachant, captain and owner of the Susan Calvin, and Brontë, a young woman who is far more than she first appears.

The story’s point of view focus on both Velocity and Brontë, although we do not see the latter’s point of view until her hijacking, and even then, it is initially months in the past. I didn’t like her at first: after all, she HAD hijacked Velocity’s ship, and I thought at first that the flashbacks from her point of view were merely to flesh her out and give us perspective and point of view to sympathize with her, however grudgingly so. As the back half of the narrative continued to build and events in the present continued, I saw the careful crafting of plot, and the central mystery at the heart of Fault Lines….

(3) HANNA MEMORIES. Joseph Nicholas penned The Guardian’s “Judith Hanna obituary”.

During her 30 years of working for a range of campaigning bodies and NGOs, my wife, Judith Hanna, who has died aged 67 of liver cancer, saw concern about the environment go from a fringe issue for community activists to a mainstream subject with a professionalised career structure.

Her life and career embodied the principle of “being the change you want to see”, through such local activities as organising annual seed swaps, promoting community gardens, calling for traffic calming measures in residential streets and, at national level, working for nuclear disarmament and better public transport. In her final role, as a social evidence principal specialist at Natural England, she promoted the now widely accepted health benefits of everyday contact with the natural world….

(4) BOLTS FROM THE BLUE. In the Future Tense newsletter, Torie Bosch says “We need a Muppet version of Frankenstein”.

On Aug. 30, my heart broke a tiny bit.

That day, the Guardian published a remarkable interview with Frank Oz, Jim Henson’s longtime collaborator and the puppeteer behind Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and other classic Muppets. Oz hasn’t been involved with the Muppets since 2007, three years after Disney purchased the franchise. He tells the Guardian: “I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years. They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in. He added of the post-Disney Muppet movies and TV shows: “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.” As a lifelong Muppets fan, I have to agree: There were delightful moments in the Muppet reboots of recent years, but they were a little too pale, the chaos and the order a little too calculated.

But I think that there’s a way to bring the Muppets back, one that could also—and here comes the Future Tense agenda—help spark smart  discussions about scientific ethics, especially around what it means to be human and how to approach innovation responsibly. We need Frank Oz to helm a Muppet Frankenstein….

(5) I AM THE FIRE. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova discusses “Einstein’s Dreams: Physicist Alan Lightman’s Poetic Exploration of Time and the Antidote to the Anxiety of Aliveness”.

“When you realize you are mortal,” the poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan wrote while regarding a mountain, “you also realize the tremendousness of the future.” A decade earlier, shortly before a heart attack severed her life-time, Hannah Arendt observed in her superb Gifford Lectures lectures on the life of the mind that our finitude, “set in an infinity of time stretching into both past and future, constitutes the infrastructure, as it were, of all mental activities.” While Arendt was composing these thoughts and silent cells were barricading one of her arteries, Ursula K. Le Guin was composing her novelistic inquiry into what it means to live responsibly, observing: “If time and reason are functions of each other, if we are creatures of time, then we had better know it, and try to make the best of it.” A generation before her, Borges had formulated the ultimate declaration of our temporal creatureliness, declaring: “Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”…

(6) SCANNERS IN VAIN. Tony Lewis, reporting on behalf of the NESFA Press in Instant Message #979, told about some problems encountered with their republication of Zenna Henderson’s Ingathering: The Complete People Stories collection.

An Amazon customer who bought our Ingathering ebook reported 58 typos in it. Amazon took down the book, which had been on sale for a year, until we could fix the typos. A number of NESFA Press proofers have spent the past three weeks going over the Ingathering ebook. We have found more than 400 typos, nearly all caused by unproofed OCR used to create the ebook. We also found that approximately 20 of those 400+ typos existed in the original hardcover. This proofing project is expected to be finished the week after the August Business Meeting.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1976 — Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon where Wilson Tucker was the Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win the the Best Novella Hugo for “Home is The Hangman”. It was published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, the November 1975 issue. The other nominated works were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. It’s in one of the three stories in My Name is Legion which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1897 — Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the main writer of the pulp character The Shadow. He used the pen-name Maxwell Grant, wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 12, 1914 Desmond Llewelyn. He’s best known for playing Q in 17 of the Bond films over thirty-six years. Truly amazing. Live and Let Die is the only one in the period where Q was not in it. He worked with five Bonds, to wit Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Other genre appearances include The Adventures of Robin Hood, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeThe Curse of the Werewolf and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 12, 1921 Stanislaw Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice (Glos Pana In Polish). The usual suspects have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.) [Note: In three instances “L” has been substituted because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.]
  • Born September 12, 1922 John Chambers. He’s best known for designing Spock’s  pointed ears, and for the prosthetic make-up work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Some of those character creations, including Cornelius and Dr. Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at the Science Fiction Museum. He worked on the MunstersOuter LimitsLost in SpaceMission Impossible, Night Gallery and I-Spy along with uncredited (at the time) prosthetic makeup work on Blade Runner. (Died 2001.)
  • Born September 12, 1940 John Clute, 81. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read in digital form) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) that I use every day for these Birthdays, and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
  • Born September 12, 1942 Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” story garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye novella. It would also be nominated for a Hugo at SunCon. And the “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”.  The usual suspects have an outstanding selection of his works including Nightmare Seasons and Shadows, another excellent  collection. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1952 Kathryn Anne Ptacek Grant, 69. Widow of Charles L. Grant. She has won two Stoker Awards. If you’re into horror. Her Gila! novel is a classic of that genre, and No Birds Sings is an excellent collection of her short stories. Both are available from the usual suspects.  
  • Born September 12, 1962 Mary Kay Adams, 59. She was Na’Toth, a Narn who was the aide to G’Kar in the second season of Babylon 5, and she would show up as the Klingon Grilka in the episodes “The House of Quark” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” in Deep Space Nine. Her first genre role is actually an uncredited role in The Muppets Take Manhattan. No idea what it is. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SHORTS SUBJECT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a piece about the “masterpieces” John Oliver is lending to museums in return for a $10,000 grant.  He talks to the heads of the Judy Garland Museum and the Cartoon Art Museum and how the Garland Museum said they could only accept the paintings if the mousehood of the “vermin-love-watercolor-on-paper” drawing by Brian Swords of nude cartoon mice was covered up. “John Oliver is helping museums through the pandemic — by lending them rat erotica”.

