Pixel Scroll 5/25/22 Never Gonna File You Up, Never Gonna Scroll You Down

(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.

As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.

(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.

….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…

(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.

There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?

I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine…. 

(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:

… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…

(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.

Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….

… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….

… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit. 

“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….

(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.  

…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.

Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….

(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.

…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….

(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.

An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. 

This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.

Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.

It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, AliensAlien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.

So what the critics think?

Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”

And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second  feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid  form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film.  The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”

It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1913 Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats
  • Born May 25, 1944 Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. 
  • Born May 25, 1950 Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.  She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.  

(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.

To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.

Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]

Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.

(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.

… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?… 

The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”

(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.

Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…

(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.

Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride.  As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.

Also trailer here.

(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.

Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.

The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.

Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.

… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.

“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.

Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.

Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….

(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.

All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.

Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.

I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.

Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….

(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.

…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in  films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago. 

Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.

The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and  utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.

“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/22 When A Pixel’s Not Engaged In Its Enscrollment

(1) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. Brandon Sanderson shares a lot of information about his successful Kickstarter and his progress on other projects in “Some FAQs You Might Enjoy”. Also includes a long analysis of Amazon’s effect on his business.

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

I got this question from the journalist from the Associated Press who interviewed me.  He gave an excellent interview, and we had a really great conversation.  But this question stopped me for a moment.  It’s a valid question, but it took me by surprise, as I haven’t been looking at this the way that some people seem to be.  I didn’t hit the lottery, any more than any other business hits the lottery when they have a product that connects with their market.

I will spend the money as I spend the rest of my money.  Part into savings, part into paying salaries (along with nice extra bonuses because the Kickstarter did well), part reinvested into the company.  (We’re still planning on building a physical bookstore, and this will help accelerate those plans.  Also, it’s not outside of reason that as I move into doing more film and TV, I will want to partially fund some of the projects.)

While this Kickstarter is an incredible event, and (don’t get me wrong) is going to earn me a good chunk of money, it’s going to be comparable to other projects I’ve done.  Also, don’t underestimate how much money it costs to maintain the infrastructure (like a warehouse–or in this case, probably more than one) it takes to be able to ship several hundred thousand books.  It will likely be years before we can be certain how much this actually earned us after all expenses.  More than we’d get from New York on the same books, but potentially not that much more.

That said, I will almost certainly buy myself some nice Magic cards.  Still have a few unlimited duals in my cube that could use an upgrade to black border.

Did You Anticipate This Level of Success for the Kickstarter?

I did not.  I knew the potential was there, but I didn’t think it (getting to this astronomical number of backers) would happen.

My guess was that we’d land somewhere in the 2–4 million range, though I really had no idea.  My team can attest to the fact that in the lead-up, I was very conservative in my estimates and expectations.  This was an experiment from us that I’d been wanting to try for a while.  (I’ll talk more about that below.)  I didn’t have any idea how well it would go.

…How many of those potential 250k–800k people who normally buy a Sanderson book in the first year could be convinced instead to move and preorder it through Kickstarter?  Our guesses, it turned out, were way low.  But at the same time, it is interesting that (not disregarding our huge success, which I’m not at all complaining about) even this huge Kickstarter breaking all records is only grabbing a fraction of my normal audience.  So maybe you can see why we knew we had potential, but were conservative in our estimates. … 

There is also much inside baseball about what indie authors have to face:

…These days, according to some of my indie author friends, you have to spend a great deal to sell on Amazon.  Not everyone’s experience is the same, but I hear this time and time again.  To make it as an indie author, you need to shell out for expensive advertising on the very website selling your books.  I have indie author friends who are spending a good portion of their income on these advertisements–and if they don’t, their sales vanish.  Amazon has effectively created a tax where indie authors pay back a chunk of that glorious 70% royalty to Amazon.  (And this is for the authors lucky enough to be allowed to buy those advertising spots, and therefore have the chance at selling.)….

…Regardless, this has been bothering me for over a decade.  I feel that the current system has a gun to my head.  Heck, all that has to happen is for someone at Amazon read this blog post or see my Kickstarter and decide they just want to make an example out of me.  Poof.  85% of my sales gone.  And while some people might go to another vendor to get my books, the painful truth is that many would not.  Time and time again, studies of contemporary tech media consumption have shown that the person who controls the platform is the one who controls the market. …

(2) MAIL CALL. In “An Open Letter to the 2022 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be”, Cora Buhlert once again shares her experience and advice.

… Right now, no one except for possibly the Hugo administrators knows who those finalists will be. However, sometime in the next two weeks or so, some of you will receive an e-mail from Chicon 8, informing you that you are a finalist for the 2022 Hugo Award and asking you whether you want to accept the nomination. Some of you will have received such e-mails before, for others it will be the first time.

But whether it’s your first or your twentieth nomination, congratulations! That’s awesome.

As a first time recipient of such an e-mail in 2020, here are a few things I’ve learned…

(3) UNIVERSE WILL KEEP EXPANDING. Sharon Lee’s biggest news in “Liaden Universe® Updates” is that she and Steve Miller have accepted an additional three book contract with Baen for Liaden novels.

…The contract’s call-name is Traveler’s Trio, and we have no idea where those novels will take us, yet, but we do have delivery dates.  Those are:

Traveler’s Trio ONE:  September 2024
Traveler’s Trio TWO:  September 2025
Traveler’s Trio THREE:  September 2026

Note A:  In September 2026, I will be 74 years old.  Steve will have celebrated his 76th birthday three months prior.  This by way of reassuring those folks who have been worrying about our retirement that, err — writers don’t retire.  At least, writers at our level of the game don’t retire.

Here ends the Updatery.

(4) GUNN CENTER EVENTS. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF has posted the selections and dates for the next several meetings of their virtual book club, and another event. Zoom info and further details at the links. 

Discussion of Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionist. This choice anticipates Whitehead’s visit to Lawrence for the Paper Plains Literary Festival in early April! https://www.paperplains.org

Discussion of Angelline Boulley’s young adult thriller, Firekeeper’s Daughter. More aligned with conversations about Indigenous belief systems and spirituality than conventional science fiction; also in anticipation of the Paper Plains festival. Co-sponsored with Haskell Indian Nations University, KU’s First Nations Student Association, and others. Teens welcome!

Discussion of Franny Choi’s Soft Science. In celebration of National Poetry Month!

  • Friday, MAY 20th* @ noon (CT) – [no link yet] Discussion of Sarah Pinsker’s Two Truths and a Lie

Winner of the 2021 Nebula Award & 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. (*) Please note that this is not the last Friday of the month, which falls on Memorial Day Weekend.

(5) ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT YOU? The Silmarillion Writers’ Guild seeks the meaning of it all in “A Sudden Outcry: The Tolkien Estate and Fanworks”.

…When the Tolkien Estate recently presented their newly revamped website, it did not take fans long to see past the new artwork and other features to find that the Tolkien Estate has a policy on fanworks. The past several days have seen a whirl of discussion about what it all means that can be distilled down to a single burning question:

Did the Tolkien Estate just ban fanworks?

In short, no, the Tolkien Estate did not just ban fanworks. The fanworks you have posted, are in the middle of creating, or are even thinking about creating are not affected by what the Estate says on their website.

The longer answer depends on if you’re interested in the just or the ban part of that question (or maybe both!). While the following is not legal advice, we hope it will lessen the worry that the existence of fanworks is in jeopardy.  As always, bear in mind that laws vary from country to country. If you have specific concerns, the Organization for Transformative Works’ legal committee, while unable to give legal advice, can answer questions you might have.

The article contains an extensive history of the Estate’s policies towards fanworks. The writers come to this paradoxical conclusion:

…The Tolkien Estate is anti-fanwork and always has been. For all that the “other minds and hands” quote gets tossed about by fans eager to believe that Tolkien would have condoned their activities, Tolkien himself was anti-fanwork when it came to his books,2 unless it was something that he liked. This has neither changed nor prevented Tolkien fanworks from being made in the almost seven decades since The Lord of the Rings was published…

(6) OMELAS. The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog tweeted a crusher yesterday. There are nine tweets in the thread, which starts here.

(7) THE SAND OF MUSIC. Hans Zimmer tells Vanity Fair about the score for Dune in a video that dropped today: “How ‘Dune’ Composer Hans Zimmer Created the Oscar-Nominated Score”.

“Something I wanted to always do. Invent instruments that don’t exist. Invent sounds that don’t exist.” Hans Zimmer, ‘Dune’ composer, gives his in-depth analysis and insider’s look at how the score was created for Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film.

(8) MORE FROM DISCON III. Morgan Hazelwood posted her notes from the DisCon III panel “Ask An Editor: Longform Writing” with participants George Jreije, Katherine Crighton, Navah Wolfe, and Trevor Quachri, plus Joshua Bilmes as moderator. (The material is also presented in a YouTube video.)

The description for this panel was as follows:

What makes a good novel? How do you know it’s ready? Where should you send it and how should you respond to comments? This is your chance to ask burning questions to a panel of respected agents and editors.

(9) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share deep-fried wontons with Library of Congress curator Sara Duke in episode 167 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sara Duke

Library of Congress curator Sara Duke and I were supposed to have lunch two years ago, way back in March of 2020, but then … something happened. I suspect you can guess what that something was. We finally managed to break bread — or rather, share Pad See Ew — last week at D.C.’s Young Chow Chinese restaurant.

Sara Duke has been at the Library of Congress for more than 30 years, the past 23 as the curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in the Prints and Photographs Division. She’s in charge of cartoons, documentary drawings, and ephemera. Starting with Blondie Gets Married in 2000, she’s been responsible for curating many exhibits relating to popular culture, including Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages, and most recently, Geppi’s Gems.

We discussed the first piece of artwork she longed to get her hands on after a 13-month pandemic absence, our joint loathing of slabbed comics, the misconceptions many people have about the Library of Congress, the things most people no longer remember about Blondie, her comic book exhibit cancelled by COVID, the serendipitous way a PhD in 17th century Irish history led to her becoming a curator, her early (and continuing) love of MAD magazine, and much more.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge] On this evening forty-one years ago, the show that Warner Bros. sued for copyright infringement in Warner Bros. Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. premiered on ABC. The Greatest American Hero starred William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley in a suit that allowed him to fly and which looked sort of like that Super-Hero. The Court ruled, “as a matter of law, The Greatest American Hero’ is not sufficiently similar to the fictional character Superman.” 

