Pixel Scroll 8/3/22 We Don’t Need No Pixelcation, We Don’t Need No Scroll Control

(1) HUGO VOTING DEADLINE APPROACHES. Chicon 8 reminds everyone that the Hugo Award voting deadline is August 11. Aiyee!

Remember, you have only over one week left to vote for for the 2022 Hugo Awards, the Lodestar Award for best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer!

All ballots must be received by 11 August 2022, 11:59 pm PDT (UTC-7). Access our website link [above] for information on how to access the voters packet, how to vote online, or how to vote by mail.

(2) APPEAL FOR CWCF. Yesterday the Chicon 8 committee also asked for donations for the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund.

The Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) needs another $5000 to meet the needs of our community! Can you contribute?

The CWCF is a special fund to help defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for non-white fans or program participants, LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants, and local Chicago area fans of limited means.

You can give directly to the fund or even donate a membership you may not use. Even $5 goes a long way!

For donation information or how to apply to the fund, visit our site at the link [above].

(3) REALLY FINISHING A BOOK. Carmen Maria Machado’s newsletter, in “On Writing and the Business of Writing”, considers why authors are tempted to overlook their clear priority.

A very long article about the Jumi Bello plagiarism scandal has come out from AirMail. In brief, if you aren’t familiar with the story: a debut author had her book canceled by the publisher because it contained a significant amount of plagiarism.

The article, which is about what happened and its antecedents and aftermath, is… not great. The journalist focuses on odd, salacious details, fails to draw some obvious points, and misses big questions about the commodification of marginalized identities, the responsibility of due diligence from agents, editors, and publications, how authors often take the fall for systemic industry failures, and the lack of education around the ethics of influence and inspiration1.

I’m not going to address any of those points, though I hope someone does because I think they’re important. But I do think there is something hugely instructive to be taken from this incident—something that teachers of writing and emerging writers alike can learn from—about the business of publishing and the fragility of the creative life.

…This is a story about plagiarism, yes, but it’s also a story about something I see so much of—in my capacity as a teacher, a mentor, and just someone who gets asked about publishing literally constantly. That is, how easy it is to let the desire to be published (and by extension obsessed over by name-brand agents, editors, and publishing houses) completely outstrip the act of writing a good book.

… I was lucky. Jesus was I lucky. Because there’s an alternate universe where I was writing a (more obviously) commercially viable book in grad school and agents fought over me and I published something not done, something closer to my thesis, which had the seeds of a good book but was not, in and of itself, a good book. Instead, I was forced to sit with Her Body and Other Parties until it was ready. I am so fucking grateful that I got to write the book I needed to, even if I resisted that process at every turn….

(4) INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR THE FAN The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts has announced the ICFA 44 Guest of Honor and Guest Scholar.

  • Guest of Honor — Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer and editor in Nigeria. He has won the Nommo award for Best Speculative Fiction by an African twice, both for Short Story and Novella, as well as the Otherwise and British Fantasy Awards. He is the first African to have won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette with his climate fiction story “O2 Arena,” for which he is also a BSFA, BFA and Nommo Award finalist, and the first African to be a Hugo Award Best Novelette finalist. He is the first African editor to be a finalist in the Hugo Award Best Editor categories and the first BIPOC editor to be a finalist in both the Hugo Award Editing and Fiction categories in the same year. He is the founder of Jembefola Press and the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award for Disability in Speculative Fiction. He is the first African-born Black writer and the youngest writer to be Guest of Honor at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts.  

  • Guest Scholar – Dr. Isiah Lavender III 

Isiah Lavender III is Sterling-Goodman Professor of English at the University of Georgia, where he researches and teaches courses in African American literature and science fiction. His books include Race in American Science Fiction (Indiana UP, 2011), Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction and Dis-Orienting Planets: Racial Representations of Asia in Science Fiction (UP of Mississippi, 2014 and 2017 respectively), Afrofuturism Rising: The Literary Prehistory of a Movement (Ohio State UP, 2019), and Literary Afrofuturism in the Twenty-First Century (Ohio State UP, 2020), co-edited with Lisa Yaszek. His interview collection Conversations with Nalo Hopkinson is forthcoming from UP of Mississippi in early 2023. He is currently hard at work on The Routledge Handbook of CoFuturisms, co-edited with Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Grace Dillon, and Taryne Jade Taylor as well as his manuscript-in-progress Critical Race Theory and Science Fiction. If you would like to know more about Dr. Lavender, check out https://narrativeencounters.aau.at/how-reading-shapes-us-isiah-lavender/

The title of Dr. Lavender’s ICFA Guest Scholar presentation shall be “Imaginary Amendments and Executive Orders: Race in United States Science Fiction.” 

(5) NOT EXACTLY A BIOPIC. The Hollywood Reporter says “Charlize Theron, Alfonso Cuaron Team for Philip K. Dick Family Movie ‘Jane’”, a project that sounds like it will be based on a reality PKD wished he had inhabited. Which is very PKD, as you doubtless already know.

Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Alfonso Cuarón are partnering for Jane, an Amazon feature project based on the personal life of beloved science fiction author Philip K. Dick from his daughter Isa Hackett.

The genre-bending project is based on the relationship between Dick and his twin sister, Jane, who died six weeks after birth. The death affected Dick personally, and also influenced his creative work.

Jane, according to the project’s description, is “a moving, suspenseful and darkly humorous story about a woman’s unique relationship with her brilliant, but troubled twin, who also happens to be the celebrated novelist Philip K. Dick. While attempting to rescue her brother from predicaments both real and imagined, Jane plunges deeper and deeper into a fascinating world of his creation.”…

“The story of Jane has been with me for as long as I can remember,” said Hackett. “Jane, my father’s twin sister who died a few weeks after birth, was at the center of his universe. Befitting a man of his unique imagination, this film will defy the conventions of a biopic and embrace the alternate reality Philip K. Dick so desperately desired—one in which his beloved sister survived beyond six weeks of age. It is her story we will tell, her lens through which we will see him and his imagination. There is no better way to honor him than to grant him his wish, if only for the screen.”

(6) NEW FROM NEVALA-LEE. Cora Buhlert interviewed Alec Nevala-Lee about his brand-new book Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller for her “Non-Fiction Spotlight” feature.

Biographies of prominent SFF and SFF-adjacent people are quite common on the Hugo ballot and today’s featured non-fiction book is just such a biography.

Therefore, I am pleased to welcome Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller to my blog today….

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

I’ve been interested since high school in Fuller, whom I first encountered in the pages of the Whole Earth Catalog. After Astounding, I was looking to expand the range of subjects that I could cover as a writer, and Fuller was an obvious choice—his life expresses many of the themes that I’ve explored in my earlier work, and until now, there’s never been a reliable biography that covered his entire career using the best available sources. I hoped that writing it would be a real intellectual adventure, and it was.

 
(7) START HERE. Becky Spratford’s post in The Line-Up, “These Six Horror Anthologists Are Masterful Curators of Terror”, kicks off with two books edited by Ellen Datlow, so they’re obviously on the right track!

…Anthologies are books that collect short stories by multiple authors, often under a common theme. Because these volumes contain tales by different voices, the work of the editor is extremely important. Not only does the anthologist have to solicit and select the titles to include, but they also have to edit and arrange said stories into a cohesive tome. The very best anthologists are able to expertly walk that line, offering different voices that when expertly brought together, create a unified whole, a single book that readers will enjoy from cover to cover.

Anthologies are also the best way for readers to survey the landscape of a genre, to see a wide variety of styles and voices writing under one umbrella. They also provide a tasting menu of voices familiar and brand new. And if the editor does their job well, readers will finish the book having learned of a few new writers who will be added to their personal to-read pile….

(8) HOW TO SELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Sarah A. Hoyt is starting a series about cover creation for indie authors at Mad Genius Club: “The Great Cover Up”.

… Which means this year alone, I’ve laid out a thousand for covers I just couldn’t seem to get right. There are now reasonably priced artists and at the end of the series I’ll give you names and contacts. Also places to buy ready-made and/or decent graphics just needing the lettering. But here is the thing: you still have to know what the cover is supposed To do and what it can do. And what in a cover matters or doesn’t

I guarantee 90% of what you think matters in a cover doesn’t. And vice-versa. And you must know what matters and what a cover is supposed to be, because when that artist/designer hands you Hamlet, you’ll have to explain why it won’t sell cornflakes and why he must prostitute his art to give you a jingle….

(9) LIGHTS OUT. Hollywood accounting played a role in the highly-publicized cancellation of two productions. But that wasn’t the only reason: “The Dish: What’s Behind The ‘Batgirl’ & ‘Scoob!’ Discard? David Zaslav’s Abject Rejection Of Jason Kilar’s HBO Max Strategy” at Deadline.

Why did Warner Bros scrap Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt?

The cancellation by Warner Bros of two made-for-HBO Max streaming movies came as a shock to the town. There are several threads here, but the move amounts to an emphatic rejection of past WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s strategy to make original $70 million live-action and animated films directly for the streaming site.

The makers of the live-action Batgirl and the animated Scoob! learned today that those films were being stopped in their tracks. The timing was particularly awkward for Batgirl co-directors Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah. Both are in Morocco for El Arbi’s wedding — some wedding present — and they expected to return to the cutting room and continue work on the film that stars Leslie Grace, J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser and Michael Keaton.

There were initial cries that the scrapping of Batgirl carried bad optics because the title role is played by a Latina. But there were reasons for the move. In both cases, the filmmakers were told that it came down to a “purchase accounting” maneuver available to Warner Bros Discovery because the company has changed hands, and also changed strategy from the previous regime. This opportunity expires in mid-August, said sources, and it allows WBD to not have to carry the losses on its books at a time when the studio is trying to pare down $3 billion in debt across its divisions.

There has been much speculation on why Batgirl was canceled, having to do with it being a bad movie. …

(10) THE SQUEEZE IS ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] An Anonymous Source reveals how hard it is to work on Marvel films. At Vulture: “A VFX Artist Explains What It’s Like Working for Marvel”.

It’s pretty well known and even darkly joked about across all the visual-effects houses that working on Marvel shows is really hard. When I worked on one movie, it was almost six months of overtime every day. I was working seven days a week, averaging 64 hours a week on a good week. Marvel genuinely works you really hard. I’ve had co-workers sit next to me, break down, and start crying. I’ve had people having anxiety attacks on the phone.

The studio has a lot of power over the effects houses, just because it has so many blockbuster movies coming out one after the other. If you upset Marvel in any way, there’s a very high chance you’re not going to get those projects in the future. So the effects houses are trying to bend over backward to keep Marvel happy.

To get work, the houses bid on a project; they are all trying to come in right under one another’s bids. With Marvel, the bids will typically come in quite a bit under, and Marvel is happy with that relationship, because it saves it money. But what ends up happening is that all Marvel projects tend to be understaffed. Where I would usually have a team of ten VFX artists on a non-Marvel movie, on one Marvel movie, I got two including myself. So every person is doing more work than they need to.

The other thing with Marvel is it’s famous for asking for lots of changes throughout the process. So you’re already overworked, but then Marvel’s asking for regular changes way in excess of what any other client does. And some of those changes are really major.…

(11) NECROMANCER RECRUITMENT. The publicity for Tamsyn Muir’s forthcoming novel Nona the Ninth includes the “LOCKED TOMB QUIZ! What Necromantic House Are You??” at Riddle.com.

TLT stans, RISE!

The Emperor needs necromancers, and this is your chance to align with one of the Nine Houses! 

SPOILERS THRU THE END OF HARROW THE NINTH YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Back in in 1995 Charles Vess self-published a biannual series of illustrated ballads entitled The Book of Ballads and Sagas in a series of four chapbooks, through his Green Man Press. In this series Vess illustrated adaptations of traditional Scottish and English ballads written by a variety of contributors, including Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Sharyn McCrumb, Jeff Smith, and Jane Yolen.  

Debbie Skolnik reviewed it for Green Man and she noted there that “The ballads are English and Scottish; the sagas are, as their name implies, Norse in origin. There are more ballads than sagas. Actually, there’s only one saga: Skade. Being enthralled by the English and Scottish ballads myself, I am quite familiar with all the stories. Norse mythology, however, I know very little about, so I did a little bit of quick research to familiarize myself with the basic story.”

I read when it came out as I got them sent to me by Vess before I sent them unto Debbie for review. Of course the illustrations by Vess were stellar as everything by Vess is. (I’m writing this under the artwork for the art for the cover art for de Lint’s A Circle of Cats.) So how were the stories?

If you liked of the tale of Thomas The Rhymer, Ellen Kushner has done an excellent version of the story in her book of the same name. Here she retells the tale in a much-shortened version.

Charles de Lint took up the matter in “Twa Corbies” (Two Crows) which deals with the death of a Knight and the Corbies telling his tale. Twa Corbies will become part of his Newford characters in the firm of Maida and Zia, the Crow Girls who are immortal.

Vess himself does Tam Lin and it is one of the best pieces here. The depiction of the cursed Tam Lin turning into various creatures is quite amazing. 

I have barely scratched the surface of what is offered here. If you like this sort of ballads and sagas, I’m sure you’ll love this.

Debbie notes in her review that “Careful readers will note that Steeleye Span has recorded a version of almost all the ballads in this series of books.” That’s certainly true and Vess has acknowledged that he was strongly influenced by that band in selecting the tales here. 

The chapbooks were later printed in a hardcover edition in 2004 by Tor books with some additional material.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 3, 1861 Michel Jean Pierre Verne. Son of Jules Verne who we now know rewrote some of his father’s later novels. These novels have since been restored using the original manuscripts which were preserved. He also wrote and published short stories using his father’s name. None of these are the major works Jules is now known for. (Died 1925.)
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror?  I really can’t think of anything by him that’s truly horror. (Died 1988.)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. I like authors who can do that. ISFDB lists her as having done a short story called “Murder, 1986” which they say is genre but I’ve not read it. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 82. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie.
  • Born August 3, 1946 John DeChancie, 76, A native of Pittsburgh, he is best known for his Castle fantasy series, and his SF Skyway series. He’s fairly prolific even having done a Witchblade novel. So who here has read him? Opinions please. And no, I didn’t know there were Witchblade novels. 
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 72. He’d make this Birthday List if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which is the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. Neat fact: he was the puppeteer for Grover in The Muppet Movie, and he later played Leonard Winsop in The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 50. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish red headed colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender in one episode), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly Edition, Angel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and she had a run in Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) MR. MEME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna looks at the “Mr. Men” characters created by British illustrator Roger Hargreaves in the 1970s have now become popular memes. “’Little Miss [Blank]’: How a kid-book meme became viral comedy”.

… Fast-forward to this month, when one Instagram account alone — “LittleMissNotesApp” — has attracted nearly 2 million followers by posting the Hargreaves’ characters beneath such captions as, “Little Miss Lexapro,” “Mr. Vape Cloud” and “Little Miss Aggressive Drunk.” The account gives credit to the user “Juulpuppy,” who last spring began posting such art updates as “Little Miss Weed Psychosis.”…

(16) FLAME OFF. CBR’s Jerry Stanford came up with “10 Jokes From The Golden Age Of Marvel Comics That Wouldn’t Be Printed Today”.

Asbestos Was Overused, Making It An Unintentional Joke Years Later.