Melanie Jacobson was on the hunt for covid-relief cash in October when she happened to flip to HBO. As fortune would have it, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver was announcing a contest to offer financial help to museums in need. The catch was, they had to be willing to exhibit his freshly acquired collection of three “masterpiece” paintings: a still-life of ties,a portrait of TV host Wendy Williams eating a lamb chop, plus— his “pièce de résistance” — amorous rats in the buff.Jacobson is a board member for theJudy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. — right where a star was born. Her catch was, the institutionshares a building with the very G-rated Children’s Discovery Museum, which meant that “I knew we would not be able to show the rat painting with certain private parts,” she said by phone this week.

So with blessing from board leadership, Jacobson submitted a proposal to the “Last Week Tonight” contest with one stipulation, she recalled: “I’m going to have to put pants on the rat.” ….

(11) NOT FOR MUGGLES. Thrillist wants to be sure you’re getting enough genre-related calories. “Dairy Queen Secret Menu: You Can Get a Butterbeer Blizzard Inspired by Harry Potter”.

We’re still flying high off the news of Dairy Queen’s fall Blizzard lineup. After all, the Pumpkin Pie is back, folks. But it’s not the only flavor on our radar as of late. In fact, DQ employee-slash-TikToker @thedairyqueenking shared a secret menu item that’s going to wow Harry Potter fans.

The soft serve insider took to the video-sharing platform with the chain’s hush, hush Butterbeer Blizzard, which boasts vanilla syrup, butterscotch syrup, Butterfinger pieces, and a healthy swirl of whipped cream topping, mirroring the fan-favorite beverage from the books….

(12) A SCRAPBOOK OF CASES. In an article composed of various incidents and testimonies, The Guardian wonders whether it is time to take reports about UFOs and aliens more seriously: “’What I saw that night was real’: is it time to take aliens more seriously?”

…But Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the Ministry of Defence, is not convinced and thinks that Godfrey is genuine. “He had a lot to potentially lose by coming out with this and yet stuck to his guns.”

Doesn’t a hallucination explain what he saw? “I get that people do have hallucinations, but they tend to be the result of either mental illness or some sort of hallucinogenic substance, and this guy was on duty and was, by all accounts, rational. And so those explanations don’t seem to apply – I’m stumped when it comes to that particular case. Ask yourself: how many times have you been tired and come to the end of a long day? We’ve all been in that situation, and we don’t suddenly construct bizarre narratives about spacecraft and aliens.”

Is it time to start taking these stories more seriously? “I’m not saying that I believe it’s literally true that these are alien spaceships,” says Pope. “But at the very least, these people who were previously disbelieved and ridiculed should be listened to and given a hearing….

(13) SWORD & SOUL. Flecher Vredenburgh takes “A Look at Milton Davis’ Changa’s Safari and the rest of the series at Goodman Games.

I started my blog, Stuff I Like, nearly eleven years ago with a plan of writing about swords & sorcery. When I reviewed “The City of Madness” by the late and greatly-missed Charles Saunders, I discovered he had co-edited a new story collection called Griots (2011). I bought it and found it to be one of the best batches of fantasy stories I’d read in years. It introduced me to the term sword & soul, as well as some very good writers, such as Carole McDonnell, P. Djeli Clark, and Milton Davis himself….

(14) CLASH OF THE TITANS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says the battle between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos over NASA contracts is getting increasingly personal, with Musk’s SpaceX ahead on technical issues but Bezos fighting back not only on NASA contracts awarded to Space X but also trying to block Space X’s plan to build thousands of small satellites for Internet communications. “Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back”.

For years, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have sparred over the performance of their rockets and space companies in a simmering feud that flared during a fight over who could use a NASA launchpad and which company was the first to successfully land a rocket.

But now the two billionaires, among the world’s richest men, are waging an increasingly bitter battle that pits two enormous business empires in clashes that are playing out in the courts, the Federal Communications Commission and the halls of Congress in what’s become one of the greatest business rivalries in a generation….