It was created by producer Stephen J. Cannell and was his only genre undertaking.

The rest of the regular cast consisted of just Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson. ABC wasn’t going to deal with a bloated salary line here.  Culp of course had been Kelly Robinson on I Spy, but more importantly was in The Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand”, written by Harlan Ellison. Sellecca played Pamela Edwards in a recurring role in the Beyond Westworld series.

It would last three seasons and have a proper conclusion in which the story was wrapped up. That conclusion lead to the pilot for another series which was not picked up by another network. A reboot with a female lead was in the works at ABC several years back but not even a pilot was shot.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliche Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible, which if you not seen it you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 72. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap sac Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 63. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and comments leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less.
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. Another way too young death on Babylon 5 as he appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney.  (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 61. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group reads and comments on prior-to-Eighties SF and fantasy.

(12) SENDING UP DISNEY. “This Young Artist Successfully Wows Disney Fans With Hilarious Disney Fanarts” at Aubtu.

Disney fans tend to redraw Disney characters with their unique ideas, but Jorge D. Espinosa has taken it to another level. As a talented artist, Jorge has recreated several famous Disney characters with different settings. They can be about Aurora’s hangover or Jasmine as a dancer enjoying Beyonce’s song. There is no doubt that these unique and funny drawings can make even The Beast laugh….

(13) IDIOMATIC ACCESSION. I need one of these. Don’t I? Archie McPhee’s “Murder of Crows”.

(14) SQUEEZING OUT THE WATER. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Wonderfully Concise SFF Books”.

Olden-time SF authors, limited as they were to pen and paper, typewriters, and other now archaic methods of production, and trying to sell to markets uninterested in purchasing lengthy works, often delivered works that seem startlingly concise and to the point by modern standards. There’s nothing like not having a choice to urge people to make the right choices.

However, even in this age of word processing software and publisher enthusiasm for meandering series of enormous story-fragments, there are authors who deliver short, effective books that contain within them all of the necessary narrative elements. They even include that most elusive ingredient—an actual ending. Consider these five comparatively recent examples of books that are wonderfully short and to the point….

(15) THAT OTHER JAMES. ScienceAlert says “Webb Just Sent Back Its First-Ever Sharp Image of a Star, And It’s Breathtaking”.

…To demonstrate its capabilities, Webb focused on a single star, named 2MASS J17554042+6551277, more commonly known as TYC 4212-1079-1.

This bright object, around 2,000 light-years away, is just over 16 times intrinsically brighter than the Sun – a nice, clear target for Webb. A red filter was used to optimize visual contrast; and, although the telescope was just looking at the star, its instruments are so sensitive that background stars and galaxies can also be seen.

“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA Goddard….

(16) PARADOX RESOLVED. “Scientists claim hairy black holes explain Hawking paradox” reports BBC News. I have nothing to say about that headline at all.

Scientists say they have solved one of the biggest paradoxes in science first identified by Prof Stephen Hawking.

He highlighted that black holes behave in a way that puts two fundamental theories at odds with each other.

Black holes are dead stars that have collapsed and have such strong gravity that not even light can escape.

New research claims to have resolved the paradox by showing that black holes have a property which they call “quantum hair”….

(17) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS. “’Muppets Mayhem’ Series a Go at Disney+”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Disney+ is taking another swing at a Muppets TV series.

The streamer, following a lengthy development process, has handed out a series order to comedy The Muppets Mayhem, with Lilly Singh set to star.

The comedy will follow the Electric Mayhem Band as it records its first-ever album. Singh will star as the human lead, Nora, the junior A&R executive who is tasked with managing and wrangling the band that originally debuted in the pilot for The Muppet Show in 1975. (Watch the band’s debut below.) Sources say the 10-episode comedy will begin filming in April.

The series — which will feature Dr. Teeth, Animal, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot and Lips — is described as a music-filled journey in which the 45-year-old band comes face to face with the current-day music scene as they attempt to go platinum….

(18) ALIEN SCHOOL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, how to be a Thermian in six “easy“ lessons. 

Digg.com has, um, dug up a short docu-feature on how the Thermans came to be so wonderfully quirky in Galaxy Quest. It’s a Class A lesson in the collaborative nature of filmmaking – where the screenwriter, director, actors, and everyone else contribute to what is eventually seen on the screen.

The singsongy, pitchy, sound of the aliens was originated by character actor Enrico Colantoni, who absolutely nailed his audition for the Thermian leader when he broke out that voice. Then they had to develop the walk, their native speech when the translator box breaks, and mannerisms for all sorts of situations. And the whole alien ensemble had to nail all of it. 

Just watch the video. You’ll love it. 

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

Uncanny Magazine 2021 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll Results

The Uncanny Magazine 2021 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll results were announced February 14.

Tied for the top story are:

The rest of the Top Five are:

2. (Tie)

3. “Proof by Induction” by José Pablo Iriarte

4. “Colors of the Immortal Palette” by Caroline M. Yoachim

5. “Mulberry and Owl” by Aliette de Bodard

Pixel Scroll 1/9/22 Chapter Scroll Dune

(1) SFF A “FORM OF SUBVERSIVE ACTIVISM”. Eugen Bacon’s thoughtful review appears in the latest issue of Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research, Volume 8, Issue 2 (Feb 2022): “Trends in Black Speculative Fiction”.

… More than two decades after the publication of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Thomas), black speculative fiction continues to rise as a powerful conversation in genre fiction, and increasingly tackles precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial themes pertaining to identity and culture, as well as feminist and queer themes pertaining to engaging with difference. Anthologies have become instrumental in the proliferating Afrofuturistic writing that heroes black people in stories from Africa and the diaspora, stories whose visibility is increasingly evident in award nominations and recommendations – for example 2021 Hugo nominee Ekpeki Donald Oghenechovwe, whose novella Ife-Iyoku won the 2020 Otherwise Award.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color (Shawl) – in its showcasing of interracial and cross-cultural stories – may have stunned its publisher, editor, contributors, and readers by winning the 2020 Locus, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Ignyte, and Brave New Words Awards. Casting a diverse range of new and established writers, including (among others) Tobias S. Bucklell, Minsoo Kang, Kathleen Alcalá, Alberto Yáñez, and Chinelo Onwual, and featuring a foreword by LeVar Burton, New Suns explored intergalactic stories, dream stories, song stories, coming-home stories, futuristic stories, and even self-aware stories that encapsulate person-of-colour chants full of longing and conviction of belonging and place. With the success of New Suns, it’s no wonder that Solaris announced its acquisition of New Suns 2 for release in 2023 (“Solaris to Publish New Suns 2”)….

… It is clear from just these select exemplars that publishers, authors, and readers alike have a steeping interest in black people’s stories. Thanks to the internet, audio books, and ebooks, the world is in the heart of an ongoing digital revolution that continues to stagger traditional publishing and make best sellers as well as anthologies and collections from smaller presses cheaper and accessible to ravenous readers. As e-publishers and self-publishers create opportunities for writers and readers alike, and more awards recognise calibre and uniqueness, rather than the author’s or publisher’s muscle, black speculative fiction will continue to rise in global distribution, and be increasingly accessible. A reader has only to look for it in anthologies, collections, even award nominations….

(2) CRITTERS ANNUAL READERS POLL. The Critters Workshop, “for serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” is hosting its Annual Readers Poll, which honors print and electronic publications published during the past year. (Click here for the official rules.) There are 41 categories. Voting is open through January 14. View the Current standings at the link.

Novels pages: Horror Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Steampunk | Magical Realism | Positive Future | Erotica Mystery Thriller Children’s | Young Adult | All other |
Short Stories pages: Horror | Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Steampunk | Magical Realism | Positive Future | All other | Anthologies page Poems page Nonfiction articles page Nonfiction books page |
Other Categories: Artwork page Book/e-book Cover Artwork page Magazine/e-zine Cover Artwork page Authors page Poets page Artists page Book/e-book Editors page Magazine/e-zine Editors page Book Publishers page Review site | Bookstore | Promotional Firms, Sites, and Resources page Fiction ‘zines page Poetry ‘zines page Nonfiction ‘zines page Writers’ Discussion Forum page Writers’ Workshop page Writers’ Resource/Information/News Source page |

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Tochi Onyebuchi and Sarah Pinsker in a virtual event on Wednesday, January 19 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The readings will be live on YouTube, link to come.

  • Tochi Onyebuchi

Tochi Onyebuchi is a novelist and essayist, who won the World Fantasy Award, the Ignyte Award, and the New England Book Award for Fiction for his novella Riot Baby, a Nebula, Locus, and Hugo Award finalist. His works include the Beasts Made of Night and War Girls series, and the non-fiction book (S)kinfolk. His most recent novel is Goliath from Tordotcom Publishing. He lives in Connecticut.

  • Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker is a writer of novels and short stories and everything in between. She has won three Nebulas, including best novel for A Song For A New Day in 2020 and best novelette for “Two Truths And A Lie,” in 2021. Her most recent novel is We Are Satellites. She’s also a musician with four albums to her name, including 2021’s Something to Hold. She lives in Baltimore with her wife and two terriers.

(4) WINDY CITY. Doug Ellis notes the 21st Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention is just four months away.  The event will be held May 6-8 at the usual venue, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Lombard, Illinois.  

We’ve sold out all 180 of our dealer tables, to dealers spanning the U.S., from Canada and the U.K.  We’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of pulp and comic publisher Fiction House.

At this point, we don’t know what COVID requirements may be in place when the show takes place.  Currently, masking would be required, but protocols may change during the next four months.  We’ll update those as we learn them.