In the Golden Age, Marvel’s Human Torch seemed unstoppable, so criminals, Nazis, and other villains resorted to asbestos, a material that became popular for its resistance to fire. In the 1970s, it also became known for causing cancer.

While the use of asbestos was not originally played for humor, the best-known example of this is Asbestos Lady, who clothed herself head-to-toe in the carcinogenic material. However, the funniest example comes from All-Winners Comics #11, where a villain known as the Hawk traps the Human Torch and Toro in an airtight, asbestos-lined dungeon. The Torch’s hyperbole call the sealed room “a death trap.” Time has made this an unintentional joke.

(17) INSIDER INFORMATION. “Neil Gaiman Knows What Happens When You Dream”. And he shares that with the New York Times.

For the last five or six years, we’ve been living through what feels like almost unfathomable turmoil, and I think a lot of people see this period as an unprecedented chapter in the human story. But when it comes to stories, I basically believe in Ecclesiastes’ “There is nothing new under the sun.” So my question to you is whether you think we are living in a new story — or is it just new to us? 

This reminds me of something that happened after the Sept. 11 attacks. When we could fly again, I flew to Trieste, Italy, for a conference. I remember going into a display of Robert Capa photographs taken in that area during World War II. Until that moment, I had regarded World War II as being unimaginably distant in time. It was this thing that had happened in history, that had happened to my family — basically all of them were killed; a couple of outliers made it to England — but that was history. That happened then. But there was something very strange about looking at those Robert Capa photos post-9/11, because they made me go, Those people are us. I feel the same way today. History is now. But I’m also getting more obsessive about human beings over huge swaths of time. Part of that came out of being on the Isle of Skye during the serious U.K. lockdown. On Skye, if there’s a rock somewhere, it’s probably because somebody put it there. I realized that the rock that I was using to keep the lid on my dustbin was a stone that had been dragged around. People have been in this place for thousands and thousands of years, and in this bay I’m living in, they’ve left behind rocks! Realizing that about the rocks makes you take the long view. Which is that the human race is mostly people just trying to live their lives, and that bad [expletive] is going to happen. That then moves you into other territory….

(18) THAT DARNED ELUSIVE EARENDEL. Or so the Baroness Orczy might have phrased the news. “James Webb Space Telescope sees Earendel, most distant star” and Space.com shares the image.

The James Webb Space Telescope has caught a glimpse of the most distant star known in the universe, which had been announced by scientists using Webb’s predecessor the Hubble Space Telescope only a few months ago. 

The star, named Earendel, after a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel “The Silmarillion,” was discovered thanks to gravitational lensing in a Hubble Space Telescope deep field image. The star, whose light took 12.9 billion light-years to reach Earth, is so faint that it might be rather challenging to find it in the new James Webb Space Telescope image, which was released on Twitter on Tuesday (Aug. 2) by a group of astronomers using the account Cosmic Spring JWST(opens in new tab). 

The original Hubble image provides some guidance as to where to look through the zoomed-in cut-out. Essentially, Earendel, is the tiny whitish dot below a cluster of distant galaxies. By comparing the Hubble image with that captured by Webb, you can find the elusive Earendel….

(19) KEEP WATCHING THE TREE. “This Mystery Orb From the Sky Has Baffled Us All”, which is saying a lot for something reported on Popular Mechanics.

Social media is awash with theories about the origin and purpose of a strange, smooth, solid object, which landed on a tree in Veracruz, Mexico, the night of July 31.

Isidro Cano Luna, a television meteorologist reporting on the mystery, says locals described the sphere making a sound as it fell, but releasing no fire. He posted several messages to his more than 132,000 followers about the object, along with photos of what appears to be a dull, yellow sphere the size of a large beach ball perched atop a tree.

… Luna describes the sphere in all caps in his posts. It seems to be made of “A VERY HARD PLASTIC OR AN ALLOY OF VARIOUS METALS,” and “APPARENTLY IT HAS AN ANTENNA,” he says. Luna wonders if it could be a former chunk of a Chinese rocket that crashed back to Earth and landed in the Indian Ocean over the weekend. Perhaps it could be radioactive, he writes, warning people who see it not to get too close. There’s no apparent way to get inside the orb, either. It has a a code visible on its exterior, he says in an August 1 post. “NOTICE SMALL HOLES THAT ARE A KIND OF [INDECIPHERABLE] CODES.”

(20) GOING VIRAL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The BBC explains a computer virus in this report from March 1992.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George reveals that a time traveler from 2022 has a very hard time explaining Elon Musk to the people of 1996.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., Michael J. Walsh, Todd Mason, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/22 Everybody In This Scroll Is Wearing A Pixel, And Don’t Kid Yourself

(1) GAME MAKER SETTLES HARASSMENT SUIT. “Activision Blizzard to pay $18 million to harassment victims” reports the LA Times. However, a number of other such suits remain active.

Activision Blizzard agreed to set up an $18-million fund for employees who experienced sexual harassment or discrimination, pregnancy discrimination or retaliation as part of a settlement with a federal employment agency Tuesday.

The consent decree, which a federal judge said she intended to sign after a hearing Tuesday, comes in response to a lawsuit filed against the Santa Monica video game company in September by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which alleged that Activision employees were subject to “severe” and “pervasive” sexual harassment in the workplace.

Anyone who worked at the company after September 2016 and believes that they were subject to harassment, discrimination or retaliation will be eligible to apply for a share of the cash payout. The company officially denied all wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which also included requirements for regular audits overseen by the federal agency over the next three years, changes to workplace policies and anti-harassment training.

(2) MARK YOUR WESTEROS CALENDAR. TechRadar reports “Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon finally has a release date on HBO Max”.

Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon has finally been given a release date on HBO Max – and fans don’t have long to wait for Westeros’ return.

The 10-episode series, based on George R. R. Martin’s 2018 novel Fire and Blood, will begin streaming in the US and other HBO Max territories on August 21. Those in the UK will be able to access episodes at the same time as their US counterparts (on the morning of August 22) on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.

House of the Dragon will tell the backstory of the Targaryen dynasty, with events taking place 200 years prior to the events of the original show. Fans were treated to an ominous teaser trailer for the series back in 2021, but we’d expect a full-length trailer to drop imminently, given the recent news confirming its release date….

(3) FLASHBACK TO 2000AD’S 40TH BASH. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Alas, I could not make the 2017 event but one of my old college SF soc mates did a write up: “The 40th 2000AD anniversary event” at SF2 Concatenation.

PSIFA (my college SF society) has official permission from 2000AD (along with Cambridge U SF Soc) to have the Gronk as its mascot. We also visited its Command Module a couple of times back in the day (1979 and 1980) when it was based in London and had the 2000AD team as guests at one of our Shoestringcons, and Alan Grant as a guest of honour at one of our annual dinners. Indeed, at our college the SF soc was quite active as indicated by 2000AD being the second best-selling weekly (after New Scientist) at the college’s main campus Students Union shop.  So my links with 2000AD are somewhat historic. I must say, we never dreamed back then that it would last for the best part of half a century.  Indeed, I recall when some of us were chatting with them, that they themselves never thought the comic would last as evidenced by the fact they dubbed it with the then futuristic title 2000AD.  Well, we’re well past that milestone now…

The 40th anniversary celebratory bash cum one-day mini-con was very much a fan event with all the 2000AD Great & Good, script and art creator-droids present (there must been over 60 or so there), many with long queues for signings and sketches. And when the queues died off, you just wondered up for a chat. Tharg’s Nerve Centre and Pat Mills were particularly busy.

(4) HONEY, I’M HOME. “NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Russian cosmonauts return safely to Earth”, and the Washington Post assesses how the two countries’ support teams cooperated.

Two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut landed in a remote area of Kazakhstan on Wednesday after undocking from the International Space Station and flying back to Earth in a historic mission that came amid mounting tensions over the war in Ukraine.

…The landing marks the end of a triumphant mission for Vande Hei, whose 355 days in space set a record for the longest single spaceflight for an American. His safe return, along with his Russian counterparts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, also serves as a powerful symbol of partnership amid heightened tensions between the United States and Russia over the war in Ukraine — strain that has surfaced persistent questions about whether the relationship in space can endure.

Ever since Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine began more than a month ago, NASA has steadfastly maintained that the station has been operating normally and that its relationship of more than 20 years with the Russian space agency has been unaffected by the turmoil on the ground.

NASA deployed a team of about 20 personnel to Kazakhstan to retrieve Vande Hei, who would be whisked away in a helicopter to a NASA aircraft at a nearby airstrip. He is scheduled to fly directly back to Houston to be reunited with friends and family. The Russian and American teams appeared to be working well together in the recovery effort, which they have done many times before over their long partnership in space.

NASA has said it cannot operate the station without the Russians, which provide the propulsion that allows the ISS to keep its orbit and maneuver when needed. Russia needs NASA, as well, as the space agency provides power to the Russian segment of the station….

(5) GARRY LEACH (1954-2022). Artist Garry Leach died March 26 at the age of 67. The 2000AD website has an extensive tribute.

A modest and unassuming talent, by the time of his first work for 2000 AD – inking Trevor Goring’s work on the Dan Dare story ‘The Doomsday Machine’ in 1978 – his confident brushwork was already unmissable and although appearances were sporadic – whether on high-tech superspy series M.A.C.H.1 or on one-episode Future Shocks, including working with future collaborator Alan Moore – his self-assured style brought a solidity to its pages.

…His greatest and most famous work was co-creating the new Marvelman with Alan Moore in 1981. A revival of the unauthorised and believed-abandoned British version of Captain Marvel from the 1950s, this series for Dez Skinn’s Warrior anthology was a stunning deconstruction of the superhero genre that presaged Moore’s better-known work on Watchmen.

Garry’s sharp-lined realism brought a languid, sinewy quality to Marvelman that befitted Moore’s intense psychological script…. 

… After a spell working in advertising, Garry returned to comics in the late 1990s as John McCrea’s inker on Hitman, and worked for other DC Comics titles such as Legion of SuperheroesMonarchy and Global Frequency. He also inked fellow 2000 AD artist Chris Weston on J. Michael Straczynski’s The Twelve for Marvel Comics and returned to 2000 AD in 2004 to produce covers for the Judge Dredd Megazine….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1978 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago at IguanaCon II where Tim Kyger was the Chair and Harlan Ellison was the pro guest and Bill Bowers was the fan guest, Frederik Pohl’s Gateway wins the Hugo for Best Novel. 

The other nominated works for that year were The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Time Storm by Gordon R. Dickson and Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin. 

It was serialised in the November and December 1976 issues of Galaxy prior to its hardcover publication by St. Martin’s Press. A short concluding chapter, cut before publication, was later published in the August 1977 issue of Galaxy. (Huh? Why was this done?) 

It would win damn near every other major Award there was as it garnered the John Campbell Memorial for Best Science Fiction Novel, the Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Nebula Award for Novel and even the Prix Pollo-your Award for Best Science Fiction Novel published in France. It was nominated for but did not win the Australian Ditmar Award. 

It of course the opening novel in the Heechee saga, with four sequels that followed. It is a most exceptional series.

I’m chuffed that Pohl was voted a Hugo for Best Fan Writer at Aussiecon 4. Who can tell what works got him this honor? 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon pairing of occupations at the time he’s was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer, with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel, which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.)

Born March 30, 1930 John Astin, 92. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising his role in the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode.

Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was “Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing”‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)

Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 72. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. 

Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 64. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, near as I can tell the entire cast of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials.

Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 22. She’s only here because in researching Birthdays for this date, one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another Trek video fanfic. Though IMDB has a cast listed for it, that’s about all I could find on it. If I was betting a cask of Romulan ale, I’d wager this was one of the productions that Paramount got shut down before it actually was shot.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Existential Comics pits Iron Man against the Villains of Society. (And don’t miss the alt text.)

(9) THOSE GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Sarah A. Hoyt explains her concept of a “contract with the reader,” and what it took for her to learn the importance of foreshadowing in “Just Sign on the Dotted Line” at Mad Genius Club.

… There was for instance the notable book whose description says that Mr. Bennet had improved the family fortunes, and so Lizzy and Darcy met on equal footing, which I stopped reading halfway through.

It wasn’t because our protagonists had not yet met. Yes, sure, the promise of any Jane Austen fanfic is that the couple will meet and have a happy ever after. I could have stayed with it, if they were having adventures leading up to “Everything between them changed in these ways.” It was that with that premise, the writer proceeded to give us exactly how Mr. Bennet improved family fortunes. To do her credit, she’d researched regency money and investment structures, and landowning, and how to improve land, and the price of cereals and….. Did I just fall asleep and drool on the table?

Yeah, after a first chapter that introduces the Bennet family, the author decided she’d suffered for her knowledge and we should too. When I got to the actual calculations pages, I gave up and hied to easier pastures. To be charitable, perhaps she’d been driven insane by the people who write regencies that assume that noblemen are businessmen, doctor is a revered status, and some dukes are accountants. It was still a major welshing on her contract with the reader.

Also in my own defense, my problems with foreshadowing were never as bad as the bad examples above. I just failed to establish the “range of the possible” in a book, and then had things happen that — to the reader — amounted to dropping an elephant from the ceiling onto the main character, with no warning….

(10) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 54 of the Octothorpe podcast, “John Coxon is dancing, Alison Scott is listening, and Liz Batty is Batman. We discuss the Chengdu Worldcon and the recent controversies they’re at the centre of, before moving onto discussing the FAAn Awards and books by Jo Walton and Naomi Novik.” Note: The episode was not yet loaded at the time this Scroll was posted.

A man with a beard wears a Necron-themed Christmas jumper, standing next to a Necron wearing an Octothorpe-themed Christmas jumper.

(11) ARTIFICIALLY INTELLIGENT STARGATE SCRIPT. Giant Freakin Robot announces “Richard Dean Anderson Joining The SG-1 Cast For New Stargate Episode”. (Subscription to The Companion is necessary to access the episode which is coming in May.)

When SG-1 entered its ninth season, Richard Dean Anderson ended his status as star and producer of the series. Instead, he opted to make several guest appearances. Now, much like his character, the former SG-1 star is being coaxed of retirement for a special reunion of the popular sci-fi show. According to Gate World, he is set to suit up Jack O’Neill for version 2.0 of Stargate A.I. The project, which was a table reading of a script written by artificial intelligence, was such a hit last November that The Companion has decided to give it another shot.

(12) FUTURE TRIAGE. In the Washington Post, Pranshu Verma says the US military is creating a program called In The Moment which would use AI to calculate military triage, while bioethicists debate whether it’s a good idea to let an algorithm determine who lives and who dies on the battlefield. “U.S. military wants AI to make battlefield medical decisions”.

…To that end, DARPA’s In the Moment program will create and evaluate algorithms that aid military decision-makers in two situations: small unit injuries, such as those faced by Special Operations units under fire, and mass casualty events, like the Kabul airport bombing. Later, they may develop algorithms to aid disaster relief situations such as earthquakes, agency officials said.

… Matt Turek, a program manager at DARPA in charge of shepherding the program, said the algorithms’ suggestions would model “highly trusted humans” who have expertise in triage.But they will be able to access information to make shrewd decisions in situations where even seasoned experts would be stumped.

For example, he said, AI could help identify all the resources a nearby hospital has — such as drug availability, blood supply and the availability of medical staff — to aid in decision-making.

