Pixel Scroll 8/17/22 Tell Me Of Your Homescroll, Pixel

(1) SECRETS OF PKD’S SUCCESS. David Samuels bids you “Welcome to Philip K. Dick’s dystopia” at UnHerd.

…What made Dick a literary genius, then, was not any special talent for predicting hand-held personal devices or atom bombs the size of a shoe which might have led him to a job in Apple’s marketing department. His gift was for what might be called predictive psychology — how the altered worlds he imagined, whether futuristic or merely divergent from existing historical continuums, would feel to the people who inhabited them. Dick’s answer was, very often: “Not good.”

Dick’s dystopian-psychological approach marks him less as a conventional science fiction writer than as a member of the California anti-utopian school of the Sixties, whose best-known members include Robert Stone, Thomas Pynchon, Ken Kesey, Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson. Seen from this angle, Dick was perhaps the most powerfully and sweepingly paranoid of a group of writers whose stock-in-trade was conspiracy and paranoia, the hallmarks of a society marked — at that moment, and this one — by violent street crime, drug-induced psychosis, and visionary promises gone terribly wrong. Of his anti-utopian peers, Dick’s sci-fi genre background made him the only one who had any particular feel for the proposition that technology was inseparable from, and would therefore inevitably alter, our idea of the human….

(2) BUILDING WITH WORDS. “Author R.F. Kuang Talks Magic and What’s Lost in Translation” in a Goodreads interview.

…GR: The magic system is always a critical part of world-building in fantasy, and I thought yours was so fascinating—magic that is powered by the tension and friction in the act of translating from one language to the other.

RFK: There are a lot of fantasy novels that deal with the power of words and language and naming. I think Ursula Le Guin has done this a lot. I know Samantha Shannon is very interested in etymology and wordplay in her novels as well. I think my innovation is coming at it from the translation angle instead.
 
There were two things I wanted to convey about translation that were at the forefront of my mind. First, it was very important to me that the magic system felt like a real historical facet of the world. I wanted the characters to talk about it and use it the way that they would have used any number of Victorian implements.
 
The second thing is that translation can function as a metaphor for difference. It’s my way of talking about difference at large. Translation is just trying to make yourself understood by other people. We’re all translating ourselves to the world. Even if we’re not bilingual, we’re all trying to put our thoughts and feelings and experiences into words, and hoping that somebody else gets it.
 
And there are so many things that can interfere with that—obviously racism, colonialism, malicious intent. So in that sense, translation becomes a way to talk about prejudice and the avarice of the British Empire in the 1830s. But even unintentionally, there are all these things that cause us to refuse to listen to each other. It’s just the intersection of how different people engage with one another….

(3) VIDEO GAME UPDATE PROVIDES RELIEF. In the Washington Post, Gene Park looks at how playing Cyberpunk 2077 has provided comfort for him as he battles his cancer. “As a cancer patient, ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ frees me from my mental prison”.

I was diagnosed with cancer in early June. For some reason, since then, I haven’t been able to stop playing CD Projekt Red’s “Cyberpunk 2077,” a story about how you must navigate or defy terminal illness.

The terminal illness facing V, the game’s protagonist, is the all-but-certain erasure of their soul. Their personality, memories and cognitive functions are being overwritten by an artificial intelligence, Johnny Silverhand, a rocker and branded terrorist brought to virtual life by Keanu Reeves. They can only deny or accept their fate; either grasp at some way to sever their connection as Silverhand takes over, or leave this world on their own terms.

…It wasn’t always this easy to be carefree in Night City. The game’s infamous release in December 2020 redefined the term “cyberpunk” to mean “unfinished, buggy and unplayable video game.” As I wrote in my final review of the game in 2021, “Cyberpunk 2077” used to barrage the player with phone calls and notifications about new activities, with the resulting information overload destroying any sense of spatial immersion, and strangling the pace of the game’s otherwise compelling narrative arc.

This older, more unpleasant version of “Cyberpunk 2077” reminds me of my current situation. My phone is constantly buzzing with concerned texts and phone calls from friends, family, ex-girlfriends, former co-workers and long lost acquaintances. Everyone talks about the myriad challenges of cancer, but one of the least discussed is the emotional burden placed on the patient as they navigate, soothe and buckle under the overwhelming grief projected by their loved ones. I value and often need the support and concern from my family and friends, but there’s the lingering sense that none of this would need to be said if not for my cancer. Words meant to soothe me often just remind me that I’m fighting for my life.

Five months ago, developer CD Projekt Red released its 1.5 update, which brought along a host of stabilization fixes, new features, and most importantly to me, the ability to ignore those carping in-game texts and phone calls….

(4) HWA CONDEMNS ATTACK ON RUSHDIE. The Horror Writers Association Board of Trustees issued a “Statement on Salman Rushdie attack”.

The Horror Writers Association is outraged and saddened by the reprehensible attack on author Salman Rushdie. The assault on Mr. Rushdie is an assault on all writers. The HWA strongly condemns the attack and supports writers’ freedom of expression without fear of reprisal or violence. We look forward to his speedy recovery and his continued work as a voice for freedom.

(5) AS DOES GRRM. George R.R. Martin discusses the attack and the underlying issues in “Let His Voice Be Heard” at Not a Blog.

…Along with the rest of the world, I read of the turmoil around THE SATANIC VERSES and the fatwa declared against him by the ayatollahs of Iran.     For the “crime” of writing a book that some people did not like, he was forced to spend a decade in hiding, surrounded by guards, wearing disguises when he dared leave his house.  Through it all, he displayed courage, compassion, and grace under fire, while holding firm to his principles and yielding not an inch to the haters.    In more recent years, the danger finally seemed to have ebbed, and Rushdie was once again able to speak and travel and appear in public.

He emerged as one of the world’s leading defenders of free speech, which only deepened my admiration for him.   Freedom of speech is a central pillar of our democracy, and every other democracy in the world.   There is nothing, but nothing, that I believe in more strongly.

And these days freedom of speech needs defenders, for when I look around, I find it under attack everywhere.   Blacklisting, cancel culture, libraries being closed or defunded, classic works of literature being banned or bowdlerized or removed from classrooms,  an ever growing list of “toxic” words the mere utterance of which is now forbidden no matter the context or intent, the erosion of civility in discourse.   Both the Rabid Right and the Woke Left seem more intent on silencing those whose views they disagree with, rather than besting them in debate.    And the consequences for those who dare to say things deemed offensive have been growing ever more dire; jobs lost, careers ended, books cancelled, “deplatforming.”

And now, it seems, attempted murder….

(6) SPACE COWBOY BOOKS PRESENTS. Swarms of nanobots! A pregnant male Supreme Court Justice! The stories featured in this episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast are:

“Reaction Shot” – by Todd Sullivan – https://www.samjokomagazine.com/
Music by Phog Masheeen – https://phogmasheeen.com/
Read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“The Two-Faced Miracle of Justice Father Win” – by Susan Rukeyser http://susanrukeyser.com/
Music by RedBlueBlackSilver – https://redblueblacksilver.bandcamp.com/
Read by the Author & Jean-Paul Garnier

(7) RIDE ‘EM. Ursula Vernon has been crowdsourcing some research about saddles. I never realized how much there is to know about the topic. Thread starts here.

(8) THE URGE TO MERGE. Amanda S. Green makes the trial a little more entertaining in “DOJ vs Randy Penguin Soap Opera Continues” at Mad Genius Club.

It’s going to be a while before we hear the final verdict–and probable appeals–in the tale of Penguin Random House’s desire to “merge” with Simon & Schuster. What we’re getting in the meantime is a ringside seat to the lengths those folks at Randy Penguin and their hand-picked editors and agents (yes, agents) will go to make traditional publishing even smaller. Frankly, there’s not enough popcorn to get through the trial and I know my IQ drops every time I read some of the so-called justifications for the merger.

One of Randy Penguin’s so-called justifications for the merger centers on Amazon and on self-publishing. Now, the Amazon part shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us. After all, Amazon is the big evil in the minds of so many in traditional publishing, even though much of publishing’s problems can and should be laid directly at the feet of the publishing houses. As for self-publishing, Randy Penguin doesn’t like the fact authors like Brandon Sanderson–who still traditionally publishes–can go to Kickstarter and finance the publication of books that for whatever reason didn’t go to the publisher.

Boo-freaking–hoo….

(9) AUTHOR GROUP SUPPORTS MENTAL HEALTH. The Horror Writers Association recently launched the HWA Mental Health Initiative, “a coordinated roll-out of events, resources, and activities intended to promote positive mental health, foster the concept of hope, and challenge the stigma of mental illness in the horror genre.” The initiative, run by the organization’s Wellness Committee, debuted in June 2022 and will form part of an ongoing program.

…Activities planned for 2022 include establishing a dedicated webpage for resources on the HWA website, publication of Of Horror and Hope, a downloadable anthology of poems, flash fiction, and personal reflections on mental health by HWA members, “Holistic Horrors” a monthly column in the organization’s newsletter, several panel sessions, as well as articles and blogs published in the wider genre community.

“The HWA should be commended for being bold in its approach to tackling the stigma of mental illness in the genre,” says Wellness Committee Co-chair, Dave Jeffery, who spent 35 years as a mental healthcare professional in the UK’s National Health Service. “To my mind, it is the first time such an initiative, with a specific focus on hope and recovery, has been developed for the horror community, and there are currently discussions as to how the Wellness Committee can develop further resources over the coming years.”

Jeffery’s co-chair, New Zealander Lee Murray, agrees: “Our intent is to promote positive images of mental health in horror and to create an environment of understanding and compassion. For me, as a sufferer of anxiety and depression, inclusion is extremely important—that notion of lifting something up to the light, so we realize that many of us experience the same things and that we’re not alone.”…

(10) THE DISADVANTAGE OF BEING EARNEST. Namwali Serpell has a critical review of Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man in the September Atlantic: “A World Without White People”.

…Even if you’re unfamiliar with this tradition of stories about race transformation, you’ll suspect what’s coming. Distinguishing between those born dark and the newly transformed will become fraught. Violence will erupt. Some will come to believe that a genocidal conspiracy is to blame; some will kill themselves; some will kill others. “Militants” will take over, emitting fear and hate like a musk. Love will blossom. Heightened scenes of interracial sex and awkward perusals of genitals will follow. In the end, skin color will be shown to be meaningless for identity, a mere construct. Yet it will prove almost atavistically fascinating as an aesthetic surface and a conductor of feeling.

Tone above all distinguishes Hamid from these precursors. Whereas most of these writers bend race transformation toward satire, offering us topsy-turvy and hysterical tales, Hamid is deeply earnest about his conceit. The novel is that wan 21st-century banality, a “meditation,” and it meditates on how losing whiteness is going to make white people feel. Mostly sad, as it turns out….

…If Hamid’s novel were a self-aware satire of this ideology of whiteness and its violent effects, it would be pitch-perfect. But The Last White Man’s structure affords us no way to know if this is what Hamid intends: It includes no higher judgment, no specific history, no novelistic frame against which to measure the reliability of the narration, no backdrop across which irony can dance….

(11) MEMORY LANE.  

2006 [By Cat Eldridge.] Almost everyone I know who is a Hellboy fan thinks that there are but two films, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Well there’s actually four, (well five if you could count the bonus animated short in the Hellboy: Blood and Iron DVD), as there were two most excellent animated films, Sword of Storms (2006) and Blood and Iron (2007).

Ron Perlman reprises his role here. Selma Blair and John Hurt also reprise their roles here. Doug Jones did not provide the voice of Abe for the first film which was done by an uncredited David Hyde Pierce who was psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier. Jones returned for the second film. The only meaningful new character is Kate Corrigan who is voiced by Peri Gilpin.

The first film, Hellboy: Sword of Storms, has them in Japan on a mission to face down demons who want a sword that will free them and allow them to destroy the world. Meanwhile Hellboy has ended up in another dimension with a fox as his guide. (It’s a great character.) Both stories are very well done, and I’ll say nought else about them. (Both are available on iTunes for a mere ten bucks.)  Eventually the stories will merge into a single story.  Of the two films, this is my favorite by far.

The second, Hellboy: Blood and Iron concerns Professor Trevor Bruttenholm’s experience with a vampiress in the Balkans 1934 and the present day in upstate New York as a movie mogul has recreated her estate in the Balkans by purchasing the ghoulish artefacts from there. Hellboy also faces off against Hecate and Her Sisters. The story, and again I’ll not say much about it in case someone haven’t seen it, struck me as much weaker as a script than the first. It just felt flat. 

The critics like it both films. Common Sense Media said of the first that “Dark, fun ghost story for older kids and adults” and the second got this comment from DVD Clinic: “Fans of the Hellboy property, particularly younger ones, should find enough to enjoy here.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a fifty-six percent rating and gave the second a sixty-eight percent rating. 

Oh, as for the short, I think five or so minutes animated film called “Iron Shoes” set in Ireland where Hellboy chased a demon immune to iron. It’s quite cute actually. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 17, 1917 Oliver Crawford. Screenwriter who overcame the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s. He wrote three scripts for Trek, “The Cloud Minders”, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The Galileo Seven”.  He also wrote for The Outer Limits (“The Special One”), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“The Lost Bomb”) and The Wild Wild West (“The Night of the Cossacks” and “The Night of Sudden Death”). (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 17, 1930 Harve Bennett. The individual who gave us Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Really he did. He would then serve as producer on the next three Trek films, The Search for SpockThe Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. In the latter he made his only on-screen appearance in the series, as Starfleet Chief of Staff. No, that’s not everything Harve Bennett. He produced or wrote (or both) for TV’s The Invisible Man, Gemini Man, The Bionic Woman, The Powers of Matthew Star, Time Trax, Salvage 1, and Invasion America.  (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 17, 1945 Rachel Pollack, 77. She’s well known for her run of issues 64–87 (mid-nineties) on DC’s Doom Patrol which took it to its cancellation. She also had a run on the New Gods, the Jack Kirby created mythos. Two of her novels won major Awards — Unquenchable Fire won the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Godmother Night won the World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born August 17, 1956 John Romita Jr., 66. If you’ve read Spider-Man since the Sixties, it’s very likely that you’ve seen his artwork as he had six stints on it between 1980 and 2009. He worked on a number of other titles on Marvel and DC including SupermanGhost Rider, HulkAll-Star Batman, Eternals, Captain America and Daredevil to name but a few he illustrated. He also worked with Mark Miller at Image Comics on Kick-Ass, and did the one-shot Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights
  • Born August 17, 1962 Laura Resnick, 60. Daughter of Mike Resnick. She is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction. She’s written an amazing of amount of short fiction — I think it is over seventy pieces. She’s the author of the Esther Diamond series, and I’ve not read her Manhattan Magic series so I’m interested to know what y’all think of it. She’s readily available on the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 17, 1966 Neil Clarke, 56. Editor in Chief of Clarkesworld Magazine which won a impressive number of Best Semiprozine Hugos and a World Fantasy Award before crossing the threshold to become a prozine. He’s a nine-time Best Editor – Short Form nominee. SFWA also gave him a Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. He edits The Best Science Fiction of the Year series for Night Shade Books.  
  • Born August 17, 1973 Rae Carson, 49. She’s done ten novels including one in the Star Wars universe. (I’m tempted to say who hasn’t?) Quite impressively, her debut novel, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Award and the Andre Norton Award. And she is married to Charles Coleman Finlay.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater posits a bit of Transformers sibling rivalry. But Rich Horton comments, “I will say, Amazon Prime may not have saved the world, but he gives us The Boys and Westworld in addition to free shipping, so that’s something!”