As has been the case in years past, this year’s convention will feature some incredible material in our estate auctions. Friday night (May 6), our auction will focus on material from the estate of legendary collector Robert Weinberg (including many more issues of Weird Tales and a complete run of Planet Stories), while on Saturday night, (May 7) material from the estate of Glenn Lord, literary agent for the estate of Robert E. Howard, takes center stage.  In addition, we also will have a number of interesting items from other consignors.

The deadline to book your hotel room and receive the convention rate is 5:00 central on April 12, 2022.  The link for con hotel reservations is here.

We hope to see you there!

(5) SECOND FÜNF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Elliot Ackerman reviews The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut And The Many Lives Of Slaughterhouse-Five by Tom Roston. Roston argues that Vonnegut may have had undiagnosed PTSD from his experiences in World War II (including being a prisoner of war) and that Slaughterhouse-Five is an expression of his PTSD.  Ackerman finds Roston’s diagnosis unpersuasive and thinks Vonnegut’s own descriptions of how war affected him are a better guide than Roston’s posthumous diagnosis. “Book review of The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five by Tom Roston”.

… This defiance of categorization is probably why I found myself bristling early on when Roston asserts that his book will seek to answer “whether or not ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ can be used as evidence of its author’s undiagnosed PTSD.” This investigation, which animates much of Roston’s book, seems misguided. Roston himself acknowledges the reductivism he’s engaged in when he writes, “I imagine reducing his book to a clinical diagnosis or, perhaps worse, putting it in the self-help category, would make Vonnegut shudder.” Indeed, I think it would. Nevertheless, Roston soldiers on, casting himself as part literary scholar and part psychoanalytic sleuth. He deconstructs “Slaughterhouse-Five” and the history around the book in search of incontrovertible proof that Vonnegut had what we would today call post-traumatic stress disorder, even though Roston acknowledges Vonnegut’s consistent denials throughout his life that his wartime experiences left him traumatized….

(6) STAR TREK’S BRIDGE. SFGate’s Victoria Sepulveda explains “Why ‘Star Trek’ made San Francisco the center of the universe”.

…On top of that, San Francisco is a beautiful city with a major recognizable landmark, great for letting TV viewers know when an episode takes us from the far-flung reaches of the cosmos back to Earth. 

But there are other naval cities and major Earth landmarks that could suit this purpose. What really made San Francisco special, Bernardi says, was its progressivism and diversity. Roddenberry was a liberal humanist, and San Francisco, out of all American cities in the 1960s, best captured the issues Roddenberry wanted to delve into in the show. It was a hub for the civil rights and anti-war movements, says Bernardi, who has studied Roddenberry’s papers, which are collected at UCLA….

(7) DEL TORO INTERVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Guillermo Del Toro — Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro is promoting Nightmare Alley (an excellent film I regard as horror-adjacent), but fantasy is never far from Del Toro’s mind; two minutes into the podcast there’s a discussion about whether Berni Wrightson or Richard Corben did better scary clown illustrations.  Del Toro also says Forrest J Ackerman was his “godfather” because Famous Monsters of Filmland was a source of inspiration and education when he was a kid.  Also credited is the great makeup artist Dick Smith, who was very generous with his time and met Del Toro at the train station when he took the train from Guadalajara to meet with the makeup master.  Del Toro tries to follow Smith’s example and give education and encouragement to young people getting started in the movie industry.  Finally, he thinks that Doug Jones, who has a small role in Nightmare Alley and a major one in The Shape Of Water, is a protean talent who is our generation’s Lon Chaney.

Del Toro’s next project is an animated Pinocchio, developed as a collaboration with The Jim Henson Company.

Del Toro shares a lot of wisdom about movie production and life, in what I think is one of the Maltins’ better episodes.

(8) DWAYNE HICKMAN (1934-2022). Actor Dwayne Hickman, best known as TV’s Dobie Gillis, and for appearing in the Western comedy Cat Ballou, died January 9 reports the New York Times: “Dwayne Hickman, T.V.’s Lovelorn Dobie Gillis, Is Dead at 87”. He had a couple of genre roles – if Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) counts, or else there’s his appearance on an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1975).

(9) BOB SAGET (1956-2022). Actor Bob Saget, best known for his comedy sitcom work, died January 9. He worked on episodes of The Greatest American Hero (1983), Quantum Leap (1992), and Robot Chicken (2016), and voiced roles in the animated movies Madagascar (2005), and Casper’s Scare School (2006).

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1980 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-two years ago, New York City public television station WNET’s Experimental TV Lab project premiered their adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven. Based off the Ursula Le Guin novel of the same name, it was directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. It should be noted Le Guin, by her own writings later, was involved in the casting, script planning, script editing, and filming of the production. Thus, we’ll give scripting credits to Diane English, Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Swaybill. Primary cast was Bruce Davison, Kevin Conway (earlier in Slaughterhouse-Five as Roland Weary) and Margaret Avery. It was budgeted at a quarter of a million dollars.

The Lathe of Heaven became one of the two highest-rated shows that season on PBS that year. Michael Moore writing for Ares magazine liked it saying that “The best science fiction, such as Lathe, examines humankind’s place in the universe and the products and problems created by intelligence.” It was nominated for a Hugo at Denvention Two which had Ed Bryant as Toastmaster, the year The Empire Strikes Back won. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a seventy-two percent rating. 

The Lathe of Heaven is the most-requested program in PBS history. It took twelve years to clear up rights to rebroadcast it and that involved replacing the Beatles music with a cover band version. In 2000, The Lathe of Heaven was finally rebroadcast and released to video and DVD. 

I’ve seen this version several times and remember as being rather well crafted but I’ve not the second version made twenty-two years later. Who here has seen that version? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890 Karel Capek. [Spelled with Latin “c” because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.] Author of the his 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born January 9, 1908 Simone de Beauvoir. You know who she is but likely don’t know she wrote All Men Are Mortal (Les Hommes Sont Mortels in its original French)in 1946 which tells the story of Raimon Fosca, a man cursed to live forever. It’d be published in English in the States a decade later, and was adapted into a 1995 film of the same name. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York but he was best known for acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Genre wise, he was also Col. Stone in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Dr. Tom Anderson in Corman’s It Conquered the World. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 9, 1932 Algis Budrys. I am trying to remember what I read by him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and really enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for GalaxyMagazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and wrote genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. I should note his Tomorrow Speculative Fiction prozine was quite excellent. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 72. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in the oh-so-perfect Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in the aforementioned Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here. 
  • Born January 9, 1955 J.K Simmons, 67. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League.
  • Born January 9, 1956 Imelda Staunton, 66. Voice of the Snow Queen in The Snow Queen’s Revenge, A Nurse in Shakespeare in Love, Polly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dolores Jane Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well and Knotgrass in Maleficent and the sequel. 
  • Born January 9, 1957 Greg Ketter, 65. A Minneapolis SF Bookstore owner, DreamHaven to be precise, and con-running fan as well. He is a member of MN-Stf. He’s been involved in myriad regionals and Worldcons. He‘s chaired Minicons and World Fantasy Conventions alike.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SEÑORITA RIO CREATOR. The work of Lily Renée was part of the “Three with a Pen” exhibit at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York that ended in September. Although the exhibit is over, much material remains online, including a trailer.

Lily Renée

The only child of a well-to-do family, Lily Renée Willheim discovered drawing early, creating opulent fantasy worlds with mythical creatures. As a result of the so-called “Anschluss”, her father lost his job, her school friends were no longer allowed to play with her, and, like many, the family endured a variety of hardships. In 1939, at age seventeen, her parents put her on a children’s transport bound for England where she briefly stayed with a British family.

She reunited with her parents in New York City in 1940, where she lives today. After studying at the Art Students League and School of the Visual Arts, she was hired by comic book publishers. An exception in the male-dominated field, she created illustrations for several comic books including Señorita Rio, a glamorous Brazilian secret agent fighting the Nazis, the comedy duo Abbott and Costello, and others. Her later works include children’s books, decorative motifs, and textile designs. In 2007, Lily Renée attended Comic-Con in San Diego to receive their Inkpot Award and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Friends of Lulu, an organization promoting women in comics. She celebrates her 100th birthday this year.

Read more about her in The Forward: “This female comic book artist was unknown for decades”.

Like the comic superheroes they invented, the Jewish creators of the characters often had secret identities – at least different names. Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerome Siegel used the pseudonyms Joe Carter and Jerry Ess. Bob Kane, born Robert Kahn, created Batman. Jack Kirby, the pen name of Jacob Kurtzenberg, concocted Captain America.

Although lesser known, the comic book heroine Señorita Rio was Hollywood starlet Rita Farrar by day and Nazi-fighting secret agent by night. The artist who drew Rio’s action-packed panels in the 1940s, and signed as L. Renee, lived a sort of double life, too.

“Everybody assumed I was a man,” artist Lily Renee Phillips has said of the fan mail she received at the time, which was always addressed to “Mr. Renee.” Fans knew neither Renee’s gender nor her incredible origin story, which rivaled the plotline of Señorita Rio….

(14) DISNEY’S INSPIRATION. In the Washington Post, Philip Kennicott reviews “Inspiring Walt Disney:  The Animation of French Decorative Arts,” an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Walt Disney’s fascination with France explored in Metropolitan Museum’s ‘Inspiring Walt Disney’”

I have watched more Disney princess films in the past few weeks than in the entirety of my first five decades on the planet. As a citizen of American popular culture, I enjoy their grace and charm. But as a citizen of this thing called the American republic, with its roots in revolution and its rhetoric of equality, I find them often surreal. Isn’t it odd — and perhaps even wrong, in some deeper ethical sense — that Americans are addicted to these gilded fantasies of privilege?A fascinating exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art explores something that is hiding in plain sight if you watch Disney cartoons closely: the curious affinity for all things French, especially the trappings of French aristocracy.

The curators of “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts” are upfront about one basic fact: Walt Disney made his movies for a very different audience than that for which the artisans of the French rococo produced their dazzling luxury objects….

(15) EFFECTS OF CHINA CENSORSHIP ON INTERNET AND TECH. According to the New York Times, “As Beijing Takes Control, Chinese Tech Companies Lose Jobs and Hope”.