“That wouldn’t fit within the brain of a single human decision-maker,” Turek added. “Computer algorithms may find solutions that humans can’t.”…

(13) THE NEED FOR SPEED. “Turing Award Won by Programmer Who Paved Way for Supercomputers”  — the New York Times has the story.

In the late 1970s, as a young researcher at Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago, Jack Dongarra helped write computer code called Linpack.

Linpack offered a way to run complex mathematics on what we now call supercomputers. It became a vital tool for scientific labs as they stretched the boundaries of what a computer could do. That included predicting weather patterns, modeling economies and simulating nuclear explosions.

On Wednesday, the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest society of computing professionals, said Dr. Dongarra, 71, would receive this year’s Turing Award for his work on fundamental concepts and code that allowed computer software to keep pace with the hardware inside the world’s most powerful machines. Given since 1966 and often called the Nobel Prize of computing, the Turing Award comes with a $1 million prize.

In the early 1990s, using the Linpack (short for linear algebra package) code, Dr. Dongarra and his collaborators also created a new kind of test that could measure the power of a supercomputer. They focused on how many calculations it could run with each passing second. This became the primary means of comparing the fastest machines on earth, grasping what they could do and understanding how they needed to change.

(14) CHIPS ON THE TABLE. With Love From Sweden has some big news about the country’s SJW credentials:  “Issue 66: The status of cats & scilla season”.

…Earlier this month riksdagen (the Swedish parliament) voted in favour of an amendment to the law on supervision of dogs and cats, which means that cats will soon have the same status as dogs. From January 1 2023, all cats in Sweden are to be registered and either chipped or tattooed – or the owners could face a fine. Cat shelters and other animal welfare organisations have advocated for this change for many years, to raise the status of the cat. According to the last count, there are approximately 1.159,000 cats in Sweden.

Since 2001, all dogs that live in Sweden need to be marked with an identity number and recorded in the dog register of the Swedish Board of Agriculture. The registered owner is responsible for the welfare and behaviour of the dog, and the same will go for cats. Many dogs were already id marked before 2001 and many cats are already id marked today….

(15) LONG TIME PASSING. “Hubble telescope detects most distant star ever seen, near cosmic dawn” – the Washington Post picks up the story from Nature.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was a large and magnificently brilliant star that shined across the young, expanding universe. The starlight skewed blue. It was the cosmic morning, when everything in the universe was still new, raw, the galaxies still forming not long after the first stars had ignited and lit up the heavens.The light from that blue star traveled through space for billions of years, and then one day a few thin beams crashed into a polished mirror — the light bucket of the Hubble Space Telescope.

In a report published Wednesday in the journal Nature, a team of astronomers asserts that this is the most distant individual star ever seen. They describe it as 50 to 100 times more massive than our sun, and roughly 1 million times brighter, with its starlight having traveled 12.9 billion years to reach the telescope….

(16) EYE BEFORE AIYEE.The Sea Beast is a new animated feature from Netflix coming in July.

In an era when terrifying beasts roamed the seas, monster hunters were celebrated heroes – and none were more beloved than the great Jacob Holland. But when young Maisie Brumble stows away on his fabled ship, he’s saddled with an unexpected ally. Together they embark on an epic journey into uncharted waters and make history.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Spider-Man:  No Way Home,” the Screen Junkies say that Spider-Man. having played second fiddle to Iron Man, Iron Man’s personal assistant, and Iron Man’s astrologer, now has to play second fiddle to two other Spider-Men.  This “2 1/2 hour brain vacation” has “all the characters you loved” from the previous Spider-Man movies, “some of the characters you forgot about, and none of the characters Sony would like you to forget about.”

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

L. Neil Smith (1946-2021)

L. Neil Smith

Author L. Neil Smith, a well-known advocate of libertarianism in the sf genre, died August 27.

Smith created the Prometheus Award – originally conceived as a one-off award when it was given for the first time in 1979. The Libertarian Futurist Society was organized by other fans in 1982 to continue the Prometheus Awards program. Smith became a perpetual favorite, nominated 15-times for the Prometheus Award and winning four times — for The Probability Broach (1982), part of his seven-book North American Confederacy series, Pallas (1994), The Forge of the Elders (2001), and a Special Award given to him and illustrator Scott Bieser for The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel in 2005.

With 28 books to his credit, Smith may actually be most widely-known for three Star Wars novels featuring Lando Calrissian, all published in 1983.

He also wrote the nonfiction books Lever Action (2001) and Down with Power: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crises (2012).

He was an early member of the Libertarian Party and twice mounted unsuccessful attempts to secure its Presidential nomination (for 2000 and 2004).

Sarah A. Hoyt wrote a farewell: “Goodbye, My Friend”. The family has set up a place to leave remembrances, “Lester ‘L. Neil’ Smith, III’s Memorial Website”.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/21 The Fantastic Voyage Of Space Force Beagle One To The Non-Fungi Bottom Of The Fabulous Mushroom Planet Of The Apes Of Wrath, And Back Again

(1) ERRING EYE. Catherine Lacey’s short story “Congratulations on Your Loss” is the latest from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

…Inside was a large photograph printed on thin paper, an image filling the whole sheet. The photograph—a grainy shot of a woman jaywalking across a street with a large blue purse tucked under one arm—had been taken from a high angle. On the left edge of the photograph a white car was visible, headed directly toward the woman, and on the right side a bit of a pedestrian walkway could be seen. A citation was printed on the back—this woman, it explained, was Enid, and Enid had illegally crossed Z Street last Thursday at 3:34 in the afternoon. The fine was enough to buy a week of modest groceries….

It comes with a response essay by human rights lawyer Nani Jansen Reventlow: “There’s no such thing as flawless facial recognition technology”.

A few years ago, I attended a meeting for litigators at a digital rights conference. When entering the room, I saw many familiar faces, and a few that were unfamiliar. When I introduced myself to one of the women I had never seen before, a white woman, she reacted in a most offended manner. “Yes, we met this morning at your office,” she snapped at me. Given that I had been nowhere near my office that morning, I was quite sure she was mistaken. In the course of this awkward exchange, it dawned on me that she was confusing me with my boss: also a woman of color, but in no way resembling me otherwise. “Ah, yes, we all look alike,” I sighed, rolling my eyes, and moved on….

(2) HOBBIT READING WITH MANY SFF AUTHORS. The Rutgers Writers House presents “The Hobbit: A Rutgers Day Round Robin Reading (Part 2)” a video on Facebook:  

Tolkien lived through a lot. His own global pandemic, two world wars (which included, of course, the bloody Battle of Somme), the Great Depression, the death of both parents by age twelve. Despite being disillusioned (like most of his generation), his stories are incredibly illusioned. And we need them now. These stories of adventure, of vigilance, of hardship and humor and hope. Here, then, is the next virtual installment of our continuing round robin reading of Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Chp 2 & 3). With over a hundred readers. Featuring a robust roster of RU students/alumni and faculty/staff, as well as two dozen authors, including Lev Grossman, Eoin Colfer, Stephen Graham Jones, Ellen Kushner, Joe Abercrombie, Karen Russell, Catherynne Valente, and Brian Selznick. Plus, Jeff VanderMeer, inexplicably dressed like a giant, blue caterpillar and Darcie Little Badger flipping and fanning a butterfly knife (which I suppose makes a strange sort of sequential sense). Lots of armor, too (both mail and plate). And plenty of hoods, torches, and swords. All in just an hour….

(3) LISTEN IN. “BBC World Service announces new original podcast, The Lazarus Heist”Exchange4Media has the highlights:

The BBC World Service has announced its major new original podcast, The Lazarus Heist. It tells the true story of an attempted $1 billion hack, which investigators say was carried out by a secretive ring of elite North Korean hackers. 

The Lazarus Heist is presented by cybercrime investigative journalist Geoff White and Pulitzer-nominated veteran foreign correspondent and world renowned North Korea expert, Jean Lee. Geoff has been investigating the underworld of digital crime for years, while Jean has extensive experience of reporting from inside North Korea. 

This major new release will initially run for 10 episodes, released weekly.

The first episode is at BBC Sounds: “The Lazarus Heist – 1. Hacking Hollywood”.

A movie, Kim Jong-un and a devastating cyber attack. The story of the Sony hack. How the Lazarus Group hackers caused mayhem in Hollywood and for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
And this is just the beginning…

(4) CHIPPING OFF EVERYTHING THAT ISN’T THE SOLUTION. In “The Creative Sherlock Holmes: Appreciating the Rational Thinker’s Hidden Artistry” at CrimeReads, Bonnie MacBird says that Sherlock Holmes was also an artist as well as a cool, rational thinker, and we need to understand his artistic side if we are to appreciate his abilities.

…Of course Holmes is every bit as much as artist as he is a scientist.

But artists create. What, exactly does Holmes create? You won’t find daubs of cerulean blue paint on his frock coat. “Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay!” says he.

His art material is this data, this clay—the details, the facts of the case which he has observed or ferreted out. But only Holmes creates these bricks which build up the solution. He creates a mental model of “what happened, who did it, how, and why?”…

(5) ABOUT BRADBURY. The American Writers Museum hosts “Sam Weller: Telling Bradbury’s Story” on April 27 at 6:00 p.m. Central. Register for the free program here.

Ray Bradbury’s authorized biographer Sam Weller discusses the life and legacy of the iconic American writer. In conversation with American Writers Museum President Carey Cranston, Weller will speak on Bradbury’s writing, his worldwide impact, and his enduring relevance in American literature today. This program will be hosted on Zoom. 

(6) BEAR’S WRITER SURVIVAL TIPS. Elseweb on April 27, Anglia Ruskin University hosts Elizabeth Bear in another free online event: “AHSS Presents – a conversation with: Elizabeth Bear ‘How to Survive a Literary Life’”. Begins at 9:30 a.m. Pacific.

There’s a lot of information out there on how to perfect your work and seek publication. There’s not as much about how to deal with the stresses of writing for a living—inconsistent income streams, uncertainty, arbitrariness of the market, mental health issues, public exposure, professional jealousy, exploitative contracts, and more.  

Elizabeth Bear

(7) FORMERLY FAMOUS. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary about Gerard K. O’Neill, “The High Frontier”, for The Space Review.

…O’Neill is largely forgotten, even among many who work in the space industry in some way today. But at the peak of interest in space colonies in the 1970s, O’Neill was, at least briefly, in the cultural mainstream, appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and profiled on “60 Minutes.” The prospect of giant cities in space, built of out lunar materials that could also support development of space solar power facilities, seemed at least in the realm of the possible at the time.

The new documentary The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O’Neill attempts to rekindle that interest while reexamining the life of O’Neill. The 90-minute film had its premiere Saturday night on the Space Channel online, and is now available to rent or buy on various services, including iTunes and Google Play.

The movie extensively uses archival footage, including those “The Tonight Show” and “60 Minutes” appearances, as well as another show where O’Neill appeared alongside Isaac Asimov. That footage is combined with interviews with his family, colleagues, and others who knew or were inspired by him. It’s a who’s-who of the space advocacy community, with people such as Rick Tumlinson, Peter Diamandis, and Lori Garver, as well as pioneers in the commercial space industry like Charles Chafer and Jeffrey Manber. (Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk also appear in the film, but in footage from speeches they gave rather than interviews with the filmmakers.)…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 24, 1955 — The X Minus One radio program aired on NBC for the first time. Written by Ray Bradbury, “And The Moon Be Still As Bright” is the tale of Mars expedition which finds the Martians extinct due to chickenpox brought to them by previous expeditions. The crew save one decide to destroy all Martian artefacts. Ernest Kinoy wrote the script from the story by Bradbury, and the cast included John Larkin and Nelson Olmstead.  The show would run from now until January 8, 1958 with many of coming from well-known SF authors including Anderson, Pohl, Asimov, Blish, Leiber, Heinlein and Simak to name just a few. You can hear this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 24, 1900 – Elizabeth Goudge, F.R.S.L.  A score of novels, thirty shorter stories; here is The Little White Horse.  Nonfiction e.g. a Life of St. Francis.  Carnegie Medal.  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  Memoir The Joy of the Snow.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1911 – Evaline Ness.  Half a dozen covers, many interiors for us; much else.  Here is The Book of Three.  Here is Coll and His White Pig.  Here is Taran Wanderer.  Here is an interior for Sam, Bangs & Moonshine.  Caldecott Medal.  Society of Illustrators Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award.  See this Univ. Minnesota note.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 91. He’s credited in directing Superman which is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb.  (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she showed up in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery, My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1946 Don D’Ammassa, 75. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction covers some five hundred writers and his two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered him as a reviewer. It appears the only novel of his available from the usual suspects is THE 39 ADEPTS: A Wanda Coyne novel. (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1950 Michael Patrick Hearn, 71. Academic who has some of the best annotated works I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. I wholeheartedly recommend both The Annotated Wizard of Oz and The Annotated Christmas Carol, not to overlook Victorian Fairy Tales which is simply the best collection of those tales. (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1953 – Larry Carmody, age 68.  Fanzines Eternity Road and (with Stu Shiffman) Raffles.  Chaired Lunacon ’84.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1955 – Wendy Delmater, age 66.  Eight short stories, four poems for us; editor, Abyss & Apex.  Otherwise e.g. Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1973 – Judy Budnitz, age 48.  One novel, three shorter stories for us; maybe we should count others, see this note in Harvard Magazine.  “Magical or horrific or impossible things might happen in my stories, but the characters are always guided by the same human emotions that we all share.”  Two collections.  Jaffee Foundation Award, Wallant Award.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1974 – Leigh Fallon, age 47.  Four novels, one shorter story.  After a career in corporation treasury, traveling to eight countries, decided to write; now, with husband and four children, only travels between U.S. and Ireland.  So much for escapism.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1983 Madeline Ashby, 38. California-born Canadian resident writer whose Company Town novel created an entire city in an oil rig. Interestingly In 2013, she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer but recused herself on the grounds that her pro career started with her ‘09 publication of a short story in Nature, so her two-year eligibility period had already expired. And  her Machine Dynasties series is simply brilliant with resonances of the Murderbot series on it. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark covers a kaiju fashion dispute.
  • And Frankenstein strives for sartorial splendor at Bizarro.

(11) BARBARELLA. Bleeding Cool reports “Sarah A. Hoyt Writes Barbarella #1 For Dynamite July 2021 Solicits”. Believe me, I’m not going to start reporting every time a Puppy writes a comic, however, I wasn’t previously aware Hoyt was working in the field. So, news to me!

Sci-fi and fantasy novelist Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Uncharted, Darkship Thieves, and many more, is writing a new Barbarella series from Dynamite, based on the classic comic books, novels and movie, with new artist Madibek Musabekov, coming out in July.

(12) PURCHASING MATERIALS VS. SERVICES. “Libraries Can Use ARPA Funds on E-books, but Change May Be Needed”Publishers Weekly analyzes the issue.

Federal and state library officials have confirmed that funds allocated under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARPA) can be used to purchase digital content. But in guidance issued this week, leading vendor OverDrive clarified that the current licensing terms used by some publishers may have to be amended for libraries to license titles using those funds.