(15) THE MEANING OF NONLIFE. The New York Times’ Brian Ng considers, “Could Robots From Boston Dynamics Beat Me in a Fight?”

…Boston Dynamics has uploaded videos like this for more than a decade, cataloging the progress of its creations as they grow more lifelike, and more unsettling. One of its models is a robotic dog called Spot, with four legs and, sometimes, a “neck” topped with a camera “head” — an android’s best friend.

Although the company maintains that its creations are research projects, it does sell Spot and has leased one to the N.Y.P.D. It could have been used to accomplish tasks too risky for a living being, such as delivering food in a hostage situation or checking areas with high amounts of radiation. But its appearance accompanying police officers during an arrest in public housing sparked enough public backlash for its trial to be prematurely terminated. People found the robodog both wasteful and chilling, especially in the possession of the institution most likely to use force against them. It surely didn’t help that the robodog looked quite similar to the horrific killer machines in an episode of the show “Black Mirror” called “Metalhead” — probably because the show’s creator Charlie Brooker, who wrote the episode, was inspired by previous Boston Dynamics videos.

We can ask the same question of the Atlas: What is it for? The video only shows us what it can do. For now, the robots don’t want anything; apart from not falling over, they await a reason for being. The company says the goal is to create robots that can perform mundane tasks in all sorts of terrain, but the video contains no such tasks; we see only feats of agility, not the routine functions these robots would be back-flipping toward. Through this gap enter the tendrils of sinister speculation…..

(16) BOOKS IN SIGHT. Marie Powell’s adventures in castle-hopping across North Wales resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series, Last of the Gifted. Spirit Sight (Book 1) and Water Sight (Book 2). An omnibus volume of the two books is coming out in October. And the audiobook of Spirit Sight is available from Kindle, Amazon.ca, Audible, and Apple.

Two siblings pledge their magic to protect their people from the invading English, with the help of the last true Prince of Wales—after his murder.

Welsh warrior-in-training Hyw can control the minds of birds and animals.

His sister Catrin can see the future in a drop of water.

Now Hyw and Catrin must stretch their gifts to stand between their people and the ruthless army of Edward I (a.k.a. Longshanks). When the prince is slain, Hyw’s gift allows him to meld with the prince’s spirit, to guide them in fighting back against the English invaders.

This award-winning medieval fantasy combines magic, mythology, and historical legends with the realities of 13th Century Wales.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Joyce Scrivner, Cora Buhlert, Ruth Berman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/21 HR Pixeling Stuff! Whose Your File When Things Get Rough

(1) ABOUT TIME. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll has one he’s sure the panel will like. Can that actually happen?

This month, the Old Hugo Finalist the Young People read was Samuel R. Delany’s “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”, which was first published in New Worlds, #185 December 1968. Despite my track record of guessing wrong about what older SFF will appeal to younger people, I am pretty confident about this one. Not only did “Time” win both the Nebula and the Hugo in its category, but Delany’s fiction is objectively popular. The Bantam edition of Delany’s crowd-pleasing Dhalgren, for example, went through 19 editions and sold over a million copies. Success in this matter is therefore utterly assured…. 

(2) WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. “Edgar Allan Poe Needs a Friend” – and apparently found one – as explained by Matthew Redmond at Lapham’s Quarterly.

Type “Edgar Allan Poe” into your preferred image search engine, brace for impact, and press Enter. Instantly you hit a wall of chalk-white faces, each conveying a mixture of despair, dyspepsia, grief, wonderment, and wounded pride. Some are actual daguerreotypes, while the rest are fan art or movie stills inspired by those antique likenesses. In every case, one has the distinct feeling that misery could not ask for better company. This is Poe.

Now try searching “Poe Osgood portrait” instead. What comes up this time is a face totally different from those in the previous set. It can’t be the same person. There is color in his cheeks and light in his eyes, and his brow looks quite unburdened. The expression registers as neither menacing nor miserable, but magnanimous. This too is Poe.

It is Samuel Stillman Osgood’s more human version of the poet, novelist, and critic that interests us here. That the portrait has become emblematic of a close friendship between Poe and Frances Osgood, the artist’s wife, makes it still more surprising, because Poe is not supposed to have had friends…. 

(3) SAD POOPERS. Camestros Felapton, in Debarkle chapter 63, charts “What the Evil League of Evil (and Friends) Did Next”.

… In an apparent bid to make the historiography of the Debarkle easier, multiple members of 2014’s Evil League of Evil banded together to publish an anthology entitled “Forbidden Thoughts”. The title, evocative of Harlan Ellison’s never fully completed Dangerous Visions anthologies, was predicated on the idea that the last bastion of transgressive ideas in speculative fiction is reactionary conservatism….

(4) STONE SOUP. In “Building Beyond: Mycorrhizal Networking”, Sarah Gailey is joined by Casey Lucas and Arkady Martine to work on the writing prompt:

City planners in this civilization rely on fungus to help them do their jobs.