(14) FOUND AND FOUND. “The Oakland Public Library Puts Online a Collection of Items Forgotten in Library Books: Love Notes, Doodles & More”Open Culture shares the links to this collection and others.

Sharon McKellar, the Teen Services Department Head at the Oakland Public Library, collects ephemera she and other staffers find in books returned to the OPL’s 18 locations.

It’s an impulse many share. 

Eventually, she began scanning them to share on her employer’s website, inspired by Found Magazine, a crowdsourced collection of found letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, handwritten poems, doodles, dirty pictures, etc….

(15) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. VentureBeat claims to show “How being a science fiction fan can get you a job at a metaverse company”  in its interview with Jamil Moledina. But guess what? It doesn’t! 

GamesBeat: The title of this interview can be “How being a science fiction fan can get you a job at a metaverse company.”

Moledina: It very well could be. To me that’s the framing that I simply can’t shy away from. I suppose that if I were more of a suit and tie guy, I’d come up with another way to frame it. But for me, this is it. This is stepping into the next frontier. This is the next opportunity in front of us. Not only is it an opportunity for the platform itself, but it’s an opportunity for anyone that loves entertainment, that loves commerce.

There are so many incredible ways to open up to participate. A lot of the ways that we interact with each other in the real world are increasingly challenging, especially in wave after wave of pandemics. And yet if you set that aside, there are so many new ways that people can come together in a virtual world that are really impractical from a real-world standpoint. A big part of Neal’s vision is altruism. How do we provide ways for human beings to come together to improve the world? With Neal and Peter, both of them have this interest in making sure that the application of blockchain to the metaverse is one that results in real impact, real value, and a net improvement on what came before.

(16) TRUE CONFESSION. It’s not always easy to apply the wisdom gained from experience, as Jim C. Hines observes in this example.

(17) ARCHERY. Ross MacDonald explains his theory about “The Writer As Detective Hero” in a 1965 reprint at The Stacks Reader.

A producer who last year was toying with the idea of making a television series featuring my private detective Lew Archer asked me over lunch at Perino’s if Archer was based on any actual person. “Yes,” I said. “Myself.” He gave me a semi-pitying Hollywood look. I tried to explain that while I had known some excellent detectives and watched them work, Archer was created from the inside out. I wasn’t Archer, exactly, but Archer was me.

The conversation went downhill from there, as if I had made a damaging admission. But I believe most detective-story writers would give the same answer. A close paternal or fraternal relationship between writer and detective is a marked peculiarity of the form. Throughout its history, from Poe to Chandler and beyond, the detective hero has represented his creator and carried his values into action in society.

Poe, who invented the modern detective story, and his detective Dupin, are good examples. Poe’s was a first-rate but guilt-haunted mind painfully at odds with the realities of pre-Civil-War America. Dupin is a declassed aristocrat, as Poe’s heroes tend to be, an obvious equivalent for the artist-intellectual who has lost his place in society and his foothold in tradition. Dupin has no social life, only one friend. He is set apart from other people by his superiority of mind….

(18) TO THE MAX. Comicbook.com says these DC TV shows have survived the massacre: “The Fates of DC’s HBO Max Shows Reportedly Revealed”.

The DC TV universe still has a future on HBO Max after Warner Bros. Discovery’s cost-cutting measures axed Max movies Batgirl and Wonder Twins. Post-merger CEO David Zaslav announced a DC course correction during Warner Bros. Discovery’s Q2 earnings report earlier in August, confirming Batgirl was scrapped despite Warner Bros. sinking some $90 million into the straight-to-streaming movie. As the merged company focuses on producing big-budget, “high-quality” DC Comics adaptations for theaters — including the upcoming Black Adam and The Flash — a new report reveals the DC shows still moving forward as Zaslav looks to shave off $3 billion in cuts.

According to Deadline, the DC series “moving along” include Season 2 of Peacemaker, the hit Suicide Squad spinoff created by director James Gunn; the Penguin spinoff series starring Colin Farrell that is set within the world of Matt Reeves’ The Batman movie; and Green Lantern Corps, the new series from Greg Berlanti, the prolific producer who oversaw The CW’s Arrowverse. 

(19) WEDNESDAY ON WEDNESDAY. What other day of the week would the Wednesday Addams official teaser trailer drop?

WEDNESDAY, an upcoming Netflix series from the imagination of Tim Burton. WEDNESDAY — starring Jenna Ortega in the title role, alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzman, Gwendoline Christie, Christina Ricci and more — is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy. Snap snap.

(20) STOP, IN THE NAME OF LOVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Jurassic World: Dominion,” the Screen Junkies say the sixth Jurassic Park movie has the “Obligatory really big T-Rex,” the “obligatory evil science company” that is so dumb “that it built an Apple Store in Dinosaur Canyon,” and the “obligatory moment where you can stop any dinosaur from attacking you by making the stop sign with your hand.”  But new this time, “Locusts”.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Todd Mason, Rich Horton, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brown Robin.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/22 I Am A Little Scroll Made Cunningly, Of Pixels, And An Angelic Sprite

(1) AURORA AWARD STATS. The 2022 Aurora Award Results and Hall of Fame Inductees were announced last night, and the CSFFA website now has the voting statistics and nomination totals available here.

It’s notable that in the Best Fan Writing and Publication category it was R. Graeme Cameron competing against himself, winning for Polar Borealis, while his Canadian SF&F book and magazine reviews in Amazing Stories (online) finished second.

(2) CONFUSION IS STILL WITH US. [Item by John Winkelman.] Con Chair Cylithria Dubois has posted an update about ConFusion 2022 and 2023. To sum up: Despite hardships and obstacles, COVID-related and otherwise, ConFusion 2022 ended in the black, financially, and there will be a ConFusion 2023, about which details will be announced soon. “2022 Rising ConFusion Final Report & Handoff to The Legend of ConFusion”.

Rising ConFusion 2022 took place January 21st – 23rd of 2022.  December & January were peak times for the  DELTA variant of the COVID-19 pandemic. As DELTA took hold, times looked very grim due to the pandemic, and on January 7th, 2022, I made a public plea to our community, alerting you of the dire financial straits ConFusion Convention faced due to lower attendance, higher costs, and lack of income from the postponed 2021 event. 

The day I made that plea, I was also packing to travel via car from my home in Kansas City, MO., to my Home in Bay City, MI. I posted that, went to bed, got up and drove the 14 hour journey. By the time I arrived in Michigan, I was gob-smacked at the community outpouring of support. Y’all have no idea how utterly stunned silent I truly was. (Lithie, Silent? Whoa)… 

In Quick Summary Form:

-The amount of income made by Rising ConFusion 2022 was $17,848.48. 
-The amount of Donation Income made from your generosity was $13,705.09. 
-Combined those total: $31,553.57! 
-Our total expenses (see note below) came to -$19,234.81.  
-The amount of money leftover was: +$12,318.76

In Short; Yes, you saved Rising ConFusion and there will be another ConFusion in 2023!…

(3) HEINLEIN BLOOD DRIVE. “The Heinlein Society Sponsors Chicago Blood Drive” for those wanting to donate blood while the Worldcon is happening. The Society says:

Worldcon chose not to sponsor a blood drive this year. For the convenience of those expecting to Pay It Forward by donating blood The Heinlein Society and Virgin Hotels, a block away from the Hyatt, will have a blood drive on Sunday. Schedule your appointment early as the drive is open to the public before Worldcon starts. More information will be available as well as a free book with a cool bookmark at The Heinlein Society Fan Table at Worldcon.

(4) WHERE IT BEGAN. Robert Charles Wilson told Facebook readers about a personal artifact he rediscovered.

I’ve spent the last few days putting my book collection in order, and yesterday I came across this, the first sf magazine I ever purchased: the March 1964 issue of F&SF, from a little shop in the town of Port Credit, Ontario.

J.G. Ballard, Kit Reed, Oscar Wilde, Avram Davidson’s haunting little story “Sacheverell”—pretty heady stuff for a precocious ten-year-old. But what had the greatest impact, looking backward from 2022, was Robert Bloch’s article “The Conventional Approach”—a pocket history of science fiction fandom. I was already nursing an ambition to write, specifically to write sf, and here was what looked like an invitation to a subculture of like-minded enthusiasts and maybe even a roadmap to a career.

A few more years would pass before I attended a convention or sold a piece of fiction to a professional market, but that little digest-magazine article had pretty profound consequences for me. What I eventually found by way of that subculture was, yes, a career, including a Hugo Award for my novel Spin, but also enduring friendships, two marriages and one long-term relationship, visits to Europe and Asia I would probably not otherwise have undertaken, and a more colourful and varied life than my 10-year-old self could have reasonably imagined.

All that, bought for 40 cents on a wintry Saturday in rural Ontario. Your money went further in those days, I guess.

(5) RUSHDIE UPDATE. “Salman Rushdie off ventilator and ‘road to recovery has begun,’ agent says” reports Reuters, quoting an email.

Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was stabbed repeatedly at a public appearance in New York state on Friday, 33 years after Iran’s then-supreme leader called for him to be killed, is off a ventilator and his health is improving, his agent and a son said on Sunday.

“He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, wrote in an email to Reuters. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”…

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that author J.K. Rowling, after tweeting sympathy for Rushdie. received a death threat: “Police investigate threat to JK Rowling over Salman Rushdie tweet”.

Police are investigating a threat against JK Rowling that was made after she posted her reaction on social media to the attack on Salman Rushdie.

Rowling tweeted on Friday: “Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be OK.”

Twitter user under the name Meer Asif Asiz replied: “Don’t worry you are next.”

Rowling shared screenshots of the threat and thanked everyone who had sent supportive messages. “Police are involved (were already involved on other threats),” she wrote.

(6) HE KNOWS HORROR WHEN HE SEES IT. In MSN.com’s extract of The Sunday Times interview, “Stephen King talks politics: ‘Trump was a horrible president and is a horrible person’”.

…King, who is himself active on Twitter, also spoke to the Sunday Times about the role social media has played amid the current political and cultural climate. 

“It’s a poison pill. I mean, I think it’s wonderful, for instance, that in the wake of George Floyd’s death, his murder by police, that you could muster via social media protests in cities across America and around the world,” he noted. “But on the other hand, it’s social media that has magnified the idea that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. And there’s millions of people who believe that, and there are millions of people who believe that the COVID vaccinations are terrible things. Some of the things are good, some are not so good, and some are downright evil.”…

(7) THE BOOKEND. Rich Horton’s last 50’s Hugo post is “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1960”. (I don’t have to explain why 1960 is the last year in this series about the 50’s, I’m sure.)

… This was the height of the Cold War, and the height of fears of Nuclear War, and that is emphasized by the popular success of out and out “End of the World due to Nuclear War” books like Level 7Alas, BabylonA Canticle for Leibowitz; and On The Beach, all published in this time frame. For that matter, Providence Island is about a lost race resisting the use of their island for nuclear tests, and The Manchurian Candidate is surely a Cold War novel to the max!…

(8) FAN MAIL. Connie Willis writes in praise of “Favorite Author – Mary Stewart” on Facebook.

I just finished re-reading AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND and was reminded all over again what a wonderful writer Mary Stewart was. Many science-fiction fans will be familiar with her because of her trilogy about Merlin and King Arthur–THE CRYSTAL CAVE, THE HOLLOW HILLS, and THE LAST ENCHANTMENT–but when those books came out, I was already a long time admirer who’d discovered her through, of all things, Hayley Mills.

I was a huge Hayley Mills fan in high school and college and saw all her movies. I also was an inveterate reader of movie credits (this was how I found new books to read–and still do) and thus discovered Eleanor Porter’s POLLYANNA, Jules Verne’s IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS–and Mary Stewart’s THE MOONSPINNERS. I promptly ran to the library to check out the book.

…I said her novels had been the foundation for the modern romantic mystery genre, but that’s not really true. Even though they’ve been compared to Daphne DuMaurier’s and Jane Austen’s books, nobody else before or since has been able to do the sort of thing she did. What is true is that she “built the bridge between classic literature and modern popular fiction. She did it first, and she did it best.” And if you’ve never read her, you’re in for a treat….

(9) SUMMER HELL IS HERE. This sounds fascinating. At Black Gate, Joe Bonadonna introduces an anthology: “In Hell, Everyone’s Pants are on Fire: A preview of Liars in Hell.

Seven Degrees of Lying

The opening story in Liars in Hell is by Janet and Chris Morris, and it’s called Seven Degrees of Lying. Under Lord Byron’s protection for a night, Percy Shelley is abducted and drowned. Honor bound, Byron sets out to find and rescue him, dragging Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, the Inklings, Satan, Lord Walsingham, and J, the mysterious Bible writer, into the first skirmish of the Liars War. Even Byron’s dog, Boatswain, gets in on the act.

…So come visit Hell and enjoy the company of our heroes and villains. There’s plenty of action, drama and gallows humor to go around. But bring your own pitchfork. It’s better to have it and not need it, than it is to need it and not have it. You never know when it might come in handy.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

2009 [By Cat Eldridge.] I like pulp films and the Sherlock Holmes films that Robert Downey Jr. did, Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, certainly are pulp. Expensively produced ones as I will note in a bit. 

Both films were directed by Guy Ritchie and were produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin. Susan is the wife of Robert. They have their own production company, Team Downey. 

The story for the first one was by Lionel Wigram and Michael Robert Johnson. Eigram’s only other story was the The Man from U.N.C.L.E film, though he was the executive producer for the Potter films; Johnson genre wise only did three episodes of The Frankenstein Chronicles

The second film’s screenplay was written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, a married couple whose entire genre output otherwise is scripting together Next Generation’s “The Outrageous Okona” and Star Trek: Enterprise’s “Fortunate Son” episodes.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law portray Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively. I really think that they do a great job but, I suspect very deeply, like the video Poirots from yesterday, that is very much a matter of personal taste. I like their takes on the characters a lot. No, Downey is not the Holmes in the stories. 

They were expensive to produce, ninety million and the sequel added thirty-five onto its cost. The first was shot at in part at Freemasons’ Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral. The former was where the Suchet Poirot shot part of its Murder on the Orient Express. For the second film, principal photography moved for two days to Strasbourg, France. Shooting took place on, around, and inside Strasbourg Cathedral as that in stood for the German city where it was supposed to be set.

They made money, oh did they make money, roughly a half billon apiece. 