…Beijing wants its cyberspace to become a tool of governance and national rejuvenation. And it will penalize anyone who fails to serve the goal.

In mid-December, the country’s internet regulator said it had ordered platforms to shut down more than 20,000 accounts of top influencers in 2021, including people who spoke ill of the country’s martyrs, entertainers involved in scandals and major livestreaming stars.

Alibaba was slapped with a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine in September. That was followed by a $530 million fine of Meituan, the food-delivery giant, a month later.

Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was fined 44 times between January and November. Douban, the popular film- and book-reviewing site, was fined 20 times.

Li Chengdong, an e-commerce consultant who invests in start-ups, said some consumer internet companies he owned were struggling with higher compliance costs. “To stay on the safe side, they have to be stricter in compliance than what the government requires,” he said….

(16) ONLY HOW MANY SHOPPING DAYS LEFT? Sold by The Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, these Christmas Cards that look like book covers. Click through the slideshow to see all four examples.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Doug Ellis, Chris Barkley, John A Arkansawyer, Mlex, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

2021 Hugo Awards

2021 Hugo base with and without rocket. Photo by William Lawhorn.

The 2021 Hugo Awards were presented in a ceremony held today at DisCon III.

The Hugo voting statistics are here.

BEST NOVEL
 
Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com)

BEST NOVELLA
 
The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tor.com)

BEST NOVELETTE
 
Two Truths and a Lie, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com)

BEST SHORT STORY
 
“Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)

BEST SERIES
 
The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tor.com)

BEST RELATED WORK
 
Beowulf: A New Translation, Maria Dahvana Headley (FSG)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY OR COMIC
 
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM
 
The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix / Skydance Media)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM
 
The Good Place: Whenever You’re Ready, written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group)

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM

Ellen Datlow

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM

Diana M. Pho

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

Rovina Cai

BEST SEMIPROZINE
 
FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, publisher Troy L. Wiggins, executive editor DaVaun Sanders, managing editor Eboni Dunbar, poetry editor Brandon O’Brien, reviews and social media Brent Lambert, art director L. D. Lewis, and the FIYAH Team.

BEST FANZINE
 
nerds of a feather, flock together, ed. Adri Joy, Joe Sherry, The G, and Vance Kotrla

BEST FANCAST
 
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan, producer

BEST FAN WRITER

Elsa Sjunneson

BEST FAN ARTIST

Sara Felix

BEST VIDEO GAME

Hades (Publisher and Developer: Supergiant Games)

LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK (not a Hugo)
 
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)

ASTOUNDING AWARD FOR THE BEST NEW WRITER, SPONSORED BY DELL MAGAZINES (not a Hugo)

Emily Tesh (2nd year of eligibility)

Pixel Scroll 8/13/21 The Green Hornet + MurderBot = Green Murder Hornet Bots

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour donuts with Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara — who all recently had their second novels published — in episode 151 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara

What are the joys and challenges of writing and publishing a second book? Writers can take their entire lives to get their first novels published, after which creating another novel in a year — or sometimes less — can be major pressure. After giving everything they had to the first novel — how does a writer decide what’s worth writing next? Do they fear they won’t live up to the promise of their debut, and might disappoint readers? I had a wonderful time listening to this trio of second novelists opening up about their experiences, and I hope you will too.

We chatted while nibbling on takeout from Baltimore’s Zaatar Mediterranean Cuisine, and about two-thirds of the way through, switched up to doughnuts from my favorite such spot in Baltimore — Diablo Doughnuts.

We discussed why “second books are weird,” what (if anything) they learned writing their debuts which made book two easier, why pantsing is a thing of the past, whether book two had them concerned about creating a brand, how writing acknowledgements for second novels can be strange, the way deadlines made taking time off between books impossible, the dangers of being abandoned by debut culture, the fear of fewer pre-publication eyeballs on book two, how the pandemic will affect the creation of future novels, and much more.

(2) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? You know how cranky some fans get when series remain unfinished for years. James Davis Nicoll promises he can deliver “Five Fully Completed SFF Series” to readers at Tor.com.

I stand second to none in my habit of relentless optimism. Still, I am beginning to suspect that Mr. Dickens is never going to deliver a definitive ending to his otherwise promising The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Admittedly, when one purchases a book all one can legitimately expect is the book in hand. Anticipation of further instalments, no matter how heartfelt, does not constitute a legal contract that binds the author to deliver further instalments.

That said, there are some series whose authors have managed to publish—and finish!—entire series. Here are five recent examples that I would recommend….

(3) HORROR VERSE. Stephanie M. Wytovich, editor of HWA Poetry Showcase, Vol. 8, has announced the volume’s table of contents.

…This year is particularly special for me as it will be my last year editing the showcase. After four wonderful, poetry-filled years, I am thankful to the HWA for trusting me with this project, to John Palisano for supporting and encouraging me, and to David E. Cowen for initially recommending me for this position. It has been a journey and a delight, and I’ve learned so much about the market, the genre, and our fantastic community along the way. Thank you for the scares, the nightmares, and the verses, folks. I hope to return the favor someday (insert evil laugh here).

(4) CENSORSHIP IS A PLAGUE TOO. Publishers Weekly stats show “Censorship on the Rise Worldwide”.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, there’s been a rise in instances of government censorship of books around the world. In October 2020, the International Publishers Association released a 106-page report, “Freedom to Publish: Challenges, Violations and Countries of Concern,” that outlined 847 instances of censorship in a host of countries, including France, Iran, Serbia, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. According to the report, in 55% of those instances, the censorship was undertaken by government authorities. The report is downloadable from the IPA website.

Since that report was issued, efforts to censor books have continued. In July, the Hungarian government imposed an $830 fine on the distributor of the Hungarian translation of Lawrence Schimel’s children’s book What a Family!, citing a law that bans the depiction of homosexuality and gender reassignment in material aimed at minors. The book tells the story of two families with young children—one with two fathers and the other with two mothers.

That incident follows another in Hungary, in October 2020, when a member of parliament put a copy of Meseorszag mindenkie (A Fairy Tale for Everyone), which also features LGBTQ characters, through a shredder. “So the publisher reprinted it as a board book” said Schimel, whose book had the same Hungarian editor.

Schimel, an American living in Madrid, has published dozens of LGBTQ-themed works for children and adults. “It’s important for all families, not just those who are LGBTQ, to see and read these books which show just how normal these families are,” he said. What a Family! is now sold in Hungary with a sticker, warning readers that it depicts families “outside the norm.” It was originally published as two books in Spanish, and Orca Book Publishers is releasing it as two books in the U.S. in September.

Russia led the way in overt European LGBTQ censorship with the passage of its “anti-LGBTQ propaganda” law in 2012. Today, LGBTQ books are routinely suppressed there, and those that make it to market are sold with warning stickers.

“The campaigns by the populist governments in Europe, such as in Hungary and Poland, against the LGBTQ community are in direct violation of the principles of inclusion and the celebration of diversity,” said Michiel Kolman, chair for inclusive publishing at the IPA. He noted that in Poland, several towns have declared themselves LGBTQ-free zones, forcing LGBTQ residents to move, while in Hungary the transgender community was first targeted, and after that the broader LGBTQ community….

(5) THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T HEAR EVERYDAY, EDGAR. Shelf Awareness says Dune’s “Making Of” book will have its own Hans Zimmer score.

The Oscar-winning composer of Dune‘s soundtrack “was so inspired when he looked at the upcoming behind-the-scenes book from Insight Editions, he decided to write some musical accompaniment,” io9 noted. The Art and Soul of Dune by executive producer Tanya Lapointe, which “will be available both in standard and jaw-dropping limited editions,” is going to have a dedicated Zimmer score available to download and stream upon release on October 22, the same date as the film’s debut. 

(6) SWEEPING DISCOVERY REQUEST. Publishers Weekly reports “Internet Archive Seeking 10 Years of Publisher Sales Data for Its Fair Use Defense”. This relates to the lawsuit against the Internet Archive over its program to scan and lend copies of books.

In an August 9 filing, IA attorneys told the court it is seeking monthly sales data for all books in print by the four plaintiff publishers (Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Wiley) dating back to 2011. But the publishers, IA lawyers told the court, have balked at the sweeping request reportedly countering that the request is well beyond what the case calls for.

In their pre-motion filing, IA lawyers insist the sales data is crucial to its fair use defense.

“Plaintiffs claim that the Internet Archive’s digital library lending has a negative effect on the market for or value of the works. The Internet Archive disagrees, and wishes to bring forward evidence showing that lending had little or no effect on the commercial performance of the books being lent, compared to books that were not lent,” IA lawyers told the court. “Specifically, in order to show that lending had little or no effect on commercial performance, the Internet Archive wishes to compare the commercial performance of books that were available for digital lending with books that were not available for digital lending.”

IA lawyers also attempt to explain the massive, sweeping scope of their request, conceding that they do not need a decade’s worth of monthly sales data for “each and every book” but only for the 127 works included in the suit as well as “one or more” books that could be deemed “comparable” for each the 127 titles under scrutiny. But since the plaintiffs have “declined to identify books they regard as comparable,” IA attorneys claim, they should be compelled to produce data about all books so that the Internet Archive can “identify books it regards as comparable” and the parties can then “debate, on a level playing field, whether such books are or are not comparable.”…

Read the response from the publishers’ lawyers here: “Publishers Blast Internet Archive’s ‘Extraordinary’ Demand for Sales Data”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1975 – Forty-six years ago, the first World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement goes to Robert Bloch. (He’d previously won a Hugo at Detention (1959) — where he and Isaac Asimov were toastmasters — for his “Hell-Bound Train” short story.) Nine years later at L.A.con II, He would receive a Special Committee Award for 50 years as an SF professional, and a year after that, he would be voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.
Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though In the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part were awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin, He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in. “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 56. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Dracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun.
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 44. Though you might know him from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter. (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1982 Sebastian Stan, 39. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier in the MCU film franchise; also appeared in Once Upon a Time series, The MartianThe ApparitionAres III, and Kings, a contemporary alternate-history series about a man who rises to become the King of his nation, based on the biblical story of King David.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE. Viewers who have been conditioned by all those movies to think Middle-Earth is a neighborhood of New Zealand will see one season of the Amazon’s TV adaptation shot there too – then, goodbye! The Guardian says moving day is coming: “Amazon moves production of Lord of the Rings TV series to UK”.