(5) THE END IS NEAR. Leonardo DiCaprio is part of a celebrity ensemble cast in Don’t Look Up, which tells the story of two low-level astronomers who must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth. On Netflix on December 24.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1966 – Fifty-five years ago on NBC, Star Trek premiered. Roddenberry had pitched a brief treatment to Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s Desilu Productions, producers of Mission: Impossible, three years previously, calling it “a Wagon Train to the stars”. I won’t go into details here as y’all know them all too well but will note that it would spawn eleven television series to date, thirteen films, and numerous books, games, and more toys than you can possibly keep count. The series won two Hugos, one at NyCon 3 for “The Menagerie”, and another at Baycon for “The City on the Edge of Forever”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8, 1925 — Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Amusingly he was involved in a number of folk tale productions in various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom ThumbMother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.)
  • Born September 8, 1937 — Archie Goodwin. Comics writer and editor with a very long career. He was the writer and editor of the horror Creepy and Eerie anthologies, the first writer on the Iron Man series, wrote comic book adaptations for Marvel of the two Star Wars sequels and edited the Star Wars line for them. For DC, he edited Starman which Robinson said he was inspiration for. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 8, 1945 — Willard Huyck, 76. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas, first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before being the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatos Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm.  
  • Born September 8, 1952 — Linda D. Addison, 69. First Black winner of the Stoker Award which she has won five times. Amazingly, The first two awards were for her poetry collections Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial. All five of her Awards were for poetry collections. She does write more than poetry as her story, “Shadow Dreams”, was published in the Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda anthology.
  • Born September 8, 1954 — Mark Lindsay Chapman, 67. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The LegacyBram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy, The New Adventures of Superman, The Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances.
  • Born September 8, 1965 — Matt Ruff, 56. I think that his Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? And of course there the adaptation of Lovecraft Country which I’ve not seen as I don’t have HBO. He won an Otherwise Award for Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, and an Endeavour Award for The Lovecraft Country.
  • Born September 8, 1966 — Gordon Van Gelder, 55. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor and later publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, for which he was awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, with the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form at Nippon 3 and at Devention 3.  He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. 
  • Born September 8, 1975 — C. Robert Cargill, 46. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards winning Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script.

(8) TRAILER PARK. A new DCEU animated film trailer: “Injustice”.

Inspired by Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios’ popular video game, and the best-selling DC graphic novel based on the video game, Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year One by Tom Taylor, the animated film Injustice finds an alternate world gone mad – where The Joker has duped Superman into killing Lois Lane, sending the Man of Steel on a deadly rampage. Unhinged, Superman decides to take control of the Earth for humanity’s own good. Determined to stop him, Batman creates a team of like-minded, freedom-fighting heroes. But when Super Heroes go to war, can the world survive?

(9) FOUR EXCUSES. Mostly not genre, but Stephen Colbert’s “Excuses Song” could be like a national anthem for introverts.

Stephen, Jon and the Stay Human band recorded this hot new jam guaranteed to make you dance, and give you some foolproof excuses to get out of social obligations this Fall.

(10) STEVE POPS BACK IN. My daughter grew up watching Blue’s Clues. Which means I watched, too. So while I don’t know about her, I needed this! “So about that time Steve went off to college…”

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this steampunk series “has almost nothing to do with what actually goes on in a courtroom” and featrues Sherlock Holmes as “an arrogant moron.”  “So strap on that katana and get ready to make objections!”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/22/21 Ain’t No Mount TBR High Enough

(1) RAY BRADBURY’S 101ST. John King Tarpinian commemorated Ray Bradbury’s birthday, as he does each year, with a visit to the writer’s burial place:

Left Ray some Montag typing paper & a Faber pencil.  Plus a half-bottle of Dandelion Wine & a skate key from the Chicago Roller Skate Company.

(2) CHICAGO HONORS WOLFE. The late Gene Wolfe will be among those inducted to the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame on September 19.  As a former Fuller Award honoree he gained automatic induction upon his death. (Via Locus Online.)

(3) THE PLANETS OF SWEDEN. Ingvar livetweeted his latest tour of the inner planets of Sweden’s Solar System model . Ingvar’s thread starts here. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are in Stockholm. The rest of the model is spread across the country.  

(4) AUSSIE NATCON CANCELED. Conflux, the annual Canberra convention which was also designated this year’s Australian national convention, won’t be held due to COVID concerns: “Conflux 2021 Cancelled” reports SFFANZ. See the announcement at the Conflux website.

Conflux is a speculative fiction convention held annually in Canberra. Like many conventions, Conflux in 2020 and 2021 have had to be cancelled due to the global pandemic. 

We will refund all registrations in the coming weeks, and the Rydges Hotel cancellation policy includes a full refund as long as you cancel more than 24 hours in advance.

We are currently working on how we can host the Ditmars and will advise further once we have everything in place for that.

(5) TINGLE PROVES LOVE TO HUGO VOTERS. Camestros Felapton’s autopsy of the 2016 Hugo Awards includes one lively memory — “Debarkle Chapter 58: Hugos and Dragons and Puppies Again”.

…If the impact of the Puppies was more ambiguous in 2016 it was still no less visible. There had been hope that the huge numbers of people who had joined Worldcon and voted against the Puppies in 2015 would translate into overwhelming numbers at the nomination phase. However, without a coordinated slate, a large number of people voting for a wide range of different things will not necessarily out vote a much smaller number voting for a slate. Over four thousand nomination ballots had been cast and of those maybe less than 10% were people following the Rabid Puppy slate[6] but in more popular categories, Day included more “hostages” on his slate and concentrated his more controversial picks on down-ballot categories….