Roger Ebert I think in reviewing the first nails it perfectly and I’m going to quote only him from the multitude of critics. Here’s his entire first paragraph of his Sherlock Holmes review: “The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked ‘Sherlock Holmes.’ Yet another classic hero has been fed into the f/x mill, emerging as a modern superman. Guy Ritchie’s film is filled with sensational sights, over-the-top characters and a desperate struggle atop Tower Bridge, which is still under construction. It’s likely to be enjoyed by today’s action fans. But block bookings are not likely from the Baker Street Irregulars.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give both films scores of seventy-seven percent which is a most excellent rating. 

They are available on HBO Max and Netflix.

There may or may not be a third film next year. The film company has announced such for Christmas but I hold little stock in that as the film hadn’t started production yet. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 14, 1910 Herta Herzog. At the Radio Project, she was part of the team of that conducted the groundbreaking research on Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds in the study The Invasion from Mars. The Radio Research Project was founded in 1937 as a social research project and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 14, 1932 Lee Hoffman. In the early Fifties, she edited and published the Quandry fanzine. At the same time, she began publication of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly which appeared regularly until ‘til 2006. It won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 which she shared with Geri Sullivan and Randy Byers. It was awarded after her death. She wrote four novels and a handful of short fiction, none of which are in the usual suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 82. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis.
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 72. Setting aside a long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB lists a SF link that deserve noting. In the March 1991 Warp as published by the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, he had a cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor”. 
  • Born August 14, 1951 Carl Lumbly, 71. I first encountered him voicing the Martian Manhunter on the Justice League series and he later played M’yrnn J’onzz, the father of the Martian Manhunter on the first Supergirl series.  His first major genre role was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Parker, and he later had a number of voice roles in such films as Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters. He of course was the lead in the short lived M.A.N.T.I.S. as Miles Hawkins. 
  • Born August 14, 1956 Joan Slonczewski, 66. Their novel A Door into Ocean won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. They won a second John W. Campbell Memorial Award for their Highest Frontier novel. They were nominated for an Otherwise Award for The Children Star novel.
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga, 57. Writer, producer and creator for the Next Gen, Voyager, Enterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes in the Trek franchise than anyone else with one hundred nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (1995), along with Ronald D. Moore.
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 56. Her first role genre was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchise and Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas. And she is Molly Woods in Exant, a Paramount + series that originally ran on CBS. Both seasons are streaming there now.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Popeye versus Cthulhu?
  • Thatababy shows what Alexa is up to after the owner leaves.
  • Tom Gauld covers all the options.

(13) THE REASON PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK. Politico’s Jenni Laidman interviews Kim Stanley Robinson: “Climate Catastrophe Is Coming. But It’s Not the End of the Story”.

…“This book has transformed my life,” Robinson said. “I’m doing nothing but talking about Ministry for the Future for the last year and a half, almost two years now. It’s also terrifying. It shows to me that people are feeling a desperate need for a story like this. They’re grabbing onto this book like a piece of driftwood, and they’re drowning at the open ocean.”…

Laidman: In your opening chapter, 20 million people die in an Indian heat wave and power failure, with several thousand of them poached to death in a lake as they try to escape the heat. Will it take this kind of climate horror to jolt the world into action?

Robinson: No. When I was at COP 26, Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, who had read Ministry, was talking about the power of stories. He said, “You don’t need to be in a plane crash to know that it would be bad to be in a plane crash.” Every year since I wrote the book — I wrote it maybe three years ago — it’s as if attention to the climate change crisis has more than doubled. It’s almost exponential.

We’re not at the point of solutions, but at every COP meeting the sense that, “Oh my gosh, we are headed into a plane crash” is intensified. We’re not doing enough. We’re not paying the poor countries enough. Rich countries are breaking promises made at earlier COPs. Disillusionment with that process is getting so intense that I fear for the COP process itself. I’ve been comparing it to the League of Nations. The League of Nations was a great idea that failed. And then we got the 1930s and World War II. The 2015 Paris Agreement was an awesome thing, like something that I would write that people would call utopian. But it happened in the real world.

Now, with Russia and the brutal Ukraine war, things are so messed up that the COP process and the Paris Agreement could turn into the League of Nations. I’m frightened for that. It’s not a done deal.

(14) WHAT DO YOU THINK? Book Riot’s Caitlin Hobbs calls these the “20 of the Best Science Fiction Books of All Time”.

Before we get started, let me define “best” for you real fast. In this context, best does not secretly mean my favorite science fiction that I’m calling best because I’m the one writing the article. The best science fiction books of all time — at least the ones on this list — are the ones that remain highly rated, are incredibly popular, or have made some sort of mark on the science fiction genre or its various sub-genres, even mainstream culture as a whole. There are also only 20 books on this list, meaning it is not conclusive, as I am one person. I will inevitably miss a book that you think belongs on this list. So many science fiction falls into the definition of “best” that I’m using.

Because that’s what science fiction is meant to do: push the envelope, show what things could be if we continue down the path we’re on, and make you question what’s possible…. 

(15) KHAW SHORT FICTION. Sunday Morning Transport has a story and an offer.

(16) BREAKFAST IN A GALAXY A LONG TIME AGO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Who thought this was a good idea?  The Mandalorian NEVER waffles! “The Mandalorian Galactic Homestyle Frozen Waffles”. (However, Martin confesses he bought these today.)

Start your adventure with a delicious breakfast including Eggo® The Mandalorian Galactic Homestyle Waffles. It’s our classic Eggo® taste featuring the Mandalorian & Grogu™ from the hit Star Wars™ series. Collect all Mandalorian cards, only available across three different hero pack designs while supplies last. It’s the quick and delicious breakfast that families across the whole galaxy love.

(17) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Inverse writer Jon O’Brien takes a, let’s say nostalgic, look at Stay Tuned—a 30 year old movie the columnist believes deserved a better reception than it got. Starring John Ritter (Three’s Company) and Pam Dawber (Mork and Mindy), the movie’s plot includes strong flavors of the metafictional tropes so utterly infused in the recent & much better received WandaVision. “30 years ago, a sci-fi flop beat Marvel to its smartest story idea”.

…In 1992, Stay Tuned was accused of failing to say anything substantial in its send-up of America’s TV addiction. But decades on, the film serves as a forewarning of the dark route TV went down. The prank show genre, for example, has gone to such extremes as staging fake ISIS abductions and simulating plane crashes. The macabre spoof “Autopsies of the Rich and Famous” pretty much become a depressing reality.

Alongside ads for warped products such as The Silencer of the Lambs (muzzles for annoying youngsters) and Yogi Beer (alcohol for kids), and an end-credits sequence that zips through teasers for “Beverly Hills, 90666,” “The Golden Ghouls,” and “I Love Lucifer,” these brief side gags only appear via the Knables’ new-fangled TV set. But most of Stay Tuned’s lampoons play out in full screen, with Roy and Helen front and center after the new satellite dish zaps the bickering pair into Hellavision….

(18) A LUCRATIVE REJECTION. Neil Gaiman reveals he first pitched Sandman to George R.R. Martin for a Wild Cards series and Martin turned him down in this video with Gaiman and Martin that dropped last week: “Why Neil Gaiman Has George R.R. Martin to Thank for The Sandman”.

(19) BILL NYE IS BOOKING. SYFY Wire shares an “Exclusive clip for ‘The End is Nye’ on Peacock”.

SYFY WIRE has an exclusive first look at the all-new clip for the six-episode event series set to debut at Peacock on Aug. 25, and it’s safe to say that Bill’s not backing down from some of the biggest CGI-realized effects ever to bring a science documentary to life. How big are we talking? Like, positively supervolcanic — as in Yellowstone Caldera exploding, mushroom cloud-forming, town-engulfing big.

Bill and his trademark neckwear are in serious jeopardy in the new clip, which finds him flooring it out of a Rocky Mountain hamlet in a frighteningly futile attempt to outrace a superheated, 500 mph pyroclastic flow. Can Bill and his little electric car make it? Well…stick around to the end: It’s definitely Bill Nye like you’ve never seen him.

The blurb for the YouTube trailer says this is what the series is about:

Synopsis: The End is Nye sends Bill Nye into the most epic global disasters imaginable – both natural and unnatural – and then demystifies them using science to show how we can survive, mitigate, and even prevent them. Each stand-alone episode takes a hell-bent dive into the mystery and terror of one specific threat. Every catastrophe is abundant with thrills, but also offers hope and a way forward —a scientific blueprint for surviving anything that comes our way. The series is hosted and executive produced by Emmy Award winner and renowned science educator, engineer, author, and inventor Bill Nye. Each episode also features a brief cameo by longtime science advocate and series EP Seth MacFarlane.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Horton, Daniel Dern, Clifford Samuels, John Winkelman, Dennis Howard, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner returns, because he isn’t donne yet.]

Pixel Scroll 8/13/22 Never Mind The Shoggoth, Here’s The Pixel Scroll

(1) RUSHDIE MEDICAL UPDATE. “Agent: Rushdie off ventilator and talking, day after attack” reports SFGate.

“The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to talk Saturday, a day after he was stabbed as he prepared to give a lecture in upstate New York.

Rushdie remained hospitalized with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted in the evening that he was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking).” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed that information without offering further details.

Earlier in the day, the man accused of attacking him Friday at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York…. 

(2) THAT TODDLING TOWN. “Neil’s Native Guide, Chicon 8 Edition” is Neil Rest’s updated array of suggestions about how everyone coming to year’s Worldcon can enjoy the city it’s in.

This compendium is for members of Chicon, who are only in town for a few days, with hours or half-days (or empty stomachs!) to fill, so “here” is the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker (city center map  We’re part of Illinois Center on the south side of the mouth of the river.). Except for Hyde Park (Museum of Science and Industry, University of Chicago, site of the first nuclear “pile”, site of 1893 Columbian Exposition), marked with the Ferris Wheel, I’ve tried to restrain myself from things more than a couple of miles from the Loop….

(3) A “PARADE OF HORRIBLES.” At Discourse Magazine, Adam Thierer discusses “How Science Fiction Dystopianism Shapes the Debate over AI & Robotics”.

… AI, machine learning, robotics and the power of computational science hold the potential to drive explosive economic growth and profoundly transform a diverse array of sectors, while providing humanity with countless technological improvements in medicine and healthcarefinancial services, transportation, retail, agriculture, entertainment, energy, aviation, the automotive industry and many others. Indeed, these technologies are already deeply embedded in these and other industries and making a huge difference.

But that progress could be slowed and in many cases even halted if public policy is shaped by a precautionary-principle-based mindset that imposes heavy-handed regulation based on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately, the persistent dystopianism found in science fiction portrayals of AI and robotics conditions the ground for public policy debates, while also directing attention away from some of the more real and immediate issues surrounding these technologies….

(4) ABOUT THE BLURB. At the Guardian, Louise Willder talks about “Killer crabs and bad leprechauns: how the best book blurbs excite our brains”.

…Part compression, part come-on, blurbs can also, as I found when I wrote a book about them, open up a world of literary history and wordy joy. Here are some things I discovered….

5 Old blurbs are unhinged

Most blurbs written more than 30 years ago now sound highly eccentric. Many don’t want to be liked: the anti-blurb on an elderly paperback of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory informs us that: “A baleful vulture of doom hovers over this modern crucifixion story.” Some bear little or no resemblance to the books they describe, such as the gloriously tin-eared 1990s Tor editions of Jane Austen’s novels. “Mom’s fishing for husbands – but the girls are hunting for love” is the sell on Pride and Prejudice.

Horror blurbs, especially those on the night-black Pan paperbacks found in holiday cottages, are their own special brand of nonsense, whether summoning up killer crabs (“A bloody carnage of human flesh on an island beachhead!”) or psychotic leprechauns (“They speak German. They carry whips…”).

(5) SPSFC 2022. Book Invasion has a shiny new video promoting Year Two of the Self Published Science Fiction Competition and introducing their judging team.

(6) INDEX OF LGBT RIGHTS IN COUNTRIES CURRENTLY BIDDING FOR WORLDCON. Equaldex publishes the Equality Index, which measures the current status of LGBT rights, laws, and freedoms as well as public attitudes towards LGBT people. [Tammy Coxen pointed out this site.]

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2031

(7) HOW TECHNOLOGY HELPS HUMANS CONNECT. The National Air and Space Museum’s “One World Connected” exhibition opens October 14.

One World Connected will tell the story of how flight fostered two momentous changes in everyday life: the ease in making connections across vast distances and a new perspective of Earth as humanity’s home. Featuring an array of satellites and other tools that have increased human connection, the exhibition will ask visitors to consider how global interconnection touches their lives and to imagine how advances in technology might impact our near-future.

Here are two examples of what will be included.

Artifact Spotlight: Sirius FM-4 Satellite

Sirius Radio (later Sirius XM Radio) developed the first generation of space-based, commercial radio service, launching in 2001 with three satellites. The stowed solar panels on the first-generation Sirius satellites would span 78 feet once opened in space and provided service to North America with access to more than 150 channels. The Sirius FM-4 Communications Satellite pictured above was built as a flight-ready backup for the system but was never used and will be on display in One World Connected.

Person Spotlight: Vikram Sarabhai

As one of the primary architects of the Indian rocket and space program, Vikram Sarabhai believed that science and technology could transform his country. He felt that an Indian space program promised both self-reliance and economic benefits. Sarabhai’s efforts led to the creation of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). In the 1970s, ISRO collaborated with NASA on the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment, which provided educational programming to 24,000 Indian villages and led to the development of India’s own satellites.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1974 [By Cat Eldridge.] It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining car, a sleeping car and two local coaches. — Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted several times into films and into film versions, all rather successful. 

The first, and I have the film poster (not a reproduction) on the wall behind as I write this up as it is by far my favorite version, was the 1974 version directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Albert Finney as the Belgian detective who no, he didn’t resemble at all. The screenplay was written by Paul Dean which did a marvelous job. The casting of the suspects was amazing: Jacqueline Bisset, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Rachel Roberts, Anthony Perkins, Richard Widmark and Wendy Hiller.

Though the train exteriors were shot throughout Europe, alas interiors were filmed at Elstree Studios. 

Critics loved it, audiences loved it and it made far than it cost retuning thirty-five million against one point four million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-eight rating. 

The next film version of Murder on the Orient Express was almost fifty years later.  It would be 2017 when Kenneth Branagh decided to take a turn portraying Hercule Poirot. And no, like Finney, he’s not even remotely close to Christie’s description of her detective (Short, somewhat vain, with brilliantined hair and a waxed moustache, the aging bachelor) as only the television actor really is him. And we will get to him in a minute.

Liket the first version, it had an all-star cast: Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley. I still prefer the first version as this one seemed to do a lot of stunt casting. 

It did well at the box office making back six times its fifty-five million production cost. But critics noted, and I’ll only quote two of them, that “it never quite builds up to its classic predecessor’s illustrious head of steam” and another echoed what several noted this Poirot was “less distinct and, ultimately, less interesting”. 