Amazon has made the surprise decision to move production of its $1bn-plus Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK, rejecting tens of millions of dollars in incentives to shoot the TV show in the same location as the blockbuster films.

Amazon, which four years ago paid $250m to secure the TV rights to JRR Tolkien’s works after founder Jeff Bezos demanded a Game of Thrones-style hit for its streaming service, chose to film the first series in New Zealand after competitive bids from around the world. Scotland, which narrowly missed out to New Zealand, is considered to be the frontrunner for the new shooting location, although Amazon declined to comment on its plans.

It is understood that the Tolkien estate had been keen for the series to be shot in the UK, the land that inspired JRR Tolkien’s original books, although did not have any right to determine the TV production’s location.

(11) SPECIAL DEFECTS. CinemaBlend will be happy to show you these “13 Crazy Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From Classic Horror Movies”.

…Despite being one of the most influential and successful film genres, horror does not always get the appreciation it deserves, especially when you consider the passion, patience, technical mastery, and even suffering the cast and crew endure for the sake of a good scare. You may never look at some of the best horror movies the same way again after learning these shocking behind-the-scenes facts, starting with a clever trick used in one of history’s most iconic shockers.

George Lucas Got Stuck In The Mechanical Shark From Jaws

Steven Spielberg was also not prepared for the hysteria he would face the set of his breakout horror hit Jaws, which was mostly due to the technical difficulties that their mechanical star frequently suffered. Someone who experienced these flaws first-hand, and terrifyingly so, was George Lucas, who got his head stuck in the shark as the result of a prank gone wrong while was visiting the set. Curious about it inner-workings, the future Star Wars movies creator voluntarily put his head inside the shark when Spielberg and John Milius activated the jaw clamp, only to panic when they became temporarily unable to get Lucas out.

(12) PROZINE IS STILL WITH US. The Interzone #290/291 Double Issue Ebook is now available. Fiction (see ToC at the link) plus columns by Aliya Whiteley and David Langford; guest editorial by Lavie Tidhar; book reviews by Maureen Kincaid Speller, Duncan Lawie, Val Nolan, and several others; film reviews by Nick Lowe.

(13) AM I BLUE? “The Smurfs trailer announces Nickelodeon series release date”SYFY Wire has the story.

Previously announced in 2020, the new series comes from Belgian studio Depuis Audiovisuel. All the Smurfs that folks most likely remember from their childhoods, from Papa Smurf and Brainy to Smurfette and Clumsy, are back. The new addition comes in the form of Willow, who leads a tribe of girl Smurfs. Like most of the network’s cartoons, each episode will come in a pair of 13-minute blocks: the premiere episode, “Smurf-Fu,” will be about Brainy wanting to learn “Smurf-Fu” from Smurfette so he can defend himself, and “Diaper Daddy,” which finds Handy inventing a robot to change Baby Smurf’s diapers so no one else has to. 

(14) LEAPIN’ LIZARDS! “Giant, Dragon-Like, Flying Reptile Fossil Discovered in Australia” says Smithsonian Magazine.

In addition to its school-bus-length wingspan, the creature had a three-foot-long skull with a pointed snout and around 40 sharp teeth. This pterosaur likely lived and hunted for fish near the Eromanga Inland Sea, a large inland sea that once occupied much of eastern Australia during the early Cretaceous period.

“It wasn’t built to eat broccoli,” Richards tells Royce Kurmelovs of the Guardian. “It would have been a fearsome sight.”

Though the fossil was found in northwest Queensland over a decade ago, researchers weren’t able to prove it was a new species until now. There are over 200 species of pterosaur, ranging from the 16-foot-tall Quetzalcoatlus to the sparrow-sized Anurognathus. Unlike the feathered birds they shared the sky with, pterosaurs stayed aloft on membrane wings stretched between their fingers….

(15) THEY MADE HISTORY. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – delivers another lesson in “History of Sci-Fi Movies — The Nineties — Part One!”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “The Suicide Squad:  Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that fans of several popular character actors who appear in The Suicide Squad will be disappointed that they die almost immediately after they’re introduced and that Harley Quinn “is better at hand-to-hand combat that a whole squad of military people.”

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

SFWA Announces the 56th Annual Nebula Award Winners

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) announced the 56th Annual Nebula Awards® winners in an online ceremony on June 5 hosted by Toastmaster Aydrea Walden.

These awards are given to the writers of the best speculative fiction works released in 2020, as voted on by Full, Associate, and Senior SFWA members.

BEST NOVEL

  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELLA

  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELETTE

  • “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com) 

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots)  

THE ANDRE NORTON NEBULA AWARD FOR MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION

  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll) 

BEST GAME WRITING

  • Hades, Greg Kasavin (Supergiant) 

THE RAY BRADBURY NEBULA AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”, Michael Schur, NBC (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal)  

Additional awards and honors presented:

Nalo Hopkinson

THE SFWA DAMON KNIGHT MEMORIAL GRAND MASTER AWARD

  • Nalo Hopkinson

THE KATE WILHELM SOLSTICE AWARD

  • Jarvis Sheffield
  • Ben Bova (posthumous)
  • Rachel Caine (posthumous)

THE KEVIN J. O’DONNELL, JR. SERVICE TO SFWA AWARD

  • Connie Willis

Presenters joined virtually from around the country, including SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal, SFWA Vice President Tobias S. Buckell, incoming SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy, and writers and creatives Nisi Shawl, Carrie Patel, Mallory O’Meara, Mark Oshiro, Troy L. Wiggins, and Adam Savage. 

The ceremony can be viewed at SFWA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Group Sends Letter of Concern To CoNZealand Programming

Alasdair Stuart has published a “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” on behalf of a group of CoNZealand program participants and award finalists. Stuart, co-owner of Escape Artists podcasts and a 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, outlined the issues in a Twitter thread starting here.

Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”

The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.

The letter says:

We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.

We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.

In brief, our key concerns are:

  • Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
  • We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
  • Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.

We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event. 

We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.

Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.

We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.

As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.

We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.

Although there are some echoes of the representation issues raised before the 2018 Worldcon (which a team led by Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to address before the con), so far the efforts have been collaborative.

The CoNZealand’s Programming Division Head Jannie Shea emailed this reply to Stuart:

Thank you for sending us your concerns. We are addressing those we can. We encourage indigenous, marginalised and historically underrepresented fans to apply for our Inclusion Initiative, (https://conzealand.nz/blog/2020/07/03/conzealand-chairs-inclusion-initiative) which offers two types of opportunities to join CoNZealand. 

We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.

All the best,
Jannie

Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the  inclusion initiative explains what help is available:

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.

The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.

CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.  

Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 6/11/20 How Do You Turn The Duck Off?

(1) COMIC-CON ONLINE. More information has been released about the replacement for the annual San Diego event: “Comic-Con@Home Sets July Dates”. As Greg Weir joked on Facebook, “The virtual lines will be enormous.”

Comic-Con@Home was first teased in early May with a short video announcement and a promise of details to come. Pop culture enthusiasts will note that this initiative joins the Comic-Con Museum’s virtual endeavor, Comic-Con Museum@Home, already ongoing.

Although conditions prevent celebrating in person, the show, as they say, must go on. With Comic-Con@Home, SDCC hopes to deliver the best of the Comic-Con experience and a sense of its community to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in all aspects of pop culture. Plans for Comic-Con@Home include an online Exhibit Hall complete with everyone’s favorite exhibitors offering promotions, specials, and limited-edition products unique to the celebration. As well, Comic-Con@Home promises exclusive panels and presentations about comics, gaming, television, film, and a wide variety of topics from publishers, studios, and more. As if that weren’t enough, Comic-Con@Home will also have a Masquerade, gaming, and many other activities in which fans can participate from their own homes.

Although Comic-Con@Home will provide badges for fans to print and wear proudly, all aspects of the initiative are free and there are no limits to how many can attend…. Comic-Con@Home will be held on the same dates as the previously canceled Comic-Con, July 22-26, 2020, and online attendees are encouraged to use the official #ComicConAtHome hashtag to be included in the virtual activities. …Interested fans are encouraged to check Toucan, the official Comic-Con and WonderCon blog, SDCC’s website and social channels, and the official channels of their favorite pop culture creators in the weeks to come.

Follow us on social media at: Facebook: Facebook.com/comiccon; Twitter: @Comic_Con; Instagram: @comic_con

(2) ORIGINS ONLINE CANCELLED. Kotaku summarized a social media controversy surrounding the Game Manufacturers Association and the Origins Online event that was planned for this month: “Board Gaming’s Industry Body Refuses To Say A Word About Black Lives Mattering”.

An increasing number of prominent board game industry and community members have pulled out of an upcoming show over The Game Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) inability (or refusal) to make a statement about Black Lives Matter.

GAMA owns and operates Origins Online, a big virtual show running later this month that was intended to replace the usual Origins Games Fair (a physical event that has been postponed to October). It was supposed to feature panels, video and support appearances by notable board games people like Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave, Blood Rage creator Eric Lang, Geek & Sundry’s Ruel Gaviola, Boardgamegeek and Man vs Meeple.

Instead those listed, and loads more, have withdrawn from the show over GAMA’s inability, when even the least sanctimonious corporations and sporting leagues on the planet have managed some kind of message, to make even the most basic statement of support for the Black Lives Matter protests that have been sweeping the United States since the beginning of the month.

GAMA now has made a pro-Black Lives Matter statement, but also cancelled the online event.

The Game Manufacturers Association believes that Black Lives Matter. We unequivocally condemn racism and violence against people of color. We have been too late in making that statement with force, and we apologize. The injustices of today demand that every person of good conscience make clear where they stand and we wish we had been more proactive, more strident, and more effective with our voices. Innocent people of color are being killed in the streets of the communities where we live, and it is not acceptable.