With the Sad Puppies largely absent from the fight and with most of the substantive arguments having already played out in 2015, the 2016 award season was less riven with feuding disputes. There was a degree of pressure on some finalist who had been on the Rabid Puppy slate to withdraw but few did. Included in those who had been asked to withdraw was erotic humorist Chuck Tingle whose short story Space Raptor Butt Invasion had been slated by Vox Day in an attempt to mock the Hugo Awards. Tingle didn’t withdraw but instead turned his attention to mocking Vox Day and rolling the whole process of being nominated into his bizarre metafictional book titles….

(6) STINKERS. Buzzfeed lists “18 Movies That Were Completely Worthless” based on a Reddit thread. Would you like to guess how many are sff? Some of them are hard to classify – like the one below.

We all know that feeling. You finish a movie, and you can’t believe you just wasted two hours of your life that you’ll never get back…

8. The Emoji Movie

“It was a soulless corporate husk of a movie built on ads. Literally, ads the movie. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about the movie. It’s morally, creatively, and ethically bankrupt. I’m actually angry remembering I wasted two hours of my life watching that fucking movie.”

(7) RAIN ON YOUR ALIEN PARADE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post Magazine, Joel Achenbach, who wrote a book (Captured By Aliens) about “the search for extraterrestrial life,” takes a deep dive into the evidence for space aliens and conclude we’re alone in the universe and should work on problems we can solve instead of daydreaming about space aliens. “It’s time to stop UFO mania”.

…I’m wary of returning to that strange universe, because anything I write is guaranteed to be unsatisfying for everyone involved. My strong suspicion is that the number of UFO sightings that involve actual alien beings, from deep space, with the tentacles and the antennae and so on, is zero. I would put the likelihood at 0.0000 and then add some more zeros, before eventually, begrudgingly — because I’m so intellectually flexible — putting in a little 1 out there somewhere to the right, a lonely sentinel, because who knows? (Yes, I’m saying there’s a chance.)

This skeptical take, however, is the boring take. A better story would be that, after all these decades as a skeptic, I’ve converted, because the recent rash of UFO sightings has persuaded me that these are, in actual fact, spaceships from somewhere else in the universe, or perhaps from the future, and could even be future humans, such as grad students getting their PhDs in paleoanthropology. Much better story.

Science journalists regularly disappoint people by refusing to confirm really cool things like UFOs, past-life recall, astral projection, telekinesis, clairvoyance and so on. When I wrote my aliens book I made a disastrous marketing mistake by not including any aliens in the story, focusing instead on people who believe in aliens. Thus it was a major disappointment for readers who bought a copy after finding it in the “Occult” section at Barnes & Noble….

(8) ELLISON ON THE AIR. J. Michael Straczynski has made available, in a now-unlocked Patreon post, a recording of one of the Harlan Ellison-hosted episodes of Hour 25 aired in 1986 by LA radio station KPFK.

Meanwhile, here’s an exclusive treat for Patrons who are/were fans of Harlan Ellison: his HOUR 25 interview with best-selling horror author Clive Barker.  (Harlan copyrighted the shows he hosted under the Kilimanjaro Corporation and I don’t believe this has been heard anywhere since its initial airing.)  It’s vastly entertaining, educational for writers, and very funny in places.  This is the broadcast exactly as it went out on at 10 p.m PST, August 30th, 1986, with roughly 90 minutes of the most engaging conversation you’re apt to hear this month.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2001 – On this day twenty years ago, the Legend series ended its very brief run on UPN. A sort of steampunk Western, it was developed by Michael Piller, who is best known for his contributions to the Star Trek franchise, and  Bill Dail who is responsible for Sliders. It really had only two primary characters in the form of Ernest Pratt / Nicodemus Legend as played by Richard Dean Anderson and Janos Bartok as played by John de Lancie. It would run for the briefest of times as I noted, just twelve episodes before being cancelled. Every critic compared it to The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., some favorably and some not. The New York Post critic called it “a gorgeous amalgam of science fiction and old-fashioned Western”.  It, like so many short run series, has no Rotten Tomatoes rating. Nor does it exist on any of the streaming services. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 22, 1907 Oliver McGowan. He played The Caretaker in the “Shore Leave” episode of the original Trek. It must be decades since I’ve seen that episode but I still remember liking it a lot, silly though it be. It’s kind of the ancestor to the holodeck, isn’t it? McGowan has one-offs on One Step Beyond, Wild Wild West, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for  three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite work by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit, with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to works by him. Though he won no Hugos as his best work predated them, he’s won six Retro Hugos for a best novel, two best short stories, twice for fan writer and one for best fanzine. The Martian Chronicles film was nominated for a Hugo at Denvention Two, the year The Empire Strikes Back won; Something Wicked This Way Comes would go up against the Return of The Jedi which won at L.A. Con II. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Genre adjacent, she was in the film of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary as Rita Vandemeyer. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 22, 1931 Douglas Cramer. He produced twenty-four episodes of the original Trek, and he was Executive Producer of Wonder Woman. His only writing credit was for The Cat People. (Died 2021.)
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 76. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope fur Two”, which he also directed. And yes, he wrote many of the scripts for Northern Exposure which is at least genre adjacent. 
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 66. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature , and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold! 
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 58. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams, and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman series is based on her. 