It gets a sixty rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m skipping the 2001 Murder on the Orient Express film directed by Carl Schenkel as it is set in the present day, and I refuse to watch it as I’ve absolutely no interest in that premise.  If you’re interested, and I have no idea why you’d be, Alfred Molina plays the Belgian detective. 

And we finally get to the only performer who actually looks and acts like Christie described her fussy little man in the form of David Suchet. It aired on Agatha Christie’s Poirot on the 11th of July 2010 first in the States and it was a ninety-minute film length production in which everything was done just right.  It was directed by Philip Martin with screenplay by Stewart Harcourt.  

It’s a wonderful production but then than the entire run of that series was stellar, wasn’t it?

The interior of the Orient Express was reproduced at Pinewood Studios in London. Other locations include the Freemason Hall, Nene Valley Railway, and a street in Malta which was shot to represent Istanbul as it wasn’t modern like most of present-day Istanbul.

So there are two versions I really like: the 1974 version for the setting more than for the Detective and the latter for the David Suchet performance of Poirot. Branagh’s version just feels like play by the numbers. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr.  Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though in the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part were awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin. He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in, errr, “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 57. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of VengeanceDracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun. Anyone remember the latter?
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 32. She plays the complex role of Baldwin on the Counterpart series which I finally got around to watching and it’s absolutely fascinating. I will also admit it’s nice to see a SF series that’s truly adult in nature. 

(10) WEIRD AND WONDERFUL. Let CBR.com introduce you to “The Most Obscure DC Superheroes With The Weirdest Powers”.

8. Danny The Street Is Only Just Starting To Get Their Due

Danny The Street’s inclusion in the TV series Doom Patrol (2019-) has raised the character’s profile a bit but they’re still wonderfully obscure and notably less recognizable than their allies, Robotman and Elasti-Girl. Since they regularly rearrange their molecules and appearance, they don’t have a single, signature “look,” though they enjoy playing with historically gendered imagery.

Being a teleporting sentient street is as weird as any superpower but Danny knows how to use their abilities to their advantage. Their flexibility actually makes them all the more effective not just at fighting evildoers but at providing a haven for the world’s outcasts and oddities.

(11) FEELING THE FORCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You know how it is. You are with a couple of friends minding your own business when the forces of the dark side collar you…  Actually, this was Northumberland Heath SF Society member Kel Sweeny’s (centre) 50th. Fellow N.Heath SF member, Mark (left) and myself (right). (Yes, those knees are his own and rumoured to be bionic: well, they’ve lasted half a century but mysteriously haven’t aged much! It’s either that or there is a portrait of them in his attic.)

No surprise, Kel is into Star Wars and even has his own, screen-ready storm-trooper kit. He belongs to UK Garrison, a nation-wide group of storm troopers who occasionally hire themselves out, or volunteer if it’s for what they consider is a charity/good cause, to events. This being his birthday, Kel came as himself, but a couple of his local storm-trooper comrades were in the mix to give his 50th added colour.

(12) ROUND FOUR. On the way – more Love, more Death, and more Robots. And will John Scalzi be involved again? He told Whatever readers:

Seriously, the answer to any question you might have at this point for LD+R (including any possible involvement by me) is: I don’t know, and if I did know, I couldn’t tell you. I swear I’m not being obstinate. I just don’t have anything to share at this point. When or if I do have something to share, obviously I will share it at the appropriate time.

(13) DECREASING SNAPPY DUMBACKS. “‘Data void’: Google to stop giving answers to silly questions”  explains the Guardian.

Google will stop giving snappy answers to stupid questions, the company has announced, as it seeks to improve its search engine’s “featured snippets” service.

That means users should see fewer answers to questions such as “When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?”, to which the service would once merrily respond with “1865” – the right date, but very much the wrong assassin.

“This clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result,” said the company’s head of search, Pandu Nayak, in a blogpost announcing the changes. “We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but there are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet. We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40% with this update.”…

More examples of false premise questions at the link.

(14) NOT QUITE THE GRAIL, BUT CLOSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tested’s Adam Savage explains some of his favorite replica props from sf and fantasy movies in this video: “Ask Adam Savage: Props That Have NEVER Been Properly Replicated”.

In this livestream excerpt, Tested Members Thomas Esson and King Sponge & Leech ask Adam about a prop that he feels has eluded accurate replication and if Adam ever considered making Hellboy’s Big Baby.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Vicki Bennett explains how to trap a golem in this 2013 piece for Britain’s Channel 4. “The Golem – An Inanimate Matter.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/12/22 The Hamster, My Friend, Is Scrolling In The Solar Wind

(1) RUSHDIE HOSPITALIZED AFTER ATTACK. Salman Ruhdie was attacked and stabbed at least twice while speaking onstage this morning in upstate New York. He was airlifted to a hospital and taken to surgery. The CNN story says:

The suspect jumped onto the stage and stabbed Rushdie at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen, state police said. Staff and audience members rushed the suspect and put him on the ground before a state trooper took the attacked into custody, police said.

… Henry Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum, who was scheduled to join Rushdie in discussion, was taken to a hospital and treated for a facial injury and released, state police said. The organization was founded to “provide sanctuary in Pittsburgh to writers exiled under threat of persecution,” according to the Chautauqua Institution’s website.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters Friday a state trooper “stood up and saved (Rushdie’s) life and protected him as well as the moderator who was attacked as well.

The story did not have an update about Rushdie’s condition.

There is now an update from Publishing Perspectives:

Salman Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, has told The New York Times’ Elizabeth A. Harris, “The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Wylie’s information, emailed to Harris, is the first description of the condition of the author following surgery….

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports “Stabbing sends ripples of ‘shock and horror’ through the literary world.”

Literary figures and public officials said that they were shocked by the news that the author Salman Rushdie had been stabbed in the neck on Friday morning while onstage to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York.

“We cannot immediately think of any comparable incident of a public violent attack on a writer during a literary event here in the United States,” said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit literary organization PEN America, who noted that the motivations for the attack and Mr. Rushdie’s current condition were unknown as of Friday late morning.

Mr. Rushdie is a former president of PEN America, which advocates for writers’ freedom of expression around the world.

She said in a statement that the organization’s members were “reeling from shock and horror.”

Here is Neil Gaiman’s response on Twitter.

(2) PINCH-HITTER. Congratulations to Abigail Nussbaum, who was invited to cover for the Guardian‘s regular SFF columnist, Lisa Tuttle. You can see her reviews here at the Guardian.

…I was a bit nervous about the experience—five books is a big commitment of time and energy, and readers of this blog know that I’m not accustomed to summing up my thoughts on anything in 200 words or less. But I ended up having a lot of fun, mainly because the books discussed were a varied bunch, several of which weren’t even on my radar before the column’s editor, Justine Jordan, suggested them.

The column discusses The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, a twist on the vampire story that has more than a little of The Handmaid’s Tale in its DNA. The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay, a horror author whom I’ve been hearing good things about for years, so it was great to have an opportunity to sample his stuff. Extinction by Bradley Somer, part of the rising tide of climate fiction we’ve been seeing in recent years, but with a very interesting and original approach. The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings, a story about witches that combines a magical realist tone with pressing social issues. And The Moonday Letters by Emmi Itäranta, a whirlwind tour of the solar system reminiscent of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 but with a slant all its own. I’ll have more to say about that last book in the near future, but all five are worth a look….

(3) OVERDRAWN AT THE BLUE CHECKMARK. From one of my favorite authors, Robert Crais:

(4) 2022 WORLDCON ADDS MONKEYPOX POLICY. In addition to its COVID-19 Policy, Chicon 8 now has issued a Monkeypox Policy. More details at the link.

On Aug. 1, 2022, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker declared Monkeypox a public health emergency in the state of Illinois, in order to rapidly mobilize all available public health resources to prevent and treat Monkeypox and ensure smooth coordination at all levels of government….

(5) CATHEDRALS OF BOOKS. With the help of DALL-E, Joe Stech is designing “Future Libraries”. He shares many examples in his latest Compelling Science Fiction Newsletter.

Many years ago I spent some time learning to paint and sketch, and got halfway decent (to the point where I could at least convey a little bit of what was in my head, albeit clumsily). The amount of time it took me to draw something halfway decent was fairly incredible, and after I stopped drawing regularly my meager skillset deteriorated. I still remember how it felt to finish a sketch though, and generative art models like DALL-E 2 have helped me recapture that joy with a much smaller time investment….

(6) DOINK-DOINK. Meanwhile, back on the courthouse steps in New York: “Frank Miller Sues Widow of Comics Magazine Editor for the Return of Artworks”.

The comic writer and artist Frank Miller is suing the widow and the estate of a comics magazine founder over two pieces of promotional art he created that she was trying to sell at auction. The art, which appeared on covers of David Anthony Kraft’s magazine Comics Interview in the 1980s, includes an early depiction of Batman and a female Robin — from the 1986 The Dark Knight Returns series — and is potentially a valuable collectible.

The lawsuit seeks the return of the Batman piece, which was used on the cover of Comics Interview No. 31 in 1986, as well as art depicting the title character of Miller’s 1983 Ronin series. He had sent both to Kraft for his use in the publication; the Ronin artwork was used as the cover of Comics Interview No. 2 in 1983. Miller contended in the court papers that he and Kraft agreed they were on loan, citing “custom and usage in the trade at the time,” and that he made repeated requests for their return….

(7) SEEKING FANHISTORIC PHOTOS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This year’s DeepSouthCon is working on a project to create a photo gallery of past winners of the Rebel and Phoenix Awards.

We are looking for contributions from anyone who may have such photos. Digital files are preferred, obviously. We’d rather not be responsible for receiving your one-of-a-kind print photo and getting it back to you in one piece. The mail and other delivery services are more than capable of ripping any given package to shreds.

The gold standard would be a photo of the person holding the award at time of presentation or shortly after. We’re also happy to take more contemporary photos taken months, days, years, or decades later. If no such photo is available, we’re also happy to take photos of the winners themselves, just the award, or one of each.

Mike Kennedy, Co-chair, DeepSouthCon 60

(8) ON THE SCALES. Cora Buhlert has a rundown on the creators and works on the latest Dragon Awards ballot: “The 2022 Dragon Award Finalists Look Really Good… With One Odd Exception”.

…Anyway, the finalists for the 2022 Dragon Awards were announced today and the ballot looks really good with only a single WTF? finalist (more on that later) and a lot of popular and well regarded works on the ballot. This confirms a trend that we’ve seen in the past three years, namely that the Dragon Awards are steadily moving towards the award for widely popular SFF works that they were initially conceived to be, as the voter base broadens and more people become aware of the award, nominate and vote for their favourites. It’s a far cry from the early years of the Dragon Awards, where the finalists were dominated by Sad and Rabid Puppies, avid self-promoters and Kindle Unlimited content mills with a few broadly popular books mixed in….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

2006 [By Cat Eldridge.]ONCE THERE WAS A CHILD WHOSE FACE WAS LIKE THE NEW MOON SHINING on cypress trees and the feathers of waterbirds. She was a strange child, full of secrets. She would sit alone in the great Palace Garden on winter nights, pressing her hands into the snow and watching it melt under her heat. She wore a crown of garlic greens and wisteria; she drank from the silver fountains studded with lapis; she ate cold pears under a canopy of pines on rainy afternoons.” — First words of The Orphan’s Tales: in the Night Garden

There are works that I fall in love from the first words. Catherine Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden is one of those works. Well actually it was from the cover art by Michael Kaluta that I fell in love. 

I don’t remember if it came out before or after I had coffee with her in a coffeehouse in the east coast Portland where we both live. (I was married and living on the mainland. She was single and living on Peaks Island. I’m now single and still living on the mainland; she’s married and on Peaks as far I know with her first child. It was an interesting conversation.)

I do remember that she got an iMac that I was no longer using as a result of that meeting, one of the aquarium style ones. Blue I think. I’m sure you’ve read fiction that was written on it.

Now back to the books. It stunned me of the non-linear nature of them which was quire thrilling. Living  in a palace garden, a young girl keeps telling stories to a inquisitive prince: impossible feats and unknown-to-him histories of peoples long gone which weave through each other again and again and again, meeting only in the telling of her stories. Inked on her tattooed eyelids, each of these tales is a intriguing piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own lost history.

I can’t call either a novel in the traditional sense as they really aren’t. They’re something much more complex. What they are is Valente’s take off the 1001 nights but keep in mind that the 1001 nights stories weren’t connected to each other and these are, and so it is a spectacular undertaking of that concept, weaving stories within stories within stories myriad times over. It takes careful paying attention to catch all the connections. 

So what we have here is quite delightful and they are matched up very up by well by the artwork by Michael Kaluta. The cover art for both is by him so that gives you an ample idea of what he does on the inside though those are all black and white. There are hundreds of drawings within, each appropriate to the story you are reading. One of my favorite illustrations is in the prelude of a gaggle of geese. Simple but very cute.

They both won the Mythopoetic Award and the first an Otherwise Award.

I’ve spent many a Winter night reading these. They are wonderful and I really wish they’d been made into an audiobook as they’d be perfect that way. And they really, really do deserve for some specialty press like Subterranean to publish a hardcover edition of them, though I expect getting the rights to the illustrations from Random House could be difficult to say the least. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 12, 1881 Cecil B. DeMille. Yes, you think of him for such films as Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments, but he actually did some important work in our genre. When Worlds Collide and War of The Worlds were films which he executive produced. (Died 1959.)
  • Born August 12, 1894 Dick Calkins. He’s best remembered for being the first artist to draw the Buck Rogers comic strip. He also wrote scripts for the Buck Rogers radio program. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Complete Newspaper Dailies in eight volumes on Hermes Press collects these strips.  They’re one hundred and fifty dollars a volume. (Died 1962.)
  • Born August 12, 1929 John Bluthal. He was Von Neidel in The Mouse on the Moon which sounds silly and fun. He’s in Casino Royale as both a Casino Doorman and a MI5 Man. (Why pay the Union salaries?) He had roles in films best forgotten such as Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. (Really. Don’t ask.) And he did play a blind beggar in The Return of the Pink Panther as well, and his last genre role was as Professor Pacoli in the beloved Fifth Element. Lest I forget, he voiced Commander Wilbur Zero, Jock Campbell and other characters in Fireball XL5. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 12, 1931 William Goldman. Writer of The Princess Bride which won a Hugo at Nolacon II and which he adapted for the film. He also wrote Magic, a deliciously chilling horror novel. He wrote the original Stepford Wives script as well as Steven King’s King’s Hearts in Atlantis and Misery as well. He was hired to adapt “Flowers for Algernon” as a screenplay but the story goes that Cliff Robertson intensely disliked his screenplay and it was discarded for one by Stirling Silliphant that became Charly. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 12, 1947 John Nathan-Turner. He produced Doctor Who from 1980 until it was cancelled in 1989. He finished as the longest-serving Doctor Who producer. He cast Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Other than Doctor Who, he had a single production credit, the K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend film which you can currently find on BritBox which definitely makes sense. He wrote two books, Doctor Who – The TARDIS Inside Out and Doctor Who: The Companions. He would die of a massive infection just a year before the announcement the show was being revived. The Universe often sucks.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 12, 1960 Brenda Cooper, 62. Best known for her YA Silver Ship series of which The Silver Ship and the Sea won an Endeavour Award, and her Edge of Dark novel won another such Award. She co-authored Building Harlequin’s Moon with Larry Niven, and a fair amount of short fiction with him. She has a lot of short fiction, much collected in Beyond the Waterfall Door: Stories of the High Hills and Cracking the Sky. She’s well-stocked at the usual suspects.
  • Born August 12, 1966 Brian Evenson, 56. Ok, I consider him a horror writer (go ahead, disagree) and his Song for the Unraveling of the World collection did win a Shirley Jackson Award though it also won a World Fantasy Award as well. He received an International Horror Guild Award for his Wavering Knife collection. He even co-authored a novel with Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem. Which definitely puts him on the horror side of things, doesn’t it?
  • Born August 12, 1992 Cara Jocelyn Delevingne, 30. Her first genre role was as a mermaid in Pan. She then shows up in James Gunn’s rather excellent Suicide Squad as June Moone / Enchantress, and in the (oh god why did they make this) Valerian and in the City of a Thousand Planets as Laureline. She was also in Carnival Row as Vignette Stonemoss. It was a fantasy noir series on Amazon Prime which sounds like it has the potential to be interesting.