In a notice that went out to library customers on April 20, following conversations with IMLS officials, state librarians, and publishers, OverDrive explained that while IMLS has advised that licensing digital content is an acceptable use of ARPA funding, the agency also concluded that “metered” e-book access (licenses that apply lend or time limits on circulation) may be categorized as a “service” rather than as a “materials” purchase. And because ARPA funds must be used within a 16-month window (from June 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022), some of the lend-limited or time-limited licenses currently offered by publishers may not fully qualify under ARPA if the license term extends beyond the September 30, 2022 deadline for using ARPA funds….

(13) CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Yahoo! News says that “An Oklahoma woman was charged with felony embezzlement for not returning a ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ VHS tape more than 20 years ago”. But the charge has now been dismissed.

…Caron McBride reportedly rented the “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” tape at a now closed store in Norman, Oklahoma in 1999, according to KOKH-TV. She was charged a year later, in March 2000, after it was not returned, KOKH-TV reported citing documents. 

McBride was notified about the charge by the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office when she was attempting to change the name of her license after she got married, the news station reported. 

“She told me it was over the VHS tape and I had to make her repeat it because I thought, this is insane. This girl is kidding me, right? She wasn’t kidding,” McBride told KOKH-TV, adding that she does not recall renting the video. 

“I had lived with a young man, this was over 20 years ago. He had two kids, daughters that were 8, 10, or 11 years old, and I’m thinking he went and got it and didn’t take it back or something. I have never watched that show in my entire life, just not my cup of tea. Meanwhile, I’m a wanted felon for a VHS tape,” McBride told the news station.

The district attorney’s office has dismissed the charges.

McBride also recalled randomly getting let go from a few jobs, and now she understands why.

“This is why… because when they ran my criminal background check, all they’re seeing is those two words: felony embezzlement,” McBride told KOKH-TV. 

(14) NOT QUITE A PAIL OF AIR. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells how“NASA’s MOXIE made oxygen on Mars” for SYFY Wire readers,

Well, isn’t this a breath of fresh air: An experiment on board the Mars Perseverance rover designed to produce breathable oxygen from carbon dioxide has been switched on and is working! On April 20 it produced 5 grams of oxygen — not a huge amount, but it’s designed to make as much as 10 grams per hour, and this is the very first time oxygen has been converted from native air on another planet.

The device is called MOXIE — the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment — and it’s small (like everything sent to Mars, size and mass are at a premium)….

(15) THE TERRIBLY WRONG OF SPRING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Rite of Teletubbies” on YouTube, Martim Gueller fuses the Teletubbies with “The Rite of Spring”! (This will really get your weekend started right!)

(16) PULP HISTORY. On the 1950s British Science Fiction YouTube channel, lifelong fan Philip Harbottle talks about his introduction to sff in the 1950s, and show some rare vintage books from his collection. Episode 20 covers the Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/3/21 The Pixels Are Due On Scroll Street

(1) TERRY AND THE WIZARD. [Item by rcade.] Twitter user Edgar Allen Doe shares the tale of the day he went to Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, California, and met the fantasy author Terry Prachett, who met a wizard. Thread starts here.

Doe writes, “I really cannot overstate the ‘full wizard regalia’ element of this person.”

Prepare to take a journey spanning six tweets that does not go the way you think it will, you jaded cynic.

One of the people who saw the tweets also witnessed the meeting, which based on a Petaluma Argus-Courier news search I did likely occurred on Oct. 15, 2006.

(2) THE HORROR. James Davis Nicoll chronicles “Five Fascinating Twists on Cosmic Horror” at Tor.com.

…Now in its seventh edition, Call of Cthulhu is the second most popular roleplaying game on Roll20. It reportedly dominates the roleplaying market in Japan. That’s interesting, because unlike most RPGs, Call of Cthulhu (or CoC for short) is set in a universe where humans are not top dog, where there are vast, incomprehensible entities who refrain from snuffing us out mainly because they’ve never noticed us, where First Contact is often Last Contact. Characters in CoC generally spend the adventure or campaign coming to grips with how out of their depth they are—before going mad. If they are very lucky, they’re eaten first….

What more do you need to cheer yourself up?

(3) THE UNKNOWN PAST. “Doctor Who’s The Timeless Children – Morbius Doctors confirmed”Radio Times knows this is a big deal and makes sure you don’t miss it.

Doctor Who’s series 12 finale The Timeless Children dropped a number of huge reveals – but one of these twists was actually first telegraphed by the show back in 1976.

The episode revealed that the Doctor is not a native Gallifreyan, but the latest incarnation of a mysterious being called the Timeless Child, from parts unknown.

The Child or ‘Foundling’ – the first being to ever regenerate – had many different incarnations, many of which were wiped from their mind by the Time Lords (specifically by a sect of Gallifreyans called The Division).

This means that there were in fact an unknown number of incarnations of the being we now know as the Doctor before the ‘first’ (as played by William Hartnell from 1963-66).

Huge reveal, right? But this twist is not without precedent – as RadioTimes.com previously predicted, The Timeless Children has links to the 1976 Doctor Who story The Brain of Morbius, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor.

And the article goes on to glean details of the 1976 episode.

(4) WHO, RAY? “Who Is R. A. Lafferty? And Is He the Best Sci-Fi Writer Ever?” WIRED reviewer Jason Kehe does all he can to provoke us into reading The Best of R. A. Lafferty, “which Tor published earlier this year to nonexistent fanfare.”

…OK, SO A select few actually have read Lafferty, a secret society of loonies whose names you probably do recognize. Neil Gaiman. Ursula Le Guin. Samuel Delany. Other sci-fi writers, in other words. R. A. Lafferty has always been, then, a sci-fi writer’s sci-fi writer—a blurry, far-out position to find oneself in. When comedians hang out, they famously have to commit acts of borderline criminality, usually involving nudity and great heights, to get each other to bust up. So just think what absurdities a sci-fi writer has to conjure forth to gobsmack his fellow sci-fi writers—sci-fi writers who actually are, by much wider consensus, some of the best in the world.

The descriptor they tend to resort to, as if by no other choice, is sui generis, dusty old Latin for “one of a kind.” It’s probably the most common phrase associated with Lafferty (incidentally a self-taught student of Latin), and it appears not once but twice in The Best of R. A. Lafferty, which Tor published earlier this year to nonexistent fanfare and which, in keeping with the man’s self-aggrandizing sense of humor, should’ve been called The Best (of the Best) of R. A. Lafferty. Each of the 22 short stories is introduced by a writer often far more famous than Lafferty, including Gaiman and Delany, and also John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, Connie Willis, and Harlan Ellison (who’s dead; his piece was originally published in 1967). Ellison—whose fellow Ellison, Ralph, wrote Invisible Man—says this of Lafferty: “He is the invisible man.” Nice….

(5) CAVEAT EMPTOR. Mad Genius Club’s Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Time has come to talk of many things”, says a fashion style in sff book covers will rebound on publishers when readers find the books don’t deliver what’s on their jackets.

I want to talk about a new trend I’ve observed in covers, and how it applies to much of the greater world out there. I.e. how the new trend in covers is just a new way that traditional publishing has come up with to screw itself and the entire field of writing over.

… If you have been alive a long time, or even if you “just” read books for a long time, you’re probably aware that there are trends in covers, as there are in everything else. In covers, though, particularly in the era of mega-chain bookstores, that “look” not only tended/tends to be more uniform, but it changes completely….

And then…. I kept running into more of these covers from other houses. Covers that explicitly try to look like they’re at the latest in the 50s.

Look, as a marketing strategy it’s brilliant. And stupid as heck.

Why?

Well, because now people are getting used to looking at Amazon for books that they remember reading/used to read/etc. they will be drawn to covers that are what they remember when they fell in love with a genre.

The problem is this: for most of the mainstream publishing, the contents won’t match the cover.

And yes, I can see them totally preening and going “if we get the rubes to look at our much superior product, they’ll love it.”

Because, you know, in the industry, it’s never about publishing what people want to read. It’s about “educating” the public. Which has taken them from 100K plus printruns for midlist to 10k printruns for high list….

(6) DR. SEUSS’ WWII POLITICAL CARTOONS. At “Dr. Seuss Went to War”, UC San Diego hosts a searchable gallery of his editorial cartoons from before and during WWII. Having discussed just yesterday the criticisms levied against his imagery of nonwhites, it’s interesting to see that some of these 1940s cartoons go after America’s leading racists of the time such as Gerald L.K. Smith.

Because of the fame of his children’s books (and because we often misunderstand these books) and because his political cartoons have remained largely unknown, we do not think of Dr. Seuss as a political cartoonist. But for two years, 1941-1943, he was the chief editorial cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM (1940-1948), and for that journal he drew over 400 editorial cartoons.

The Dr. Seuss Collection in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego, contains the original drawings and/or newspaper clippings of all of these cartoons. This website makes these cartoons available to all internet users. The cartoons have been scanned from the original newspaper clippings in the UCSD collection.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War by historian Richard H. Minear (The New Press, 1999) reproduced some two hundred of the PM cartoons. That means that two hundred of the cartoons available here have received no airing or study since their original appearance in PM. The cartoons Dr. Seuss published in other journals are even less known; there is no mention of them in Dr. Seuss Goes to War. Dr. Seuss also drew a set of war bonds “cartoons” which appeared in many newspapers as well as in PM

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

[Double feature!]

  • March 3, 1965 — On this day in 1965, The Human Duplicators premiered. It was produced and directed by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (without a credit for the latter as director). The film stars George Nader, Barbara Nichols, George Macready and Dolores Faith. It was the color feature on a double bill with the black-and-white Mutiny in Outer Space. It wasn’t well received by critics, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 gave it their usual treatment. It currently holds a zero percent audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here. (CE)
  • March 3, 1965 — On this day in 1965, Mutiny in Space premiered. It was, produced, directed and written by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (although the latter was not credited as directing). It starred William Leslie, Dolores Faith, Pamela Curran and Richard Garland. The word “meh” would best sum up the reaction critics at the time had to this film. It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes so you’ll need to watch it here and see what you think of it. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 3, 1863 Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1920 James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which he played Phillip Bainbridge.  Doohan did nothing that I can find of a genre nature post-Trek. ISFDB notes that he did three Scotty novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1923 – Erik Blegvad.  Illustrated more than a hundred children’s books; as ever, opinions will differ on which we can count.  Apprenticed in a machine shop, left it when the Nazis took Denmark, imprisoned for distributing Danish Resistance literature, eventually translated for the British.  Self-Portrait 1979.  Three of Sharp’s Miss Bianca books (Miss B is a mouse); Bed-Knob and Broomstick – his cover, one of his interiors; his own translation of Hans Andersen. Washington Post appreciation here. (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1924 Catherine Downs. She’s in four Fifties grade B SF films: The Phantom from 10,000 LeaguesThe She CreatureThe Amazing Colossal Man and Missile to the Moon. All but the first film werewas the subject of a MST3K show. (Died 1976.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1928 – Paul Callé.  (“KAL-lee”.)  Known for NASA work, see this bookhere is an Apollo XI drawing; see more of his Space art here.  It is of course open to the rejoinder Not fiction.  Here is The Legion of Space.  Here is The Star Seekers.  Here is an interior from the Jul 50 Super Science Stories.  He did much with the American West (i.e. U.S. and Canada); see how each person is portrayed here.  His pencil book here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1936 Donald E. Morse, 85. Author of the single best book done on Holdstock, The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction which he co-wrote according to ISFDB with Kalman Matolcsy. I see he also did two books on Kurt Vonnegut and the Anatomy of Science Fiction on the intersection between SF and society at large which sounds fascinating. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1938 – Patricia MacLachlan, age 83.  A novel and four shorter stories for us; thirty other books, one winning a Newbery Medal, one about Matisse; still writing, most recently published last June.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1945 George Miller, 76. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road Warrior,  Mad Max 2Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome andFury Road.  He also directed The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of EastwickBabe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1955 – Greg Feeley, age 66.  Two novels, thirty shorter stories for us.  I keep heaing he’s turned in Hamlet the Magician, but not when we may expect it.  Here is a note on Robinson, Le Guin, Clute, Egan.  Here is a note on Thurber’s “Catbird Seat”.  Here is “Why I Love Laurence Sterne Scholarship”.  Four dozen reviews in FoundationSF Age, and like that.  Interviewed Waldrop for Interzone.  Himself interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1970 – John Carter Cash, age 51.  Indeed the son of that Cash and that Carter.  While mostly in music outside our field, he’s given us one book.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1982 Jessica Biel, 49. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw MassacreBlade: TrinityStealthThe Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and theanimatedSpark: A Space Tail. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1981 – Kiersten Fay, age 40.  Ten novels, one shorter story, of paranormal romance with demons and vampires.  She’s a USA Today best-selling author.  [JH]

(9) SINCE YOU ASKED. On Drew Barrymore’s show “Stephen King Confesses He Didn’t Like The Shining Movie”. He gives his opinion at about the 1-minute mark.

(10) A CLOSE SHAVE. Amazon’s new icon got an immediate re-iteration because the old “new” made people think of Hitler’s toothbrush mustache. CNN has the story — “Amazon quietly changed its app icon after some unfavorable comparisons”.

… “We designed the new icon to spark anticipation, excitement, and joy when customers start their shopping journey on their phone, just as they do when they see our boxes on their door step,” an Amazon spokesperson said. The app icon was tweaked based on user feedback.

Only iOS users in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Netherlands saw the Hitler-esque logo over the past few weeks. The updated logo rolled out worldwide for iOS users last week. Android users will see the new logo beginning this week.

(11) NAVIGATING LONELINESS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Best Wishes From a Guy Lashed to the Mast of Loneliness, Listening for So Far Silent Sirens — “Kristen Radtke Writes, and Draws, Our Loneliness” at Publishers Weekly.

When Kristen Radtke started writing about loneliness in 2016, she had no idea of what was to come. Writers are famously prescient, but who could have imagined the global pandemic of Covid-19 and the isolation it would generate? Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness (Pantheon, July), Radtke’s latest graphic nonfiction book, is a marvelous deep dive into that universal emotion, blending science, memoir, journalism, research, philosophy, and pop culture to explore isolation and our desire to be close to one another….

(12) HOPING TO PREDICT SOLAR WEATHER. “Origin of the Sun’s solar storms discovered in scientific breakthrough” reports Yahoo!

…In 1859, a large solar storm called the Carrington Event caused widespread issues with telegraph systems across Europe and the United States.

A repeat storm of such magnitude today could be far more devastating.

But now researchers at University College London (UCL) and George Mason University in the US believe they have located where on the Sun these particles come from, in a bid to better predict when they might strike again.

Their findings, published in Science Advances journal, indicate that the particles have the same “fingerprint” as plasma located low in the Sun’s corona, close to the middle region of the it’s atmosphere.

“In our study we have observed for the first time exactly where solar energetic particles come from on the Sun,” said co-author Dr Stephanie Yardley, from UCL….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Kill Your Idioms” on Vimeo, Grant Kolton takes aim at well-worn cliches.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Dave Doering, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Baen Strikes Back; Sanford Under Growing Storm of Harassment

A series of Baen authors and editors have mounted a coordinated response to Jason Sanford’s February 15 article “Baen Books Forum Being Used to Advocate for Political Violence”, a public post on Patreon.