We cannot responsibly hold our virtual convention, Origins Online, in this setting. Even if it were possible to hold it, it would not be appropriate to do so. So, we are announcing here that Origins Online is cancelled.

However, GAMA’s apology is flawed say some critics, including Patrick Leder of Leder Games:

Late last night, GAMA made an official statement to cancel Origins Online. Though this statement answered some concerns, it too contains several notable omissions that highlight some of the challenges facing any effort to make the hobby more inclusive. Specifically: 

  1. Their apology has no mention of the BIPOC members of the industry who stood up to them. It also fails to note that those voices were the catalyst for their decision to cancel Origins Online. 
  2. Their plan to make amends by asking attendees and publishers to forfeit their Origins Online payments shows a lack of initiative and imagination. As our industry’s governing body, we expect GAMA to take the lead without waiting for the initiation of others.
  3. There is no actionable statement on how they can work on uplifting the BIPOC community or an attempt to broaden their board or staff, nor does it recognize the board’s failures in this regard.

(3) ROLLING OVER. Loscon 47, which the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society planned to hold this Thanksgiving Weekend, has been postponed to 2021. Chair Scott Beckstead wrote:

With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic being felt in many sectors, we are not immune I’m sorry to say. The fallout of these effects sadly means that we will be postponing Loscon 47 until next year. We are rescheduling Loscon 47 for Thanksgiving weekend (November 26th through November 28th 2021). We will be rolling Guests, members, and dealer room participants over to next yea

Writer Guest Dr. Gregory Benford, our Artist Guest Jeff Sturgeon and Fan Guests of Honor Dennis and Kristine Cherry have all agreed to be there and are looking forward to being there next year. There will be more info as we re-assemble our teams to bring this to fruition in November of 2021. As always you may ask questions at info@loscon.org and I look forward to seeing you all Thanksgiving weekend 2021

(4) RED SOFA LITIGATION. Publishers Lunch reports in “Briefs” that lawyers are getting involved in the Red Sofa Literary meltdown.

Agents Beth Phelan and Kelly Van Sant and author Isabel Sterling received cease & desist letters from an attorney representing agent Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary after speaking out about Frederick’s response to protestors in St. Paul.

The trio’s response, “An Open Letter to Dawn Frederick in Response to Threats of Litigation”, begins –

On June 8, 2020, we received cease and desist letters from a lawyer on behalf of Dawn Frederick, literary agent and founder of Red Sofa Literary. The letters demanded that we delete our respective posts regarding Dawn’s actions and further, publish retractions stating that “she did not make any racist or other improper statements,” validating the behaviors that we had previously condemned. Failing this, we were told Dawn will pursue legal action against us for defamation. We interpret these demands as an attempt to not only silence us, but to compel us to lie for her. We refuse.

After we and others spoke out against her tweets, Dawn posted a public apology on her website owning up to her wrongdoing, but then turned around to privately send threatening letters to people who spoke up. In that apology, Dawn admitted that her actions were “careless,” that “[t]he authors and agents who may now question whether or not we share the same ideals have every right to feel this way,” and that her “actions were tone-deaf and the product of [her] own privilege.” That she is now threatening to sue people for agreeing with her apology makes it impossible to interpret the apology as anything but insincere. So, which is it, Dawn? You said in your apology that you would “work to be better.” Is this what “better” looks like?…

They are  asking for donations to their legal defense fund, which has raised $12,177 as of today.

(5) HE DIDN’T COME BACK TO THE FUTURE. Ranker refreshes our recollection about an old lawsuit with a contemporary vibe: “When ‘Back To The Future II’ Recreated Crispin Glover’s Face, He Took The Studio To Court”.

In 1985, Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, director Robert Zemeckis, and writer/producer Bob Gale gave the world an all-time classic motion picture, Back to the Future. Four years later, they tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Back to the Future Part II had a little secret, one the participants tried to keep from being discovered. It was slightly easier in that pre-internet time. As it turned out, a key actor from the original, Crispin Glover, decided not to return for the sequel. Since the character of George McFly was fairly prominent in the follow-up, that presented a rather large problem. 

Their solution was unique, but it also got them entangled in some unpleasant legal action. Essentially, the filmmakers recreated Glover’s face with prosthetics, then put it on another actor. They wanted to make it seem as though Glover was in the sequel when, in fact, he was not. Glover was none too happy about this, so he sued everyone involved. 

That’s the short version. The more detailed version is a fascinating tale of an actor desperate to protect his image, filmmakers desperate to protect their franchise, and the clash these dueling desires created. It’s also an account of a watershed moment in cinema history, when it became clear that modern technology was making it easier to “steal” someone’s likeness. The impact of Crispin Glover’s Back to the Future Part II case continues to reverberate today….

(6) PINSKER STORY POSTED. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Notice,” a story about unexpected mail and the limits of self-reliance by Sarah Pinsker.

Malachi happened to be mowing down by the gates when the mail carrier arrived in her ancient truck. He wasn’t supposed to talk to Outsiders until he turned twenty-five, another six years, but he couldn’t help trying on the rare occasions an opportunity presented itself….

On Monday, 6/15 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Sarah in conversation with Punya Mishra, an expert in integrating arts, creativity, design, and technology into learning. Registration required.

(7) HOMAGE OR FROMAGE? Bloody Disgusting applauds: “These Horror Fans Remade the Key Moments from ‘Alien’ With No Budget During the Quarantine”.

A group of creative horror fans just put together a 5-minute, zero-budget remake of Ridley Scott’s Alien while stuck at home!

Described as a “low-budget, high-cardboard remake of Alien,” the video comes courtesy of YouTube channel Cardboard Movie Co, which specializes in this sort of thing. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982E.T. – The Extraterrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credit was shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was  written by Melissa Mathison and starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 99% rating. 
  • June 11, 1993 — Eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. It’s  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a 91% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  We can claim at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1927 Kit Pedler. In the Sixties, he became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. One of his creation was the Cybermen. He also wrote three scripts —  “The Tenth Planet” (co-writtenwith Gerry Davis),  “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen“. Pedler and Davis went in to create and co-write the Doomwatch Series. He wrote a number of genre novels including Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters (co-written with Gerry Davis) and Doomwatch: The World in Danger. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1929 Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”,  “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available…. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course, he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 Adrienne Barbeau, 75. She’s memorably in Swamp Thing. She’s also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh, and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet, 1984; given the Evans-Freehafer, our service award, 1986; moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is BASFS (Bay Area SF Soc.) sergeant-at-arms, a position they take about as seriously as we take ours.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 Justina Robson, 52. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1971 P. Djèlí Clark, 49. Ok, I want a novel from this brilliant author whose The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is in the running for a Best Novella Hugo this year. (A Dead Djinn in Cairo is set in the same alternate universe.) The Black God’s Drums was a finalist for the same award last year. And yes, he has a novel coming out — Ring Shout, a take on the KKK with a supernatural twist. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann.  Digital illustrator, once of San Francisco, now of Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her May 2018 cover for Apex magazine.  This March 2020 interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEOPARDY! It was a great night on Jeopardy! if you like bad answers. Andrew Porter took notes.

First—

Category: TV Catch-Phrases

Answer: “Nanu-Nanu”

Wrong questions: “What is Star Trek?”; “What is Alf?”

Correct question: “What is Mork & Mindy?”

Second –

Also, no one could link “Bazinga!” to “The Big Bang Theory.”

Third –

Final Jeopardy: Medical History

Answer: One of the first recorded autopsies was performed on this man & revealed 23 puncture marks.

Wrong question: “Who is Bram Stoker?”

Correct question: “Who was Julius Caesar?”

(12) RUBE GOLDBERG WINNER. CBC says “Toronto family ‘thrilled and a little bit surprised’ to win Rube Goldberg Challenge”.

Tony Round says he was “stunned into silence” the first time he watched his family’s elaborate Rube Goldberg machine wind its way through their house and successfully drop a bar of soap into his daughter’s hands.That’s because it took the Toronto family more than 50 failed attempts and three weeks to make the machine work.

(13) FOLLOWING SUIT. “Amazon Halts Police Use Of Its Facial Recognition Technology”

Amazon announced on Wednesday a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology, yielding to pressure from police-reform advocates and civil rights groups.

It is unclear how many law enforcement agencies in the U.S. deploy Amazon’s artificial intelligence tool, but an official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon confirmed that it will be suspending its use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology.

Researchers have long criticized the technology for producing inaccurate results for people with darker skin. Studies have also shown that the technology can be biased against women and younger people.

IBM said earlier this week that it would quit the facial-recognition business altogether. In a letter to Congress, chief executive Arvind Krishna condemned software that is used “for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.”

And Microsoft President Brad Smith told The Washington Post during a livestream Thursday morning that his company has not been selling its technology to law enforcement. Smith said he has no plans to until there is a national law.

(14) RUN TO DINNER. The ancestor of crocodile boots? BBC says they’ve found “Fossil tracks left by an ancient crocodile that ‘ran like an ostrich'”.

Scientists have been stunned to find that some ancient crocodiles might have moved around on two feet.

The evidence comes from beautifully preserved fossil tracks in South Korea.

Nearly a hundred of these 18-24cm-long indentations were left in what were likely the muddy sediments that surrounded a lake in the Early Cretaceous, 110-120 million years ago.

The international team behind the discovery says it will probably challenge our perception of crocodiles.

“People tend to think of crocodiles as animals that don’t do very much; that they just laze around all day on the banks of the Nile or next to rivers in Costa Rica. Nobody automatically thinks I wonder what this [creature] would be like if it was bipedal and could run like an ostrich or a T. rex,” Martin Lockley, an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, US, told BBC News.

The study is sure to provoke a lively debate. Not all researchers will necessarily accept the team’s interpretation.

(15) JOHN ON THE DOTTED LINE. It’s never too late to study a historic document: Phyllis Irene Radford is in the middle of “Blogging the Magna Carta #12” at Book View Café. Today’s section is about administering the estates of the deceased.