(11) LEARN FROM AN EXPERT. Here is Cat Rambo’s advice about using social media. Thread starts here.

At the end of the list:

(12) THEY DID THE MONSTER CA$H. NPR is there when “General Mills brings back Franken Berry, Count Chocula, Boo Berry, Frute Brute”.

General Mills is releasing four limited-edition Monster Cereals boxes as part of a new collaboration with pop artist KAWS.

Franken Berry, Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Frute Brute are back for this year’s seasonal release. Fans are particularly excited about the appearance of Frute Brute, which is available for the first time since 2013.

…Franken Berry and Count Chocula now bear the bone-shaped ears seen in many of KAWS’ works. They also have KAWS’ signature Xed-out eyes, as do Boo Berry and Frute Brute. The boxes have been reimagined following the same design as the original boxes, with an illustration of each character and a photo of the cereal in a bowl, all set on a blank white background….

(13) BIGGER THAN SATURN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  In today’s Science: “Starship will be the biggest rocket ever. Are space scientists ready to take advantage of it?”

Jennifer Heldmann, a planetary scien-tist at NASA’s Ames Research Centre…   wants to send another rocket to probe lunar ice—but not on a one-way trip. She has her eye on Starship, a behemoth under development by private rocket company SpaceX that would be the largest flying object the world has ever seen. With Starship, Heldmann could send 100 tons to the Moon, more than twice the lunar payload of the Saturn V, the work-horse of the Apollo missions.

(14) FAN-MADE FF TRAILER. “Fantastic Four: Krasinski, Blunt and Efron stun in jaw-dropping trailer” declares Fansided.

…This awesome fan-made concept trailer from Stryder HD imagines what a Fantastic Four movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be about, showcasing how Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm all become their heroic alter-egos….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Book of Boba Fett Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says in The Book of Boba Fett that Boba Fett is the worst crime boss in the galaxy.  But the writer explains he got bored and wrote a couple of episodes of The Mandalorian instead.  The producer gets excited when he hears Baby Yoda is in it, because Baby Yoda is “my little green money baby.”  But then we go back to Baba Fett and how he fights someone who fans of The Clone Wars will recognize while everyone else will be confused.  So the producer concludes, “at least we have some content.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/27/22 I Have A Master’s Degree – In Scrolling

(1) WHO SAID THIS JOB WAS EASY? Bad Writer by greybeardgames boasts (?) a recommendation from one of sff’s leading names:

“The most depressingly realistic writer’s life simulation I ever experienced” Lavie Tidhar, author of Maror, Hood, By Force Alone, Osama, Central Station, and others.

You play Emily, a struggling writer, trying to make it in the big bad world of short story publishing. You walk around your house, getting ideas, and writing stories. Try not to get too distracted, or you will get sad that you hadn’t written during the day. Get too sad, and it’s game over. She gives up and gets a new job doing something far less fun and stressful.

The game was created by author Paul Jessup, creator of haunted fantasies and weird futures. Only $2.99! Many find they prefer playing it to writing. Oops!

(2) WISCON NEWS. WisCon has set an in-person attendance cap of 600 as a safety measure. They’ve also given a status report about their GoHs: “In-person attendance cap, Guest of Honor updates, and more”.

Regarding our Guests of Honor:

  • We’re thrilled to confirm that Sheree Renée Thomas will be attending WisCon 2022 in person and will also be available to participate in virtual programming.
  • Unfortunately, due to family commitments and the ongoing pandemic, neither Zen Cho nor Yoon Ha Lee will be able to participate either physically or virtually in WisCon 2022.
  • We have yet to receive confirmation whether Rebecca Roanhorse will be able to participate virtually (for the second time) or physically.

The post also discusses major changes they’ve had to make in response to Covid or in response to the limited time and energy volunteers have to run events.

(3) LEGOLAND ADDS STADIUM. The LEGO® SoFi Stadium is now open at Legoland California Resort.

SoFi Stadium has “touched down” in Miniland USA! An architectural marvel that took a team of 25 dedicated Master Model Builders more than 6,000 hours and more than 500,000 LEGO® bricks to build, the final SoFi Stadium model stands at more than 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and over 4 feet tall. It’s currently considered the largest LEGO® stadium in the world. The massive LEGO structure joins other top Southern California attractions featured in LEGO form, including Griffith Park Observatory, Hollywood Bowl and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The LA Times has more coverage: “A record replica of SoFi Stadium arrives at Legoland”.

…More than a dozen members of the park’s model shop team completed the final installation of the model, which took place over the course of four days, park representatives said.

Inside the stadium, model makers re-created the L.A. Ram’s starting roster for Super Bowl LVI, which they won in mid-February over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The scene will include “Minilander,” or Lego versions, of this year’s Super Bowl championship team, park officials said. There will also be an “audience” of 3,000 Lego people inside….

(4) REPORTING ON LOCATION. “Friendship in the Time Of Kaiju: A Conversation with John Scalzi” conducted by Arley Sorg at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Are kaiju something that you’re into, did you grow up watching Godzilla?

Some of my earliest memories of television are the Japanese kaiju movies. When I grew up in Los Angeles, I’d watch channel nine and channel eleven. They were independent stations at the time, and they would fill up their Saturday and Sunday afternoons with Japanese movies where these big monsters would stomp on things. When you’re seven or eight years old, and before the Star Wars era, all of it looked startlingly realistic. It was like, “This could be happening! What the hell’s going on in Japan, how do they live?” I think anybody who was my age growing up watching these things, it just sort of seeped into your bones.

(5) VIRGIL FINLAY ART SALE CATALOG. Doug Ellis shares his Finlay auction catalog – get an eyeful, then buy a wall-full!

For fans of the great Virgil Finlay, here’s my latest art sale catalog.  This one is devoted entirely to the art of Finlay, with over 50 originals.  Note that none of these are published pieces, but instead are personal pieces (including abstracts) and a few prelims.  None of this material has been at any convention, nor has it been in any prior catalog.  This material all comes from Finlay’s estate, and I’m selling it on behalf of his granddaughter.

And if you like Finlay art, I’ll have a few hundred other, similar pieces for sale at this year’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (May 6-8, 2022 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown center) that has not been shown in any catalog either.

You can download the catalog (about 30 MB) through WeTransfer here.

(6) A WINK IS AS GOOD AS A NOD. In the Washington Post Magazine, Jason Vest profiles Rob Poor, whose eyeball was used for a retina scan Captain Kirk had to undergo in Star Trek Ii:  The Wrath Of Khan.  The scan seems routine today but Vest says this was “one of the earliest digitized photo images of living matter used in a major film” and Vest described how it happened. “William Shatner’s eyeball double in ‘Star Trek II’ tells how it happened”.

…Poor’s story illuminates not just how far our technology has come in the past 40 years, but also how the effects wizards working on “Star Trek II,” in swinging for the fences, helped lay the foundation for something we take for granted today: the digital cameras of our communicators (er, cellphones). As such, I asked Poor if he would be willing to revisit the tale of his role in a pioneering filmmaking moment and technological advance — and one that has seen him achieve on-screen immortality, if uncredited, as … William Shatner’s stunt eyeball….

(7) PKD AT THE MOVIES. “A Scanner Darkly Is the Best Philip K. Dick Film Adaptation, Not Blade Runner” contends CBR.com.

…The look of A Scanner Darkly is the first noticeable difference that sets it apart from other adaptations and is a crucial decision to pull off PKD’s vision. PKD’s themes of warping identities, hallucinations and false realities are often difficult to capture on film, and Linklater’s return to rotoscoping — an animation technique that traces over live-action cels which he also used in Waking Life — is a spot on visualization of these themes.

This is evidenced in the very first scene, which shows a frantic Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane) dealing with an infestation of imagined insects. The fact that the bug hallucinations look identical to the real world drags viewers into the uncanny valley, creating a simultaneously lifelike and artificial setting where it is difficult to know what is actually taking place.

In addition to the look of A Scanner Darkly, the film also avoids the most common missteps that other films have made when adapting PKD’s work. Featuring heroics without heroes, action without resolution and romance without lovers, PKD worlds are perhaps too incongruous for film, especially the bombastic style found in this era of the Hollywood blockbuster.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1992 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty years ago, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories wins the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. The novel was published two years earlier and was his first novel since The Satanic Verses which as we all know resulted in that book being condemned by many Islamic clerics and Rushdie being condemned to death. Much of this novel can be considered a commentary upon what happened to him then. 

Haroun itself is “a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad it had forgotten its name”. It will by the end of the stories have its name restored. A joyous event indeed. 

The New York Times review compared it to the work of Barrie, Beatrix, Potter and E. B.  White: “Salman Rushdie’s remarkable new children’s book belongs in this company. The only difference is that the experiences that lie behind ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ are nearly as fantastic as anything in the tale. Before the fact, who could have believed that a world-famous spiritual leader would publicly exhort his millions of followers to murder a novelist in another country, and promise them eternal salvation should they succeed?”

The Kirkus review aimed at librarians was more literary in nature: “Memorable bedtime story targeted for an audience as large as a bull’s-eye on the side of a barn. The book is catalogued for January but will be shipped to bookstores in early November for Thanksgiving sales. Few readers will not find some tie between this story of a silenced father-storyteller and Rushdie’s death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini—but it’s a tie not stressed by the author. Perhaps the brightest aspect of the book is its bubbling good humor and witty dialogue, and then its often superb writing: ‘There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue.’” 

Befitting the literary nature of the book and its use of multiple languages, it was made into an audiobook which is read by Rushdie himself. I’ve heard it — it’s an extraordinary work indeed. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories was adapted for the stage by Tim Supple and David Tushingham. It had its stage premiere in 1998 at the Royal National Theatre in London. It was also an opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written by Charles Wuorinen in 2001 with libretto by James Fenton, which premiered at the New York City Opera in Fall 2004.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1892 Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts, and sex. Not necessarily in that order.  The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 80. I remember him in Babylon 5’s  “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what on his genre list really impresses you? 
  • Born March 27, 1949 — John Hertz, 73. He’s an active fanzine fan who publishes Vanamonde. He’s also an experienced masquerade judge, convention art show tour docent, and teacher of Regency dancing. Winner of the Big Heart Award at the 2003 Torcon. With the help of the HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance) fan fund he attended Nippon 2007. He‘s a three-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the MoonDancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive.  (OGH)
  • Born March 27, 1950 John Edward Allen. One of the forgotten dwarfs of Hollywood, he stood but three feet and ten inches tall. English by birth and English in death as he was back there after an impressive career in Hollywood to die on his native soil. How impressive? Well given how hard it was for dwarfs to find work, pretty good as he appeared in Snow White LiveBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturySide Show (circus horror film), Under the Rainbow (see IMDB link here), Tales from the Darkside (as a goblin), Swamp Thing series (love that series), Superboy (as a carnival dwarf) and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 27, 1952 Dana Stabenow, 70. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series of which the first, the Edgar Award-winning A Cold Day for Murder is a Meredith moment right now, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series, and the latter is available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 27, 1953 Patricia Wrede, 69. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic)Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones in what are listed  as  ‘Jr. Novelizations’.
  • Born March 27, 1969 Pauley Perrette, 53. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, a role she walked away from under odd circumstances, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer but I never watched that series beyond the pilot so I’ve no idea what that role was. 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 51. Certainly best known here for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly ‘verse, though the large viewing audience now know him as Richard Castle on Castle. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor I think. In both roles. In his case, I’d say most of it. He voiced Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: DoomJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BAFFLING HALT. “NASA Criticized for Ending Pronoun Project” reports Scientific American.

In a move that has been widely criticized, NASA leaders recently terminated a test project that allowed employees at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to display pronouns in their official agency identifiers. The decision affected more than 100 employees who saw their stated pronouns vanish from communication platforms.

…Organized by a handful of management officials within GSFC, the pronoun-inclusive effort was “a tech demo”—a prepilot program, a Goddard employee says, that was a first step toward addressing concerns that included issues with removing deadnames from the agency’s IT system. (A deadname is the name a transgender or nonbinary person had before transitioning.) In searching for solutions, the GSFC team spoke with NASA Headquarters, as well as legal departments and employee resource groups at the agency. In other words, “this wasn’t a bunch of people going rogue,” says a scientist at GSFC.

During that process, the GSFC team identified an option that would let employees add their pronouns to their display names, which are used in electronic communications, including e-mail, contact lists, instant messaging platforms and Microsoft Teams environments. Usually, those identifiers include “[Last name],” “[First name]” and “[NASA Center-XXX],” where the “XXX” would be replaced by a three-digit organizational code. But by filling in an optional field that is typically used for nicknames, employees could add pronouns after their names. It was an efficient and inexpensive way to make a necessary change, employees say, and did not require any additional coding or IT investments….

(12) SIGNAL CLOSE ACTION. Someone asked a question. Martin Wisse answered, “My rightwing guilty pleasure: Honor Harrington” at Wis[s]e Words.

If you’re on the political left, what is the most right-wing artistic work that you enjoy and appreciate (in whatever way you understand that concept)? And if you’re on the right, the reverse?

And my mind immediately went to David Weber and his Honor Harrington series. Doing Horatio Hornblower in Space! series is already a pretty conservative concept, but Weber took it up to eleven, especially at the start….

(13) IF YOU LOOK UPON A STAR. The story follows this introduction — “Fiction: ‘A Tranquil Star’” by Primo Levi in The New Yorker.