Eric Flint’s 4,800-word “The Controversy About Baen’s Bar” recites a great deal of his personal history as a socialist political activist in the service of deflecting criticism from Baen’s Bar. He even confidently gives assurances about activity in one of its conferences that he says he hasn’t read in two decades. Nothing to see here.

…It is in the nature of jackasses to be jackasses. This is supposed to be shocking news because it’s posted on a virtual bulletin board?

Perhaps my favorite of Sanford’s Oh, my God! moments is this one by a never-heard-of-him who uses the monicker of Theoryman: “As I’ve already pointed out, rendering ANY large city is uninhabitable is quite easy… And the Left lives in cities.”

I have to make a confession here. Although he doesn’t specify in most cases where he found these comments, I’m pretty sure that Sanford found them in one of the many conferences in Baen’s Bar—the one that goes by the title “Politics.” 

I stopped visiting “Politics” about… oh, I dunno. Twenty-three ago? The reason I did is because, as Darth Vader would say, “The stupid is strong with these ones.” I don’t mind arguing with people who disagree with me. But I refuse to waste my time getting into debates with people so dumb I don’t know how they tie their own shoes in the morning. And that’s pretty much the nature of the wrangles in “Politics.” As far as I’m concerned, the conference might as well have a sign over the entrance reading Here Be Dimwits and People Who Imagine Themselves to be Dragons. 

Take a look at what Sanford considers an “incitement to violence.” Can it be called that? Well… I suppose—if you’re willing to grant that Theoryman is such an imbecile that he actually believes that “rendering ANY large city is uninhabitable is quite easy.” [sic]

Well, not much to see here –

…This is the “great menace of Baen’s Bar” that Sanford yaps about. A handful of people—okay, two handfuls, tops—most of whom you have never heard of, who spout absolute twaddle. Yes, a fair amount of it is violent-sounding twaddle, but the violence is of a masturbatory nature. 

If only there was a way to tell the spouters who don’t mean it from the ones who show up on January 6 to riot at the Capitol, assault cops, take selfies while they vandalize the building, and try to stop Constitutional duties from being carried out.

Flint contends that even the ones caught doing explicit advocacy, like Tom Kratman, somehow don’t count either:

…If Sanford thinks that a few authors like Kratman are the ones who define Baen as a publishing house, he has the obligation to make a case for it. But he makes no effort to do so. Instead, he ignores most of Baen’s authors altogether and simply asserts that what he says is true because he says it’s true….

Jason Córdova also takes cover behind Eric Flint in “Don’t Mess With An Author’s Source of Income”.

…Point 3 — It’s “popular” for people to attack others without fear of recourse or repercussions. Now, for those of us not with our heads firmly up our backsides, we know Baen Books is a publisher with a lot of resources who publishes a lot of varied individuals, from die-hard communists like Eric Flint to Tom Kratman, who might be described as being right of Atilla the Hun on the political spectrum. Jim Baen never cared what your politics were, as long as you could tell a good story. The writer of said article (“investigative journalism” my left buttock) created an account, went onto the Bar, and decided to find the best statements he could in order to use it to bolster his claim that the Bar is a hotbed for far-right extremism. Never mind the fact that the Bar hosts like five groups dedicated to Eric Flint or his collected universes (it might be six now, I don’t know). Our intrepid (so brave, much brave) journalist needed meat for his article (he probably went into Kratman’s forum… even I think those guys are nuts).

Eric Flint’s socialism doesn’t preclude there being Baen’s Bar participants approving violence and coaching insurrection in Baen’s Bar. Or even have anything to do with it. Again, it’s presented here as an attempt to deflect attention.   

Sarah A. Hoyt calls Sanford’s post an attempt at “canceling baen books” in her Mad Genius Club column.

…If it were just the puppy kickers fighting for relevance, it would be one thing. But it’s not. This is a coordinated attack.

Which, btw, makes it mathematically inevitable that yes, they’ll come for me and you too. Because the left — idiot children that they are — think that cutting off a man’s tongue shows his opinions to be invalid.

So, as irritated as I am and have been at Baen for four years, I’m turning that irritation on the left for making me defend them.

Because cancelling is not only wrong. It’s unmaking civilization. And only the idiot sheep of the left wouldn’t see that….

Cedar Sandersons’s defense, “Baen Books” begins with extensive quotes from Hoyt, followed by her own nostalgic reminiscences about Baen’s Bar.

Anyone who has read my blog or who knows me, knows of my deep and abiding affection for Baen’s Bar, which led me to Baen Books. This week, a ham-handed and libelous attack was made on the forum….

Two other responses were reported by File 770 yesterday —

But a comment was added to Correia’s post today by someone who says he is harassing Sanford by calling Sanford’s boss at his workplace.

Larry Correia also tweeted that he spoke to Vox Day today.

OTHER RESPONSES.

For public consumption, Vox Day’s reaction is largely schadenfreude: “Baen under SJW assault” [Internet Archive link].

…It is mildly amusing to see the moderates, a few of whom didn’t hesitate to join the SJWs in pointing-and-shrieking at us, now coming under the same sort of attacks that we’ve been weathering for years. I hasten to point out that Larry Correia is most certainly not one of them, as he has always been a stand-up champion of everyone on the Right and he has disdained every invitation to denounce and disavow both the Rabid Puppies and me. He may not embrace the conflict as we do, but he fights. I have nothing but respect and regard for the man, because the Mountain is not my personal army. The VFM are….

John C. Wright, who with his family personally attended the Trump rally in DC on January 6, follows his intro to “Larry Correia on the Thought Police Ambush against Baen’s Bar” with extensive quotes from Correia’s blog.

An article to steel the resolve and cure the blindness of anyone unwary enough to underestimate the remorseless malice of the enemy, now comes a column at Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International Website.

Please note the attack was coordinated, using the “Chinese Whisper” techniques beloved by bitter and wrinkle-faced gossipy hags and bloodthirsty communist agitators alike….

Jon Del Arroz, in a kind of unintentional comic relief, spent the day successfully using sock puppets to bait Larry Correia into giving him a great deal more attention, both at Monster Hunter Nation and on Twitter, which is all JDA ever wants anyway.

WILL WEISSKOPF REMAIN A WORLDCON GOH? The DisCon III committee will meet this weekend to discuss “the situation with Baen Books’ forums.”

The range of reactions is as wide as the cultural divide. Here are two articulate examples:

JASON SANFORD. Sanford, meanwhile, is weathering a growing storm of harassment.He sent this status:

I took my Twitter and Facebook pages private for a while because I’m dealing with a serious escalation of harassment over the Baen article. I can’t go into details right now but the harassment is serious. 

I’ll probably be offline for a bit to deal with this stuff. However, I just saw Eric Flint’s essay attacking me and I wanted to say I disagree with what he wrote, which was a misrepresentation of my report. Everything I wrote about was based on facts and actual comments in the forum. I even shared screenshots of the comments on social media.

This also wasn’t a coordinated attack on Baen. Hell, aside from a couple of people who gave feedback on my report no one else knew it was even about to publish. 

Facts and evidence matter, as does reporting what goes on in our genre. I presented what was being said on Baen’s forum in my report. Baen has previously moderated their forum and could easily do so again.

Pixel Scroll 2/5/21 The Scroll Unvanquishable, Save By Pixels

(1) IT’LL COST MORE THAN A SOCK TO FREE HARRY POTTER. Episode 75 of Our Opinions Are Correct, the podcast by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, asks “Has JK Rowling destroyed Harry Potter fandom?”

JK Rowling has become an anti-trans activist on social media. This news has sent Harry Potter fandom — always full of queers and trans people — into mourning. We talk to author/publisher (and longtime Slytherin) Cecilia Tan about how to ignore Rowling and take back Harry Potter.

And the shownotes at the above link are compellingly illustrated with a panel from Maia Kobabe’s work on Trans-Affirming Magical Care.

(2) RSR COMPARES NOTES WITH LOCUS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual “Annotated 2020 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction”. Eric Wong explains: “Like the last two years, we’ve merged it with RSR’s Best SF/F list (highlighting stories from the Locus List in red) and grouped the stories by length and score. It includes some observations about overlooked stories, notable publications, outstanding authors, new writers, and translated stories.” Ten of RSR’s top-rated 2020 stories did not make the Locus list.

Eric adds, “The main takeaway is that non-free stories from Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, and Interzone are under-represented in the Locus list. It’s worse than last year and appears to be a trend for several years now.”

(3) FROM CULTURE WAR TO THE THREAT OF CIVIL WAR. With “Debarkle: Introduction” Camestros Felapton launches a series about “An epic story of politics, conspiracies, fans and rocket ships in which the political chaos of 2020 was presaged by a culture war for a literary award.”

From January 6 2021 to January 7 2015

….One person I was reading [on January 6] was a writer for the right-wing media outlet PJ Media/Instapundit, wrote in a comment on her own blog about her own anger seeing major conservative news outlets condemning the protestors:

“FUCK THEM.
Seriously, I think we should do the media next. Put the fear of Americans into them.
Saint Augusto bless us.
Anyone has helicopters?”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2021/01/06/we-will-work-until-we-cant/#comment-732567

Here “Saint Augusto” and “helicopters” being a reference to a far-right meme about the use by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet of “death flights“, a form of extra-judicial killing by pushing victims out of aircraft.

The following day, ‘alt-right’ ethno-nationalist publisher Vox Day described Sarah Hoyt as the “only non-cuck at Instapundit” [archive link]. In this context “cuck” is derogatory term for mainstream conservatives referencing “cuckold” pornography. Day was applauding a post by Hoyt were she celebrated the actions of the protestors…

(4) THE LONG GAME. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson has a Q&A with an author who made the leap from fanfic to tradpub: “Interview: Everina Maxwell, author of Winter’s Orbit”.

NOAF: You published an early version of Winter’s Orbit online at Archive of Our Own. What was the experience like, going from publishing it online, to then working with a traditional publisher?

EM: Pretty terrifying, honestly! Throughout editing I was nervous of what the people who read it as original fiction on AO3 would think of the new version, which has more worldbuilding and a plot with a much wider scope. Also, on AO3 people were very kind and didn’t tend to ask awkward questions like “why is this thematically inconsistent” or “why haven’t you explained how this worked” or “can you please pick one spelling of this character’s name and stick with it” – which the traditional publishing process absolutely asks and makes you fix. I think it’s a much better book now; I certainly love the new material myself. I hope both old and new readers will enjoy it!

(5) SEMIPROZINE CLOSE-UP. R. Graeme Cameron reviews Hexagon Speculative Fiction Magazine #3 for Amazing Stories’ “Clubhouse” column.

[Editor JW] Stebner is very proud of the role of semiprozines (like Hexagon) “in the literary Magazine industry.” As publisher of the semiprozine Polar Borealis and the soon to be introduced Polar Starlight (devoted to Canadian Speculative Poetry) I have to say I agree with him. I’m quite keen on enthusiasts starting up such and thus am very pleased to have discovered Hexagon. (Actually, I was led to it by Robert Runté, who told me about it, for which I am grateful.)…

(6) WEEPING ANGELS VIDEO GAME. Digital Spy has some eye-opening news: “Doctor Who confirms return date for Weeping Angels in new trailer”.

…”Merciless as ever, the Weeping Angels are back with a vengeance. Will you be able to uncover the truth and avoid their clutches? Now that the Weeping Angels have the power to infiltrate technology, no device is safe,” the synopsis teases, with The Lonely Assassins described as “blurring the line between live-action footage and gameplay”.

The dark mystery game, which is available to pre-order now ahead of its March 19 release, will build on the events of ‘Blink’ as you find a phone belonging to Lawrence, who has seemingly disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

At the other end of the phone is another returning Who character, ex-UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), who thinks that you are “the right person for the job” to track down Lawrence….

(7) PARTY OF FIVE, YOUR TABLE IS READY. Publishers Weekly reports Amazon is no longer the lone defendant in this consumer class action suit: “Big Five Publishers Now Defendants in E-book Price-Fixing Suit”.

The news comes after the initial complaint, first filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14 by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, portrayed the Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—as “co-conspirators” in a bid to restrain competition in the e-book market, but had named only Amazon as a defendant. The amended complaint, filed on February 4, now pulls the publishers into the suit….

(8) NEW LIFE. Charlie Jane Anders tells Esquire readers “How The Expanse Transformed the Space Opera Genre For a New Generation of Sci-Fi Stories”. It all began when Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham ignored warnings that space opera was a dying genre.

…Now, of course, Leviathan Wakes has been followed by eight sequels and a TV show, The Expanse, whose fifth season ends tonight. And the shelves at your local bookstore are crammed with kickass space operas by authors like Valerie Valdes, Becky Chambers, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Arkady Martine, Kameron Hurley, Nicky Drayden, Karen Lord, Tim Pratt, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, and Karen Osborne.

A lot of these new space opera books share some of the same DNA as Corey’s Expanse series: they feature underdog characters, who are just trying to get paid, or survive, or get justice—they aren’t exactly crisp-uniformed explorers like Captain Kirk, or chosen ones like Luke Skywalker. These books also feature somewhat more realistic physics, with way less hand-waving—for example, faster-than-light travel is usually impossible without some kind of wormhole. And these books often have a touch of weirdness and body horror, along the lines of The Expanse‘s alien protomolecule….

(9) PLUMMER OBIT. Actor Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) died February 5 at the age of 91.

His genre roles included The Man Who Would Be King (1975, as Rudyard Kipling), Starcrash (1978), Somewhere in Time (1980), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, as a Klingon, General Chang), Harrison Bergeron (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Dracula 2000 (2000), and voice acting in many animated films and several video games.

“How boring it would be to be just one thing — just a movie actor, or just a stage actor — when you can just keep going from one to the other. I think one also helps the other,” he told The [LA] Times in 1998. “I’ll go on doing it until I drop.”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • February 5, 1994 — On this day in 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” aired. This episode which looked at lives of some of the junior officers is much beloved by Trek fans and is cited as the inspiration for the Below Decks animated series. If you’re interested in an in-depth discussion of this episode, Keith R.A. DeCandido did one at Tor.com.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 5, 1870 – Charles Brock, R.I.  Painter, line artist, illustrator of Austen, Defoe, Dickens, Eliot, Scott, Swift, Thackeray.  Member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors.  Here is an illustration for Ivanhoe.  Here is one for Emma.  Here are Frey and Freya from Keary’s Heroes of Asgard.  Here are Goliath and David.  Here is Gulliver with the Lilliputians.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of Frankenstein,  Ali Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. He was one of many Hollywood stars who appeared in the The Muppets Go Hollywood special. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1934 – Malcolm Willits, age 87.  Two novels, three shorter stories.  Co-edited Destiny; three poems, half a dozen interiors; here is his cover (with Jim Bradley) for the Spring 53 issue.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1942 – Dame Susan Hill, age 79.  Seven novels, as many shorter stories for us; threescore books all told.  Married a Shakespeare scholar.  The Guardian called her Woman in Black the most celebrated ghost story of modern times.  Somerset Maugham Award, Whitbread Award, Rhys Prize.  Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1957 – Margi Curtis, age 64.  Poet and musician.  She’s been in Spectral Realms, e.g. here.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 60. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him —  Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman BeyondStatic ShockJustice League in several series, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 57. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 47. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1974 – Pablo Castro, age 47.  Four short stories, two available in English; for “Reflections” see Words Without Borders.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1991 – Sharona van Herp, age 30.  Gamer and graphic designer.  Here she is at DeviantArt.  Here she is at ArtStation.  Here is a cover.  I found this at Tumblr.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss knows there’s more than one well-paved road to Hell.