…Those catalogs of chattels tell historians a lot about how people lived during the period and what they considered valuable, due to purchase price or import costs, or how labor intense to make.  Historians love these.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the original copies when it was displayed in LA in the Seventies.

(16) LUNAR LIVING. Joe Sherry calls it “hopeful science fiction” in “Microreview [book]: The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal” at Nerds of a Feather.

…There’s a lot going on in The Relentless Moon and Kowal keeps everything moving and flowing together with remarkable deftness and an underlying compassion that smooths the edges off even the harshest aspects of the novel – including Nicole’s eating disorder, racial issues, domestic terrorism, and a desperate fight for survival on the Moon. Everything is handled with sensitivity, though Kowal does not shy away from the emotion of the worst moments – it’s more that Kowal is such a smooth writer that the reader is in safe hands. The novel leans into the pain, but with a light touch.

(17) YOUNG PEOPLE. In the new installment of James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF, the panel encounters “’The Deer Park’ by Maria Russell”.

This is Maria Russell’s only known published story.

… Still, her low profile does mean my Young Readers won’t have heard of her and won’t have expecations going in. What will they make of ?“Deer Park”?

(18) AN AUTHOR OF DRAGONS. Here is the first of “6 Books with Aliette de Bodard”, Paul Weimer’s Q&A with the author at Nerds of a Feather.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently doing comfort reads, which means I’ve embarked again on a reread of Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo--Gothic quest for revenge is the best.

(19) BAIT FOR CLICKS. Clare Spellberg, in the Decider story “‘Paw Patrol’ Under Fire for Depiction of Police: Is ‘Paw Patrol’ Being Canceled?” says there is a Twitter campaign to cancel Paw Patrol for its depiction of cops, but it’s not clear that the campaign is real or satire.

… Have the anti-racism protests come for Paw Patrol? According to Amanda Hess of the New York Times Paw Patrol fans have (albeit jokingly) called for the popular Nickelodeon show to be canceled as protests against police brutality continue to sweep the globe and shows like Cops and Live PD are cancelled by networks. While the Paw Patrol protests may not be totally real, Eric Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz seem to think fans are serious: both tweeted that the protests for Paw Patrol are “truly insane,” and they blasted the left for “targeting” cartoons.

…This is a long story with a short answer: as of now, Paw Patrol is not being cancelled despite the fake “protests” against it. In fact, Nickelodeon just renewed the series for an eighth season in February, and a theatrical film Paw Patrol: The Movie is currently scheduled for an August 2021 release.

(20) STAYING IN PRACTICE. The Screen Junkies, having no new summer blockbusters, decided to take on The Fifth Element in a trailer that’s two days old.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rose Embolism, with an assist by Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 4/26/20 Do Not Ingest Or Inject Pixels

(1) ONE NEBULA VOTER’S PICKS. Sue Burke, author of 2019 Campbell Award finalist Semiosis, evaluates the Nebula short fiction nominees in two categories and tells what she voted for:

Adrian Tchaikovsky, by Oscar Celestini

(2) FEARBUSTERS. Jasmin Gelick’s “PenPower Project” is a series of posts with input from well-known sff authors “designed to debunk the myths of writer’s block and all kinds of other writerly fears.” She’s releasing one a week. As part of the introductory post she commissioned artist Oscar Celestini to depict all the participants as superheroes — Sue Burke, Caitlin Starling, Tim Pratt, Yoon Ha Lee, Thoraiya Dyer, Anna StephensEowyn Ivey, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kat Rocha, Martha Wells, John Langan, and Richard S. Ford. See them all here.

There’s also a post devoted to ”the Villain”, whatever writers worry about when starting a new story, or even when they’re in the middle and things aren’t coming together – the Villain gets a caricature, too.

These are the topics Gelick’s panelists have addressed so far:

In order to answer the question ‘Do you need to write every day?’ and the perhaps even more poignant: ‘If you don’t write every day can you call yourself a writer at all?’ we’ll take a close look at each of the twelve writing superheroes’ writing process below.

About the last one, Yoon Ha Lee says –

YOON: Honestly, the planning is the most fun. Actually writing is kind of a chore because it goes on foreeeeeeever, and then revisions become fun again. Kind of like a sandwich? I like twisty chess plots, which are hard to pull off, so that aspect of Raven Stratagem was particularly satisfying.

(3) CATCHING UP TO SCIENCE FICTION. In the Washington Post, Gene Park looks at efforts by Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) and other video game developers to create the Metaverse, predicted by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash.  Park thinks Roblox and Minecraft are on course “to create a shared, virtual space that’s persistently online and active, even without people logging in” and notes that it’s significant that Reporters Without Borders asked Minecraft to host a database of 12 million publicly censored documents. “Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet. Fortnite might get there first.”

Conversation around a more tangible, actualized Internet seems only more pointed in light of our current shelter-in-place reality in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the past month, office culture has coalesced around video chat platforms like Zoom, while personal cultural milestones like weddings and graduations are being conducted in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Metaverse not only seems realistic — it would probably be pretty useful right about now.

(4) STEEL PALMETTOS. NPR’s Petra Mayer asks about The Southern Club for Vampires in “Getting Some Blood On The Page: Questions For Grady Hendrix”.

Grady Hendrix’s new novel stars a group of determined women who confront a supernatural threat in their community — and while vampires aren’t real (as far as we know), Hendrix says The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has its roots in his own real life.

“Getting some blood on the page is the only way I know how to write, so all my books are really personal,” he tells me in an email interview. “This one’s set in the neighborhood where I grew up, around the time I graduated from high school, and it’s the first time I’ve had to run a book past my family before publication because so many of our stories wound up in it. Fortunately I’ve fictionalized everything pretty heavily so no one had too many problems.”

…The way you depict the women at the center of the book is clearly affectionate, but in places I felt like it was edging a little into mockery … was that your intent? Tell me how you approached building these characters and their world.

I feel bad it seemed to edge into mockery — I take these ladies very seriously. They’re the women I grew up around, and I wanted to write about how I went from knowing them as a kid, when they seemed like a bunch of lightweight nobodies, to how I got to know them as adults, when I learned that they had dealt with all the ugly, difficult stuff so the rest of us wouldn’t have to. The choices these women had to make were hard, and they were never offered the easy option. Southern ladies are not cute and cuddly. They are tough, strong women who will mess you up. On the other hand, I grew up in Charleston and that world can sometimes seem over-the-top, where the condition of your yard or whether you served your guests on paper or china plates were referendums on the state of your soul. It seems silly in retrospect, but at the time it felt deadly serious. But, you know, in 30 years a lot of the things that feel like life or death to me now are going to feel like punchlines. Time tends to turn almost everything into comedy.

(5) UP ALL NIGHT. New York Times reviewer Ruth Franklin, in “Can’t Sleep? Let Stephen King Keep You Company”, touts the virtues of his new collection If It Bleeds.

…King has previously used the novella — that stepchild of literary forms, somehow at once both too much and not enough — for stories that skirt the edge of horror without sinking into it, such as “The Body,” the inspiration for the classic 1980s film “Stand by Me,” in which a group of boys on a camping trip are transformed less by their discovery of a corpse in the woods than by their first taste of autonomy. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” the first story in the new collection, is a prime specimen in this category. It’s 2007, and Craig, on the cusp of adolescence, has a part-time job helping out wealthy, elderly Mr. Harrigan, a formal but kindly man who introduces him to “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and treats him to a scratch-off lottery ticket for his birthday and holidays. When one of those tickets wins a $3,000 jackpot, Craig shows his appreciation by buying Mr. Harrigan a first-model iPhone, the same one he just got for Christmas.

Initially skeptical, Mr. Harrigan is speedily seduced, just like the rest of us. “Are these numbers in real time?” he asks in wonder as Craig demonstrates the Stocks app. (In a line that perfectly characterizes the attachment, King writes that he caresses the phone “the way you might pat a small sleeping animal.”) But even as he grows dependent on the device, he recognizes its dangers: “It’s like a broken water main, one spewing information instead of water.” At Mr. Harrigan’s funeral, only a few months later, Craig tucks the man’s phone into the pocket of his suit jacket, a totem to accompany him into the afterlife. The uncanny events that ensue could be explained — possibly — by a technological glitch. But they are triggered by a human longing that anyone who has lost a loved one can understand: the desire to hear the departed person’s voice again, one of the many dubious consolations that technology now offers.

(6) THE DOMINOS ARE FALLING. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a lot to say about how bad the immediate future looks for the traditional publishing industry in “Business Musings: The Trainwreck”.

I’m sure you’ve all gotten the question lately: How are you going to survive as a writer with the crisis in the publishing industry? Every news outlet —well, at least every news outlet that reports news other than the latest virus statistics—has done at least one story on the decimation of the publishing industry.

And let me be honest here: The traditional publishing industry is in grave danger. Not of the kind of disruption it saw in 2009 with the Kindle and ebook reading, but of actual mergers, closures, consolidations, and complete lack of payment to all of its suppliers.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are shut down, deemed non-essential. Just like libraries, also non-essential. Unlike libraries, which have pivoted to ebooks in a startling and amazing way, many bookstores have no online capability at all.

…There’s a shortage of paper, because it comes from China. The two largest printers of magazines and books in the U.S., Quad/Graphics and LSC Communications were going to merge last summer, but something got in the way. Now, LSC Communications has filed for bankruptcyThe second largest printer, Quad, has shut its book printing facilities entirely.

In some regions, major distributors have shut down or disappeared, while although others, like Ingram, are still operating, although with reduced staff.

Not that it matters, since most bookstores are closed, and not shipping books to their customers. To make matters worse, the books that are being delivered will remain in their boxes, only to be returned for full price credit when this crisis is over. That was a policy established to help bookstores in the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the policy never got changed afterwards.

When bookstores do reopen, they’ll need to send the books back, because they will have the same gap in their cash flow that the rest of us will have—or maybe worse. Many independent bookstores will not survive this crisis, because bookselling has always been a marginal business.