Italo Calvino once referred to the novelist and memoirist Primo Levi as “one of the most important and gifted writers of our time.” An Italian chemist and Holocaust survivor, Levi was the author of fourteen books, including “The Periodic Table” and “Survival in Auschwitz.” Since Levi’s death, in 1987, The New Yorker has published eight of his works of fiction and poetry. In 2007, the magazine excerpted the title story from Levi’s posthumous collection “A Tranquil Star.” The tale describes, in vivid, granular detail, the life and death of a star called al-Ludra, as observed through the eyes of various astronomers. But it’s also a story about the fine boundaries of the spoken word. … To compose a narrative about a star—and to make it as relevant as any depiction of a notable figure or close acquaintance—is no small feat. Levi balances the astonishing with the wonted, tracing the minute details of matter that appears immutable, and yet, like our own history, is ever changing….

(14) A CUT ABOVE. Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition is streaming April 5 on Paramount+.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Max Headroom chats with BBC presented Terry Wogan in this clip from 1985 that dropped this week.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/21 Pixelback Scroller

(1) BOOM! STUDIOS BEGINS WORK WITH #DISNEYMUSTPAY TASK FORCE. SFWA has another update:

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is pleased to announce that BOOM! Studios have begun to work with them to achieve the Task Force’s goals to ensure that all writers who are owed royalties and/or statements for their media-tie in work are identified and that Disney and other companies honor their contractual obligations to those writers after acquiring the companies that originally hired the writers. 

BOOM! Studios strongly support all creators receiving any reporting and royalty payments they are contractually owed. When we have obligations, we honor them,” said Filip Sablik, President, Publishing & Marketing BOOM! Studios. “We are happy to work with both the Disney Task Force and our licensor Disney to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Through their research, the Task Force believes that BOOM! Studios were not told about the writers who were due royalties when Disney transferred media rights to them. Though Disney is a partial owner of the studios, it is not engaged in the day-to-day operations. “BOOM! Studios are not at fault here, and the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is grateful that they have taken the lead with their cooperation,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). “With their help, we’re able to speed up the process of locating writers who might have been affected by the rights transfer by Disney. I wish Disney itself was also willing to work with us.”

Fans, fellow writers, and the creative community need to continue to post on social media showing their support so the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force can help writers. Thanks to their support, the message is reaching Disney and related organizations, such as BOOM! Studios, to alert them to the work they need to do to honor their contractual obligations. 

(2) KRANER Q&A. Download the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s interview with Author Stephanie Kraner.

(3) FREE VIRTUAL BALTICON. Balticon, Maryland’s oldest science fiction convention, is holding its second virtual convention on Memorial Day Weekend (May 28-31, 2021). Balticon is being offered without charge at balticon.org.

“Last year we set a high standard that other science fiction conventions have used as their model,” said ConChair, Yakira Heistand. “Balticon 55 will be even better because we learned a lot and had an entire year to plan for this format, instead of just two months.”

Hugo-winning author Seanan McGuire, headlines the event as the Guest of Honor. Celebrated author, C.J Cherryh will accept the Robert A. Heinlein Award. Micaiah Johnson will receive the 2021 Compton Crook Award, given for the best first science fiction novel and named to honor the memory of long time Towson University professor Compton Crook. Maryland high school winners of this year’s Jack Chalker Young Writers’ Award will read from their works.

Almost 300 panels, concerts, discussions, and readings are planned during the 36-hour convention, along with open role playing and board gaming sessions Traditional Balticon events including the art show, headed by Artist Guest of Honor Alyssa Winans, and the four-hour short film festival Sunday evening are on the schedule. The very popular science program offers multiple presentations on medical advancements, space exploration, and other technological developments.

For the first time, Balticon is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org) through an emergency grant.  “We are happy to have this help because hosting an online convention requires many additional resources,” said Steven Joel Zeve, the Balticon Treasurer. A GoFundMe fundraiser is being held to help make up for the revenue lost by holding a free convention.

Balticon is a presentation of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. The BSFS building, in east Baltimore, houses a 12,000+ item library of speculative fiction books, magazines, and videos. Information on regular BSFS events can be found at bsfs.org.

(4) FAN IMPROVEMENTS. In the May 19 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses game “modders.”  He explains that a “mod is a fan-made alteration that can range from small graphical tweaks to huge overhauls in gameplay.”

The most frightening thing in Capcom’s new horror game Resident Evil Village is not the mutilated hand of protagonist Ethan Winters, nor the 9-foot tall Lady Dmitriescu with her razor-sharp fingers:  it is Thomas The Tank Engine.  Days after the game’s official release, members of the online modder community, who hack games to alter graphics and gameplay, have already offered a raft of ludicrous additions. including swapping every monster in the game with Barney the Dinosaur.

Thomas is special for gamers, though. Since a modder first swapped the dragons of SKYRIM for the cheery blue locomotive in 2013 (prompting legal threats from IP holder Mattel), he has been incongruously shoehorned into all manner of games.  Most memorable was the mod that replaced Mr X, the mutant villain of Resident Evil 2, with a huge Thomas who stalks you with dead eyes, his theme tune jangling eerily.

(5) THE BOOKS YOU LOVE. Salman Rushdie encourages us to “Ask Yourself Which Books You Truly Love” in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

…I believe that the books and stories we fall in love with make us who we are, or, not to claim too much, the beloved tale becomes a part of the way in which we understand things and make judgments and choices in our daily lives. A book may cease to speak to us as we grow older, and our feeling for it will fade. Or we may suddenly, as our lives shape and hopefully increase our understanding, be able to appreciate a book we dismissed earlier; we may suddenly be able to hear its music, to be enraptured by its song.

When, as a college student, I first read Günter Grass’s great novel “The Tin Drum,” I was unable to finish it. It languished on a shelf for fully 10 years before I gave it a second chance, whereupon it became one of my favorite novels of all time: one of the books I would say that I love. It is an interesting question to ask oneself: Which are the books that you truly love? Try it. The answer will tell you a lot about who you presently are….

I want to return, however, to that childhood self, enchanted by tales whose express and sole purpose was enchantment. I want to move away from the grand religious epics to the great hoard of scurrilous, conniving, mysterious, exciting, comic, bizarre, surreal and very often extremely sexy narratives contained in the rest of the Eastern storehouse, because — not only because, but, yes, because — they show how much pleasure is to be gained from literature once God is removed from the picture.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of the stories now gathered in the pages of “The Thousand Nights and One Night,” to take just one example, is the almost complete absence of religion. Lots of sex, much mischief, a great deal of deviousness; monsters, jinnis, giant Rocs; at times, enormous quantities of blood and gore; but no God. This is why censorious Islamists dislike it so much.

In Egypt, in May 2010, just seven months before the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak, a group of Islamist lawyers got wind of a new edition of “Alf Laylah wa Laylah” (the book’s original Arabic title) and brought an action demanding that the edition be withdrawn and the book banned because it was “a call to vice and sin” that contained several references to sex. Fortunately, they did not succeed, and then larger matters began to preoccupy Egyptian minds. But the fact is, they had a point.

(6) ETERNALS TEASER. Marvel dropped a trailer for Eternals.

“Throughout the years we have never interfered, until now.” Watch the brand new teaser trailer for Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” and experience it in theaters this November.

(7) LIEUTENANT TOLKIEN. Atlas Obscura thinks there’s a connection between Lord of the Rings and the “Cannock Chase Military Training Grounds – Staffordshire, England”. I don’t promise the article provides much more info than the claim.

… Also present, near the village of Brocton is an accurate 40-meter by 40-meter model of the area involved in the Battle of Messines Ridge in Belgium. It was complete with accurate contours, trenches, roads, railways, and an accurate model of the village of Messines. This model was re-excavated by archaeologists in 2013 and after laser scanning was covered with a protective membrane then re-buried because it was too fragile to be left exposed. The model was constructed by German prisoners held in a nearby POW camp and was used for training purposes. An information board now marks the spot….

One of the best known WWI occupants of the Cannock Chase complex was J.R.R. Tolkien, who both trained and lived locally while recovering from injuries sustained in France. Many people believe that several parts of the chase inspired scenes in the author’s Lord of the Rings trilogy….

(8) SHAVER SPEAKS. Here’s a visit to an antique land. Jerry’s House of Everything gives a full intro to the appearance of “Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver on The Long John Nebel Show”. (The recording is at the Internet Archive.) Doesn’t say what year the show was aired, but Nebel died in 1978, so before then, anyway.

…In 1943, Shaver wrote to Amazing Stories to tell the editor Ray Palmer that he had discovered an ancient unknown language called Mantong, the source for all human languages.  Palmer, always on the lookout for ways to shill his magazine, got in touch with Shaver.  Shaver submitted a manuscript to Palmer which Palmer rewrote and published the novella, titled “I Remember Lumaria,” in the March 1945 issue.  The story introduced the evil “deros” to the science fiction reading public….

(9) CHANNELING RAY BRADBURY. Inverse declares “The most underrated sci-fi anthology show ever is streaming for free right now” – Peacock is running episodes of The Ray Bradbury Theater.

…Unlike most sci-fi anthology shows — like Twilight Zone or Outer Limits — The Ray Bradbury Theater has the most in common with Black Mirror for one simple reason: the vast majority of the episodes are written by the same person.

The Ray Bradbury Theater is literally what it sounds like: Ray Bradbury presenting TV versions of a bunch of his short stories. It’s the kind of stunt that seems almost impossible to imagine now, with the closest analog perhaps being Castle Rock insofar as Stephen King is probably the closest living version of Bradbury. It’s hard to find a short story writer more prolific and consistently good as Bradbury, especially when you go digging around in the sandbox of older science fiction. Bradbury’s stories don’t always make sense, but they’ve always got style and attitude.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  (Pronounced “hew-ell”.)  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientist, physicist, linguistics, osmosis, ion, astigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman in Fantasia Mathematica anthologized this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – to name just some of the prozines we’ve had.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 — Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher),  Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the  Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom Pinckard hosted the Pinckard Salon, which drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  Big Heart (our highest service award) to Terri & Tom jointly.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1947 — James Cosmo, 74. Genre work is fairly deep including appearances in films including HighlanderThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeThe Seeker: The Dark Is Rising and Wonder Woman, as well as television series such as SS-GBTerry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic and the Game of Thrones. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1952 — Sybil Danning, 69. Her rise to fame began with her  role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1953 — Alfred Molina, 68. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1960 — Doug Jones, 61. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and currently Commander Saru on Discovery. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1960 — Michael Chabon, 61. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Watanabe Shin’ichirô, age 56.  (Personal name last, Japanese style; apostrophe to indicate syllables “shin-ichi-rô”; circumflex to indicate is a long vowel, also written oh or ou or oo – or with a macron, which this software won’t allow.)  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChanpurûSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotusis expected in 2021.  At the Yokohama (65th) Worldcon my host’s daughter was rehearsing The Magic Flute but none of my fellow gaijin are rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon, age 36.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton.   [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full spotted this puzzle book celebrity.
  • Lio has a great name for a school.

(12) GET READY TO CELEBRATE TOWEL DAY. Save the Rhino encourages you to Stand up for Towel Day 2021, tomorrow, May 25. I’m told it’s Douglas Adams’ favorite charity. (Fanzine fan Jim Mowatt raised money for them, too, in 2016 – “Mowatt Marathons To Save The Rhino on April 24”.)

Join us for a raucous evening of fun and merriment to celebrate a day of towel-carrying and all things, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

We’ve teamed up with Stand up for Towel Day to bring you the very best sketches and segments from real events between 2017 and 2020. It will feature the very best sketches and segments from Stand Up for Towel Day’s short but rich history.

Limited edition Towel Day merchandise will be available during the event. Including a towel!

…Since 2017 Stand Up for Towel Day has provided a place to gather after a day of celebratory towel carrying for stand-up comedy, slam poetry, sketches, improv and more in homage to Douglas and his work.

For the second year in a row, we’ve teamed up with Stand up for Towel Day’s curator, Rachel Wheeley, and producer, Nell Thomas, to bring you the 2021 edition of the event.

This year’s programme, a pre-recorded event, will feature live footage recorded at real events from 2017 to 2020. It will feature the very best sketches and segments from Stand Up for Towel Day’s short but rich history. Thanks to Kevin Jon Davies, Douglas Adams documentarian and author ‘42 The Probable Ideas of Douglas Adams’ for making the footage available.

(13) HOLLYWOOD SINCE COVID. Guillermo del Toro’s next movie, scheduled for a December 3 release, interrupted production because of the pandemic. “Nightmare Alley: Release Date, Cast, Details” at IndieWire. The title caught my eye, because the book it’s based on was written by Joy Davidman’s first husband.

…The movie wrapped in December of 2020, and now, a year later, it’s headed for release on December 3 from Searchlight Pictures. Del Toro spoke about the film’s production during an IndieWire Live conversation over the summer. “We stopped the shoot a week before [the industry shut down]. We reacted super fast, we proposed the studio to stop as opposed to being asked to stop,” del Toro said. “That saved us. Nobody to my knowledge in the cast or the crew got coronavirus. We were roughly 45 percent in. We were literally in the middle of a great scene. We went to lunch and talked to the studio and when we came back we said, ‘Everybody leave your tools and leave now.’”

Here are nine things to know about del Toro’s latest thriller before it opens later this year.

A Noir-Tinged Storyline

Based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham, the film centers on an ambitious young carny (Cooper) with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words. He hooks up with a female psychiatrist (Blanchett) who, it turns out, is even more dangerous than he is. The seedy story drops us into the demimonde of 1940s American show business, and introduces us to the sleazy denizens of a carnival filled with grifters, charlatans, and noir-like femme fatales. 

(14) UNDER PRESSURE. John Scalzi wonders if we expect too much:

(15) RELIC OF THE INTERNET. The New York Times says “Welcome to the Space Jam, Again”. State-of-the-art-1996!

The 1996 “Space Jam” website is important in the way antique maps are important — not because they are necessarily useful tools for present-day navigation, but because they reveal the boundaries around which people’s lives were once oriented, and invite us to remember, or imagine, a world differently arranged.

Many years past its original relevance (of which there was never terribly much, this being the official website of the 1996 live-action/animated sports comedy “Space Jam”), the “Space Jam” website now serves as a virtual portal to the 1990s. The home page — a low resolution star-speckled black galaxy whose flat cartoon planets are slapped, like stickers, around the “Space Jam” logo — is not a nostalgic recreation. It is the real thing, beautifully preserved in the resin of digital time — a visual artifact from a less connected World Wide Web.

Today the internet is dominated by overlapping social platforms. But the “Space Jam” website, which existed before Google, harkens to an era when the web felt more like an infinite archipelago of islands to which one might surf in pursuit of one’s passions — or by accident….

(16) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Mind Matters sets the frame for The Bargain, a DUST sci-fi short film: “Sci-fi Saturday: In a Future Market, Time To Live Is Bought, Sold”.