(13) HE’S A BIG FAN. “Schitt’s Creek Cast Q & A  With Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart” on YouTube is the last part of a discussion that Sir Pat Stew had with the cast of Schitt’s Creek, a show Sir Patrick likes a lot.

(14) OUI ARE FRENCH. Heavy shares “The French Accent Patrick Stewart Almost did for TNG”. Hear it on this clip from The Graham Norton Show.

…Stewart said that the producers of the show did want Picard to have a French accent. After they’d cast Stewart, they asked him to come in and read some of his lines with the French accent. Stewart continued, saying that he did his very best, but the producers were far from impressed with his attempt. After hearing the character with Stewart’s attempted accent, the producers decided to let him perform the character in his normal voice, and they came up with the canon explanation for why a Frenchman had a British accent.

When Stewart was done explaining why the French accent was rejected, he offered to let the audience hear exactly how bad his attempt had been. After they cheered at the offer, Stewart started reciting the lines from the voiceover synonymous with the show in the accent he’d attempted years before. The audience, and everyone on stage, immediately burst out laughing at how hilariously different the lines sounded.

(15) WADE’S NEXT. Paul Weimer has read a new book I wanted to hear more about: “Microreview: Trangressions of Power by Juliette Wade” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this brings us to Pyaras. Cousin to Nekantor and Tagaret, we got a look at him in Mazes of Power, but here he is “promoted to titles” and given a large section of the point of view. Pyaras comes off for a lot of the book as “upper class twit” in a textbook example of the form. His story is about learning better, and eventually doing better. I was dubious about him at the beginning of the book, but he does go on a journey of character that redeems and strengthens him by the end of the novel…. 

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. Ty Johnston revisits “Lords of Creation a tabletop RPG before its time” for Black Gate.

…Lords of Creation is very much a game of its time, but in many way it’s also a game ahead of its time. The D&D influence is obvious in the mechanics, especially concerning character and monster stats, but this game was one of the earliest to stretch beyond the boundaries of any single genre. Lords of Creation wasn’t just a fantasy tabletop rpg, but was meant to be a game for all genres, including science fiction, mythology, noir, and more. In fact, the back of the game box reads, “The ultimate role-playing game … a game of science, fantasy, science fiction and high adventure that explores the farthest reaches of your imagination! Splendid adventures take place throughout time, space and other dimensions.”…

(17) NUTRITIONAL ADVICE FROM MIDDLE-EARTH. From 2013, but it’s news to me: “The hobbit – an unexpected deficiency” from PubMed.gov:

Abstract

Objective: Vitamin D has been proposed to have beneficial effects in a wide range of contexts. We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature….

(18) SPOT GETS AN UPGRADE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boston Dynamics robotic dog, Spot, is now available with an integrated arm, and even has an available upgraded “Enterprise” version. The basic bot can be purchased for $74.5K direct from BD online. If you want the arm or anything from the Enterprise line, though, best be prepared for some real sticker shock—you’ll still have to contact a salesperson before they’ll divulge the price. Ars Technica has the story: “Boston Dynamics’ robot dog gets an arm attachment, self-charging capabilities”.

For the first time in the company’s 29-year history, Boston Dynamics actually started selling robots to the general public, and it’s pretty incredible that you can actually just head to the Boston Dynamics website, press the “add to cart” button, and have a robot dog shipped to your home. The company says it has sold more than 400 Spot units to date, and the robots are out there doing real work, usually monitoring hazardous work sites like “nuclear plants, offshore oil fields, construction sites, and mines.”

After a year of working with businesses and getting feedback, Boston Dynamics is launching a new Spot revision, a long-awaited arm attachment, and some new features.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Around The Block” by Jonnie Lewis on Vimeo is a brief portrait of how David Zinn draws cartoons on sidewalks and walls with chalk.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/21 The
Muppet Pastors

(1) LIGHTS OUT AT PARLER. When Twitter banned President Trump and purged thousands of QAnon-linked accounts that fell under the company’s “coordinated harmful activity” ban (due to concerns about online incitement leading to violence), Parler was one of the alternative social media sites expecting to offer a new home to the traffic — until its tech host, Amazon, pulled the plug: “Parler sues Amazon after pro-Trump site goes dark” in the Washington Post.

Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon Web Services on Monday, just hours after the social media network was taken offline when Amazon pulled support.

Parler filed the suit against Amazon on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The company alleges in the suit that Amazon breached its contract by not giving it 30 days’ notice before dropping service. Parler also argued that Amazon was being hypocritical by not taking similar action against Twitter, where violent posts can also appear.Big Tech abandoned the social media site, known for allowing unfettered speech on its platform, over the weekend after expressing concern that the site was not properly moderating posts that could incite violence. Google and Apple removed Parler from its app stores, while Amazon — which was hosting the site on its cloud — decided to stop working with it, effectively removing it from the Internet.

…Even after Apple warned Parler that it needed to implement a more thorough content moderation plan or be kicked off the App Store, the social media network spurned the idea.

(2) HOYT. Sarah Hoyt, in “…Book Promo And Some Blather By Sarah” [Internet Archive link], urged people not to make her Amazon sales collateral damage in their reaction to its treatment of Parler.

A lot of you are furious at Amazon for joining the unconscionable censorship of Parler, which btw is still relatively small and all innocuous, other than, you know, allowing Trump a platform (Because as invaders, the left can’t let the president of the US address the nation, of course.) Look, so am I. I’m even more furious because I have no way out of the trap.

Yes, a lot of you — yes, I’m looking at you — have raged at Amazon for years and told us it would come for us and that we should get out now. This was not only misguided (I’ll explain why) but also it’s kind of the equivalent of poking a chained prisoner and saying “run.” He really wants to, but all you’re actually doing is torturing and wounding him.

However, since last night, this has TRULY become an emergency, not because of what Amazon will do or won’t do to ebook fiction (more on that) but because a core of my readers will now refuse to buy from Amazon under any circumstances, which means that I’m going to lose a lot of my income (and Amazon won’t give a flying fig. But I get your outrage, I understand, and yet you’ll only hurt the writers, UNTIL WE HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE.)

(3) CORREIA. Larry Correia’s post “Bow Before Appgooglezon” [Internet Archive link] at Monster Hunter Nation mentions neither Parler nor Amazon, but everyone in comments knows what’s being discussed, and they do name them.

(4) PUNDITRY. Camestros Felapton finds the two prior authors a source of inspiration for his own commentary. Quoted here are the final lines of a pair of his latest posts.

…So there you go, not one red cent apart from any red cents where a proportion of the red cent might go to Sarah Hoyt.

…It is a bit late in the day for Larry to discover that Elizabeth Warren had a point but it is noticeable that the step big tech took that tipped Larry over the edge was them clamping down on speech aimed at inciting violence to over throw an election.

(5) SCALZI. John Scalzi has written several posts on recent developments, beginning with “Thoughts on Coups and Sedition, 1/8/21”. (His comment on Trump’s Twitter ban is comparatively laconic: “Huh”.)  

Fine. First question: Was what happened on Wednesday an actual coup attempt?

What makes you think that it wasn’t?

I don’t know, I guess maybe I thought a real coup wouldn’t include a guy who looked like a Jamiroquai cosplayer at a Nazi bar karaoke night.

Just because it was a stupid coup attempt doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real coup attempt. Trump plumped for the thing to happen in his nodding and winking way on Twitter, and he incited it and encouraged it in person. The attendees came expecting to take part in one, and had planned their strategy, such as it was, on Parler and other not-exactly-savory portions of the internet. They brought weapons and zip ties. They went looking for congresspeople. They weren’t just there to hang out on the mall, wave their Trump flags, get a churro and go home. They meant business. Fortunately like all Trump business, it went belly up in record time. But that’s neither here nor there for the intent….

(6) JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin identifies some historical myopia in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s video (linked in yesterday’s Scroll) but adds “I’m mostly fine with Arnold’s message, BTW.”

(7) WATCHING BB. Buckaroo Banzai is the theme of the World Watch One Newsletter for January 10 [PDF file] which contains Steven H Silver’s “The Buckaroo Barrier” (pp. 15-16) where he explains, “I’ve been a fan of the film Buckaroo Banzai ever since I saw it in the theatres. A few years ago, I realized that for a lot of people, the first viewing of the film left them confused and disliking the film. I discuss why a second viewing may be necessary to appreciate it.”

(8) FIVE YEARS. Wil Wheaton shared his sobriety anniversary on Facebook His testimony begins:

Yesterday, I marked the fifth anniversary of my decision to quit drinking alcohol. It was the most consequential choice I have ever made in my life, and I am able to stand before you today only because I made it.

I was slowly and steadily killing myself with booze. I was getting drunk every night, because I couldn’t face the incredible pain and PTSD I had from my childhood, at the hands of my abusive father and manipulative mother.

It was unsustainable, and I knew it was unsustainable, but when you’re an addict, knowing something is unhealthy and choosing to do something about it are two very different things….

(9) SELF-PROPELLED TBR. Most have to go to the mountain, but his Mount TBR came to him, and James Davis Nicoll can even tell you the names of “Five of the Best Books I Never Meant to Read”.

While but a callow youth, I subscribed to the Science Fiction Book Club. The club, wise in the ways of procrastination, would send each month’s selection of books to subscribers UNLESS the subscribers had sent the club a card informing the SFBC that one did not want the books in question. All too often I planned to send the card off, only to realize (once again), when a box of books arrived, that intent is not at all the same thing as action.

Thus, I received books that I would not have chosen but, once in possession, I read and enjoyed them. All praise to the SFBC and the power of procrastination! Here are five of my favorite unintended reading experiences…

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1991 — The Nebula Award for Best Novel went to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, the fourth novel of the Earthsea sequence. It published by Atheneum in 1990. It had been twenty years since the last Earthsea novel was published. It would be not the last novel as The Other Wind would follow twenty years later.  It would also win the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 11, 1886 – Samuel Cahan.  Frequent Argosy interiors for us, e.g. Pirates of Venus and The Synthetic Men of Mars (Burroughs), “The Earth-Shaker” (Leinster).  Outside our field e.g. this fine drawing of Woodrow Wilson.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1906 – John Myers Myers.  A score of books, including historical fiction, nonfiction, poetry; for us marvelously Silverlock – get the NESFA Press edition with songs, a Reader’s Guide, commentary; as the folklorist George Melikis said about something else, “I love studying Macedonia because everybody lives there.”  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the Fantastic Voyage series and the Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1928 – Virgil Burnett.  Author, illustrator, sculptor, Professor of Fine Arts at Univ. Waterloo (Ontario, Canada).  A dozen short stories collected in Towers at the Edge of a World.  Here is a cover for The War of the Worlds.  Here is his frontispiece for Jurgen.  HereThe Rubâ‘îyat [pl. of rubâ‘î , a kind of quatrain] of Omar Khayyam.  Here is his cover for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Here is Alexander the Great.  See this note on a 2013 exhibit by his daughter at Haverford College.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), the Hugo nominated The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script though there’s no proof of this), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1931 – Mary Rodgers.  Her Freaky Friday and three sequels are ours; I’m unsure about her musical Once Upon a Mattress – is “The Princess and the Pea” fantasy?  She did music and lyrics for Davy Jones’ Locker with the Bill Baird marionettes, also music for a Pinocchio with them.  Daughter of Richard Rodgers.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 84. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi. (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 60. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted word play as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 58. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly, including the music done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the Vengeance on Varosstory on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (much least favorite Doctors). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins. (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1972 Tom Ward, 39. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”.  He played H.G. Wells in Hallmark’s The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells series, and he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles. (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1976 – Alethea Kontis, age 45.  A dozen novels for us, four dozen shorter stories.  NY Times and USA Today best-seller.  Keynote address at Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference.  “Alethea means truth in Greek, but I was named after an episode from the first season of Kung Fu where Jodie Foster played a little girl named Alethea Ingram….  Our last name was originally Kontaridis, but my grandfather shortened it.”  Makes good baklava, plays bad acoustic guitar.  [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1987 – Wesley King, age 34.  A dozen novels, including two with Kobe Bryant and the possibly well-titled Incredible Space Rangers from Space.  NY Times best-seller.  Has read “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, The Time Machine, four Shakespeare plays, War and PeaceWhere the Wild Things Are.  Lives in Nova Scotia and on a 1967 sailboat.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BUT ON THE EIGHTH LEG. Literary Hub podcast Otherppl with Brad Listi brings us “George Saunders on How You Know When the Talking Spider Belongs in the Story”.

…For me, my intention is I really want all my stories to speak to those moments in our lives when the scrim drops away and we’re confronted with the brutality of this life that we’re living in. And also the beauty. But I want my stories to be comforting in the sense that they won’t be full of shit if you read them at a low moment. That means that I don’t want anything in a story that doesn’t serve that purpose, or another way of saying it is I don’t want anything weird to happen until it’s going to do that kind of emotional work. So my default is there’s no weird shit allowed. I’m basically a realist at heart. But every so often you get to a place where a story is saying, “If you will just let me have the talking spider, I will be more profound.” Or often what it does is it says, “There’s a question that I have to ask here in this story, but I can’t do it without the talking spider. Would you allow it?”

(14) CLASHING SYMBOLS. Mental Floss says the public can “Help Massachusetts Choose a Possible State Dinosaur”.

Massachusetts residents have no shortage of state symbols through which to celebrate their regional devotion….

Now, Massachusetts state legislator Jack Patrick Lewis is lobbying for another one: state dinosaur. As Boston.com reports, Lewis has fostered a passion for prehistoric creatures ever since seeing The Land Before Time (1988) in his youth, and he’s hoping an official state dinosaur will help fellow Bay Staters learn about the area’s early history.

Lewis has chosen two species to consider for the designation. The Podokesaurus holyokensis is a 3-to-6-foot carnivore whose fossils were unearthed around Mount Holyoke in 1910. Mignon Talbot, the woman who made the discovery, was the first woman to ever name a newfound dinosaur. The Podokesaurus’s competition is the Anchisaurus polyzelus, a slightly larger herbivore whose bones were located in Springfield, Massachusetts, more than half a century earlier….

Twelve states and the District of Columbia already have state dinosaurs – and there’s a separate category for state fossils.

(15) DINO NEST. At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, “Researchers Announce World’s First Dinosaur Preserved Sitting on Nest of Eggs with Fossilized Babies”.

…“This kind of discovery—in essence, fossilized behavior—is the rarest of the rare in dinosaurs,” explains Dr. Lamanna. “Though a few adult oviraptorids have been found on nests of their eggs before, no embryos have ever been found inside those eggs. In the new specimen, the babies were almost ready to hatch, which tells us beyond a doubt that this oviraptorid had tended its nest for quite a long time. This dinosaur was a caring parent that ultimately gave its life while nurturing its young.”
 
The team also conducted oxygen isotope analyses that indicate that the eggs were incubated at high, bird-like temperatures, adding further support to the hypothesis that the adult perished in the act of brooding its nest. Moreover, although all embryos were well-developed, some appear to have been more mature than others, which in turn suggests that oviraptorid eggs in the same clutch might have hatched at slightly different times. This characteristic, known as asynchronous hatching, appears to have evolved independently in oviraptorids and some modern birds.

