Pixel Scroll 5/15/22 The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is Long, But It Scrolls Toward Pixels

(1) TIME IS FLEETING. The SFWA Silent Auction ends tomorrow at noon. Organizer Jason Sanford says, “In particular you and your File 770 readers might get a kick out of seeing the original Munchkin card in the auction, which I think is amazing and is shown in the press release. Also, the auction has up for bid original, first edition hardback copies of Green Hills of Earth and Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein from the early 1950s — both of which are signed by Heinlein! I’m a little frustrated that more people haven’t noticed these two rare, signed copies of his books from the Golden Age of SF.”

Specifically, these are the links to the two books Jason pointed out: Green Hills of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein, an autographed Shasta hardcover first edition (1951; no jacket); and Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein an autographed Shasta hardcover first edition (1953; no jacket). Both books include a chart of Heinlein’s Future History on a flyleaf.

(2) BRITISH FANTASY AWARDS SEEK NOMINATIONS. The British Fantasy Society is taking nominations for the British Fantasy Awards 2022. You can vote in the BFAs if you are any of the following: A member of the British Fantasy Society; An attendee at FantasyCon 2021; or A ticket-holder for FantasyCon 2022. The voting form is here. Voting will remain open until Sunday May 29, 2022.

Voters may list up to three titles in each category. A crowdsourced list of suggestions has been created here. You may vote for titles not on the suggestions list. Further guidance on the eligibility criteria for each category can be found here.

The four titles or names with the highest number of recommendations in each category will make the shortlist.

(3) ALERT THE MEDIA. “David Tennant and Catherine Tate returning to Doctor Who in 2023” reports Radio Times.

After plenty of rumours and red herrings, the BBC has confirmed the shock news that former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate are returning to the long-running sci-fi drama, over 12 years after they originally handed in their TARDIS keys and just a week after Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa was announced as the new star of the series (taking over from current Doctor Jodie Whittaker).

As the time-travelling Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble, the pair presided over a popular and critically-acclaimed era for Doctor Who still fondly remembered by fans. And now, according to the BBC, they are set to reunite with screenwriter Russell T Davies to film new “scenes that are due to air in 2023”, coinciding with Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

…It could be that these scenes are little more than a cameo, or they could be a major comeback. For now, they’re keeping it all a bit mysterious….

(4) NEXT, THE GOOD NEWS. Yesterday’s Scroll ran an item about what was getting axed at CW. Today Variety has published “UPFRONTS 2022: The Full List of New Broadcast Series Orders”, which it will continually update. Here are examples of what different companies are planning to air next season.

KRAPOPOLIS (Fox Entertainment)

Logline: Animated comedy set in mythical ancient Greece, the series centers on a flawed family of humans, gods and monsters that tries to run one of the world’s first cities without killing each other.

QUANTUM LEAP (Universal Television)

A sequel to the original 1989-1993 time-traveling NBC fantasy drama picks up 30 years after Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Now a new team has been assembled to restart the project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it.

GOTHAM KNIGHTS (Warner Bros. Television)

Logline: In the wake of Bruce Wayne’s murder, his rebellious adopted son forges an unlikely alliance with the children of Batman’s enemies when they are all framed for killing the Caped Crusader.

THE WINCHESTERS (Warner Bros. Television/CBS Studios)

Logline: This prequel to “Supernatural” tells the untold love story of how John and Mary Winchester met and put it all on the line to not only save their love, but the entire world.

(5) ANOTHER INTERPRETATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Nilanjana Roy discusses feminist retellings of classic myths.

In her debut novel Kaikeyi published this month, Chicago-based writer Vaishnavi Patel dramatically reframes a story from the great Hindu epic The Ramayana, of Queen Kaikeyo who demands that her husband King Dashrath exile her stepson, the young man-god Rama. ‘I wanted to discover what might have caused a celebrated warrior and beloved queen to tear her family apart,’ Patel writes in her introduction.

Like Patel, many are interested in questioning the framing of mythical women as both villains and heroes.  Korean-American writer Axie Oh writes a less submissive protagonist into the legend of Shim Cheong in her young-adult book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea. In Oh’s version Mina, a village girl, takes the place of Shim Cheong, the dutiful daughter in the legend who sacrifices herself to the sea gods–but her role in the story is a more active one.  ‘My fate is not yours to decide,’ she says.  ‘My fate belongs to me.’

(6) GENRE STAR GILLAN WEDS. “Karen Gillan marries American boyfriend in closely guarded ceremony at castle in Argyll” – the Daily Record has the story.

Avengers star Karen Gillan has wed her American boyfriend in a closely guarded ceremony at a castle in Argyll.

The Inverness-born star tied the knot this afternoon with American comedian Nick Kocher, 36, after jetting back to Scotland for her nuptials.