Cora is indentured in the service of Hue, the creator and owner of time-exchanging technology. She is alive thanks to Hue’s monthly “payments”: on her own, she’d have only a few weeks left. She works as his bodyguard and assistant, extracting or injecting time from his clients. She is horrified by Hue’s predatory deals, but complaining means breaching her contract. However, when a single mother of two falls victim to his extortion, Cora’s leash finally snaps. She now has to choose between her future or the life of a stranger.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the SPOILER-FILLED “Army of The Dead Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that the movie asks “What if zombies did everything?” and has “strong zombies, fat zombies, dumb zombies, and robot zombies.”  Also, we learn that a group of mercenaries can carry hundreds of millions in $100 bills out of Vegas because they have backpacks!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/19 Keep Them Pixels Scrollin’, Though The Files Are Swollen, Five-Hide!

(1) WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE THINK OF MACLEAN. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF returns with the panel’s responses to “Unhuman Sacrifice” by Katherine MacLean. Mikayla and the other young hands weigh in.

Katherine MacLean (1925 – 2019) was active as a short story writer mainly in the 1950s (although pieces appeared as late as 1997) and as a novelist mainly in the 1970s. Her Second Game saw her a Hugo finalist in 1959; Missing Man won a Nebula in 1972. Rediscovery offers MacLean’s “Unhuman Sacrifice”, an uplifting tale of a human missionary convinced he knows best for a community of just-contacted aliens. No doubt it can only end well.

The plan for this phase of Young People was to shift to a conversation-based format, using Slack to facilitate discussion. I then sabotaged this by getting sick the week the reviews came in. Ah, well. Next time it will all work swimmingly.

(2) MANY CHEFS. Daniel Brotzel’s SFWA Blog post “Collaboration” includes this advice for making it work:

…Writing a book with someone else can be a nightmare or it can be pure pleasure. In our case, lots of things fell into place almost by accident, things which I can now see are essential to making a collaboration work. These include:

• a shared passion for the project and the idea
• mutual respect for each other’s writing and ideas
• a practical way of working that can accommodate everyone’s schedules and constraints
• a willingness to set egos aside and make compromises for the good of the project (and the ultimate benefit of the reader)
• an attitude that embraces sharing and the ambition to see things through
• a good blend of the skills and capabilities that you to get a book off the ground – and beyond

(3) ANIMANIACS. SYFY Wire confirms the Animaniacs Cast Will All Return”.

Almost a full year ago we found out that the Animaniacs will be revived on Hulu with Steven Spielberg executive producing. And that was pretty exciting. But the larger question hung in the air: What about the original cast?

Well you can breath easy: They’re all back. Yes, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, and Maurice LaMarche are all returning to the fold. Or the water tower, I guess. It’s a massive relief. It’s not that animated characters can’t be recast, it’s just that these specific actors are, frankly, a pure distillation of so many childhoods that it would be a shame if they weren’t all returning to Animaniacs. Hooray! Everyone likes good news!

(4) WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD AMAZON? amNY reveals “The secret to The Mysterious Bookshop’s 40-plus years of success”.

…Book clubs also keep loyal readers inspired, including a Book of the Month subscription that includes a signed first edition of the shop’s choosing and an unclassifiable club that includes books that do not fall into the traditional mystery genre. For example, Rob Hart’s “The Warehouse,” which takes place in a near-future dystopian world where a company has become a totalitarian force, would not traditionally be shelved in a bookstore’s mystery section, but has been extremely popular in The Mysterious Bookshop.

Speaking of corporate monopolies, Penzler isn’t fearful of big box competitors.

“We can compete with Amazon because they don’t offer signed books,” he says. “I shouldn’t say that so loudly because they’ll probably do it, but every mystery writer comes to sign at our store. Half of books sold are signed and we don’t charge more for them!”

(5) ONE IS ENOUGH. NPR’s Mark Jenkins pans both performances: “Clone Gunman: Will Smith Vs. Will Smith In Sluggish, Sterile ‘Gemini Man'”.

Long before digital imaging, German philosopher Walter Benjamin opined that reproductions of artworks lacked the “aura” of the original. But what about reproductions of people? To judge by Will Smith’s double act in Gemini Man, the forerunner can be just as lacking as the copy.

Conceived more than 20 years ago as a Tony Scott-directed action flick, Gemini Man eventually fell to Ang Lee, who has recently shown more interest in cinematic technology than storytelling. Once a versatile stylist, the Taiwan-born director of The Life of Pi now seems consumed by advances in CGI. His latest trick, casting Will Smith against a digitally backdated version of himself, can’t save this movie from being bland, sluggish, and sentimental.

…There’s something else that Gemini Man shares with The Da Vinci Code: clunky dialogue. Credited to three writers but reportedly the work of many more, the movie’s script offers a preposterous scenario that might have been finessed by visual and verbal wit. It has little of either….

(6) THE NEED FOR SPEED. Leonard Maltin, on the other hand, was won over by the technical virtuosity as he says in the beginning of his review “Gemini Man: Two Will Smiths For The Price Of One”.

I was wary approaching Gemini Man, which I saw at 120 frames per second (about four times normal film speed) in 3-D. I got a headache the last time I watched a high-frame-rate feature but I came away from this film a believer. Director Ang Lee is trailblazing new territory, as he did in Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk, but this time he has a highly enjoyable, action-packed story and a perfect star in Will Smith. The entertainment value is high and cutting-edge technology organically suits the content….

(7) INSIDE THE CANISTER. Alasdair Stuart says this is what readers of “The Full Lid 11th October 2019” have in store:

This week’s Full Lid soars above London with the parkour and violence enthusiasts of the Assassins Creed Symphony! Then I’m off to Sheffield to discover my new favorite poem at an event that celebrates science and art and where they mix. This piece genuinely left me speechless and I’ve been riding an endorphin wave from being able to see it all week.

Finally, I take a look at Swedish SF movie Aniara, adapting the epic poem and Horror Christmas reaches The Silence of the Lambs. If you like what you read, please share and subscribe and I’ll see you next week. Happy Friday, everyone!

(8) PEN OUT LOUD. In a wide-ranging conversation with author Marlon James, acclaimed writer and former PEN America President Salman Rushdie previewed his latest novel Quichotte, a modern take on Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century novel Don Quixote, at a PEN Out Loud evening in New York City. There’s also a transcript at the link: “Salman Rushdie and Marlon James Discuss Language, Reality, and Nostalgia at PEN Out Loud”.

RUSHDIE: Intimate, but you know, [English is] not my mother tongue. That’s to say. I grew up in a kind of environment in India where everybody’s kind of multilingual because you have to be. But basically the language we spoke at home was mostly not English, mostly Urdu. But I went to what they call an English medium school. So when I went to school, I was being taught in English. So I grew up more or less bilingual. One of the reasons that I never make a spelling mistake is because I had to learn the language. People who just have the language very often can’t spell.

JAMES: Yes, when you said that, I heard my high school teacher in the back of my head going “dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and leave a full stop by the end of every single sentence.”

RUSHDIE: Yes, exactly. We got taught that shit.

JAMES: Yes, but I remember for a long time my biggest struggle with writing in English is, I would put something down, or I’ll speak, and it took me a while to realize I sounded like the butler.

RUSHDIE: Like a butler?

JAMES: Yeah. Like it was a very colonial English.

RUSHDIE: Like Jeeves.

JAMES: Yeah.

RUSHDIE: I can’t imagine you writing, the books you’ve written, as if you were Jeeves.

JAMES: I’m telling you, I used to use shit like “betwixt.”

(9) LEONOV OBIT. Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first to walk in space, died at the age of 85 on October 11. CollectSpace paid tribute:

…Selected alongside Yuri Gagarin among the first 20 Soviet Air Force pilots to train as cosmonauts in 1960, Leonov flew twice into space, logging a total of 7 days and 32 minutes off the planet.

Launched on Voskhod 2, the world’s 17th human spaceflight, on March 18, 1965, Leonov made history as the first person to exit his spacecraft for an extravehicular activity (EVA).

“The Earth is round!” he exclaimed, as he caught his first view of the world. “Stars were to my left, right, above and below me. The light of the sun was very intense and I felt its warmth on the part of my face that was not protected by a filter,” said Leonov in a 2015 interview with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on the 50th anniversary of his spacewalk.

The New York Times obituary tells how that mission was almost fatal for Leonov:

…What Mr. Leonov did not reveal until many years later was that he and his fellow cosmonaut, Pavel I. Belyayev, who was also an Air Force pilot, were fortunate to have survived.

Mr. Leonov’s specially designed suit had unexpectedly inflated during his walk, and its bulk was preventing him from getting back inside the Voskhod.

“I knew I could not afford to panic, but time was running out,” he recalled in the book “Two Sides of the Moon” (2004), written with the astronaut David Scott, about their experiences in space.

Mr. Leonov slowly deflated the suit by releasing oxygen from it, a procedure that threatened to leave him without life support. But with the reduced bulk, he finally made it inside.

“I was drenched with sweat, my heart racing,” he remembered.

But that, he added “was just the start of dire emergencies which almost cost us our lives.”

The oxygen pressure in the spacecraft rose to a dangerous level, introducing the prospect that a spark in the electrical system could set off a disastrous explosion or fire.

It returned to a tolerable level, but the cosmonauts never figured out the reason for the surge.

When it came time for the return to Earth, the spacecraft’s automatic rocket-firing system did not work, forcing the cosmonauts to conduct imprecise manual maneuvers during the descent that left them in deep snow and freezing temperatures in a remote Russian forest, far from their intended landing point.

(10) PITTS OBIT. The SFWA Blog noted the death of J.A. Pitts:

SFWA member John A. Pitts died on October 3 from amyoidosis.  Pitts began publishing short fiction in 2006 with “There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket (A Fortean Love Story),” co-written with Ken Scholes.  He went on to write several short stories on his own and in 2010 began publishing novels under the name J.A. Pitts with Black Blade Blues, the first novel in his series about Sarah Beauhall.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 11, 1957 The Black Scorpion debuted. Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday and Carlos Rivas, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 33% rating. Mystery Science Theater 3000, well, see for yourself here what they thought of it. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • October 11, 1921 Linda Stirling. Sheila Layton in the 1945 The Purple Monster Strikes serial, also known as D Day on Mars. The sequel to this serial was the 1950 Flying Disc Man from Mars, which simply recycled much of the footage from the original. (Died 1997.)
  • October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.)
  • October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 59. Well known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.
  • October 11, 1965 ?Sean Patrick Flanery, 54. I really think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. 
  • October 11, 1972 ?Claudia Black, 47. Best known for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in The CW’s Containment series.
  • October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 43. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. 
  • October 11, 1985 Michelle Trachtenberg, 34. Dawn, one of the most annoying characters in television ever, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(13) NANCY. A Slate Q&A with Olivia Jaimes reveals “Nancy’s Artist Revived an 80-Year-Old Comic Strip by Writing Fan Fiction”

Matthew Phelan: Is working with someone else’s characters emotionally freeing? Or do you feel an intense, world-historic duty to do justice to classic Nancy

Olivia Jaimes: It feels like I’m writing Nancy fan fiction, which is very freeing. I’ve said the same thing to my editor before, and she’s gently broken it to me that my Nancies are canon, but fan fiction is what it feels like nonetheless. Maybe what I mean by this is that I feel comfortable transforming the strip in ways that suit me because I trust readers to know “the rules” of transformative works like fan fiction. It’s your take on characters that are shared by everyone. You’re not trying to pass seamlessly as the original author; you’re stretching and bending the original work to make it say what you want it to say.

(14) FLASH REFERENCES FLASH. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Am I the only one who (a) couldn’t tell what the words were, in the episode, (b) wouldn’t have recognized this as a Queen tune, even if I had, nor necessarily which movie it was from, (c) don’t mind, since, if nothing else, Cisco (formerly “Vibe”) had “been waiting for the perfect moment to use it, and Caitlin (aka Killer Frost) recognized it. Io9’s James Whitbrook’s episode recap The Flash Finally Did It” explains:

… And, via Cisco, The Flash finally, finally does something that is incredibly goofy, completely rad, and something it has simply been yearning to do since it first began: Cisco taps a key on STAR Labs’ sound system.

And Queen’s Flash Gordon theme starts playing.

It’s so dumb. It’s so good. It is, as Cisco argues, the perfect moment to deploy the 1980 classic. You don’t care that the black hole CG comes with all the questionable success CW-budget computer effects usually bring. You don’t care that this has been, otherwise, a pretty humdrum episode of The Flash, and weirdly low key for a season premiere. This is what this show has always been, and hopefully always will be, about: embracing the sheer, kinetic, camp audacity of superhero comics and just having an absolute whale of a time while doing so.

(15) SAILOR SHIPPING OVER. ScienceFiction.com says “Sailor Moon Is Returning To The Big Screen In 2020 In ‘Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Eternal’”.

(16) GAMES TRANSFORMED TO NARRATIVES. “Ubisoft Planning Animated TV Adaptations of Popular Game Franchises”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Video game giant Ubisoft is getting cartoonish.

The Paris-based company’s film and television division is developing a slate of animated series inspired by its existing IP. First up: a Mars-set Rabbids Invasion special, after four successful seasons of the France 3/Netflix/Nickelodeon kids show. Other family-friendly programs in the works include a comedy-adventure inspired by the popular Rayman franchise and Hungry Shark Squad, based on the mobile game Hungry Shark.

… For slightly older viewers, Ubisoft is toning down its M-rated Watch Dogs action-adventure franchise for a tamer “cybermystery” aimed at tweens. The show centers on a teenaged “super hacker” who solves crimes in her high school.

(17) CHINA’S PROXY CENSOR. Zack Beauchamp, in “One of America’s Biggest Gaming Companies Is Acting As China’s Censor” on Vox, says that Activision Blizzard banned Chung Ng Wa, who plays as “Blitzchung,” after he won a Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament and then put on goggles and a face mask and said, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

On Tuesday, Blizzard came down hard on Chung. In an official statement on Hearthstone’s blog, the company announced that it would be suspending Chung for a year, forcing him to forfeit thousands of dollars in prize money from 2019 and firing the casters (commentators) who conducted the interview.

This is a big deal.

Blizzard, who created (among other things) World of Warcraft, is a massive company. It brought in about $7.5 billion in revenue in 2018. Like the NBA, which has rebuked the Houston Rockets’ general manager over a pro-Hong Kong tweet, Blizzard is not merely trying to operate within the confines of Chinese censorship but acting as its agent.

(18) HEY, THE TIMING IS NOT THE ROBOT’S FAULT. “Istanbul Airport Robot Has A Message for You!” on YouTube describes the friendly robots helping passengers at Istanbul Airport.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/3/19 The Scrolls of Doctor Pixel And Other Files

(1) MAKES CENTS. The SFWA Blog reminds everyone that the “SFWA Minimum Pro Rate Now in Effect”. The new rate of eight cents a word, announced in January, became effective September 1.

Writers applying for SFWA membership qualify on the basis of the per-word rate on the date of contract. For example, short fiction sold before September 1, 2019 at six cents per word continue to qualify a writer for SFWA membership, etc.