(16) SHARING EXPERIENCE. The Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog presents “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Gregory Ashe”.

You’ve published six books in your Hazard and Somerset mysteries. Do you tend to outline your books and series ahead of time, or do you tend to figure things out as you go along? When you started the series, did you know how many books you would write and where your characters would end up?

Although I have become more and more of an outliner, there is still an element of excavation and discovery in each book I write. One challenge I’ve faced as a writer is that I tend to write long books—and if I’m not careful, they become massive. Outlining helps me control the size of the story, as well as ensuring that I hit the right beats and turns when and where I want to. The excavatory and exploratory side of storytelling tends to happen, for me, between those major plot points. I have written quite a few books without an outline at all, but that is less and less the case. The same is true for series. The Hazard and Somerset series essentially took shape as two parts: the first four books, and then the last two. I learned from that, and when I wrote ‘season two,’ Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords, I had a fairly comprehensive outline for the five-book series. I now tend to write all of my series this way, with an outline to guide the pacing of the series as well as the individual books.

(17) CAT SCAN. In a video at A.V. Club, “Take a model train tour through a world ruled by giant cats”.

Jonathan Lawton is a visionary artist. His work may seem humble—the West Yorkshire man builds model railways, set in blue-skied little villages, just like so many other people looking for a productive reprieve from their daily lives. But, Lawton’s work extends beyond its genre and into the realm of speculative fiction thanks to his collaborator, a cat named Mittens that towers like a benevolent god in a showcase of his creation….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Power Rangers Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George explains that people who see the Power Rangers remake will not enjoy Bryan Cranston’s performance as a 65-million-year-old blue guy or that there’s no Power Rangers action until 90 minutes into the movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/20 Down To Starseeds And STEM Again

(1) ROFCON 2020. Eric Flint and Ring of Fire Press will host the inaugural Ring of Fire Con (RoFCon I), a virtual convention, from September 11-13, with panels, guests, and signing opportunities. Attendance is free – register at the link.

Among the guests attending will be: Steven Barnes, David Brin, DJ Butler, Eric Flint, Charles Gannon, Cecelia Holland, Tom Kidd, Mercedes Lackey, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher Ruocchio, Tom Smith, David Weber, and Toni Weisskopf.

Walt Boyes, Editor, Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire Press adds:

Not only do we have a great guest list, but we are also teaching marketing for authors, how to get published, and recruiting new authors. We have dealt with issues of race, sex, gender, and nationality and prejudice around the world. We are looking for authors to write in the 1632 Universe who are non-traditional. We encourage women, LGBTQ+, and Persons of Color to look at writing for us. We publish bimonthly, The Grantville Gazette, which is a SFWA approved venue that pays SFWA professional rates.

(2) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL RECORDING STILL PLAYING. You can hear last Saturday’s Ray Bradbury Read-A-Thon of Fahrenheit 451 anytime through September 5.

Readers from across the United States will join William Shatner (actor), Neil Gaiman (author), Marlon James (author), Marjorie Liu (author), P. Djèlí Clark (author), Dr. Brenda Greene (author), Alley Mills Bean (actress), James Reynolds (actor), Tananarive Due (author), and Steven Barnes (author) to bring this relevant work to social media. Susan Orlean (author) provides an afterword. 

(3) ONLINE BRADBURY EXHIBIT. The South Pasadena Public Library provides a virtual tour of its Bradbury holdings in “Ray Bradbury: Celebrating 100 Years”.

…Bradbury, in his later years, was a frequent visitor to South Pasadena. In fact, Bradbury chose the South Pasadena Public Library as the location of his 90th Birthday Celebration. In 2010 South Pasadena City Council declared August 22nd Ray Bradbury Day….

In 2013 the South Pasadena Public Library named the conference room in honor of the late Ray Bradbury, for his work as lifelong advocate for public libraries. The Ray Bradbury Conference Room currently hosts a collection of Bradbury books and artifacts, including ephemera, photographs, artwork, and first edition prints. On the walls of the Conference Room hang a brick from Ray Bradbury’s home in Los Angeles (now demolished) and a portion of drywall from Bradbury’s home office, where much of his writing was conducted….

(4) 2020 HINDSIGHT. Few fans really expect science fiction writers to predict the future. But what about mainstream authors who can’t even predict the present? Consider this Amazon customer review of Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor.

This novel is set in Virginia during two time periods: the early 1940’s, and the summer of 2020. Chapters alternate between the two time periods. The story was enjoyable, but every time I came to a chapter set in 2020, I asked myself, “when is the author going to say something about Covid-19?” The answer is — never. I found that very disturbing and distracting. The author apparently wrote the book before the pandemic, and made the assumption that summer 2020 would be just like other summers, with large wedding parties, no social distancing, etc. Bad assumption.

(5) WORLDCON PUBLICATION ARCHIVE. Fanac.org is making the move to a different interface for accessing Worldcon Publications. (And it looks very good!)

If you’ve been paying attention to recent newsletters and flashes, Mark Olson has put together a new, easier-to-love format for Worldcon pubs. All the worldcon pubs are searchable PDFs and you’ll also find bidding material, and even ephemera. You can find it all at http://fanac.org/conpubs/Worldcon/.

The format and the link for photos and audio stay the same for now, and over the next few days (or maybe weeks) we will migrate completely to the new approach. For a little while, worldcon pubs may be available the old way as well, but one by one those will be cleared out. If you have any worldcon pubs bookmarked, then please be aware that those bookmarks will not be valid for too much longer. All hail Mark Olson, king of the Worldcon pubs! And most seriously, a heartfelt thanks to Mark from a webmaster who really didn’t want to start coding again. (Aug 22)

(6) EVERMORE ASKS FOR HELP. Yesterday’s Scroll reported Utah’s Evermore Park is in financial straits. The owners have launched a GoFundMe appeal: “Helping Evermore Park Through COVID-19”. It’s raised $13,693 of the $100,000 goal in the first 24 hours.

Evermore Park is small business in Pleasant Grove, Utah that creates an immersive experience that exists purely to allow everyone who enters to discover their own imagination. We aim to tell unique stories that inspire, educate, and allow guests to escape–even just for a little while–to a world that allows you to be the hero. We need your help to keep this project going during COVID-19.

We opened our doors in September of 2018. From the moment the doors were officially opened, we have been creating magic and allowing guests to interact with our characters and park in ways that few other businesses have even come close to attempting…. 

(7) POST-APOCALYPTIC HOLLYWOOD. “A World Like This Deserves Contempt: Adapting Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog in Bright Lights Film Journal is Stephen Harris’ fine-grained and thoroughly disturbing study of the story’s evolution to a film by L.Q. Jones.

…Alternately humorous, disturbing, satiric, violent, tender, vicious, somber, fantastic, and familiar, A Boy and His Dog and its adaptations have become the most referenced and influential landmarks of a sub-genre that has often been disregarded as escapist, clichéd, and one-dimensional. In order to understand how the text became so important, the history of Ellison’s original story and its film adaptation must be traced and explicated. In this article, I will compare and contrast Ellison’s definitive novella, L. Q. Jones’s early screenplay draft, and his final film adaptation and its promotional campaign to show how content is transformed, often radically, once it leaves the hands of its creator, and how certain differences in these texts come to exist. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 26, 1953 War of The Worlds premiered. It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson with narration by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. The Martian war machines were designed by Al Nozaki, and the sizzling sound effect would be used again as the first Trek phaser sound. (You know what novel it was adapted from.) The film was both a critical and box office success with its earnings making it the top SF film of the year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 71% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 26, 1901 – Earle Bergey.  A hundred sixty covers for us, a handful of interiors; much more, thousands all told, adventure, aviation, detective, sports, Western.  He was a prominent – hmm – “pin-up” artist; but look at this cover for Zane Grey’s Spirit of the Border.  This famous cover for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may arouse – ahem – indignation now, but is very funny if you’ve actually read the book, and if I may, suggests – sorry – the question “Who’s exploiting whom?” and the realization that we heterosexual men have more to be ashamed of than we thought.  He could also do this.  (Died 1952) [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1904 Christopher Isherwood. I’ll first note, though not genre, that he wrote Goodbye to Berlin, the semi-autobiographical novel which was the inspiration for Cabaret. Genre wise, he co-wrote Frankenstein: The True Story with Don Bachardy, The Mortmere Stories with Edward Upward, and one short story in the Thirties, “I am Waiting”. (Died 1986.) (CE) 
  • Born August 26, 1904 Peter Lorre. I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s  best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.) (CE)
  • Born August 26, 1911 – Gerald Kersh.  He has been described as “hammering out twenty novels, twenty collections of short stories and thousands of articles”.  Harlan Ellison wrote, “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.”  The Secret Masters is ours, as are a hundred seventy shorter stories.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1926 – Thomas Clareson, Ph.D.  Edited Extrapolation 1960-1987; essayist, correspondent, there and elsewhere, AnalogThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionNY Rev SFRiverside Quarterly.  Bibliographic studies, critical anthologies.  First President of the SF Research Ass’n; its Clareson Award, named for him, began 1995.  Pilgrim Award.  Robert Silverberg’s Many Trapdoors may be the title of the year for 1992.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1949 – Fred Levy Haskell, 71.  Involved at the start, therefore a Floundering Father of Minn-stf (stf from Hugo Gernsback’s word scientifiction, pronounced “stef” or “stiff”, the latter funnier since false) though he later said he was out getting a sandwich at the time.  Fanziner, chaired Corflu 6 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).  Fan Guest of Honor at LepreCon 4, Archon7 (which for years I’ve been saying should be pronounced Arch on, but what do I know?), Minicon 22.  Note his two-part unhyphenated surname.  Recently, see here.  [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 71. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and has received Hugos by herself for Best Professional Editor (Long Form). (CE)
  • Born August 26, 1958 Wanda De Jesus, 62. She’s Estevez in Robocop 2, a film that had its moments but rarely, and she has two other film genre roles, Lexie Moore in Captain Nuke and the Bomber Boys, and Akooshay in Ghosts of Mars. Series wise, she has a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Tales from The DarksideSeaQuest DSVHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and voicing a character on one of the Spider-Man series. (CE) 
  • Born August 26, 1965 – Elizabeth Isaacs, 55.  Four novels for us.  Runs an authors’ group Writers, Etc. going between writers and motion pictures.  Master’s degree magna cum laude (and Phi Beta Kappa) from Austin Peay State U., studied classical opera.  Ranks Great Expectations about the same as The Time Machine, both below Nineteen Eighty-Four; fear not, all three below Blueberries for Sal.  [JH]
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 50. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m much more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Naomi Kritzer’s Hugo Award winning “Cat Pictures Please” premise.  (And we are not talking about The Happytime Murders in which she was involved.) (CE) 
  • Born August 26, 1993 – Nancy Yi Fan, 27.  First novel at age 12, NY Times Best Seller.  Oprah Winfrey said this showed NYF was smart, which misses the point, but Errors in the direction of the enemy are to be lightly judged.  A prequel and sequel followed.  Her pets, suitably, are birds.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MUSIC FOR THE SPHERES. Pitchfork invites readers to “Meet the Man Who Used Kraftwerk, Fela Kuti, and Other Fascinating Music to Try to Lure Aliens to Earth”.

When NASA launched the Voyager spacecrafts to explore the cosmos in 1977, they sent along the Golden Record—and with it, music from around the world—as a snapshot of humanity, should intelligent lifeforms ever find it. But what if the aliens tuned in to the radio instead?

From 1971 to 1998, a man named John Shepherd probed that hypothetical question with astonishing dedication. Aiming for interstellar contact, he beamed everything from reggae to Steve Reich straight from his grandparents’ living room in rural Michigan, broadcasting between six to eight hours every day. He then expanded his operation—called Project STRAT—into a separate building on his grandparents’ property, complete with scientific equipment of his own design. Though Shepherd eventually ended the radio arm of Project STRAT due to the high cost of maintenance, he is now the subject of a touching new short film, John Was Trying to Contact Aliens, which recently arrived on Netflix

(12) CANON CAN NOT. Aidan Moher seeks to obliterate the very idea — “Personal Canons: There Is No Universal Canon”.

I am not the same person I was yesterday, and tomorrow I will be a new me.

Over time, my personal SFF canon has changed and evolved as I’ve grown older, discovered new writers, and pushed myself into corners of the genre that I would never have experienced if not for my involvement in the broad and diverse SFF community. As time flows, we’re changed by our experiences, our values adapt to encompass new thoughts and emotions, and so canon is always evolving to envelop who we are becoming….

Even canon lists generally accepted at the time they’re published become defunct just a few years later, and, as the genre adapts, new works draw on new influences. Just go look at some old lists of “SFF canon” from earlier decades, or even 11 years ago on the web. I haven’t even heard of half those books, let alone read them. If SFF canon looks like a reading list for a History of Science Fiction 101 course, it’s missing the point of how the genre is a conversation with itself and the outside world of politics, sociology, and humanity.

As DongWon Song said, “The idea of the canon is outdated, colonialist, racist, sexist, and anti-queer. It’s easy to say that this is only true because old stuff is colonialist, racist, sexist, and anti-queer, but that’s a bullshit cop out.”

There is no universal SFF canon.

(13) SOUTH ASIAN SFF. “What South Asian sci-fi can tell us about our world” is an unsigned 2019 article attributed to the Asian News Network.

My first encounter with a work of desi science fiction was very much by accident.

During my undergraduate studies at the English department at Karachi University, while idly browsing through a professor’s personal collection on her desk, I came across Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream, a English-language short story set in a feminist utopian world written by a Bengali Muslim woman in 20th century colonial India.

Up until then, my study of literature had been mostly white, mostly male authors, an unsurprising fact when we take into account the (Western) literary canon’s inherent whiteness and maleness, as well as the institutional history of English departments as tools of the colonial project — teaching works of English literature in the British Empire’s overseas colonies was originally part of the overarching goal of “civilising the natives.” In the words of 19th century British politician Thomas Macaulay, “a single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia” (gotta love that British sense of entitlement and arrogance).

… This dismissal of the genres of science fiction and fantasy (SFF) as low-brow, trashy or pulp or, at the very least, unimportant, is not just a desi stance, although it might be a bit more pronounced here. The snobbish attitude towards SFF has historically been prevalent in academic and literary circles (although things seem to be changing in the West now), even as popular culture is filled with beloved works of science fiction and fantasy films and television shows.

But the dismissal of the SFF genre, or the broader umbrella of speculative fiction, has excluded from the South Asian literary discourse a rich tradition of desi works of science fiction and fantasy, as well as the fascinating speculative fiction words being written by contemporary South Asian writers today. This makes conversations about South Asian literature woefully homogenous and, frankly, much more uninteresting than they might otherwise be.

(14) LUCRATIVE FAILURES. Sarah A. Hoyt, who often has bad things to say about traditional publishing, added some more today in “Docking Author’s Tails” at Mad Genius Club.

…But why would publishers want properties that aren’t selling that well? Why not just give the IP back, after they set the book up to fail? Why set the book up to fail at all?

Ah.  Because of the long tail.  In the era of ebooks, which you don’t need to store in warehouses, and which you can have out in unlimited numbers with no additional cost, the more books you have in your catalogue, no matter how little each of them sells, the more money you make.