(11) TAKING THE LID OFF. The table of contents has been revealed for What One Wouldn’t Do: An Anthology on the Lengths One Might Go edited by Scott J. Moses. Comes out October 5.

With dark fiction from J.A.W. McCarthy, Avra Margariti, Marisca Pichette, Stephanie Ellis, Christina Wilder, Donna Lynch, Katie Young, Scott J. Moses, Angela Sylvaine, tom reed, Cheri Kamei, Shane Douglas Keene, J.V. Gachs, Tim McGregor, Emma E. Murray, Nick Younker, Jennifer Crow, Joanna Koch, Lex Vranick, Laurel Hightower, Eric Raglin, Eric LaRocca, Daniel Barnett, Bob Johnson, Simone le Roux, Hailey Piper, Bryson Richard, Jena Brown, and Christi Nogle.

(12) NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S ANIMATRONICS. The New York Times wants to know, “Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?”

Not an imitation Groot conjured with video or those clunky virtual reality goggles. The Walt Disney Company’s secretive research and development division, Imagineering, had promised a walking, talking, emoting Groot, as if the arboreal “Avengers” character had jumped off the screen and was living among us.

But first I had to find him. GPS had guided me to a warehouse on a dead-end street in Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb. The place seemed deserted. As soon as I parked, however, a man warily appeared from behind a jacaranda tree. Yes, I had an appointment. No, I was not hiding any recording devices. He made a phone call, and I was escorted into the warehouse through an unmarked door behind a dumpster.

In the back near a black curtain a little wrinkled hand waved hello.

It was Groot.

He was about three feet tall and ambled toward me with wide eyes, as if he had discovered a mysterious new life form. He looked me up and down and introduced himself….

…The development of Groot — code-named Project Kiwi — is the latest example. He is a prototype for a small-scale, free-roaming robotic actor that can take on the role of any similarly sized Disney character. In other words, Disney does not want a one-off. It wants a technology platform for a new class of animatronics….

(13) AS THE STEM IS BENT. NASA entices scholars with a loaded webpage: “Launch Back to School With NASA: Student and Educator Resources for the 2021-2022 School Year”.

As students across the country are saying goodbye to the summer and the new school year is kicking off, NASA is gearing up to engage students in exciting activities and thought-provoking challenges throughout the year ahead. The agency offers many resources to inspire the next generation of explorers, and help educators and students stay involved in its missions.

“Back-to-school season is a really exciting time for NASA. It represents the beginning of a new year of opportunities to connect with students, and the families and teachers who support them,” said Mike Kincaid, associate administrator for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this variety of activities and options for students from K-12 to the collegiate level, whether they’re returning to a brick-and-mortar school or a virtual classroom at home.”

Below, NASA has prepared a long list of mission-related resources and opportunities for students, educators, and families to utilize during the 2021-2022 school year. Follow NASA STEM on Twitter and Facebook social media channels using the hashtags #BacktoSchool and #NASASTEM for additional content and updates….

(14) CELEBRATE LANDSAT. At another page, “NASA Invites You to Create Landsat-Inspired Arts and Crafts”.

Share Your Earth-Inspired Art – For 50 years, Landsat satellites have collected images of Earth from space. On Sept. 16, Landsat 9 is scheduled to launch and continue this legacy. Crafters of all ages are invited to share Landsat-inspired art creations.

How?

  1. Search the Landsat Image Gallery for an image that inspires you.
  2. Get crafting! This can be anything from watercolor paintings to knitted accessories to a tile mosaic – whatever sparks your creativity.
  3. Share your creation with us on social media using the hashtag #LandsatCraft

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2018, Jay Leno’s Garage did a demo of Jay driving Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/5/21 If You Pixel Something Hard Enough, It Will Scroll Over

(1) THAT NEVER HAPPENS. James Davis Nicoll introduces the Young People Read Old SFF panelists to “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison. “A surprising YP: they liked this one,” said James.

…“Ticktockman” represents a sea-change in the nature of works deemed worthy of Hugo Awards. Whereas previous entries were, for all their virtues, what one might call meat and potatoes SF, Ticktockman is a non-linear example of what was called the New Wave…. 

(2) BEST RELATED. Nicholas Whyte analyzes the category’s history in “The Hugo for Best Related Work, including my own votes for this year” – and partially pulls back the curtain on decisions administrators made while he was still the Division Head overseeing this year’s Hugo Awards.

…Now we have reached 2021. I relinquished my WSFS duties this year a bit earlier than planned, and so am in a position to give some commentary on eligibility decisions regarding works that ended up on the 2021 ballot. (Commentary on disqualifications will have to wait until the final results are announced; at this stage I will not even confirm or deny if there were any this year, let alone which categories might have been affected.)…

(3) HIS CHIEF COMPLAINT. Camestros Felapton’s Debarkle reaches Chapter 47: “August Part 1” and the antics of Lou Antonelli.