Some of the A-list guests at the wedding in Castle Toward in Dunoon included fellow action star Robert Downey Jnr and Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts, who were spotted in the town earlier today.

Steven Moffat, who was executive producer of Doctor Who when Karen was Matt Smith’s Tardis companion, was also a guest for her big day.

The 34-year-old, who had kept her engagement to the Saturday Night Live scriptwriter a secret, had chartered a yacht, The Spirit of Fortitude, to take family and friends to the 3.30pm ceremony….

(7) SFF FILLS THE 1953 MAGAZINE STANDS. [Item by Mlex.] James Wallace Harris of the Auxiliary Memory blog & SF Signal, posted a bibliographic essay on the year 1953 for science fiction short stories. “The 1953 SF&F Magazine Boom” at Classics of Science Fiction.

Science fiction in 1953 spoke to a generation and it’s fascinating to think about why. The number of science fiction readers before WWII was so small that it didn’t register in pop culture. The war brought rockets, atomic bombs, computers, and nuclear power. The late 1940s brought UFOs – the flying saucer craze. The 1950s began with science fiction movies and television shows. By 1953, science fiction was a fad bigger than the hula-hoop would ever be, we just never thought of it that way. I do wonder if the fad will ever collapse, but I see no sign it will.

He also posted a related cover gallery of magazine issues from that year at the Internet Archive: “1953 SFF Magazine Covers”.

(8) READING ALOUD. Space Cowboy Books presents the 51st episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast. Stories featured in this episode:

“The Jellyfish from Nullarbor” by Eric Farrell; music by RedBlueBlackSilver; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“Apotheosis” by Joshua Green; music by Phog Masheeen; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2006 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixteen years on this date, one of the most unusual strips to come into existence did so in the form of Mark Tatulli’s Liō. It was very easy to market globally as it had almost no dialogue except that spoken by other people in the parodies that I’ll mention in a minute as Liō and the other characters don’t speak at all, and there were no balloons or captions at all again giving it a global appeal. 

Liō, who lives with his father and various monsters, i.e. Ishmael a giant squid and Fido a spider, various animals like Cybil a white cat (of course there’s a cat here, a very pushy feline indeed), aliens, lab creations, and even Liō’s hunchbacked assistant.  Why there’s even Archie, Liō’s psychopathic ventriloquist’s dummy. Liō’s mother is deceased. Though why she’s deceased is never stated. Definitely not your nuclear family here.

An important aspect of the strip is that will riff off other strips, and lots of them: BlondieBloom CountyCalvin and HobbesCathyGarfieldOpusPeanuts, even Pearls Before Swine (not one of my favorite strips I will readily admit) will become fodder for parody by this strip.  That’s where the only dialogue is spoken. 

Currently  the strip which runs daily globally in more than two hundred and fifty papers. 

Tatulli on the Mr. Media podcast back a decade or so said “It’s really a basic concept. It’s just Liō who lives with his father, and that’s basically it, and whatever I come up with. I set no parameters because I didn’t want to lock myself in. I mean, having no dialogue means that there is going to be no dialogue-driven gags, so I have to leave myself as open as possible to any kind of thing, so anything basically can happen.” 

There a transcript of that podcast here as the audio quality of that interview is, as the interviewer admits, rather awful. He got better after that first interview by him. 

In multiple interviews, Tatulli has said the two major contemporary influences on his style are Gahan Wilson and Charles Addams.

And yes, it’s still in existence and offending people as this strip from late last year will demonstrate.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a very splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. Nor have I seen any of the later adaptations of the Oz fiction. What’s the rest of his fiction like?  There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and some of it is slash which is a really, really scary idea. (Died 1919.)
  • Born May 15, 1877 William Bowen. His most notable work was The Old Tobacco Shop, a fantasy novel that was one runner-up for the inaugural Newbery Medal in 1922. He also had a long running children’s series with a young girl named Merrimeg whom a narrator told her adventures with all sorts of folkloric beings. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 15, 1926 Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie-based  Evil Under the Sun,Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 74. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could be the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the proposed Culture series?
  • Born May 15, 1955 Lee Horsley, 67. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls as it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer.
  • Born May 15, 1960 Rob Bowman, 62. Producer of such series as Alien NationM.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-FilesReign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  
  • Born May 15, 1966 Greg Wise, 56. I’m including him solely for being in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun. 
  • Born May 15, 1971 Samantha Hunt, 51. If you read nothing else by her, do read The Invention of Everything,  a might be look at the last days in the life of Nikola Tesla. It’s mostly set within the New Yorker Hotel, a great concept. I’m avoiding spoilers naturally. She’s written two other genre novels, Mr. Splitfoot and The Seas, plus a handful of stories. 

(11) BUILDING THE GENRE BRICK BY BRICK. “Lego’s next batch of official unofficial sets go on sale May 17th, and you’ll want to be quick” The Verge tells collectors. (This is the link to the sale: Designer Program 2021 Invitational at BrickLink.) The quotes below were written by the designers.