Say you have 50k books in your catalogue, some of them so old you’re interpreting ebook rights from penumbras and emanations, and each sells two copies a month, and makes you $4 apiece….  You’re getting a very healthy income.

Heck, it’s better than having a mega bestseller.  Because a mega bestseller might get uppity and sue. But if each of those books is making under $5 a month, chances are you don’t even need to send out a statement.

Honestly, ponzi scheme architects go in awe of traditional publishers in the era of ebooks.

And, you know, when I realized that, everything fell into place: why careers keep getting shorter and shorter. Why, even with indie competition, writers are treated worse and worse.  Why some publishers are buying the things they are (well, you know, if you don’t mean each book to make a lot of money, you might as well promote your comrades. Besides, they need publishing credits, so they can get teaching jobs.)

Is my insight necessarily true?  I don’t know. It fits my experience and that of other midlisters. And — if the older authors I heard are right — it explains why bother setting books up to fail.

(15) THIS SCOTTISH DINOSAUR DID NOT HAVE A KILT. “Dinosaur fossil dating back 166 million years found by academic on remote Scottish island”Yahoo! News has the story.

A stegosaurian fossil dating back 166 million years was stumbled upon by an academic as she ran along a remote island beach, proving dinosaurs roamed further in Scotland than first thought.

Scientists say the 19-inch fossil found on the Isle of Eigg is “hugely significant” as it is the first unearthed outside the Isle of Skye, a neighbouring island in the Inner Hebrides.

The object is believed to be the limb bone of a stegosaurian dinosaur, such as a stegosaurus, which are known for their plate-backed appearance and herbivore diet…

(16) WON’T WALK AWAY FROM THIS ONE. “Tenet:  Behind The Scenes” on YouTube is a promotional feature that lets people know that when a 747 crashes into a building in the film, it’s an actual 747.

John David Washington is the new Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi action spectacle “Tenet.”

Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion.

[Thank to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Dan’l Danehy-Oakes, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Walt Boyes, rcade, David Doering, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

RWA Las Vegas Chapter Disbands in Aftermath of Courtney Milan Censure, RWA Appoints Interim Executive Director

[This is the sixth update in a series which includes “Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership”, “Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership”, “As Criticism Snowballs, RWA Keeps Trying to Justify Treatment of Courtney Milan”, “Kathryn Davis Says RWA Encouraged Her To File Ethics Complaint Against Courtney Milan”, and “As More Issues Raised, RWA President Resigns, RITA Awards Postponed, and Many Publishers Withdraw Sponsorship of RWA Conference”.]

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Romance Writers of America, currently operating without a President, says they will determine a process for appointing an interim President to serve until the next election. Meantime, they have identified a replacement for Executive Director Carol Ritter. RWA announced on January 21: “Leslie Scantlebury Appointed Interim Executive Director”.

…As of February 1, Leslie Scantlebury will assume the role of Interim Executive Director of RWA. As announced earlier this month, the Board accepted the resignation of Executive Director Carol Ritter, and she will remain on staff until January 31 to ensure a smooth transition. In the meantime, she has recused herself from all duties pertaining to the audit, and Leslie is serving as RWA staff liaison to the independent law firm conducting the audit.

Leslie has nearly 20 years of association management experience. During her career, she has worked with volunteer leadership at both the national and local levels. Her background includes governance, member retention, education, and volunteer management for large nonprofit membership associations. Leslie also has served on the board of directors of several local organizations, including the Houston Society of Association Executives. Leslie holds an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.

Leslie has been an integral part of the RWA team cumulatively for more than a decade, serving most recently as Chapter and Professional Relations Manager. The Board is grateful to have Leslie’s leadership at this important moment for RWA.  

Leslie will be working with the Board and a DEI consultant to determine a process for appointing an interim President that will allow our members to have input in the decision. We understand the importance of this decision, and we know it’s a priority for our members. 

In August, every Board seat and officer position – including the office of President – will be up for election by the membership. Once the newly elected Board is installed, it will then form a search committee to identify and select a new, permanent Executive Director, in consultation with a DEI consultant….

RWA CHAPTER DISBANDS. The Las Vegas Romance Writers will disband. The chapter president explained why in a public letter to RWA:

It is with a profound sense of regret that, as the President of Las Vegas Romance Writers, I write to inform you that the Las Vegas chapter has voted to disband. The circumstances leading up to the closure of our chapter can be directly attributed to the censure of Courtney Milan and the chaos that ensued.

In the wake of her censure, a member of the chapter board resigned immediately. Other chapter board members expressed their unwillingness to support an organization that was so clearly in violation of its stated purpose and its own bylaws. They indicated that they would be letting their membership in National lapse, leaving the board without the officers necessary, by law, to run the chapter.

As a result of the positions of the individual board members, a meeting was called of the general membership to discuss the circumstances with national and see if there was a way forward for our chapter. We had no volunteers to serve on the board, to replace the members who were letting their national membership lapse. In addition, over half of the members of our chapter have expressed that they will not be continuing their membership with RWA.

Given these circumstances, the board voted to disband the chapter. Subsequently, a majority of the general members also voted to disband.…

CHAPTER PRESIDENTS’ LETTER. Other chapters have not yet given up trying to reform RWA.  Adriana Herrera tweeted the text of a letter from 29 RWA chapter presidents demanding that the organization take a list of specified actions. Thread starts here.

Some of their demands are:

Give serious consideration and respond to Courtney Milan’s settlement offer dated 01/14/2020. Remove Carol Ritter immediately and with cause. Begin the process of hiring an independent firm to conduct a full forensic audit.

Expand the current independent audit to incorporate a review of all ethics cases handled (or not) by RWA since 2017. In addition, we request: A review of how Damon Suede’s eligibility to run for President-elect was determined and qualified.

A review of the Executive Director’s duties and apparent overreaching control of the running of RWA as opposed to the RWA Board of Directors. A review of the retirement of the previous Executive Director and her temporary (and possible continued) reappearance as Controller.

A review of the current Board of Director’s questionable execution of their fiduciary duty. A review of Damon Suede and Carolyn Jewel’s questionable execution of their fiduciary duty in the matter of the complaint against Courtney Milan.

COURTNEY MILAN’S SETTLEMENT PROPOSAL. Courtney Milan, on January 14, tweeted a copy of her letter to the RWA proposing a basis for both sides to dispose of some – but not all – of the potential grounds for litigation between them. For one thing, it sheds light on just how many there are. Thread begins here.

PROGRESS ON RWA INTERNAL AUDIT. Courtney Milan shared more of her communications with the RWA leadership. Thread starts here.

CAN RWA SURVIVE? Courtney Milan lists a few key questions. Thread starts here.

RESOURCES. Shari Heinrich steamed into MLK Day with a list of reading she’s doing, and a list of questions she’ll be posing to future conference organizers about diversity and antiharassment policies, Thread starts here.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE. Sarah at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books tells why it’s hard to answer the question “Where Does RWA Go From Here?” (January 10)

…Setting aside the question of leadership for a moment (and again, the current RWA board should be removed and re-elected in its entirety) it’s important to ask over and over: whom does this organization serve?

Who is the priority?

Because it cannot be both.

If RWA serves the current membership of RWA, well, that membership contains a substantial number of people who:

  • openly embrace and promote racist ideologies
  • post on RWA Facebook pages and in internal message boards about their homophobia and racist views on people of color
  • write transphobic and racist articles for and letters to the Romance Writers Report
  • …and I could keep going but it’s depressing.

A substantial part of the current membership of RWA is a substantial part of the problem with RWA.

If the organization wants to serve any marginalized writers, it can’t also serve that portion of the current membership. It’s impossible. One side has demonstrated in PAN forums, email messages, and social media posts that it refuses to recognize the humanity of the other, and refuses to recognize their culpability in maintaining a White supremacist, classist, heteronormative, racist culture inside RWA. Nor can it commit to changing that culture.

The organization also can’t serve marginalized writers if the leadership has a documented history of not acknowledging ethics complaints from marginalized individuals, and of publishing and allowing screeds against those individuals in print and online. RWA can’t serve anyone if the organization doesn’t fully reveal what happened in the specific case of the ethics complaint and process against Courtney Milan, and what happened to the complaints from every writer who has reported a problem.

RWA can’t maintain its current membership nor its leadership and at the same time say it’s going to rebuild. Rebuilding requires people in leadership positions who are trusted by current and prospective members. And it requires trust in fellow members of the community.

IMPACT ON OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. Alyssa Day has resigned as President of Novelists, Inc: The International Organization of Multi-Published Novelists, which she says suffers the same failures of diversity a RWA. Thread starts here.

SKEPTICAL APPROACH.

In “RWA the Sequel,” YouTuber KirkpattieCake spends an hour challenging the criteria used to assert racism, looks forward to the results of RWA’s independent audit, and also takes a moment to scorn the cancel culture that fell on Vince Vaughn for shaking President Trump’s hand. (January 20)

And Sarah A. Hoyt scoffs at the issues in her blog post “De-Worse It Gets” (January 15.)

So, what was the last writer of color you read?

Hint, the answer is “whatever writer you read last, since I’ve still to find a single transparent writer.” Which is good, since it would be disturbing. And I hope one of the last you read is this chick Sarah A. Hoyt and her novel Deep Pink(which is profoundly weird, yes, but come on you guys, if you didn’t like weird, you wouldn’t hang out around here, would you?)

Anyvay….. I swear there are people who never read a book trying to dictate not just what the rest of us MUST write, but also what the rest of us must read.

I thought the “challenge to read writers of color” was stupid enough when I first heard of it 10 years ago, but it’s only gotten stupider. Now entire writers’ organizations (puts hat to chest and holds a minute of silence for RWA. I’d do it for SFWA but RWA was once far more useful including teaching and mentoring stuff SFWA never had. Besides SFWA is long dead and rotting, so I’m going to edge away from the coffin.) are falling into this insanity.  We’re hearing that BLIND-JUDGED-CONTESTS, where you can’t even guess at the name of the writer (and these days, honestly, it won’t help. I swear my kids, now mid to late twenties are the last properly spelled names in their generation.) are “racist.”…

MAINSTREAM MEDIA COVERAGE. These are some of the articles that have appeared since the previous roundup.

CNN – “A romance novelist accused another writer of racism. The scandal is tearing the billion-dollar industry apart” by AJ Willingham (January 13)

…The RWA also needs to fill several vacant seats and choose a new leader, a Herculean task made even more difficult by the erosion of trust and conflicts of interest the scandal has created. The RWA declined to comment when contacted, but directed CNN to the statement mentioning Suede’s resignation. In the statement, the RWA says the association has hired an external firm to conduct an audit of the events leading to the controversy and has brought on a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant to “assist RWA with diversifying Board and staff recruitment” as well as future programming and events….

Jezebel – “Inside the Spectacular Implosion at the Romance Writers of America” by Kelly Faircloth (January 15)

…RWA, an organization founded almost 40 years ago by a black woman, has frequently been an unfriendly place for marginalized writers, and attempts to change that have been met with pushback that now threatens to destroy the institution itself. Romance novels, at their most fundamental level, are about protagonists being seen clearly and loved—and this is a story about who gets to be seen and valued in the romance genre, and whose pain matters.

As an author of historical romances who served four years on the RWA’s elected board of directors, Milan has been one of the most prominent voices in the struggle to make RWA a more equitable environment. (In fact, she just won a service award.) She’s also known for her vocal Twitter presence, where she doesn’t shy from calling out injustice in very blunt terms, whether it’s around racism in romance or the strange plagiarism saga of #CopyPasteKris. The efforts of Milan and many others had put the RWA on a path to helping create a more inclusive organization, genre, and publishing industry more broadly. As 2019 drew to a close, it looked like years of dedicated effort and activism by many people, particularly by women of color, to build a more inclusive genre and an RWA equipped to fight on behalf of its marginalized members, were bearing fruit.

But that hope is collapsing. After Milan’s censure, board members resigned en masse; two presidents left under a cloud of controversy. Major publishers, including Harlequin, have pulled out of RWA’s annual national conference. Members are furious, and the work it will take to restore their trust in the organization is so enormous it’s potentially insurmountable.

…But since its inception, there has always been a certain amount of tension over RWA’s priorities. Was it a social club? A professional networking group? What constituted “professional,” anyway? (See: the great swan hat controversy of 2007.) Was it for published authors, or unpublished authors? Was it a conduit between writers and publishers? Or was it potentially a body for collective action, including against publishers? Equally important but less tangible was the question of the right way for a woman to act, even in an organization composed largely of women, and just how important it was to be nice and conciliatory, not to raise a big, disruptive fuss—even, or perhaps especially, over issues of racial and queer representation.

…The internet, too, has challenged RWA’s position within the romance ecosystem. RWA conferences are full of panels on various aspects of self-publishing, but nobody needs RWA to put their book on Amazon. They’re not a collective bargaining agent; they can’t, say, negotiate better self-publishing terms with Amazon. But romance authors need a fierce advocate more than ever, because they’re increasingly at the mercy of powerful tech platforms, as major channels for mass-market paperbacks like B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, and Borders have vanished. RWA’s presence at least means there’s somebody authors can call if they need an institutional voice to advocate for them. “If you are the member who calls in, who says, ‘Facebook for some reason shut down my author site, and I had 40,000 followers,’ we have contacts at Facebook and at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble that we can get in touch with at a micro level to help our members immediately,” former president HelenKay Dimon told me.

But in recent years, perhaps the central dispute within the industry has been about inclusion and intersectionality. While there’s always been a feminist thread in romance, the genre has also been dominated by straight white women for much of its history. Despite Stephens’s central role in shaping the modern romance, she was frustrated by bosses’ foot-dragging, even as she acquired diversely. Plantations abounded in historical romance well into the 1990s, as did books featuring appalling depictions of Native Americans with the word “savage” thrown around. Black authors have frequently been relegated to “ethnic” imprints and even shelved elsewhere in bookstores. And often, that “be nice” culture has suppressed attempts to fight any of it.

The article concludes:

…In the midst of the tumult, Bowling Green State University’s Popular Culture Library, which has an impressive collection of archival material related to the history of romance, tweeted out a picture of the first board of RWA. That board included two black women (Vivian Stephens and her sister) as well as a Latina author, Celina Rios Mullan. “The issue in RWA is not, per se, that we didn’t have diversity. Because we have diversity. Our issue was inclusion and access,” C. Chilove told me. That has been the case for a very, very long time. The photo testifies to a long history of missed opportunities to do better, in RWA and in the genre more broadly. For a while, it looked like the organization was finally getting it right, after years of chances that were thrown away. Then they blew it all up.

Kirkus – “Is Romance Writers of America a Sinking Ship?” by Jennifer Prokop (January 15.)

RWA’s handling of these complaints has brought the entire organization to the brink of collapse: Citing a gap between policy and process, the board voted to rescind the penalty against Milan; eight women of color on the board collectively resigned, saying they lacked faith in RWA’s leadership; the 2020 RITA awards were cancelled after hundreds of authors and judges resigned from the contest; and publishers, including giants Harlequin and Avon, announced they would not attend the national conference. Many predict that RWA will have no choice but to cancel the national conference entirely—a staggering financial blow to an already crippled organization.