This change to the SFWA pro rate is the result of market analyses conducted by SFWA Board members, along with a review of the effects of inflation on author compensation. The SFWA pro rate was last changed in 2014, rising from five to six cents per word, and from three to five cents per word in 2004.

(2) AURORA VOTING DEADLINE. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association members have until September 14 to vote in the Aurora Awards.

You must be logged in to the website with an active CSFFA membership in order to download the voter’s packages or to vote. 

Vote results will be announced at Can-Con October 18 – 20, 2019 in Ottawa (http://can-con.org/) and will be available on the website soon after.

(3) DRAGON COUNT. Yesterday’s Dragon Con press release, “Dragon Awards Recognize Fans’ Favorites in Fiction, Games and Other Entertainment”, cites this number of participants:

More than 10,000 fans cast ballots for Dragon Award winners, selected from among 91 properties in 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming, and tabletop gaming. 

(4) BOOKER PRIZE SHORTLIST. A couple of familiar names here: “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie both make shortlist”.

Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie are among the six authors shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.

Atwood is in contention again with The Testaments, her eagerly awaited follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, while Sir Salman makes the cut with Quichotte.

Bernardine Evaristo, Chigozie Obioma, Elif Shafak and US author Lucy Ellmann are also up for the prize.

Both Atwood and Rushdie have won the coveted prize before, in 2000 and 1981 respectively.

Atwood also made the shortlist with The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986….

The winner, whittled down from 151 submissions and a longlist of 13, will be announced on 14 October.

(5) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Sarah Beth Durst & Sarah Pinsker on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of nineteen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She hopes to one day have her own telepathic dragon.

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker is the author of over fifty stories as well as the collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea and the novel A Song For A New Day, both out in 2019. Her fiction has won the Nebula and Sturgeon awards, and been a finalist for the Hugo, Eugie Foster, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards.

The address of the KGB Bar is 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. Kenneth R. Johnson says he has “posted a mildly updated version of one of my on-line indexes” — “FANTASY GOTHICS”, subtitled, “A comprehensive bibliography of modern Gothics with genuine fantasy elements.”

About forty years ago I visited a fellow Science Fiction collector who introduced me to the concept of collecting “on the fringes.”  I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about the Science Fiction and Fantasy books that had been in published in paperback, but when I examined his collection I saw a large number of books that I had not known about because they had not been marketed as Fantasy.  I was especially drawn to the books that had been issued in other genres, such as Mysteries and Romances. 

I was particularly struck by the large number of Gothics that were spread throughout his collection.  I began looking for these particular crossovers in my visits to second-hand bookstores.   Within a few years I had amassed a couple hundred books, but by the early 1980s the Gothic craze had waned and most publishers had dropped the category.  The existing books gradually disappeared from the second-hand market. …

Scope of Index

 This bibliography is restricted to mass-market paperback books published in the U.S. between the 1960’s and the 1980’s.  The deciding factor in whether a book appears here, besides a genuine fantasy element, is how the book was labeled when published.  If a particular book had several editions from a given publisher and at least one of them was marketed as a Gothic, then all of that publisher’s editions are listed.  Any editions from a publisher who never labeled it as a Gothic are omitted.   

(7) BOK WAS ALSO A VERBAL ARTIST. Robert T. Garcia has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of “The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok: Three Fantasies by Bok” with Hannes Bok’s three published solo novels: Starstone World, The Sorcerer’s Ship, and Beyond The Golden Stair (the unedited version of the novel Blue Flamingo). Includes an all-new introduction for this collection by Charles de Lint.

For two years I’ve been working on a project that got more interesting the further I got into it.  Hannes Bok was one of the 20th Century’s best sf-fantasy-weird fiction artists.  He was a painter with an eye for beautiful colors and flowing compositions in a time when sf art was very literal and staid. His paintings featured stylized figures, colors by Parrish, and a creative imagination that could only be Bok’s. And he could not be confined to one discipline in his creativity, there were paintings and line work, poetry and sculpture, intricate wood carvings and—of special interest here—fantasy novels: The Sorcerer’s Ship, Beyond the Golden Stair and Starstone World.

These aren’t your conventional fantasies, although all the trappings are there. They have a sly humor with plots full of twists and turns, stories which take the reader on strange metaphysical paths, and glorious descriptions that could only come from someone with a painter’s eye.  Certainly not the most smoothly told tales, but as Lester Del Rey wrote about Beyond the Golden Stair: “in spite of its faults, it has the sense of enchantment so rarely found in most market fantasy. And since our world needs the glamor at least as much as it ever did, let us lose no chance.”

Here’s your chance to experience that glamor. All three of these books have been out-of-print for at least 48 years. That’s too long. They have been left behind, and should be part of the legacy of Hannes Bok, and part of the discussion of early 20th Century fantastic fiction.

At this writing, Garcia has raised $6,623 of the $11,999 goal.

(8) TALKING ABOUT MY REGENERATION. SYFY Wire travels back to 1979 to celebrate one of the show’s charming inconsistencies: “40 years ago Doctor Who changed regeneration canon forever”.

The reason Romana’s regeneration was so unique is that the new actress, Lalla Ward, had already played a different role on the series. In the Season 16 serial “The Armageddon Factor,” the first Romana (Mary Tamm) and the Doctor encountered a character named Princess Astra, who also happened to have been played by Ward. So, when Ward was later cast as the new version of Romana in Season 17, it required an onscreen explanation.

In the scene, the Doctor is freaked out that Romana suddenly looks like someone they both had recently met. “But you can’t wear that body!” he protests. “You can’t go around wearing copies of bodies!” The newly regenerated Romana insists it didn’t matter. She likes the way Princess Astra looks and says they probably aren’t going back to the princess’s home planet of Atrios anyway.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 3, 1953 — The 3-D movie Cat-Women of the Moon premiered.  It starred Marie Windsor and Victor Jory who on a scientific expedition to the Moon encounters a race of cat-women. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1810 Theodor von Holst. He was the first artist to illustrate Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1831. The interior illustrations consist of a frontispiece and title page engraved illustrations. (Died 1844.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Mick Farren. Punk musician was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants who wrote also  lyrics for Hawkwind. His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Valerie Perrine, 76. She has uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick is Diamonds Are Forever in her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Sluaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. 
  • Born September 3, 1954 Stephen Gregg. Editor and publisher of Eternity Science Fiction which  ran 1972 to 1975 and 1979 to 1980. It had early work by Glen Cook, Ed Bryant, Barry N Malzberg, Andrew J Offutt and Roger Zelazny. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 3, 1959 Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of AIDS. Well, he died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Did 1989.)
  • Born September 3, 1969 John Picacio, 50. Illustrator who in 2005 won both the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and the Chesley Award for Best Paperback Cover for James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. He won the Hugo for Best Artist in 2012. 
  • Born September 3, 1971 D. Harlan Wilson, 48. Author of Modern Masters of Science Fiction: J.G. BallardCultographies: They Live (a study of John Carpenter) and Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction. No, I’ve no idea what the last book is about.
  • Born September 3, 1974 Clare Kramer, 45. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls III, The GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween.

Plus this “Happy Book Birthday” – Congratulations to Ellen Datlow!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit treats us to more “famous parting words from defeated aliens.” Ook ook!
  • Half Full delivers sff’s answer to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

(12) MOONWALKING. It isn’t easy anywhere to get local government to fix the streets,  

Indian actor Poornachandra Mysore joined artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy to document the conditions of the roads in Bengaluru, India. In a creative way and wearing a spacesuit, the man decided to walk on these crater-like potholes as if he was walking on the moon.

(13) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. Gabino Iglesias expresses appreciation for the stylish grimness of Laird Barron’s prose in his LA Review of Books review, “Cosmic Horror and Pulpy Noir: On Laird Barron’s “Black Mountain””.

Black Mountain is a crime-horror hybrid that takes the most entertaining elements of both genres and mixes them into something new that pushes the boundaries of contemporary crime fiction. From horror Barron grabs the fear of death, the tensions of knowing there is a killer out there and on the hunt, the gore of mutilated bodies and serrated knives digging into soft flesh. From crime he pulls mobsters, the existence of secrets that, if revealed, would lead to many murders. He also works with a level of violence that is rarely found in crime novels from big publishers.

With those elements on the table, Barron uses his elegant prose as glue. There is brutish behavior, but the words describing it are beautiful, mercilessly obliterating the imagined line between genre and literary fiction on almost every page…

(14) MUSHROOM (CLOUD) HUNTING. File this under “No damn way!” Digital Trends reports “Experts think America should consider giving A.I. control of the nuclear button”.

In news to file under “What could possibly go wrong,” two U.S. deterrence experts have penned an article suggesting that it might be time to hand control of the launch button for America’s nuclear weapons over to artificial intelligence. You know, that thing which can mistake a 3D-printed turtle for a rifle!

In an article titled “America Needs a ‘Dead Hand,’” Dr. Adam Lowther and Curtis McGiffin suggest that “an automated strategic response system based on artificial intelligence” may be called for due to the speed with which a nuclear attack could be leveled against the United States. Specifically, they are worried about two weapons — hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles — which reduce response times to mere minutes from when an attack is launched until it strikes.

They acknowledge that such a suggestion is likely to “generate comparisons to Dr. Strangelove’s doomsday machine, War Games’ War Operation Plan Response, and The Terminator’s Skynet. But they also argue that “the prophetic imagery of these science fiction films is quickly becoming reality.” As a result of the compressed response time frame from modern weapons of war, the two experts think that an A.I. system “with predetermined response decisions, that detects, decides, and directs strategic forces” could be the way to go.

(15) LEDGE OF TOMORROW. The Atlantic: “Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill”. Tagline: “Tomorrow’s wars will be faster, more high-tech, and less human than ever before. Welcome to a new era of machine-driven warfare.”

Wallops Island—a remote, marshy spit of land along the eastern shore of Virginia, near a famed national refuge for horses—is mostly known as a launch site for government and private rockets. But it also makes for a perfect, quiet spot to test a revolutionary weapons technology.

If a fishing vessel had steamed past the area last October, the crew might have glimpsed half a dozen or so 35-foot-long inflatable boats darting through the shallows, and thought little of it. But if crew members had looked closer, they would have seen that no one was aboard: The engine throttle levers were shifting up and down as if controlled by ghosts. The boats were using high-tech gear to sense their surroundings, communicate with one another, and automatically position themselves so, in theory, .50-caliber machine guns that can be strapped to their bows could fire a steady stream of bullets to protect troops landing on a beach.

(16) LEND A … HAND? NPR tells how “Submarine Hobbyists Help Researchers On Montana’s Flathead Lake”. (Maybe you never knew there were “submarine hobbyists”?)

Something odd was bubbling beneath the surface of northwest Montana’s Flathead Lake this summer. It wasn’t lake monsters, but submarines. The subs’ pilots were there to help cash-strapped researchers explore the depths of Flathead Lake for free.

It can be hard for research divers to see what’s at the bottom of deep bodies of water like Flathead Lake without special equipment and experience. So, having a couple of submarines around this summer was helpful to the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Research Station.

…Riders met British Columbia resident Hank Pronk, who was standing on his two-man submarine bobbing on the lake’s crystal-clear surface.

A useful hobby

Pronk and his fellow enthusiasts build their subs mostly by hand. Pronk’s sub, named the Nekton Gamma, is smaller than a compact car; climbing in is a squeeze.

(17) DIY-NET. Staying off the internet: “Hong Kong protesters using Bluetooth Bridgefy app”.

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been turning to a new app to communicate – one that does not use the internet and is therefore harder for the Chinese authorities to trace.

Bridgefy is based on Bluetooth and allows protesters to communicate with each other without internet connection.

Downloads are up almost 4,000% in the past two months, according to measurement firm Apptopia.

Texts, email and messaging app WeChat are all monitored by the Chinese state.

Bridgefy uses a mesh network, which links together users’ devices allowing people to chat with others even if they are in a different part of the city, by hopping on other users’ phones until the message reaches the intended person.

The range from phone to phone is within 100m (330ft).

The app was designed by a start-up based in San Francisco and has previously been used in places where wi-fi or traditional networks struggle to work, such as large music or sporting events.

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

Salman Rushdie Scores Court Victory

Salman Rushdie has won an apology from the writers and publishers of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, subtitled “My Incredible Life in the World’s Most Dangerous Close Protection Squad,” for fase statements in Ron Evans’ account of Rushdie’s time under protection by police. Rushdie was effectively condemned to death by a fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini after his book The Satanic Verses was ruled blasphemous against Islam, and spent a decade in hiding.

As reported by the Guardian, the statements admitted to be false included:

· That Rushdie was locked in a room by protection officers because of his objectionable attitude towards them;
· That protection officers who asked Rushdie if they could buy alcohol from him were charged for the drinks;
· That Rushdie sought to profit from the fatwa inviting Muslims to kill him for insulting the prophet Muhammad;
· That he sought and was advised by the Intelligence Services not to publish a book about his experiences;
· That safe houses were provided for Rushdie at Government expense, rather than having to provide them himself at great personal expense;
· That the relationship between Rushdie and his protection teams was unprofessional, hostile and unfriendly;
· That Rushdie was unhygienic;
· That Rushdie was suicidal and was being supervised or examined by a police psychiatrist;
· That Elizabeth West became his girlfriend and then his wife because of Rushdie’s wealth.

Ron Evans, through a statement made in court by his solicitor on August 26, apologized for the falsehoods. Rushdie did not seek any damages. However, as part of the resolution, publisher Evans and Thompson will pay Rushdie’s legal costs, estimated at around £15,000. Also, John Blake Publishing has destroyed the first print run of 4,000 copies of the book, and is correcting two chapters.

The victory was accompanied by an great deal of spin. Rushdie not only wanted vindication, he and his attorney wanted to take extra credit for supposedly doing nothing to impede freedom of speech. As the Courant reports:

Rushdie said Tuesday before the hearing that there was no parallel between the Muslims’ attempt to suppress his work of fiction and his legal action against Evans.

“There is a straightforward difference between the statement of opinion and the perpetration of untruth,” the Booker Prize-winning author said before the hearing. “Had he written a novel, there would have been no case. He would have had the defense of his imagination.”

Rushdie’s strategy of demanding an apology — without seeking a large financial award — is unusual for a celebrity-driven libel case in Britain, where plaintiff-friendly laws encourage the rich and famous to seek financial redress for attacks on their reputation. Rushdie said he sought to set the record straight while skipping damages that could impede free speech.

On the same principle, former President Theodore Roosevelt sued a newspaper over a 1912 story that said he was a heavy drinker and frequently issued torrents of “lies and curses” when drunk, receiving a retraction and apology, and a court award of six cents in damages. Rushdie was certainly entitled to defend his reputation, and probably could have imposed far greater economic consequences on the defendants, but as to his deserving praise for preserving freedom of speech, I’m inclined to save that praise for someone who shows Roosevelt’s forbearance.