…Among the retrospectives was a podcast/live-stream by the Superversive SF blog on August 1. …Later, the discussion turned toward Worldcon guest of Honour novelist and screenwriter David Gerrold who had been consistently critical of the Puppy campaigns. It was at this point that events took another twist. Hugo finalist Lou Antonelli had this to say:

… I personally wrote a letter addressed to the police chief in Spokane and said I thought the man was insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention’s going on, and I mean it. I attached my business card. I said this guy’s inciting to violence….

The other guest did not react strongly to Antonelli’s comment and he didn’t elaborate on why he felt the need to contact the police department of Spokane (where Worldcon was being held). However, in a post on his own blog the following day elaborated on what he saw as a commercial threat from the critics of the Puppy campaigns…

(4) AUTHOR REDDING. Catherynne M. Valente will discuss her new book The Past is Red in a Zoom webinar on July 20 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

Catherynne M. Valente, the bestselling and award-winning creator of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland returns with The Past is Red, the enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world. The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time. But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.

(5) IT’S A MYSTERY. Hannah Marder says there are “32 Questions I Still Have About Harry Potter”. She shares them with Buzzfeed readers.

4. What would’ve happened if someone just, like, shot Voldemort?

Or the Death Eaters?? I feel like they should’ve at least tried it. Like, remember that Buffy episode where some mythical monster dude is like “no weapon forged can kill me” and Buffy literally just blows him up with a bazooka? We needed that energy.

(6) SERVING TEA ON THE TOPLESS TOWERS OF ILIUM. Spoon & Tamago celebrates that “Terunobu Fujimori’s latest tea house is a Trojan pig” – although my first thought was – if Henry V had Imperial Walkers, they’d have looked just like this.

Architect-extraordinaire Terunobu Fujimori currently has a retrospective at the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich. There, amongst a comprehensive documentation of the architect’s work since 1986, rests the mobile tea house “Walking Café.” Fujimori’s latest structure remains strongly affixed to his fascination with the tea house, but with a European twist, hence the name.

… Fujimori’s tea house is somewhat of a dichotomy – a structure meant to encourage moderation and, in some cases, even asceticism, being constructed in the symbol of gluttony and sloth. However, it’s important to remember that in the case of the Trojan horse, it’s not what was on the outside but what was on the inside that mattered most.

(7) RICHARD DONNER (1930-2021). Director Richard Donner died July 5 at the age of 91. His genre movies included The Omen (1976), Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Ladyhawke (1985) and The Goonies (1985). For TV he directed six episodes of The Twilight Zone, four episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and an episode of The Wild Wild West.

[He directed]  in the same year (1985) the medieval period adventure Ladyhawke and the seminal kids adventure pic The Goonies, the pic with a script penned by Chris Columbus based on a story by Steven Spielberg.

“Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres,” Spielberg said in a statement today on Donner’s death. “Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all.  He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty, laugh will stay with me always.”

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 —  Fifteen years ago, Charles Stross wins the Sidewise Award in Best Long Form Alternate History for his Merchant Princes series. Other nominated works were Robert Conroy‘s 1862, Jo Walton’s Farthing, Harry Turtledove‘s The Disunited States of America and Paul Park’s The Tourmaline. There are eight novels out in the series with a ninth, Invisible Sun, due out in the fall. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 5, 1904 — Milburn Stone. Though you no doubt best remember him as Doc on Gunsmoke, he did have several genre roles including as a German Sargent in The Invisible Agent, Captain Vickery in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, Mr. Moore in The Spider Woman Strikes Back and Capt. Roth in Invaders from Mars. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 5, 1929 — Katherine Helmond. Among her roles was Mrs Ogre in Time Bandits and Mrs. Ida Lowry in Brazil. Now I’ll bet you can recall her scene in the latter…  She also have a voice role in the Cars franchise, and one-offs in True BloodThe Six Million Man and Faerie Tale Theater, and yes it’s not really genre, appeared in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 5, 1930 — John Wood. His first genre role was in Slaughterhouse-Five as an unnamed English Officer, his next in Ladyhawke as the Bishop of Aquila and then in the awful Avengers film as Trubshaw. He’d actually been on the earlier Avengers series as Edgar Twitter in “The Bird Who Knew Too Much” episode. He’s had one-offs in DoomwatchYoung Indiana Jones Chronicles and Out of the Unknown. (Died 2011.)
  • Born July 5, 1950 — Huey Lewis, 71. He’s here because he has a brief role in Back to the Future as the band audition judge in that scene. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Huey Lewis reprised that role in a segment where the two actors as their characters arrive in the time machine and talk to the host.
  • Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 64. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent  MythAdventures series.  Since his death,  she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. Her latest two novels are both written with with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
  • Born July 5, 1958 — Nancy Springer, 63 . May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel, and her latest, The Oddling Prince, came out several years ago on Tachyon. 
  • Born July 5, 1962 — Marc Gascoigne, 59. Winner of the World Fantasy Special Award—Professional for his Angry Robot press, and later he won the British Fantasy Award in the category Best Independent Press, again for Angry Robot. If you’re a gamer, you’ll be impressed by knowing that he co-wrote Games Workshop’s original Judge Dredd RPG, and wrote the original Shadowrun source book.
  • Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald D. Moore, 57. Screenwriter and producer who’s best remembered  for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. He was one of the folks who won a Hugo at Intersection for the Next Generation’s “All Good Things…” and among the group nominated for one at LoneStarCon 2 for First Contact. His latest Hugo was won at Interaction for Battlestar Galactica’s “33”.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a Game of Thrones-style twist on a famous nursery rhyme.
  • The Duplex finds beer blurs the boundaries of science.