Audiobooks—the brightest light in the traditional publishing firmament—stopped selling when we all sheltered in place. According to Beth Meacham, an editor at Tor who gave an amazing report from the front lines at the beginning of April, commuters account for damn near 100% of audiobook sales, and since no one is driving, no one is listening to audiobooks. The sales didn’t just dry up. They stopped….

The excerpt stops here, however, Rusch is only just getting started on her list of all the industry’s troubles!

(7) DYNARSKI OBIT. Actor Gene Dynarski has died at the age of 86. The Hollywood Reporter’s review of his career mentions many genre roles.

Gene Dynarski, a character actor who appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Duel and Close Encounters of the Third Kind … has died. He was 86.

Dynarski died Feb. 27 in a rehabilitation center in Studio City, playwright Ernest Kearney announced.

The Brooklyn native also worked twice on the original Star Trek, as the miner Ben Childress on the 1966 episode “Mudd’s Women” and as Krodak, who represents a city up for Federation membership, on the 1969 installment “The Mark of Gideon.”

Dynarski was seen as Benedict, one of Egghead’s (Vincent Price) henchmen, on Batman in 1966, and on a 2000 episode of The X-Files, his character fell victim to a monstrous bat creature.

His résumé also included Earthquake (1974)…, among other TV series.

In the 1971 telefilm Duel, Dynarski was a trucker confronted in a roadside café by Dennis Weaver, who thinks he’s the murderous big-rig driver on his tail, and in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), he played the supervisor who sends out Richard Dreyfuss to investigate those mysterious blackouts. 

Dynarski also portrayed Josef Stalin in the 1996 videogame Command & Conquer: Red Alert...

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Baptized April 26, 1564 William Shakespeare.World’s greatest playwright and perhaps one of our earliest fantasy writers was baptized today. (Died 1616.)
  • Born April 26, 1914 H. L. Gold. Best known for launching Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950, soon followed by its companion fantasy magazine, Beyond Fantasy Fiction which lasted but a few years. He was not a prolific writer having but two novels, None but Lucifer with L. Sprague de Camp and A Matter of Form, plus a generous number of short stories. None but Lucifer didn’t see printing in novel form until 2002. H. L. Gold Resurrected: Selected Science Fiction Stories of H. L. Gold appears to be his only collection avail from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 26, 1916 Vic Perrin. Best remembered for being the Control Voice in the original version of The Outer Limits. He also, genre wise, was the Adventures of SupermanMission: ImpossibleBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyTwilight ZoneBuck Rogers in Twenty-Fifth Century and in three episodes of Star Trek including being the voice of Nomad. (Died 1989.)
  • Born April 26, 1922 A. E. van Vogt. Ok, I admit it’s been so long since I read him that I don’t clearly remember what I liked by him though I know I read Slan and The Weapon Makers.  I am fascinated by the wiki page that noted Damon Knight took a strong dislike to his writing whereas Philip K. Dick and Paul Di Filippo defended him strongly. What do y’all think of him? (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 26, 1943 Bill Warren. American film historian, critic, and one of the leading authorities on science fiction, horror, and fantasy films. He co-wrote the murder mystery Fandom is a Way of Death set at 42nd World Science Fiction Convention which was hosted by many members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and which he and his wife were very much involved in. His 1968 short story “Death Is a Lonely Place” would be printed in the first issue of the magazine Worlds of Fantasy. During the Seventies, he also wrote scripts for Warren Publishing’s black-and-white comic books CreepyEerie, and Vampirella. His film reference guide Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties would be revised and expanded several times. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 26, 1955 Brad W. Foster, 65. A prolific cartoonist and fanzine cover artist, he won an amazing eight Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist! From 1987 to 1991. He was a regular contributing illustrator to the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. In 2008 he began producing illustrations for the newsletter Ansible, creating a full color version for the on-line edition, and a different black-and-white version for the print edition.
  • Born April 26, 1961 Joan Chen, 59. You’ll remember her from Twin Peaks universeas Jocelyn ‘Josie’ Packard, and probably less so as Ilsa Hayden in the first Judge Dredd film. I certainly don’t and I’ve watched that film multiple times She was Madame Ong in Avatar. No, not that film, this is a Singaporean sf film from twenty years back. And she was the very first customer on the quite short-lived Nightmare Cafe series. 

(9) PICK UP YOUR PEN. San Diego Comic-Con’s Toucan encourages fans: “You Can Draw With Katie Cook 071: How to Draw How We’re All Feeling Right Now”.

(10) RADICAL READING ORDER. In the midst of her series of reviews about Kage Baker’s Company series, “Start with the Empress of Mars!” advises the Little Red Reviewer’s Andrea Johnson.

If you’ve been seeing my posts and thinking to yourself “jeez, when is she gonna shut up about this Company series, I don’t even know where to freakin’ start with these damn books”,  you can start with The Empress of Mars!

ok, so I KNOW all the suggested reading orders put Empress of Mars near the end of the series, but you should read it near the beginning!!!

– It functions perfectly as a stand alone. Never read a Kage Baker before? start with Empress of Mars!

– omg it is HILARIOUS,  like Anvil of the World hilarious.  the bad translator scene? I was laughing so hard I drooled on myself.

– If you recognize some characters from elsewhere in the series, that’s ok, and if you don’t, that’s ok too.  the book isn’t about those people anyway.

(11) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman and Sarah Pinsker appertained their own chow when they met virtually to record the Eating the Fantastic podcast’s one hundred twentieth episode.

Sarah Pinsker

Since restaurants began closing down and social distancing became the sensible thing to do for my health, the health of potential podcast guests, and the health of the herd, listeners have been suggesting I consider recording episodes of Eating the Fantastic remotely … and I’ve resisted. Because my purpose here is to share the magical, intimate, relaxed conversations which occur best when people are chatting face-to-face over a table filled with food. That’s why last episode, I ended up letting you ask me the questions.

But then it occurred to me — there’s one person on the planet — and only one — with whom I was willing to record remotely. And that person is Sarah Pinsker, my guest on Episode 1 of this podcast four years and two months ago. I intended to catch up with her in meatspace anyway all these years later, but suddenly it felt right for us to chat in cyberspace.

The reason I felt that way is due to her wonderful debut novel, A Song for A New Day, which was published in September 2019. It’s set in a near future where due to a terrorist attack and an accompanying pandemic, all mass gatherings are banned — no concerts, no sporting events, no ways for people to come together the way people have done since the beginning of time — and we’re instead only allowed to meet in VR. So meeting up with Sarah remotely made artistic and poetic sense — because it would almost be as if we were living in the world of her novel.

Since that first episode, Sarah’s short story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea was published in March of last year by Small Beer Press. It includes many award-nominated and award-winning stories, including her Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” and her Nebula Award winner “Our Lady of the Open Road.” The collection as a whole was recently awarded the Philip K. Dick Award.

Her novel A Song for a New Day is currently a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award. She’s also a Hugo Award finalist for Best Novelette for “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye,” published last year in Uncanny Magazine.

We discussed how relieved she was her pandemic novel A Song for a New Day was published in 2019 rather than 2020, why she originally wrote that book in a song format (and why that had to change), how she loves being surprised by her own characters, why neither of us can bear listening to music while we write, the extremely scientific, color-coded process she came up with for organizing her first short story collection, how one of her favorite fictional tropes led to the creation of the original story she wrote specifically for that collection, why the thing that most interests her is the way people cope with what’s put in front of them rather than why those things happen, the reason she prefers leaving interpretations to readers rather than providing answers, her terrible habit when reading collections and anthologies, how she’s coping with the surreal feeling of living in the world of her novel, and much more.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. [Item by David Doering.] Do cosplays and comic cons violate the law in New York State? I was reading a piece on protests, which led me to see this obscure New York State law forbidding wearing masks:

New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law – PEN § 240.35 Loitering 

 4.?Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; ?except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities;   

I wonder how may concoms read up on whether their city has has “promulgated regulations” regarding “a masquerade party”? Or think to ask permission of the police? And what does this law mean if there are no “promulgated regulations”? Does that make it illegal to “congregate in a public place” at all?

BTW: The history of this provision extends all the way back to 1845 (!!) when it was enacted to prevent protesters from using masks to hide their identities.

(13) BRAND O’LANDO. [Item by rcade.] Twitter is aflutter over Land O Lakes removing the Indian maiden from the packaging. The chatter wouldn’t be skiffy fodder but for a rebranding suggestion that keeps churning up:

(14) CONVINCING CRAFT. Catching up with this 2017 Popular Mechanics post, “The Art and Science of Making a Believable Sci-Fi Spaceship”. Tagline: “How the spaceships of Mass Effect: Andromeda were designed with physics and processing power in mind.”

…It’s an outgrowth of the desire to make a space epic with sci-fi elements based in scientific truth. “Mass Effect has always been grounded by a basis in reality,” says the Mass Effect: Andromeda Creative Director Mac Walters, and nothing in Andromeda exemplifies this more than its spaceship design.

Take the Nexus, for example, a kilometers-long space station engineered to serve as civilization’s base of operation among the unexplored planets. In the game’s lore, the monstrous ship’s kilometers-long design is inspired by “the Citadel,” and ancient alien relic of mysterious origin around which the series’ initial trilogy pivots. But despite its extraordinary inspiration, the ship itself has some surprisingly practical details. Designed to travel half-built, the Nexus is constructed over the course of the game, during which its carefully designed and realistic framework is exposed.

(15) HOBBITVILLE SOLD TO SALT LAKE CITY. Despite the dateline of April 1st, this is not an April Fools joke. “Salt Lake City buys historic ‘Hobbitville’ for $7.5M, sets it aside to become public park”.  

…  Allen Park, which was facing the possibility of being purchased and turned into new development, will soon be a public park. 

…Dr. George Allen and Ruth Larsen Allen purchased the property in 1931 and used a good chunk of the space for their exotic bird collection. Allen Park received the nickname “Hobbitville” because the small houses and log cabins found on the land looked like homes for hobbits.

In addition, it’s filled with signs featuring strange sayings painted on them. It’s considered one of the more unique places in the city. It had come under threat in recent years, though. At least one developer was seeking to purchase the land for future development….

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