…A from-the-ground-up rebuild of the original “Bulwark” gunship design of the Space Troopers project, the spaceship you see here is chock full of the developments of a decade’s worth of building, yet remains sturdy and with a chunky simplicity that reminds me of what I’d have loved to play with as a boy. From the rear’s double cargo doors ready to discharge rovers, troops, or scientists on an expedition, to the inner hatch and gunner’s console with its cramped ladder allowing access to the cockpit, the hold is packed with scenes ripe for customization and exploration. Crew bunks and a tiny galley round out the hull, and the off-center cockpit rises up between a sensor array and two massive engines that can rotate up or down for flight.

The sliding cargo doors aren’t just there for show; a sturdy mechanism just behind the wings allows you to attach the two included modules or design your own, dropping them off on some distant planet or opening the doors to allow for use in-flight. Two crimson hardsuits in the classic Space Troopers red are more than just my concession to the strictures of the brick—they’re my homage to the classic sci-fi writers whose tales of adventure on far-off planets and dropships swooping from the sky have shaped my life. Deploying on two rails from a module that locks into place in the dropship’s rear, the suits are chunky, bedecked with pistons and thrusters, and, most importantly, fit a minifigure snugly inside to allow for armored adventures….

…I think around this time I also watched some The Big Bang Theory episodes. During one of these nights I “designed” an observatory made from LEGO bricks in my mind. I really love science and space, and I have never seen an observatory as an official LEGO set. That’s when I thought about building an observatory in real bricks. But I didn’t want to use an IP because that would only be interesting for people who has a connection to the place. I wanted to create a playable observatory that has a unique design. I imagined a building on the top of a mountain and what it would look like. And that’s why I called it “Mountain View.”…

…The Steam Powered Science (previously known as the Exploratorium) is a Steam-Punk themed research facility whose mission is to delve into the mysteries of the universe. One half of the facility is dedicated to researching celestial motion while the other is dedicated to traversing the ocean’s depths. The set was designed as part of the Flight Works Series, a group of Steam-Punk themed submissions on LEGO Ideas….

(12) CHARGE IT! Are Colin Kuskie and Phil Nichols really going to advocate for that most controversial of critics’ notions? To find out you will need to listen to episode 17 of Science Fiction 101, “Canon to the left of me, canon to the right”.

Colin and Phil return, buoyed by the news that Science Fiction 101 has risen to number 6 in Feedspot’s league table of Best UK Sci-Fi Podcasts!

Our main discussion topic the contentious issue of the “canon” of science fiction, triggered by a blog post by Dr Shaun Duke. We also have a movie quiz, and the usual round-up of past/present/future SF.

(13) STRANGE NEW TREK PARAPHERNALIA. TrekCore is pleased to report that after a long wait “QMx Finally Beams Down USS ENTERPRISE Delta Badges”.

More than three years after their initial announcement, QMx has finally brought their Star Trek: Discovery-era USS Enterprise Starfleet delta badges into Earth orbit — just in time for the debut of Captain Pike’s own series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Originally announced all the way back in February 2019, the metal Starfleet badges were showcased at that year’s Toy Fair expo in New York City… only to shuffle off the horizon, as they’d gone “on hold” by the early part of the next year (as a QMx representative told us at Toy Fair 2020), likely waiting for the then-in-the-works Captain Pike series to be announced to the public….

(14) INGENUITY BEGINNING TO AGE OUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars showed its first sign of approaching old age when it failed to wake on time to “phone home.” After far outlasting its planned life, the approach of winter with shorter days and more dust in the air is beginning to play havoc with its ability to keep a charge on its batteries overnight. “Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Went Silent, Leaving Anxious NASA Team in the Dark” at Gizmodo.

Late last week, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter managed to reestablish its connection with the Perseverance rover following a brief communications disruption. The space agency says the looming winter is likely responsible and is making adjustments as a result.

On Thursday, Ingenuity—mercifully—sent a signal to Perseverance after the intrepid helicopter missed a scheduled communications session. It marked the first time since the pair landed together on Mars in February 2021 that Ingenuity has missed an appointment, according to NASA.

The team behind the mission believes that Ingenuity had entered into a low-power state to conserve energy, and it did so in response to the charge of its six lithium-ion batteries dropping below a critical threshold. This was likely due to the approaching winter, when more dust appears in the Martian atmosphere and the temperatures get colder. The dust blocks the amount of sunlight that reaches the helicopter’s solar array, which charges its batteries….

(15) BABY TALK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Baby Yoda showed up on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” to promote Obi-Wan Kenobi and discuss his questionable new friends.  But don’t ask him about Baby Groot or he’ll get really angry! “Baby Yoda on His Spiritual Awakening”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

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