(11) TEXT-FILLED BUBBLES. In the Washington Post, Theresa Vargas discusses Jupiter Invincible, a comic written by Pulitzer-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa about an immortal who experiences the horrors of slavery. “Jupiter Invincible: Newest comic superhero is an enslaved man”.

…Komunyakaa’s name usually appears alongside a long list of accolades and accomplishments. Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his poetry is just one of them. So he understands why people might be surprised to see his name at the bottom of a comic book. His own daughter was.

Komunyakaa admits to hesitating before agreeing to work on the project, which was dreamed up by filmmaker and publisher Ram Devineni during a stay in Maryland. But then, Komunyakaa says, he thought about how he read comic books as a child and about his own upbringing in Louisiana. His family didn’t talk about slavery, but he found ways to learn about it through books and eventually taught African American history. A common theme in his poems is Black resilience….

(12) HIATUS. Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell tells why he is putting his strip on hiatus in “A Special Announcement From Patrick”.

I have a special announcement to share with all of you: I’m working on a literary graphic novel with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The tentative title is Heart to Heart and it will be published by HarperOne in the fall of 2022. The book is about the environment, animals, and (mostly) compassion. It has a strong, timely message and I’m honored and enthused to be part of this important project. As the book reveals itself, you will be the first to see its progress.

MUTTS has been my primary focus for over 26 years now and I have loved every minute — even the crazy pressure of the daily deadline. Like my hero Charles Schulz, I thought I’d never take a break from drawing my strip.

However, because of the time needed to focus on this book project, I’ll be taking my first sabbatical — starting July 5. Some of my favorite (handpicked) strips will run during this six-month period. On January 1, 2022, I’ll be back and excited to share new adventures with Earl, Mooch, and the gang. My short leave will be over before we know it.

(13) WE ATTRACT. “Why does Mercury have such a big iron core? Magnetism!” says Phys.org News.

…William McDonough, a professor of geology at the University of Maryland, and Takashi Yoshizaki from Tohoku University developed a model showing that the density, mass and iron content of a rocky planet’s core are influenced by its distance from the sun’s magnetic field. The paper describing the model was published on July 2, 2021, in the journal Progress in Earth and Planetary Science.

“The four inner planets of our solar system—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars—are made up of different proportions of metal and rock,” McDonough said. “There is a gradient in which the metal content in the core drops off as the planets get farther from the sun. Our paper explains how this happened by showing that the distribution of raw materials in the early forming solar system was controlled by the sun’s magnetic field.”

McDonough previously developed a model for Earth’s composition that is commonly used by planetary scientists to determine the composition of exoplanets. (His seminal paper on this work has been cited more than 8,000 times.)

McDonough’s new model shows that during the early formation of our solar system, when the young sun was surrounded by a swirling cloud of dust and gas, grains of iron were drawn toward the center by the sun’s magnetic field. When the planets began to form from clumps of that dust and gas, planets closer to the sun incorporated more iron into their cores than those farther away….

(14) IT FOLLOWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Heineken has introduced a beer robot for people who think carrying a six-pack is too much work.

Put the can back into summer with a cooler that carries itself. The Heineken B.O.T. (Beer Outdoor Transporter) is a limited-edition autonomous robot cooler that dutifully follows its owner wherever they go with ice-cold cans of Heineken.

(15) REVENGE IS A DRINK BEST SERVED COLD. In another beer-tech breakthrough, Michael Reeves hacks Boston Dynamics’s Spot so that it can pee beer in a cup. Because: revenge!

…I emailed them. I even tweeted at them. I would do anything for a Boston Dynamics robot dog to just be here. And what did they say? “We’re only giving it out to construction companies.” And of course I was bummed about that. What am I gonna do? So I just accepted it, moved on. And then two weeks later what do I see but Adam Savage gallivanting around with the robot dog. Does he look like a construction company? No. Those bastards lied to me. And so I waited and I waited and I waited until Spot became publicly available and then with the help of offline tv and the sponsor I lied to about where their entire budget was going, there’s a Boston Dynamics robot dog right here and it’s the coolest [ __ ] I’ve ever seen in my entire life… Still, you lied to me Boston Dynamics and so you’re going to have to watch as I turn your state-of-the-art robot dog into a machine that pisses beer into a cup for me to drink….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Tomorrow War Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled summary, has the writer tell the producer that the aliens in this film are NOT bottles of hard seltzer because the hard seltzer is White Claw, and the villains in this movie are “white spikes.” This dropped yesterday.  And I decided if Ryan George or the Screen Junkies say their videos have spoilers I will listen to them.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Moshe Feder, N., Nicholas Whyte, James Davis Nicoll, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]